Saturday, August 24, 2013

Romania Part Five: Not in Kansas Anymore

The pastor at the church we worked with in Romania is a VERY hard-working man who is constantly helping others.  Whenever we were out with him, either visiting families or driving to villages or just going to the grocery, his phone would ring multiple times.  He was constantly getting calls from someone who needed him for something.  One time he even got an URGENT call to pick out new floor/wall tiles for the church restrooms.  You haven't LIVED until you've helped pick out tile in the Romanian Home Depot, let me tell you.  I think that Pastor Bill (our pastor from America) found a new Spiritual Gift--he's got a great eye for tiles.

The pastor in Romania is also kind of the go-to guy for all of the pastors in the area.  So he has connections to many different people and churches in nearby villages.  And some of the greatest, most humbling, most memorable experiences from my trip was getting to see some of these village churches.

Even just getting to the villages was an experience.  We piled up in the pastor's van and rode out to remote places, sometimes about 45 minutes to an hour away.  The countryside was just beautiful.  The rolling hills and distant mountains, the fields and livestock, well, it reminded me of where I grew up in Kentucky--only prettier.  I can't tell you how many pictures I took just of the Romanian countryside.  Oh, I guess I could show a few pics, though.

I should have also taken some pictures of the actual villages, but I didn't want to look like a crazy American tourist.  But it was interesting.  There were a few times when we had to stop and wait for goat or sheep herds to cross the road.  I mean, it was stuff you see in movies and don't realize it's real until you're right there.  And then it's right there.  And you realize it's someone's normal life, every single day. That's more than a little bit mind blowing.
The first village we visited (and I'm probably going to spell it wrong) was called Hernova.  About 80 people showed up to their small, but very nice little church building.  There was a little stove to heat the building in winter.  During the service, a guy played the accordion.  It was so beautiful and quaint and amazing--I almost pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
It all was even more remarkable when I learned that just two years ago when my pastor and other team members went, that little village church only had about 16 people.  The lovely little building was only a concrete slab foundation.  But God is at work in that little village and in the church.  I gave my testimony there, which is just a story about how God has used all my weaknesses as opportunities to show His strength.  I'm not sure how well that went over in that culture, in that place that is so different from everything I've ever experienced, but it was real and true, and I hope God used it to at least encourage those beautiful people.
And there was also something magical (the C.S. Lewis type, not the Harry Potter type) about worshipping with those people.  I was reminded of Revelation, where every tribe and nation and tongue is going to be bowing before the Throne, singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain."  Mmm.
The next village we visited didn't even have a building for their church.  We met on benches outside.  A missionary named Gabriel travels to that village and others with a keyboard and small sound system.  There he preaches and sings and even does some songs with the kids.  The kids performed a couple of songs for us.  I couldn't understand their words, but one of them had hand motions--it was obvious they were saying that "Jesus loves me, Jesus loves you, Jesus loves everyone" or something very close to that. 
I also gave my testimony there, which was nerve-racking, but it would have been even more so had I realized I was speaking to a lot of the Roma Gypsies who had attended that service.  We tried talking to a few of them after the service, but only a few seemed interested.  They like to keep to themselves because society treats them as outsiders (to put it mildly).  I'm not sure, but I also think my general paleness was shocking and offensive to them :-). We did manage to speak to one lady (with the help of a translator).  She told us she was not a Believer, but she likes coming to hear from God's Word.  I think many of the people who came that night, who come to many of the services, are unsaved.  But they like coming to hear the Word.  Please keep them in your prayers.

There is another village we visited, but that's for another blog post.

Before I log off this one though, I want to mention one other experience.

One of the families we visited was very poor, as is the case with many families in Romania.  This family had 12 children, some of which were grown and had moved away to work, but still.  Twelve children!  The dad worked, but he had been injured (and I don't think the injury was going to keep him from going back to work, even though it really should have--his foot was completely black and blue).  The family lived in what I would describe as a glorified concrete slab.  It was a house in that it had doors and windows--fairly standard ones, but it was basically a concrete slab.

They welcomed us inside it and talked to us (in Romanian, with translation) about how their family had lost their other home in a fire.  They described how one child had woken up and alerted the rest of the family.  They described how one child hadn't made it out, and how another one of their children had run back inside and rescued her.  They were so grateful they had all made it out safely.  The mother and father were both in tears over how God had given the family safety, how God continued to give them all health.  The dad wasn't complaining about his injury; he was praising God that he was healthy in other ways.  He and his wife were praising God that they had all they needed.  They were so, so grateful.  Living in a concrete slab with so many mouths to feed, they didn't stop praising God from the moment we entered their home.

