Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Romania ROCKing Me

Hello Everyone!

You are past due an update : ) But beware, it is LONG (oh, come on, you expected it to be!!). I’ve labeled various topics in bold so skip through and find what you want to read about...

I have been in Romania for nearly 3 weeks now.
I'm standing in tired and broken awe.

A picture’s worth a thousand words, they say, so view mine here. I add new ones most every day so skip to the back if you’ve seen the ones at the beginning.

The Babies:
He continues to ravish my heart through my babies : ) But it is a beautiful ache…
I’ve seen both Carlos and Alex go home, would you believe? My boys : ) You’d think that would be the happiest of occasions but it’s hard to be glad when you don’t know what they’re going home to. How great could it be if they were left here for weeks at a time in the first place? And Carlos, they tell me, has been here before in his 4 short months of life, and he was in rough shape.

The most obvious mark of this was his refusal to meet anyone’s eyes. Kari, the young missionary with ROCK from CA says that it’s a natural reaction to being left on his own in his crib all the time. He wasn't in the Big Room, but Kari would help me keep dibs on wherever he was in the hospital so I could spend time with him when there were enough people with the babies in the Big Room. I was delighted to see him improve, to have him meeting my eyes as I played with him, and to see his leg muscles gaining strength as I got him moving around in different positions rather than just laying on his back in the crib. It amazes me how little it takes to make such a difference in these babies. All it was for Carlos was a bit of loving attention…

Alex was a bit of a mystery to all of us. He was such a well-adjusted 5 month old, even if he was a bit skinny. His body would feel obviously stiff after being left in his crib for too long, but his face would light up when anyone came near and there were no telltale signs of detachment with him at all. I fell in love with this baby : ) He grew very sick while here too and was suffering with a high fever—and still when I’d get away to his room to cuddle him he would smile and be so lovely despite obvious extreme discomfort… That weekend I was thinking about him all the time—spending Sat, Sun, and Mon. away from the hospital for various reason. Tuesday morning, I couldn’t wait to get up to see my little guy! Only to find when I got there, that his family had come for him over the weekend, while he was ill, and taken him home… wherever that is. I want to believe that he has a loving home because of his open personality…

This whole situation is so humbling because I discover the depths of my own inability. Sure, I can love the babies for a few weeks, and I know that love and positive attention means everything to their little developing souls no matter how short a time, but it is only a few weeks, in the end and we are powerless over what happens next. This realization goes to glorify the place of prayer, putting it into its profoundly rightful place. The babies teach me my own dependence on Him, as well as His aching love for this broken world. They are wonderful teachers…

Yesterday we went out on our break. When we came back into the Big Room, there was another baby occupying a once empty crib. We each peeked in at it in turn, curiously. Then the rest of the girls went to the other side of the room to take their break, have their snacks, etc. I tentatively sat down in a rocker next to the crib, quietly watching this baby. It was dressed in ill-fitting clothes, wrapped in a dirty blanket. It had a pacifier which one of the nurses had given it from our ROCK stash. It was impossible to know whether it was a boy or a girl. I thought it looked about 5 or 6 months old, dreadfully skinny. It’s eyes met mine, and I smiled. It smiled back : ) Slowly, carefully, almost sneakily, it started to sort of feebly toss and turn its way toward my end of the crib. I didn’t even realize until there it was, close enough to reach out and touch. So I tentatively reached my hand in through the bars and rubbed a single finger across its hand, cracked with dry skin. It smiled and reached for me :) And the rest is history.

After Break Laura, one of the Romanian ROCK workers (and one of my favourite of the people I’m working with, I must say ) declared the new baby her own and set about giving HER (we were all surprised at this pronouncement as even the nurses had thought she was a boy) a bath, some proper clothing, and some food. Her little body was so painfully skinny as she bathed her, her little head looking so awkward on that itty bitty frail body and her tummy distended and rotund sticking out from spindly arms and legs. The doctors examined her, told us her name was Elena (so pretty), and that she was 11 months old (shock/horror!) and had come from the sewers… When we fed Elena she cried and cried whenever the spoon would be taken away for a millisecond. The nurses had to draw blood for some blood tests and couldn’t get a vein in her arm so drew the blood from her forehead--- which is appalling. So much trauma for this little one and yet her smile is still so bright and so willing to shine (as the pictures will testify:)).

