Thursday, December 6, 2012

Snowing and Sharing

It started snowing here on Tuesday, and it has been beautiful ever since!  It is supposed to snow more tonight and maybe this weekend. 

I also wanted to share a little bit about the meeting we had in the school yesterday.  We shared about Christmas traditions in America with two groups of fifth and sixth grade English students at a village school in Tápiószőlős.  These students were so well behaved and respectful.  They were also doing a very nice job of learning English!  They were not afraid to speak to us in English...instead most of them being eager for the chance to practice.  It was great to meet and encourage their teacher, as well.  We started off the time with singing Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and playing a Christmas game.  Then one of the members of our team shared about Christmas traditions in America: from decorating the tree, Christmas caroling, cooking and eating good food, opening presents, and going to candle light services on Christmas Eve.  After this we sang Silent Night, and then I shared about the true meaning of Christmas.  I talked about the people who were there on the night Jesus was born.  I also shared with them about our need for a Savior.  One interesting fact about the way Hungarians celebrate Christmas is that Santa comes to visit on December 6, and the little baby Jesus comes to visit on Christmas Eve.  This was a great opportunity to share with them about our Savior!  Laci (the leader of our team) took over at this point, and he issued an invitation to the kids.  Many of them responded!  This is a school that has recently been taken over by the Reformed/Presbyterian church in that village.  The pastor and his wife were there, and they will be following up with these kids.  They also invited a team from Word of Life to come back in January!  It was a great day of ministry and service, and I was blessed to be a part of it!

Thank you for continuing to be a part of my ministry here through your prayer and support!  God's blessings to you all!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Welcome back to Romania...ok, not really!

Dear friends, it has been a long time since I posted anything here, and I’m sorry for that.  But I’m back in Europe now, so I’m setting a goal again to post a least something each week.  Please hold me to that friends!

I should be saying that I’m back in Romania.  But that wouldn't be true as of this moment.  I actually typed up a big long update the week of Thanksgiving, but I left it on another computer in Romania.  Now, I am in Hungary, spending time with some friends at Word of Life/Elet Szava.  I really had wanted to come here for a visit in December, but the Lord had other plans. 

I arrived back in Romania on November 10th, after many long delays trying to get out of New York and a snow storm there.  When I checked in at the passport control, the officer reminded me that I only had 16 days left out of my 90 free days in Romania.  I knew that I only had a short amount of time left, but I hadn't realized that it was this short.  I also hadn't taken into account that it would take 2-3 months to apply for residency in Romania.  Now this was a big oversight on my part because part of my job when I worked in Hungary before was completing residency paperwork for students.  I should have though about this timetable, but I guess I was just so excited about being back that I didn't plan carefully.  SOOOOO, on November 24th, I left Romania for Hungary.  I will be here until December 17th.  At that point, my new 90 days will start (Americans have 90 free days in every six months).  I have already applied for the residency in Romania, and hopefully I will be able to get that in the next two months.  Then, I will not have to worry about having to leave again for a while.  (This is a big prayer request…thanks for praying! :) )

Now that those details are out of the way, let me fill you in on a little more of what’s been going on since I left the States in November.  I did get to spend two weeks in Romania.  That time was full of many new things (many of which I will share when I get back and post the before mentioned long update).  I got to start working in the after-school program in Apalina.  This was a great blessing and answer to prayer.  I've been waiting for two years to be a part of that, and many times it seemed like it was impossible that I would get there.  The sad thing was having to leave two weeks after starting, but God knew this and I will be able to start again with the new year in January.  It was great to meet two of the teachers that I didn't know: Claudiu and Cristina.  They are both Roma/Gypsy, and are also teachers in the school in Apalina.  They are a great example to the kids that we are working with, and I look forward to getting to know them better in the future. 

I also had the opportunity to share in one of the youth meetings about what it means to be a true Christ follower.  We had a great discussion about this.  I’m always surprised at how open the youth are here.  No one tries to hide behind anything…instead just openly sharing their heart and what’s on their mind. 

Another big event was Thanksgiving dinner.  Adel (she is the wife of the pastor, Attila, who I am working with here) was very excited to help me pull off this special event.  Usually, I am all for trying to blend into the culture of Romania.  I don’t like to try and impose my culture on them…especially since I am living in their country.  But this time it was a little different.  So on Thanksgiving day, I had several friends over for a special dinner.  We made turkey (and in a way that none of them had ever seen or eaten before), dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, and crock-pot macaroni and cheese.  Adel even made banana pudding to enjoy after.  This was a year when I personally had a lot to be thankful for, and it was great to celebrate with new friends and family in Romania. 

