Power. Fame. Money. Many would put their life on the line for any of these. The chance to obtain any one of these things might make risking failure worthwhile. In the sense that all humans have these same desires, this common pursuit unites humanity. It's something we all share, whether rich or poor. But in another sense, these very desires we hold in common are desires which, at their core, seek to separate us from the rest of humanity. Each of these common pursuits ends in our separation from others. To have power means to have influence and control over others. If I am to be powerful in any real sense, others must be powerless, or at least less powerful in comparison to me. We can see the same thing with fame. Were all people to have the same fame and notoriety, of what significance would the word "fame" have as compared to "normal?" One who seeks fame would never want everyone else to be famous, for then fame would carry little weight and influence. Likewise, money would be of little value were everyone to have an abundance of it. Income and wealth require disparities for them to carry any useful distinction and significance. And so it is that the very desires which tend to control us and unify us in our humanity, are likewise pursuits which seek to separate and distinguish us.
A few weeks ago our church in Romania had a guest speaker come in. It was a real treat because the visiting pastor was Romanian. This particular week our congregation got a taste of what it's like to have a native Romanian preach the gospel to them, and it seemed to be refreshing for them. It was also a treat for me because I got a glimpse inside how a Romanian pastor views the religious state of his own country.
The pastor preached from 2 Timothy 3 and emphasized where the passage talks about those who "have a form of godliness, but they deny its power." He said that this perfectly describes the Romanian people. He gave an analogy of a bunch of corpses propped up beside a large campfire. If you went around and touched the corpses, they would feel warm to the touch. They would have this one indication of true life, but on the inside, they would remain as dead as they could possibly be. This, he said, is his people. This is Romania.
We’re still here in the hospital. We might be able to go home tomorrow but not sure yet. And I’d truly love to go home, but until that time, God has changed my prayers and prayer requests.
I’m praying for the lady across the hallway who lives in my same town and doesn’t have a church home. She’s been very sweet to me and I’m hoping to be able to make a connection with her once she leaves the hospital. Which she says won’t be until at least Friday for her and her 2 month old baby girl.
I’m praying for the room down the hall with motherless babies. There are about 6 cribs in one room - all babies whose mothers aren’t here. I don’t know if they’re orphans or if their mom’s just can’t stay up here with them. I pray for them constantly! There are only two nurses for the entire respiratory wing. They can’t possibly tend to the needs of these poor ones. Today I stood outside the door and saw one baby - probably one year old - lift her head and just wail. I felt so helpless. She had mucus just dripping from her nose. I got a tissue and cleaned her face off, but I wish I could do so much more. I keep praying for the God who loves all His children to send them His Spirit for peace and comfort. I’m praying His promises that He sees them and loves them.
I’m praying for Alexandra, the sweetest little 11 year old girl down the hallway - who has 6 more siblings at home, preventing her mama from being here with her in the hospital. I gave her some chocolate and talk to her as much as I can. She’s soft spoken, and it looks as though her mama French-braided her hair before she came to the hospital, and it hasn’t been fixed or combed or washed since. She gives me the biggest grin every time she sees me, and she often stands at the door of the motherless babies. She clearly has a soft heart for them, probably because she’s in the same situation.
I’m praying for the sweet little girl next door who has this terrible barking cough. I can’t even explain how it sounds. I hear it all night long.
I’m praying for all the poor kids who have to have treatments done that they neither want nor understand. That they’re afraid of and are uncomfortable. All hours of the night I hear kids screaming because they’re scared. And often don’t have a mama to comfort them.
I’m praying for the lady down the hallway who has twins here - both sick. I can’t even imagine how overwhelmed she must be since I feel like one baby is so hard! She ran out of diapers for them today and asked if I could give her some. I gave her half the bag I have and told her I’d give her whatever I have left after I leave.
I’m praying for the girl across the hall who ended up here in the hospital without any credit left on her phone, so she had to borrow a phone to even call someone to tell her she’s here and needs supplies. Her sweet baby daughter has the thickest head of dark black hair, coupled with pretty blue eyes. Her daughter’s name is Catalina.
I’m praying for the nurses who come only two at a time for 12-hour shifts. Who are most assuredly tired and overwhelmed. Who do their best to meet the needs of everyone. Who probably feel unappreciated. When I asked one of them this morning how she’s doing, she was taken aback and thought I was asking my own baby. When I said I was asking her she was surprised and then smiled and softened toward me as she answered. Then there’s the other nurse with an infinity tattoo on her arm. When I commented on it and asked her about it, she softly, lovingly, sadly mentioned it was in honor of her sister. Even a language barrier doesn’t keep me from knowing what that means.
I still pray for Denton. And I still want to go home. But it’s been harder and harder for me to pray for myself these last few days as I’ve gotten to know the needs of others here. I have friends who come to relieve me. I have a sweet husband who brings my other babies up here for quick five-minute visits so I can hug and kiss them, and they bring me food and more clothes and toiletries. I have a sweet daughter at home who remembers to pack socks for Denton and a piece of paper and an orange highlighter for me, in case I get bored and want to color.
