Day Three in Almasu: The Servant of All

Our day began early with another trip to the grocery store… in the rain. And, like Texas, Romania is drought-stricken, so the rain was a welcome blessing. At the store, we bought food for 15 home visits. We then traveled about an hour to the mountain village of Almasu. There we met the pastor of the church, Nelu (Romanian for John) and his precious wife, Maria. She joined us for home visits.

Absolutely nothing could have prepared us for what we saw and experienced in this poverty-stricken village. And although the rain made things a bit messy as we got in and out of the van, it enabled us to see these homes and families from a different perspective. Living in the homes would be difficult on a sunny day, but when you add the rain (and who knows what happens when there is six feet of snow), it is absolutely deplorable.

Our first stop Irina, or as she told us, “Bobbie.” A precious lady with Down Syndrome. Her parents have died, and she lives alone with only the church to care for her. Angie Slaughter, she was thrilled with the scarf you sent for her!

Next we visited Georgetta and Maria, two sisters, both who have mental disabilities. They have likely been taken advantage of by the men in the area, and they both have young children. Their faces spoke of desperation and no hope. Katie Gravens and Elisa Crowder, your scarves found two women will very little else in their lives.

I fell in love with the next two women we visited. Hortenia is an elderly widow in a one room house. She cried terribly when I gave her the beautiful scarf from Julie Patterson. She couldn’t stop hugging me. And, as the rain begin to come down harder, we stopped at Maria’s house. Oh was she precious! An amazing smile and an instant welcome into her tiny home. Last year, her home flooded in the spring, and she lost her whole garden and much of her home. The church has helped her to rebuild a tiny home, and her new garden was gorgeous! When we asked if we could pray for her, she said, “All day long!” Mary Konrad, she adored the scarf from you!

We stopped next at Veorica’s home which was barely standing. She cried as the interpreter explained to us that she had an alcoholic husband who was not a Christian. She also has a daughter with a disability and a son. Their home was deplorable, and she was so grateful for the food. Misty Smith, thank you for the scarf that blessed Veorica.

Then we met Anna. Her home was leaking and so wet and damp. She has no water or electricity in her home, and She has no husband and no job. She suffers from mental disabilities, and she depends largely on the church to care for her. Anna was blessed with a beautiful scarf from Cristy Richardson.

We met another Anna at our next stop; however, this one is a single mom with six small children. I cannot even begin to describe the deplorable conditions this family lives in. They have no water, no electricity. We saw the tiny firepit outside the front door of the home where Anna cooks meals for her children. Sierra Shipley, just as your scarf will cover Anna’s head, please cover her and her children with your prayers.

We arrived at the next home to find six children being watched by a neighbor girl while the mom, Carmen, was off in the wood picking wild fruits and berries. Again this one room house was falling down and had no water or electricity. The mom is doing her best to provide with what she can. Lindy Dehm, this precious momma will treasure the warm black scarf from you.

And yet another Anna… this one is Anna Bella. We did not get to meet her because she was out looking for odd jobs to do for food. She has three kids, and her young son was home alone in a one room house with one bed. He told us he would give the food and scarf to his mama, and he blessed us with a beautiful smile. Thank you, Tama Duke, for the scarf you sent for Anna Bella.

We met Ortelia (Vera) next. She was a tiny thin young single woman, but she has been aged by a very hard life. She has two children, both of whom we saw in children’s club later in the afternoon. She was so very thankful for the food, and she loved the scarf from Nancy Post.

And still another single mom, Dana (Donna) with two small children in a one room house with no water or electricity. Her smile told us how truly thankful she was, and Amy Maddox, she loved the scarf from you.

Our last two stops were two of the very hardest. First we met Hughi, a single mom with four children in probably the most deplorable house we visited. The children were absolutely starving, and they could not wait to dig into the bag of food we brought. My heart broke yet again. We later saw Hughi’s children at church, and I was overwhelmed once again at God’s provision of a church in this village. Jamie Mauerman, this precious mama received your scarf.

And finally, in the drizzling rain we crossed a very rickety bridge (very!) across a small creek to Rosie’s house. Rosie is a single mom with five children who were being watched by a neighbor while Rosie tried to find some day jobs for food. The home is one room with no water or electricity, and only one bed where all the children were gathered. We later met Rosie on the road as she returned, and she was carrying a bundle of flowers she had picked for Maria as a way of saying thank you. God, you just overwhelm me! In the midst of this woman’s absolutely horrible situation, she thanks someone else with a gift. Father, that we all might learn a powerful lesson from Rosie about simple gifts and extravagant giving.

