As you can imagine, we had a busy December. We spent a few nights caroling. The kids organized a pageant for their families. And we had an all night party on the 25th. I love the Christmas season because we witness so much joy on the faces of the kids, and though there is much darkness in their lives, we are reminded that God has sent a great light. God is with us, even the hardships. One week before Christmas the house of one of our first graders, Mirela, caught fire and the roof burned down. The makeshift chimney got too hot and burned the timber structure. Thankfully, it happened during the daytime, so no one was hurt. Although Mirela lost almost everything she had, she was glad that the cat survived. Mirela’s mother is deaf and also had recent health complications that necessitated an operation. But the family has been able to move into a room in a building where her father works as a night watchperson. In the midst of the pain and crisis, we have seen God’s presence and care, and we see the unbeatable joy in Mirela. That was Christmas for us.
During the most of the month of January, I was away from Galati. I spent two weeks with our community Sierra Leone. I hadn’t visited for three years, and I was greatly encouraged by all the growth. There were many new devoted and passionate staff and interns. The number of kids coming to the Center for Youth and the Good News Club had grown as well as the quality of their activities. Although the needs of the slum are overwhelming, the hope and joy of the people is inspiring. I was particularly encouraged by one of the children, who, when they were asked to recall the values of the Center (respectful, responsible, trustworthy and fun to be around), he said, we are to be quiet like butterflies. I knew he was referring to the self-control position that starts their time together, but I was moved by his imagery and the beautification of his life, actions and environment.
I was grateful that a good friend and chairperson of our Romania board, Adi Buhai, traveled with me. We were able to participate in a community retreat. There I led a couple devotionals on what we want to accomplish together, what is our place in community, and what is our identity in community. After the retreat, I did two days of training on cognitive development and life-skills. I was able to stay with Noah and his family, relationships that I cherish and from which I receive more than I could ever give. I really enjoyed our time there with old friends and new, and seeing how the Spirit is faithfully working among those who need the Father most.
On the way back fro m Sierra Leone, I stayed a few days in England, where I connected with good friends in London and Wolverhampton. Although I got bit by a flu bug there, I was able to share at Lakeside Church on the purpose of the Kingdom of God.
After I returned from England, Lenutsa and I took a few days of vacation to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. We visited Sibiu and Sighisoara, western cities in Romania that I had never really visited before.
The first week of February, I became “Servant Team Coordinator.” It had been over 10 years since I served in this role – though I’ve led many internships in the meantime. We have two members, one from the US and one from Canada. They will be with us for 2 months and in Moldova for 2 months. We’re glad to have them and excited about what God will do in and through their lives.
Towards the end of last year, I was asked to help organize a conference call with representatives from each Word Made Flesh field of ministry. We call these meetings the “Covenant Council.” The idea is that every local community has an equal voice at the table in giving direction to our global community and developing our partnerships. We kicked the Covenant Council off in November with the hope of meeting every six weeks. While we’re still working through technical glitches, we’ve started to create some momentum. Because there are so many participants, we try to keep the meeting focused. The agenda for our last meeting was put together by Mauricio Meneses, the representative of WMF Bolivia. Each community representative shared some of the major events they experienced in their communities in 2012 and how they plan to face the challenges of 2013. Bo White, the acting director in the US, also gave an update on the transition process of the office and the US executive directors.
I continue to give some time each month to organizing and facilitating tactical plans. I am doing this with our community in Moldova, in Romania and with a partner organization in Romania. Although it’s a bit of work, I’m encouraged to see how each organization is developing, building trust and responsibility, and focusing on their priorities.
Ever since we established Word Made Flesh Romania, we have increased the percentage of our budget that is covered through support from Galati. Part of this support has come through the funds allocated through the local government to meet social needs. Although the amount we received was always a fraction of what the government allocated to its own programs or to the Orthodox Church’s programs, we were happy to be supported by the local citizenry and accountable to them. Sadly, the new administration has stopped all funding of non-governmental organizations. We have spent a lot of time and energy trying to have a dialog with the government, but we haven’t made any progress. We refuse to give up and we refuse to lose hope. Presently, this means 14% hole in our budget. So, we pray.