I walk up and down the hallways a lot, softly bouncing Denton and singing hymns. Nobody understands anything I sing. But God does. And I’ll keep using the oddity of my “fat baby” (as the other ladies here affectionately call him) to open up conversations and allow the Lord to work His love on their hearts. I want to go home, but until God says it’s time, I’ll keep praying and singing for my little mission field here.
I have this dream. This vision. This goal.
When my kids grow up and reflect on their childhood, I sure hope that Holy Week and Easter stands out to them. I want them to unrelentingly talk their future spouses into carrying on the traditions of crawling on the floor with donkey ears and washing each others' feet. I want them to be so giddy excited to show their own children what Easter is truly about. I want them to understand the immense gravity of Good Friday juxtaposed with the exuberant joy of Resurrection Sunday that it makes their eyes sting with tears and their hair stand up on their arms in goosebumps. I want it to mean something to them, where their whole year will be looking forward to Easter again.
And truthfully, I don't think the Easter Bunny is enough to get the job done. I don't think an egg hunt or buying pretty dresses or baskets of goodies are enough. I don't think a sunrise service or special music is enough. Or a Sunday ham. And, dude, juicy hams and coordinating family outfits are pretty awesome things. We plan on having all of these things next Sunday. But they're not enough.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Derek recently wrote about meeting a woman here in Romania who came to our door begging for food and money. As the weeks of our relationship with her passed, she is now coming to our house once each week to help clean to earn money rather than just continue begging for food. She has done a great job. She always looks for more things to clean and constantly asks if I approve of her work. We believe that finding ways to employ people is one of the best ways to help because it's a form of "teaching a man to fish," it encourages personal dignity and responsibility, and doesn't continue a system of begging. And most importantly, it allows us a chance to build a relationship with her as we speak as we clean together and share coffee before she begins working. And yet, it is still so hard.
Our Christmas card was designed by our dear friend and amazing graphic designer, Katie Smith with Cotton Social. Check out her Etsy shop!
Our Stateside home church, Restoration Presbyterian Church, held a women's ministry event on Saturday, December 2nd in preparation for Christmas. I was honored to be asked to be the "guest lecturer" to expound on John 6, as Jesus explains that He is the Bread of Life, and specifically describe how the Lord has been shaping me over the past year with this text and how I have been able to apply it here in Romania. The entire lecture is included below as a video, so feel free to check it out.
After reading so many missionary biographies, I am so very, very grateful for things like modern technology - which allow me to continue participating with events going on back in the States. Can you imagine being a missionary who says goodbye, sets sail, and heads into the completely unknown and isolated? I am so glad that the Lord has not called me to that type of mission work!
As we draw nearer to Christmas, it is our prayer that you would be able to truly savor our Savior as your Bread of Life - that He would be what fills you up this Christmas rather than anything else. That we would all be able to reflect on the ways that the Lord uses difficult circumstances and teaching in our lives to draw us closer to Him. That we would all be able to focus on Christ this Christmas!
This was our first Thanksgiving in another country. As Derek and I thought about it, this was our first Thanksgiving without being with one of our families! So we were very glad to get to share it with some of our new Romanian friends. We invited over our tutors and their families, along with the administrative assistant at our language school whom we've gotten to know. All in all we had 13 people. I was so nervous because not only have I never cooked the entire Thanksgiving dinner by myself, I also had never cooked a turkey, our family's traditional dressing, green bean casserole, or pecan pie. And not only that, but for the first time I was trying to make as many of those things gluten and dairy free as possible so as not to totally kill myself. (I didn't do a good enough job because my hands have definitely still broken out in eczema!) I definitely messed up some of the recipes, but overall I was proud of getting it all done between just Derek and me. I also had to learn how to use shortcuts because we couldn't find all the ingredients we needed here, like fresh cranberries, cream of mushroom soup, marshmallows, or friend onion pieces. We will definitely have that on our list of things people can send us in care packages from now on!! :-)
When we all sat down to eat, I explained all of the foods I had prepared to everyone. My opening line was, "So in the South of the States, we take healthy foods and make them unhealthy but delicious. And that's basically what Thanksgiving is all about." Other than turkey, none of them had ever had any of the other foods, and they really seemed to be baffled at the thought of putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes! In fact, most of them had never even had marshmallows before. It was really fun introducing them to new foods from our home, and they brought several traditional Romanian dishes to share with us, as well. Our kids did some painting crafts and played together. The older kids enjoyed playing on the xbox, and we all really enjoyed getting to know one another better and sharing in conversation (of course mostly in Romanian).
Since the families who joined us are teachers at our school and know English, their children know English really well, as well. At one point we were sitting at the table and Ionut was watching into the living room and started laughing. Apparently Elin was speaking to the other little boy in Romanian, and he was answering her in English. Hilarious! And we had no idea that Elin knew how to say that many things in Romanian. Granted, they were obviously learned from preK, with such phrases as "No, that's my toy!" and "Atticus, you can't do that!" And it's so funny to hear Elin say Atti's name with a Romanian accent now.
It was a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving in our new home!