Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Land as Dark as Darkness Itself

Job 10:22
A land as dark as darkness itself, as the shadow of death, without any order, where even the light is like darkness.

     Most of us will never experience suffering in our lifetime that is even close to the level of Job.  He lost his kids and all he owned.  His body was tormented with boils and sores.  At one point in despair he cries out, “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul?  Who long for death, but it does not come, and search for it more than hidden treasures; who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they can find the grave? (Job 2:21-22).  
     Just two weeks ago a Swedish newspaper published an article about a neighborhood in Bucharest.  The title of the article is “Livezilor, Bucharest—A Place for the Living Dead.”  It highlights the intense darkness of this community and how many feel, just like Job in his suffering, that death is an improvement.  One lady in the article had already bought her coffin which now sits in her living room.  If you click the link, you can watch a short video of the journalist walk down Livezilor Street showing the piles of trash, the dirty syringes used to inject cocaine, and hear the stories of how parents send their kids out in the piles of trash to retrieve the needles.  It is an existence many of us have heard about, but never experienced or seen.
     To my knowledge, the street “Strada Livezilor” is the most notorious drug, crime, and prostitution ridden street in Bucharest.  The irony of that is the translation of “Strada Livezilor” is “the street of the orchards”.  It is hard to picture apple orchards growing in this community, but that is what the Gospel does.  It brings life to dead bones just like the prophet Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 37:1-14).  That is what we want to see God do in this neighborhood.
     A perfect example of how we want you to pray for this neighborhood is found in this poem by a man I met at my mission’s divisional conference this summer, Eric Proebsting.  Our seaside hotel was battered one night with a terrible storm.  The massive concrete barriers which were placed to keep the sea back were tossed about as if a piece of wood in a wave.    He portrayed this well in the poem.

There is a storm in the distance
Power in the sky—
Lightning in the clouds

A Blood Red Moon sits—
Over the lighthouse that shines on the other shore

As the warm winds blow—
Ripe for Rain—
Waves break between
Rock and concrete
       Down along the shore

Again and again—
They chip away along the sea—
Rising and falling with the tides

Change is happening slowly—
Wave upon wave
Year upon year
Pushed by the currents and atmosphere

But with the storm comes power,
In the wind is strength,
     Flashing in the distance-
      Change can come swift

Pushing barriers aside;
Pouring water in places
              it won’t usually go.

Carving a new face along the margins.

Thunder booms—
Lightnings Flash

Rain –- comes -- down,
Strong and swift in the night;
Bringing a new sky and
Shape to the land.

When the morning comes;

The mist is cast aside.

Heavy air becomes light—

Showing now Mountains in the distance,

standing firm, against a clear blue sky;

Reaching up high-----

       Toward heaven.

“Strength in the Storm”

Eric Proebsting

The picture I want you to think about from this poem is this:

But with the storm comes power,
In the wind is strength,
     Flashing in the distance-
      Change can come swift

Pushing barriers aside;
Pouring water in places
              it won’t usually go.

     With the Gospel come power and strength.  Change can come swiftly and push aside the barriers keeping people from believing in Christ.  Once the barriers are removed, the Gospel can pour into new places.  This is how we want you to pray for Livezilor Street and the Ferentari neighborhood.  That God would unite His Body to pray that the barriers preventing the Gospel from pouring into this community would be pushed aside.  That His Word, His Gospel, and His Son Jesus Christ would pour into the street “for the living dead” and turn it into an orchard growing the fruit of righteousness.  We want to see God bring a new shape and a new identity and a new future to this community.

In Isaiah 62:6-7 the Lord says, 
"I have posted watchmen on your walls, 
Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the LORD, 
give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
    and makes her the praise of the earth."

In the same way we want you to join us as watchmen on the walls of Bucharest.  Watchmen who will pray continually that God would unite the Body of Christ in this city to seek His will and that the Gospel would penetrate new areas spreading God's kingdom and bringing God glory.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A difference between the Romanian and American Cultures

     First of all, as always not everyone in a country will completely act in line with the culture.  So please don't read this as "all Romanians" or "all Americans" when comments are made about the culture.  That being said, this is something I have learned recently about a difference between 
the American and Romanian culture.

