Based in Edina, MN, JSAW is an action sports ministry making riders into disciples. They integrate mentoring relationships, service projects and small group Bible studies with action sports activities, camps, trips and contests both locally and globally. jsaw.org
Pedro pastors a local church and is involved with church planting. He and his team are heavily involved in their communities with compassion ministries.
Our sister-church in Pitesti, Romania. We financially support the work of the ministry and the needs of the facility. We also send teams regularly to minister alongside our Romanian brothers and sisters.
Pastor Cristi leads our sister-church, Adunarea Speranta Vie, in Pitesti, Romania. He and his teams are heavily involved in community outreach through ministry to those living on the streets along with ministry to children and families of two different ghetto neighborhoods.
With the mission of mobilizing local churches to transform lives and our community, Love in the Name of Christ, (Love INC) is a coalition of 25 Eastern Carver county churches. Together, these churches are working to minister to families with the necessities of life and the grace of the Lord. As a ministry partner, Valley Free constructs bunk beds for families. We also partner with monthly support and helping to meet the many volunteer opportunities that come from ministering to families in our area. loveincecc.org
Valley Free partners with Dave and Cindy Just as they sponsor the annual motorcycle ride in honor of their son, Jon. The victim of a motorcycle crash, Jon left a legacy of passion and faith. To honor Jon, the JustGetRDone motorcycle event was developed to raise money for motorcycles to be given to pastors in Africa. To date, over 400 motorcycles have been donated with immeasurable impact for the kingdom of God. jonjust.com
Valley Free is part of a coalition of churches in the Twin Cities area that focuses on ministry development in Eastern Europe. Countries of focus include Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Moldova and Ukraine.
The coalition is supported by the Bible for Missions Thrift Store in Crystal, MN. Grants for specific ministry projects in Eastern Europe are made using these funds. biblesformissionscrystal.org/
Though not financially supported by Valley Free, we send work teams to one of these ministries each year. Our focus is construction, encouragement of the staff and missionaries and sharing times of worship and fellowship with the children and teens involved in these homes.
In June of 2022, Pastor Cristi sent updates on the Ukranian Ministries happening in Romania. Click below for the report.
See below for updates from Sandy and Candace who are ministering to Ukrainian refugees in Romania.
This morning I woke up to the roosters crowing in the neighbor’s courtyard. Looking out the window I sensed the springtime sun shining brightly. The tulips are pushing through the rich black soil.
After breakfast, we went to the church to take a shower. Now, that’s probably not something you would do. Pastor Cristi has been working on their shower (where we are staying) on the main floor and he hopes to be finished when we return to Pitesti late Saturday night. The church put a shower in each of the bathrooms for visiting ministry teams and for the street kid ministry. They’ve been very useful over the years.
Lazar was unpacking laminate flooring for the second floor room. Already, they were able to hire a Ukrainian man to help with this huge project. He’s making some money and settling in. I was curious to see how the church looked; each door I opened, each hall I walked came with a flood of memories of those years we were building the church and trying to walk alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ. After 10 years, we had become family. Many memories of joy and sorrow were held in those rooms. They represented God’s enduring faithfulness and provision to these people, his children. That included Mike and I! The people that remain are dedicated to serving Him. Today, it’s a different kind of mission. We will transport Ukrainians to a place of safety. And I wonder how Candace and I could be so privileged to take part in this. I was handed a cup of coffee and continued my journey through the past.
It was time to prepare to meet the bus. We made sandwiches for the long journey and packed an overnight bag. There was only enough room for the essentials! We arrived at the meeting site outside of the city and introduced ourselves to the rest of this small team. Ioana, Lavinia, and Eugin greeted us. Two bus drivers were ready to start the engine and conquer. Reminded me for just a second, my husband’s love for driving. They kept each other company and I could hear their full low voices chatter about everything pertaining to life in this part of the world. The radio is turned to a popular station and the announcers make conversation like any local radio station in the States, bantering and playing off of each other and then they retreat to play the pop music of Romania. I’ve decided that every song has a familiar strong background drum beat to this Hip-Hop melody.
