Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How You Can Help

As many of you know by now, it has been a time of great change in our family. Last fall, Katie and I started to pray more specifically about how and where God was leading us forward. After much thought and prayer, we have decided to transition back to living and working in the States. You can read more about our decision here.

On April 6th, we will move to Charleston, South Carolina. Both of us are looking forward to getting back in the classroom! Next fall, we will be teaching in elementary schools in Dorchester County, where Paul taught previously. After our move in April, each month will signify a new beginning: Paul will start graduate school in May for school administration, we will move into our home at the beginning of June, and we will begin our new teaching jobs in August!

As we prepare to embark on this significant transition, we have some needs that you can help meet. First, please PRAY for us as we wrap up our ministry work and prepare to say goodbye to our friends here in Romania. The ministry in Romania, especially the people we have had the privilege to serve beside, will always have a special place in our hearts, and leaving won't be easy. Our latest newsletter outlines some new ministry projects in Romania that you can also be praying about. Thank you for praying for us and for the ministry here.

Second, we have financial needs that include:
  • Moving costs like luggage fees and moving vehicles 
  • Other relocation expenses like a car, furniture, and appliances for our home
Our new full-time jobs won't begin until mid-August, so we are trusting that God will provide for us in the interim. If you can GIVE towards any of these needs, please consider making an online donation through the Teleios Ministry website and mark your gift for Paul and Katie Crook. As always, 100% of what you give comes directly to us, and all donations are tax-deductible.

Thank you again for your care, support, encouragement, and love!

Paul and Katie

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Transitions Ahead

Greetings and love to you all!  We hope this post finds you enjoying your February so far and seeing God's work all around you.  It's warming up here... in fact, one might say it's almost Spring!  We want to take a moment to thank you for following along with our blog and for encouraging and supporting us from near and far.  We are so grateful!  It makes a difference in our lives to know we are prayed for and loved.  Thank you!

Throughout each of our lives, we have sought to follow where God is leading us.  We have loved following His guidance into the full-time ministry here, first Paul in 2012 and then Katie in 2014, and we have seen Him bless our obedience and the obedience of the believers here.  In our partnership with the local churches, we've continually seen God raise up new workers and leaders among us.  It's been a joy to watch as our desires have unfolded: the discipleship of new believers and the development of new leaders in our churches.

In fact, we have seen so much growth in the programs that we are a part of, that in the last several months, we have sought God's guidance once again about what our roles will be in the future of the local ministry.  We now feel with confidence that there are several people who are now ready to take on some of the responsibilities that have been ours.  Praise God!

Of course, that leaves us asking, "What do we do next?" Our work in Romania has confirmed our passion for education and for working with those who find themselves on the outskirts of society.  After much prayer and seeking wise counsel, we've decided to make a transition back to the States to pursue these passions at home.  We feel so thankful for the opportunity to have lived in Romania and to have been a part of this ministry.  God has blessed our time here so much.  Now we are ready to follow Him into the next stage of our life, trusting that He is faithful and has a purpose for our lives no matter where we are.

We will be transitioning to Charleston, South Carolina at the beginning of April.  We are pursuing teaching jobs in public schools for next school year, and Paul will be starting graduate school this summer.  We are looking forward to being closer to family and also to being able to attend Katie's brother's wedding in Atlanta at the end of April!

We will always have a home in Romania, and we are excited to imagine how God might allow us to continue being a part of the ministry here even in our new life in the States.  There is still much work to be done, and God has knit our hearts together forever with the believers here.  What a blessing it is to have homes on both sides of the ocean.

Thank you again for your faithful encouragement, support and care.

Paul and Katie

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Best of Instagram: "On the Road" Edition

Here's the latest installment in our Best of Instagram series: On the Road!  Here are a few of the sights we've seen while driving around this sometimes-crazy country!

Ahh yes... the classic "Just for clarification" Romanian road sign

I took this photo the week I moved here.  I thought it was hilarious.  Now it makes sense!  No use of horns allowed here!

A daily occurrence: horse carts and hay wagons! 

Another daily occurrence: the sheep (or cows!) have got to cross somewhere!  At least stray dogs have the decency to use crosswalks (it's true!).

