Sunday, December 28, 2014

Good-bye 2014, hello 2015!

As we come to the close of 2014 and look ahead to 2015, we wanted to take a moment to share a big "THANK YOU" with all of you who faithfully follow the Crooks in Romania.  We also wanted to share a few of the highlights from the past year and give you an idea of what things look like heading into 2015.

Here are a few of the year's big events:
·         New Year's Eve/New Year's Day- A proposal and a "YES"
·         February-June- Our long wait and dating over Skype
·         July 12th- Our Wedding!
·         August- We returned to Romania as a couple.
·         September- Our 4th year of the after-school program in Apalina started, and Katie celebrated her first birthday in Romania.
·         November- We discovered what it's like to live without running water for a week, cooked the 3rd annual Thanksgiving Dinner in Romania, and celebrated the birth of Daniel Toth.
·         December- We spent time with family and friends in South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Georgia.

In thinking about and planning for the new year, we give thanks for all of the opportunities we have to serve our Lord as we serve others.  We will continue our work in the after-school program, children's meetings, and newly formed English classes.  We are also excited about continuing opportunities to disciple new believers, train worship teams, and help develop vision and goals for the overall ministry.  The summer will bring another season of camps where children and youth from our area will hear about God's love.

We are blessed to have faithful partners who give each month to support our financial needs in Romania.  Because of you, we are able to focus on the work that God has called us to.  In the year ahead, we are still in need of some one-time gifts to help us cover our international health insurance, car insurance, road taxes, yearly medical expenses, and air travel.  As of writing this, we are about $4500 short of this goal.  We are thankful for the opportunity to trust God with these needs.  We are certain that just as He has called us, He will also provide for all of our needs!  To God be the glory!

-Paul

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Texas Time!

For those of you who are regular readers (and we've met a lot of you on this trip), thanks for keeping up with the Crooks in Romania!  It's been great to chronicle our adventures through this blog and we are encouraged to hear from so many people who are following us in this way.  Keep the messages coming! :)

This week, we are enjoying some great family time with Katie's family in San Antonio.  We have played games (Katie won the Mexican Train marathon), eaten lots of great food (including my first deep dish Chicago-style pizza), and relaxed with family and memories old and new.  Sunday, we had a great afternoon visiting some of our dear friends in Austin. Last night I was able to officially join the SPURS fan club by attending a nail-biter of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies.  While we would have loved for the outcome to be different (117-116 loss in third overtime!), we still had a great time.  We're looking forward to the next few days of family and Christmas celebration #1 before we fly back to South Carolina next Wednesday.

In Austin with Daniel and Kelly
Go SPURS Go! (that's Katie's brother, Paul)
Thank you for praying for, keeping up with, and encouraging us during our time in the States.  We wish all of you a great week before Christmas!

Love,
Paul

UPDATE: Last night we enjoyed a great dinner at Casa Rio on the riverwalk !  This was one of my requests for our time here.  It was a great night (even if I did get attacked by a duck)! :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Home for the Holidays

Dear friends, thank you so much for your prayers for our safe travel over the last few weeks.  We've been through Hungary, Austria, Germany, New York, Charleston, and Washington, D.C. in just over a week!  It feels great to be back home now with family in the States.  While there's still so much to be done to prepare for the holidays, there's nothing like sharing meals with dear friends and family to get us into the Christmas spirit!

This weekend, we were blessed to have the opportunity to spend the weekend with our friends in Leesburg, Virginia.  Leesburg Community Church (LCC) is one of our sponsoring churches, and they've sent many teams to Romania to be a part of our ministry over the past several years. We stayed with the lovely Bill and Joyce and enjoyed dinner and lunch with friends we made from the Romania mission teams!  Pastor Alan invited Paul to share about our work in each of the three morning services, and we soaked up the love and encouragement from SO MANY sweet members of the church.  It was really meaningful to us to hear from so many people that they are praying for us, that they love reading our blog (!), and that they are encouraged by what God is doing in our lives and in the lives of those we work with.  THANK YOU, LCC, for welcoming us so well and for being such a big part of our lives!

Paul speaking in the contemporary service at LCC

Paul and I will head to Texas on Wednesday for the next two weeks.  We're excited to visit with our family and our supporters there.  Then, we'll head back to Charleston for Christmas and more family time here!  We're a little ready to be off airplanes for a while, but we truly feel so blessed to be able to have this time in the United States.  We hope we will get to connect with many of you while we're here!

Love,
Katie

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving!

We're so glad to have another chance to say "thank you" again for praying for us in our time of anxiety regarding our home in Charleston.  At the end of last week, we got word from our property manager that we will have brand new tenants beginning on December 1!!  This is yet another amazing way that God has provided for us.  Thank you for your prayers and for your encouragement.  It is a huge load off of our shoulders!  We are praying that our new home will be a blessing to the new tenants.

Since getting that wonderful news, we have been able to turn our focus back on our work and all there is to do before leaving for the States!  Since we won't be here for the official start of the Winter Quarter for Children's ministry, we had our quarterly meeting early, on Thursday, November 20.  All of the children's workers in our area were invited, and we spent time praying together, sharing about how the work is going and what their needs are, planning Christmas programs, and working on curriculum for the upcoming quarter.  The new curriculum system is going very well!  The teachers reported that they love having a plan for what they will teach.  Because of your generosity, we have been able to purchase some materials to get us closer to completing the plan!  Our teachers are also enjoying the resources at Mission Bible Class, an incredible website dedicated to children's Bible classes and teachers.  I'm looking forward to continuing all the work we've started in Children's Ministry when Paul and I return from the States in January.

Before I go any further, I am so happy to be able to introduce you to Dániel István Tóth, the newest member of the Tóth family!  Attila, Adél, and Káleb are like our family here, so Paul and I are very happy to welcome this new member into our Reghin family :) We are already so in love!  "Dani" changes every day.  Káleb has been a proud and affectionate new brother to "Dani" too, and we have enjoyed entertaining the new big brother during this week of big changes!

