Saturday, December 01, 2007


Ah, finally I get to blog about Romania. Its been almost three months since we returned, but I've been too lazy to get around to writing about the trip. Plus, I'm a procrastinator. Plus its a lot of work. Its taken me about two months to write all this! It's a shame I've waited so long to write about Romania because I'm afraid that I've forgotten some of the things I wanted to remember, or at least have lost some of the edge I had when we first came back. Oh well. Perhaps it will come back to me. I guess the best way to organize my thoughts will be by day. Perhaps I'll write about the day's events and then flesh out my thoughts or interpretations as I come to them. Well, now I'm just rambling to myself. On with the actual content...

Week Before, Sunday 9/2-Wednesday, 9/5

We had been warned by everyone that this trip would really be awesome and that satan would try to keep us from it or distract us heavily going into it. So far, we hadn't seen much of that, but man, the days right before the trip were TERRIBLE! We had so many things go wrong and produce stressful situations in our home and at work. The worst of which was the Internet having terrible, unexplanable problems. It got me so angry and so fed up with Comcast. It was horrible. I can't remember what all else happened that week, but it was bad. Satan did a number on each of us and I'm so thankful that we even made it to the airport after that week. Looking back, I think there was some serious spiritual warfare there and I totally let myself succumb to the attacks. :-/ It was a good lesson though. I will really remember that time for the future and will hopefully respond better when under attack like that!

Thursday, 9/6

I worked a half day at work today and took off around noon. We had most of our stuff packed up and ready to go the night before, so that was good. We tried to get on the road and made it to my house in Sterling around 3:30. We ordered some Chinese from Panda West and had that for lunch with my parents before we all headed over to Dulles Airport. It was nice to have my parents along to see us off. It just wouldn't feel the same if they didn't for some reason. Perhaps it reminds me of when we used to take my grandparents to Dulles and see them off on their missions trips. Only now, I'm the one going. But, it just seems to make it happier or more special to have my parents along to see us off on these big trips. :)

Anyhow, so we all got to the airport and checked in with no problems. We talked with my parents some more and eventually parted ways when we came to security. We all were there a couple hours before the flight, so we spent a lot of time just sitting around or wandering the airport. It was interesting just to sit and think about the team. I felt a little isolated and scared at first, just watching everyone. I only knew a couple people from our church, and vaguely knew everyone else. It seemed like most everyone else already had done this before, knew what to expect, and knew each other. But, I was feeling a little left out and was fearful that it would be that way the whole trip. Of course, it wasn't, but it was just a little hard at the very beginning.

The flight left around 8pm and everything went well aboard it. We got to sit near Carly who suprised us when she said it was her fifth trip! It seems like most of the people had come over 5, 10, 12, 15 times and loved it every time. That made me excited to be apart of this. They must be doing something right! Anyways, we flied Lufthansa overnight to Munich. It was neat to hear German again. I like German stuff a lot. There's something solid, clean, precise, and professional about everything they do it seems. Kind of like the Swiss. The plane was very nice and I thought the food was pretty decent too. Thankfully, I was able to get some decent rest on the flight. A lot of people didn't. I probably got 4-5 hours of sleep alltogether, which was great. Plus, I was still able to stay awake for the Mr. Bean's Vacation movie. :-) It sure was stupid, but I laughed because Mr. Bean is meant to be stupid, so he's quite funny in a really dumb sort of way. :-P

Friday, 9/7

The plane arrived in Munich around 10:30 their time, which was like 4:30am our time. So, we were all feeling a little groggy. We had about a three hour layover in Munich. It was nice to be back in Munich, and Europe for that matter, even if we were only in the airport. It was really neat as we flew into the city because the plane dipped a bit to the side and we could see the tops of the buildings in Munich. They looked very German and it was beautiful. Its hard to explain how it felt just to be back in Europe. There's just something about Europe that draws me in. Perhaps its just the adventure of being in a new place. Or perhaps its the memory of the amazing semester I spent with Liz over there. I'm not sure, but I know I was excited to be back. It was like coming home in a way, which is weird. I guess it was just nice to be back in the way of life that we lived for a semester. Its different in many ways from life here, so I guess its like leading two lives sort of. There's the American part of me, which is always around, and then the European part of me that went away for two years, but now it was back. It was exciting. All that to say, I wanted to take all of our three hour layover and explore every part of the airport. We sort of did, but not entirely. It was difficult for me because the European part of me wanted to see everything, but the Christian part of me reminded me that my purpose here was to serve God in Romania, rather than to sightsee. I knew beforehand it would be a struggle for me, and it was a struggle pretty much all week, beginning with the airport in Munich. So, we got to expore a little bit, but not a ton. I wanted really badly to find a Bavarian Creme doughnut of which this place in Munich has the best in the world. But, I was unable to find one. :-/ We did get a bratwurst for lunch, however, and it was glorious. :) Its amazing how quickly I splipped into my European mode also of being very cheap. Once you start seeing the prices over there and then remembering that they are in Euros, so everything costs 1.5 times in dollars, it makes me shut down, and I do lots of window shopping and window eating! I had to splurge on the brat though, and that cost me a good 8 or 9 USD. There were a lot of cool coffee and pastry shops throughout the airport. I love the European styling of things. Its very appealing. It seems like everything is just slighly a cut above, more fashionable, or every more techinical. We saw the coolest orange juicer while standing in line for the brat. I dunno. There's just something neat about being over there.

Well, after filling up on lots of free delicious Lufthansa coffee in the airport, our plane left Munich at 1:20 in the afternoon, their time. The flight to Bucharest, Romania took just over two hours and we lost another hour getting over there. So, I guess it was about 4:30 in the afternoon when we came into Romania. The country looked beautiful from above as we flew in. Tons of fields and gorgeous land. The airport wasn't too large; definitley smaller than Munich. The first order of business was to exchange our money for Romanian Lei. We got about 2.25 lei for a dollar. I thought that was decent, but then learned that it used to be a lot better before they made their currency based off the Euro this year. So, whatever. After we made it through border control and got our bags, Wayne quickly whisked us and our luggage out to the bus, telling us not to talk to anyone or accept any help from the Romanians. That was a little scary and reminded me a lot of when we flew into Milan for our Europe semester. I'm not sure that anybody would have done anything to us, but it was just a little scary to be told to not deal with the Romanians at the airport for whatever reason. Regardless, we all got on the bus that we were to use for the week. It was a very nice charter bus, very similar to the one we rode around with our class in Europe before. I was excited, because I had expected some sort of old school bus with no A/C that we would ride around dirt rodes in. For some reason, I had the view that Romania was going to be like Nicaragua or something. I was wrong. I had to battle a bad attitude on the bus because I was really tired and I didn't like being rushed through the airport. Also, the bus was very hot at the time and stuffy. I was so greatful when I got a bottle of water. We took a vote on whether to drive a short distance and turn in for the evening, or to drive a little longer, so as not to have to drive as much on Saturday, and then turn in. The later was chosen.

