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.
We took the kids to Bucharest’s Grigore Antipa Museum of Natural History for a few hours today, to get them out of the house and do something during the rainy, cloudy weather. They’ve been getting really stir-crazy lately with all the rain we’ve been having.
On the way back, we had to get a cab, and we found out the driver spoke English really well. I told him we had just moved to Bucharest and he asked how we liked it. When I told him we loved it and the people were great, he said, “I do not think so. I do not know how people are in America, but the problem with Romania is the Romanians.”
“What do you mean?”
“I wouldn’t call the Romanian people very good. That’s what I mean,” he answered.
“Well, that’s really why we’re here. We love Jesus, and so we came to Romania to tell people about Him, because He’s the only one who can make a person good,” I told him. “Are you a Christian?”
“Yes,” he said, “I am Orthodox. But when you’re Orthodox, you only have to go to church twice a year.”
“Christmas and Easter?”
“Yes, you understand. It is different in our country than yours. Here, you can be Orthodox, but you never have to do anything.”
So I started sharing the Gospel more, but he interjected, “I’m a realist. I believe in evolution and science and thought, not God. Evolution is the idea that makes the most sense.”
When I challenged his view on evolution, he told me, “I know, it has problems. I don’t think it is the whole truth, but it is better than any other.” Then he continued, “And right now, I don’t want God. I want to live my life. I want to work. I want to party. I want to have fun.”
I wish I could give you a happy ending to the story, that our cab driver got saved and gave his heat to Jesus, and now he just wants to love others and live for God, but he didn’t. I continued speaking the truth and we kept discussing the Gospel until he dropped us off, but nothing all that miraculous happened because, like he said, he didn’t want God but just wanted to live his life.
That seems to be the general prevailing attitude among the younger generation in Bucharest – church is for old people, it’s irrelevant, why would I waste my time there, I’m just gonna live my life and have fun.
This city needs people sharing the Gospel, and the really crazy thing is that we’ve been here over 3 weeks so far and we haven’t seen anyone anywhere preaching the Gospel, except for in churches. There are churches here, and ministries, and we’ve heard of stuff happening especially in the Gypsy areas, and I know of people who are witnessing to family and friends, but we haven’t seen anyone passing out tracts, street-preaching, holding out signs, singing worship music, or anything else, out in public and on the streets. We’ve had people hand us coupons, free magazines, political leaflets, etc. but nothing about Jesus.
In Milwaukee or Chicago or any other American city, you’d see guys out all the time doing some sort of ministry, but we’ve encountered nothing here, in this city of 3 million people. Nothing. When we went out last Saturday for Night of Museums, there were a few hundred thousand people milling around, and in all the wandering and people-watching we did, we didn’t see a single person witnessing. In Milwaukee, if you had an event that big, there’d be people out doing all sorts of stuff.
People here have told me, “Street evangelism just doesn’t work here anymore.” Well, yeah, when you don’t do it, it’s not gonna work. We gotta get out there, church. We gotta bring the Gospel to the streets, where the people are.
Pray for us, that we’d learn the language well, get our tracts translated, and then just get out there and meet some people who need to hear the Gospel. There’s plenty of them out there.
Day 20 and I’m tired of this daily blogging thing. I’ve got stuff to write about, but I just don’t wanna try to organize my thoughts anymore.
So maybe I’ll just let it all out however it comes out…
I’m tired of trying to learn Romanian. I go through daily mood swings with it, and right now I’m near the bottom of the arc. Sometimes, the challenge is really fun and exciting, and I enjoy making new sounds and trying out new words, especially when they all connect. Other times, I’ll spend tons of time learning some new phrases, but then when it comes time to use them, nothing comes out, I just draw a blank and the best I can come up with is – “I don’t speak Romanian very well. Do you understand English?” Other times, I just get really tired of it all and end up grunting, pointing, and miming because it seems more effective.
Today, I overloaded with Romanian immersion I think. Missio Dei was doing a men’s lunch, where all us bărbaţi cooked chicken on the grill, talked about soccer (fotbal), and discussed manly things – manly things from the Bible like purity, working hard, treating women with respect, knowing God, etc. A lot of the guys there speak English very well, so I was able to talk with pretty much everyone, but, to help me learn Romanian better and to improve the meeting flow, no one translated the main discussion. Although this was good for me, because it did force me to work really hard to understand anything, I think my brain fried a little because of the vast amount of words I don’t know.
Ben, who just got back from Chicago, did teach me that American football is referred to as “ou mână” here, which means literally “egg hand.” He also taught me how to roll my R’s. I was doing it semi-OK for a little while, but I think I’ve lost it now.
Anyway, I was feeling good after the meeting but a little brain-fried, and then this evening Jessie and I visited a Charismatic church not too far from our apartment – about a 20-minute walk away. We were really nervous heading over there because we had heard reports that they were a little bit crazy, out of order, and Charismaniacs, but that was enough to get me interested in checking it out. We almost turned around because you have to walk past a worse-looking part of town with packs of dogs patrolling garbage piles, but we pressed on nonetheless.
I’m not going to give a whole play-by-play, but I will say that, despite what we’d heard, it wasn’t chaos in there. There were some frustrating parts of the service, mostly the videos of southern Holy Ghost preachers from America they streamed in for the sermon. I don’t know if they do that every week, but it was really odd to be sitting in a church in Bucharest surrounded by Romanians and listening to Pentecostal preachers from southern Illinois. Everyone laughed when one preacher kept shouting weird Pentecostalisms.