In February, the walls in the home of one of our older youth started to fall down. We found a family with whom to stay for a few nights. Over the last few weeks, he’s stayed in our community home, but this is only a temporary measure. We are looking for a family that can help him mature. He needs to learn how to live in a family, how to talk at the dinner table, how to cook, how to keep house, etc. Although the crisis has driven him out of his house, we are praying that this will be a possibility for helpful change in his life.
The Saturday Kids’ Club continues to grow. We consistently have over 30 kids. Our prayer is that we can have an impact on many kids in the neighborhood, even if they aren’t enrolled in the daily activities of the Community Center. The children are learning the Bible, playing games, doing art, singing songs and, recently, learning how to drum. We are hoping to invite the kids from the club to our summer camp.
Please keep us in your prayers. We hope to be instruments of God’s peace and presence. We want to be faithful in all that God’s put before us. We ask for God’s favor in the lives of the vulnerable kids, especially in the face of opposition. We pray that the Father will make himself known, that all we’re in contact with will follow him, and that our neighborhood and city will be changed. Please pray with us.
Yours in Christ,
david and lenutsa
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 10 years to get that many views.
I know that this post is late. I realized that I sent it out via email but forgot to post it here. This was from August:
We are in the middle of a hot summer – and I am fully enjoying it! If you know me, you know that I struggle with anything below freezing, so I try and soak up the heat to get me through the cold winter.
Our summer is also full of fun activities with the kids. During the school year, our activities revolve around the school schedules and their school work, but our major focus with the kids is not education but their personal formation. So, during the summer we are able to do more Bible studies and book studies, worship, therapeutic play, mentoring and discussions about skills they need for life. It’s a packed schedule, but it’s a lot of fun. We also have more time to play together: Settlers and Ticket-to-Ride, volleyball, and swimming. We were blessed to have some new friends, Nicholas and Autumn Morgenstern, do art and dance activities with the kids.
At the beginning of the summer, we received two first-grade girls into the Community Center. It is always a delight to see their excitement and the way that they experience things for the first time. We had wanted to receive another little first-grader as well, but the girl’s father decided to take her on a trip to France. For most kids that would be an exciting summer vacation, but for this little girl it most likely meant begging. Little beautiful girls are put on the street corners to ask strangers for money. And it can be quite lucrative. We are praying that this girl returns to Galati in time to start school. And we are hoping to receive her into our Community Center, where we can work to prevent child trafficking and forced begging.
In June, we had a team of 12 come from George Fox University. We spent a week in Moldova and two weeks in Romania. The team did a lot to help us clean the Center, move furniture, cut down trees, rebuild fences. Member of the team also shared their testimonies with our youth, which was impactful. Of course, the team also did lots of fun activities with the kids. We really were encouraged and supported by them during our weeks together.
At the end of the summer, we are organizing our 12th annual camp. It will be a week when we can get out of the city and spend a full seven days together. Besides the archery, hiking and horseback riding, the kids will have 3 full meals a day and their own beds to sleep in. It costs us about $200 per child for the week. If you are interested in contributing to camp, please let me know.
The last weekend of June, Lenutsa and I went to England – unfortunately, it wasn’t for the Olympics. Last October I finished up a MA course that I did through London School of Theology, and the graduation ceremony was held in June. It was a nice way to celebrate the achievement and to meet some of the other students and faculty. After the graduation, we visited some of our friends in Wolverhampton, where we spoke in some churches and small groups, and played in a golf fundraiser. As I hit a wapping 9 on the last hole (par 3), I was glad I could make everyone else feel better about their game. All in all, it was a jolly time.