     I recently had a great opportunity to get a great cultural insight into the Romania culture.  It came while I was studying the Bible with one of my Romanian friends.  We were studying Philippians chapter two verses 1-5.  When we came to verse three I noticed a difference in our translations.  In English the verse starts with, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit”.  In Romanian the verse says, “Don’t do anything from the spirit of argument or vain glory.”  
     I then asked my friend to clarify the verse because in my mind “selfish ambition” and “the spirit of argument” are not the same thing.  He explained that people are connected in community.  The example he gave was a husband and wife.  If a husband does something for himself then his wife will feel unloved.  For example if the husband has a hobby that does not include his wife then his wife will feel unloved.  Under communism people did not have hobbies or a “personal life”.  People were connected in community, and one person couldn’t do something independent of the community without affecting the community.  As in every culture this isn’t true for all Romanians, but it is a big part.  We witnesses this at the part all the time.  It is just expected that every kid can play with all the other kids toys, and if a mom has food for her kid she will offer it to the other kids there too.
     Some other examples my friend gave are if his kids where hanging out with other kids, he would not give his kid any food or a piece of candy in front of the others unless he had enough for all of them.  If we were riding in a car and someone wanted to chew gum he would need enough to offer everyone in the car some.  If someone wanted to eat a banana while traveling, he would only eat his banana if he had enough to offer everyone in the car one.  If he were to eat his own banana in front of everyone else without offering them some it would be considered the “spirit of argument”.
     This was foreign to me as an American with our notion of a “person life” and the idea that I can do something for myself that may or may not affect someone else.  Our American culture values personal space and personal things.  Community is much more limited to who we choose to be in our “circle”.  But here, our neighbors at the park are in our circle by default.  

Please continue to pray for us as we learn the Romanian language and culture.  We have a long way to go!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Quick Update

Two weeks ago I had the privilege to sit in on some Roma pastor and church leader training.  It was a great opportunity to practice language, meet Roma church leaders and to hear Biblical teaching in Romanian.  Many of the church leaders did not speak English which was a great immersion experience for me.  The most important take away from the week was the relationships I built and the connections with various Roma and Romanian churches that God is beginning to form. 

So what is the next step?  Right now I am trying to reconnect with some of the church leaders who live nearby and get to know them better.  I have a lot to learn about culture here and a long way to go before I am fluent in Romanian.  Also, many of the Roma speak Romanian and their own language (Romani).  This possess the question of when I should start learning some Romani.  This week I will  be traveling by bus to a city a little over an hour away to meet with a church planter.  The plan is to spend the day getting to know him more and praying with him to see what are the ways we can partner with Him.

To give an update on Jamie, she is currently in-between language instructors.  One of her teachers had a baby and cannot teach for a while, and she needed to stop going to her other instructor.

Please be praying for us to having wisdom in:
  • Finding a new teacher for Jamie
  • Finding a babysitter to help out with the boys during the week
  • For wisdom to know who to invest time with and how to proceed with language learning.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Some Pictures of Our Boys

Medgidia Trip

Our group with the local church we visited.

     A couple weeks ago I was blessed with the opportunity to take a trip with my team leader to a city about 2 hours away from Bucharest.  This trip was introduction to cross cultural ministry for a group of Romanians who are interested in being missionaries.  Although we just visited another city in Romania, we were visiting a different culture.  
     To give a brief history, a couple hundred years ago the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey) had a strong influence in the territory that is now Romania.  Some ethic Turks settled in several areas and established towns.  Even though eventually this territory became Romania these communities of ethnic Turks never left.  The result is towns like Medgidia which we visited.  It is a Romanian town that has a large population of ethnic Turks who grow up speaking Turkish in their homes and have a Turkish identity even though they were born and raised in Romania.  This concept was completely foreign to me before I moved here, but it is a very big reality here.  It is the same for these Turks, the Roma, ethnic Hungarians and ethnic Germans.  Their families have lived in Romania for a couple hundred years but they have a different ethnic identity than Romanians.  
     The trip to Medgidia was a chance to expose some Romanians to see what ministry to a different culture looks like.  We were able to worship with a local church who sang songs in Turkish and Romanian, help out with their Saturday kid’s program, and walk around praying for the poor neighborhoods.  

