This is Derek writing, and what I'm about to say may seem like a shock to some of you who don't know me any deeper than my stoic outward appearance:
Since being in Romania, I have personally found the lack of social interaction to be more and more difficult. We have dialogued with many neighbors and we have met a good number of Romanians here, but our social network and our ability to communicate at depth with those inside of that network is quite limited. I have noticed myself, over the past few weeks, growing a deeper desire to have more social interaction. That is a first for me, as 1) I tend to be fine with solitude and 2) in the States, I never had to work for community. We were surrounded by our church, work, family, and neighborhood communities and there was always something going on. So as I've been trying to find more social interaction, it seems metaphorically fitting, then, that last weekend I was able to get my biggest dose of social interaction in Romania yet - by going orienteering.
I spent a week writing my last blog post, all the while feeling so confident in the Lord and so at peace with His provisions and faithfulness to us. On the day I was just about ready to post my draft, we found out about the issues we were having with our visa and the potential negative implications for us. Frankly, it didn’t much phase me at the time. It felt slightly overwhelming, but I very much trusted that the Lord would guide us - just like I had written in my post. Plus we have experienced such a tremendous outpouring of love, support, and prayers from the Body of Christ that I felt encouraged to solicit prayers from everyone. We didn’t know how it was going to work out, but we just knew it would. Laughingly, we even mentioned what a shame it would be if we had to leave the country for a week to await our visas while celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and Oktoberfest in Germany!
And then the next morning, I had this thought: “I’m 28 weeks pregnant! If we have to wait another four weeks to find out if we have to leave the country, I will be 32 weeks pregnant.” From that simple mathematical review, my anxiety immediately spiraled. Slowly at first. Just the first worrying seed planted in my heart. And in less than 24 hours from typing my very truthful, confident reflections on all the many, many ways the Lord has been merciful to us, I spent the rest of the day pendulum swinging between intense anxiety, feelings of guilt for my utter lack of faith, reviews of God’s promises and provisions, and attempts to take control and plan out all the different “what-if” contingencies.
This is my kitchen window. Across the street are our neighbors whose houses all back up to the big fence-less pasture, so they all have livestock. From this kitchen window, and our dining room back doors, we can see between the two houses and past the light pole to the mountainside beyond. Each morning as we're eating breakfast we watch flocks of sheep slowly meander through our small sight line from left to right, always herded by sheep dogs and shepherds. We watch for them each morning, and we often get to watch them return home from right to left in the evening. After seven weeks, we have yet to get tired of the beautiful sight.
This particular morning while I was making breakfast, I saw the sheep right on time. Yet today it was raining. Actually, it was pouring. And it's cold. The lightning left streaks in the sky, and the thunder reverberated between the mountains. Instead of their normal route along the open pasture, all the sheep were walking underneath the treeline, trying desperately - and in vain - to find some kind of protection and stay dry. Even for animals used to being outside, they were attempting to take shelter any way they could. I thought about how miserable it must be to be out there right then. In the cold and in the rain. And then, I noticed the shepherd. And his sheep dogs. Just like always, steering the sheep safely to where they need to go.
Cross Cultural Ministry Internship Overview
We all arrived on Tuesday, June 27. Nine different missionary units. All different ages. All different family structures. All different routines. All with different stories and backgrounds. All from different states. All preparing for ministry in different countries: Southeast Asia, the Middle East,Greece, France, Colombia, Bulgaria, Peru, and Romania. All different, yet all very similar, too.
All eager, nervous, and exhausted in our own way from our travels and what unknowns we had lying before us at CCMI. All with a specific calling from the Lord to live incarnationally in cross-cultural ministry experiences so as to help usher in the restored Kingdom of Christ. All knowing what it feels like for others to unrealistically hold us up on a faith pedestal. All knowing what it feels like for others to question whether we're being stupid, irresponsible, or a little crazy. All probably actually a little bit crazy in our own rights. All living under one roof in crammed quarters for one month.
Ey göklerde olan Babamız,
İsmin mukaddes olsun;
Gökte olduğu gibi yerde de senin iraden olsun;
Gündelik ekmeğimizi bize bugün ver;
Ve bize borçlu olanlara bağışladığımız gibi, bizim borçlarımızı bize bağışla;
Ve bizi iğvaya götürme, fakat bizi şerirden kurtar;
Çünkü melekût ve kudret ve izzet ebedlere kadar senindir.
I've had the privilege in worshiping our Father in English, Spanish, Romanian, and German in the past, and most recently I've been able to sing His praises in Turkish. The lyrics above are the Lord's Prayer in Turkish, which the Armenians sing at the beginning of each of their church services. For the past four Sundays we have attended the Armenian Evangelical Church of Brussels, and even in the midst of my awkwardness of not being able to really communicate with many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I remember trying my best to follow along phonetically with the lyrics on the screen, thinking to myself, "Lord, who would have ever thought I'd have the chance to worship you in Turkish?!?!" I laughed in my head to myself at the ridiculous beauty of it all. Each chance I've had to worship with other language speakers has been like getting a sneak peak at the end of a movie: when we will all be worshiping from every tribe, tongue, and nation our Lord and Savior for eternity in the Restored Kingdom. How beautiful! But last Sunday, a particular occurrence demonstrated to me even more beauty than the music.
We were surprised when the Lord called us to full-time mission work just four months after you were born. A lot has changed in the three years since your birth. And with each passing day, I am more and more grateful for your sweet presence in my life.
Just the other day, I got my first overseas migraine on our way home from the Armenian church. The only part of this experience that was new or different was that "going home" now included significant walking, carrying a heavy backpack, pushing a stroller, and riding buses, trams, and trains. When we were at the train station, I found a bench to lay down on while your daddy watched you. You came over to me and began gently stroking my hair and blessing me with sweet kisses on my forehead. It was the first time since your birth that I really felt like you were being Jesus to me. It was as if the Lord opened my eyes to what an asset you are going to be for me in Romania.
"Demographics" are looking at statistics and information about a particular culture. For example, "demographics" would look at the percentages of Christians versus atheists versus Buddhists in a given area. "Ethnography," in contrast is the participation in and observation of cultural interactions and behavior and then attempting to understand why those things are occurring in that given culture. This is major work of anthropologists, and we are being trained how to do this so that we can each enter our host cultures and learn to strategically observe the culture, ask questions, and discover why the culture is the way it is and how that affects behaviors and interactions. We've even got opportunity to practice ethnography as we were sent out in teams into different areas of Brussels to observe different cultures and make predictions as to why they are doing what they're doing. Obviously, then, we have to fight against making generalizations after just a few observations. Ethnography would ideally be done over a long period of time with many experiences and observations to help us refine our conclusions. But it is awesome practice. So instead of just walking down the street and enjoying the new sights and sounds, we are training our brains to be watching, listening, and smelling in order to guide our conclusions about the culture. This kind of work will help us immensely as we move into a host culture and learn to live and work there.
Today we looked at four ways that culture is measured, and each country is given a rating from 0 - 100 which I'll put in parenthesis next to each country below. I'd like to go through what we learned as it applies to Romania versus the United States and the way we are anticipating that these differences may affect us. Hopefully this will also give our friends and family back home ideas of how to pray for us specifically as we assimilate.