Lenutsa and I are back home in Galati and re-integrating back into life in community. Although our sabbatical went by fast, much has happened during these months.
In December, Lenutsa and I spent a few weeks in Omaha. Connie Bissen, the mission’s pastor from Lifegate church, received us in her home and took good care of us. We were able to see lots of friends and to spend the holidays with family, but as with all trips to Omaha, we didn’t manage to see everyone. Thankfully, the snow storm that hit Omaha didn’t stop our flight from departing for England.
We spent a few weeks in the Wolverhampton area with friends from Lakeside Churchand the Tabernacle. It was nice to not be rushed, as we usually are, in spending time with friends who have visited us over the years in Galati. We were able to take some good, long walks through the country fields, and I was able to get in a few rounds of golf at a little pitch-and-put course.
We also went to Scotland for a few days with our friend Katy Daniels, who came out on a summer team when she was 16 and came back to do a servant team when she was 18. And, during her university studies to become a doctor, she also began bringing groups from the Steeple Church out to serve with us. So, there were many friends that we were able to spend time with in our short visit. You can also keep Katy in your prayers as she is preparing to come out this autumn to serve with us for a longer term. As many Romanians with medical skills have left the country and as health care is becoming less accessible to the poor, we pray that Katy’s presence and involvement will bless and touch many lives.
In Scotland I was also able to meet up with N.T. Wright, one of my favorite theologians. When I discovered that he had moved to a teaching post in Scotland, I tracked down his email address and was surprised when he replied saying that he had time to have a coffee with me.
While in Scotland we were also able to meet a friend, Chris, who has been praying for us for many years but whom we had never met in person. It was a gift to see someone for the first time who, in a way, we already knew.
Lenutsa and I then spent a few weeks in Ardingly, England. Our friends Jill and Glenn opened their home and family and even their neighbor’s home to host us. We took walks through the fields and the botanical gardens and took the train to London. From there we also visited friends from Romania, like Will and Catalina, Paul and Marcela, Ilie and Emilia and some of the kids that were at our Community Center, Miu and Emi.
We found some cheap tickets to Serbia and spent a week with the Popadic family. I have known them for 16 years, but we had never managed to visit them. They have been involved in evangelism, church planting and creating a theological seminary. It was nice to see them and to see how God has worked through them. During the week we spent in Serbia, I was surprised by how similar Serbia was to Romania. While there are also obvious differences, both countries have a dominant Eastern Orthodox Church, both experienced the reign of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the threat of the Ottomans, and both experienced communism. Our time in Serbia helped to start our transition back into Romania. We were given a ride from Novi Sad to Timisoara and from there planned to take a train back to Galati. We bought our tickets and then thought about buying some food and drinks for the 18 hour train ride. But then we realized that we had entered a different time zone and had only five minutes to catch the train. So, we took off running with all our luggage and jumped on board before the conductor blew the whistle. Nothing makes me feel like I’m back in Romania like running to catch a train.
We were relieved and thankful to be home. But it has also taken me a while to re-adjust. I spent a few hours talking with the kids still living on the streets and learned that one had frozen to death this winter and another had been sent back from Italy to be buried after he overdosed on drugs. Still, I was thankful for those who had survived and for one who had been off of drugs for the past 8 months.
There have also been a lot of changes at the Community Center. Two staff has left and three others have joined. A number of the kids are also no longer at the Center and about 10 new children have come. Two of our kids are also now at the Center for Minors, and we are praying about how to help them. Paul and Ana are exploring the possibility of becoming their primary caregivers, which is exciting, but something that will also be very demanding. Please pray for these kids and for Paul and Ana.
Lenutsa and I are still reflecting on our sabbatical and all that God did in us during this time. We also are discerning and praying with the community about what our involvement will look like in the coming years. Please pray with us that we will have the mind of God and that our lives and responsibilities will reflect faithfulness to our vocations.
We really are just grateful: grateful for the gift of sabbatical and grateful to be back in community in Galati. The past 8 months have been a generous gift to us. We were surprised at how supported we were at every step and in every way. We always had a place to stay. We always had access to transportation. Even when unplanned events arose, we were taken care of. Our prayer is that our stopping and allowing our lives to lay fallow has cultivated fertile ground that will bear fruit for the kingdom.