We are now in the U.S., in Omaha for most of August. We had the privilege of meeting with friends at Winterset Community Church in Iowa. It was our first time there, and we were blessed by their welcome and worship. We will participate in the missions conference at Lifegate Church in Omaha. And we also hope to be with our friends at Emmanuel Fellowship before we depart. It is overwhelming and encouraging to be able to connect with those that have been praying for us and supporting us over the years and also to build new relationships that we pray will develop over the coming years.
As our ministry among the poor in Romania and our broader region of Africa and Europe continues to grow, we are looking for others to partner with us. Since I have been living and serving in Romania for more than 15 years, building new relationships with potential supporters has been a challenge. But this is essential if we are to continue to flourish. Please pray about partnering with us or in building partnerships for us.
I wanted to give you a brief update on how life is in Galati so that you can know specifically how to continually pray for us.
Spring is here and our lives and schedules are fuller as the weather warms. Sadly, the person we employed to coordinate the new Day Center in the village resigned, but we have seen God’s hand at work. Within days another person, who volunteered with us a few years back, expressed interest in coordinating the Center. Her name is Mariana and we are so thankful that she is now involved with us. She’s getting to know the kids and figuring out the role.
We celebrated Easter this year as we have in years past. The kids prepared a performance of songs and poems, Lenutsa explained the reason for the holiday, and then we had a big meal together with the kids and their families. Afterwards, the kids tried to break a Romanian version of a piñata. It was a struggle, but they eventually broke the candy out.
It was a huge blessing that our friends Frank and John came out from England to help us build a playground at the new Day Center in the village. We also had a group from New Hampshire that were with us for a few days and helped us plant grass both in Galati and in the village.
We also received David Clark, a pastor from Scotland, for a few days. He led us in some reflections and discussions on what it means to do ministry in, with and for the city. It really helped us to start thinking about our ministry and our community in a larger context. We are now thinking and praying about some different activities to better engage our urban context.
Last month our community in Galati took two full days to create a one-year tactical plan. It was a time that helped us evaluate the positives and the negatives from the past year and focus our energies for the year to come. Each month we will come together to analyze our implementation of the plan. Please pray that we would continue to seek God’s heart for the vulnerable in Galati and that we would have wisdom in prioritizing our activities.
After lots of preparation, we are getting ready to take our community on a retreat. This year it is a regional retreat, which means that some of our staff from Sierra Leone and from Moldova will be participating with us. Sadly, three of our Sierra Leonean and one of our Moldovan national staff did not receive visas and are unable to come. So, our time of building and rejuvenating community is also mixed with grieving the kingdoms of this world that divide and try and keep us divided. The theme of our retreat is Reconciliation. We do pray that God would do a work in us personally and communally and a work through us towards reconciling all of creation to God. Please do pray with us and for us.
I would ask you to especially pray for our teenagers. Most of them have been with us since they were very young. But, as with most teenagers, they are struggling with the major decisions that will give direction to their futures. And they face struggles much more difficult than I did. For example, one of our teens has an older brother who was never sent to school and never learned to read or write. As you can imagine, it is difficult for him to get a job. Yet, he comes back from Italy with a car (that he has to hire someone to drive) and money to buy an apartment. The way he gets money is through stealing or through pimping girls. Although our teens do not think that this is a “good” way to make money, they do see it as a viable job. This is the model that they see at home. And it is a spiritual battle to help them seek God and reject the things and the ways the world values.
I continue to write some reflections on my blog: davidchronic.com. In March, Lenutsa and I were in Assisi with the other Regional Coordinators and the US co-executive directors of WMF where we had a great time together and were able to walk in the same place where Francis and Clare started the mendicant movement. A number of the recent posts are about the Franciscan movement. I have attached a short reflection below.