The power point has the hymn in Turkish on top
 and Romanian below.  We would sing it once in 
Turkish and then sing it in Romanian.

Kid's program

Walking through the city praying for it and the 
people who live there.

     The local pastor and his wife told us stories about the town and the work there.  Last year 40 people were arrested for human trafficking.  In one instance some traffickers went around rounding up the blind, the lame, the sick, and those with disabilities.  They had a bus full of disabled people and drove it to a big city in Italy so these men could make more money from the disabled begging in a Western European country.  
     The reality in Romania is that in the poor communities and villages there are many who take advantage of the poor, the disabled and those in need.  There will be small shacks next to multiple story mansions,  horse drawn carts next to BMW’s, and many times the rich will be getting richer by taking advantage of their poor neighbors.  It is sad learning how prevalent trafficking is here.  We learned a lot about it before we came, but meeting women who have been trafficked and seeing the trafficker’s mansions in the villages gives us a whole new look on the subject.  It is a lot more real and a lot more personal now.  

This is a common site in the villages.  People will
begin to build a house and not have the money
to complete it.  Thus, they will live there without 
any windows or doors.

A home in a neighboring village

Overlooking Medgedia

Please continue to pray for the Gospel to spread in Romania!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Beckham's Accident in Istanbul

I have been wanting to write a blog about our experience in Turkey ever since it happened, but have struggled to make the time.  But today because of a sinus head cold that Roman got, passed to Beckham which he passed to me I find myself unable to do anything but sit, read and write.  I am glad God at least knows how to slow us down even if it at times takes sickness. 

So to set the stage for this story, last month we had a conference in Slovenia for our mission ReachGlobal.  The airport we were going to fly into was Venice, Italy because it was the cheapest airline tickets out of the all the airports near the conference in Slovenia.  Since we were already going to be at the airport in Venice, we decided our family would spend two and a half days there as a vacation before the conference. 

Our plane took off from Bucharest Monday morning at 6:05 A.M., and we were supposed to arrive in Venice at 2 PM.  We had a four hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey.  During the layover Beckham ran around the entire airport playing and having a great time spending some of his pent up energy from the first flight.
About 10 minutes before we were to board the flight to Venice, Beckham tripped while running and hit his head on a square metal railing.  Blood gushed instantly from the gash on his forehead.  It was evident that it wasn’t just a small cut and would probably need stitches.  The airport medics arrived in about 5 minutes, put on some butterfly stitch band aids and said, “He might have a concussion.  You cannot fly until you see a doctor.”

We were told to go to a different gate and that they would switch our tickets to the next flight so we could see a doctor.  Praise the Lord that over these next few hours Beckham just sat patiently and quietly in the stroller watching things on the IPAD, and that his cut had completely stopped bleeding, because we went to where we were supposed to go and they said to go to a different gate.  That happened about 4 times till finally someone said, “You have to go to the ticket counter outside of the airport.”  We then had to figure out how to get an entry visa to the country and wait in line for that.  After that we had to wait in line to have our passports checked to enter the county.  After that we had to wait in line at the ticket counter to have our flight switched.  All of that took 3 hours.  

During this process I cried a lot.  Beckham seemed to be doing fine from the cut other than being super tired.  Jamie checked his eyes several times to make sure they dilated fine checking for a concussion.  I didn’t know what to do so I tried to do what we were told, “Switch your tickets and go to the hospital.”
Now we were at the exit of the airport in a city of 15 million people and knew nothing other than we were supposed to go to a hospital.  I went to the clinic in the hospital to see if they had a doctor or could at least advise me where to find a hospital.  There we ran into the woman who treated Beckham at the waiting gate right after his accident.  She immediately began to rebuke us for not going to a hospital.  They called the airline manager who also came to rebuke us for not going to a hospital.  They took Beckham’s passport and put a travel ban on it so that he could not fly without a CT-SCAN.  We kept saying, “We are trying to go to a hospital, but we just got through security!”  Finally, the manager of the airline said that they would take us with a shuttle van to a hospital and send a translator with us.

The hospital was an experience in itself.  Our “translator” spoke broken English and no one else at the hospital spoke any English.  The halls were lined with hospital beds full of people who looked half dead.  The operating room next to where we waiting had civilians walking in and out of it.  There was a lot of crying.  Just being there was hard.  What made it harder was the doctor never even looked at Beckham.  He never checked his eyes to see if they were dilating properly, he never looked at the wound, and when I asked through the translator about stitches he scoffed at me and said, “That is impossible with a two year old.” 