Dani :)

On November 22, the Winter Bible Class for adults began in Gornesti and Apalina.  Last year was the inaugural year for this program, and in the 2014-2015 session, Attila and Joseph Kovacs, our guest teacher, will focus on leadership training for church members who are interested in taking on this kind of role in the church.  Joseph teaches the class like a Bible course - there's even a test at the end! - and it's a very popular event!  The class will be held two weekends per month, and it will run through April.

On the evening of November 22, Paul and I hosted the third annual American Thanksgiving feast here in Reghin!  Before we were married, Paul cooked Thanksgiving dinner for some of his close friends here on Thanksgiving Day.  Because we will be out of town on Thanksgiving this year (more on that later), we decided to host the dinner on the Saturday before Thanksgiving in America.  This was also a perfect day because Joseph was in town as well as Attila's mom (in town helping to care for the new baby) and Bonnie Parker from Teleios.  We had about 12 people come for the meal, and it was a very special night.  It was special because Paul and I got to do it together this time!  And it was also special because of the meaningful things that were shared - things we were thankful for.  There's no list long enough to hold what these Crooks are thankful for this year! :)

Our friends Lucian and Cristina and Joseph

Adél introducing Dani to Claudiu and Cristina

Our first Thanksgiving!

I had the opportunity to speak at a local public school today about American Thanksgiving.  Our friend Adela is an English teacher at the school near Targu-Mures, and she invited about 30 kids to come to hear the presentation.  At the end, they asked lots of questions, and they even sang two English Christmas carols for me!  It was fun to be out in a different community and to see another Romanian school.  It was also fun to be teaching again, even if just for a few minutes :)

Here's the only photo I managed to snap at the school - the kids watching some of the other kids singing :)

Now Paul and I are in the throws of packing for not one, but two upcoming trips!  We have been saving up for several months to be able to take a little trip to Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria!  Actually, this trip has been one of our dreams for a long time.  Back in 2012 when Paul and I had just started dating, he went to Vienna at Christmas time.  Since I studied in Vienna for a semester when I was in college, I gave him some ideas of places to go and told him which Christmas markets were the best!  I'm not sure how much fun he ended up having on his own - and of course when he was there, I could think of nothing else than my favorite person walking around my favorite city at my favorite time of year!  So, we made a pact that we would try to go together in 2014, two years from then.  And now, it seems it is really going to happen :) Paul lived in Toálmas, Hungary (near Budapest) for several years before coming to Romania, so he is excited to introduce me to his friends there and to show me the campus of the Bible school where he attended and worked.  Luckily for us, Budapest is driving distance from here (about 7 hours), and we'll take a short train ride from there to Vienna!  Please pray for safe travel for us from Thursday to Monday.  Then, we'll come home for a day and leave for the States!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!!  Thank you again for your constant care and encouragement.  It's such fun to share our lives with you!

- Katie

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some Good News!

I am so happy to say that I (Katie) now have an application on file at the immigration office for a 5-year residency permit!  After a very frustrating day of phone calls and packing, on Monday afternoon the immigration office agreed to see us first thing this morning (Tuesday).  Now that I have an application on file, I am free to travel and live here in Romania for up to 5 years before applying again.  This is great news!!  We won't have to worry about leaving the country until our upcoming scheduled travel.  Thank you for praying for this process!  We feel a great sense of relief!

Now, please keep praying for new tenants for our home in South Carolina!!

Love,
Katie

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Urgent Prayer Requests

Thank you to all of you who join us faithfully in prayer.  This morning we want to share two more prayer requests that are of a more urgent nature.

We own a home in North Charleston, SC.  Until this past October 31, we had a family renting the property.  They moved out at the end of their lease, and now the house is on the rental market again.  We have had to make several repairs on the home, and we are currently deciding about replacing some of the damaged flooring.  As you might imagine, that's difficult to do from 5000 miles away.  Paul's parents are also in North Charleston and they have been a big help to us with the home. We are praying each day for new tenants, and this week we heard there was an application on its way.  However, that application seems to have fallen through the cracks somewhere.  We are trusting God but also struggling with stress and anxiety.    Please join us in praying for this home, that we will find new tenants soon and that the repair process will continue smoothly.

Second, we have been working for months on securing Katie's Romanian residency permit.  However, we are now "down to the wire."  She is allowed to stay in Romania for 90 days without a permit.  She has been in Romania for 79, and we are still waiting on a letter from the government that verifies that she is eligible for a Religious Activities permit.  We cannot submit an application for a permit without this letter.  We are praying and making plans for us to possibly leave Romania sometime this week for a few days (crossing the border into Hungary and staying with friends there).  We have another 4-day trip planned out of the country around Thanksgiving, and we will leave for the States on December 3, but that's 18 days away and she only has 11 legal days left.  This is another area of anxiety for us as we have many things to do here in Reghin before leaving for the holidays.  Please pray with us that the letter will arrive on Monday and that the following application will be accepted quickly.  Please pray for kindness from all of the immigration officials we will be contacting in the coming days.

It's such an encouragement to know you are praying for us.  Thank you for partnering with us in this way.  We will keep you posted on further developments.

Love,
Paul and Katie

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fall Prayer Requests

We've updated our Prayer Requests section and wanted to share them with you here as well.  Thank you for partnering with us in prayer for the work of God here in Romania!

Please pray for:
- The new English ministry we have started in Reghin
- Food, warm clothes, and wood for fires as our Gypsy families are facing the difficult winter months ahead
- Continued wisdom for Paul's leadership in the After-School program
- Discernment in meeting the material needs of those we work with
- Insight for how we can best manage our time across all of the responsibilities we have
- Our financial needs for 2015

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Counting our Blessings

There have been many times since I arrived in Romania that I have realized how much I take certain things for granted.  Sometimes when I'm driving on the one, single road toward Targu-Mures (the big city close to us), I think about how in the States there would be several different ways to get from one city to another.  When I see some of our After-school kids with shoes that are falling apart on very cold days, I am reminded that I have more than I need.  This week, we learned how much we take water for granted!

