There’s dirt on my feet – and I’m not sure I’m ready to wash it off. Today, I believe I stood on holy ground.
If you were to ask those near the village of Nevrincea, they’d say there’s hardly anything holy about the place. The village boomed under the Communist regime, but few people move there anymore. Abandoned houses line the pockmarked gravel roads. A Catholic church hides behind overgrown trees – no one comes to worship anymore. There is no business district, no cluster of retail stores, no beautiful park with swings and picnic tables. Silence is broken by the sound of chickens or turkeys.
Today, I walked those roads with a team from Red Page Ministries, House of Joy, and First Baptist Church Levelland. Our goal was to simply share love. Today, that love looked a lot like groceries, diapers and bibles. Twenty-nine bags. Twenty-nine bibles. Twenty-nine families. My team took our six of the twenty-nine and began our journey.
Every home was a story – every story a prayer.
Flora’s eyes were a color I had never seen before – a blue-gray that looked like a troubled sky. Yet there was life in them that was far bigger than the disheveled home with dirt floors and crumbling stone walls. I found myself staring at those eyes, wishing I could see things from their point of view. Flora and her husband survive from money made selling fruits and vegetables from their garden in the summer. Her health is failing, but she knows she must keep working. The window is short – and the winter months are hard. She prays but doesn’t feel close to God. She wept when we prayed for her.
Marioara cares for her granddaughter during the summer. Her husband died from the ravages of alcohol when he was 40, and her children have moved away. Now at 60, her hope rests in the pension she will receive when she is 62. It’s a standard retirement stipend provided to all Romanians. The 300 Lei (about $100 US) monthly is almost more than she can comprehend. For now, she waits – and hopes. She says she knows about Jesus, but doesn’t feel she really knows who He is. She feels so alone. She smiled when my friend Wanda gave her a pair of reading glasses – she can now see the words in her new bible.
Ioanna and her husband moved to Nevrincea in hopes of finding a better life. And theirs is better in comparison – they raise four pigs and two cows each year to help provide food and earn a living. The floors of their home are planks – a gift from children who now live in Italy and want to help make the family home safer. Their youngest son is in high school in Timisoara, and they don’t know where the money will come from to let him continue classes (there are no high schools in the villages – children have to move away if they want any hope of a good education). She says they believe in hard work, and in caring for others. They give all the glory to God. She hugged and kissed and hugged us again, and didn’t want us to leave.
The stories continued along those dusty roads. Two sons caring for a mentally challenged brother – alone with no parents, a mother and daughter waiting for dad to return from prison, a mother struggling to care for her sometimes violent son. Nicoleta’s family lives there too.
With every step, I heard Christ say, “See Me there – in the hungry and the hurting, in the lonely and lost. Serve Me there – on the dusty road, in the forgotten villages.” With every step in Nevrincea, I thought of those in my own city who have stories of struggle and pain. That dusty road isn’t just in Romania. That road is in my home town. That road is holy ground.