Besides the goofy stuff, we really liked the church, talked to a few people, met another American missionary, and experienced some of the best worship we’ve been a part of while here in Romania. It wasn’t Cornerstone’s worship team (We miss you all a ton!) but it was as close as we’ve seen around here so far. The band smiled a ton, one of the leaders was seriously anointed, they were musically talented, and people were really singing and clapping. We needed that worship time really bad.
I get really annoyed at goofy Charismatic stuff, but I love the real stuff. I love worshiping God with all my heart like David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6), I love seeing the sick get healed in miraculous ways (John 14:12), I love speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5), I love casting out demons (Mark 16:17), I love hearing the voice of God (John 10:27), I love dreams and visions (Joel 2:28-29)… but I love studying the word of God, reading it, meditating on it, memorizing it, teaching it, knowing it inside and out (Joshua 1:8, Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 119:9-11, Psalm 119:103), I love walking in holiness and purity of character (Romans 5:4), I love making sense (Colossians 3:16)…
Romanian churches, like American churches, seem to swing one way or the other, rarely finding the balance between the stability of a dedication to the Word of God and the life and joy and freedom that comes by yielding to the Spirit of God. Focusing on only one will never satisfy – you need both. Any serious and open-minded study of the Bible should lead you to this conclusion.
If you take the Bible at face value and dig into its message, I think the only viable conclusion you can make is that the Christian life is impossible without the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit, and any serious study of the Bible will lead you to pursue the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in your midst, because it’s all over the Bible. Likewise, any honest encounter with the presence of God in a supernatural way should lead you to desire the Bible more, know its depths, understand its story, not drive you away from the Bible. The one should feed the other.
So, anyway, after that church service, surrounded by Romanians speaking Romanian (yeah, they do that here, believe it or not), my brain is fried on Romanian for the night. I’m excited to learn more tomorrow, but tonight, I will think in English and dream in English.
Before I close (I guess I’ve proven I’m not all that tired of blogging…) let me give you a quick recap of last night. Last night was Night of Museums here in Bucharest, where all the museums are open for free. Since there was a huge fotbal match and it was rainy, we figured there shouldn’t be too many people out on the streets to check out the museums. Wrong. In a city of 3 million people, at least 2 million were lined up outside Bucharest’s major museums last night.
So we bailed on seeing the museums and did some people-watching instead. At one point, some police came to set up barricades because the lines were so big and mob-like. One guy got angry and started shouting at the police. Others started shouting too, and shaking their fists, so the police grabbed the barricades and pushed the unruly guys further back. This prompted a woman to somehow squeeze her way in-between two bars on the barricade to get to the other side. It was a really intense (and fun to watch) two minutes.
After watching the crowds, we got a pizza, got rained on, hid under a balcony, got lost, walked in a circle (not on purpose), wound up in the same spot we started in, realized it was a new spot that just looked like the same spot, tried to take the subway, found out they had just closed, and then gave in and decided to take a cab home. It was late (midnight) and we were tired, so walking was not looking like a good option, and we had heard cabs were cheap, so we figured we’d give it a shot.
We found a cab, popped in, and within a couple minutes wound up sharing the Gospel with our driver. He spoke fluent English, and we were so itching to talk to people about Jesus (remember, that’s why we came here?), that it all kinda’ just spilled out. When we got in the car, he asked where we were from, so I told him we just moved here from the US. I told him we loved it here in Bucharest. He responded, “I don’t believe you. No one loves it here.” So then I told him, “Well, we do,” and then, very awkwardly, “We came to tell people about Jesus.”
“No one needs that,” he responded, or something similar. “We have so many churches here already. We don’t need more.”
“Yes, you have many churches, but not many Christians. Very few in this city love Jesus and are living for Him.”
“Yes,” he said, “everyone is living for money. Everyone wants money. That’s why there are not many Christians here. We love money.” Then he launched into a rant, raving for a minute about how we should pray that God gives him money.
“We will,” I promised, “but that’s not the real issue. Jesus wants to give you money and to bless you, but more than that, He wants your heart. Does he have your heart? Are you His?”
It got really quiet and then our cab driver told us how he had lived in Spain for four years stealing, and making way better money than he was making now that he had an honest job. He realized he could get thrown in jail for stealing, and he was trying to improve his life, so he quit, moved back to Romania, and started working.
“God’s already trying to get ahold of you,” I told him. “That was Him drawing you to give up stealing. But trying to improve your life isn’t enough. Trying to be a good person isn’t what it takes. He wants you to stop trying to do better and to instead trust in what He’s done on the cross for you, and let Him change you from the inside out so you’re a whole new person.”
Before he dropped us off, we prayed with our cab driver (I never got his name) and asked Jesus to bless him and his family and take care of all their needs. I didn’t have time to share as much of the Gospel as I would have liked, and he didn’t give his heart to Jesus that night, but some seeds were planted, it got him thinking, and we had a good time finally being able to share the Gospel with someone who could understand us.
I’ve heard some people say that, statistically speaking, it takes hearing the Gospel an average of 18 times before someone is ready to make a decision, give up their selfishness, and follow Jesus for real. Whether that’s true or not, it’s not our job to get people saved. It’s our job to be Jesus to the world around us, share the Good News that there is a Savior, and leave the results up to God. I think that, every time we do evangelism, we should believe the person we’re talking to is at #18, but maybe they’re not even at #1 yet. Just keep preaching, keep talking about Jesus, keep letting His light shine, and those seeds are gonna sprout up soon enough…
This is why I’m tired of blogging – I can’t write short posts.