When I found out that I had to come to Hungary for three weeks, one of my first prayers was, “Lord, please let me have some ministry opportunities in Hungary.”  God has really answered this prayer!  On my first Sunday here, I was able to share my testimony in one of the churches.  That afternoon, I went with a group of gypsies from one village close by to have a fellowship with another group in another town.  Although I didn't share, it was exciting to be a part of that ministry as well.  Tomorrow, I will go with a group of Americans and Hungarians to a school.  This school asked for some Americans to come and share about American Christmas traditions, and to share the gospel.  The leader of the group from Word of Life asked me if I would come along and do the evangelism part of the meeting.  Again, God has answered my prayer!

It has been a big journey to get to this point, but I’m so thankful for all of the things along the way that have helped me to get here.  I’m thankful for what I've learned and for the people who have helped to shape who I am today.  Thank you for being a part of this ministry with me.  I look forward to sharing more each week as this adventure continues!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Apalina: Children's Camp

Last week we had a camp for children in Apalina. This camp was led by a group from Leesburg Community Church. It has been great having so much support from this church this summer. They have really been a blessing to me, Attila, and the whole ministry here. This most recent group is no exception. They have jumped in and worked very hard from the beginning. 

For this camp, the kids came only for the afternoon each day. We started at 2:00, but kids were already there when we arrived each day. The first day we had well over 150 kids. As an aside, I should tell you that part of my job in this week was to purchase snacks for the kids each day. On Monday morning I went with two other team members and we bought 200 apples and 200 bananas. In the stores here, you have to bag up the fruit, but you also have to weigh it and get a price sticker for it. I'm sure it was a funny sight to see three Americans trying to count out so much fruit. 

With this group of kids, management of the time and crowd was a key factor. The team decided that we would have a large group time at the beginning, and this would be followed by rotations where the kids were divided into smaller groups. During the rotation time, there we crafts, games, re-tellings of the story, coloring, and many other activities throughout the week. After the rotations, we would sing some more and then give out whatever snack we had for the day. Giving out the snacks also had to be carefully managed to make sure everyone received only what they were supposed to. We put the snacks beside the door and then had the kids exit one or two at a time as they got their snack. In the church yard, we played many other sorts of games...volleyball, soccer, hula hoops, jump ropes, etc. This was just a great time to talk with the kids informally.  Then, every evening we had evangelism meetings in the church. 

As we had already figured, this group grew every day. By Friday, we had over 300 kids and with parents, we gave away 360 ice creams. That was another adventure...going to the grocery store to buy 360 individual ice creams. I took two gypsy guys with me, and they were a big help.  I also must say again how pleased I am to be working with this team.  Even when it could have been very overwhelming (having so many kids and not necessarily enough "stuff" for them), this team has stepped up and worked hard, changed plans, and never complained.  What a blessing!

One of my big responsibilities in this week was to stay with the group of older kids and teenagers from Apalina during the rotation time.  This is the third year that I have worked with many of these kids.  It was a challenge with so many, but I love being with them...and I think some of them even listen to me now! :)

My other responsibility for the week was to drive some of the team each morning to Gornesti for a music group.  The pastor's wife, Elaine, went with me each day.  On some of the days I stayed to help out, but mostly I just watched.  She did a great job of teaching them basic chords on the piano, some singing techniques, and some basic general music theory.  The best part of all was just singing together.  

This team is staying for another week, so I'll get to work with them again in Gornesti and Glodeni.  God has already blessed us so much, I'm so excited to see what's in store for the next week.
We stopped to buy some more supplies from a shop on the side of the road.

This was the group on the last day of camp...over 300 children!

Last day of camp in Apalina

Part of my daily routine...buying the snacks for the kids.
Music group in Gornesti...Elaine is teaching them chords

Jeno...playing the organ in Gornesti

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sibiu Camp Week 1 (part 2) and Week 2

So I finally have a few minutes to sit down and get my thoughts down about camp.  I should start by saying that these two weeks were so great!

