First Day in Zalau

Ok, let’s get the technical things out of the way first. It appears all the pics upload at the end of the post, so when I post pics (which will come later), I’ll number the captions, and then you can just match up the number with the pics. The design diva in me absolutely hates that I can’t make it look pretty, too, but I’m giving that up and instead praising the fact that I can share these stories and pics with you before we return home. Also the grammar snob in me detests anything written that is not thoroughly proofed before sharing, but I am out of time. I ask for your grace on all of these technical issues.

It was Wednesday for us before it was Wednesday for you. Don’t forget we’re eight hours ahead. Despite the fact that we had little sleep last night, the girls awoke this morning before the alarm. The boys reported sleeping well, except Doyle, but evidently that’s the norm for him at home, too.

We joined Cha Cha and Eugene for breakfast at the hotel. Cha Cha is the pastor who we are working with here in Zalau. He is a native Romanian, and he shared the beautiful story of how he became a Christian over dinner with us last night. Eugene is Cha Cha’s co-worker and the secretary at the mission. He came to Cluj-Napoca with Cha Cha to pick us up since we would not fit in one vehicle unless we strapped the boys to the roof.

We left Cluj for Zalau about 10:15 am. The drive to Zalau took about 1.5 hours on a winding mountain road. We passed through numerous villages, and my heart broke a little more with each one we passed. My words are inadequate to truly describe what we saw. It was truly like stepping back in time … many, many years. We will be visiting different villages over the next several days, and I will do my best to capture the pictures my words fail to describe.

In Zalau, Doyle and Laura are residing with Cha Cha, his wife Maria, and his children Emil (22) and Dena (20). Marvin and Jeff are sharing a room together at Nelu (Nay-Lou) and Dana’s (Donna). They have a 5-year old son Paul and 13-year old Denisa. KeLe and I are staying with Lili.

All of us are in the same apartment building or “block” as they describe them here. Again, words can hardly describe the concrete box and very, very basic plumbing and kitchen areas they have. The blocks are very prevalent all over Romanian, and one block houses many families. The blocks were once owned by the government, but individual families can now purchase them, if they are financially able; however, they must still pay hefty taxes on the apartments to the government. Cha Cha estimates that 60-65% of an employed Romanian’s salary goes to the various taxes, including socialized medicine, which is describes as terrible.

I have not met Nelu and Dana yet; but I have met all of Cha Cha’s family and they are an extremely likable bunch. Emil took Laura, KeLe and I shopping today so we could purchase the items needed for the children’s ministry, and he speaks excellent English. He was a very helpful (and entertaining) guide!

Lili is a beautiful 42 year old woman, and she speaks fairly good English. KeLe and I liked her instantly and definitely felt welcomed in her home. KeLe is staying in Lili’s daughter’s room because she is away in Bucharest at the police academy, and I am sleeping on the couch in the living room. She has made the living room into a bedroom for me, again a sign of her graciousness. When we first arrived, I ask her if I could take some pictures of her home, and she said yes. After I had snapped a few pics, she came to me with tears in her eyes saying she was so embarrassed about her home. Once again my heart broke, and I had to fight tears, too. I told her we thought her home was beautiful, and we were so thankful for the opportunity to stay with her. She had prepared lunch for us; however, she would not eat with us. I did ask her if I could bless the food before we ate, and she said yes. She joined hands with us while I prayed, and afterward she told me that she has housed others for Marantha Missions, but no one has ever prayed before the meal. Lili is not a believer, so I absolutely was not going to pass up a single chance to pray while under her roof. Thank you, Father, for divine appointments and for boldness which can only come from you. I ask you all to join me in praying for Lili and her familiy. First for their salvation, and second because they are under extreme financial duress.

Following our preparation for children’s ministry, we travel to First Baptist Zalau – don’t you just love that! And, oh, what a blessing it was! There we met more than 20 of the missionaries in the area. Each of them pastor at least one village church, and many of them pastor several. They were genuinely glad to welcome us, and we shared a sweet time of worship with them. When they broke out in singing “Standing on the Promises” in Romanian, the tears once again found my eyes. I know God looked down from heaven with a big smile on his face as their Romanian singing were joined with our American voices. We are all HIS! The language barrier does not separate us. And, our call to serve the Lord clearly joins us in a common purpose.

We returned to the apartments for a planning meeting with Cha Cha outlining tomorrow’s itinerary, and then the team came to Lili’s apartment to help cut out the remaining pieces for tomorrow’s crafts. We cut out over 300 fish! KeLe, Laura, and I also cut out the pieces for Friday’s children’s ministry. We have been busy! Please specifically pray for our time with the children tomorrow. We will be serving about 20 children in the gypsy village. These children know little discipline and no Jesus. We will be sharing the story of Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-23) with them, and I pray just as Jesus told Peter to come to HIm, that these children will hear Jesus calling them and give their hearts to him.

It’s 12:40 am as I finish typing this post; however, I will not get it uploaded until Thursday morning. We have a very early start and an extremely busy day. Here’s a quick rundown:

Shopping for food items to deliver to widows in Simleu.
Visiting five widows’ homes. I know you don’t know their names, but please pray for these women. (And, Wildly Blessed Women, we will be delivering the first scarves tomorrow!)
Visiting a 3,000+ member gypsy community where a church has been planted and transformed a once unruly and dangerous group of people into people who love the Lord. Only our God can do things this big! We cannot wait to see it!
Conducting Kids’ Club with gypsy children from another village
Providing pastors’ training with Marantha Missions
Participating in church meeting (which is their name for worship service)

And so we go to do exactly what Logan texted me yesterday, “Go love them like He loves us!”

Father God, we pray for exactly that!

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