(The Big Room)
The ROCK “usuals” right now are all still doing well :) It’s amazing to hear the stories of what each of them were like when they first came in and to see them now– each one so improved and happy...

8 month old Emil (the one I pretty much refer to as “Handsome”) they tell me was sickly skinny and ill when he arrived 4 months ago, constantly unhappy and hopeless-looking. If you look through the photos today you’ll find that he is the picture of health– really chubby and so so so perpetually happy and loud! I love that cuddly guy :) 8 month old Mario’s story is similar– he was too tiny, he was sick and greenish in colour, he’d come from the sewers, now he’s the most clever and advanced baby in the programme and smiles brightly and affectionately at the drop of a hat :) 14 month old Petruta was detached and unresponsive when she came in, now she cries when we leave (which is what we aim for in this situation, as backward as that may sound, because it’s a sign of healthy attachment to carers!). 7 month old Florica, as you know, is perfection (she’s my baby). She’s bright and happy and beautiful. Her only set-back is that she hasn’t had the activity of average babies with families and her muscles need strengthening, but that doesn’t take much, just someone willing to play with her in ways that get her using all the muscles she doesn’t use when just lying on her back in her crib. Already in my three weeks here I’ve seen her start to sit up far better and even start to hold herself up on her legs (with me holding her, of course, but she wasn’t standing on them at all when I first got here!). Year and a half old Dragos has some conditions that will keep him from catching up to his age group developmentally, but he’s a riot. He’s adapted to orphan life by finding creative ways to make noises with his mouth and hands and often he’ll break into laughter for no apparent reason at all– he’s just that delighted :) Lifting him into my arms, his body feels floppy like a little doll, but once he’s up there, he wraps his arms around my neck and gives the most precious hugs :) 6 month old Aristita suffers much from her deformities in trying to breathe, but she rests easier in my arms which means long hours of just straight-up cuddling for this little girl :) She had a doctor tell us yesterday that they can do surgery on her toes when she’s a year and a half and on her fingers when she’s five to separate her webbed appendages. I’m not sure what they can do about her sinuses. Aristita’s easy as long as she’s getting enough cuddles and she loves to feel the skin of my hands, arms, or neck... and 8 year old Ionut is still a sad tale as his condition and care doesn’t seem to allow for improvements but only deterioration. He and 4 year old Mariana, who lives across the way where Carlos and Alex stayed, are both suffering from Cerebral Palsy in various forms and it’s very difficult. I remember feeling shocked when one of the girls showing us around my first day here admitted sadly, “these days I’m just praying they’ll die so they won’t suffer anymore” but as I spend more time with them and see their sad routines play out, I can’t help but wonder if that’s the appropriate prayer. Why stick around here like this when they could be with their Healer, healthy and whole and happy? I have to believe He knows perfectly well what He’s doing and I’m learning to pray for and want His will over these little ones...

The City:
10-step instructions for taking a city bus in Bucharest:
1.) Don't stand at the bus stop, but out in the street in front of it in a great crowd of people.
2.) Try to be near the front of the crowd, but resist being trampled by them...
3.) When the bus comes, crowd in close to the door so that the people getting off have to fight for their right to leave the bus. This is vital.
4.) Take a deep breath and plunge in, but don't expect to find a seat-- you'll only be disappointed.
5.) Go right on up the aisle as close to the strangers next to you as is bodily possible. You can either choose to put yourself that close to them, or the people coming in behind you will shove you in that close, so you might as well uphold your own dignity.
6.) Forget all distant dreams of personal space and squish in CLOSER. The doors must close, afterall.
7.) Don't worry about having a pole to hold on to. The pressure of all the bodies on the bus being squashed together is sure to keep you on your feet as the bus swerves and careens down the road. And don't be offended if various parts of your body are touched rather rudely by random strangers, they aren't doing it on purpose.
8.) Do not attempt to take a deep breath. I repeat, DO NOT attempt to take a deep breath. It will not be pleasant should you succeed. Oh, and don't look up or you'll land your face directly into the armpit of the man holding onto the pole beside you. You have been warned.
9.) As the bus approaches your stop, start pushing and jabbing your elbows into people as required to worm your way through the tightly packed space so you end up somewhere near the door. Don't forget to throw in a few, "scuzati ma!"'s for good measure.
10.) Check to be sure all your personal belongings are intact as you jump out quickly, avoiding any oncoming traffic and a head-on collision with the next round of people attempting to get on the bus!