It's another world.  It's one I am grateful I got to see, just for a moment.  I got to see into the everyday lives of people who have so little, of people who are grateful for what little they have.  Here in America, we have so many resources, and yet we are so lazy.  And I'm not trying to be judgmental, an I'm talking to myself as much as I am to anyone.  But God allowed me a little window into this remarkable world, and I'll never be the same.  I hope you have the opportunity to go sometime, to Romania, to another place where people live so differently, where people have so little, but are grateful for it.  It will change your life.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Romania Part 4: Meeting the Missionaries

I have mentioned in the past few blogs that one of the things we did in Romania was lead little Bible Schools.  We did the first one of these at the church in the little courtyard.  The second and third ones we did at a nearby park.  I liked having it at the park because other people who were just visiting the park came to see what we were doing.  A lot of them came to play the games, listen to the Bible stories, and make crafts.

The crafts were pretty lame, actually.  We had only brought some limited supplies with us--index cards and stickers being the main things.  I had also brought my knitting bag with me, you know, to knit stuff if I got bored, so we had yarn to use.  And my sharpest knitting needles made a pretty good impromptu hole punch. 

Yeah.  Actually it didn't.  But we made do with what we had.  And the lameness of our crafts really didn't matter.  The kids still wanted to make them.  I'm not just talking about 3 year old kids who are impressed by glitter crayons.  Ok.  Honestly.  I'm impressed by glitter crayons, too.  But my point is, kids of ALL ages--teenagers included--wanted to participate in the crafts, in the stories, in the silly songs, in everything that we were doing. 

They wanted to meet the missionaries. 

They wanted to sing our songs and hear us speak.  They wanted to do whatever we were doing.  There was something magical to them about being around people who had come to them from another country.  It really was almost like we were celebrities.

Ashley, a member of our team, signing autographs for the children.

I think I also mentioned in a previous blog that I'm shy and awkward.  I mean, I do better with children because I work with them for a living, and I'm around them all the time.  But meeting and getting along with new people isn't really high up on my skill set. 

The thing is, when I really really try to push myself to talk to people, that's when things go really badly.  I've tried in the past to push myself to talk to strangers, and I even tried on this trip.  It always leads to awkward failure. 

But the thing about being an "American celebrity," a missionary that people wanted to meet, was that I usually didn't have to try too hard to meet people.  Kids wanted to talk to me.  Adults wanted to talk to me.  Young adults wanted to talk to me.

One young woman in particular made a pretty big impact on me.  After our last Bible school, I was putting my knitting needles away and cleaning up some of the scrap yarn and note cards that the kids had scattered all over the park, when a sixteen year old girl called me over to talk to her.  I wasn't making any effort to be social or anything.  She just wanted to talk to me (and she spoke very good English, which made things a bit easier :-D).

So I sat down and talked to her for a few minutes.  And when I'm not forcing the situation, really amazing things tend to happen. 

As I talked to this remarkable young woman, she told me about her heart.  She reminded me a little of myself when I was her age.  She talked about some anxieties she had about starting a new school, but mostly, she talked about wanting to know God's will for her life.  Throughout our brief conversation, she mentioned several times about how she wanted to follow God and know Him better.  She even mentioned that she wanted to be a missionary, and she pointed to me.  I really didn't think about myself as a missionary, even though I was on a "mission trip."  But the thing is, every Christian should be a missionary, no matter where he or she is.  And I think I was able to offer up a little encouragement.  I remember being sixteen, unable to sleep, staring at the ceiling in my bedroom at night, begging God to show me His will for my life.  I wanted to know His will--some big thing that I was meant to do forever. 

But life doesn't work like that and God doesn't work like that.  And I was able to communicate a little of my experiences to her.  If we're faithful in the little things we know we're supposed to be doing, like reading our Bibles and praying, like loving your neighbor, etc., then God would be faithful to lead in the bigger things.  I think that was a little bit of an encouragement to her, and I know her sweet willing spirit was a blessing to me.

She had one more thing she wanted to say that was very encouraging.  She asked me specifically to bring a prayer request back to the Church in America.