I’ve never been to this part of Romania. It was always out of reach and far away. They say it’s beautiful. We drive through the evening and night hours and watch the moon follow us turning bright amber, dancing through the clouds until it transforms to a bright white globe hanging in the sky. I think to myself, this is the same moon that shines on the refugees in Ukraine while they make their way to the Romanian border. And I think, it’s time to put the peddle to the metal! We reach a rest point after five hours. It was a welcome retreat and I felt my energy return.
I’m drinking peach hibiscus tea and my heart is happy. Ioana, who is seventeen, decides to have courage and asks the bus driver if she can play her Christian music and he says, “yes!” We’re singing and worshiping together. And then one of the bus drivers comes back to discuss his questions. It’s a long conversation and he has some very good questions about God wrapped up in his Orthodox traditions. He’s not ready now to put his faith in Christ. He is wrestling in his heart about the things we share but isn’t convinced that God is who he says he is. Those who don’t speak are praying.
We are staying with friends of the Golas family in the countryside near Suceava. We sing, “What a powerful name it is, the name of Jesus.” I praise the Lord silently. Slava Domnului! I’m thankful for Ioana and her enthusiastic fervor for the Lord. She’s from Campulung, near Pitesti.
It seems like the trip went quickly to me and we are already exiting the bus and being taken to the Galan family home. Mr. Galan has heard about me from his daughter-in-law, Elena. Then I remember the sweet years with her, watching her grow up in the church. Now she lives in London with her husband and little boy, DJ.
We are crawling into bed and I ponder what tomorrow will bring, an early breakfast and then to the border.
Blessings to you,
Family & Friends,
It’s 9:24 as I begin writing this. One of our teammates, Ioana, asked if she could plug in her phone to the bus system for the rest of our ride tonight toward the border. 3 more hours. Words focused on the heart, goodness, provision, promises and power of God fill the bus .
The last few hours (and days) my mind has wondered about what is ahead. I have read material on crisis trauma and helpful ways to come alongside. Watching the news and catching a glimpse of border crossings, I’ve seen a greeter who directs the arriving refugees in their mother tongue. English may have a limited market, but I can smile and offer water, tea, soup, a small toy. I’m sure there are behind the scene needs too. Translate Now app may help me connect. Expectations can get in the way of missing the moment before us. Praying to embrace the opportunity the Lord gives. We each have a part we can play.
While we are here, Cristi wants us to get a good understanding of what the roles and needs are at the border so that he can proactively share with his church in Pitesti and contacts throughout Romania what volunteers can be a part at the Siret border crossing. These observations and the guiding and settling Ukrainians on the bus are our primary focus on this trip.
Many are thinking of the long term needs of these precious people. They need short term and then longer term housing solutions, work, childcare, medical care and so much more. At Speranta Vie they are putting down a new floor- a Ukrainian man has been hired to be part of the team. He now has at least short term work and perhaps the beginning of community here.
We have arrived at the home of the Galan Family. We are grateful for their hospitality.
Good night from Siret, Romania. (1:00am) Thank you for persevering in prayer for the people of Ukrainian.
The sun is setting on the Romanian countryside as we make our way back to Bucharest with a full bus of Ukrainian refugees. Grandmas, grandpas, lots of moms, children, a teenage boy, younger boys, a baby. Many sleeping. Faces weary, some relieved, some anxious, many thankful.The Siret border crossing is well organized with teams of 3-4 firefighters approaching each family to help carry the load. A translator joins to help facilitate where the family desires to travel next. They are guided to the bus that will take them to the next stop in their journey to escape the horrors.
Some have family, others have friends they are heading to in various countries- Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany etc.. they have left parents, husbands, friends, homes, jobs, the lives they have built as they cross over into unfamiliar territory.But in this space God’s love wraps around them. Volunteers from various countries, churches and organizations offer soup, sarmali, sandwiches, shwarma, sweets, coffee, tea. A cup of hot tea comforts a teary middle-aged woman. Tents are set up offering pharmacy items, toys, baby items, clothes. A small girl grins holding her oversized Paddington bear, but her older sister’s face remains somber. The media is here. TV. Newspaper journalists. Photographers. Recording anything a participant might share. Keep your eyes pealed Sandy and I might show up in a Canadian newspaper.We spent the day observing the heartbeat of this border crossing and sought to help in small ways and make conversation where the door opened.