Gotta love public transportation, but I have never ever experienced anything like this until Romania!! I assure you, it is not for the faint of heart : ) My most usual mode of transportation here is the Tram— around 45 minutes to the hospital and 45 minutes back each day—and it’s not much better, though generally riding it doesn’t involve morphing into a sardine : ) I like the tram for the venue it is to observe people. All kinds ride the tram. The businessmen with their sour looks and ‘I’ve gotta be somewhere important” airs, the legless beggars scooting up and down the length of the train on their backsides shouting out in their pleas for all to hear, the groups of glamourous teenagers stewing in their insecurities and trumpeting it so loudly by how they dress, the beautiful old ladies dressed in mismatched layers and big heavy boots, shawls worn over their heads and tied under their chins (I find the elderly faces here very beautiful, very full. They tell stories without a spoken word). I wonder what each of these are thinking, what they are living for, what their agendas for the day are… We all ride side by side with nary a word spoken, broken person next to broken person, walled off, as if unaware, as if uncaring. It makes me a little sad. Romania is frustrating because I keep on wanting to talk with people, to ask them their stories, to look into their eyes and let them know I'm listening. I hate the rude way I feel when someone speaks to me and I have to smile apologetically and mutter, "Nu vorbesc Romaneste." I can attempt little bitty phrases like, "Cum te cheama?" but people don't answer simply, by the book. They go off into heaven knows what while I'm left, yet again, shaking my head and smiling apologetically.

My favourite thing about the tram is when we pass a church (Othodox) and the whole car (pretty much) starts frantically crossing themselves 3 times over. I remember the first time this happened and everyone all around me was doing it and how strange it seemed, how bewildering : ) I don’t know why it’s done, but then, I doubt that even they understand why they do it. Because it’s always been done and will always be done, I suppose.

Living on my Own:
Having the apartment to myself is so far, so good. I love how independent it feels to finish up my day, take the tram home, climb the miles of stairs key in hand, and unlock the door to my own place. I turn on the music and experiment with cooking (don't laugh-- I'm not that bad) and throw the laundry in and all manner of ‘a place of your own’ type things :) So far the grumpy neighbour hasn’t been seen or heard of (thank the Lord!), and every grocery or necessities shopping excursion He’s provided for– either some stranger who speaks English has come forward right when I need them, or I’ve been able to make out with my few words of Romanian and lots of hand motions, pointing, etc.... Language barriers make life so interesting :)

And God Thoughts:
I’m half-way through this particular endeavor of 6 week to follow wherever He leads and I am already forever changed. I feel as if I am catching glimpses of His heart in new depths and I think what I’m discovering the most deeply is how much love hurts, but what a delightful pain it is to bear. And that it almost should hurt, it ought to be giving something of myself to experience it, because that’s what Christ-shaped love is.

And oh, how He has a tender place for the fatherless. And the widows. And the strangers. The Old testament is replete with the laws that ensured God's people would care for these three categories. They even had to leave crops purposely in their fields for these to gather for themselves. In the New Testament, one of my favourite verses, James declares that the only religion that God accepts is to care for the orphan and the widow in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (they both are naturally easier said than done).

It occurs to me so strongly lately that this has to be a matter of entering in to someone's pain. There has to be an involvement, an interaction, an empathy. God is God; He might have saved the world by waving His finger if He so chose. But His heart is completely relational and He became flesh and moved right in, knowing that He designed our hearts in the image of His and that we are completely relational as well. Shouldn't this then be our model? To enter into the suffering and wrap our arms around it, holding the wound to slow the bleeding until Heaven comes down to set everything to right?