If you're a Christian in America, this prayer request was for you.  This young woman asked for the Church in America to pray that there will be more opportunities for adult and young adult Bible studies in Romanian churches.  At the church she attends (the one we were working with), there are no Bible study classes for adults or teenagers.  And she was asking for prayer that more would be available, because she wants herself and others to be closer to God.

I think her request shows that she has a lot of vision for the Romanian church, which was refreshing, because it seems like the vast majority of the young adults in Romania just want out.  They want out of the country.  They want to move away somewhere else.  They don't see that there's much of a future for Romania.  But this young lady seemed to have a different, refreshing perspective.  She seems to see that God isn't done with Romania or the churches in Romania.  And I think that she might very well be one of the future leaders in her church.

In fact, she's already leading.  She and several of the other young adults at the church did an incredible job leading the music on the Sunday night that we were there.  And also on that Sunday night, after the service, she and another young lady ran up excitedly to me and Ashley (another member of our team).  They said that they were about to go to a meeting about an upcoming evangelistic trip across the Danube River into Serbia. 

She said, smiling ear-to-ear, "We're going to be missionaries!"

And, as far as I know, this amazing young leader went off last weekend to tell other people about Jesus.  And, as far as I know, she's going again this upcoming weekend.  I ask that you would keep her and the team from her church in your prayers as they strive to reach others and tell them about Jesus.  And I ask that you would keep her and the churches in Romania in your prayers as she and others strive to know God better. 

It was interesting and fun to see how many people in Romania wanted to meet the American missionaries.  But that was nothing compared to actually being an America, going to Romania, and meeting these young, willing Romanian missionaries.  Please keep them in your prayers.  While God isn't done with Romania, the people are willing, but the resources are small.  They covet our prayers!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Romania Part 3: Not Lost in Translation

There are a few universal truths: Everybody dies. Taxes are evil. Childcare workers don't make a lot of money. 

I work in childcare.  I can vouch for that last one.  But I learned something interesting during my time in Romania.  Many Americans would CRINGE if they learned how little I actually make in a month.  But the thing is, in one month, on my pathetic childcare worker's salary, I make about 3-4 times the amount that a typical Romanian family makes in a month. 


That's the average amount that most Romanian families make in a month.  And that's a huge improvement over what it used to be.  I guess the economy there is slowly improving.  But I'm pretty sure the childcare workers in Romania make next to nothing.

So with all this in mind, it's pretty remarkable how hardworking the people are.  One hardworking lady in particular made a big impact on me.

This lady, for lack of a better term, is the children's director at the church we worked with in Turnu-Severin.  She leads the Sunday School class.  Which one?  Oh.  THE Sunday School class.  The only one.  In the whole church.

My church has so many Sunday morning Bible study classes (as well as Bible studies that meet other days of the week) that I can't even begin to count them.  This church has one.  One.  I can count that on one hand.  One finger, really.  It's a children's class, with children ranging from 3 years old to probably around 11 or 12.  All in the same class.  And the children's director lady leads it.

She also leads a "kindergarten" there at the church that meets during the week.  In reality, I think it's a little more like a preschool, but whatever you want to call it, this lady does a phenomenal job.  And I don't even know if she makes any money at all for it.  If she does, it's certainly not anything like what I make for working at my church's preschool--which has multiple classes for multiple ages. 

The kids all flocked to this lady.  And she responded with hugs and kisses, with open arms and hands, ready to love them.  And honestly, that's why they flocked to her.  And while I was there, the children flocked to me.  Why?  Because most kids have a natural ability to be able to tell who actually loves them and who is just pretending.  When they know someone loves them, they want to be around that person.  They wanted to be around me, around the other lady on our team from America.  But they mostly wanted to be around their children's leader.  Because she loved them, and they knew it.  Love is never lost in translation. 

One thing I definitely noticed in Romania is that there are a lot of willing people.  There are a lot of people, definitely including this remarkable woman, who are so so very willing to serve, to give of themselves to others in the name of Jesus.  But as willing as they are, their resources are just so limited. 

The children's director loved using English materials with the children, learning English songs.  But the English material she had was mostly falling apart.  One of the materials we used in Sunday school was probably originally published in the 1950s.  I got the impression that someone from America had brought it there, probably because they didn't want it anymore.  But she was so thankful for what she had!

And playgrounds?  Forgedduhboutit.