Somebody prayed over the trip and then we were off. It was a neat bus ride. I wanted to soak everything in. I felt just like I did on the bus leaving the Milan airport on our way to Riva two years ago. Every sign, car, person, house, building, mountain, tree, etc, I wanted to notice and frame in my mind. Of coure, after a while, you get tired and start to let things slip by. But, I spent pretty much all of the time staring out the window and taking some pictures. The countryside was very beautiful. We'd drive through a small town for a few minutes, then through the countryside for a long time and then through a small town again. The bus would have to slow down through each of the towns along the way. We went through a couple small cities along the way also. I'll write more description about Romania in my entry for the next day. Right after sunset, we stopped in a city to have dinner. I'm not sure what the city was called, but we stopped at a McDonald's. Now, Romanian McDonald's are nice. They are a treat over there and considered somewhere nice to go. I've never seen such a nice one. The place was extremely clean, and it looked almost like a coffee shop on the inside. It had nice wood styling, plants, and even some lounge chairs to sit in if you wanted to. The menu was similar to the American menu, but there were much less choices. The choices that existed seemed very good. Liz and I combined our stipends, so we had 30 lei to spend on dinner. I had an amazing burger called the Royal McCheese. It actually looked and tasted as good as the one in the picture. The patty was thick and good. The fries were crisp and great also, and we shared a McFlurry which was Nestle flavored. Mmm! It was a great McDonald's experience. Then, we all got back on the bus. It was dark out then and I tried to stay awake, but finally gave in and slept for a decent bit. I woke up as our bus was pulling up to the hotel. It might have been like 8:30pm or something. The hotel lobby was kinda dark and smoky and definitley had overtowns of like 70's greens and dark oranges. It wasn't terrible, but wasn't extremely appealing either. The plants were kinda cool in the lobby. Our room was fairly cozy, but very basic. It had two twin beds with European style comforters. Much like our beds in Riva. There was some basic furniture, but not much. The bathroom was pretty old and kinda dirty. Just a tub with a hand-held head for showering off. I don't think Liz was too impressed with the room. I wasn't either, but didn't care too much considering this was Romania and we knew it wouldn't be the best. I settle in to go to bed pretty soon because I was dead tired. I looked at the wall and ceiling for awhile, thinking about how basic they were and pondering what it must have been like here during Communism not too long ago. It felt a little weird to be in a Communist country, considering all the bad wrap they got back in the States. Pretty soon I was asleep.

Saturday, 9/8

We slept in until 7:00 I think and then got up to prepare for the day. I looked out our balcony on the city we were in during sunrise. It was a pretty bleak city. Lots of apartments that all looked the same. Lots of concrete. There was a little plaza with a monument right in front of the hotel and a churh nearby it. It was sort of interesting, but still was a little dingy. So, we got ready, and thankfully, the shower was sort of warm, but we made it short because it was a little scary in the bathroom, and we had to be careful not to drink any of the Romanian water. We had to drink from bottled water all of the time, including brushing teeth. This was kind of a pain, but not too bad. It was a lot easier than it would have been if we had gotten real sick from the water! Anyhow, we went down for breakfast with everyone. We all sat at a long table in a suprisingly pretty dining room. Breakfast was decent, consisting of eggs, tomatoes, and bread. The tomatoes were mighty tasty. I had some tea also which was good. Some of the interpreters met us at the hotel and also another American pastor named Ken. It was interesting eating breakfast with everyone. I still felt a little out of place and not quite sure how to be or what to say. So, that was a little hard. I was also terrified when Roger asked Carly to name everyone's name. I was having such trouble remembering people's names, and was sure that I wouldn't be able to!

After breakfast, we had a few short minutes to explore the plaza and I had to run to see the front of the church. It had some gold on the front, but it was a kinda dirty and not as amazing as lots of the Western European churches. We piled into the bus and were off for a long day of travel. We spent pretty much the whole day driving up through Romania. It was probably about 5-6 hours of driving. Just like the day before, we spent the entire time on the highway, going through the countryside, slowing down for towns, and passing through cities every so often. Everything was interesting to me. It was obvious that Romania was probably the poorest European country we had been to. The towns we passed through we old and dirty. Houses were very old and falling apart. However, most of the houses seemed loved. They had small plots of land, but most of them had tons of plants, flowers and gardens. That was neat. :) We would pass horses carrying farmers and goods behind them in little wood trailers. It was definitly different here. It also seemed like everything was under countruction. We saw tons of houses and buildings that were only partly built. We learned that many Romanians take 10 or more years to build there houses little by little as they get the money to do so. That was interesting. There were also a few very nice houses we passed in the country we neat architecture, but this was not the norm. It was clear that there were some affluent people, but the majority seemed rather poor to me, but made the most of what they had. Also, on occassion, we would pass new commericial buildings, like car dealerships. There were some big, shiny new ones that just really poked out at you compared to everything else. The gas stations were very nice, clean, big, and shiny also. Looked just like American ones, and probably better. I found that interesting. I wonder if some of that is affluence creeping into their society in a couple of areas, and probably driven by the EU, now that they are members. I dunno. The cities were rather depressing to me. In some ways, they seemed like a typical European city, with busy people, big buildings, and old churches scattered into the mess. But, the Romanian cities just weren't that nice. They seemed dirter, older, and sadder than other cities I've been in. The apartments were falling apart and they all looked the same from city to city. I think they were left over from Communism. As we drove around, occasionally we'd see old Communist factories that had been abandonded and were falling apart. I mean, these things were to be expected, but for some reason they just made me feel a little sad and thoughtful. It made me thankful for my situation and my heart went out for the people there.

We stopped late morning for a rest stop at a McDonald's in some city. It was near an old soccer stadium which was definitely falling apart, but interesting nonetheless. In addition to the pit-stop, we met up with Don and Joyce and the rest of the interpreters there and they joined us on the bus. When we got back on the bus, I sat next to a young intepreter named Alin. He wanted me to call him Allen and I thought that was funny because it didn't seem very Romanian. He was a junior in high school I think and a very nice guy. I enjoyed getting to talk with him and kind of hang out with the Romanian interpreters in the back of the bus. We had a number of interpreters. There were three college girls- Alice, Eme, and Ena. Then, there was Alin, David, and Immanuel, and his mom, Amelia. I think David was later in college and Immanuel was just starting off in college. They were all really fun people and we really enjoyed them all throughout the trip. I thought the interpreters would be older people who were professional and kinda of boring. But, Liz and I really related to these students really well and had a great time with them. And Amelia, despite being older, was incredibly fun and might as well have been in college. :-) So, we all rode off together and stopped a little later for lunch at McDonald's. I got just about the same thing, except I tried a chocolate milkshake. I wasn't as good as I hoped. Then, I remembered that European chocolate usually isn't as sweet as American chocolate, so it was forgivable.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon driving up to our destination city, Botosani. We got there in the late afternoon around 4-5:00. This hotel was right off a busy city rode and was noticably nicer than the previous one. We had our bags carried in by a nice hotel guy and everything. The hotel elevator was a little ghetto. It was very old and creaked. The door slammed shut and I was certain there was no safety mechanism to keep it from crushing your hand if you were to slip it in there. It kinda crashed around on its way up and sometimes the lights would flicker. :-P I usually took the stairs instead. Our room here was pretty nice. Again, it had simple but pretty furniture and the same type of bed configuration as the previous room. The bathroom was a marked improvement and even contained signs that claimed everything was sanitized. A welcome bonus! We spent our hour moving in and then taking a power nap. When it was over, we went to meet with everyone in a small room adjacent to the dining room. There were some tables set up there and we all squeezed in. We spent some time praying and listening to the plan for the next week from the leaders. Everybody also we around and introduced themselves and whatnot. After some time, I was getting really tired and feeling cramped in that room, so it was stuggle again to stay positive. When all the business was over, we just stayed there for dinner. It was chicken, tomatoes, potatoes, and bread. Pretty decent tasting. Liz and I sat at the interpreters table and had a lot of fun getting to talk with them. They were really interested in our dating/marriage story, so that was fun. It was also lots of fun getting to talk to Immanuel some. He was really into computers and wanted to pursue some of the things I was into. So, that was neat. Near the end of dinner, we got wind that it was David's birthday and some of the interpreters were going to play a prank on him. So, Liz and I were invited to join. We went up and hid in his room with the lights off. Then, when he came in, we surprised him. Alin, Immanuel, and I grabbed him and tried to dump him into the tub which we had filled with water. David was like a little snake and we couldn't get him down! He was literally climbing the walls of the tub! We had to settle for splashing him pretty good. :-P After all that, the interpreters had some fun presents for him to open in the hall. After all of that, we still had some time before the 10pm curfew, so and we wanted to phone back home. So, we grabbed an interpreter and eventually they all wanted to come, so we went out into the plaza area near the hotel and found a pay phone. I got to talk to Mom for a bit which was nice. We also had a lot of fun with the intepreters, just being goofy and stuff. We played some tag, had a jumping contest, and ate lots of Fornetti, which were little bready desserts stuffed with cheese, apple, cinnamon, etc. There were lots of flavors and they were warm and delicious. :) After a bit, it was fairly late in the evening, and we had to go back in because of curfew. We went to Roger and Mary's room and they were having tea and chatting with other people, so we hung out with them for awhile longer into the evening, which was fun. :) Eventually we all got tired, so Liz and I went on to bed and got some rest after a long day.

