Romania Pre-Trip

A couple weeks ago I went to Romania with 7 other site leaders and the rest of the Service Project team, including the American missionaries living in Romania we team up who make this trip possible (they help translate and build relationships with those we are asking to let us come to their school and help). We went to go check out our sites for the high school Service Project this summer. Being a site leader means I build my own team of contractors who lead the playground construction, relational ministry leaders who lead the Vacation Bible School, and a medic. I will facilitate which group does what on each day, and be on call to solve issues, make sure everything gets done, and set up my team for success with high school students as they in turn serve Romanian children. We spent a day driving there and 2 days stopping at all the sites. We also visited two malls.

Romanian mall

One of the most poignant pictures of Romania I’ll remember from that trip is going to one of the biggest, most expensive American-style malls I’ve ever been to, and then driving just down the street past the town dump where people actually lived in little huts on top of the trash pile and you could see children running around playing in and rooting through the trash…I didn’t get a chance to snap a picture of it, but the picture in my head will last a long time.

Here’s what we did when we reached the town where Josiah and I are site leaders. First, we went to visit the mayor. Not much was said in English, the only thing I took from the conversation with our translators was that he was supportive, but there could possibly be a different mayor after elections in the summer! Hopefully he stays in his position. Here’s the mayor’s building, crazy huh?

outside of the mayor's office

Then we met with the principal of the elementary school (my site) and high school (Josiah’s site). She seemed skeptical of us because of the fact that we were offering something for free. She seemed to be waiting for the catch and was very cautious. I can’t wait to show her that it really is free, and it’s free because in some small way, we want to offer Jesus’ unconditional love this coming June to the people of Romania.

The principal of our school

Here’s what the elementary school looks like:

The front yard of the elementary school

The area where we will build the playground

The outside of the storage room we'll use for relational ministry and a rain plan (we couldn't get in to see in the inside)

The sweet soccer field in the back with sweet artificial turf!

Some of the kids at the school after school got out

The front of the school as we were leaving

The town we are in has a few places to eat, a grocery store, and a bank. It also has dirt roads, horses and carts, and other things that indicate Romania is still way less developed than you’d expect in 2012. Josiah’s site will be right across the street from us. We are only 5 minutes from camp, which is a blessing after last year riding a bus for an hour each way to our site every day (on very bumpy roads…not good for someone who gets carsick..aka me).

Josiah and I in front of the bank in the town with our sites.

So excited to bring over some good friends and family to be part of my site this summer…and honored to lead a team to do something like this that will hopefully impact both a Romanian town and an American high school for Christ.

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Romania

Romania was awesome! It’s sometimes so hard to capture a weeklong trip like this in a blog post, so I’m just going to tell you answers to questions everyone has been asking!

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Bamberg/Schweinfurt after the 24-hour bus ride home!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ROMANIA SERVICE PROJECT:

How many students went?
We took 11 from Bamberg and 6 from Schweinfurt.

What did you do?
There were 6 work sites. Ours was at a school in a poorer town 1 hour from where we camped. We were at the same worksite as Brussels and Vicenza. Each worksite had two different things to do: build a playground and do relational ministry. We ran Vacation Bible school in the morning for the younger Romanian kids, and we put on a Club for the older kids. Anytime we were not doing one of those two things we were assigned for the day, we were playing soccer and other outdoor games with kids. Each small group did something different each day, and had different jobs in the relational ministry. My girls gave the message one day and were in charge of games the next.

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My adorable Romanian friend Reyluka (not sure how to spell it!)

What are Romanian kids like?
Adorable. Tan skin, cute faces, lots of energy! Poor. Most wore the same clothes several days in a row. They loved to play soccer and were very affectionate. They attached to us very quickly. None of them really spoke any English.

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Our translators Laura and Roxanne

How did you communicate with them?
We had 3 translators at our site. They were high school girls and were amazingly helpful. One of them gave her testimony at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, she came to know the Lord after her father died. Without the translators there, I wouldn’t know how to play Romanian games and our messages from the Bible each day would have been pointless.

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My small group outside the hotel where we ate!

Where did you stay?
We stayed at a campsite in 5-person tents. There was a bathhouse, but it only had 6 showers per gender, thus, cold showers for most of the 150ish girls there. There was a kitchen/hangout room in the building with wifi and electricity for our leader meetings, and large circus tents to keep supplies in and house the camp store with Club Beyond apparel. For every meal, we got on the buses and drove 3 minutes down the road to a hotel with a huge tent outside where we ate our meals buffet-style, then everyone would help set up for club afterwards, then we bussed back to go to sleep.

What were some challenges about the week?
I would say the cold showers and the whole sleeping in tents for a week thing. I love camping, but after awhile you get ants, your tent leaks when it rains, and you get evacuated during thunderstorms (yes, it happened once in the middle of the night!). Also, the 24-hour long bus rides were pretty rough, especially when we got stuck at the Hungarian border for 3 hours on the way back because border patrol was AT LUNCH. But really, cold showers build character.

What were some of our favorite things about the week?
As a leader, I was so proud of my girls for “roughing it” that long and not complaining much. Not only that, but seeing them work so hard all day every day, with only a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, was incredible. They were an example of how Christ served us and how he welcomed the little children to him. I think it is all summed up in a quote from a student who stood up at the end of the week at the “Say So”:

“I was a skeptic before, but when you see people smiling and working so hard, what other proof do you need?”

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My girls working hard digging holes!

Another favorite thing was seeing and hearing how much we really did make a difference. Seeing the smiling faces of the kids playing on their new playground:

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And hearing the words of the headmaster of the school we worked at in a town struggling to recover from communist rule:

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“We will never forget you because of the amazing things you did here.”

At the Say So, one of our Romanian translators stood up. In broken English she explained how for years, she felt like God was not in her country because of all that had gone on there. “But,” she said, “You brought God to our country.”

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40+ students stood up at that Say So to explain what God had changed in them as a result of this trip. Some said it helped them to appreciate what they had. Others said that they never knew that they could make a real, lasting difference in the lives of others until the trip. And there gave their lives to Jesus as a result of seeing him in Romania. What a week full of God! See Him in these faces:

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