One woman has 3 sons and a daughter. One in Florida, one in Bulgaria, one in the seat next to her. Her husband still in Ukraine. A doctor. Not a fighter. Tears flowed.
Two sisters 25 & 14 from Kyiv though born in Krivoy Rog (the city our Katie is from). Left parents behind. Sticking close together.
One woman left a week ago from north of Kyiv, Chernihiv, where heavy bombing has terrified and destroyed the city. The same city where a Minnesota man died from artillery fire on Thursday.To be here is to have a tragic story. We pray, as we represent Speranta Vie to offer help and Living Hope.
Ukrainian Refugee Ministry
March 21, 2022
Dear Family and Friends,
We are headed to Bucharest today. Cristi is driving, Lazar is in the passenger's seat up front and Candace, Ioana (Lazar's sister) and I are in the back seat. Our plan is to visit a gym near the airport that had been transformed into a receiving center for the refugees. I wondered what it would be like and who would we meet?
Then, half-way during the trip, Cristi received a phone call, one of many, from the mayor's office of Otopeni where the gym was located. The mayor wanted to meet us! I wondered how he knew about our foundation. Why was he interested to meet us? Cristi said that they are trying to coordinate efforts with the non-profit organizations who are helping to provide assistance for the refugees. I was surprised and pleased and felt important as we joked about it amongst ourselves. We arrived at the site and were greeted by a woman who has been in charge of the gym project. I would call her a social worker. She met us with a smile. Her husband is a doctor and they have been instrumental in organizing this effort. Immediately, we were greeted by the mayor and his entourage. He was cordial and welcoming, but there was definitely a presence of respect and control about his man. He was the one in charge! He invited us into a room with a large, long table and chairs. It was set up as his make-shift office.
There was no time for small talk as the mayor described the group of women and one child that needed a place to stay. We knew of an apartment that was donated for refugees; Eugin's family apartment was available. He had grown up in this four room apartment and no one was staying there currently. He has offered it free of charge. We came prepared with cleaning supplies to freshen up this place for someone, but we didn't know who it would be. Cristi and the mayor began a conversation to understand how we could collaborate and provide a place for these women. He took a puff off his e-Cig and continued to explain the situation they've been in for the last two weeks. Romania was expected to receive 1.5 million refugees. They haven't been ready for such a crisis. Who was? He is thankful for the non-profit organizations that can help them.
It was time for the tour and he and his escorts took us through the gym area. It was full of cots with nicely made bed linens and pillows. They were carefully lined up touching each other is straight lines. Last week, they housed 175 people. I was pleased with the this modern, clean building. The beds were clean, but arranged very close together. After a quick walk through the mayor left and the lady we had initially met introduced us to six women, a mom and a daughter and little boy who was sleeping, an aunt and her adopted daughter (parents had died previous to the war and she was in the process of adopting this young girl) and then another mom and daughter. They looked like they had been waiting a long time there. They all were unsure of who we were and it was easy to tell that they didn't know if they should trust us. I said "Hello" and this seemed to break the ice. We smiled at each other but we all knew there was a language barrier between us. They were not from the same family but they had met while running from their country. They had become friends, helping each other toward safety. It would be interesting to hear more of their story. Cristi began to tell them about the apartment, they could move in today or tomorrow.
The social worker lady translated from Romanian to Ukrainian, but their faces didn't appear too excited. Cristi assured them that we were good people, that he has a family with three children, Candace has three children and I was a mom as well. This seemed to help them understand that we were sincere to help them. I said that Candace and I were from America and had come to offer help alongside these special friends of ours. We had heard about the war on the television news and were sorry for what had happened. I told them we were sorry for what has happened and that God loved them. Candace shared about her Ukrainian heritage and that she had an adopted Ukrainian daughter. This helped them to warm up to us a bit. It was a sweet moment. We exchanged smiles and Cristi told them about the apartment. They would be leaving the gym to stay there today! Candace spotted a Ukrainian woman that sat near us. The expression on her face was sadness. Candace greeted her and gave her a hug.