I wonder if we can possibly expect to be Jesus to anyone if we're not willing to meet them right where they're at and enter into whatever their suffering might be.... the amazing thing about Him is that... He infuses it with beauty when done in His Spirit. And sure it hurts, sure it's inconvenient and there are sacrifices, and sure it means vulnerability and it means looking outside of yourself and your cushy little world and self-schemas. And there is pain in that... but how beautiful the pain is... how worth it all.

He's making me believe that prayer is where the real work is done, and we avoid it because it's such hard work and we are lazy. True prayer is all submission. True prayer leaves no room for our own glory, and His Son's character is wrought in us as we struggle on our knees...

If there’s anything else Romania’s teaching me it’s that I want to livebreatheeatsleep on my knees. That is where I can lose myself in Him. That is where it happens, that is how it works. No amount of effort on my part, no amount of statements of want, no amount of trying to do better, be better. The passion is born bowing at His feet. And then we can go out from there to touch the world with His hands...

Each year He's bringing me deeper into the aches and hurts of this world. Each day I'm looking into the eyes of these babies, walking past children begging on the streets, explaining that I don't speak Romanian to the legless man calling out to me on the corner. And even outside of the poverty, the ache is real and true and deep. In Christian friends who "have it all together". In Marriages that seem perfect. In ministries that are great on vision and action, short on hours spent humbled in His presence submitting to His perfect will. In me.

Emerson once wrote: "Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise." These lovely babies, continued expressions of His hope, being abandoned and mistreated are only a tiny fraction in an itty-bitty corner of a world cringing and cramping with the symptoms of separation from its life-giver. My placement here has only been added proof of my own smallness– but deepened faith in His bigness... In light of the hurting and need, I am, and anything I can do is, nothing. I want to change this world that is ever-overwhelmingly too big and too problem-riddled for me to make any sort of mark. So I’m learning my place is to submit to prayer in a whole new way, to actively pursue intercession and adoration and constant connection with the King in my thoughts in ways I haven't before. Nothing else I will ever do can matter without that."'You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed'.... All the work of the kingdom of God begins with simply being with Jesus. If it doesn't start there, it doesn't start at all" (Ben Patterson). He’s using Romania to remind me how real a battle we are in. He's calling me to some nights of isolation before Him, surrounded by angels waging wars. This world is too broken not to painstakingly wrap it all in my arms and hold it up before Him. It is yet another lesson in His strength being made perfect in my weakness.

"The earth is filled with Your love, O Lord" (Psalm 119:64). May we unlock it and pour it out until all may see and feel and know Him. May we bathe in its flow ourselves and then go out and splash it on everyone we see-- His hands, His feet... Life is too short to act as if even one day doesn’t matter...

He is not safe, but HE is so good. And Love is Who He is.
Know Him,
Leah <><

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Tuesday, 16 January 2007

ROCKing Romania

Dear All,

I’m sorry it’s taken so very long to get this to you! I arrived in Bucharest on the 10th of January but internet has been hard to come by… SO, this means I have a lot to cover :) I know it’s extremely long, but if you read it it will answer many of your questions that I haven't been able to reply individually about...

(View some pictures here)

Prayer points:
For ROCK (—
that God will continue to bless this work, to provide for this work and the workers, and to guide ROCK on.

For Adoption in Romania —
that International Adoption will be reopened, clean of the corruption that got it shut down in the first place,and that in the meantime, God will move the hearts of the Romanians who are able to adopt their own, especially the hard-to-place gypsy babies and special needs babies

For Foster Families—
That God will bless and uphold the families that are already fostering and raise up for ROCK more able Christian couples to take on and love these precious fatherless.

Welcome to Romania
I stood next to an old gypsy woman on the tram tonight. She was exactly what you’re picturing—a scarf around her salt and pepper hair and tied under her weathered and wrinkled face, a bright red knit jumper over a long gathered black skirt and garish turquoise shoes to complete the picture. She was carrying her things in a plastic grocery bag. I gazed out the window at the strange language on the signs, the hordes of chaotic cars both parked and driving, the manky stray dogs fighting in the empty lots sprinkled with litter and wondered again how I ever got this far from home.

But it’s a happy amazement.