Gorgeous roadside sunflowers in sunflower season (July)

These roadside alters are everywhere, each one uniquely handcrafted


Another "just for clarification" sign: you can park anywhere, I guess!

Thank you, Romania, for forcing me teaching me to be a braver driver than I ever thought I could be!


Friday, February 5, 2016

Who's Who in After-School, Part 3

We've been back in school for almost a month now, so I thought it would be good to share about another one of my students. Before I do that though, let me tell you a little about what happened in the final weeks before the winter break. We were in the States, but the after school program continued for three weeks. Claudiu and Cristina approached me in November about doing some sort of Christmas performance for the families of our students. I was excited about the enthusiasm they had for wanting to take on something special with the kids. We worked out a plan for them to practice during the second hour of the school day for this program. On December 17th, they invited families and friends to the church to perform what they had been working on. It was great to get the pictures while we were in the States.

Now, we've been hard at work getting back to the grind of learning to read and write. One of my students, Cristina, is doing an excellent job! She is one of the poorest kids in my group, and she has struggled with reading since I've known her. She's now in the 6th grade and still far behind. At the beginning of the school year, she did not attend regularly, and didn't show much interest in committing to learn to read. Over the last few months, something changed. I wish I could say that there was something special that we did to encourage her, but I think she really came to this decision on her own. Since we started back to school in January, she has come everyday, and her reading is getting stronger! She no longer has to "sound out" all of the words. She is recognizing words and using comprehension to make sense of what she is reading. She is even able to tell me what she's read after reading it! On top of all that, Cristina smiles now more than I've ever seen her smile before. She's just happy! I'm really proud of her decision to take learning seriously. Now, I'm encouraging her to help those around her when they struggle. She seems to take on this new role with excitement. It also gives her more confidence in her own growth and ability. Congratulations Cristina!

Until next time, 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Winter in Romania

There's a couple who lives at the trash dumpsters behind our apartment building.  Actually, I'm not sure exactly where they sleep, but during daylight hours you can find them there, waiting for the residents of these buildings to decide it's time to take out the trash.  Then, the couple diligently digs through each bag or box, looking for anything edible, usable or sellable.  Usually, only one of them at a time stands by the dumpster.  I assume the other one is combing through another dumpster somewhere else in the area.  That's what winter is like in Romania.

In Apalina, some of the homes are nicer than others.  Some are made of sturdy concrete bricks and red clay roof tiles.  Other homes are molded out of mud and spare pieces of wood and metal scrapped together.  Many homes have just one room where all the members of the family sleep together - parents, kids, babies, even grandparents or cousins.  I don't know of any homes that have an indoor bathroom, but some homes do have running water and electricity.  These homes are popular meeting places.  But when temperatures drop into sub-freezing temperatures, as they've been the last several weeks, the water in the wells and pipes freeze.  Even the homes that have water hooked up lose their water source when it's cold enough.  That's what winter is like in Romania.

There are a few places along the main roads where women wait to be picked up.  They're nicknamed "butterflies" in Hungarian, slang for "prostitute." Throughout the year, we see the same women standing in their spots day after day, month after month.  In one place in Reghin, one women usually stands alone.  She's stood there, alone, almost every day that I've passed by since we've moved here.  On Saturday when I passed her, she was joined by at least three other women.  In the colder months, other kinds of work are scarce.  This is how they survive.  That's what winter is like in Romania.

Many Roma (or Gypsies, as they are more commonly called) famously make their way through life by surviving off of stealing from others.  Others get involved in other dishonest schemes, hence their reputation for being cheats and liars.  If you've talked with us at all about our ministry, you'll know how 1. how damaging this reputation can be; 2. that this reputation is frequently well-earned; and 3. how many Gypsies earn their living honestly and with integrity and tend to be some of the most generous people we know.  When many of the Gypsies in Apalina encounter the gospel, they're faced with a choice: accept Christ and forego all dishonest work or deny Christ and lose out on the life and spiritual abundance He offers.  We've witnessed new believers make incredibly huge sacrifices for their faith, and those commitments are tested the most in winter.  Honest work like construction, tending crops, and taking care of animals is extremely hard to find.  People are hungry and desperate to provide for their families.  We get daily requests for money, food and diapers.  That's what winter is like in Romania.