We were told we had to get the CT-SCAN to check for a concussion, but the machine terrified Beckham.  He would wail and squirm every time we tried to put him on the bed.  “He has to be asleep”, we were told.  We sat around waiting for several hours until he fell asleep and tried to do it then.  However, when we transferred him onto the bed of the machine he woke up and started wailing again.  They then told us that they would give him something to sleep, which made us both really uncomfortable, but we felt we had no choice.  We just had to wait for the doctor to come down and administer it to him.  However, the doctor never came.  Finally I asked, is that doctor coming to do that or not?  Our translator scoffed at me and said, “You can’t give a kid his size something to make him sleep.  It isn’t safe!”  I was furious.  I realized at this point how little English our translator actually knew.  He spoke enough to make Jamie and I think communication was taking place, but it wasn’t. 

We sat at this hospital for 7 hours until 10 O’clock at night.  I found myself praying all day.  “Lord, make this day end.  Make Beckham fall asleep.  Allows us to get this CT-SCAN.  Allow us to leave.”  Yet nothing changed.  We waited and waited.  Toward the end of the day when we found out no other doctor was coming, Jamie said, “Let’s pray” and I very passionately said, “I have been praying all day and nothing has happened!”  I felt so alone.  I felt abandoned by God.  We were supposed to be on vacation relaxing after months of “service to God” and instead I was experiencing the worst day of my life.  I just kept asking myself, “God, where are you in this?”

The doctor just kept saying, “Wait until he is asleep.  Spend the night here and when he falls asleep you can try.”   I would respond, “But we tried that and it didn’t work!”   Then we got the ultimatum, “You will stay here until your son gets a CT-SCAN.”  We were told our translator was going to go home for the night and we were going to stay at the hospital.  After Beckham got a CT-SCAN we could get a taxi back to the airport. 

At this time we had no more clean baby bottles to feed Roman and knew this hospital wasn’t clean enough to have his bottles washed there.  Praise the Lord, God gave Jamie the wisdom to call the US Embassy.  She told them, “We are basically being held at the hospital.  We are told we can’t fly until we get a CT-SCAN and it isn’t going to be possible with our son.”  They said that all they could do is recommend a different hospital called the American Hospital which had doctors trained in America. 

Knowing that staying the night a Turkish hospital waiting for a CT-Scan that would never happen wasn’t productive, I demanded that my translator take us to a hotel when he left.  “But you can’t leave!”  he said and angrily whipped out his phone to call his boss.  Handing the phone to me, I told his boss, “We are leaving the hospital.  We are not staying here. “ He replied, “You will not fly without the letter from the doctor saying your son doesn’t have a concussion.” 
After demanding for 15 minutes they finally took us back to the airport and gave us a hotel room for the night.  We were then told, “Tomorrow morning you are on your own.  We took you to the hospital and you refused.  You are on your own and you won’t fly with us.”

We got to the hotel about 11:30 at night.  Both the boys were beyond exhausted and emotional as were we, but it wasn’t over.  We still didn’t know what to do.  We thought about trying to take a bus, we thought about trying to look into if we were just blocked from flying on one airline or all the airlines.  “I just don’t know what to do” was all I could think.  The verse, “when anyone lacks wisdom..” came to mind.  So Jamie and I prayed for wisdom.  I sent an email to all of our prayer partners asking for prayer and instantly we both felt the Lord saying, “Tomorrow you will get up and go to the American Hospital.”  So we did.

It was as if we woke up different people in a different city.  We had a 50 minute taxi ride to the hospital and got to drive past lots of the tourist sites.  We got to see the Asian side of the city, the city wall from when it was Constantinople, the famous mosque, ect.  We had peace and were able to enjoy that day.  The doctor saw that Beckham was fine and knew he didn’t need a CT-SCAN so he wrote the letter for us with no problems.  By 8 PM that night we were in Venice.
That second day in Istanbul I felt God redeemed our time there.  The day before was the worst day of my life seeing Beckham hurt and knowing how traumatizing the hospital experience was for him, yet day two I felt God’s love poured out on our family.  My instinct was to pray that God would remove the circumstances, but it didn’t happen.  God wanted me to mature in my faith and trust of Him.  I learned what it means to have peace in the storm, because I never would have been able to sleep that night at the hotel if I hadn’t heard His voice telling me what to do.  I would have stayed up all night worrying. 

