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!


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


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!