It’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted anything on here, so I’m a little out of practice, but here ya go…
Easter is the biggest holiday season here in Orthodox Romania. Seriously, it’s a bigger deal than Christmas, with offices and businesses shutting down from Good Friday through at least the Monday after Easter. Offices including doctors’ offices. Which means, it’s not a good time to get sick and need to see a doctor.
The Wednesday before Easter, I came down with a bad bacterial infection, not something terribly uncommon, but a worse case than I’ve ever had before. I fought through it with sleep, water, and Tylenol that whole day, started feeling better the next day enough to take Paul in for his doctor visit. When there I asked about getting antibiotics, but she said I’d have to see a different doctor. However, all the offices were going to be closed after that day for four days and only one appointment was left. When I tried to make the appointment, the computerized scheduling system wasn’t working, so I went back home (a one hour trek via public transport) with only a slight fever and no meds. I thought, “Hey, our prayers are working; I’m getting better, so I won’t try to snatch that last appointment and just sleep it off.”
An hour later, I arrived home and within fifteen minutes my fever jumped to its highest yet, I started shivering uncontrollably, and felt disoriented from the sickness. Now too late to make that last appointment, I weighed my options: try to see if I could get the antibiotics without a prescription, find an emergency room and fumble through with my poor Romanian and fever delirium, or wait it out. Feeling worse by the minute, I nixed the last option and started messaging friends.
I sent a Facebook message to a good friend of mine who I knew frequently checked her messages asking for advice. And I prayed. Within five minutes she called me back saying she would go with me to an emergency room, translate for me, and do whatever she could for me. She wanted to ask her mother the best place to go, and she happened to be right in front of her apartment when she got my message. She called me back saying she could get me an evening appointment for an hour from then at her hospital, that she would come with me and translate, and everything. Praise God! I fed Paul quickly, grabbed a taxi, and started the long trek through Bucharest rush hour traffic, sweating profusely in the back seat and eyes burning with fever. I prayed we’d make it in time.
As we got near to where I thought the hospital was, the driver turned the opposite direction I thought we should be going, so I called him on it. He argued with me, and I argued back, and he made motions with his hands telling me I was disoriented and sick and didn’t know what I was talking about. Sure enough, he was right and dropped me off exactly at 5:00 for my appointment in front of the correct place. Thankfully, he didn’t listed to the sick, American girl.
After having our baby Paul here in Bucharest, I had an idea of what the private hospitals and doctors were like. But the doctor I saw was so nice, very helpful, and genuinely concerned that I get better. She gave me very clear instructions through my friend and translator, gave me all the prescriptions I needed with very good instructions, and instructed me to return in six days for a free follow up appointment. Then, my very dear friend, purchased all the drugs for me, walked me to the metro stop (I wasn’t risking a delirious taxi ride in rush hour again), and agreed to meet me the following week at the hospital.
Fast forward to today, the doctor checked me again, offered some extra services even though it was a free visit, and had her colleague perform some ultrasound therapy on me. I was amazed at how pleasant and nice everyone was and how I wasn’t even charged for the visit. And she wants to see me again, also for free, to make sure that I am completely better!
Maybe it’s not such a cool story for everyone, but for me it was a blessing! I love how generous and helpful my friend was to take her evening on such short notice to help me find a doctor on a busy holiday break when I wasn’t sure what to do. I love the concern the doctor showed when often doctors (not just here but also in America) generally just try to get you in and out, especially if you aren’t paying. I love that God answers prayers. And I learned, never argue with a taxi driver in a foreign language when you’re deliriously feverish and don’t know where you’re going. Driver knows best.
Picture above taken from Google StreetView. The real photo would have a lot more snow around it this time of year. 🙂
Yesterday, I started posting about the calamity that occurred between Matei and Geta, two new believers who have been coming regularly to our Monday night meetings and growing a ton. Thanks for everyone who has been praying. We don’t know anything more about Matei, but Geta’s situation has improved, and family friends are taking care of the kids. Keep praying, though, because the whole family still needs God to do a lot for them.
We hope to visit Matei in prison soon, but no one seems to know where he’s being held right now, but we were able to visit Geta yesterday at the hospital.
