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!