Thank you for standing with us in prayer,
David and Lenutsa
I am writing you in the midst of a hard winter. The past three weeks have been incredibly cold. Here in Galati it got down to -22 C (-8 F). On top of that, we have had lots of snow. Both last week and this week, there were days when the roads, train-lines, and the Danube were blocked off. That has led to grocery stores with empty shelves. But the weather has been worse in other parts of the country where houses are completely immersed in snow, there is no access to well-water, it is difficult to get wood from the sheds to the houses, and where villages are cut off from food. Dozens of people, especially the elderly or those living on the streets, have died from the cold. Thankfully, the families with whom we have relationships have managed to get hold of firewood and most of the children have been able to get to school.
I would ask you to pray for one of our kids, who I’ll call Catalin. His mother has some mental problems, which causes conflicts between her and Catalin. Catalin has a degenerative eye disease, which has made it difficult for him to stay in school. But he manages his eye problem with some thick glasses. Although Catalin often stays home to help his mother clean their house or to buy groceries from the market or to carry in water, he also avoids his mother, spending time with his friends. During one of the nights when the temperatures dropped below -20 C (-6 F), Catalin’s mother sent him to buy cigarettes. Catalin returned a few hours later without the cigarettes. So, his mother refused to let him in the house. He slept in a shack next to his house under some blankets. The next few days Catalin stayed with neighbors. Although he feels hurt and rejected, he wept when the mother of some of his neighbors gave him her dinner so that he could eat. Catalin eventually went to the police and convinced them to come talk to his mother. At the insistence of the police, his mother let him back in the house. But because he brought the police, she broke his glasses, which means that Catalin hasn’t been able to go to school. Please pray for Catalin and for his mother.
A census was taken last year in Romania. While most of the data won’t be published for another year or two, an initial report has come out on the state of the population of Romania’s cities. It is not an encouraging picture. In the last 10 years, the overall population of Romania has decreased by 2.68 million. Of the five cities with populations over 300,000 in 2002, now there are only two: Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara. Galati lost the most inhabitants. Galati lost 22.56% of its population. In 2002, there were 298,589 people. In 2011, there were 231,204. This has devastating affects on the city, on the economy, and on families. Please pray that this trend of mass-migration would cease, and pray for the development of our cities in Romania.
In January, I started another series of literacy lessons. We had 6 people enroll, but 3 are coming consistently. And they have made incredible progress in a short period of time. Please keep these new friends in your prayers. We pray that they not only learn to read, but are also drawn to God through our time together.
Next week I will be with our community in Chisinau, Moldova. We’ll be working together on a tactical plan. Please pray for the community, for the children that they are ministering among, and for their witness in the city.
We are planning a Regional Retreat in May for our communities from Romania, Moldova and Sierra Leone. Although it’s difficult for our friends from Sierra Leone to get visas for Romania, we have started the application process. Please pray that we obtain those visas. And please pray for the planning of the regional retreat.
Thank you for lifting us up before the Father,
david and lenutsa
The Christmas season is already here, and we still feel like we haven’t caught up on all that God has been doing in our midst over the past months.
In September we helped initiate a Day Center in a village called Tudor Vladimirescu that is about a 40 minute drive outside of Galati. The chairperson of our board of directors purchased an old house and transformed it into a Day Center. While we are still working on acquiring all the necessary permits, we have enrolled 6 children thus far. They are helped with their homework and have times for games and art. As you can imagine, the situation in a village are different than in the city. Many of the kids are living in families with substance abuse and domestic violence. They have less access to running water and heat and do not benefit as much from social services. As we get to know the kids and receive new ones, we hope to develop activities that are truly supportive. Anca Nebunu is coordinating the Center, but we are praying that God will raise up others to help Anca and we are praying for the resources to develop the Center.
Since September we have been blessed with three interns, one from the U.S. and two from Scotland. They have been learning about Romanian culture by living with host families and studying Romanian. So that they can understand more about Word Made Flesh, our vision and our approach, I have been leading book discussions (which has given me the opportunity to re-read books that I haven’t perused for years). Our interns have been helping us with activities like re-doing our website, teaching dance, and figuring out the kids’ health issues. They have been a huge help to us. As they discern their vocations and future involvement, we pray that they will continue to develop community here with us. We also continue to pray for God to raise up non-Romanian long-term staff.