As I write this it has been 2 full days in Romania and I have had my heart stolen by two gypsies and a handsome little Romanian. I have spent 2 days with the babies at the Victor Gomoiu Hospital in Bucharest and already it seems lifetimes—theirs melting into mine, mine melting into theirs.

The sights and smells of the hospital greeted me long before the shining faces of the ROCK babies did yesterday as Nannette Gonzalez, the founder and director of ROCK Ministries led me and two Canadian girls here for 2 weeks up to The Big Room—the main room ROCK works in at the hospital. From the outside the hospital is actually quite a lovely old building, but the inside is quite dingy, quite dirty, rather what you’d picture of an Eastern European hospital. The smell is not repugnant but it’s not pleasant, though I find I get used to it easily enough. I’ll probably never know what makes it.

The Big Room is home to Mario, Dragoş, Petruţa, Emil, Ionuţ, and Aristiţa, and Florica right now.
The Babies
MARIO is a gorgeous blond-haired, blue-eyed, smiley little guy : ) He’s 8 months old and he’s crawling and pulling himself up and into everything. He’s tiny, but he’s developing like any normal baby would which says a lot as when he was brought to the hospital as a two month old he was underweight, sick, and a strange colour. He was found in the sewer, which denotes at least one of his parents was gypsy. Most of the babies abandoned to the hospital are gypsy or special needs kids or both, as in Romania those two categories are the hardest to find willing adoptive families or even foster families for.

DRAGOŞ (pronounced “Draw-go-sh”) is of the second category but we can’t be sure what all this little guy has. He had a surgery this summer to remove cataracts from his eyes which had blinded him but his sight is very vague. He has something like Autism, but not quite that. He’s overall a pretty happy little guy—with light brown hair and brown eyes. He giggles all the time, which makes us all smile.

PETRUŢA (pronounced “Pet-root-sa”) is a sweet 14 month old. Of all the kids, she was the first to give me a smile : ) She’s come a very long way from where she started when she was first brought in unresponsive, unsmiling, un-crying, and she is Nannette’s special favourite (because we all have them!). She is mildly mentally slow and clearly gypsy with those gorgeous dark eyes and black head of hair. Her improvement, as with so many of the babies, is testament to the importance of simple love and nurture in a human life.

EMIL (pronounced “Em-eel”) is a gorgeous, chubby little 8 month old—very well-adjusted and developmentally right on track. The only thing keeping him from a family is his gypsy heritage of which his very self is a billboard from his pitch black hair to his shining black eyes. Handsome, handsome, handsome!

IONUŢ (pronounced “Yawn-oots”) is a really tough case. He is 8 years old but no taller than about a 3 year old child and much, much skinnier. He has cerebral palsy and his body grows stiffer by the day. I am still struggling with the CP kids… I am very unconfident with them…

ARISTIŢA (pronounced “Air-ees-teet-sa”) is another tough case that I’ve hardly ventured into yet. She’s about 6 months old and profoundly deformed from her head to her little webbed hands and feet and she’s achingly skinny. I’m praying for the grace to look at these kids and not cringe in pain. I feel very immature…

FLORICA (pronounced “flor-ee-ka”) was the first baby to crawl into my heart and refuse to leave. She is the most stunningly beautiful baby I have ever seen (alongside my niece Abby, of course!) and I call her Princess because everything about her is princess-like. She’s thoroughly gypsy—and I’ve discovered I have an affinity for gypsy babies. Her dark-as-night eyes meet mine and she smiles a dainty princess smile. Her raven-black hair is a halo of perfect wispy curls. She giggles with infectious baby laughter whenever I kiss her daintily round cheek and nuzzle her neck. She is perfection packaged in a tiny baby girl. She is seven months old but her physical development is a few months behind so she seems much younger in how snuggly and cuddly she is— which I love. I hate laying her down in her crib at night and knowing that no one will be there for her in the night if she cries. Today I imagined smuggling her out of the country, her beautiful gypsy eyes hungrily taking in the world from outside the four walls of that hospital. Her Romanian name would be Florica but her English name would be Noelle and I would call her Ella and she would know what love is. I want her…