 In the last update, I was writing about the daily program.  After the morning meeting and discussion time, we had a game time each day.  We had the kids divided into three teams that they were a part of all week.  During the game time, they would compete for points, and at the end of the week, the team with the most points got a prize.  This worked really well.  We also started to teach them some expectations: you must stand in line with your team, you must not say bad things to members of another team, and you must cheer for your teammates.  All of this helped us in our desire to build up the idea of working together and teamwork. 

After lunch each day, the kids had time to swim at the river, go to the store in the village, or just hang out and talk.  After this, we had a rotation time where they learned English, made some sort of craft related to the story for the day, and prepared a drama about the memory verse or learned some new songs.  This time also worked really well.  After the rotations, we had soccer and some free time before dinner.  Each evening, we had a meeting where there were testimonies and some of the kids also shared things they were learning.  That really just gives you the basic overview of the days there at camp.

I want to thank everyone who has been praying for the work here.  It has been an incredible summer of service, and I am very blessed to be a part of it.  Those two weeks at camp were busy and long, but God really is working among these children.  I pray now that their decisions will be strengthened in the coming days. 

I’ll just share one more story for now about camp.  I came home one day early to prepare for another group arriving.  There was a girl who was not feeling well, and she came along with me.  I was happy to come home for a little rest, but I was also sad to be missing out on the final day of camp.  However, on the ride home, this young lady asked me many questions about faith and salvation.  She asked me if there were rules to being saved and I was able to share with her about my life and my salvation.  

I'm attaching two videos that we made of pictures taken at camp.  I hope you'll enjoy watching.  I'm going to add another post later of just some pictures.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sibiu Camp: Week 1, Part 1

Two of my new Romanian Speaking Gypsy Friends: Lucian (left) and Catalin (right)
I finally have a little time to sit down and write about the week that we had at camp in the mountains.  As I am writing this, we are in the middle of the first full day of week two here.  Last week we had kids from Apalina and Peris with us.  These are the kids that I have worked with the last two years.  The very interesting and exciting thing was that many of the kids from the Romanian speaking street came with us this year.  It really reminded me of two years ago when I was not able to speak to the kids as well.  It was frustrating because I wanted to be able to talk with those kids more.  However, there are many things that can be shared simply through body language, and I still found ways to show them that I loved them. 

This particular camp was started six years ago by Attila (the pastor who I am working with).  This is my third year coming here.  It is so amazing to see the change in the kids from two years ago.  I think for Attila and the others who have come longer, the change is even more amazing.  Two years ago when I came, there were a lot of bad behaviors.  One of the kids hit me with a stick and tried to throw a big rock at me.  There was a lot of bad language as well.  This year, the kids were so much better.  One of the things we focused on in this week was teamwork.  During the game times and the evening meetings we encouraged the kids to cheer for each other and to work together to accomplish the goals of the games.  This was also exciting to see. 

Each day began with a time of sharing and prayer for the adults.  After that, the kids ate breakfast and then went to clean their rooms.  We made a competition out of who would have the cleanest room.  This was another area where we encouraged them to work together.  After the room cleaning time, we had a Bible teaching time that included singing and learning Bible verses.  After the meeting, the kids would break up into groups to talk about the lessons from the story.  A really cool part of this time was the creative response time.  Each day, the kids would have a different way to respond to the lesson through art.  One day they used crayons, another day markers, water color paint, and pipe cleaners.  The kids really love this and it also allows us to see how they respond to the story in a different way.

Reviewing the previous stories with the teams for points
Story of Paul and Silas in Prison with the Guard watching over them
Pointing out the way people are different and the same...part of sharing how the gospel is for everyone
I'm out of time to write this week, so this will have to be a two-parter! :)  Here are a few pictures of the camp and the kids.  Thanks for the thoughts and prayers!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Handball and Volleyball Championships...what???

I hate that I'm so behind in letting everyone know what's going on with the ministry here in Romania.  I'm currently in Sibiu doing some "shopping" so I only have time to update you quickly on what's been happening here.  