When we flew away from Istanbul I was exhausted and emotionally drained, but I had a new found trust of our God.  I knew He had been with us even if He had felt distant, and I knew he would never leave us.  Although that day was horrible and many times I had to say to Jamie, “Please deal with this because I can’t” as I walked away to cry, by the next day God had answered your prayers for us and I had a confident belief that God would use that day for our good and His glory.  God takes the broken things of life and redeems them.

I am a different person because of our experience in Turkey.  I am not emotionally stronger.  I am not more prepared for traveling emergencies.  I am not more skilled at making decisions in emergencies.  I have just learned at a whole new level what it means to ask for wisdom in the midst of an emergency, and I have seen with my own eyes that our God will not abandon us.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Lessons about Grace from a Bottle of Water

      Last week was the hottest week in Bucharest since we arrived in February.  It was in the 90’s every day with many days having a heat advisory to stay inside.  Regardless of the heat the beggars were still out on the street corners, in front of churches, and on the stairs to the metro as usual.  The verse “"Whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42) came to mind as I passed one beggar I see every week.  I felt the Spirit of God telling me I should buy him a bottle of water.  As always when I am prompted by the Lord to give something to a beggar, I had the same thoughts and feelings come to the surface this day as well.  “But I know most of the beggars are trafficked by the mafia here.  I’m not supposed to give them anything.  And, (the feelings I always had in the States) he should get a job or at least try to.  Why should I help him when he just sits here all day every day?”
      To this the Lord’s response was, “Mark, when I came to earth to extend grace, salvation, and eternal life where you seeking me?  Was anyone seeking me?  As it says in Romans 3:11, ‘There are none who seek for God.’  People weren’t out looking for a solution to their sin problem, and they weren’t seeking after me.  They were just sitting there in their sins.”
      I then realized what a picture a beggar is of us in relation to our Lord.  Jesus found us while we were spiritual beggars who had no hope or chance of ever getting off the proverbial “streets”.  We deserved no help, we earned no help, and we weren’t even seeking the type of help we truly needed.  In that moment when we deserved nothing, we were given everything.  Grace, we are reminded, is not earned.  Grace is given by God to people who will most definitely abuse that grace.  Grace is given in abundance even though God knows the slogan, “Give an inch and they will take a mile.”  Grace is given by God not just to the undeserving, but it is given to His enemies.  
      That day I was reminded that I didn’t deserve His grace, will never deserve it, and will continue to abuse it through continuing to sin as long as I am alive.  I am the beggar who continually gets hand-outs my entire life.  Giving a bottle of water to a beggar ultimately brought to mind one single question, “Why give something to someone who will most likely abuse, misuse, be unappreciative of the gift and forever demand more of your gift?”  To this I heard from our Lord, “Because I did.”

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Beginning Ministry with Roma Gypsies

I realized that today we are only six days away from our four month anniversary of living in Romania.  In these four months I have begun to get a much clearer picture of how the Roma Gypsies are viewed by the rest of the culture.  One believer after asking why I was here in Romania responded with, “You are going to work with gypsies,  hmm?  Do you actually know any gypsies?  Because,…. They are kind of known for stealing lots.”  A pastor talked to me about how many of them had migrated to other European countries and finished his explanation with a smile and, “They can keep them!”  When I had told one of my language helpers that I was going to work with them she said, “Watch your pockets!  Ohh dear, watch your pockets!  Why would you want to work with them?”
I have begun to read a book on the History of the Roma in Europe called “Another Dawn, Another Darkness.”  It sheds light on the fact that they have been discriminated again, treated with disdain, treated harshly, tortured and enslaved since as early as the 16th century.  I had thought that France’s recent spree of Roma deportations was a more recent development, but the book shed light on the fact that as early as the fifteenth century  there was “ a proliferation of decrees ordering the banishment and punishment of Gypsies, something that was to become a standard feature of European life right up to the end of the eighteenth century.”  The author records a 1561 edict in France that, “ordered the expulsion of all Gypsies within two months under the penalty of being sent to galleys and corporal punishment.”  Well those same feelings are alive and well today in Europe.  France happens to be a prime example.  Just take a look at these articles and you will get a glimpse.