We woke up last Saturday morning to find out that our water was not working.  This in itself was not so strange.  There have been times in the past that the water was off while the water company was working on something in our building.  After speaking with our neighbor, we relaxed a little because he said it would be back on by 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  We later found out that there was a problem with one of the main water pipes and that water would be off until it was fixed.  Our water came back on Monday evening, but it is not potable.  We had water most of the day on Tuesday, but then water was off again on Wednesday morning until the evening.  The water worked again on Thursday, but was off again some on Friday.  During this time, the villages surrounding Reghin have been without water altogether.  The city has been bringing in water tanks with clean water and setting them up in different places.  We are thankful because we were able to buy plenty of clean drinking water.  For us, it is an inconvenience that has shown us how much we take access to water for granted.  We aren't sure if there will be any more outages, but we have plenty of water stocked up in case there are.

Besides the water struggle this week, we have had a great week at after-school!  Things are really moving along there.  I can't believe we've already been in school for almost two months.  One of our incentives to encourage attendance at our program and the local school is an outing for those kids who have had perfect attendance.  This month we had 16 kids who were invited to go on the outing!  We went to the local park and everyone ate mici with bread and mustard.  It's great to see how much these kids love just playing, but I think their favorite part was the van ride getting there and back!


The after-school teachers - me, Claudiu, Ana Maria, Cristina

Time is moving along so quickly.  In just three and half weeks, we will be heading back to the States for a visit.  Each year, we plan to return in December for a short furlough.  Even though we were just in the states this summer, we didn't want to wait a year and a half before our next visit.  So, we're starting the tradition this year!  We are excited to have time with our families, but we are also looking forward to visiting with many of our supporters and prayer warriors.  Our travel schedule is below!

December 3-5: Charleston, South Carolina
December 6-7: Leesburg, Virginia
December 8-9: Charleston, South Carolina
December 10-23: San Antonio, Texas
December 24-return: Charleston, South Carolina

We are planning to make short trips to Greenville, South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia in the weeks following Christmas.  We will return to Romania in the second week of January (the week of the 4th).

Thank you for your prayers and your support!  Please pray as we begin our English ministry next week!

- Paul

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Taxi trips, tires and time together

Hello and happy November!  Can you believe it??  The holidays are on their way, and we are loving the long fall season we've had so far.  As the temperatures drop, our schedule is really beginning to heat up!  Once Paul returned from his recruiting trip at the beginning of the week, he hit the ground running with a season-high 3 "taxi" trips this week.  He drove on Monday and Wednesday mornings to Targu-Mures (once with our new minibus!) and once to the prison in Bistrita on Friday morning/afternoon.  These trips are great opportunities for him to serve those we work with as well as to build relationships with them.  Car trips are great places for good conversations, so even though these trips take up lots of time, they are beneficial in our ministry and are a big help to the people he "taxis" as well.

These taxi trips left two free mornings this week.  We were so thankful to be able to spend Tuesday morning together at home catching up on some much-needed time to connect with each other.  Many of you have encouraged us to make this kind of time a priority, and we are so thankful for that.  It's a blessing to be able to live and serve together here, but healthy marriages take work, and after Paul's long trip last week, we were ready for some time alone together.  Thankfully, we had Tuesday morning for that!

On Thursday morning, we spent the hours before after-school out and about in Reghin.  Our first stop was the tire shop!  We'd been noticing a weird "thud-thud-thud"-kind of sound in our front right tire for some time, but we hadn't had the chance to get it checked out until this week.  I know absolutely nothing about tires and can't understand much Romanian, but I knew right away that, after a quick look, the technician was saying our tire definitely could not be repaired!  So, we made the choice of two new tires to go on the front of our car, and we waited while they "installed" them - is that the right word to use for tires? :) Anyway, in that moment, we were so especially grateful for our financial partners.  We were so thankful to have the money that we needed to make that unexpected car repair.  As we drove away, Paul and I thanked God aloud for providing for us through the generosity of so many of you.  Thank you!!

After the tire shop, we headed to the weekly market!  We don't always make it there, but when we have free time on Thursday mornings, we try to at least "make an appearance." :) The Thursday market is always bustling with much of the town mulling over the weekly offerings of fresh produce, handmade goods, and - our favorite part - lots of beautiful flowers!  And don't forget the food vendors! :) I think everyone has their favorite mici grill stand to visit.  We indulged this week on two pieces of mici and a sausage, served hot with bread and mustard.  Mmm!  Many of you who have visited us here know about the Romanian specialty of mici.  It's basically a spicy blend of ground meat shaped into a log and grilled to perfection.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Come visit us and we'll be glad to share some with you :) This week, we also saw some interesting varieties of white pumpkins and the most gorgeous array of fall mums!  We even ran into Attila, Adel and Kaleb while we were at the market - so it was, all in all, a great trip :)




Friday afternoon was our children's meeting with the Hungarian-speaking children in Apalina, and we finally finished our creation banner!  We've had so much fun sharing with the children about all of God's creation, and we can tell they've learned a lot!  Thank you for continuing to pray about our work with the children here.  We love them so much.


And now it is Saturday, and, so as not to disappoint, it's held a new adventure all its own!  We woke up to silent, empty faucets :) From what we can gather, there was some sort of break or explosion in the pipe(s) that feed water into Reghin.  Almost no one in the town has running water.  For us, that also means our heat is out!  Earlier in the day, we heard it would be back on by 3 or 4, but we went out to buy some more bottled water and ran into a friend who said he heard it might be back by Monday!  Thankfully, we still have gas and electricity, and we even have a small electric heater, so we are doing ok!  It's not more than an inconvenience, but Paul and I both have considered how most of the people we work with and know here never have the convenience of running water at home.  We are so privileged, and sometimes it takes times like these to realize that and appreciate it fully.