This autumn we have also been grateful to begin working more closely with a newer church plant near our Community Center. Some of the children attend the church, and Oana, our social worker, has begun leading the church’s children’s program on Saturday. We pray that other families in the neighborhood will integrate into the church, and we pray for a fruitful collaboration into the future.
We have continued our adult literacy program. During the summer we taught reading. This autumn we focused on writing. After the word got out that the adults that did the summer program are already reading, we had many more participants this autumn. We plan on starting a new reading module in January.
We are now planning our Christmas activities. The kids are learning carols – which is especially funny and challenging for the new children. We are preparing presents. We are organizing a Christmas drama, which the kids will perform for their parents. And we are planning our all-night Christmas party for the kids. Our prayer is that each child and their entire family will understand and experience the Son’s coming into the world, His life with us, and His life for us.
Thank you for praying for us and for all your support over the past months. We are extremely grateful to participate with you in what God is doing in Romania among marginalized families.
Yours in Christ,
David and Lenutsa Chronic
Thank you for praying for us over the summer. Let me update you on what was a full, busy and beautiful season.
This spring we had lots of requests from parents and neighbors to do an adult literacy program. We also noticed that there was lots of interest and energy in our community to start this. So, in June, we enrolled six adults. Over the course of three months, four of them finished the program and learned how to read. Now we are enrolling a new group that will focus on writing.
This summer we placed all of our teenagers in a mentoring relationship. During the week we discussed issues like what it means to be a Christian, values and convictions, how to treat someone of the opposite gender, drugs and addiction, and personalities and temperaments. We had weekly meetings with each one and tried to help them evaluate their lives and to take steps in a healthy direction. This is something we’re hoping to continue this throughout the school year.
In midsummer we hosted a team from Lifegate Church. They have been incredibly supportive of me and our community over the years, so it was a joy for us to introduce them to the children and to our ministry. They helped out in the garden and played games with the kids. We are thankful for the relationships we were able to develop and trust that the investments made will reap fruit for the kingdom.
A group also visited us for a day from Grace Baptist Church. We spent the day playing soccer, volleyball and basketball. The girls painted their nails and the younger kids played with bubbles. It was a blessing for the kids and for our staff, and we hope to continue developing our relationship with this church.
We also hosted Dan Henry, who is our servant team coordinator in Sierra Leone. It was great to catch up with him and to introduce him to our Romanian staff and to our kids.
This year I have been involved with the pastoral committee from the church in which we participate in Galati, specifically with their outreach to the needy. We spent a few days with the church leadership to pray and plan together at Voronet. While there we also visited a 15th century monastery with amazing icon painted inside and out.
Over the past few years, we have organized a monthly “Beggars’ Society,” which raises awareness concerning poverty issues. Rather than holding this event at our Community Center, this year we have held it in local churches. The last series focused on migration, and we had really positive feedback on it.
In August, we organized camp for the younger children from the Community Center The theme of the week was “the fruit of the Spirit.” Thank you for praying for this time. We were able to build relationships and engage the kids in way that we cannot in Galati. It was great to see the children in nature, horseback riding, running around the open fields, jumping on the trampoline, and laughing. We saw God working in their lives throughout the week.
We were planning a hiking and camping trip with the teenage boys. But because they didn’t show much interest, we decided to direct them to camp with the church youth groups. A couple of them participated and are now much more involved in church. We still hope to do the hiking/camping trip in the future.
In August, I finished up my dissertation on St. Basil’s theology of the poor. It took a lot of time and a lot of work to get it done. I’m glad to have submitted it and am hopeful that it will be approved.
Over the summer we saw our expenses exceed our income. This is a little troubling in that our expenses during the winter are even higher. Almost all of our income is from many small regular donations of $10 or $15 per month. If you know anyone who would be interested in joining our support community, please speak with them on our behalf.