France sends Roma Gypsies back to Romania

France dismantles Roma camps, deports hundreds

France's 'scandalous' expulsion of Roma camps resumes

France deports record number of Roma

Please be praying for Roma Gypsies across Europe and please pray for us.  Even though we are just on the fringes of starting ministry here in Bucharest, we have already begun to see some of the struggles of ministering to a marginalized people group.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Being Reminded Why I am Here

What is it like for me to live in another country and to learn their language?  Well, imagine being presented with a situation that makes you uncomfortable.  This situation hits you unexpected, and you don’t really know what to do or say. Truthfully, you aren’t really sure what is going on so you just stand there in a blank stare.  After standing there in a dumbfounded awkward silence you finally blurt out some child-like gibberish knowing full well that talking might only serve one purpose: to expose you as different from everyone else around you.  Now apply that situation to everything you do in your life.  Going to the grocery store feels like that.  Taking your kid to play at the park feels like that.  Trying to order food at a restaurant feels like that.  When a street vendor or homeless person tries to talk to you it feels like that. 
That is what language learning and living in Romania has felt like for me.  I never knew how uncomfortable I would feel living in a different culture.  For the first few months it felt impossible to go anywhere without someone asking me a question that I wouldn’t understand.  I never imagined it would be stressful to go to church or to the park.
Last week when I was praying, God looked into my stress and anxiety and said, “Why are you here?  To fit in?  To start a new life?  Why are you here?”    
It was a great reminder to me that I am here because I want to see the body of Christ multiply and communities transformed.  I want to see God glorified.  I didn’t come here to fit in or be comfortable.  I didn’t come here to start a new life.  I came here because I was sent.
Realizing how hard it is for me to be in a foreign place with the temptation to go home caused me to think about what it must have been like for Jesus on earth.  I can’t imagine how much he longed to return to heaven and be by the Father’s side.  Yet He endured.  He loved.  He stayed and completed His task.  So my answer to “Why am I here?” is because of what Christ did.  He endured so I could endure through His strength.  He loved so I could love with His love.  He patiently waited so I could learn from Him how to wait.  He did because He knew I couldn’t.  

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up."     (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Jamie's Top Ten of Life in Romania

In less than a week we will have lived in Romania for three months.  As we have begun to get settled into life here, culture shock has begun to hit us.  But rather than dwell on all the reasons why I do not like living here, I try to follow God’s advice that “in everything give thanks.”  So here is a list of ten things that I am love about living here in Bucharest and for which I am thankful. 

10.  Shaormas
This Turkish version of our fast food hamburger is a favorite of Romanians and our family.  Fresh rotisserie chicken is shaved and placed onto a pita, which is filled with cabbage, pickles, French fries, garlic sauce, and sweet ketchup.  The best part is again all of this food is made to order.  We eat these about once a week.

9.  Organic Produce and Meat
I have been told that almost all of the food that we buy fresh is organic.  This is not because the country is super health conscious, but because farmers simply cannot afford to buy pesticides and hormones.  The result is some of the best tasting produce and meat I have ever eaten.
          8.  Public Transportation. 
Metros, trams, buses, and taxis have become the only way we get around the city.  I do not miss having a car.
          7.  Walking is a necessity.
Whether it is walking to a metro or going to the grocery store, almost everything is within walking distance.  I get way more exercise here than I ever did in the states.  In fact I have dropped a whole dress size since we moved here because of all of the walking.  Who needs a gym?
         6. Street Cleaners
Every morning cleaning crews go around the entire city cleaning out the trash cans, picking up litter, washing the streets, picking up the dog poop, and even cleaning up the pollen.  They help to make this city a much prettier and cleaner place.
           5.  Romanians love kids!
I know every society loves kids, but not like Romanians.  We cannot go anywhere without being stopped by an elderly person who wants to tell us how cute our boys are and express their excitement that we have kids.
           4. Romanians are helpful with small children.
Every time we get onto a bus, tram, or metro someone gives up their seat so we can sit down with our kids.  The metro even has pictures illustrating that the seats are reserved for the elderly and families with small kids.  If I am ever struggling to carry Roman and Beckham at the same time, someone will come by and help me.
 3.  Edible Beef!
When we came to visit the country over two years ago, we were shocked at how terrible the beef tasted to us.  We chalked it up to one of those things that we would just have to live without while we were here (which if you know Mark and I, it is a pretty big sacrifice).  Well…there are Arabic butcher stops all around town that only sell beef that is Halal, which translates into the best beef I have ever eaten!  Thank you Jesus! 
  2.  Parks and Playgrounds Galore. 
There are literally playgrounds in every bloc of this city.  Because there is not much grass, there were playgrounds built everywhere.  This is by far one of the biggest blessings to our family whose 22 month old has more energy than Mark and I combined.