To say our hearts were overwhelmed and completely broken for these families fails to capture the gut-wrenching emotions we were all experiencing. We have so much. They have nothing. We give so little. They need so much. Father, help us.

With the home visits complete, we dried out and had a bit of lunch, then we headed back to the village for children’s club at the church. We arrived and climbed the stairs to the church to discover over 50 children from the village, singing with Maria (the pastor’s wife) in loud strong voices praising God. Oh my! My heart just stopped. These children who live in homes we can’t imagine in our worst nightmares, who go to bed hungry, who’s pictures aren’t on anyone’s refrigerator, are learning about God and singing songs to him. Father, thank you for the generous outpouring of your love on these children. We had an absolute blast with these kids – all of them incredibly well-behaved and so appreciative! Jeff taught them the story of Peter, James, and John fishing for fish, but being called to fish for men. (Luke 5:1-11). Marvin and Jeff played Shark in the Water with them, and they loved it! They also did a toilet paper relay game that was so fun to capture behind the camera. KeLe, Laura, and Doyle helped them create a craft, and then we all shared in snacks. As quickly as they came through the line, they gobbled the snacks with big smiles. We were so blessed by these kids!

We visited briefly with Pastor Nelu and his wife, Maria, thanking them for what they are doing through their church for this village. They truly represent Christ’s love for those families and children in a real live, tangible way. They are willing to sacrifice. They are willing to give. They put others first. They serve tirelessly. I captured a picture of Maria as we were leaving. She is standing behind the church with her arms lifted in praise to God, wearing a gigantic smile on her face . Father, thank you for your faithful servants and the lessons about serving they taught us today.

Full of God’s goodness despite the circumstances of this world, we traveled to the church Eugene pastors. Remember Eugene? He drove KeLe, Laura, and me from the airport to Zalau. And, as Marvin so perfectly said, the love of Jesus absolutely shines from sweet Eugene. We met in the tiniest little church, and one by one, the villagers gathered. Eugene opened the service with prayer, and then the voices from his congregation joined in voicing prayers aloud with him to our Father. It was beautiful. Boldness, yet complete humility, before our Father. Laura and I led them in song, and then Marvin shared one of his favorite verses from the Bible, Philippians 4:13. Laura gave her testimony in a tender, caring way that truly showed how much she loves the Lord. Jeff preached a message on the rich young ruler and the widow’s mite (Mark 4 and Mark 4). It was the perfect message for the people of this town… people who have so little here on earth, but who will have great treasure and eternal life in heaven.

We ended the evening with dinner at the home of one of the members of Eugene’s church. You would not believe the abundance of food they shared with us. Bowl after bowl, and homemade bread that was absolutely delicious. Many of us had our first goat meat, and it was so good! They shared generously out of what I know was true sacrifice. Again, they taught us a powerful lesson in giving. They weren’t worried about what their home looked like or what they wore. They just opened their hearts and their home to us and shared all that they had.

We went home… disturbed greatly by the harshness of this world but overwhelmed incredibly by an abundance in the extravagant giving that happens only when God has fully captured your heart.

We returned to Zalau, and as I sought God in prayer, I was reminded of what Jesus told the disciples in Mark 9:35, “…If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” My prayer was simple. Father, help me to serve. Help me to serve. Help me to serve.

And, I thought today’s story would end here, but it doesn’t. Praise God, it doesn’t.

Shortly after 11pm, Lili came home. She gently knocked at the door of my bedroom, and I invited her in. She sat with me on the bed, and we talked about her day at work. A divine text I received from Katie Gravens earlier today, coupled with the prayer I had just prayed, gave me all I needed. “Lili,” I asked. “Do you believe in God?” Tears filled her beautiful eyes, and she simply said, “It is so hard to believe when things are so bad.” My mind raced and my heart pounded, as I listened to her and I silently voiced prayers to God. Help me serve. Help me serve. Help me serve. The boldness didn’t come from me. The words didn’t come from me. The hope doesn’t come from me. It comes from God. Lili wants to believe. She wants the hope. She wants joy. She wants peace. She knows she needs forgiveness and salvation. But she is so scared, and it is hard to believe that God loves you when life’s circumstances are so hard. Lili’s phone rang and interrupted us. It was her husband. He would not be happy about our conversation. I quickly asked Lili if I could pray for her. We held hands, and as we both wept, I prayed. And He heard. And He knows. And He will answer. Please join me in praying for Lili. Pray for a divine appointment to talk and pray with her again. Pray for my boldness in speaking Truth to her. Pray for wisdom and the right words. Pray that I may serve her in a way that brings glory to God.

“…If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

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