We were a humorous-looking troupe. Ben and I, already identical twins, happened to be both wearing hiking boots, blue jeans, black jackets, and black snow hats, carrying black Romanian Bibles. Jason, with his dark beard, black coat, and gray backpack, looked like a cross between an Orthodox priest and a homeless guy. And we were all three following Teresa and Rita, two short, round Gypsy women dressed in flowery dresses and “Christmas sweaters” as Jason described their outfits. But we were going to see our sister, a member of our church family who had been attacked by the one closest to her. She was hurting and scared and she needed us.
When we got to the hospital, Jason warned us, “They may not let all of us in. Usually they’re pretty strict about only one or maybe two visitors being allowed in at the same time.”
“Let’s pray for favor then,” I suggested, and we all gathered together in front of the hospital to pray for a minute.
We walked into the hospital, went through one corridor after another, and eventually got to the security guard who made sure only one person was going in at a time.
Teresa explained the situation and asked if all of us could go in to pray for Geta, because she was desperately hurt and we were her church family, so she needed us. “Well, I don’t know…” the guard hesitated.
So Teresa reached into her pocket and pulled out 2 lei and flashed it at him. “OK, fine,” said the guard, grabbing the equivalent of 59 cents from her. You can’t get much in Bucharest for 2 lei, so I don’t know what he was thinking. Maybe he just decided to have pity on Teresa and let us pass, realizing that anyone who would offer you a 2 lei bribe was probably really desperate.
Rita looked at Ben, Jason, and I. “Dumnezeu lucrează, frații,” she said with a smile. Indeed, God is working.
We passed the security guard, walked down some more halls, and began the hike up the stairs. One old man passed us and asked Teresa, “Where are you going? Are you here for surgery?”
Finally, we found our way to where they were letting Geta rest and heal. Before entering the large room filled with hospital beds, mostly empty, they handed us hospital gowns to put over our clothes. When we tried to put our arms in the sleeves, the nurses corrected us, grabbed the gowns, and draped them around us like Jewish prayer shawls. Now our humorous troupe was even more bizarre.
As we walked into the room, we felt like Medieval Orthodox priests with our robes hanging about our shoulders.
We found Geta and learned her situation had improved greatly over the previous day. She could move a little, she could talk, and she seemed very awake and aware. Doctors said she would be eating regular food soon and should be fine to leave after she has enough time to rest and recover. She had lost 50% of her blood from the attack, but a blood transfusion was holding well and infections seemed to be held at bay. She said her body hurt everywhere, but at least she was going to live. Praise God. He’s already been answering the prayers of a lot of people.
What broke our hearts the most, though, was to hear her blame herself for everything that had been done to her. The first thing she said to us was, “I need to repent. I have done something terrible. I must have committed some great sin for this to happen to me.” It was awful to hear her blaming herself for what her husband had done to her.
We told her she wasn’t the one to blame, that if she had sin in her life, God would never punish her by doing this, that he simply demands repentance, not torture. We shared the Scriptures with her, encouraged her to believe for healing, prayed for her and commanded her body to be restored, and let her know that we and many others would be praying for her.
As we finished up, we told her that many Gypsies were praying for her, many churches in Bucharest, and that hundreds of people in America, friends of ours, would be praying for her because we would email them and tell them what had happened. As we told her of the literally hundreds of people who would pray for her and her family, her eyes welled up with tears and she began to cry.
Suddenly, a doctor entered the room, scolded the nurses for letting all of us in at once, and told us we had to leave.
Just in time.
Please keep praying for Geta, Matei, and their kids. We praise God for how He’s been healing Geta already, but we want to see God completely restore this family, robbing Satan from any and all glory that he hoped to achieve from this. Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Well, it’s been an emotional couple of days.
We’d been busy working on preparing a Christmas party for our Monday night Gypsy meeting. We spent a few days cooking 10 liters of soup and making up gift bags for all the kids. We bought bread, snacks, drinks, fruit, disposable plates and silverware. We prepared some Christmas songs and a short Christmas message. Then we got everything loaded up in bags, bundled up the kids, and walked / slid through slippery, slushy, cold, potholed sidewalks to get to Lalli and Mandra’s house to hand out gifts, share the love of Jesus, eat some food, and spend Christmas together.