But she would have to learn to live with two brothers because I’ve also fallen in love with two little guys from across the grounds. On our first day we were shown around the various rooms ROCK works in, The Big Room being the main ROCK room. From the start I was especially drawn to a tiny, smelly, hot and humid room in a smaller building outside the main hospital because it is home to 4 ROCK babies who seem to get so much less attention and cuddle time than the others. As the day went on I asked numerous times about that room and tried to quietly assert my aching heart for the babies left lying in their hot cribs over there until finally Kari, a 23 year old missionary girl from CA who’s been here for nearly 2 years and will return home in April, asked if I’d like to go over there with her. I was dying to get to those babies. Not that the Big Room babies aren’t just as important, but all the ROCK workers were in the Big Room—they had all the attention they needed at that time.

So we tripped quietly down the stairs, across the hospital grounds, and up to the small, boiling hot room (hot because the heating is gov’t regulated so we can’t control it. We can periodically open windows but Romanians believe that open windows give people colds so they keep shutting them… even though the babies are physically sweating in their cribs). There I was greeted by the eager smile of beauty itself in the face of one of the most precious little guys I will ever know.
ALEX is a five month old gypsy baby about the size of a skinny 3 month old with huge black eyes that shine out his innocence unaffected by his circumstances and wispy black curls like my Florica’s. That first day no one seemed to know his name as he’s only been here about a week (a week is long enough to find out a baby’s name, if you ask me…) and they told us he was called Marion but we found out later it’s Alex. Alex loves bathtime and kisses and cuddles. He is a clever baby and hardly seems institutionalized except for how stiff his little body can get for lying in his crib all day and all night. Nannette says he probably won’t be here long and that most likely his parents are just leaving him here for a time, like a day care service. I want to steal him away as he’s stolen my heart away…

Also in the small sweltering room with Alex are Marion, a 2 year old autistic boy with blue eyes and blond hair and a great big smile, and Mariana, a 4 year old lovey with cerebral palsy which has so distorted her skinny little limbs that she cannot bend… I struggle very much with the CP babies, but God’s using Mariana to introduce me gently to the difficult nature of the condition. She can’t communicate but she seems to relax a little when I sing softly to her, stroking her silky black hair soft as a newborn kitten.

My third baby I will be smuggling home in about 5 weeks is a round little 4 month old named Carlos.

CARLOS is the only of “my” 3 babies that isn’t gypsy, but beautiful nonetheless, with slight brown curls with a subtle hint of red. He’s in the hospital sick with a cough that wracks his whole rotund little body and he yearns to be held, feeling insecure left in his big crib all alone. His big dark hazel eyes are clouded over with unhappiness and worry too big for a tiny 4 month old child and all I want to do is cuddle and kiss and rock away all his pain. He, like Mariana, likes to be sung to so whenever I find myself alone in that stuffy little room I sing lullaby upon lullaby, unafraid of my beautiful little audience of 4, until he falls asleep in my arms and I can lay him down to give Alex some cuddle time.

I think my main ministry these 6 weeks will be to that little half-forgotten room of treasures untold, cuddling babies and stroking soft heads while praying they’ll know and love the Lord all their lives and that courageous Romanian men and women of God will rise up to give these little ones homes.

My House Here
When Nannette and Gabi (a ROCK worker who does the driving) brought us to the team apartment where I would be spending my next 6 weeks my stomach may have turned a bit, but I wouldn’t have admitted it. We drove past block after block of identically rundown apartment buildings, remnants from communist days that only passed away 18 years ago in 1989. “Block 151” my building is called, and it’s spray-painted on the concrete wall outside the door. I don’t know how to describe it except for dirty. 4 flights of dirty stairs up a terrible smelling corridor, passed a door Nann pointed to and whispered, “the neighbour from hell” as he routinely calls the police on Nann should anyone roll their suitcase across the floor or anything like that (even though we hadn’t made a peep of sound, he stormed up here last night and shouted angrily in Romanian which is rather intimidating—especially since Nann went back to the States the other day and me and the Canadian girls would be on our own if it weren’t for Kari staying over that night!), and we came to number 77—the heavenly number :)

And opening the door to this apartment after experiencing the streets outside and the stairs coming up was like heaven. It is a lovely apartment—even for American standards! And I have a fabulous room with a humongous bed (too big for me!) and a sun-porch of my own! I leave the porch door open to let in the breeze and the sun and hear the foreign shouts of children playing in the streets below. The Canadian girls, Julie and Alanna, will be here until the 24th and then I’ll be on my own for 3 weeks before another team comes in so I’m thankful it’s so comfortable—well, except for the disgruntled neighbour, but I’ll be as quiet as a church-mouse and avoid him at all costs.

