Monday, July 28, 2014

Endings, beginnings, a wedding, and a reception (or two)

Dear friends, it has been a while since I wrote and there are so many things that I want to write about to keep you informed about how God is working in my life and in the lives of the people of Romania.  It has been a very busy, exciting, and unusual two months!

Our school year ended in late June.  We ended the year strong and with some good direction for next year's program.  The teachers all did a great job of working with their kids.  The kids really learned a lot, not only about how to read and do math, but also about living life in a different, responsible way.  I already have many goals for next year, but I am praying for God's wisdom about which of these are most important to our overall goals of reaching this community for Christ. 

As many of you remember, we had many young people from Apalina make decisions for Christ at last year's youth camp.  One of my favorite parts of this year has been the new youth meeting that we started in Apalina to help these young people stay connected to other believers and continue to learn about God's love and His word.  This year's youth camp just finished, and although I wasn't there (more to come on that later), I have heard that there were many new decisions or new commitments to follow Christ.  Please pray for us as we continue with this work of teaching, encouraging, and discipling the youth of Apalina.  There are many, many hardships and temptations for these young men and women, but I truly believe that God's has spoken to many of them and that He wants to use them in the future of His work here. 

I was not at camp this year because I came back to the States to get married!  Yay!  July 12th will from now on be remembered as the happiest day of my life...the day that I married Katie Elizabeth McClung!  I actually arrived back in the States on June 14th.  I'm so thankful to my friend (and boss), Attila, for letting me come back almost a month before the wedding.  It was great to be with Katie for about a week in New York.  This was the first time we had seen each other in person since we got engaged on New Year's Eve.  We are both so thankful that God sustained us during the long five and a half months of being separated.  After a quick week at my parent's home in South Carolina, my father and I drove back to Brooklyn to move Katie and her belongings to Charleston.  Although there was much to do, we were so blessed to spend some time with dear friends in Leesburg, Virginia on the way back south.  I was so humbled and excited to see so many people who love us and the ministry in Romania waiting to spend some time with us.  They really waited, too.  We were about an hour late!  After a very restful night's sleep at the Andersons', we were on our way again.  Thanks to all our friends in Leesburg for making our brief stay so fun and special!

After arriving back in Charleston, things happened so quickly!  I flew to San Antonio for the wedding on July 5th.  Katie and I were able to enjoy a few dates (something very rare for us over our entire "courtship") even as we continued to prepare for the wedding.  My family arrived on July 8th and we enjoyed our first combined family meal on July 9th at the McClungs' house.  The whole week before the wedding was full of preparations and time with family and friends.  On Saturday, July 12th, shortly after 11 am central time, Katie walked down the aisle looking stunning!  There were more than a few tears shed (many by me as I felt so lucky to be standing there).  The whole ceremony was a beautiful celebration of how God brought us together, while also giving the honor and glory back to God for His goodness to us.  We even had a surprise telephone call from Attila (who was watching via internet in Romania).  He and Floyd (the minister who married us) had worked out this plan so that Attila could give us a blessing and pray for our marriage at the end of the ceremony.  More tears!  It was a beautiful day!

We were able to have a "mini-moon" of a honeymoon in Savannah, Georgia, before returning to Charleston for another wedding reception on Sunday, July 20th.  It was great to see family and friends there, too.  On Monday, we left for Knoxville, along with Katie's parents and her grandfather.  We spent a few days there before taking the bus to Atlanta to spend some time with Katie's brother.  That's where I find myself now as I write this update.  In a couple of hours we will be leaving for Greenville, South Carolina, where we will pick up a car and spend some time with friends.  On Tuesday we will head back to Charleston, where we will be based for the next few weeks before heading back to Romania on August 25th!  WHEW!  It has been a whirlwind of a month, but God is and has been so faithful to sustain us and give us joy!  Thank you to all of you who have also been so faithful to pray for us and send us kind words along the way.  Thank you for journeying with us.  We love you!

You can check out some pictures of our wedding day from our amazing photographer here.

Those who made decisions at youth camp
The kiss! :)
SOOOO Happy!
Newington Elementary Friends at our Charleston Reception

Still happy a week later in Charleston
First airport goodbye to last airport arrival.  We're traveling together now!

- Paul

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