Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Our first US Guests!

Happy Last-Day-of-March!  For the last 9 days, we hosted our very first set of guests from the US!  In fact, these were our very first family guests, too!  My brother and his friend Nancy came to stay here with us in Reghin.  We had a blast showing them around our town, introducing them to our friends, and guiding them through some of the parts of our life and ministry that you just need to be HERE to be able to experience!  The time we spent with them really refreshed Paul and me; brother Paul and Nancy were a big help to us, and we felt so encouraged by their presence.  Now we're ready to tackle April!  Enjoy some photos from their visit!

Paul and Nancy sharing in the Gornesti church on Sunday morning

Paul M. joined Paul C. and his worship team in Apalina

Nancy and Paul M. helped Paul C. cook and serve lunch at after-school on Tuesday!

We enjoyed lots of meals together in our tiny apartment!

A speed-dating-style activity in English class - talking about "When you were a kid..."

Adel taught us how to roll stuffed cabbage on Thursday for lunch!  They were delicious!

Paul C. and Nancy helping to unload boxes of donated clothing from Holland

Weekend in Budapest!

So thankful for these three!


Friday, March 20, 2015

AMEC Children's Ministry Conference 2015

Paul and I spent the weekend of March 13-14 with our children's ministry leaders in Sibiu!  This weekend marked our first ever opportunity for the leaders to go away together to learn and grow in our ministry and in our relationships with each other!  We had two disappointing cancellations at the last minute (one due to illness and one due to an un-accommodating boss), but even so, there were 8 of us who were able to attend!  It was a full weekend of quality training and fun time together.

We left Reghin around 1 p.m. on Friday and arrived to Sibiu just after 4 p.m.  Paul drove the minibus through the mountains and got us there safely!  We had some time to explore the historic city center together before the conference began!  The city center of Sibiu is a special place to Paul and me: it was the site of several long and fun getting-to-know-you conversations in the summer of 2012.  We kinda feel like it's where we fell in love!  So, we enjoyed being back there together as a married couple.  

After a quick walk through the square, we finally arrived to a packed house at the AMEC Children's Ministry Conference.  The conference was held in a large church, and it was full almost to the brim!  The theme for the conference was Aim for Excellence, and Friday night's session was about excellence in our relationship with God.  Throughout the conference, we all received tons of free materials, usually when we finished a session, and the free materials started on Friday night!  We are so thankful to have access to quality teaching materials for our kids.  (AMEC is the Romanian branch of the international organization Child Evangelism Fellowship)

On Saturday, we got to hear several great speakers on the topics of excellence in our relationships in the church, excellence in our relationships with kids and parents, and excellence in preparation.  Paul even accepted an award on behalf of Apalina for having the largest regular children's meeting of anyone at the conference!  We enjoyed wonderful worship times and opportunities to visit with other children's workers from all over Romania!  It was a wonderful weekend... but don't take my word for it! :)

"For me, the conference was a really big blessing, especially when we received clay to work with in our hands. We needed to make something from it. I made a heart. While I was working on it, I saw how I left my fingerprints on it and how easy it was to form the clay. At the end, the result of the work gave to me a really big joy! I understood that I have to be like clay in my God's hands (obedient, easy to work with, etc.), to make visible God's fingerprints, His work, and His love in my heart in mission, especially in children's ministry." - Zozo K.

Emy, Anna Maria, Alina, Zozo, Attila, Ildiko, Paul

"It was a blessed weekend for me, and I'm happy that I was there. God bless you all who helped us to go there. At the conference, I heard so much good advice about how I should teach the children. I hope that I will be a better children's teacher."- Emy T.

Some of our crew on the bus

"The meetings were so helpful.  I really learned what it means to serve and how I can serve in my ministry to the children.  Through these days, God taught me how I can do many things better as I serve.  A big thanks to those who gave so willingly so that we could be a part of this." - Attila M.

Worship time at the conference

"I have such joyful memories when I think about the last weekend because it was such a great opportunity to be a part of the children's ministry conference in Sibiu.  I'm thankful to God for the opportunity to be there and to hear from those who spoke about working with children.  I'm excited as I look forward to using the things that I learned in this conference in my ministry with children." - Ildiko N.

Thanks to God, through your generosity, we were able to cover the costs of the conference for all who attended.  This amount included accommodation, food, transportation, and part of the conference registration fee.  We were also able to purchase some additional materials to use in our work with the kids!  Thank you so much!!  We can't wait for next year!!


Friday, March 13, 2015

Back to the Basics

We hope you've been enjoying some of our special posts lately!  We wanted to branch out from our traditional updates to give you a bigger picture of our world and life in Romania.  Today, we'll get back to the basics and update you on what God's doing now in our ministry here in Reghin.  So for today's blog, it's Paul here, and I'm sitting down with you and a cup of coffee to share about our week!