We've spent today working hard on our home and getting ready for the weeks ahead.  We also went out to buy water, as I said, and also to visit a cemetary.  Today is All Saints' Day, and for the past several weeks, local shops have been running specials on candles and votives.  We wanted to see how the cemeteries transform on this day that is so special to many in the Catholic, Orthodox and Reformed faiths.  We saw families gathered around their family graves to leave flowers, wreaths, candles, and mementos of their loved ones.  So much care was taken to make each grave beautiful, and the flickering candles reminded me that the spiritual life of believers continues on after their time here on earth is done.  Here are some photos of what we saw:



Tonight, we're looking forward to relaxing together and maybe even visiting the new Chinese restaurant in the town center.  I've got my hesitations, but we'll keep you posted on how "Chinese" the food really is :)  And hey, without running water, how can we wash dishes at home anyway? :)

Thank you as always for praying for us.  We are thankful and blessed and are looking forward to being in the states next month to share with you in person what God is doing here in Romania.

Love,
Katie

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Surviving Alone

Well, this past week can definitely go down in history as my most adventurous one yet this fall!  Paul went out of town with Attila on a mission tour-of-sorts, and that left me at home to "fend for myself" for almost 5 whole days!  While there were definitely some lonely moments, I also had some great opportunities to reflect, catch up with family, and spend time with new friends.

The week started off with a busy few days as Paul prepared to leave town.  I have to say, he did a great job making sure I would be taken care of!  He put gas in the car, took a trip to the ATM, and even bought a big load of water and carried it all the way up our four flights of stairs to be sure I'd be well hydrated while he was gone :) We also took some time to hang about 30 posters around our town advertising the free English classes we want to offer.  It's been fun getting phone calls in response to our posters, and we are looking forward to starting these classes soon!


After Paul and Attila left on Wednesday, I took over Paul's responsibilities at After-School.  I was so nervous to serve my first meal to the 35 hungry students, but they ate what I made and I was so relieved! :) Thursday and Friday I also went to after-school, and during the other  times when I was at home, I did a little more cleaning and decorating.  I got to Facetime with my parents and brother, but then there were some long stretches of it being just a little too quiet around here!  To combat the quiet, I had a friend over for dinner on Thursday night, and on Saturday night I drove to Gornesti to pick up several girls from the youth group to bring back to our apartment in Reghin.  I also picked up Adél, and we had a fun night of making pizzas and singing karaoke!  Sunday was a day of church, and Adél and her mom invited me for lunch after the morning service.  Finally Paul's trip was coming to an end, and when Paul finally arrived home after 11:30 p.m., I was so happy and relieved.  Those were a tough few days, but it made me even more thankful that Paul is here with me and I feel so much more appreciative of all he does!  I also feel more comfortable and confident in many of the new tasks I took on while Paul was gone.

Thank you for your prayers for us.  As we close the month of October and begin the next one, I'm a little overwhelmed at all there is to accomplish and attend and do.  We are returning to the states for the month of December, so there's even more pressure to get it all done before we're gone!  Please pray that we will focus on the daily opportunities that God gives us to share love and light and not just on our growing to-do lists :)

- Katie

Monday, October 20, 2014

Birthday week for Attila

Ok, before I begin with some news about last week's activities, I have to share another apple story.  Yesterday, Katie and I decided that we needed to get rid of some more apples (of course by using them, not throwing them away).  I found a recipe for apple butter that looked good, but required 12 hours in the crockpot.  Who was I to stand in the way of apples being used to make delicious home made apple butter...nevermind the fact that it was already 3:00 pm.  Ok, now do the math, and you'll realize that our apple butter was set to be done at 3:00 in the morning!  The apple butter tastes delicious, though, so it was well worth it!

Now about last week...we had our normal activities, but I wanted to write about some special times we had with our boss, Attila (plus a little story about another Attila, but more on that when I get back to Sunday).  

This week we celebrated Attila's birthday.  Now for those of you who don't already know, Katie and I actually met on Attila's birthday in 2010.  This means that we also celebrated 4 years of knowing each other this week.  Attila loves to take credit for this! :)  We started off the celebration week by bringing him a vanilla pastry on Monday morning to our weekly meeting.  As much as he gives Katie a hard time about celebrating special days, he really loved his vanilla treat!  

One of the church members from Apalina approached me a week before Attila's birthday and asked me what we were going to do.  We decided to try and surprise him on the day of his birthday.  On the Sunday before his birthday, when he wasn't at the Apalina service, we shared the plans for the surprise with the church.  We were to all meet around 5:30 on Wednesday for the big surprise.  We also got together some money and bought some food, drinks, and even had Adel make a cake.  On Wednesdays there is a church service in Reghin at 5:00 and another in Gornesti at 7:00, so I knew we didn't have a lot of time to get him there.  I wrote him a message asking him to come help with something, but at 6:10, he still hadn't responded or arrived.  Finally, around 6:25,  he pulled in to the church, and we were able to celebrate with him.  I think it was as fun for the church members as it was for Attila.  We had a great time of fellowship and sharing, even after Attila left for his next meeting.

 Some of the women preparing sandwiches before Attila arrived for his surprise.

There's the birthday boy in the middle

On Friday, Katie and I had a double date with Attila and Adel.  Not long ago, we discovered a bowling alley in Targu Mures, so we decided to check it out.  We had a great time, and we were the only people there.  It's a good thing, though, because there were only two lanes!  Afterward, we went to a great restaurant, and Attila was able to order his favorite, a steak!  We are thankful that we also got to enjoy the benefits of Attila's birthday!

It's dark...but that's us at our little bowling alley!

Before I finish, I just wanted to share an update of our creation mural in Apalina.  The kids are really loving it, and they seem to be learning a lot about the world God created.

This week we added feathers and sea shells.

Now, I mentioned another Attila.  His name is Attila Moldovan, and he is the children's ministry leader in Glodeni.  We were able to go to his children's meeting on Sunday afternoon, and we just loved it!  We have been at camp with Attila for the last several years, so it was no surprise to us that he was doing a great job.  The kids were able to share so much about what they had learned from the last week.  Attila also did a great job of preparing, and the story was so well presented.  We really enjoyed being with them for the afternoon.  

Children's meeting in Glodeni.

This week, I'm headed out of town to visit some churches with Attila.  We are going to share our ministry with these churches in the hope that some people will feel called to come and join us in the ministry here, whether it be for two months or two years.  We are excited about this opportunity to see people from Romania coming to serve in their own country.  Please pray for us and for those who will hear God speaking to them.  

