It’s been a week since I returned from my journey to Romania. I’ve drunk countless cups of caffeine at planning meetings about a worship conference in Russia and weekend church services here in Austin and mission trips in Guatemala.
I’ve baked cookies with my 10th grade bible study girls, made tarts and brownies and delicate mint marshmallows dusted in cocoa for a special event at Austin Christian Fellowship, and cooked dinner for my sweet husband. There has been good food savored with my family, good work done with my best friend, and good time communing with the Lord. Work and grad school and life are all swirling together in a common paisley pattern.
It feels normal. But I don’t.
It would appear Romania still has a tight grip on my internal clock as I try to adjust to a life that differs by 8 time zones. Then again, perhaps the struggle makes sense – she also still has a tight grip on my heart as I think about the country and her people.
I knew so little about Romania prior to July 2010. Yes, I had worked at a nonprofit which had at one time served the country’s orphan population, and had heard stories from those who had both travelled and lived there – but I didn’t fully understand the country’s plight. A request to attend a meeting with several Texas ministers in Abilene changed everything. It was in that west Texas town I was introduced to both the challenges facing the people of rural Romania, and to the individuals and churches with a passion for providing life-changing assistance in 31 villages in the westernmost region of the country. I learned about the House of Joy, the vision of pastor Ovidiu Petric and his wife, Adina – a facility in Susani, Romania, that will serve the villages with sports camps, after-school programs, life skills training, and the Gospel.
And it was in that town Red Page Ministries was first given life.
Now I’ve been there. I’ve seen the cities, visited the countryside, seen the poetic contrast between Romania and her western European neighbors. There is a gallery of faces brilliantly displayed in my mind, story after story painted in my heart, and a fire inside me to affect change in a country that is beautiful in such a rough-hewn way.
80% of those living in rural areas in Romania are classified poor. Unemployment is high. Residents who rely on agriculture eke out livings doing seasonal labor while storing up for long, harsh winters that render fields useless. Parents who want a better life for their families are sometimes forced to live apart from them as they work in larger cities. And it is common to find rural teens living alone or with strangers in larger communities, in the hopes of having greater access to higher education once they graduate from high school. While the country is now part of the EU, little has yet been done to provide improvements in systems and processes for those living outside major cities. Romania isn’t considered a developing country, yet clean, safe drinking water is a need in her villages. She’s not on the priority list of most nonprofits or foundations, yet her needs are as significant as her neighbors to the east or west. Her people may not be “third-world,” but they still struggle in a world that looks the other way.
Is it possible the term “discarded” could apply to not just people, but a place?
A week ago, I stood in the snow as the sun rose over a maze of red brick walls. I closed my eyes and imagined the sounds of children laughing, imagined the aroma of soup cooking, imagined the lives that would be impacted when the House of Joy becomes more than a construction site. I imagined the teens I had met at WinterCamp serving others there – teaching, playing games, leading sports camps, talking about what it really means to be a Christ-follower. I imagined teams of people dedicated to caring for communities in need of a brighter future. I imagined hope taking root, and love growing – and the word “discarded” being destroyed in Romania.
A week later, I still imagine it. I believe it will happen, with the help of people who see Romania and her people as precious and beloved. I long to be there when it does.