Sunday, 9/9

On Sunday, we got to sleep in a little bit also. I think we had to be down for breakfast by 8. The breakfast was a buffet and it was pretty decent. I was excited to have some European cheese again and it was good. :) They also had various bread things, some chicken, some warm and cold meats, some basic cereals, and some yogurts. After breakfast, we all got on the bus to head off for church service. I was confused because I thought we would have church all together, but I guess they decided to split us off into three groups of people and have us go to different village chapels that were built in past years. We had a beautiful morning drive through the countryside. This was the first time the bus had really driven off of the main roads, so it was really neat to see the beautiful scenes and be a little closer to the villages. As we drove through the villages, pretty much everyone would look up at the bus with stunned looks on their faces. Some of them just looked confused, and others of them looked dissaprovingly at the bus. Nobody seemed very excited to see us. I'm not sure exactly what that means. Anyhow, Liz and I got to go to the second church stop. The church was very neat. They had taken the basic chapel that the project built for them a number of years ago and really customized it very nicely. Liz had to go to the outhouse when we first got there, so I spent some time outside the chapel waiting. It was neat just to stand there and listen to the beautiful music inside as they were starting their worship. I guess this was my first time standing in a Romanian village and it was slightly overwhelming emotionally as I took in the sites of dirt, livestock, and old buildings around me, but beautiful worship in a language I didn't understand inside of the chapel. I think this was the first time it dawned on me that this trip would be very different from all of the European travel we had done before. This trip would involve a lot more than just sightseeing. It would involve the Holy Spirit working inside me and producing deeper feelings and experiences than what I had expected.

Church was great that morning. Like I said, the church was beautiful. They had added wood panelling to the inside and decorated the windows. They had put in a wood stove and then knocked out the back wall a bit and put in a beautiful, tiled baptistry. When we came in, Liz and I sat together on the right side. There weren't too many people in the church. Probably about 15 women and like 5 men, and then about 10 more people in the choir up front. A little way in, Liz realized that she was supposed to sit on the left side with the other women! Oops! I guess we gave away our identity as Americans. :-P This church seemed to love to sing. The choir sounded beautiful to me. Their sound wasn't perfect, but there was something beautifully exotic about it that touched my heart. I wanted to cry a couple of times; I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps I was just so happy to be in the fellowship of these Romanian believers. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was just really working that morning. Perhaps it was just the excitement of letting the reality of this trip sink in. I dunno. It was probably all of those things, but I was moved as the choir sang and the congregation sang. I tried to join in a little bit. :) The Romanian pastor seemed like a nice man. He also did a duet with his wife where they both sang and he played the accordian. I thought that was awesome and it filled me with joy also. Dave Harper got to speak to the congregation through Alin, which was cool. On the fly, he asked me to give my testimony. I totally wasn't ready and was pretty nervous, but I managed to sqeak something out! We also got to sing a song or two in English and I think we even did a couple where we would sing a part in English and they would sing it in Romanian. That was special. :) All in all, I really enjoyed the service and it got me in the mindset with the excitement I would need to start the next week on the project.

After church, we went back to the hotel for lunch. Later that afternoon, a lot of us went out with some interpreters to walk around Botosani some. We walked around for a little bit and got to see a few things, but not as much as I would've liked. I got stuck back into my tourist mode, which wasn't good. I wanted to go adventure, but we had to have an interpreter with us, so that was kind of limiting. So, I had to settle for just seeing some things. I found it interesting to remember the reactions that Europeans seem to give the Americans. Romanians, just like the people in other countries, don't seem exceptionally happy to see Americans. It made me feel a little uncomfortable as I observed the Romanians around us. After we walked around a bit, we spent some time just standing around in the plaza area where we had been the previous night. Everyone was just chilling, talking, and ordering many rounds of Fornetti to munch on. :) Later in the afternoon, we bought some ice cream on the street. It was decent, but I guess my standards/hopes were too high! After that, Liz was tired and went back to the hotel room to sleep. I stayed out with a couple people. We spent a long time sitting in front of the hotel talking. I spent most of the time just thinking and observing the Romanian life around me. It was interesting. One of the most interesting things was the tons of wedding we saw all weekend long in the city. They were everywhere. You could hear the wedding procession coming from far away because there would be a line of cars, often with some taxis mixed in, that would drive down the road blaring their horns. The newlyweds were usually in nice car that was decorated all up. :P I saw at least three of these processions while I was sitting there and heard other ones elsewhere. Our small group finally decided we wanted to go out, so we got to walk around the city streets a little bit more. We went over to see an Eastern Orthodox church. We went inside and there was an old lady there. We asked her if we could look inside and take pictures and she basically said that the priest wasn't there and she wasn't sure, but she said we could go ahead. So, we did and it was pretty neat. But then, some priests came in while we were in there and didn't look to happy. We decided it best to leave and as we did, some guy went up to the church's steeple and started banging out this rhythm with some like drum sticks. It was very loud and kinda creepy and it echoed for a long distance. Then he played some bells. Then more drumming. We left fairly quickly and I observed everyone passing the church doing full hail marys. I wasn't quite sure what to make of all of this, but it didn't make me feel very at home!! After that, we wandered around a bit more. I noticed that there were lots of stray dogs and cats all over Romania, especially in Botosani. Dogs would just walk around and then lay down in the grass and take a nap anywhere they pleased. We also saw some goats in the middle of the city. I guess that's a cheap way to keep the lawn short! A big storm was coming in, so our group raced back to the hotel. I took a power nap and then we all met for dinner downstairs. Dinner was good- tomatoes, chicken, and bread agai. :P After dinner, we spent a long time as a group, having devotionals, prayer time, and time of sharing and direction for the coming week. I was pretty tired and this time was nice, but made be VERY tired as it dragged on. I should have had a better attitude, but it was hard. After all that, we went back up to bed for the night.

Monday, 9/10

We had to get up early each day this week for the project. It was somewhat of a slap in the face! We would wake up around 5:15 or 5:30 to get ready and were supposed to be down for breakfast at 6am. I think we may have been time on this Monday, but all other days, we were progressively later for breakfast! Breakfast was about the same every day, as I described on Sunday. I tried the Romanian coffee which is pretty strong and gritty. For real men only. Our group tried to leave each day around 7am, which ended up being a little later, but not much later. We had to drive just over an hour from Botosani to the village we were building the chapel in, Mihail Kogalniceanu. The drive each morning was simple glorious. We drove through the beautiful Romanian farmlands and the land was just indescribably amazing. On occassion, we would see livestock out in the fields and shepards out there too. Very neat. I don't think I've ever seen grass so green in my life, if you don't count in those calendars of Ireland. I think the Romanian landscape would give those calendars a good challenge! Our group would also share testimonies on the bus and sing praise songs each morning on the way in and also on the way home. I usually enjoyed this, but sometimes, I just wanted to be quiet and think, which was hard to do sometimes. So, that made me have a bad attitude for a lousy reason, so I regret that and will need to work on that if I get to go back again.

