Thursday nights, we invite English speakers to our home for worship, prayer, and Bible teaching. It’s one of the meetings I’m most excited about, but it’s also been the slowest to get going.
Why am I most excited about this meeting? Well, honestly, I’ve got a lot of selfish reasons – I get to speak in my native language, without a translator, and worship God in English, using songs that I like, with people who speak and understand the language really well. Plus, I get really ministered to during the meetings, no matter how many other people show up. The presence of God has been really strong at our little meetings, so I always leave encouraged and strengthened.
But beyond the selfish reasons, having a meeting in English should, by nature, draw young people who have a desire to change the world. From what we’ve learned about Romania, if you want to go to a good college, get a good job, or travel anywhere outside the country, you learn English. Understanding English is required to get into many universities, and most international businesses, the ones with the good jobs, won’t even consider you if you don’t have a minimum level of fluency. If someone wants to come to a church service almost entirely in English, it means they’re already hoping to do something with their life that makes an impact. At least, that’s the theory.
And I like the idea of God using our weakness to show His greatness. We’re trying really hard to learn Romanian – we’re studying on our own, we have a weekly tutoring session, we talk with people in Romanian whenever we can – but our brains, cluttered with subway maps, grocery lists, Bible verses, new friends’ names, diapers, and dreams, refuse to get with the program and learn.
It’s not my fault. Scientists have shown there’s a chemical in our brains that helps with language acquisition. It’s strongest when we’re young, and by the time we turn 30 or 35, it quickly starts to plunge to nothingness. So, by fact of nature, I have begun to enter that plunge downward.
Recently, a fellow missionary joked with me, “I tell people that those who speak three languages are trilingual, those who speak two are bilingual, and those who speak one are American.” There you have it. We’ve been cursed from birth.
Seriously, we’re committed to keep learning Romanian any method we can, but right now, it’s just a very slow process. Many American missionaries here don’t even try learning Romanian, and some say we shouldn’t even try, it’s not important, but almost every Romanian we talk to says the opposite. They all say they would be able to receive better from someone who takes the time to actually learn the language. I think I’ll go with the Romanians on this one.
So, the process is slow, but we’re learning. We tell people here, “Înţelegem mai mult decât vorbim.” We understand more than we speak. Often, we’ll find ourselves understanding a person fine, but we just can’t find the right Romanian words quick enough to communicate effectively.
So, back to Thursday nights. I love Thursday nights, but every week is a little different.
Week to week, we never know who all is going to show up. It’s in our home, so I know we’ll have at least 4 kids and 3 adults. 🙂 But beyond that, we never know. Some weeks, it’s a bunch of Americans, a Canadian, and an Australian. One week, no one came but a Baptist youth pastor. Other weeks, a handful of high school students showed up. Or sometimes we’ll get a few college students, missionaries, and business men together.
We’re praying that God speaks to some people, “Get involved and make this part of your routine,” but right now, a lot of people are cycling in and out on an irregular basis, which makes it hard to establish any sort of normal rhythm but keeps us trusting God.
One week, the clock reached 7 pm and no one was here but our family. We were expecting at least a few people, but none of them showed up. “Well,” we decided, “we need God, so let’s worship Him like He deserves anyway.” So we worshiped like there were thousands gathered with us, and by the time we finished our first song, our friend Jason from Canada had shown up. We were still small in number, but God showed up strong that night, ministering to each of us on a deep level, convicting our hearts of sin and covering us with His love. That little meeting with four people worshiping together was the most intense sense of God’s presence I’ve had in Romania yet. My heart aches for more people to know this God who speaks so deeply to our hearts.
Another week, a handful of us had gathered together, including a High School student who had never come before. After the “official” meeting was done, she asked if we could pray for her because she couldn’t sleep at night. So we prayed, and she came back a few days later with the report, “Now I’m sleeping great! Thank you for praying!” She also asked us to pray for her legs, which were constantly in pain. Doctors said she was just growing too fast and would have to put up with it. Well, Jesus had a different diagnosis. He came not just to heal our sins but to heal our sicknesses too, so we put our hands on her legs and commanded them to be healed, and Jesus healed them! As far as I’ve heard, she still hasn’t had any pain in her legs. That’s just what my God does.
Another week, all the “regular” attendees (if you can call them that) were either late or just didn’t come, but 5 new people came who had never come before, and God’s presence was so strong that we could have spent hours just worshiping Him together. When we finished the time of prayer and worship, I shifted gears to teach on the fear of God, and I was so overcome by the weight of it that I don’t know if I made much sense at all. If any of you who came are reading this, I apologize for being so tongue-tied.
Pray for God to grow the Thursday night group at our home, and pray He continues to bring His presence to encourage, strengthen, and free His people. We love opening our home up and having people worship and pray and look at the Scriptures together with us, but I want so many more people to know this God who ministers to us deeply in ways that only He can do. So many of us only know a God of religion, a God who did the impossible during Bible times but now just speaks about nice, understandable truths through His Word and preaching. But God is bigger than that. God is a God of mystery and depth, a God who wants to reveal His glories to His people.
And I think it’s this impossible-to-understand God that we all, deep down inside, really yearn for. We don’t want a God who’s easy to explain, a God we can hold onto and put in a box. We want a God who’s big enough to fix our problems, strong enough to reach into our darkness and pull out His light, bold enough to do and say what no one else can.
We have mostly settled in to our new home, a cozy three bedroom apartment across from a giant mall with a wonderful and friendly owner who speaks almost no English. Here are some photos from inside!
This is our kitchen. The small gas oven/stove must be lit with a lighter each time we use it, and all the markings are rubbed off so we have to guess at the temperature!
Illiana sitting at our table. We hooked Isaac’s high chair on to the “microwave cart.”
Our living room. It came with satellite TV. We didn’t even get any kind of TV back in the States!
One of our bathrooms. This one has a tub. I’ve noticed that Romanian bathrooms all have these handheld showers and no shower curtains. Our other bathroom doesn’t have a tub like this.
Jake’s and my bedroom with standard balcony beyond the curtain.
View through our balcony window. Here you can see what the apartments mostly all look like on the outside.