-Paul

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Autumn in Reghin

Hi everyone!  It's Katie this week!  Thanks for popping in for an update!

We have had the most beautiful fall weather here in the past week - warm afternoons in the 70s and chilly nights in the 40s!  We're remembering not to take this weather for granted; in a few months, we'll be thankful for memories of this sunshine!  And for those of you who have picked up on the apple trend... they're still coming!  This week, I made pork chops with apples, apple pie, chicken salad with apples, and applesauce.  Tomorrow's lunch dessert: apple pastries!  Paul doesn't seem to be sick of the apples yet!  And I love having fresh fruit in the house!

I snapped this photo of an idyllic day outside our balcony

Paul did some "yard work" for us this week!  Pansies and mums are brightening up the balcony!

My very first ever apple pie!

We're still adjusting our regular schedule to be something that's realistic in terms of time together as well as getting all of our work done.  Last week, I started accompanying Paul to after-school a few days each week!  It's been so fun to help him cook for the kids and then to clean up and help with all those dishes; that frees him up to be able to do some other tasks that he has not had time to do in since the surge of new after-school attendees.  I love the interaction with the kids - not just because they are dear to me, but also because it's helpful language practice!  Children's meetings are also a great time for language practice, although this week's meeting in Apalina was a little bit more like an exercise in crowd control!  We had over 50 children this week!!  That's more than 30 more than our average for this year so far.  Paul did a great job teaching the children about Day 4 of Creation - when God created the sun, moon, and stars - and we made suns and moons from gold and silver mirror paper.  Paul also began working on memory verses with the kids, and we were able to provide a snack for them this week.  We had a great time, but boy was it crazy at times!!

Paul teaching the children in the sanctuary of the church - look how many kids!  This order and attention didn't last long, but they started off great! :)

Mid-mirror paper craft - lots of motion in this one :)

Our Creation Mural is coming along!

I think it was last week that I said to Paul - without thinking too much - that "I'm not scared of a lot of things I used to be scared of when we first got here!" and since then, I've been thinking more about that fact and feeling encouraged by it.  There are still plenty of things I can't do quite yet, and still others that I'm growing in day by day, but I can be very thankful for a couple of things!  First, I am not afraid to light our oven and stove by myself!  I used to call Paul into the kitchen whenever I was ready to turn on a burner or the oven (our stove is gas and it must be lit with a match each time), but now without too much fear of burning the whole building down, I light it myself!

And second, I am not too terrified of our car now!  Paul mentioned that we had a "turning point" driving lesson last week.  Since then, I have driven some every day.  I am still 10000% horrified at the thought of driving within a square mile of any hill of any size, but I am feeling more and more confident each time I take the wheel.  Tonight I drove through the downtown of our nearby 'big city,' Targu-Mures, and all the way home - in the dark!  It was stressful, but we made it back safely.  I'm so thankful for Paul's patience and for his skill in teaching me to drive the dreaded stick shift automobile.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support of our ministry here.  We feel so privileged to be working among the people we love so much, and even the long, hard days feel worth it to be in partnership with God and with you to bring the Gospel to our little part of Romania.  We love sending these updates, and we hope you enjoy reading them as well.  Pray for us as we pray for you.

Love,
Katie

Sunday, October 5, 2014

It's October!

Greetings from apple country!  It is the season of apples in Reghin, and we have received gifts of apples many times!  It's also a great season in our ministry.

One of the new parts of our ministry this fall has been working with music and worship in three different churches.  Because we arrived back to Romania shortly before school started, this was something I couldn't give much attention to right after we got back.  In the last week, though, we have started worship team practices in two of those churches.  One of the things that we have really seen a need for is to have our practice times also be a time for talking about and praying about what we do in leading worship.  In the past, we have just gotten together to rehearse for the upcoming worship service.  Now we are trying to prepare ourselves for worship and to be thoughtful about the songs we choose.  Additionally, I also want to teach more about music.  For example, we have worked on skills like reading music and running sound.  This week in Apalina, it was also great to sing with some of the new people in the community.  They are excited to learn and be a part of the worship team too!

Church service in Apalina

In our after-school program, we are still having a lot of kids come every day.  While this is still a lot of work in the kitchen, I have found time to be with the kids and see what they're learning.  I am happy to say that many of those children who were struggling with the alphabet have already begun to show improvement!  On Friday, one of the groups performed comedy sketches they had written themselves!  It was so fun to be in the kitchen and to hear the laughter of the other kids as they watched.

Lunchtime

One of Friday's skits

While I don't get to teach much in the after-school program (many of the kids speak Romanian and I don't speak Romanian well enough to teach...yet!), I have had opportunities to teach in Hungarian in our children's meetings in Apalina.  This was only the third week since we started back after summer, and the kids are excited and are remembering the lessons we've taught.  It's also fun to teach in Hungarian!  Katie has done a great job of helping prepare lessons that have hands-on activities.  The kids even help create visuals that remind them of what they've learned.  These visuals are on display in the church, so our children as well as our church members can admire them throughout the week.  We are proud of our kids!

Making trees and eating apples on Creation Day 3!

On a family note, we had two major accomplishments this week!  On Wednesday, we started the paperwork for Katie's residency permit.  We were able to get two papers we needed to begin the application.  After visiting several different offices in one building (and being passed from one to the other and back again), we finally found out that the type of government insurance we need no longer exists.  We will have to visit the immigration office in Targu-Mures (the closest "big city" to us) to find out what we need to do next.  Please pray for us as we continue to work through this process.  Our second big accomplishment this week happened on Saturday.  It wasn't Katie's first driving lesson, but it was the first time she drove me home!!!  What started out as a simple driving lesson turned into Katie driving all over town.  I'm so proud of how quickly she picked up driving a stick shift!  Once she's ready to drive alone, she will have more independence and flexibility to focus on her ministries while I'm at work.

Please keep praying for our work with the worship teams, after-school and children, as well as for Katie's paperwork.  We will feel better when we know she has permission to stay here in Romania after the 90-day limit.