Please keep Romania in your prayers this winter.  We trust that He is faithful to provide.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ready for 2016

We're back!  We're back to Romania AND back to blogging!  We hope you had a great holiday season with your families and friends.  We had a fantastic time in the States catching up with our families and friends, but as many other missionaries will tell you, it was extremely busy and very exhausting at the same time!  We were happy to cross the threshold of our Romanian apartment on Saturday afternoon... finally back in the home we've built together.

While we were gone, the ministry had one of its busiest seasons: Christmas!  Not only were there many more services and events than usual, there were also big tasks like shoebox and food box distribution!  In the children's meetings, leaders helped the kids prepare skits, poems and songs for the special season.  Attendance at these children's meetings swelled to over 100 kids in Apalina!  All of the local leaders did an amazing job.  They even sent us some photos and videos of the kids so we could get in on the action from far away.  Awesome!

Attila sent us this photo of a children's meeting in Apalina with the Romanian-speaking kids!

To catch you up on our time in the States, I thought I'd share some photos of what we were up to in the States.  In addition to what you see here, we also met with churches, had about a hundred doctor's appointments (or so it seemed!), ran tons of errands, and lived out of our suitcases for five weeks straight!  Phew!

When we arrived to Paul's parents' house, look what was waiting for me, courtesy of my super thoughtful father-in-law!!  Yes!!  Best welcome ever!!

We drove up to Charlotte to see Paul's sister, her husband, and their three precious children (one of them brand new!!!!!).  We even got to drive around on the Nascar Speedway and look at their drive-through Christmas lights display!

We drove over to Knoxville to visit my Grandad.  We took a field trip to the Museum of Appalachia, where there is a McClung house exhibit :) The entire property was decorated for Christmas in the old pioneer style.  We loved every minute of this special time with Grandad!

Back in Charleston, we had Crook Family Christmas, including a family bowling trip!  Paul got to help teach his nephew how to bowl for the first time!  Such great memories!

Here are all the Crooks and Fulginitis together in one photo!

We flew to San Antonio just before Christmas and connected with my parents, my brother and his brand-new FIANCÉ, Nancy!  We are so excited to have a new family member join us in 2016!  And of course, we had to stop by our favorite Tex-Mex place on the way home from the airport!  YUM!

We went to a Spurs game together!  Spurs are 22-0 at home!

On New Year's Day, Paul and I ran a 5k with my parents!  I am so proud of everyone in this picture!!

We drove up to Austin to spend the weekend with friends, and then met some more friends in Waco!  While we were in Waco, of course we had to stop by the Magnolia Market property (which was sadly closed on a Sunday!).  We got to snap this photo of their bakery-in-progress.  Any Fixer Upper fans out there??

We flew back to Romania on Jan 8-9 and this was our view from the plane, descending to Cluj.  Now winter is fully upon us!

This week, school started back up, as did the After-school program in Apalina.  I'm starting up English classes again tonight, and off we go!  Thank you for your prayers for us while we were away.  Please be praying for our ministry and for those we work with here during these winter months.  Work is much more difficult to find for our Gypsy friends during the winter, and their already harsh living conditions become pretty unbearable when the temperatures drop and the dampness of rain, snow and ice permeates practically everything.  

Since most of the migrant work in Western Europe that attracts Romanians happens only in the spring and summer, many of our church meetings are really crowded now, which is great!  Almost everyone is home.  We have several teams lined up to come here in February and March, so we'll be preparing for that as well.  There's a lot going on!  Stay tuned for more from Romania!


P.S. In case you missed it, you can check out our 2015 Year-End letter in the archives over on the sidebar to the right ------->

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year...a little early

Katie and I would like to say HAPPY NEW YEAR from San Antonio, Texas. We have enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season with our families. We have also been able to visit and share with many people along the way. We are appreciative of the opportunity to spend this time in the States even during a very busy time of ministry in Romania. Thank you for praying for us and for those who are continuing the work while we are here.

As we come to the close of one year and the start of another, we are thankful that God has always provided what we have needed. We are now just $1,500 short of our goal for the start of 2016. Thank you to those who have helped us get to this point. We trust that God will continue to provide for us in the coming weeks. If you are feeling led to give toward our needs or to the work in Romania, you can follow this link.

To all of you and your families, the Crooks wish you a peaceful and blessed 2016!

Love, Paul