1.       Fresh, warm soft pretzels stuffed with gooey chocolate filling. 
When the stress of language and culture study becomes overwhelming, these are my 50 cent treat.  There is only one word to describe these – YUM! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Visiting a Roma Church in a Village

The church gathering to pray

 The church gathering to pray
The foundation for the new church
A typical Roma cart used in the villages

Inside their current church that is too small

This weekend we had a group of ReachGlobal colleagues and a couple pastors from the United States visit our team.  We were able to take trips to several part of town to pray for God to work and continue to open doors for our team to minister here.  We also took a 2 hour drive out of the city to visit a Roma village that has a strong, growing church.  They are in the process of building a new church that their building can actually hold them all.

The property was bought in the center of the village from a witch doctor who lived next door.  As the pastor explained it, "We felt God wanted us to be in the center of town and to fill the darkest place with light."  More recently though, the witch doctor had been killed (if I understood correctly) by a car accident on the road.

It was exciting to see a little of how God is at work around the country.  We have heard stories of revival and and once even an entire village turning to Christ.  We are excited to be here and see what God has planned for the Roma.  Please take a moment and pray that this church pictured above would receive from God all they need to finish their church, that their permits would go through and that God would bless and grow this church significantly in the days to come!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

So what did we do this week?

This week Jamie and I both tried to squeeze in as much language learning as possible.  Right now it is hard to devote most of our time to studying because we have been working on getting our visas to live here.  Our team leader has done a ton of work for us saving us countless trips to the notary and visa offices, but it still demands a good amount of our time because it takes a long time to get anywhere in the city using public transportation.

In addition to all of that, I met with an America church planter this week who has been working with the Roma here in Bucharest for about 2 years.  God connected us through a mutual acquaintance, and it has been encouraging to find someone whom God has called to a similar ministry.

I also had the chance to visit a Roma church service here in Bucharest.  I was able to spend an hour talking to the pastor hearing his story and all the work he is currently involved in around the county.  I have been blessed that God has begun connecting me to so many Roma leaders and ministries without having to spend the time to research and find them on my own.  God has been opening the doors and guiding me very clearly.

This week Jamie started going to the shelter for trafficking victims.  She has hired one of the women who lives there to be her language tutor which is working out well so far. Jamie also went to a school for Roma children here in the city one day.  It is an opportunity to practice the language we are learning as well as be involved in an after school program for the children.

Beckham's highlight of the week was the Easter egg hunt.  A group of missionaries and Americans living in Bucharest put this on every year.  It was fun to have the opportunity to socialize with some people from our own country.

Roman just enjoys Mommy.  He loves being carried around town in the baby carrier.  He has also thinks Beckham is the coolest kid he has ever know.  The two of them have really started interacting with each other and they are quickly becoming great friends.

Thanks for the prayers everyone and let us know any questions you have for us! We will try to keep you updated as best we can.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Our Neighborhood

Our bloc

                                                                  Tineretului Park
                                                                 ( a 5 minute walk)

Beckham asked for this to be his Facebook profile picture, 
so I had to remind him that he is only 19 months 
old and he doesn't need Facebook yet.

Kids love the playgrounds here because the "safety standard"
of jungle gyms is a little different than the United States.

Our neighborhood is in the background

Our bloc is in the middle at the end of the road.

Our local butcher. 

Our grocery store

A local bread & pastry shop

Our apartment

Our balcony which is slowly pulling away from the building.

Our new home!