Well, today was rainy again, but I’ve been antsy to get out and see the city more, meet some people, etc. so I went on a long prayer walk (route pictured above). I did a fundraising event before leaving America, promising to prayer walk 1 km of Bucharest for every person who would support me at $10/month or more. Since 20 people signed up, I have to do a whopping 20 km of prayer walking.
We’ve probably done ten times that much walking, but we weren’t “officially” praying as we did it, so I didn’t count it toward our 20 km of prayer walks we have to do. We were, however, officially walking…
Anyway, today I did almost half my total promised – 9 km. I think we’ll end up doing way more than 20 km of prayer walking, because it went so quickly and it was a lot of fun to get out, try to get lost, and then try to find my way again.
While doing a lot of walking, praying, meeting people, exploring, learning the city’s transportation system, etc, God is giving us a real heart for this city. It’s confusing and difficult to think of how we’ll be able to communicate Jesus to these people who’ve heard it all and been through a lot more than we have, and sometimes it’s frustrating and intimidating when few people want to talk to us or even smile in our direction, or when someone yells something at us and we don’t know what they’re saying, but we’re growing to love this city and these people, and whether people receive us or reject us, hug us or hate us, they can’t take away this love that Jesus has put in our hearts.
It’s strange and disconcerting feeling like we don’t belong anywhere. This is Memorial Day in America, and while holidays have never meant much to me, now that we’re away and nobody here cares about remembering America’s great military-industrial complex, it’s become glaringly obvious that we don’t quite belong. We’re not Romanians, we can’t communicate very well, people keep switching to English so we can do simple things like even buying milk… and we’re not quite Americans either anymore. We’re at the end of the American candy we brought with us (now you know why we had 11 large suitcases!), I got rid of all our American money when we landed, and I’m almost done with our Puffs Plus tissues I brought along.
It’s a really weird feeling, being stuck between two worlds. I wonder if Jesus felt like this, when He gave up heaven and came to earth. America isn’t quite heaven, but I wonder if Jesus felt a sort of odd, constant alienation from the people around him. He could communicate well enough, but they would never really listen to what he said. And while they would get all hung up on politics or religious holidays or impressive buildings, Jesus knew his kingdom wasn’t off this world. Jesus hung out with sinners, invited Pharisees to dinner, invited himself to dinner, and definitely became a part of Jerusalem culture and society, but I wonder if, in the midst of that, he felt like he was still a stranger.
Thankfully, we’ve got some really great friends we’ve met here, people who really care about us (Filip and Missio Dei, the Boldeas, Jason the Canadian, George the Australian), and Susie is an ever-present ally in our home, and that helps us feel like we belong a lot more, but it’s not quite home yet.
I didn’t mean to go on that tangent. We’re really doing very good, but homesickness is hitting a little – I’d like some cheddar cheese, a real, juicy, burger, a Spotted Cow, no wild dogs following me, the rain to stop… Shoot, if just the rain stopped I’d be content. 🙂
Anyway, here’s a quick run-down of some of the more interesting events I encountered while prayer walking:
– I was followed by one wild dog for about a kilometer. At first it freaked me out, but then when I noticed he chased off other dogs who came close, I decided I’d let him stick around.
– I had a group of 5-6 dogs surround me at one point, but I told them that it was bad luck to eat an American and so they left me alone, probably went in search of a Canadian. Seriously, usually the dogs seem to ignore you if you just stay calm and keep walking without paying any attention to them.
– I came across a half-eaten dog carcass on the sidewalk. Needless to say, it was pretty gross. I didn’t take pictures. The only thing I can imagine would have eaten it would have been another dog. Sick cannibals. They’re barely human.
– One road was littered with hundreds of flyers for yet another “masaj erotic.” These guys are aggressive in their advertising – posters, flyers, newspaper and magazine ads… you can’t escape it.
– On a similar note, Gina Pistol is literally everywhere. Don’t Google her or you’ll regret it. When Playboy came to Romania, she was their first cover-girl. Now, she’s advertising underwear on the billboards of the city. Kind of like a pre-Christian Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43).
– So we’ve covered wild dogs and sexually-explicit advertising. Next up would be crazy driving. I can tell I’m getting used to the driving in this city (which, parenthetically speaking, doesn’t mean I’m ready to drive here, but just that I’m getting used to seeing it). Anyway, I thought it was funny today while on my prayer walk because a student driver came down a busy two-lane road in the middle of the lanes. My first thought was, “Whoa, he’s in the middle of the road,” followed quickly by, “just like everyone else does here.”
– To close on a positive note, it surprised me just how many people were out in the rain. No one was really hanging out, but tons of people were out walking around. In Milwaukee, no one goes out in the rain, except maybe students. Here, you’ve got no choice, so you grab an umbrella and a rain coat and you get out there and get wet. I kinda’ like that.
Well, it was a really good time praying for the city and letting God stir my heart to see this nation changed. I got soaked, especially after my umbrella was shredded by a gust of wind, but it was good to get out and pray.
Here’s some rainy photos for ya’ll:
It’s been pretty rainy here the past few days, with some hours of sunshine thrown in the middle once in a while, so today I thought I’d give you a photo essay I like to call “Bucharest in the Rain – The Eternal Dynamic Symposium on the Enduring Human Legacy of Tripartisanship in Modern-day Hyper-potential Exaggerated External-Growth Communities.”
Seriously, Bucharest is a beautiful city, even in the rain. Enjoy the shots!
