Wednesday, November 26, 2014


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!!


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.

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.