The church had a lovely small, gated courtyard outside the church where the children could play.  But it was very small, and the gate opened up into a fairly busy street.   Again, she was thankful for it.

The church's courtyard, as seen through the "cross" gate.

But even with the limited resources, the lack of financial incentives and other support, this woman was an example of a hard-worker who strove to give of herself to these children in the name of Jesus.  It was a joy to be able to lighten her load a little and to be able to say a few words of encouragement to her. 

Our last day in Turnu-Severin, the children's director brought photos of children she'd taught in the church preschool for the past fifteen years.  Her son and the pastor's son were in the first class she taught, and they were both about to go off to college.  It was good to see those pictures.  It was good to see the work she had done, the work she was still doing, the legacy she was leaving.

It was a legacy of love.  Everything the woman did was to show Jesus to the children she taught.  She also showed that love to me, and I was thankful to be able to return some of that love to her.  Love isn't lost in translation, and I have a dear, dear sister on the other side of the world.  One Day, she's going to have a huge reward, and it won't be taken away from her.  For inasmuch as she's serving the least of these, she's serving Jesus.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Romania Part 2: The Reason I Came

In my last post, I briefly mentioned that I had awoken from a short, fitful nap in the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.  I was on the verge of a mini-tantrum (that I think I managed to completely internalize) because I had so many questions in my head.  Why Romania?  Why me?  What am I doing being completely exhausted in an airport in Germany instead of safely tucked away in my quiet little bedroom in my quiet little apartment in America, sleeping or wasting time on Facebook.  That's comfortable and normal.  That's safe.  I like safe.  This doesn't feel safe.  What am I doing here?  Why Romania?  Why me?  What reason could there possibly be for me coming to Romania?

The questions continued to float in my head during the next relatively short flight to Bucharest (when I wasn't passed out asleep having more fitful dreams) and on the six hour train ride to Turnu-Severin (which was also full of more fitful dreams).  Then we arrived in Turnu-Severin.  We ate.  We slept.  The next morning, we hit the ground running with a Bible School.  It's amazing how food and sleep improved my mood.  The questions were still there, but as I met the pastor and his family, as I met more of the wonderful people at the church, and as I began to actually work a little bit, the questions began to fade. 

But it wasn't until the second day that I really had an AHA! moment.   I think I had secretly been waiting for such a moment ever since arriving, and when I had it, everything started to change.

Our first three days in Romania had a format.  We did Bible school in the morning with the kids.  We would do visitations with church members in the afternoon.  Then we would go to a church service--either at the church in town, or in a village church, in the evenings. 

Well, the visitations were a little nerve-wrecking for me.  I'm shy.  I don't talk to strangers.  I don't have good conversational skills.  I'm crazy awkward.  Add to that a language barrier, and well, yeah.  Recipe for disaster. 

Well, not a disaster really.  More of just a really, really painfully awkward silence. 

We did go as a group to the visitations.  So the pastors talked a lot.  And the rest of us just smiled and nodded and tried our best to listen whenever the translators got a chance to get a word in edgewise.

I didn't feel particularly useful on the visitations the first day.

The second day was different. 

We went into the home of a lady and her daughter.  I don't want to go into too many details, because the internet is very public, and these stories are somewhat private.  But the family had some emotional and financial needs, and they could use some encouragement.

I didn't know what to expect when I walked in.  The mother didn't know English, but then the daughter started talking to us in unbelievably good English.  She started talking about school, about things she was working on.  And it was very evident that this girl was extremely intelligent and talented.

The more she talked, the more I felt a connection with this remarkable young lady.  The pastors were talking to her, but bless them, for all their training and all their skills, they had never been 14 year old girls.  It was obvious she wasn't really all that eager to talk to them.  But me?  I remember being 14.  Sometimes it doesn't feel like it was almost TWO decades ago (ouch).  I remember being young and insecure about so many things.  I remember having dreams and plans and hopes.  I had never experienced a lot of the pains this girl had experienced in her young life, but still, I couldn't help but just think that God had put me there in that time to encourage her.

I couldn't help but be amazed that I, an American lady, was sitting there in the kitchen of this Romanian family, sitting there with this Romanian teenager who, in normal circumstances, I'd never have the chance to meet--or even know she existed.  And I realized that this was one of the reasons I had come.  She was one of the reasons God had called me out of my own little comfortable world and sent me on a journey.  He wanted me to meet her.  He wanted me to encourage her.  He wanted me to be likewise blessed by her.