Let me start with two weeks ago...well really two and a half now! :)

My small group in Harghita 
We took a group of about 75 young people from six different villages/cities away to a camp near the mountains in Romania.  Each morning we had a Bible study time and then broke out into small groups.  These small groups were our teams for the week.  In the afternoons, we had a mini-sports competition everyday (soccer, volleyball, and handball) with the final for each being on the last day.  As most of you know, I'm about the least athletic person on earth.  Because of the make-up of the groups, I ended up having to play everyday, despite my strongest protests!  This was especially true on handball day.  I've never played handball, and I've only seen it once or twice on TV.  One of the guys on our team, Sandor, was a huge encouragement to me, and with his help, I was able to play.  Our team made it to the final game!  We played well together, but I do have to give most of the credit to Sandor, who is a terrific player.  In addition to the sports, we also had an evening evangelism meeting.  During these meetings, many people made decisions about following Christ!  What a blessing it was to be a part of that week.

Sandor and I...he is the great encourager!
Last week, we had a sports camp in Gornesti.  Yes, it was ANOTHER week of sports for me.  I don't think I've ever played so much in my life!  It was also a week for sports firsts...I was a part of the champion volleyball team.  I was also on the lead handball team (we didn't get to play the final game because of time...but we were in first place! :) )

This week, we had many of the same people from the first camp, and it was a great time to see them be faithful to their decisions.  In the evenings, we had many opportunities to share and sing. Several times we ended up just singing in the street or in the park for an hour or more.  God is really working among the youth in Gornesti!  Please pray that they will continue to be strong as they go about their daily lives.  
Well, it's time to get back to the campers now.  We're with children this week...doing the camp that I've done the last two years.  I will just have to fill you in on that later.  Thanks for the prayers and the support!  It's been great to know that people from all over are a part of what's going on here in Romania!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Szabad Napok...Free Days!

This week I've had several free days.  The week started with taking the van we used last week back to another city about four hours away.  I stayed with another missionary couple (who are actually the sister and brother-in-law of Adel) and their family.  It was a great time of relaxation and fellowship. 
With Adel's nephew in the mountains outside Brasov

On Tuesday, I went with Adel's brother-in-law, Otto, to buy a car.  What a great blessing it was to have the money I needed and have some left over as well.   I'm already enjoying the car a lot!

Today, I bought some things for my apartment here.  I was able to get a good price on some kitchen cabinets and a desk. Those things will be delivered tomorrow morning. I'm including some "before" pictures of the apartment, and I'll take some more after everything is set up.

View from the doorway coming in.  As you can see, there's a lot of "stuff" to be moved or stored
View into the kitchen from the hallway

Left side of the kitchen (that's the stove in the lower's being used as a "counter" now. :))

Right side of the kitchen


Living room/Office (and where I'm sleeping  for the summer)

View from the other side of the living room


Baptism in Glodeni

Last week I had a great time serving with a team from England in a small village called Glodeni.  We had meetings for the children in the afternoons and evangelism services in the evenings.  I have worked with many of these kids before in another camp, so it was good to reconnect with them.  On Wednesday night, we had a church meeting to vote on two new members for the church.  This work is fairly new and small, so these two members doubled the size of the actual church membership!  It was great to hear their testimonies and see how God has worked in their lives.  On Sunday we had a baptism service for these two men.  This was in the tent and it was in a portable baptistry.  It was a great experience...very moving to experience.  My friend Zozo also shared a part of his story and how his family has been changed.  He is a teacher and has worked with many students in that village.  Many of them were there, along with their parents.  All in all, it was an amazing day.
Attila with the two new church members before the baptism

Besides reconnecting with some of the kids from previous camps, I also made a new friend.  His name is Zoltan and we became fast friends... inseparable!  He is coming to camp, along with many other from this village, later in the summer.  I'm already praying that it will be a blessed time with them.
My new friend, Zoltan

Also, some of you have heard about my "adopted son" Jeno.  Well, it was a great reunion with him.  It was also great to see him serving in the ministry.  He played the guitar for the children's meetings and also helped keep the kids focused during the meetings.  It was great to serve along-side him for the first time.  

Thanks for your prayers!  More pictures to come shortly!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How many people does it take to put up a tent?

Well, normally, it wouldn't take very many.  However, today we put up a big tent in one of the gypsy villages for evening services tonight through this weekend.  

To answer the took five British guys, three Hungarian guys, lots of gypsy children, and this American!  It was a big job (I have a new respect for traveling circus workers).  We started a little after 9 in the morning and by 2:00 (when we stopped for lunch) we were almost done.  With a little work in the afternoon, it was finally finished.  I never knew it would take so much work to put up a tent!