We were about to leave and then the social worker wanted us to meet a family from Azerbaijan. The mayor wasn't in accord with this idea at first and there was some scuttle about respect that I didn't catch. She had returned from asking the family if they would like to meet us. She let the mayor know they were okay with this. We went back into the gym and met a beautiful family. The father was a chef and the children were well behaved. It didn't take Lazar long to start playing with the boys. He's a natural with children and they liked the attention as they slapped hands together. We couldn't speak their language. It sounded similar to Turkish and we were trying to land on a phrase we could all understand. I could sense they were comfortable with us and eager to know if there was a place for them to live. I could have stayed there much longer. I knew I could communicate with someone somehow. Cristi summoned for us to leave. We had a lot to do today.
It took a while to reach the apartment through the awful thick traffic of the day. We entered the dark hallway and when I saw the state of affairs I thought, "We have our work cut out for us today." Even though there were five of us to do this job, we were outnumbered by the cockroaches. Dead bug carcasses were everywhere. I had to bend down to believe what I saw and "yes", they were nasty! We quickly made a plan and Candace took the bathroom, Lazar worked in a bedroom and his sister worked in another bedroom. I, of course, took the kitchen. This place was a disaster! There were old mattresses and seriously old broken furniture and spider webs and
I don't think anyone had cleaned there for 25 years. It smelled and was reminiscent of communist days. Nothing had been updated. We put on our gloves and went to work. I started with washing the dishes and as I lifted up the dish dryer stand, I screamed as the roaches scattered. I quickly realized they were much smaller than I. I was ready to conquer because they had startled me! I scraped off spattered oil, cleaned the stove top, wiped off all the surfaces and wiped out the cupboards and refrigerator. It took quite a while to make a difference. It least it smelled better. We all worked hard tonight. I asked Lazar to order pizza; we were all hungry. It was good to pray and think about the women who would live here. Would they settle in well? Would they be there very long? How would they survive in this strange city? They have so many needs.
We were glad to head back to Pitesti. It was a long day of traveling and hard work and planning. We will be going back tomorrow to finish cleaning and buy necessary items to set up the apartment. We will need to go to the market to stock up the essentials. They will be arrive tomorrow.
I've decided that I love my home in Chaska, Minnesota. It's a lovely little house. I have plenty of food in my cupboard and I have the best husband who stands by me. These women don't have these precious things.
Blessings to you,
Ukrainian Refugee Ministry
March 21, 2022
From Candace Wisely
Dear Family and Friends,
Cami and Cristi live on a long street in Pitesti. They, like we Minnesotans, find 38 degrees in March to be a lovely day for getting outside. Cami and I agreed to enjoy a brisk morning walk this beautiful spring day to get some exercise. The first 2 miles were downhill and the return trip well obviously…uphill. Time talking with her about life and family and hopes and what God is teaching us blessed my heart.
Plans for today included seeing and helping clean a four room apartment that has been offered for refugees in a suburb of Bucharest. Cristi is well connected in the country as he leads Speranta Vie Foundation and on the way received a call from the mayor’s office in Otopeni to discuss and coordinate plans that are being carried out for the sake of the Ukrainians. We met at the gym that has been set up for a temporary place to stay with ~250 beds. It was bright and clean and well organized. Prepared meals of soup and bread were being brought in by volunteers. As nice as it is, the heartache for those needing to stay there was evident in their eyes. A hug offered to a beautiful younger woman induced tears - she seemed to say thank you for seeing me and acknowledging the pain. I pray the Lord meet her in this terrible time of heartache and loss.
We met the 3 family groups that are going to move into the apartment we were going to clean. They would be brought later in the day. An older mother, daughter and her 9 year old son. A mother and daughter. A young aunt who is adopting her niece who’s mother died before the war. Adoption paperwork not yet completed. They all have found each other in this crisis and would like to stay together. The apartment should help them to navigate this new place together.