I don't even remember what I said to her as I left that day.  It was something along the lines of, "God has given you some amazing talents.  Don't be afraid to use them for His glory."  And, well, that's been a message I've been telling myself A LOT over the past year.  And maybe I'd have gotten it a little sooner if someone had told the fourteen year old me the same thing.

Or maybe not.

All I know is that the following Sunday, that young lady came to church.  She ended up translating for us as we helped out with the children's Sunday school class.  When we had met her before, in her home, she was guarded.  But the following Sunday, she was glowing.  She was radiant!  She was alive!  God's presence in her was just so evident.

And I believe God has some amazing plans for that young woman.  She is so talented, so intelligent.  I think He's got some big things in store for her.

And it was such an honor to get to meet her, to be part of her life for just a little while.  I pray we continue to bless and encourage one another even though we're many, many miles apart. 

And I thank God so much for the blessing, for the amazing opportunity to meet her.  She was the first reason I came to Romania--and I will never forget her.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Romania Part 1: Why Romania?

I've been back from Romania almost a week now, and people have asked me why I haven't blogged yet.  There are several reasons. First, I really just haven't had a chance to sit down at a computer and spend the time blogging.  Second, I'm not really sure how to begin blogging about my experiences.  Third, if I did start blogging about my experiences, it would most likely be a very long blog. 

So, what I think I'm going to do is blog my Romania encounters in several parts.  I was only there a week, but so much happened.  I met so many amazing people.  There's too much to say in just one blog post.  There are too many people I want to blog about, too many one-on-one encounters.  Basically--my world was changed.  When that happens, it's kind of impossible to just sum it all up in one blog.

Now, my life-changing experience began rather unusually.  It was October of last year.  We were having some business type meeting at the church.  My pastor announced an upcoming mission trip.  He was talking about Romania. He was talking about a women's conference.  As far as I was concerned, he was talking to someone else.

All I really knew about Romania is that it was somewhere in Europe.  It was not on the list of top ten countries I wanted to visit.  But then my pastor said five little words that caught my attention and changed my life.  He was saying women should sign up to go.  He said, "You've Got Something to Say."

On the way to church that night, I'd been listening, on repeating loop, the Matthew West song, "You've Got Something to Say."  I'd been praying that very day for God to show me exactly what that meant for me.  And when my pastor said those words, I realized I had better start praying about going to Romania.

Now, originally, the trip was supposed to be to both Hungary and Romania.  It was supposed to be a women's conference.  Well, not many people signed up, and several details changed.  We were no longer doing women's conferences.  We were no longer going to Hungary.  We were just going to Romania.  But I prayed through it and still knew that I was supposed to go. 

I had raised funds.  I had garnered a lot of support.  It was clear that God was in the plans for me to go to Romania.  We had our training meetings.  Everything was set.  I knew I was meant to go.

Yet, in an airport in Frankfurt, Germany, on the way to Romania, I remember waking up from a brief nap.  I woke up in a really bad mood.  If I hadn't been there with our very small team, composed of three other people that didn't know me well, I might have had a mini freak-out session.  Because I was just overwhelmed with the one question that had been in the back of my mind ever since I first knew I was supposed to go on the trip.

"God, why Romania?"

What was so special about Romania that God would want me to go? 

The question was answered pretty quickly after I arrived.

Why Romania?  What's in Romania?

People.  There are people in Romania.  There are people God wanted me to meet in Romania.  They are beautiful, wonderful people whom, if I were left to my own understanding and resources, I would have never met.  And in the majority of these blogs about my time in Romania, I want to focus on these people, on my encounters with them.  I've spoken about some of these encounters in church, and I've posted pictures online and written on scrapbooking pages.  But let's face it, three minutes of anxiety-ridden talk time in church can't cover the true heart of my experiences (though I was definitely grateful to have those three minutes to share--and I pray God used that time to also give me "something to say").  A picture is worth a thousand words, but the images are as fleeting as a glance if the story behind them isn't told.  And there is at least one story I'd like to tell about one remarkable woman, and well, that's too powerful to be shared in a three minute talk.  It's too precious to be shared in a picture. 

So in the next week or so I hope to be blogging a little more than usual.  I want to share these stories.  I want to share about these encounters with these people.  Because even though I'd never given a second thought to this little country in Eastern Europe, the Romanian people have stolen my heart.  And I want other people to have just a glimpse into their world, seeing through my eyes, though my vision is far from perfect.

