It has been several weeks since Christmas, and I regret that I haven’t already written about all that has happened here in Romania. However, I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to reflect and think on the holiday season.
First of all, I must say how happy I was to return to Romania in December. I enjoyed my time in Hungary…it was a great time to catch up with friends at Word of Life Hungary. It was also a great time of rest (which looking back on the busy holiday season was a bigger blessing that I thought). I arrived back in Romania on December 17th. Almost immediately, I was back on a full day busy schedule! Christmas here is full with programs and activities, much the same as in the States. However, here most of the activities happen all around the five days around Christmas. I told many of my friends here that we also have a lot going on during the holiday, but our holiday starts almost at Thanksgiving and things are spread out a bit more. I will try my best to get everything into this update…with more to follow about New Years and the last week.
In Apalina: I arrived back to see the kids from the school program for a few days before their holiday began. It was good to be back with them, even though the numbers were smaller than on a normal school week. Most of the kids weren’t even going to school that week. I also worked with the youth/teenagers from the church on a skit for the Christmas service here. The youth were going to do a skit about the life of Christ and his ministry while the kids were going to act out the birth of Christ. I played Jesus in this skit. Attila gave me the task of creating a video and music to serve as a background for our skit (which we acted without words). I had never done anything like that before, but it was a fun learning experience, and I love a good challenge. We acted out the skit on the Sunday before Christmas Eve. Many people were touched by the skit, and Attila was able to follow it with a great message. Also in Apalina, we gave out shoeboxes to the children. We gave out over 300 boxes (and could have given out more if we had more boxes to give). The kids were so thankful, and for most of them, this is the only Christmas gift that they receive. This year we also received some bags of food from a Dutch ministry. These bags were packed with many non-perishable food items that for many served as their only food for the holiday. As we passed out the bags, we also visited with the families and had a time to share with them, hear about their life, and pray with them.
In Gornesti: Zozo and Attila made something of a competition out of seeing who I would go Christmas caroling with. Here in Romania, the tradition is to go caroling on Christmas Eve. It is also the tradition that after caroling at a house, the family will offer snacks, drinks, and money to those who came to carol. I had told Zozo in November that I would go with him this year because I went with Attila last year. Zozo also asked me to come and join a group for a mini-concert on Christmas Eve in Gornesti. That team consisted of Zozo, Isti (Zozo’s brother), their friend Attila (a different Attila), and me. We spent several days practicing songs and praying together for the concert. One of the songs we planned to sing was Silent Night. I shared with the group our tradition of a candle-light service, and they loved the idea. I bought tea lights (the only thing I could find in bulk at the last minute) and we ended the concert with Silent Night and candle-light. I think it’s a new tradition here! J After the concert, we prepared for caroling…and I mean marathon caroling! We started around 10:00 and I arrived back home at close to 5:00 in the morning. Oh, and I forgot to mention that here, the tradition is to have church services on Christmas day and the day after Christmas. With Sunday being the day before Christmas Eve this year, that means that over four days from December 23-26 we had 13 church services. I forgot to mention that I was a little bit tired after those four days! J But all in all, it was a very blessed week.
On a personal note, I enjoyed spending Christmas with my Romanian/Hungarian family. Attila and Adel are so good to me, and they didn’t fail this during the holiday. We ate together on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, we exchanged gifts, and we just enjoyed being together…that is when we weren’t serving somewhere. I’m also thankful for Zozo and his family for inviting me to eat with them on Christmas Eve after the concert. I also got to spend some good time with Jeno over the holiday. I’m so excited to see how he is growing and taking on new responsibilities in the church.
I will follow this with some pictures of the holidays. Thank you to everyone who is praying for me and for the work here in Romania! May God bless you in this New Year!