As we say here in Romania, "békeséget!" ("Peace" in Hungarian)
-Paul

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Very Special Birthday Week

We hope you enjoyed our tour of the apartment!  We loved making the video and we hope to have more of them coming your way in the next year!  Also, come visit! :)

Last week, we celebrated my 27th birthday!  I have never gotten to celebrate my birthday with Paul, so it was very special to be able to spend the day with him and to get very, very spoiled!  I woke up in an empty bed... he was already in the kitchen making birthday pancakes!  And in spite of his very busy day at work and also in spite of him being sick(!), he made the whole day special with homemade hamburgers, chocolate cake from scratch, and some very fun presents!  I also got to celebrate with Attila, Adel and Kaleb, who blessed me with birthday orchids, a beautiful scarf, and one very chocolately, chocolate cake!  These people know me well! :)

Chocolate cake!!!

Besides all the celebrating, we had a great week in the mission.  After years of dreaming and praying and planning, Attila was finally able to purchase a Volkswagon Transporter from Germany for the ministry with funds from some of our partners.  This is a dream he has had since the first time I met him back in 2008.  It is so good to see dreams coming true in just the right time as the transportation needs of our community continue to grow.  The minibus will also help free up Paul and Attila from some of the driving they do; now they can make monthly trips to the prison instead of weekly!

Children's ministry is also in full swing!  I've finally completed the library database of all the materials we have.  One of my goals this week is to start our wish list!  We've come up with a four-year curriculum plan that will move our children through the stories of the Bible.  Now that I know what materials we have, I can start filling in the gaps.  We are praying for resources and materials to complete our curriculum, and while we have access to some Biblical materials through international ministries with offices here in Romania, we are praying for financial partners to make it all possible.  Pray with us!  This past week, Paul and I visited the Hungarian and Romanian children's meetings in Apalina.  This week's lesson was about Day 2 of Creation, when God separated the water and sky.

Here is a precious little one gluing "clouds" onto our Creation banner at the Hungarian meeting!

Here is Paul "making it rain" during a science experiment at the Romanian meeting!

We have settled in to the school year routine and are enjoying life together.  While we were able to support each other emotionally via Skype during the past two years, we are learning what an amazing blessing it is to be here physically to help each other in work and in life!  Partnering with Paul on this journey and seeing how he skillfully and patiently handles all kinds of situations--no matter how difficult, time-consuming or inconvenient--makes me love him more and more each day.  Now that we've moved into fall, it's fun to be able to share a new season together too!  The air has turned crisp and cool and we've already attended our first harvest festival! The neighbors downstairs brought up a crate of fresh apples from their garden, and today I plan to bust out my baking hat again and get to work on some apple cake, apple turnovers, apple--well, you name it!

Delicious!!

Thank you all for your love, prayers and support.  We are praying for you, too!

-Katie

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vlog #1: Welcome to our Apartment!

As of Saturday, Katie and I have been in Romania together for one month!  We've been busy with lots of different things since being here, but today, we want to show you what we've done in our home!  We are excited to share a video tour of our little apartment here in Reghin, Romania.  We hope you enjoy seeing where we live (and we also hope you'll be inspired to come for a visit!).


- Paul

Monday, September 22, 2014

That's a lot of dishes!

Our after-school program started last week on Tuesday, and we had a LOT of kids!  Last year, the highest number of kids we ever had was 32.  On Tuesday, we had 40 kids!  Our new class of 5th graders has 19 students, and most of them have come every day.  We are very excited about the opportunity to work with so many kids.  We are also praying for wisdom and direction as we make decisions about how to best teach these kids and prepare them for the future.  We gave an assessment on Tuesday to determine the strengths and areas of weaknesses of the kids.  24 out of 40 kids could not write the alphabet correctly.  Many of them could not even write their names correctly on the paper.  These kids are all from the 5th grade to the 8th grade.  So, we have our work cut out for us this year!

Having all of these kids also means that there are a lot more dishes to wash in the kitchen! I told Katie that I never thought about how adding so many kids would mean so much more time washing dishes.  I am hoping to get some help with the cleaning so that I can help the teachers with the lowest kids.  While I can't teach some of the more complicated things in Romanian, I can teach the alphabet and basic reading strategies. 

Please pray for:

  • wisdom as we determine how to use our time and other resources
  • the kids' faithfulness to their studies and school attendance
  • strength and patience for our teachers
Claudiu working with one of the groups that is learning to read
Annamaria is also working with a group of kids who are learning to read
Cristina's group...those who already know how to read
The kids enjoyed an ice cream treat...a little encouragement to keep coming! :)
These boys wouldn't leave without having their picture taken, too.

Happy faces at the end of the after-school day!
- Paul

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Another Week Goes By: Still Settling In!

It's hard to believe that Paul and I have already been in Romania for about two and a half weeks.  So much of the time has been spent getting settled in and ready for the new school year to begin!  That finally happens Monday, and I know at least I am ready to be on some kind of regular routine!  Paul will be working at the after-school program each afternoon, so it will be good for me to figure out when I will be scheduling my own work time both at home and in the ministry.  I'm looking forward to finding some independence here, although it has been so wonderful getting to spend so much time together before the 'work year' begins!

As Paul wrote last week, I will be working primarily with the children's ministries here and with a new English outreach program we hope to start.  There is already children's work happening in most of the seven areas in which we have church meetings, but Attila's vision is to have them reorganized and revitalized through establishing a structure and a curriculum in a four-year cycle.  From talking with many of the leaders already, I can see how this curriculum plan will really help them know what and how to teach!  My prayer is that I will be able to help and support them and make their jobs easier so they can focus on building relationships with the children in their communities and their families.  We had our first big planning meeting this week.  I was so grateful for the turnout and I think we have established a great plan going forward!  Please pray for our wisdom in this new endeavor.