The Romanian People
The Romanian people thus far puzzle me because some seem so very warm— even strangers.

Our first day venturing out on our own without a translater, Julie, Alanna, and I were stopped at the gates of the hospital by an old security guard babbling on in Romanian. “Sorry… English?” I said hesitantly. Next thing I knew, he was hugging me and walking me to the gate under his arm with a chuckle and more Romanian babble!

Our first night walking home from the hospital Julie, Alanna and I were told by some bums on a corner that we are the most beautiful girls in Bucharest (or so Nann translated) :)
The nurses at the hospital seem mostly friendly, though too busy to love the babies, and the other ROCK workers are incredibly warm and lovely. The Romanian people seem to reach out and touch shockingly more often than the reserved English would, and I appreciate that.

But clerks in stores seem reluctant to smile (in fact, most people seem so), men we pass on the street stare at women boldly (which is slightly uncomfortable!), and one day some teenage boys on the tram, when they heard us speaking English, came and stood next to us and spoke in perfect English “I hate you” and then giggled to themselves adolescently as they got off at their stop!

I am excited to get out there and interact with the people more, though without the bridge of a common language it’s bound to be a difficult interaction. Still, these people hold the key to understanding this culture and I can’t wait to unlock and push back the door to peek in as far as I can. I can feel my heart growing attached to this place already, to its people, its plight, and even its lovely language—which is actually, they say, quite close to Italian and Spanish.

Palms held against the Wound
Please pray for continued confidence for me. Sometimes I stop to think what I’m doing—this shy, smalltown, country girl, standing on a smelly tram packed in like sardines in the middle of this foreign city filled with over 2 million strangers whom I can’t communicate with and who care nothing for me and probably wish I wasn’t in their country, and I feel overwhelmingly intimidated and small.

Lately God’s laid the verse in 1 John on my heart that says, “perfect love casts out all fear,” because it’s not just the city of long faces that is intimidating, but the gravity of the work at the hospital, the special needs babies that I sometimes fear to even touch for it looks so painful, and the constant facing up to the fact that I am not adequate for such a task as this. But that’s where Love comes in. His perfect love is adequate. His perfect love is big enough to wrap around all this pain and all the insecurities of all these aching hearts in Bucharest , in Romania , in the world, and drive away the fear that keeps us aware of our own lack. My only task is to love Him and receive His love so that I can love the ones I see around me with the love of His that flows through me.

It’s, as Donald Miller wrote in the incredible book Blue like Jazz, “as if something was broken in the world and we were supposed to hold our palms against the wound.”

I want for you strength and discernment regarding the particular wound you’re meant to hold your hands against…
Ever His,
Leah <><

p.s. I will be adding photos to the slideshow routinely so keep checking the link if you're interested!

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Netherlands, Scotland, Wales, England Yesterday-- Romania Tomorrow!

"Begin where we will, God is there first."--A.W. Tozer, A Divine Conquest

Hello Everyone and Happy New Year!

I just wanted to send a quick email to share links to pictures if you're interested (Wonderful Christmas in the Netherlands here, and Fantastic New Year's with my Mom, Dad, and little brother visiting the UK here!)...

And also to bid you farewell as I head out to Romania tomorrow-- leaving here in the night to make my flight in the morning! Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed and given. You are answers to prayers from a God who acts in ways we cannot fathom and loves to depths we cannot reach with imaginations stretched taut...

I'll be living in Romania from January 10th to February 22nd 2007.

As I prepare to depart I find that God is bathing my heart in much peace about going and I know it is due to many prayers. Thank you, thank you, thank you and please keep it up. I will be writing with firsthand observations of Romania and the babies soon!

Much love to you all.
Leah <><

"More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."--Tennyson
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