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.


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