We made it to the job site a little after 8am. It was so pretty! The lot for the site was just the perfect location. It was at the crossroads of the main road that spans villages and the road that goes into the village. Our church was going to pretty much be the cornerstone of the village. Very neat. :) Looking out from the church was just beautiful rolling fields and hills. It was a great view and a great spot for the church. It made me pretty excited. :) The morning was a little overcast and when we got there, the church was all locked up. The Romanians had put up the concrete structure and had also installed windows and doors, which they usually don't do. So, we joined together and had a prayer time and during that time, somebody came and unlocked the doors, so that was neat. One big thing I gathered from the trip as a whole is to pray a lot about everything. Everything we encounter, no matter how small, we ought to be praying for. God is in control of everything and there is nothing that He doesn't care about. Even if we feel like the thing is so small that it is isolated from God, it isn't, and we ought to pray about it. After we pray, we should be aware of God's work in the situation, so that we can praise Him when He answers our prayers. Overall, we should just work on being more aware of God's position in our lives and that He is worthy or our prayers, our praise, and our mental attention.

After we were done praying, we broke off into groups to go on prayer walks around the village. Each day, before work started, small groups would go around the village and pray for it and its people. If we met people, we would invite them to the church or to the week's activities, or even do some evangelism if the opportunity is there. I went off with a rather large group of people with two interpreters. One of the big hinderences in this village was that all of the roads were dirt and there was no shortage of rain, so they were mud. Thick mud and horse manure was what we had to deal with all week as we tredged through the village! It was interesting. :P One of the first people I talked to was a farmer man. I approached him with Daniel and Immanuel. He was probably in his 50s and had just come in off his horse. We said hello and asked him some questions about God. He was a strong Orthodox and had quick responses for our questions. He was a pretty stern man and I pretty much melted in his presence. It just occured to me that here I was, this young, clean cut, well paid, American computer programmer, and I'm trying to convince this old, weathered, hard working, been through Communism, firm, Romanian farmer of his need for Christ. I realize that God can do anything, and we shouldn't fear, but this being my first experience with this, I felt pathetic in this man's presence. So, needless to say, it didn't go so well. He was nice, but I was useless. The rest of the prayer walk, the women did the talking for the most part. This was because we ran into mostly women in the village. The men were either out working, or were dead. Most of the women we met were widows and part of their introduction was "and my husband has been dead for XX number of years." It was crazy. The men just work themselves to death, literally. They work so hard and the conditions and health care just aren't there, so they don't live very long compared to us. So, we went along and met a lot of people. We met a nice family who had the husband and wife there, and the grandmother. They were a bit younger, maybe in their thirties, and were very nice and said they were excited about the church. We also met a nice lady who had some grandkids with her. She had beautiful blonde-gray hair in long braids and Liz made a comment about them. The lady was really sweet and took a liking to Liz. She joked with Liz saying "you love my hair, but do you love me?". She repeated that joke throughout the week. :P She was pretty neat. I eventually really enjoyed the prayer walk and our group adventured everywhere talking to people. We were the last ones back to the job site because we were out for so long!

When we got back, we had a quick break with some warm tea and snacks and then got to work on building the chapel. I did a variety of activities throughout the day. I did lots of moving things around such as the wood and the roof panels. It was a little tiring. I was involved in the first accident of the job too! Daniel and I were carrying some boards and he tripped and my hand came off the board, which then hit the ground and bounced right up into his chin, which knocked him to the ground. It happened really fast and was a little scary, but thankfully all he came away with was a cut near his lip. :-/ We had a lunch break around midday or so. Each day, the nice ladies would make us a scrumptous lunch. After each lunch, we would have some time as a group for a devotion and to just share with each other about the day so far. That was always a nice break along with lunch. After lunch, I helped clean up the old church. The old church was a little one-room shack that they had been using. We used it to store supplies and also to have our lunch devotions at. We also wanted to use it for the ladies Bible study groups in the afternoon. So, I just really felt led to fix it up nice for the ladies that afternoon. I figured that the village ladies would dress up nice to come down and meet with the American ladies, so they probably wouldn't want to sit in the dirt and dust that was in there before. So I laid out the chairs in a circle and cleaned them up and then put down a bunch of blanket throws that were there to make a carpet. It was nice a cozy for the ladies, and I was looking forward to seeing them get to use it later on. :-) After that, I spent a lot of the afternoon helping James with cutting out and moving the wood for the rafters. I got pretty sad midway through the afternoon. I thought the ladies ministry was going to be at 2pm, but nobody showed up. I was kinda bummed about it, but went about my business. Then, around 4pm the ladies came streaming in. There were tons of them! It made me so happy, and I was super excited when they got to sit around in the room for the Bible study. :) I think we had a turnout of about 25 women or so that first day, which was great considering the village was less than 60 houses. That made me happy. :) Not long after that, I finished up the rafters with James. The kids had gotten out of VBS and were hanging out all around the church. That was another neat thing about this chapel. The villagers, especially the kids were really excited about it. All week, they would hang out around the chapel or help out with building it. The kids would be there from morning until nightfall just about. It was really neat to see their excitement and support. :) Anyways, there were a lot of kids out there, so I went to be with them and play soccer with them. I wasn't very good at it. Eventually, I just ended up kicking a ball with this one boy. He was very good at soccer, and wasn't very impressed with me. He stuck with me for awhile, but it was evident that he was becoming increasingly annoyed at my lack of skill as we kicked the ball back and forth. Then, another boy joined in and the first boy left. The second boy was really nice and took an interest in me. I think he saw how pathetic I was. He took a lot of time to try and teach me a whole variety of soccer moves. It was really neat. We both couldn't speak to each other at all, but we were able to communicate just fine and make friends and he taught me soccer. :) That was lots of fun. Later, a full soccer game broke out on the road. It was crazy. The kids were really good and they would just push each other over into the road when they were going for the ball, but it was expected and nobody got hurt or had their feelings hurt. They just bounced back up and kept playing! It seemed to me like football-soccer! :-P It was neat to watch the boys interact though. I played goalie and that was fun. Eventually, we had to clean up at the end of the day and then get back on the bus for a beautiful drive home through the countryside as the sun set.

We had dinner back at the hotel in Botosani. It was pretty good. Chicken and tomatoes cooked slightly different than the night before. :-P After dinner, we had a devotion and sharing time which was nice. We did this every evening after dinner, and it was a nice way to wind down the evening and reflect on what God was doing within the village and within the team. After that, Liz and Kelly took over our room to have some time to talk, so I went outside on the balcony overlooking Botosani. It was beautiful out. I love looking over cities from balconies. It reminded me a lot of some of the evenings I spent alone doing that the last time we were in Europe. Its just so peaceful to me and gives me room to think and contemplate on all sorts of things. It did make me rather sad this time as I looked out over the city at all of the many apartment complexes and people turned their lights out little by little. Many of them had TVs flickering. I wondered how many of those thousands of people were Christians. I wondered how many of them were happy. I found myself longing for heaven, when I won't have to worry about such things. I tend to get overwhelmed in the precence of lots of people who seem spiritually desolate, as seems to be largely the case in European cities. I wish I could change that, but I can't. It makes me question God some, but that's a trust struggle that I need to work out on my own. I was out there for a little over an hour, so I had a lot of time to think and stuggle. :) It was most enjoyable. Once Liz came out to get me, we both went over to Roger and Mary's room for some tea and chat. I enjoyed this time with them a lot. Usually, Rudy, Barbara, Dave, Kathy, and Michelle would be there too. It was fun to get to know all of them a little better. When we tired of that, it was late and time to get to bed!