I had seen a video of the apartment and knew that it was going to be some work to prepare. Good thing there were 5 of us along committed to this project. Upon arriving it was quickly evident, even with good intentions, we wouldn’t be ready for the families tonight. Cristi called to let them know we would aim to have it prepared by tomorrow afternoon. We scrubbed and set aside garbage that will be picked up by a garbage crew in the morning. We plan to go to IKEA in the morning also and purchase the basic items needed to helps these ladies make a place for themselves, at least in the short term.
We see God’s hand in weaving together resources for the care of people. Thank you for being a part of this story through your prayers. My niece has suggested I post the giving link for our church that is funneling your donations to the work here for refugees. Please don’t feel pressure. If you have wanted to give and don’t know where to then this is one very good option.
Valley Free - choose the Ukraine Ministry Fund. https://app.clovergive.com/App/Giving/vall150162?fbclid=IwAR1Pxk4mEyeAa9ROGOjESM9YPAZShAoh6WTs9owZ7CoK1tyZrGOojcksKb4
Grateful to God for the honor to serve here,
Ukrainian Refugee Ministry
March 22, 2022
Family and friends,
Today we learned more of the stories of the 3 families we were setting up an apartment for in Bucharest. The little boy, age 9, became sick with pneumonia for while in a bomb shelter for 15 days. He is much better now and loves classic boy stuff like soccer and superheroes. We had a good time kicking the ball around in the hallway. One of the ladies has a boyfriend in Ukraine she is concerned for. One speaks some Romanian which will help this group adapt. Another has a reasonable base of English and knows how to use her phone to translate in conversations. They all want to get to the embassy ASAP and register so they can find work and be able to support themselves. The mayor we met yesterday has told Cristi their office can help with that. We see many people working together to serve this precious population of refugees.
To further prepare the apartment for these 3 families we made a run to IKEA first thing this morning to get the basics. Bunk bed frames, a dining room table, pots, pans, dishes, silverware, cups, glasses, cutting board, knives, wash clothes, towels, and other basics.
Putting together IKEA furniture is not for the faint of heart. Fortunately our team was perfectly put together by God again today, and Andrei took on the task with skill and wisdom to assemble the bunk beds by carefully following the directions. I enjoyed helping him with what became a 6 hour project. While we worked on this other were cleaning, laying carpet, washing the new dishes, arranging the kitchen, purchasing and installing a new refrigerator, fixing bathroom plumbing, changing lightbulbs…let’s just say that apartment got a bit of a makeover.
Cristi got a call mid afternoon from the mayor’s office that the families were on the way, well before we were ready to call them to say the place was ready. The blessing of their early arrival was that we were able to have more time to build a relationship with them. We all had a terrific pizza dinner from the cafe across the street. Afterward Sandy gave a lesson to the ladies in Romanian numbers and money. She is as cute as cute can be when she is teaching! She remembers what it was like to be new in the country and would help as they venture out tomorrow to buy groceries and get to know the area.
Around 10pm we headed back to Pitesti after a long Minnesota goodbye. We pray they can settle in and sleep well tonight.
Ukrainian Refugee Ministry
March 22, 2022
Dear Family and Friends,
Back on the road after a good breakfast of fried eggs, salam, toast, olives and cucumbers, we were Bucharest bound once again. We think Cristi looks a little like a Romanian Jesus, with his longer hair and beard. After we had filled up the gas tank (Yes, it's very expensive here!) We were chatting and I laughed and said to Candace, "Look, we have Jesus driving us today with Lazarus at his side! They have both risen!" We laughed as I gaze out onto the light green fields of spring. I think I know every single kilometer of this road by now, but I don't mind. It's a wonderful chance to be together and do something that helps someone get on their feet after leaving all they know, running for their lives.
Cristi, Candace and I went to IKEA today to buy household items for the six women and one little boy that would be moving into the apartment we were preparing. We bought a lot of essentials for their new home. They needed dishes, silverware, a few pots and pans, all the necessary items to be able to make soup and other simple dishes. We had a good time selecting items that would be appropriate for these new friends. We bought one large table and four bunk beds as well. We loaded up the truck and headed to Sector 6 once again.