Besides the children's ministry meeting, this week I did even more settling in to our apartment.  I even did some baking!  I am determined to learn the ins and outs of my little gas oven and the different ingredients they have here.  One big difference is the sugar.  The granulated sugar here is very large, so when I bake according to my standard recipes in the states, the sugar doesn't melt into the pastry/brownie/cookie/whatever I'm making.  You can actually see each individual sugar granule still intact!  So, soon I will be experimenting! :) I may see if I can find some smaller sugar or if I can somehow ground the sugar into a size that will better incorporate when I'm baking :) So far, I've been able to make chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake-marbled brownies, regular brownies, and snickerdoodle bars!  I love to bake, and baking in our little apartment makes me feel even more at home here.  I will have to remember to take photos next time!

As far as the apartment goes, this week we bought a coffee table and a small chair for our living room.  We are determined to hang a gallery wall above our couch, but the cement walls present a big challenge for Paul to figure out how to make holes for nails and screws!  We are about halfway 'hung' and I'll wait to post a picture until we're all done.  For now, here is our newly decorated bookshelf and some of our new furniture!




Alongside the joys of being here and of course still being newlyweds, there have been some difficult moments as well.  Although I've been to Romania many times, I have never before moved here, and I think I've put some added pressure on myself to adjust and be independent right away.  However, that's made it easy to be overwhelmed!  For example, I've got to become familiar in two languages.  I need to be able to speak and understand Hungarian, because most of the people we work with along with all of our friends here are Hungarian and speak Hungarian in all social and church settings.  This is the language I've been studying for the past two years in the states, but I feel like such a beginner still!  I also need to learn Romanian for 'survival' here in our small town.  Reghin is only about 30% Hungarian, and while we've learned what shops and even which clerks around town speak Hungarian, a vast majority of our interactions outside of church - that means shopping, speaking with neighbors, paying bills and getting legal paperwork completed - need to be in Romanian.  In addition to learning these languages, I am struggling to learn to drive again!  Paul's car - and most cars here - is a standard, and I truly hate driving standard because I don't completely understand how it all works.  Since we will be sharing one car and we will frequently need to be in two different places at a time, I need to be comfortable at least driving his car around town and between villages.  We've been having driving lessons here and there, and I hope I'll get the hang of it soon!  Besides the languages and driving, I also need to keep learning to be a good wife, children's minister, English teacher, etc. etc. :)  It gets overwhelming fast!

Paul and I try to read a devotional together each day, and yesterday's was so timely for me.  The devotional's theme for the day was fear.  The devotional said that in each stage of life, the stakes seem to get higher, and life requires more and more courage to move forward in faith.  It spoke of the heros of faith in Hebrews 11 and how "...[they] weren't lauded because they were strong in themselves, but because they trusted God.  They were weak as they considered the tasks ahead of them, but when they trusted God, he turned their weakness into strength."  (The whole devotional can be found here.)  These words helped me to re-frame the challenges I am facing.  Paul and I believe God called us here to serve, and so we must believe He will equip us for the work in His own timing.  I can move forward in faith believing that He already knew my struggles before I arrived and He will take care of them all!  Being patient means more than just being patient with myself; it means being patient with God and watching the details of His plans unfold in the timing of His will.

Thank you for praying for us.  I hope to have more pictures of the apartment soon!

- Katie

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Our first full week...pigs and all!

It's been a week and a half since we arrived in Romania, and there's so much to tell!  First of all, we are so thankful for those who have been praying for us during our time of transition.  We are also very thankful to our boss, Attila, as he has given us time to get adjusted and to work on our home here before the bulk of the work starts.  That's not to say that we haven't already been working in the ministry, but more to come on that later. 

On our first Sunday here, we were able to be in four different churches.  I was able to share about our summer and what God had taught us...in Hungarian!  Boy, was my brain tired by the end of the day!  Katie also mentioned that my message got shorter as the day went on: a sure sign that I was tired!  It was great, however, to see so many of our friends and to celebrate returning to our ministry home. 

On Monday, I got to meet with Attila and talk about our plans for this year.  He had been telling me how much he wanted to organize and plan for different ministry teams in our area.  We talked about his expectations for my work this year.  Along with heading up the after-school program, I am going to be working with all of the music teams in our area to train them in music and to help them really think about what we are doing when we lead in worship.  This is another big job (we have seven churches), but I am excited about the potential growth and for the opportunity to use the musical gifts that God has given me.   School starts on September 15th, so I will focus most of my time this week on preparing for the after-school year.  However, soon I will begin working with the music teams to think of a time when we can practice and pray together about that ministry. 

Monday was also my first trip to look for a pig!  One of our church members from Apalina recently returned from summer work in Germany.  As is custom here, she is looking to buy a pig that will be used to feed her family of nine during the difficult winter months.  We drove out to a small village to see three pigs, the largest of which was over 650 pounds!  While she liked the larger pigs, she didn't like the price, so we left.  She called the man twice on the way home to see if he had changed his mind and would accept her lower offer.  I got to go look for a pig again on Tuesday.  As of today (Sunday) there's still no pig!

The rest of our week was filled with a mixture of planning for this year and working on our home.  We printed pictures to display around the house, checked several furniture stores in the area for coffee tables, and even took cookies to some of our neighbors.  We also began working on goals for our ministries here.  Katie will be working with the children's ministry leaders and with an English outreach here in our city.  We will both work with music and be on the ministry team in our "home" church here in Reghin.  God has given us a lot of opportunities to serve in our community.  We ask Him to continue to strengthen and equip us for this work.

Here are a couple of photos of our apartment... many more to come!

This is what the inside of our apartment building looks like!  We are all the way up on the fourth floor!

Katie spent some time getting the kitchen organized and straightened up this week.  We also bought these new kitchen chairs!

Thank you for continuing to pray for us!

-Paul

Saturday, August 30, 2014

We're here!

First off, I just want to say what an incredible, blessed week it has been.  We are beyond grateful - ecstatic, even! - looking back on how many joys have been crammed into one very full week of our lives.  Thank you to all of you for praying for us, sending us encouraging messages, and supporting our ministry here.  God has done great things for us through you!

Also, one quick note before we share all the new developments in our life: We began our week by worshipping with the Open Door Baptist Church in Bamberg, South Carolina last Sunday, August 24th.  Open Door was one of Paul's very first supporting churches, and this was his second time to speak there.  We loved visiting with all of the members there, and we left feeling encouraged and even more excited to get back to Romania so we'd have even more to share next time!  Thank you, Open Door!  We are praying for you!

