Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Winter in Romania

There's a couple who lives at the trash dumpsters behind our apartment building.  Actually, I'm not sure exactly where they sleep, but during daylight hours you can find them there, waiting for the residents of these buildings to decide it's time to take out the trash.  Then, the couple diligently digs through each bag or box, looking for anything edible, usable or sellable.  Usually, only one of them at a time stands by the dumpster.  I assume the other one is combing through another dumpster somewhere else in the area.  That's what winter is like in Romania.

In Apalina, some of the homes are nicer than others.  Some are made of sturdy concrete bricks and red clay roof tiles.  Other homes are molded out of mud and spare pieces of wood and metal scrapped together.  Many homes have just one room where all the members of the family sleep together - parents, kids, babies, even grandparents or cousins.  I don't know of any homes that have an indoor bathroom, but some homes do have running water and electricity.  These homes are popular meeting places.  But when temperatures drop into sub-freezing temperatures, as they've been the last several weeks, the water in the wells and pipes freeze.  Even the homes that have water hooked up lose their water source when it's cold enough.  That's what winter is like in Romania.

There are a few places along the main roads where women wait to be picked up.  They're nicknamed "butterflies" in Hungarian, slang for "prostitute." Throughout the year, we see the same women standing in their spots day after day, month after month.  In one place in Reghin, one women usually stands alone.  She's stood there, alone, almost every day that I've passed by since we've moved here.  On Saturday when I passed her, she was joined by at least three other women.  In the colder months, other kinds of work are scarce.  This is how they survive.  That's what winter is like in Romania.

Many Roma (or Gypsies, as they are more commonly called) famously make their way through life by surviving off of stealing from others.  Others get involved in other dishonest schemes, hence their reputation for being cheats and liars.  If you've talked with us at all about our ministry, you'll know how 1. how damaging this reputation can be; 2. that this reputation is frequently well-earned; and 3. how many Gypsies earn their living honestly and with integrity and tend to be some of the most generous people we know.  When many of the Gypsies in Apalina encounter the gospel, they're faced with a choice: accept Christ and forego all dishonest work or deny Christ and lose out on the life and spiritual abundance He offers.  We've witnessed new believers make incredibly huge sacrifices for their faith, and those commitments are tested the most in winter.  Honest work like construction, tending crops, and taking care of animals is extremely hard to find.  People are hungry and desperate to provide for their families.  We get daily requests for money, food and diapers.  That's what winter is like in Romania.

Please keep Romania in your prayers this winter.  We trust that He is faithful to provide.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ready for 2016

We're back!  We're back to Romania AND back to blogging!  We hope you had a great holiday season with your families and friends.  We had a fantastic time in the States catching up with our families and friends, but as many other missionaries will tell you, it was extremely busy and very exhausting at the same time!  We were happy to cross the threshold of our Romanian apartment on Saturday afternoon... finally back in the home we've built together.

While we were gone, the ministry had one of its busiest seasons: Christmas!  Not only were there many more services and events than usual, there were also big tasks like shoebox and food box distribution!  In the children's meetings, leaders helped the kids prepare skits, poems and songs for the special season.  Attendance at these children's meetings swelled to over 100 kids in Apalina!  All of the local leaders did an amazing job.  They even sent us some photos and videos of the kids so we could get in on the action from far away.  Awesome!

Attila sent us this photo of a children's meeting in Apalina with the Romanian-speaking kids!

To catch you up on our time in the States, I thought I'd share some photos of what we were up to in the States.  In addition to what you see here, we also met with churches, had about a hundred doctor's appointments (or so it seemed!), ran tons of errands, and lived out of our suitcases for five weeks straight!  Phew!

When we arrived to Paul's parents' house, look what was waiting for me, courtesy of my super thoughtful father-in-law!!  Yes!!  Best welcome ever!!

We drove up to Charlotte to see Paul's sister, her husband, and their three precious children (one of them brand new!!!!!).  We even got to drive around on the Nascar Speedway and look at their drive-through Christmas lights display!

We drove over to Knoxville to visit my Grandad.  We took a field trip to the Museum of Appalachia, where there is a McClung house exhibit :) The entire property was decorated for Christmas in the old pioneer style.  We loved every minute of this special time with Grandad!

Back in Charleston, we had Crook Family Christmas, including a family bowling trip!  Paul got to help teach his nephew how to bowl for the first time!  Such great memories!

Here are all the Crooks and Fulginitis together in one photo!

We flew to San Antonio just before Christmas and connected with my parents, my brother and his brand-new FIANCÉ, Nancy!  We are so excited to have a new family member join us in 2016!  And of course, we had to stop by our favorite Tex-Mex place on the way home from the airport!  YUM!

We went to a Spurs game together!  Spurs are 22-0 at home!

On New Year's Day, Paul and I ran a 5k with my parents!  I am so proud of everyone in this picture!!

We drove up to Austin to spend the weekend with friends, and then met some more friends in Waco!  While we were in Waco, of course we had to stop by the Magnolia Market property (which was sadly closed on a Sunday!).  We got to snap this photo of their bakery-in-progress.  Any Fixer Upper fans out there??

We flew back to Romania on Jan 8-9 and this was our view from the plane, descending to Cluj.  Now winter is fully upon us!

This week, school started back up, as did the After-school program in Apalina.  I'm starting up English classes again tonight, and off we go!  Thank you for your prayers for us while we were away.  Please be praying for our ministry and for those we work with here during these winter months.  Work is much more difficult to find for our Gypsy friends during the winter, and their already harsh living conditions become pretty unbearable when the temperatures drop and the dampness of rain, snow and ice permeates practically everything.  

Since most of the migrant work in Western Europe that attracts Romanians happens only in the spring and summer, many of our church meetings are really crowded now, which is great!  Almost everyone is home.  We have several teams lined up to come here in February and March, so we'll be preparing for that as well.  There's a lot going on!  Stay tuned for more from Romania!


P.S. In case you missed it, you can check out our 2015 Year-End letter in the archives over on the sidebar to the right ------->