It's been a great first week on the ground here in Romania.  VERY BUSY, but VERY GOOD!  Just to give you a quick run down of the last couple of days:

Yesterday (Wednesday): I went to the airport at 4:00 in the morning with two guys from the British team that is here.  I came back, rested for an hour, and went back to Targu Mures (which is about 30-45 minutes away) with a gypsy couple who needed to go to the doctor.  When I got back, it was time for lunch with the group from England.  After lunch we headed to Glodeni/Sarpatak for a children's meeting.  This was from 3:00-6:30, and included stories, crafts, and games.  After a quick supper in a nearby village, we returned for an evangelism meeting at 8:00.  After that, there was a church business meeting to decide if two men were ready to join the church.  They both shared their testimony with us and were then voted into the church.  By this time, it was after 10:00.  I went home with Attila (the pastor here) to discuss some business about the coming weeks, and eventually returned home after 11:00.  

Today (Thursday): We started the day with building the tent.  We had the same children's meeting in the afternoon from 3:00-6:30, dinner, and an evangelism meeting.  After the meeting tonight, I went with Apalina (another gypsy village) to see a man about a horse...literally.  This man needed a ride to meet someone about some horse business.  While we were there (keep in mind, this was after 10:00) the street was ALIVE!  Everyone was out on the street.  This is one of the things I love about going there.  It's so good to meet with the people just out on the street.  I had a few good conversations even in the short time we were there.  I arrived home just a little while ago, and it's now 11:40.

Whew!  It's been a long two days, but it sure has been great!  I promise some pictures are to come, as well as a video of the apartment where I'm living.  I'm just too tired to do it tonight!

Friday, June 15, 2012

God will "supply all you need...just in time."

This message comes from a quote from Corrie Ten Boom.  It was shared with me by my mom who heard it from a dear friend (and former colleague of mine).  Here is the full passage:

"When I was a little girl, " I said, "I went to my father and said, "Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ." 

"Tell me," said Father, "When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?" 

"No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train."

"That is right," my father said, "and so it is with God's strength. Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need – just in time…"

This little passage has meant a lot to me in the last few days.  I don't know that I'll ever face some of the questions that Corrie Ten Boom faced, especially about having to be a martyr for my faith in Jesus Christ.  However, there have been unknowns in my life...places where it would have been easy to not trust and stay in the comfortable places.  I have prayed often for the Lord to keep me from giving in to a comfortable life of the known if He has other plans for me.

So just a few specific examples of how this has actually played out in my life just this week:
  • I have not been able to find someone to stay in my house this summer while I'm gone and in to October.  I had given up on it, just trusting that God would provide other means.  Well, just as I was "needing the ticket for the train" (also known as Tuesday before I left), this was taken care of.
  • On a smaller, but equally amazing note, I was needing to get a document signed and witnessed by two people on Wednesday (the day I flew out).  I actually needed to get it notarized, but I "knew" there would be no time for that.  I wasn't trusting God for the "ticket".  As I was at the airport, we asked at the information booth, and the lady not only witnessed the signing of the document...she was a notary and she put her official seal on it.  God provided...just in time.
I know I will still fail with this in the future, but God is teaching me more and more to trust in Him to provide for the things I need.  Sometimes this will be in enough time for me to be comfortable with the decision.  Sometimes it will be "just in time" in order that I will continue to put my trust only in Him and not in myself.

Here's one final quote from Corrie Ten Boom for this post.  Thanks everyone for your prayers!
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

― Corrie ten Boom

Monday, June 4, 2012

A new adventure among old friends

In a week and a half, I'll be leaving to head back to Romania.  This will be the third summer in a row that I have  been in Romania.  However, this journey started much farther back.  This summer is the start of a new adventure that began in 1998.  That was the year I took my first overseas mission trip to Romania.  It was also the start of God's calling on my life to work in that country.  From that first summer, Romania has been on my heart.  I never knew it would take more that 10 years for me to get back there, but in 2010 I was able to go with some family friends to work at a Gypsy camp for two weeks.  The amazing thing was that this camp, while in Romania, was working with primarily Hungarian speaking Gypsies.  I lived in Hungary for three years and, while there, started to learn Hungarian.  Those language classes came to good use during those two weeks of camp.  During those two weeks, I began to see how God might be calling me back to Romania.  After two years of praying and seeking, it is finally time for this adventure to start full time.  I can't wait to see where it takes me, and I look forward to sharing it with you!