The traffic is crazy busy here in Bucharest. There are so many cars on the road that I think I could get to my destination faster if I walked. Cars honking, what we used to call "horn fellowship". We arrived and I was back in the kitchen scrubbing those dirty floor boards, washing windows and scraping grease off the floor. I washed the new dishes and placed them on the open shelf while thinking about the women. I'm sure they wondered where they were going today and what it would be like. They would need to talk with us. There was one young lady that spoke English fairly well. Victoria was easy to talk with and even though she didn't understand everything we said, she smiled and kept trying. She helps the rest of the group understand what was being said. She used a translation app for the more difficult phrases. While I was putting the finishing touches on the kitchen, I remembered I had a yellow and blue ribbon in my backpack. This was the perfect time to leave something special. I tied it together and laid it next to the plates and prayed that God would bless them here in this new place. Today, we had a larger team to help finish cleaning. Lazar and his wife, Lavinia, Lavinia's mom, Andre had some to Bucharest as well. Eugin joined us after he was finished with work.
Cristi bought some thin carpet to lay down in all of the rooms. It helped to cover the broken up linoleum that was most likely installed 30-40 years ago. Andrei and Candace assembled the bunkbeds in each of the two bedrooms. You know, the kind where it takes most of the day to put together. They liked it so much that they put three more together! Lazar, Cristi and Eugin worked on the long white table. I would walk through the living room, the floor was covered with piles of pieces needed to assemble this table. Needless to say, the directions were complicated. It's finished and set up in the living room and large enough for all seven. A few times, when we turned on the vacuum cleaner, it would overload the circuit and Eugin or Cristi would need to replace a fuse. We were still not ready and yet, it was time for the women to arrive. Cristi went to pick them up. After quite a long time, I decided to go to the market to buy bread, jam, tea and coffee, towels and soap. Walking to the market, only a couple of long blocks away, I remembered the many times I had done this in the past.
When I returned to the flat, Cristi had arrived with the six women and one four year-old boy. We helped them with their luggage and we all settled into the apartment. I think they were glad to be there. Most of them showed pleased expressions on their faces. I felt a sigh of relief and quickly put down my bags and greeted them. We all sat down around the white table that had been assembled just 15 minutes earlier. I was a little nervous and wondered how we were going to communicate. It was meeting time and there were a few things to discuss about the apartment. Cristi asked how long they wanted to stay in Romania. Victoria spouted, "We want to stay here and find a job and work." I was pleased to hear that she had enough courage and strength to think like this. She and her other two friends, Angelica and Livia were from Odessa. They had come to Romania by ferry. Victoria worked at a business in Odessa where they distributed citrus fruits. She is young and smart and beautiful and knows what she wants. She asked us if we could show them how to get to the Ukrainian Embassy, there was paperwork that needed to be taken care of for them to be able to work in this foreign country. Mateu sat on Cristi's lap like they were old buddies. There were times when Victoria typed in a phrase we wanted to say and it would translate into Ukrainian. They laughed a few times at the incorrect translation. After our meeting, the pizza arrived. We were all hungry. A little while later, we made tea in the kitchen. I thought to myself, "If they only knew what this place looked like when we first started cleaning." I have visions! They were glad to sip on the fruit tea, I think it helped them to relax. I apologized that we didn't have sugar yet. Mateu gets out his action figures and lines them up on the chair and this is Candace's que to bend down and play, too. It is fun to see this connection.
I've been looking forward to this moment. I wanted to connect with these ladies. We've done the heavy lifting of cleaning and setting up this apartment for them. I decided to teach them a little Romanian, some useful words that would be helpful when they shop for food. We had a good time engaging in this activity. Even the young 11-year old girl who didn't say one thing was glad to learn and shout out what she had captured. We weren't planning to return to Bucharest tomorrow and they would need to go to the market and buy the food they needed. I loved that time with them. I remember being in their shoes, wondering how to purchase something but I couldn't say very much because it was all so new to me. I taught them to count and then held up Romanian Leu to see if they could recite the amount I had. I hoped this would be helpful for them in these early days living in Romania. They had only been here for 4 days.