Although financial strains can be a burden, we continue to trust God who has provided beyond what we ever could hope for. We continue to walk on this road by faith in God’s provision. This summer we identified a number of grants that are designated for education and social projects. So, we applied. We received a letter of intention from one of them. You can help us win the grant. Register and vote here. The name of our project is called: “Sa-i invatam pe copii drumul catre scoala”.
A friend of ours held a concert this past week. She donated all the sales of her CDs to our community so that we could provide school supplies for children that are not enrolled at our Community Center but who do not go to school because they don’t have the necessary supplies. We are thankful that the local community is starting to resource us so that we can have a larger impact.
We also have had the local newspapers and television stations publish articles and interviews on our community and our various activities. This is helping the people of Galati know who we are and what we are about.
This month we are also launching a new project. In a village about 40 minutes outside of Galati, we are opening a Day Center to help kids that are at risk of dropping out of school. The chair of our board purchased and renovated an old house. Now we are in the process of acquiring all the necessary authorizations. We have employed a new staff person, Anca Nebunu, to coordinate the Center. At least 10 children will be enrolled this year.
In September, we are also receiving two interns. Tami is from George Fox University and will be with us for four months. Katy is from Scotland. She did a servant team with us in 2000 and is now a family practitioner. Over the next 10 months, she will be praying about and investigating the possibilities of setting up a medical practice in Galati.
As you see, it has been a busy summer and much is happening this autumn as well. We are grateful to see God at work and pray that we simply would God’s instruments in witnessing to and building for the kingdom.
Please do continue to pray for us:
- for the children and teenagers at the Center to progress in school, to get involved in a local church, and to discover God’s direction in their lives
- for the receiving of the grant
- for the Beggars’ Society events and advocacy activities
- for our new staff and interns
- for the development of our support community
With thanksgiving for your involvement in our lives,
david and lenutsa
Thank you for your prayers during this past month. Although Lenutsa and I are getting back into things in Galati, we’re finding that it takes more time than we anticipated in readjusting. Even when we aren’t doing too much, we come home at the end of the day completely exhausted. As we’ve read some books on sabbatical and spoken with others who have taken sabbatical, we understand that this is normal. But we do ask that you continue to pray for us.
I’ve gotten more involved with the pastoral committee of the church in which Lenutsa and I participate. I’ve been taking part in their weekly meetings and helping organize their department for social aid. Please pray for this church that we would be faithful to God in responding to the poor and needy.
This month we will receive an intern, Kelsey, from George Fox, who will be with us through July. While Lenutsa and I were in Oregon, we took a training course called Brighter Minds, which focuses on brain development. Kelsey went through this training and wants to help us implement it, particularly with the children at the Community Center who struggle with attention deficits. Please pray that we would develop a good tool for the kids and that God would use it to help the children as they face the many challenges in their lives.
A few years back, two of our children from the Center were abandoned by their mother, who left them with extended family to work in Italy. The situation was dire for these two kids. Thankfully, God sent a family to receive them in foster care, which was an almost perfect environment for this brother and sister – although it still meant a long battle with the state authorities for approval. Sadly, after two years the family decided that they could no longer care for them. So, the two youth went to live with an aunt. They lived there for a few months until the aunt decided she could no longer keep them. They then went to the Center for Minors, a building packed with youth that are transitioning out of difficult homes and into other homes under the state’s care. Initially, the mother of our kids said that she would come from Italy to take care of them, but that proved to be an empty promise. After much prayer and deliberation, Paul and Ana decided to take them into our community home. This is a big decision for this young couple, and it means yet another home for these two kids. Please pray for Paul and Ana and for our two kids, Eleni and Florin, that they would quickly adjust to life together and that it would be a healthy and healing place for them all.
Next week we are holing our annual community retreat. The theme is discipleship. Please pray that our relationships would grow and that we would be touched and refreshed by the Spirit of God.
I also plan on going to Moldova in June to visit our young community there and to discuss with them their organizational structure. I would appreciate your prayers for that time.
Thank you for your prayer and support,
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.