The reflection is always going to be poor on this side of heaven, but if anything, Romania has shown me that there are brothers and sisters I have on the other side of the world.  By all practicality, I should have never been able to see these brothers and sisters face to face in this limited lifetime.  But I have seen them face to face, and even if I don't again see them face to face in this life, I will see them face to face again One Day. 

And we'll all see Jesus face to face, and know as fully as we are known. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

INTERACTIVE Fiction Friday

So, last Fiction Friday, I interviewed the awesome mystery author, Jay Mims.  The interview was conducted in the style of an old text-based adventure game.  I realized several things after this interview. 

1) I realized that some of my readers might not have been raised on text adventures and other various forms of interactive fiction (IF). 2) I, consequently, realized that some if my readers had really sad childhoods. 3) I realized that some if my readers might not even really know what IF is. 4) I, consequently, realized that it is my duty to enlighten these poor souls. 5) I, ultimately, realized that I am a huge nerd.

I was born in 1980. I missed the age of Disco by about three months and was thrust right onto the heart of break dancing, Michael Jackson before he was lame before he was cool again, leg warmers, bad perms, trapper keepers, synthesizers, tight rolled jeans, and MTV. I really wonder how any of us made it out of the 80s alive.

My parents were both teachers, and so I think they felt the need to get all the latest technology to help educate their children (plus, all that technology was WAY COOL), so one of my earliest memories was of waiting for a long boring amount of hours while my parents talked to the guys at the computer store. These were like the ancestors of the Apple Geniuses or the Geek Squad or whatever. These were the Geek Neanderthals. One day, there will be museums with cave paintings depicting Geek Neanderthals and their primitive knowledge of large boxes that only remotely resemble the flatscreen PCs of today. 

This is a computer.
No really.
People went to the moon and back with less-advanced technology.
Is your mind boggled?  My mind is totally boggled.
Also, I want to play Boggle now....

Does anyone even still call them PCs anymore?  I don't know.

My parents bought one of those computer-like boxes and brought it into our home. It was beautiful, monochromatic, flashing brilliant shades of black, green, and even a somewhat LIGHTER GREEN. I was four, and this computer-like box was my new true love.

When the state of the art Apple IIC found itself in my home, the only game I remember it having (and by having, I mean it came with the computer in the form of a black squarish floppy piece of plastic that is called a disk) was this maze with a bunny. You would use the arrows (or the standard I, J, K, M) to maneuver the bunny through the maze to find a carrot. If you ran the bunny into a wall, he would scrunch up his little pixellated face and ears and angrily stamp his foot.

I stinkin' loved that bunny.

But honestly, I think he starved to death and/or died of multiple head injuries, because I kept running him into walls and never getting him to that carrot.  At any rate, I have no clue what ever happened to him, so I had to move on to other games.

BEHOLD!  My childhood!  In all its geeky glory!

I'm not sure how old I was, probably five or six, when my parents spent a small fortune subscribing to something called Microzine. It was put out by Scholastic as a "computer learning library on a disk."  Microzine had several boring adult programs, like "make your own stationary," but every issue also included several educational games, and usually a featured game that was some kind of an adventure.

Is that a St. Bernard in a lab coat in the upper right one? 
Why, yes!  It appears to be....
I miss you, the 80s.

This was my introduction to IF.

Now, during this time, there was a lot of IF floating around, but I only really knew about what was on Microzine. I didn't discover that Microzine had ripped off "Oregon Trail" with their own knock off version. I am probably so wrong, but for some reason, I really want to say it was called, "Wagons Ho!" 

Ok, so it was ACTUALLY called "Wagons West!"
but I'mma still call it Wagons Ho! 
Why? Cuz it makes me laugh.

Wagons Ho! All the Oregon Trail action you enjoy, now with 30% less dysentery!


Even if some games were knock offs, there were actually some really interesting and original games, too--all with little to no graphics to get in the way of IMAGINATION!

While some kids played Pac Man or pong or some nintendo 64 junk, I was playing text games or turn based rpgs with less beeping and blinking lights, more interactive adventure!

My personal favorites from Microzine? "Malice in Wonderland," "Escape from Antcatraz," "Zazzoo Come Home," and "Mission: Mix Up."  Seriously.  Those were actual games.  And they actually rocked like Cleveland.  I played these games over and over and over. I wish they were still available.  Mine was the greatest childhood eeevvvvveeerrrrrrr.