By this time, all the beds were finished and we were very tired and ready to drive back to Pitesti. Cristi explained that if they needed him in case of an emergency, they should call him. We were back in the car and recalling everything that happened today. After a day like this, I'm thinking I want to stay longer and Candace reminds me that we have return airline tickets that can be extended.
It was a fine day full of adventure and fulfillment. I will treasure these memories and the time we spent with the ladies from Ukraine. God has been faithful to show us why he called us here for this time.
Blessings to you,
Ukrainian Refugee Ministry
March 20, 2022
It's Sunday morning. We returned to Cristi and Cami's house at around 2:15am. My heart was full with all that we had experienced yesterday in Siret, at the border. We had said farewell to the refugees who got off the bus at the airport, the train station and a bus station in Bucharest. Most of them seemed to have a final destination in mind and this was just the first transfer to their next stop. Some of them went on to Bulgaria, some waited at the airport, and others took the train. I have heard of a "gym" near the airport that has been set up for refugees. They were tired and saw some smiles.
One mom carried her six month old baby wrapped like a cocoon down the bus stairway with two other children by her side. Some of the kids were holding stuffed bears, horses and toy cars as they patiently waited while their moms were getting ready to move forward. Candace quickly offered to hold the baby while she claimed her luggage from the baggage bin under the bus. We had accomplished our task, they were safely transported to their next destination. It was another hour's journey until we reached Pitesti and I sat back and recounted the day's events. What a day it was!
Sunday morning! I was anticipating going to church with my Romanian friends. I quickly jumped out of bed and got ready for the day and headed down for breakfast. Candace asked me how she should greet everyone when we meet them. I said an easy and meaningful greeting would be "pace", appropriate for this day. Pace means peace. Christians here greet each other saying, "Har si pace voa" (Grace and peace to you) Huum . . . where have I heard that before? We drove to the church and were greeted by many familiar faces. The room was filled with chatter and they were enjoying coffee and tea before the service. There were so many people I wanted to spend time with as we caught eyes and greeted each other with a quick peck on each cheek. The worship team was beginning to play and we quickly found a seat. I looked forward to singing with them.
The memories came flooding back. I had learned a lot of Romanian by singing those songs of worship over the years. I was able to translate a bit for Candace and it was meaningful to recite the words of worship to her in English - Almighty God, You never tire, You stay near me, You help me through trouble, You know my pain and you lift me up on eagle's wings. This song originated in English, but this is my translation from Romanian. It was sweet to sing with them again and a privilege to worship with my brothers and sisters. They sing with passion and it is evident that they love God with all their hearts.
We prayed many times during the service for people of the church, for Ukraine and for God to fill us with his Word. Today's sermon was about the wonderful grace of God and how we can, in difficult times of poverty and trials, share with others with joyful hearts. It was a timely message and I could ponder what God might be teaching me. I was distracted as I looked around and watched others take notes and focus on Pastor Cristi's message. I asked myself, "Is that Doamna D over there? Look at how Andrei's family has grown! The older man sitting toward the middle of the room was taking a couple of puffs from his nebulizer, but I don't think I know him". God had put together this group of believers to worship him. They are walking together and serving one another. It's really quite beautiful. God is building his church. I'm grateful for the church I'm part of at home and I'm changed because of this experience.
It was hard to leave after the service and I was full of joy catching up on everyone's lives.
We came back to the house and ate a delicious lunch of Supa de perisoare (meatball soup), sarmale (cabbage rolls), lots of bread, salada de beuf (salad with potatoes and beef and other yummy things) and cakes. Sammy, his wife Ruth, and their children joined us and they talked about their missionary work with the Gypsies. They live in Sibiu, about 3 hours away, and have been involved in this Gypsy ministry for a few years. It was a delight to listen to their stories.
I'm glad this is the day of rest! It's been a very full and eventful week and I've felt my body's energy drain, like my cell phone from time to time. I need to plug in and recharge! We've enjoyed some great conversations with Cristi and Cami this evening. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we plan to drive to the "City of Joy" otherwise known as Bucharest. We hope to visit the gym that's been set up for refugees, to help a family clean and move into an apartment that's been donated for refugees, and meet Zhenya and her sister and children. Grace and peace to you, good night.