Welcome to Romania.
It was close to midnight when we crossed over the Budapest border into Romania, it was a feeling of assuredness that God had destined us to be there. At the border, we were approached by a female Romanian border agent who asked us for our passports. She took 1 good look at the van full of musicians and gear and in Romanian asked Dwight, “Are you guys Christians?” and Dwight kindly said “Yes”. She then asked us to park to the side. After a few minutes of waiting in the cover of night, she came back over to give us back our passports with a beaming smile and said “Welcome to Romania, I hope the camp goes well!”. Dwight said she was happy to see us. Good signs to hear when you are leading a team on an adventure into the unknown!
Take me deeper where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you may call me….
Dwight is our missionary leader and contact in Romania for this trip. We’ve been meeting once a month via Google hangout for about 4 months prior as a team to discuss, prepare, and pray for this awesome trip. When we finally met him in person at the Budapest airport, he was much taller than I imagined him to be from the computer screen and seemingly towered over me with his height and head of grayed hair, his smiling eyes behind his round glasses, his round face, button nose, rosy cheeks, and a cheery smile. He has the voice of a narrator like on a documentary in the History channel or the national geographic. But he’s incredibly gentle, full of joy, and has a huge heart for revival in Romania! He has so much vision for Romanians to come to know Christ in all of His love and not just what they read on paper. He yearns for Romanians to come to know Christ through relationship with Him and not by obligation of being accepted into a culture. That’s why he wanted withLove to come to Romania because he saw exactly what he was looking for in us as a ministry – full of God’s love. Not only did we have a bible, but we also came armed with mics, guitars, keyboards, drums, and amps. He’s an All-American doing missions work in Romania with his family for 20 years. He felt called to Romania after finding out that his great-great-great-great grandfather was in the Romanian history books as a key leader and was coincidently in the same place and time (milestone anniversary) of a key historic event that his ancestor was a part of! He has a beautiful wife, Melissa, and 4 beautiful children – 2 daughters (2, 5), and 2 sons (8, 10). Dwight is a great guy all-around, he’s an awesome leader with a humble soul and a heart of service – a pastoral calling on his life! He was our driver, our tour leader, translator, and liaison to the local church leaders. And in doing all of this, he is an absolute joy to just be around because he keeps it real and keeps it fun!
Romania, the Beautiful
Romania is a beautiful country with a rich history of about 6000 years! The culture is very much engrained into the identity of Romanians everywhere. Most recently, Romania is in transition from the fall of the communist era in 1989. Meaning that they are about 25 years out of an oppressive era and culture. That’s barely 1 generation! During the communist era, things like work camps existed, where you were literally worked you to death, there were long lines of starving people to simply get bread, the only religion was Orthodox Christian (very similar to Roman Catholicism), and conformity was king. The revolution against communism took place in 1989 and started in Timisoara, which was the city that we were going to!
Timisoara is a major city of Romania that has the largest income per capita in the whole country! It sits right near the beautiful Carpathian Mountains infamously home to Transylvania and Count Dracula…. What’s funny is that Count Dracula was made up in Hollywood and Romanians don’t even know who he is! Thank you Hollywood.
We also saw many gypsies otherwise known as “Roma” in Romania. They look of Indian decent and are your common beggar just like you would see a panhandler or someone homeless in the U.S. However, gypsies are also known for being a culture of drug addicts, thieves, and entertainers to make a living. They are also a result of the fall of communism because during that time, the government sponsored many orphanages. But when the government fell, so did the orphanages – leaving many orphans without a home or anyone to go to for support. So where did they go? To the sewers underground and leaning on each other and doing whatever they can make a living. To cope with the pain and way of life, drugs ease the reality of an undesirable life that they now face every day. They are known as the scum of the community, the outcasts, the shamed, and no country wants them. They are commonly associated with Romania because of their name “Roma”, but they have nothing to do with Romania, and Romanians hate that association with them. Europe believes this to be true that many countries round up the gypsies and throw them into Romania thinking that’s where they belong! It’s about 25 years and now those orphans are having children of their own, now creating a sub-culture in Europe. It’s a sad history and more of a reason why God’s love would embrace the “least of these” in a culture where you embrace being a “nobody” or an outcast and you have to be okay with that. This world needs more love!
After getting all the sound equipment and supplies from Timisoara, we made our way deep into the Carpathian Mountains to get to the camp called “Bradatel” which is in this beautiful valley where the morning sun rays don’t reach the bottom of the valley until 10am! It’s an incredibly scenic route as you see gorgeous rolling foothills and trees covering mountain after mountain. You almost thought you were on your way to The Shire (Lord of the Rings). We get to the camp to find ourselves in awe of the mountains towering over us, the fresh air that breathed deep into our lungs, and the sounds of calm river running by us below. Then we ran into Romanians that were gathering at the camp! One word: beautiful. Danni, a Romanian pastor warned the band that there are many beautiful people in Romania, and we all brushed it off thinking we see beautiful people all the time! But I mean, these people were BE-A-UTIFUL. You would think they are your typical white person but speaking Romanian, but they aren’t! From their hair, to the eyes, to the shapes of their body was completely different then what we were used to! I couldn’t stop staring into their eyes because many of them almost had this emerald color which I rarely see in the states!
Lastly, the food. It’s a meat, potatoes, and bread kind-of diet. Pretty hearty I would say. They love their pork. And we had it in every kind of way – sausages, bacon, chunks, cured fat, grounded up, or wrapped up in cabbage. I remember when we first got to the camp cafeteria; there were these mountains of big sliced white baked bread waiting for us in these baskets in the middle of the table! My first thought, they barely got it during the communism era, and now they can have all the bread they want! Breakfast was typically bread, butter, honey, goat cheese, sausage, and tomatoes (which were amazingly sweet and good). Lunch was typically an appetizer soup (chicken noodle or potato soup) followed by a surprise concoction of chicken and rice, pork and rice, or pork chunks and potatoes. And dinner was typically a meat and potato meal followed by a chocolate wafer dessert. They fed us well! The food was fresh and tasty for the most part although we had a few should-I-say “surprises” along the way! For example, their macaroni and cheese was LITTERALLY cooked macaroni noodles mixed in with chunks of goat cheese. No sauce and no melting action. It happened. But I still ate it because when you’re hungry, you eat.
This is just my introduction of Romania when we arrived and our general experiences that we had while there! Stay tuned for our adventures in leading worship in a different culture!