But Microzine vanished away like all good childhood dreams. Either that or it was eaten by a bear out on the trail.  WAGONS HO!

I vaguely remember from my preadolescence my parents getting something called "Up Time," which may or may not have been connected to Microzine.  It had a very similar concept--educational games, combined with boring grown up software, and all on the same disk!  You could even FLIP THE DISK OVER for more programs.  So exciting, I tell you. 

Grandma's House, Font Editor, AND Dangerous Dave!
Plus, a Blood Alcohol Calculator...
 to make sure you're just drunk enough to enjoy these programs!

I remember Up Time having a lot of games that were just text adventures, with no graphics whatsoever.  I thought it was brilliant.  My favorite game from this collection was called "School Daze," an all text adventure that took the player through a typical day of school.  That sounds boring, only it had talking frogs and such.  There was also a text adventure with a castle and a jester that spoke only in rhyme and told you to drink potions and stuff.  I don't remember anything else about it, but doesn't that just sound epic?

But all good things must come to an end, and sadly, Microzine and Up Time went the way of their technological fathers.

Then, in high school, circa 1996, suddenly everyone was like, hey...interwebz, awesome graphics, technology, whaaaaat???!!!  It took me awhile, but I eventually moved on. I realized that IF was a thing of the past.

...or was it?

In my early twenties, after I dropped out of college, I got the hankering for some old school games and started searching the wonderful World Wide Web. I expected to find some brief mention of some obscure gaming style in some dark corner of the internet that no one ever talks about.

Instead, I discovered a movement. A movement, I tell you.

Not only did I discover that people still play IF, not only did I discover that a WIDE variety of old school IF is available to play right on your PC's browser (including some of the original text adventure games like ZORK and Colossal Cave, which I had never played, and thus were totally new to me), BUT ALSO, people are still writing IF.

Oh. My. Gorgeous.

There were competitions. New games being put out all the time, from new and experienced authors, constantly experimenting with the genre, creating genres within the genre...

Many games can be found to play online at  There's also much info there that might be useful to you if you're just starting out. Believe me, I've just scratched the surface of what IF encompasses (there are whole multiplayer text-gaming virtual worlds out there, folks.  I can't allow myself to get sucked into that, but it so exists.  It's ridiculous!)--but just scratching the surface is enough to make one really quite obsessed.

So in the months that followed, I became an addict and probably needed therapy. Instead, I went back to college and forfeited all my game playing time for socialization. Uh. Studying. I mean studying.

Well, I know I'm technically not allowed to play IF, because I tend to get addicted and forget to eat and sleep and go to work and stuff, but after that text adventure/interview in my last Fiction Friday blog, I have to admit I wanted to play again, and...okay, okay.  So I got back into it.  A little.  I'm not addicted.  I can quit any time.  SHUT UP.

For the time being, I only have internet (that isn't borrowed) in the a phone, a barely smart phone that probably rode the short bus, but that didn't stop me. There are several free apps available that interpret text based games for you to play on your phone.  I highly recommend that you try, because it's a lot of retro fun.

Twisty is a popular and highly downloaded app, but it gave me problems on my phone. I downloaded ZMPP Free from Google Play. It still has some issues, but it mostly behaves itself.  AND it includes a large library of games you can download, that are accessible from the app itself without having to go searching online for them (as you do with Twisty).

If you're interested, some games I recommend are ZORK (I never made it through, and honestly prefer shorter games, but some of the ridiculously hard classics are fun even if you can't find your way out of the twisty mazes), Shade (this one is seriously weird, but it's an interesting take on IF), Pick Up The Phone Booth and Die, The Forgotten Nightmare (it's Christian IF, and unfortunately in a way that annoys me, but the actual puzzles and such are fun and not extremely difficult-I downloaded this straight from Google Play, not through ZMPP), Aisle (another weird, but fun, take on IF, Curses (another one I'll never make it all the way through), Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (which was co written by Douglas Adams, himself), and Violet.

Just so you know, walkthrus are available for most games if you're stuck (just Google for them, or perhaps find something on the website I listed above), and I almost always have to cheat by using them. A lot of games also have hints included if you type "hints" or "help" into the command prompt.

Happy retro adventuring!  WAGONS HO!

I just had to say it one more time, because apparently, I'm still a four year old.