A couple blocks from the house, we met up with Jason, who informed us, “Hey, guys, I’ve got some bad news. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but it looks like Matei’s in prison and Geta’s in the hospital. They said he got drunk and pulled a knife on her. They’re saying he cut her up so bad they’re not sure she’ll live.”
“What?” we all kind of gasped. Of all the people we’ve met in Romania, Matei was one of the smartest, nicest, and calmest. He prayed to turn from sin and trust Jesus a couple months ago, and he was reading his Bible, praying, and growing every day. When we met Monday nights, he’d come with questions and always ask us to pray for him. He was always smiling and cheerful. When we taught him something from the Bible, he just did it. He didn’t do drugs, never yelled at his wife or kids around us, and was one of the last people I’d expect to be in prison for cutting his wife with a knife.
We had been teaching on baptism the past few weeks, and Matei was one of the most excited about it. We learned later that he had even gone out and bought a new suit specifically to put on for his baptism.
None of this about him attacking his wife made any sense.
So we went to the meeting with mournful, confused hearts, hoping there was a communication problem, hoping it was a different Matei, hoping to find everyone gathered and ready for Christmas celebrations as planned.
When we got there, we were greeted by a mournful sight. Women were in tears, wailing in Țiganeasca, the Romii language. Men walked around looking sullen and dejected. Teresa, the spiritual “mother” of the group, explained what happened. No one could tell us why, which was the question on all of our hearts, but at least we learned some of the details.
Matei, our Matei, Matei who was growing in Jesus and excited to be baptized, who had purchased a new suit to be baptized in, had gotten drunk Sunday and at about 6:30 pm, he and his wife Geta got into a fight outside the Mega Image grocery store near their house. Matei, who apparently has made it a habit to walk around carrying a 6-inch knife, pulled the knife out and violently slashed at his wife. Like a madman, he cut her arm, her back, her shoulder, and then slashed deep into her stomach and chest.
Teresa explained that Matei was quickly arrested and Geta brought to the hospital. By Monday night, news of Geta was bad. She had lost half her blood, her liver and internal organs were severely damaged, she was in serious pain, and she was completely unresponsive and unable to eat. She was in intensive care and doctors were keeping a close watch on her.
Teresa and Rita, who were filling in all the details for us, were pretty sure she wasn’t going to make it.
We all sat there, crammed into the kitchen, covered in sweat, mud, and snow from the walk, in complete shock. No one felt like eating the food we’d prepared. We didn’t even want to hand out the gift bags to the kids. We just sat there dumbfounded and confused, wondering how something so terrible could happen. And how could Matei be the one who did it? None of it made any sense.
All the kids were gathered, so we handed out gifts to them, and though they were really excited about the gift bags, it seemed so fake in the face of what had happened between Matei and Geta.
The rest of the night, we talked about what happened, we encouraged everyone with the Word of God as best we could, we prayed for Matei and Geta and their kids, and we prayed for each other, trusting that God would bring comfort and turn this dark situation into something light.
Things like this can drive you to question how God could possibly be alive and real, or they can bring you to the reality that, in this dark, dark world where people do stupid stuff that doesn’t make any sense, God Himself came to bring a light that would one day extinguish that darkness forever.
Isaiah 9:2 – “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”
If bad things like this happen while a good, loving God watches over us, can you imagine how evil our world would be without Him?
Pray for Geta – her situation has improved by now (Tuesday night), but she is still in serious trouble physically and emotionally. Pray for Matei – we don’t know why he did what he did, but we want to see him repent and we want to see Jesus glorified in his life all the same. He’s looking at at least a few years in prison for what he did. Pray God protects him from hardening his heart and instead uses the time in prison to give him a soft heart toward Jesus. Pray for their kids, Matei, Maca, and Ștefan, caught in the middle of everything, facing an uncertain future. And pray for the families of Gypsies at Mihai Bravu, that God would use this to draw them closer to Jesus and soften their hearts to His love.