It’s been rainy the past few days, so we’ve been getting more done inside. Today, we spent a lot of time studying Romanian. Since we don’t have a ton of money for tutors or classes, our strategy is going to be using the materials we already have (books, Pimsleur audio MP3s, Byki, and Google Translate) supplemented with heavy doses of real-world usage, conversational partners, and an occasional tutor to make sure we’re learning things correctly. The key ingredient will be the self-discipline to actually sit down and learn. To help with that, today I started creating a comprehensive “lesson plan” to force us to stick to a schedule and track how well we’re learning the language. Rather than just randomly trying to learn as much as we can, never sure if we’re actually getting anywhere, we’re going to have a systematic strategy.
Speaking of that, I had my first full conversation entirely in Romanian with a real, genuine Romanian person, and I understood everything we talked about. It went something like this:
My phone rings.
Me: “Alo?” (Aloe? Salute? Sit down, you high Duke. She tear, oh. You be the man who mashed the feta cheese… If you don’t understand, click here.)
Marian (our landlord): “Alo, Jake. Ce mai faci?”
Me: “Bine, mulţumesc. Și dumneavoastra?”
Marian: “Bine. Eh, eu vin acum. Eşti acasă?”
Me: “Da, acasă.”
Marian: “Bine. Voi veni în zece minute.”
Me: “Da, bine.”
Marian: “OK. Pa.”
It was just a simple conversation, I know, but it was the first time I understood everything and didn’t have to guess based on context. It felt so good.
Other milestones today include finally getting our rental contract (necessary for residency permits), bandaging Mae’s chin (she cut it open pretty good on the tile floor), and finding a better way to say “We came to tell people about Jesus” (Am venit sa le spunem oamenilor despre Iisus.) The sentence I learned before actually translated to, “We came to speak for Jesus,” which is good I guess but not exactly what we were going for.
I got some feedback from Filip today on some Romanian tracts we brought with us. His honest opinion, which is what I want, was that they weren’t very good except for some that I made for street ministry in Milwaukee that told my story of coming to God. The others he said were fine but Romanians, especially in Bucharest, have heard it all already and would probably just dismiss it like they have all the others. Sharing my story would get around all the arguments and draw people in to want to know more. So my goal is to redesign it to share my testimony, talk about what brought us to Romania, and give a quick Gospel presentation, all in Romanian. When I get that done, I’ll feel ready to share the Gospel. Because then even if I can’t say the right words or they don’t know the English words, at least I can give them a pamphlet that has it in there. Plus, I’ll have my contact info all in there so I can stay in touch with those I share with and keep pursuing the relationship.
Anyway, those are my evangelism goals for now – learn the language as much as I can and redesign my tract so I can hand it out to all the people who ask us what we’re doing here.
On the home front, the kids seem to be having a hard time now. They did really great on the airplane, in our temporary housing, and as we’ve gotten settled into our apartment, but now I think it’s sinking in that we’re not just on vacation. They’ve commented how they’re bored with the food already. Bread and jam, cheese, and sausage used to be really exciting and new for them, but now they just want Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms. They’re tired of not being able to pour their own water, since the faucet water isn’t healthy and they can’t lift the big water jugs. They miss having beds (they got delivered today and will be set up in a week!). The small elevator used to be fun, but now they’re really annoyed with it. They started talking about all the weird smells. They don’t like cars being everywhere whenever we go outside. When we go for prayer-walks, they huddle right next to us now, nervous about new people, dogs, and cars all over the place. Overall, they’re doing really good adjusting, but I think they’ve reached a point where they’re starting to miss the way things used to be. Just gotta press through and then they’ll be happy again.
In some funny news, we’ve discovered that expiration dates don’t mean here what they do in the States. You know how you can buy some eggs that say they expire May 31 in the states, and they’ll probably be good until June 6? Not so here. Due mostly to the fact that there are fewer preservatives used in food here, if something says it expires May 31, it probably will go bad by May 25. We bought some fresh chicken in a grocery store 3 days ago, and when we took it out today to cook for our lunch guest, it was green, sticky, and smelled like rotted meat. You’d think the fact that it smelled like rotted meat would have tipped us off that it had gone bad, but we poked it, prodded it, stuck our noses in it, looked it up on Google, started cooking it, then finally had second thoughts and decided to go buy some new chicken just in case it really was bad. When we got the new chicken, a thorough analysis showed that the original definitely had something wrong with it. The new stuff didn’t smell like rotted meat. Good clue that it was better.
That was during lunch. During dinner, Jessie poured the girls some milk that I just bought yesterday and wasn’t set to expire for a few days, and after they drank some of it, Naomi told me, “Daddy, this milk smells like poop and tastes a little like poop too.” “Really?” I said, picking up a glass and sniffing it. I wouldn’t describe the scent as poop, but it definitely wasn’t Chanel Number 5 either. So then, like any good father, I took a nice big gulp. And turned to the sink to spit it out right away. It had spoiled and tasted terrible. I rinsed my mouth in pear juice and then gave the girls each big glasses of juice in penance for making them drink spoiled milk. They told me they each had drank about half a glass before I got there. I was both disgusted and impressed by their abilities.
Now, when I bought the milk yesterday, I had Naomi with me. As I stared at all the different kinds of milk, I found the cheapest one and grabbed two liters of it. “Daddy,” Naomi had said, “don’t you think that since it’s the cheapest it might be the worst? What if it tastes really bad?” “No,” I told her, “cheaper things taste the same. Sometimes even better. You’ll see.” And she did.