Tuesday, 9/11

We got up really early again this morning and had another breakfast at the hotel which was pretty much the same as the day before. The food was decent, but we had the same thing every morning! The bus ride through the country was beautiful again. I wanted to have quiet times while driving in the morning, but I just couldn't focus enough to do it. I enjoyed looking out the windows and thinking too much! We opened the morning with a prayer circle again and then split up to go on prayer walk. Today's prayer walk went okay. It wasn't as exciting as the day before. We didn't run into very many people this morning for some reason. But, we spent a lot of time just praying for people's houses, families, health, crops, etc, based on Dave Harper's recommendation. I thought that was really neat and something I hadn't considered doing before. And often people would see us praying and be interested, so it would be a good conversation starter. Our group met a man who said he had donated the land for the chapel to be built on. He was rather interesting. I just noticed how hard and dirty he was. He was covered in dirt and mud and probably hadn't worried about a shower in some time. His hands were like leather and his fingertips were black. He was smoking a cigarette as we talked to him, and I noticed as the thing burned down almost all the way to the end in his fingers. It was almost as if he couldn't even feel it burning him. Maybe he couldn't. I didn't have much to say to him because I was thinking too much about him. It humbled me as I watched him. And, he wasn't the only one like this. He was just a typical Romanian villager. It was an interesting chat with him. After prayer walk, we all came back to the chapel for a quick snack and then to get on to work.

Today, Roger decided to put me on the evangelism team. I felt kinda bad because I wanted to be helping with the physical labor on the jobsite. So, I was excited to get to do evangelism, but felt sort of like a slacker. But, I know thats not true, because it is very important to evangelize also. So, in the morning, I got to go out with Liz, Liz Duley and Karen Harper around the village. We had Alice and Emma as our interpreters. Emma had just joined us today. She was the granddaughter of the lady who was the widow of the pastor of this group of belivers. So, that was neat. We visited some people who had asked us to visit them at some point. Some were home and others weren't. It went okay. We didn't get to speak to anyone for very long. I guess the weather was nice today, so it seemed like a lot of the people were in a hurry to keep working, so they didn't want to talk long. They would never say that, but Liz was really good at reading their body language. That's one thing I learned from her. I just forge ahead talking to somebody, assuming that they want to chat if they don't say otherwise. But, she's really in touch with their body language and can tell when they want or need to go, but are just being polite. We only got to be out for about two hours and I don't remember anything amazing happening. I was a little dissappointed when we came back for lunch and devotion time, because it just seemed like the villagers weren't as receptive today.

After lunch, I got to go back out on evangelism for the afternoon. This time, I was with Dave Harper and Liz (my Liz). Our interpreters were Alice and Emma again. We walked around a little bit and spent some time praying over houses. Dave Harper is really cool. I liked that he wasn't afraid of anyone or anything. He would just go up to people and start conversations and people would listen. He found great ways to relate to all types of people. It was a blessing to watch him evangelize. I really never said much; I just watched him and smiled. It was a great learning experience though. :) After awhile, Dave got into a talk with a young lady on the main road into the village. She was really interested. After some time, we saw another person coming down the road, so Liz, Emma, and I split off to go talk to the lady, while Dave and Alice stayed with talking. I don't think our chat went so well. We decided to go adventure off because we might be more useful that way. So, we stopped at the next intersection and prayed for God's leading on where to go. We also prayed that God would help us to be more bold. None of us had said much all afternoon and we were feeling pretty pathetic about it. But, now it was up to us, so we needed to step it up without Dave! So, we prayed for God's help and then decided to turn right. There was a house immediately on the left, but it was hard to reach because of the mud. I thought I heard somebody over there, but then we didn't see anyone, so we kept walking. But, then Emma just really wanted to go back and try again, so we did and she yelled out a number of "hellos". Eventually, an older lady came out on the porch and invited us over to her. It was really neat, because her son came out from behind some stuff. He was about my age and they had been working. I think they may have been avoiding us at first, but God somehow allowed us to come and get to talk to them. And Emma just got all filled with the Spirit and really started talking to them. It was awesome! I don't know what she was saying in Romanian, but they seemed pretty interested. It was such an answer to our prayers for God's boldness. :) I heard some rustling from the house next to us, so I got the feeling other people were listening in too. Eventually, Dave and Alice came and joined us and did great evangelizing them some more. We parted ways with the people after awhile and then walked down the street. As soon as we got in front of the adjacent house, this girl came running down to us smiling and greeting us. I'm almost certain she had been eavesdropping on us from before. It was so exciting! I've never seen anyone so excited to come hear God's truth like that before. It was obvious that she was so excited to come talk with us and learn more about what she had overheard. What a great memory of God's goodness. :) This girl was a young woman. She was pretty and was pregnant. Her sister came down with her also and her sister had a cute little boy with her. Dave talked to them for a very long time. They were both very interested, responsive, and had lots of questions. It was so cool. I don't know quite how to describe it. After having partial success with other people, it was totally amazing to see God's words working in the hearts of these girls. I've never seen anything like it. So, anyways, we left them after a long time and left a Bible with them. Later that week, the pregant women was saved and so was her husband. I think her sister was close too. It was so awesome. You could tell at the end of the week that she had changed. Very, very neat. :) And, so awesome for God to answer our meek prayer for strength in that way. This whole saga may not have come about had God not lead us to split off and go to that first house. He is so good to allow me to be a part of that. What a blessing. After that whole experience, I think we talked to a couple more people briefly (relatively) and then headed back to the chapel. By that time, it was late in the afternoon and we helped clean up everything.

Earlier in the afternoon, Emma had invited us over with the interpreters to her house for some games and snacks in the evening. She lived in Botosani about five minutes from the hotel. So, Roger and Don were nice and agreed that we could go. Also, we planned to eat at the job site for dinner so we could get more work in. But, Roger was thoughtful and sped everyone along so that we could leave the job site early enough so that we could have some time at Emma's house before we needed to be back for the 10pm curfew. So, we had a great pasta dinner, did devotions and then got on the bus to head on back. At the hotel, Emma's Dad came in a truck with a camper shell on back. He took a few people over and then came back for the rest of us. Emma's house was very nice. They were a little better off than the average Romanian it seemed. Her parents and grandmother were all very nice. It was weird because we couldn't speak to them because of the language barrier, but that didn't seem much of a hinderance. Looking back on memories like this, I can't believe I never spoke to these people like this! Its amazing how much you can communicate by body movements and just your eyes. I feel like I had conversations that I never had with these people. :P Weird, but neat! Anyhow, we had a great time at Emma's house. It was just us young people- the intepreters, and then Liz, me, Kelly, Carly, and Kayla. We got to hang out for about 1.5 hours. Her parents made us tea and all sorts of amazing snacks. We played their version of Jenga and that was lots of fun. :) It felt really special to be a part of this group of people and to have friends in Romania. Sometimes I wish I could just go back anytime I wanted to and see them again. It was good times. Unfortunately, the evening had to end too soon because of the curfew! We were running late, so we managed to cram all of us into the truck! There were like 6 girls up in the cab and then another 6 or 7 of us back in the back of the truck. It was a sorta rickety truck too and knocked us around quite a bit. It was quite the five minute ride home. :P Good memories though. It was a very fun night. We didn't do too much back at the hotel and tried to get to bed a little earlier than usual.

