These past two weeks have been a whirlwind for Isaac and me! We traveled across the world, spent a week in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and now I’m getting ready to go back to school next week. This summer has flown by, but it was one of the best ones I’ve had in a while, and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.
Our time in Romania was amazing. As I mentioned in my previous post, we had been praying about going on an overseas mission trip for a while, and when the opportunity to go to Romania came up, we felt like God was calling us there. I am so glad we went! This mission trip was different from all the others I’ve been on. Instead of focusing on evangelism and sharing the gospel, we focused on encouraging, strengthening and loving on the local pastors and churches there.
It was hard at the beginning, since I felt like we weren’t doing much. But then I remembered my times as a missionary kid and how much we looked forward to seeing people from the States, and how refreshing their time with us was. We were there to equip the local leaders to go out and share the gospel, to give them the only break the get all year, and fellowship with other believers. It was incredible, and I ended the trip feeling more refreshed and invigorated than when we started! Even though we went to Romania to teach others, they taught me so much as well.
On our trip we spent two days in Alba Iulia, three days in Ranca and about 2 1/2 days traveling. To make things easier for y’all (and me!) I decided to divide this post into the cities we visited, the things we saw while traveling and all the yummy food we tried. I pray that as you see the things we did and the places we visited that one thing stand out above all others- that all glory, honor and praise be given to the one true God. He created the beautiful scenery we saw. Through Him we have a bond with other believers that cannot be explained outside of Christ. And because of Him we have peace and hope that transcends all understanding.
We spent Sunday and Monday in Alba, where we stayed at a host home and worked around the city. The host home we were at was incredible, and they spoiled us to much! We ate some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tried (hellooo homemade chicken cordon bleu and apricot jam!), they had some adorable Alaskan Malamutes and their house was gorgeous. I left inspired to try some new things in the kitchen when we got home. Just check out what we had for breakfast every morning there!
On Sunday morning we visited a church a little outside of Alba with one of the couples we were with, Bryan and Whitney. Bryan preached from Haggai about obeying the Lord and turning our lives back to Lord and away from the distractions and comforts the world offers us. That afternoon Paolo and Madalina (our host home family’s son and his wife) took us off roading up some mountains around Alba. The view was incredible, and we had a blast.
Monday morning we spent exploring the citadel and on a private tour by one of the pastor’s sons. We saw the changing of the guards, a Catholic church that is over 1,000 years old and a museum. In the citadel there is also a huge Greek Orthodox church that stood next to the Catholic one. The citadel was surrounded by a moat (which is now a pretty path you can walk on), and there’s a huge fountain outside of it that was so impressive!
That evening, Whitney, Kelli and I headed over to Jochebed Pregnancy Center for a women’s meeting there. This pregnancy center is one of the few in Romania that encourages keeping your baby instead of aborting, and the ladies who came were all moms who had gone to the center for one reason or another. Because of the strong Orthodox influence in Romania, talking about God and sharing the gospel quickly shuts people down. At this women’s meeting, where the ladies weren’t very open to the gospel, we talked about the importance of taking care of your child’s oral hygiene, being involved in their life at home and at school, and how to be the parent God wants us to be. We had some great conversations, and I really enjoyed the time we spent there.
On Wednesday morning we climbed into a van with 10 pastors and their wives and started our 4 hour trip up the mountains from Alba to Ranca. It was a long, windy drive, but when we arrived it was all worth it. The views in Ranca are incredible! Ranca is a small mountain town that is very rustic, but the perfect place to relax, soak in the beauty of God’s creation and get away from the city.
While there, the men went through 1 Timothy and the women talked about renewing our minds (focusing on Romans 12:1-2) in our breakout sessions. We went on walks and hikes, took naps and ate some good food. It was so relaxing and refreshing for us. I also taught a painting class to the women, which was a lot of fun. I was surprised by how easily it came to the ladies, even with the language barrier! The time we spent in Ranca was amazing, and I enjoyed the fellowship we had with the people there, as well as learning some Romanian and laughing along with them.
On Thursday we drove up to a little group of shops where we bought souvenirs to bring home. There were so many things to look at, and even though it was super foggy, the view was beautiful (of course!). On the way up there we passed lots of sheep on the side of the road, which was fun to look at. And guys, you have NO idea how scary those roads are.
On Friday morning before we left, Isaac and I decided to tackle the mountain that we had been staring at the past few days. We knew we’d be sitting for the next two days in a bus, van and airplane, so the hike sounded wonderful. However, we didn’t realize just how steep it was to the top. Y’all, I’ve never climbed something that tough before! With the combination of the elevation and tough terrain, we were exhausted by the time we reached the top. But we did it, and I’m so glad we pushed through. The view was breath-taking, and our legs were nice and tired for the journey home. We also had a cute dog join us for most of our hike. He kept us laughing and it was fun to watch him jump around and play as we climbed.
As I mentioned before, we spend a LONG time traveling. If you kept up on Snapchat, you saw we flew from DFW to Chicago to Berlin and then to Bucharest. The flights added up to about 13 hours in the air, not counting layover time. When we got to Berlin, we were surprised to actually walk off the plan onto the tarmac, which I haven’t done since I lived in Ecuador over ten years ago. The Berlin airport was also very interesting, because it looked more like a warehouse than an actual airport! The drive from Bucharest to Alba is about 4 hours, so by the time we got to our host home on Saturday evening we were ready to pass out.
On our drive from Alba to Ranca, we stopped at a dam in the mountains to walk around, buy some food at some stalls that were set up (the bread there was amazing) and take some pictures. It was a nice little break, and the cool breeze off the lake was so refreshing. We also passed a gypsy camp, which was incredible to look at.
Friday was the start of our long two days of travel. We left Ranca, drove to a little outside of Alba (about a 4 hour drive), got on a van that was waiting for us, then went on to Bucharest (another 8-9 hours). Luckily I had taken enough Dramamine and was wearing my Seabands, so the driving didn’t make me sick at all and I was able to enjoy the views as we drove. After a four hour “nap” at our hotel in Bucharest, we left for the airport and didn’t touch down in DFW for another 24 hours. We missed our connecting flight in Chicago by only 2 minutes, and had to wait about 4 hours for the next flight with enough seats. It was a long, long day, but getting to see my family and Lillie when we got here made it all worth it!
Now for the fun part- the food! The cuisine in Romania revolves around fresh cheese, bread, pork, chicken, sausage, polenta, potatoes and lots of fresh tomatoes and cucumber. We tried some… interesting things like chicken livers and tripe soup, but for the most part it was all delicious.
Mici: traditional Romanian dish of grilled ground meat rolls made from a mixture of beef, lamb and pork with spices
Cucumber and tomato salad, dressed with olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper
Ciorba de Burta: tripe soup with smantana (sour cream)
Figarui de Pui: chicken kabobs with peppers, onions and mushrooms
Tochitura: a Romanian stew made from cubed pork and sausage with a side of mamaliga (polenta) topped with an egg and cheese
Papanas: a kind of doughnut, boiled or fried and served with fruit syrup or jam and sour cream
Rolou de Pui cu Ciuperci: chicken roll up filled with cheese and mushrooms
Snitel de Porc: pork schnitzel
Sarmale: minced meat with rice, wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves
Carnati si Fasole: sausage and beans
Pork leg (delish) with a side of fries
As you can see, we had an incredible time, and we can’t wait to go back someday! Please keep the pastors and their wives in your prayers, as well as the churches in Romania. May they be bold to proclaim the gospel and obedient to the Lord. And above all else, may all glory be given to God!