Putting some things together

I've often shared how our life here involves more than just the specific ministry responsibilities that we have (After-school, English classes, Children's Ministry, etc.).  I usually take at least one car trip per week to one of Reghin's surrounding villages or cities. These trips range from taking people to visit family members in prison, to buying horses and pigs, to visiting the hospital.  I have also written about how many of our church members leave Romania in the spring and summer months to work in Western European countries.  Today I want to show you how two of these things (car trips and migrant work) came together last week.  On Thursday, I went to Targu-Mures with one of our Apalina church members to fill out contracts for work in Germany.  Because she is only just learning to write (during our weekly reading and writing classes!), I filled out the contracts for her and nine other people from Apalina. This kind of trip provides opportunities for conversation as well as for helping out people in the community as they try to earn a living for their families.

About the children...and spring time!

We've had several days in the last couple of weeks that the weather has been great!  It's warming up and the sun is finally showing its face!  We've even kept our apartment windows open a few times! Since the weather has been so nice, we've had some fun opportunities to be outside with the kids in the Apalina Children's Ministry and the After-school program.  Our first after-school field trip of this year was to the synthetic soccer field in town.  We had a great time playing soccer and talking about team work! Although my team didn't have the best all-around players, we won both games because we didn't argue and we worked together.  It was a great teachable moment... especially for the players on the other team!

Our Friday children's meetings in Apalina have also been going great.  We've spent the last several weeks talking about Moses and what God teaches us about obedience and honoring Him.  When we talked about the Ten Commandments, the kids made tablets with homemade play-dough to remind them that God gave us rules to live by because He knows they will help us to be happy.  After this craft, we also played games outside with the kids. They never think it's too early in the year to introduce water games! :)

Hostess with the mostest

One of the things that we love doing is having guests in our home.  As a part of our English classes, we've invited all of our students to come to our home in small groups for coffee and dessert. Any of you who know Katie well know that she's an excellent cook...especially of baked goods!  We've had a great time getting to know our new friends even better as we've shared time and delicious desserts with them in our home.  We've learned about life in our area during communism, and we also found out that a couple in our class grows asparagus, and they invited us to come and pick some when it starts growing!

This couple grows asparagus and travels around to different outdoor markets selling it
The couple on the far side shared about life during communism when they visited our home
A dinosaur birthday

Kaleb, Attila and Adel's older son, celebrated his 3rd birthday on Saturday, March 7th! Sunday afternoon, we had a party for him.  Katie and Adel worked very hard last week to prepare green dinosaur decorations and even a green dinosaur cake!  We had a great time celebrating with them.  It's so fun to see children when they are just full of pure joy...that was Kaleb as we sang "Happy Birthday" and he blew out his candles!  He wanted to light the candles and do it all over again.. and again!
Yes...this guilty face tells us someone got into the cake before it was served!
Pure joy!

Last week, one of our grocery stores advertised "American Week", and one of the items they featured was marshmallows!  We can't usually buy those here, so we happily picked up a bag!  We also can't get graham crackers here, but we just happened to have a few Biscoff cookies in our pantry along with some chocolate.  We also have a gas range... Put it all together, and what do you get?  S'mores!  They were delicious!  This was a fun treat, and I seriously recommend making s'mores with Biscoff cookies!

While the U.S. already "sprang forward" into Daylight Savings Time on March 8, Europe won't follow until the end of the month!  So, we're making the most of the bright light in the mornings and enjoying a slightly smaller "time gap" between us and our family and friends back home.  For a few weeks, we're only six hours ahead of EST!  This weekend, we're heading to Sibiu for the AMEC Children's Workers Conference, and next week we'll be preparing for our very first houseguests from the States!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Best of Instagram

Besides our blogs and our Facebook accounts, Instagram is another way we like to share pictures and anecdotes about our time here in Romania.  However, those of you not on Instagram might miss out!  So, I've decided to start a new blog series entitled Best of Instagram!  It will feature periodic installments of some of our favorite photos of our life in Romania.  I've also set up a live Instagram feed in the righthand sidebar of our homepage, so you can stay connected here, too!  Enjoy!!

Are you on Instagram?  Look for us there!  @katiemcrook / @jpcrook78 / #thisisromania

Late afternoon walk on the Mures River in Reghin

Patchwork home in Apalina

Front door (entrance to our bloc)

Stairwell garden inside our bloc

Our table for two

Courtyard playmates

We're finally settled in to our bedroom!

Want to see more of our apartment?  Check out our apartment tour video from September here.  (We've made a few updates in the apartment since then, but you'll get the idea!)