Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Candle for Easter

What do you do to prepare for Easter? Grandmother lights this candle. Whenever I visit our Moldovan partners Petru & Olesea Ciochina, I also spend some time with Petru's grandmother. They live on the same plot of land on the edge of Nisporeni. This time Grandmother told me, as usual, about her arthritis. She shared her concern for a son who lives in the conflict area in eastern Ukraine. And when I commented on her unusual candle, she showed me how to make one.
1. Take a clear glass and fill it with oil. Any oil will do. She uses sunflower seed.
2. Roll a wick from combed cotton. She got the cotton from the pharmacy. She showed me how she spun it into a wick on her knee (!).
3. Punch a hole in the lid to a metal can. Pull the wick through and light.
She told me she burnt the candle all through Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. She had made some for the neighbors, too, who also followed this custom. When asked why, she said because the church told her to. Maybe young people didn't follow that anymore, she said, but she did what the church told her to.
In her case, the church is Eastern Orthodox. The candle stands in a corner set aside for an icon and other religious symbols.

Translation difficulties kept me from probing deeper into the meaning of the candle for Grandmother. Nothing, however, keeps me from asking the same questions of myself. What do I do to prepare for Easter? And why do I do it?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Police Target Women on Streets of Tirgu Mures

Last Sunday, March 8, we were in downtown Tirgu Mures, Romanian. 
We noticed the police were only stopping cars with women drivers. 
What they did, 
once they had stopped the women, 
was truly extraordinary. 

They gave them 
flowers and a gift bag. 
March 8 is International Women's Day.* The drivers stopped looking worried and drove away looking pleasantly surprised.

The 8th of April is also an International Day--of the Romany. Our team celebrates this each year by putting together a week-long prayer guide. A new post with prayer requests will appear each day, April 5-11. Feel free to pray--or use the prayer guide--all year round. 
(By the way, most women like to get flowers all year round, too.)

*In former communist-block countries, this is emphasized even more than Mother's Day. Since every woman is a woman (but not every one happens to be a mother), this strikes me as not such a bad idea.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Men Who Dare

These are the men who dared slog through the mud to attend church in the Romany village of Vulcanesti, Moldova. There were slightly more women on this muddy afternoon, but let's take a look at these men of God.
Far left:  Pastor Petru Ciochina. Next to him:  Grecia (George), one of the long-term church members. He married a Romany woman and raised his children in this Romany village. A hard worker who would prefer to work at home, but he cannot find work in Moldova. He had returned from working in Russia just a while before.
The man in the glasses was the first to come. He listened attentively. The tall young man next to him is Mecrie. He and his wife decided to follow Jesus last year after the birth of their son Ruslan. His wife Ana was not there that evening. She was in the capital, Chisenau, in a medical facility with Ruslan. Ruslan has scarecely been home since his birth. Doctors in Moldova are unable to diagnose why the baby cannot lift his head, can hardly breath on his own, and does not seem to be developing normally. But no matter what the future holds for his young son, Mecric is determined to continue following Jesus.
Walter, the young man in the cap, is also a father. He comes faithfully to church even though his wife does not. He has helped out with summer day camp programs for the village church.
Vania, the one with the guitar, has helped out, too. He grew up in the church (son of Grecia). In fact, this winter the church is meeting in a spare room of their house. He is a graduate from the Moldovan Bible College.
Other men from the church are out of the country, mostly in Russia. They have had to go there to earn enough to feed their families. They continue to be in fellowship with the pastor and with one another through the very electronic medium that allows you to read about them. Russian-language facebook, mobile phones, and Skype chats as well as calls help keep the brothers connected with each other, and have just now connected them with you, too.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Preparing for Church

Do you change shoes to get read for church?

That's what we did when we went to Bethlehem Baptist in the Romany village of Vulcanesti. (This is Pastor Petru Ciochina booting up.)

We women didn't change into our heels, though.

No, tramping through these streets requires rubber rain boots, at least.

Not many slogged their way through the mud to the room where services are held in the winter.

Those who did arrived laughing and smiling, though. One has to do such ridiculous things to get to worship, that you either have to laugh or stay at home. (And the aerobic exercise of jumping puddles and staying upright with an growing amount of slippery mud on your shoes might contribute to good spirits, too.)

 The Lord moves in mysterious ways. And sometimes His followers do, too.

Friday, March 6, 2015

What I Learned at the Ruth School

The older grades at the Ruth School in Bucharest, Romania, had been unruly, as preteens and teenagers tend to be everywhere. Moving from class to Wednesday morning chapel  had been a good excuse to try to impress fellow students and ignore teachers. The girls, a distinct minority in these upper grades, settled down quietly in the first row. But even the boys in the very back sat still and paid attention when Skyler Daniel stood up and said, “Today I want to tell you the story of me and Ronella.”
Ronella interacting with preschoolers
Skyler and Ronella Daniel have been teaching at the Ruth School for the past two years. Ronella has taught children with special needs. Skyler has led weekly chapel services, co-taught Technology classes, and assisted in English homework. But one of the most important lessons they have offered the kids they’ve come in contact with has been to model a healthy, Christian relationship. Skyler is leading a series of chapel services on this topic. This first one focused on being Christ-centered and practicing respect. He hoped his words would help the students form a healthy future. His actions towards Ronella and their infant daughter have been already done so.