Wednesday, 9/12

Wednesday morning was a little difficult to get up. It had been raining all night and was still raining some in the morning when we got up. It was just overcast and cold and just felt like a day that would be better suited staying in bed. Plus, I think we were just far enough into the week that we were starting to feel really tired and not up to going into "work" for the day. But, we eventually pulled ourselves together and mozied down for breakfast. I think every morning we were a little later for breakfast than the day before. :P We got on the bus and rode over to the job site in the cold and drizzle. When we got there, it was so muddy from the night before. It was pretty bad. It had stopped raining, though, so that was good. However, everyone seemed to be in a similar mood to me. It just seemed like everyone was a little tired and under the weather and rather moody also. There wasn't very many good vibes going around. When we went out on prayer walk, I really didn't want to go and then I got stuck in a group I didn't really want to be in. We slowly trudged through the super-mud, trying hard not to slip. Not very many villagers were out this morning. Eventually, we saw a lady coming to get some water from the well. I talked her into letting me carry her water and then we tried to share with her about God. She was pretty firm in her convictions towards the Orthodox church and it was apparent that she wasn't extrememly happy about the church we were building. It was rather difficult talking to her and I didn't really know what to say, especially since I was in a bad mood and just didn't feel like dealing with it. :-/ So, we followed the old lady to her house with the water. When we got there, another lady came out of the house. She was barefoot and kind of dirty and I suppose was the older lady's daughter. This woman suddendly just started talking to us a whole lot and was really intense about some stuff and using lots of hand motions. She would spontaneously start crying also. Our translator, Immanuel wasn't saying a whole lot and later he said that she was saying lots of unrepeatable things and gibberish and she was drunk early in the morning. Not too much later, a middle-aged man wandered out of the house. He too looked rather drunk and he was just filthy. I noticed that he didn't have any shoes and they had dirt floors in their house. I held out my hand to him to shake his and he took mine and kissed it. He talked to us a little bit. It seemed at first that I was able to speak to him through Immanuel, but pretty soon he was just losing it. He would talk and talk and then burst into tears and then talk some more and the other lady would talk and cry some too. Something about this man just broke me inside. I was already emotional this morning and it just set me over the top. My heart to broke inside and was going out to him. Eventually, all I could bring myself to say was "Jesus loves you". He was going on and on about Jesus and how Judas betrayed him and other things and was just crying and falling all over himself. I know he was probably drunk, but the pain in his eyes and evident all over him just overwhelmed me. I'm still getting choked up three months later as I type this. Its rare that things are that real and penetrating to me, but this was. I wanted so badly to help him in some way- any way. I wanted him to be better, to not have a dirt floor, to not be drunk at 9am and to have hope in Christ. But, I couldn't. It was out of my hands. I wanted to stay there with him and talk with him and be his friend. But, I couldn't. I just had to trust God with it. I knew that at the time, but I didn't trust God with it. We walked away from them and my heart was just crushed inside of me. I remember looking back and seeing the man smiling and waving. For that brief second he looked exactly like Grandpa Claeys; it was weird. But that just really set me over the edge with all of the sad feelings I had concerning his recent death. I couldn't handle it and I couldn't just fall apart in front of everyone. I quickly volunteered to go down a side road and look for some more houses. That gave me a few minutes just to pull my emotions together temporarily. It was horrible. There were no more houses down there, so I came back to our group and we just decided to go back to the job site. When we got back, I was just out of it. I was so depressed and useless.

Roger said I could go on evangelism again today. I went out with Karen Harper and Liz Duley in the morning and we talked to a few people. I went off with the ladies to a different part of the village, down the main road. We were able to stop by a family's house and they invited us in to their little house. It was really small, but they made it happy inside. They also had a large TV which was kind of funny because it dwarfed everything else in there. You couldn't stand fully up because the ceilings were too low. But, we talked to this family- grandmother, daughter, and daughter's son. The son seemed to be right around my age. The ladies talked to them for a long time about stuff. Apparently they were part of the church body but had been hurt by something somebody said or something like that. So, we spent time talking about forgiveness and reading scripture together. We talked some about the gospel and it became evident that some of their theology was off. Its amazing the influence that the Orthodox church has had over Romanians, even those that profess to be followers of Christ. I guess, if you grow up for years in any one way of thinking, its hard to totally break free from that. So, it was a good time with them and they were so thankful for us coming by. They said they wished we could come a couple times a week and explain the Bible to them more! They were so hungry for this knowledge we had. Hopefully the church will be able to teach them. I wanted to talk to the son some more also, but wasn't sure what to say. I invited him up to the church and said we might have a men's devotional if he came up. He seemed like he wanted to then, but I don't think he ever did make it. :-/ But, after the time with them, I felt a lot more encouraged and had recovered a lot from the earlier morning. Walking back up the hill to the job site, we heard a car coming behind us, so we moved off the road to the side, but then the car pulled over to us and slowed down. This Romanian man drove by slowly just yelling at us and waving his hand. He was so angry and really mean. It was pretty scary. I assume he wasn't happy about the chapel we were building. Liz quickly took it as the devil attacking (which it was) and prayed it off. But, the incident kind of shook me up again and stirred up the shaky ground my heart was already in. We walked back up the hill to the job site and were really late for lunch because we spent so much time at that family's house! I was feeling better, but was still pretty distracted by my emotions. During devotions, I think I kind of sat outside of the group. I just needed time alone and was afraid to take it. After lunch, Roger wanted me to go out again on evangelism with Liz Duley, Dave, and Karen. I finally just had to grab Liz Duley and explain to her how distraught I was. I didn't want to be useless the rest of the day. She was really encouraging and was able to relate to how I felt. She used to get really emotional on her earlier trips too but she's learned to trust God with it. It just helped to tell someone and she helped to encourage me to let it go and let God handle what He wants to do. I wasn't immediately better, but it helped.

I split off with Liz and an interpreter and we went along to more houses along the road. I really enjoyed going along with her for the next couple hours. We met a lot of people and she let me speak first to the men. We didn't meet too many men and the ones we met were busy with trying to get stuff done, so we didn't hold them up much, but it was fun to get to talk to some and invite them up to the church. We talked to a number of different women. I didn't talk too much but spent a lot of time observing how Liz approach different types of women. It was neat and a great experience. I was able to share a little with one older lady a bit later on and that was neat. She seemed rather receptive to what we had to say. At the end of the stream was a little stream and Liz and I walked down there to say hello to a few boys down there fishing. One of them, the kid who didn't like my lack of soccer skills the other day, had a real fishing pole. The others were just using sticks. That was interesting. Walking back up the hill to the job site, we noticed a police car up by the church. That was pretty scary. Romania had just put into place anti-Christian evangelism laws that year, but so far nobody had been affected by them. We had our Bibles out walking towards the chapel, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I think we just prayed as we walked up and then walked by them. They didn't do anything. When we got to the chapel, everyone was asking about the police out front. Eventually, we found out that it was just border control, I guess looking for people as they came from or went to Moldova. The village was very close to the country border. So, we were thankful for that! By that time of day, our evangelism had taken all afternoon and it was time to head back up to the job site to wrap up the day. It had been a great afternoon. I spent it mostly observing Liz and some of Dave and Karen, but it was very valuable. I'm not so experienced with evangelizing, but it was very encouraging and great to experience first-hand how other people did it. I really appreciated being able to have that time with them. :) I helped clean up a bit at the job site and then we headed on back to Botosani. I think everyone was tired of eating chicken, tomatoes, and cabbage, so we decided to go out for pizza! There was a place near the hotel that we all went to and we got our own personal pizzas. :) It wasn't the best pizza ever, but it sure tasted great after our other dinners. :P It was a good time there and then our group headed back to the hotel and had our devotional time up in the common hall area near our rooms. Liz and I then spent an hour or so in Roger and Mary's room with the usual suspects sipping tea and sharing stories. It was a nice time. :) I think the first time or two that we spent at "tea time" I got tired of it, but later in the week, I relaxed more around everyone and really enjoyed the time, and then missed it when it was all over. I think I tend to that pattern too much and miss out on a lot of good things in my life by just not having the right attitude or something. Perhaps if we get to do another Romania trip, I'll have to keep this in mind. :) After tea time, we wandered back to our room and got some much needed rest!