Ok, now for ROMANIA!  We finally arrived to our apartment around 3 a.m. Romania time on Wednesday morning.  The total travel time was around 24 hours including a 9-hour layover in Munich (during which we took a train into the city, took a walking tour of downtown, and had some delicious German food!).  We were exhausted, but it's hard to describe the excitement we felt upon finally arriving here, to the first home we will share together and to the place we have loved for so long!  We had been waiting for that moment for a very long time :)

However, as you can tell from the photo in our previous post, we brought a lot of luggage!  And all the contents of that luggage had to find somewhere to go!  We also had some furniture to buy, since the old bedraggled couch that once graced the living room had finally been removed while we were away this summer, and a few other items needed to be replaced as well.  So, the past few days have been long working and shopping days.  We've alternated cleaning out, rearranging the apartment and browsing local shops until we found the items that would work for us.  We have been able to buy a new couch, a new refrigerator, a table lamp, two kitchen chairs, an office chair, and a hair dryer (hooray!!)!  Our home is finally coming together!  When we arrived, our gas was turned off and so was our internet, so it took a couple of days to get those fixed (hot showers had to wait!), and we are also still waiting for my cell phone to be activated.  But we are well on our way to being settled, and it's only been a few days!  We're looking forward to taking some time "off" this afternoon to take a walk around our town and just enjoy being back home :)

Here is our brand new couch!  It can expand to sleep two!  And the back/top of the couch is adjustable (as you can see, the left 'pillow' is slightly more angled back).  Interesting feature :)

Here we are in our bright yellow living room! 

Thank you again for all of your prayers!  Here are some big "praise" items to include in your next prayer time!

Praise for:
-Safe travels, smooth connections, seats together and luggage arrival!
-Our little apartment that has everything we need!
-Our friends who came running when we needed help bringing our new refrigerator up to the fourth floor of our apartment building!
-Still more friends who've tirelessly helped translate for us this week at area offices such as the gas company, internet company, etc.

Please continue to pray for:
-Wise decisions about goals and responsibilities in the coming year
-Discipleship of new believers (last weekend, the Apalina church baptized 16 new church members!)
-Language learning of Hungarian and Romanian
-Our new marriage and new life together in a foreign country!

We're looking forward to being back with four of our churches tomorrow.  More updates and photos coming soon!

-Katie

Monday, August 25, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Celebrate with us!

"My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

God is so good!  We are thrilled, blessed, encouraged, and so thankful to be able to say that He has provided for us in amazing ways over the past several weeks.  We are returning to Romania on Monday confident of His goodness, faithfulness, and care for us, feeling confirmed in His calling on our lives, and excited to begin this new chapter! Thank you to all of our new monthly partners as well as to so many givers of generous 'one-time' gifts!  Both types of partnership help to make our ministry possible!  We are excited to continue sharing with all of you, financial and prayer partners alike, what God is doing among the Roma people in Romania!

- Paul and Katie

Friday, August 15, 2014

Let the countdown begin!

In just ten days, Katie and I will be leaving for Romania! In preparation for this upcoming milestone, I've decided to write a countdown to help you pray for us over the next week (and three days). 

#10 Pray for (at least) ten new children to come to our after-school program this year.  We are so thankful to have seen the average attendance increase from 8-10 children per day in 2012-2013 to 22-25 children this past year.  We are praying that this will continue to increase as we welcome a new group of 5th graders on September 15th.

#9 Pray for the nine months of our school year.  We will continue to focus on: teaching character and life skills (such as patience, perseverance, and caring), reaching out to the parents of the community, and preparing these children for high school.  Pray also for our teachers: Claudiu, Cristina, and Annamaria.

#8 Pray for eight new contacts in our hometown of Reghin as we get to know more people in our community.  We are excited about new opportunities to share God's love with our neighbors and those we come in contact with throughout the week.

#7 Pray for the seven churches of our area. We have work in Reghin, Apalina, Filpisu Mic, Peris, Gornesti, Glodeni, and Petrilaca.  Each of these communities is unique, but it is a blessing to serve in each of them.

#6 Pray for six people to join our support team at $50 a month by December.  This will help us reach our goal of $1600 per month.  Will you be one?  You can join us here!

#5 Pray also for five people to join our support team at $100 a month.  We are currently at 52% of our total goal.

#4 Pray for four new leaders in our local churches.  Two church leaders left our area as God led them to work in other parts of Romania.  We are praying for God to reveal who He has called to take on new leadership roles while we continue to focus on the discipleship of new believers.

#3 Pray for three visits (or less) to the immigration office as we apply for Katie's residence permit.  We are praying about which type of permit to apply for (work or religious activities) as we also pray about what Katie will be involved with on a weekly basis.

#2 Pray for the two of us as we start our life together in another country.  We are excited about the opportunity and are praying about the challenges of living a newly married life in Romania.

#1 Pray for our goal of reaching the Roma people of Romania with the Good News of God's love and salvation through Jesus Christ.  We are so blessed to be a part of God's work in Reghin, Romania.  We invite you to continue with us on this great journey!

-Paul

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Update from Teleios Camp

Thank you for your prayers about Teleios camp this week!  The team made it successfully through their first session and have just begun their second.  We wanted to share some photos with you of the Apalina children enjoying camp and learning lots!

Attila and some of the children from Apalina

Here are many of the children gathered in the main room for their morning meeting - anxious to recite the memory verse perhaps!

The big soccer match between the Apalina boys and boys from the local village (final score: 6-4 Apalina!)

Here is Bonnie teaching a Bible lesson in the morning with Adel translating

Each morning the children respond creatively to the Bible story.  They draw or paint a way the story and lesson connect to their lives.  At night, the children can share their creations with the whole camp!

Relay time!

Floyd is doing a great job leading the recreation, as always!

For more pictures and stories from camp, you can visit the Teleios blog here.

Please keep praying for our team in their second session of camp.  Pray for health, strength and safety as well as an extra measure of God's presence among them!

- Katie