Thursday, 9/13

Today ended up being a much different day than Tuesday and Wednesday. In fact, I don't have quite as much to write...thank goodness! :) If I remember right, I think it was raining some in the morning again when we got on the bus and were going into the village. We prayed that it would stop raining so we could work better, but we had determined to work anyways even if it didn't. But, God was good and held the rain off the whole day as soon as we got the the job site. :) It seemed like everyone was doing a little better this morning than yesterday. A lot of people had gotten sick by this point, which was a bummer. :( I think it was the cold, damp mornings that gave many of us the chills. But, despite the illnesses, everyone still wanted to help and spirits were a lot higher this morning. I think everyone was feeling encouraged and starting to see the end of the chapel in site. :) We had our group prayer time and then went out on prayer walk. I don't remember today's walk as well. I don't think we talked to many people; perhaps none at all. I think it was shorter too because people were anxious to get back to work on the chapel.

Today I spent pretty much the whole day working inside of the chapel. I spent some of the morning helping Wayne with doing his electrical work. I also spent a lot of time helping cut and transport boards for the ceiling and moving the scaffolding around. We broke for lunch and devotion and then got back to work. Almost the entire afternoon, I spent up on the scaffolding working on the ceiling with Amelia. I would grab the ceiling wood and line it up and hold it in place while she would take the nail gun and nail the boards on. We had quite a good system going and got the whole thing done by the end of the day. We probably did about half of the entire ceiling after lunch. It was neat. :) I was tired though! It was encouraging to be a part of the physical job of building the chapel. I really enjoyed doing evagelism the two days before, but I was feeling a little sad or guilty that I hadn't been much involved in the actual chapel. It was good to be able to leave my mark on the ceiling. :) Once the ceiling was done, that was just about it! We spent some time cleaning up. They decided to make dinner for us at the job site in the evening so we could stay later and work longer. So, while dinner was cooking, Alice and Emme went into the chapel with the new ceiling done and started singing. You could hear it from all over the job site and it was beautiful! Some other people joined in singing and it was so pretty. It was so exciting to be so close to done and those girls just really filled a lot of us with the Spirit that evening as they were singing. As some people have said, we had our first worship service in the chapel right then. :) It was very exciting.

We had dinner and then cleaned up to leave. The Romanian painters had come in by then to start painting the inside and outside of the chapel, which was exciting to see start taking place. :) We drove off into the dusk of evening and got back to the hotel for our nightly devotion, and then of course off to have tea time in Roger's room, and then on to bed. It was a good day overall, but I was glad to go to bed! :-)

Friday, 9/14

Today started very interestingly. We had our breakfast and were late as usual after slogging out of bed! Then, there was this little black and white kitty cat who was trying to get into the hotel as we were trying to leave. We all got on the bus and I noticed that cat run across the street and under the bus as we were leaving. The drive went well at first. I finally shared my testimony with everyone on the bus. Almost everyone else had shared theirs throughout the week, but I had been procrastinating because I really didn't want to. But, it went really well. I don't think I've ever really shared a full testimony before, so it was an experience. I really enjoyed it though and perhaps talked too much. :P Then, not more than ten minutes after I was done, the bus driver pulled into a town and off the road. We weren't too sure what was going on. I was in the front seat of the bus, so I went out to help him with anything. The engine had overheated because a bunch of the belts had come off of it! And the saddest thing of all was that the little kitty cat had gotten up in there, probably to be warm, and had gotten stuck in a belt and killed. In the process, the fan belt was knocked off and the engine heated up. I felt so bad for the poor cat. It looked like it died quickly though and was probably just suffocated, so that was good. But, it was still pretty sad and a bad way to start off the day. Eventually, a few more people came off the bus. There wasn't too much we could help the bus driver with. He had a lot of difficulty getting everything back together though and we were stopped for quite a while. I guess a couple neat things that happened during that time were that Dave went down a bar in town and shared with Gospel with a bunch of interested men. Also, Pastor Bruce came out and shared some with the people whose house was next to where we stopped. It was neat to see these men taking advantage of the time. There was a sketchy guy who came by and started begging for money from me and the others. I didn't give him any, but I really felt lead to witness to him. But, there was no interpreter immediatley there and then I lost my nerve. :-/ I'm such a wimp sometimes. I regret just letting him leave, but I guess maybe I just need to remember that lesson for the future.

Marcello finally got the bus all fixed up. As an aside, I should say that Marcello, the bus driver, was awesome. I don't think he spoke any English, but he was so nice. He would help us carry wood and stuff around the job site all day and was just really involved with everything. He loved the kids and they loved him. He let them cover his front bus window with animal stickers from VBS and had the kids singing karaoke on the bus microphone one evening. :) He was a very hard worker and such a pleasure to observe. Anyhow, so we left from there but had probabably lost at least an hour of the morning. This was difficult because all the events of the day had been moved up a lot. I think VBS and the ladies' group were both supposed to be at 11am instead of in the afternoon! So, this made it a little stressful for everyone! I did appreciate that despite the setback, we still went on with our morning group prayer and prayer walks. I went on prayer walk with a group that went up to the small school and we prayed over it for awhile. Then we hurried back to the job site an prepared for VBS. We had to make little gift bags for all the kids and there was so much involved in doing that. It was crazy! We were hurridly counting things, sorting things, and tossing them into paper bags for the kids. It was really insane. Then we grabbed everything and rushed off to the school in time for VBS. This was my first time getting to work with the VBS kids and it was really neat. :) We started off by playing some games. I played some sort of tag/dodgeball with some of the kids for awhile. I really didn't know what we were doing because I couldn't speak with them, but they seemed to have a great time. Kids of any nation seem to love being chased and getting to chase. :) I was pretty worn out by them at the end of it all! Then the kids sang some songs that they had been practicing all week. That was really fun to watch. :) Most of them were totally into it. Not to mention, I think there were 46 kids on the last day! The numbers just grew all week and it was so awesome to see the turnouts of kids. It was just so neat that we were able to teach them all the Gospel message and bring them some joy. :) After singing, we had a Bible lesson and then the kids did crafts. I helped some with the crafts. I was handing out different colored ribbons for the kids and just noticed how well behaved, honest, and grateful they were compared to kids back here in America. I kept expecting that some of the kids would try to get a second ribbon, or complain about the color I gave them, but not a one. Almost all of them said "thank you" ("multumesc") and were happy with what I gave them. It was so refreshing! Then, at the end, we needed to hand out their bags of gifts to them, so we had them all line up in line. They were so cooperative and waited patiently in line. Also, the kids who were in families together would help each other and the older kids would lead the younger ones and stuff. I know some of that happens in America, but it just seemed like the Romanian kids in this small village were so much kinder, well-behaved, and content than most kids I've seen. Very interesting.

VBS took at least two hours and when we got back we had missed lunch totally, but were able to scrape up some food. By that time the chapel was all painted and Wayne had all the lights in place and they had brought some makeshift pews in. It was neat! Everything was all done except for just general clean up. :-) It was such a blessing to experience that feeling of fulfillment at having finished that chapel. The afternoon was really chill. Dani and a few of the interpreters had to leave right after lunch to go on to the next project and set up some stuff. We helped them pack up and leave. Then, there was not much to do. I just spent a lot of time walking around, taking pictures, and just enjoying time to think and reflect. It was a gloriously beautiful day and just felt so peaceful with all the work done. :) There was also a growing sense of anticipation as the 7pm dedication service grew closer and closer. Villagers started showing up to hang out around the chapel or to help decorate it some for the service and there were kids everywhere just excited and waiting. Liz and I got to spend some time with some of the kids and it was so much fun. They did some singing in the chapel which was neat. One of the mothers was in there with the kids and she had this incredibly shrill voice, but there was something addictively lovely about it as she sang. I just sat there and couldn't stop listening. Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit working that drew me to her music as she was singing praises. I'm not sure, but it sure was beautiful to me and made me so happy. I started welling up at one point and finally just had to leave! :P I got to hang out with my soccer-teaching friend some more. The boy tried unsuccessfully to teach me some Romanian. :) He was so persistent and fun. I think I'm a lost cause though! I taught him a little English. :) It was a great afternoon though. I have such fond memories of it and wish that every afternoon could be just like it. Such a blessing to be there!

Well, we had a quick sandwich for dinner and then had to get ready for the dedication service. I changed on the bus with the other men. It smelled like a men's locker room! :-P I got all snazzed up in a suit for the night. Then, people started showing up for service. Tons of people came, it was so neat! The house was packed and some people had to stand in the back. The service was neat. A lot of people spoke and there was a lot of music. Wayne brought these neat wireless ear pieces so we could all listen to an interpreter without much interruption to the servie. The whole thing was very much a blessing, but at the time I got a really bad attitude. The whole thing lasted probably almost three hours. I had gotten really warm, tired, and uncomfortable on the old pew I was on and was just kind of grumpy by the end. It was almost 10pm when we left and our group leaders really whisked our group onto the bus. That made me really sad and angry also. I had really enjoyed time with some of the kids and villagers in the afternoon and was wishing there was time to say goodbye to some of them, but we had to leave in such a rush. I guess I was just too sentimental and didn't want to leave at all. But, I had a horrible attitude and a headache. Then, on the bus everyone else was happy and having a big party, but I wanted to be all grumpy and quiet. I shouldn't have been such a jerk, but I was. :( I kind of regret missing out on the fun time on the bus, but oh well. It was quite late, of course, when we all got back to the hotel and we were ready for bed.

Saturday, 9/15

On Saturday, we finally got to sleep in a little bit! It was so great! But, not too long because we had to pack up all our stuff to be able to leave. We got packed up and then had breakfast and left. The trip on back to Bucharest was pretty good. We had some fun times in the back of the bus, including having Pastor Bruce do a puppet wedding. :P The interpreter girls were so much fun. They really just brought a lot of life and love to the whole group and kept everyone happy and singing the whole week. I know Liz really enjoyed them a lot. Anyhow, the bus ride was fine. We got pulled over once, which was exciting. Then, we found out that the police just wanted to warn the bus that there was a bridge coming up that he wasn't allowed to go over or something. I'm not too sure exactly. We made a couple of stops. On one of them, we bought some candies and stuff at a gas station. We ate at McDonald's one more time for lunch and it was good. Got to spend some time with Carly there which was fun. The rest of the trip went well. Most of the time was pretty quiet on the bus. I think a lot of people were tired and slept a lot. I think I napped some too! Later in the afternoon, we came to the city of Ploiesti which is just north of Bucharest and close to our airport. Our hotel was a little newer than the other places we had been in. Typical of Europe, it was smokey, but decently clean. We brought our stuff into our room, but then my key got stuck in the door! I couldn't do anything to get it out. We had to get some guy to come work on it and he couldn't get it to budge either. It made me so angry and we finally had to change rooms. And it was stressful because a group of us was leaving to go shopping at a particular time and the time was running short. I shouldn't have been so angry, but I was, and stressed. :( We finally got into our new room and then had to get downstairs quick to leave on the bus. We went out to a little indoor shopping mall in downtown. We only had an hour to shop which also made me angry because it was really stressful. They wanted us to always have an interpreter, so there was like a group of 4 of us with an interpreter trying to shop, but we weren't supposed to split off to look at our own stuff. I was thouroughly annoyed and the mall we went into was lousy and didn't have much selection of things I would want to buy for souveniers. I finally found a couple things as last-minute decisions and then we all raced out of there and back to the bus. I wasn't in a very good mood. :-/ We got back to the hotel with almost an hour before dinner, which made me angry because I didn't understand why we had to rush the shopping so much! Oh well. I don't think they were very prepared for us to have dinner at the hotel. They made chicken cordon bleu and it was decent. They did give us ice cream that was really good. :) We were supposed to get to use the dining room for our wrap-up celebration time of sharing, but they booted us out. We had to all squeeze into the hall upstairs for it! It was a little uncomforable, but it went really well. We just spent a couple hours sharing thoughts about the trip and wrapping things up. It was a nice, chill time to be with everyone. When that was done, we were all quite tired. Somehow, Liz and I got back with the interpreter girls and spent awhile chatting in the hall which was pretty fun. We were being pretty goofy. :P We finally went to bed later on.

Sunday, 9/16

Sunday morning we got to sleep in a little bit, then had breakfast down in the hotel. It was decent. Then we had to get back on the bus and leave. The hotel was kind of sketch. They hadn't been very nice about our meals and making us sit in the hall, and the before we left they tried to charge the group for a bunch of stuff we didn't buy! It was really ridiculous and put a lot of people in a bad mood. Don't think we'll go back there again! We took the bus about 30 minutes to the airport and got all checked in. We got there well before the flight and had at least a good two hours to kill. It wasn't a big airport and I got through all the shopping in about 10 minutes, so it was a pretty boring wait. We did burn up the rest of our calling card by calling some of our siblings. :P It was like 3am their time, so it was kind of funny to us! The plane ride went pretty well. We had an hour layover in Munich which went by really fast. Didn't get to do much there. On the long flight, I spent lot of time thinking and sleeping. Got to watch Oceans 13 and that was neat. I guess the most interesting thing was customs. The customs form asked if we had been on any farms or near any livestock which we defintley were. I didn't want to say yes because I didn't want to be hassled with anything and was afraid of losing stuff. But, Liz really thought that was should be honest. God eventually dealt with my heart and reminded me that we were coming back from a missions trip and here I was, already trying to cheat and be dishonest! So, I felt pretty bad about that and agreed that we should be honest and trust God with what will happen. When the flight ended, Liz and I had to go off to customs alone. I guess no one else on the trip was honest! They asked us some questions and then we found out that all they were going to do was to clean off our shoes for us! That was so awesome because we needed to clean them anyways. All we had to do was wait for a little bit and our shoes came back mud free. :) God is good! I felt like he really blessed our decision to be honest even though we didn't know what the outcome would be. It was a good lesson. Unfortunately, we missed being able to say goodbye to everyone! Oh well. We find my parents and it was great to see them. They took us home and we had some dinner and looked at some Romania slides right away. :P Then, somehow I had the energy to drive us back to Charlottesville late Sunday night so that I could work in the morning. I think that was crazy. I came down sick later that week!

The trip was great though. Looking back, I learned so much and have so many fond memories. God was so good to let us go over there together. Perhaps he will lead us to again this year. We shall see. :)


LizC said...

oh my goodness. I had forgotten how long that post was. I see you didn't blog tonight...well, didn't post it at least.

my goodness, I can't use this keyboard! It is so straight and flat! I've used it for less than five minutes and it's driving me crazy! I don't know why I can type on my laptop but this breaks my hands....

LizC said...

I LOVE YOU! I missed talking to you tonight. :-( :-(