*Edit: I wrote the following blog a few weeks ago, and for some reason, just wasn't ready to share it. I think I am now. Today marks a month that I've been back in the states, so I guess it's as good a time as any*
This will most likely be the final post about Romania. It requires a little bit of introduction.
I have weird dreams sometimes. Some of them are long and detailed. Others are short. They happen when I'm in that state between wake and sleep. They're sometimes just a few words or images, and when I hear and them, they're so intense and real that they wake me up. And the memory of the word or image is so clear and present in my mind after waking that it takes me sometimes several moments to stop thinking about it. I try not to read too much into dreams, but when they're dreams like this--I at least pay attention. It could be nothing, but I don't want to miss it if it turns out to be something.
I had one of these dreams on one of the flights to Romania. It was a very odd waking dream. I just dreamed a color. The color red just flashed before my eyes in such a vibrant way that I couldn't stop thinking about it after it woke me up. I was trying not to read too much into things, but the whole time I was in Romania, I kept wondering if there was something I was supposed to be looking for with the color red.
It's kind of funny because the prepaid phone services in Romania have names of different colors. I noticed orange phone plans and blue phone plans. There was also a RED phone plan, and I considered briefly stopping our team to go into one of the phone stores that was advertising RED phone plans, just because of that dream. But I knew that probably wasn't really all that wise, and the Holy Spirit didn't seem in that decision. And I didn't want to force a meaning out of a dream that might have just been me being half-delirious on a plane.
So the week in Romania went on, and I just kind of forgot about the RED dream.
The last night in Romania, my pastor, the pastor we were working with there, the pastor's youngest son, the missionary who had come from Switzerland, and I all piled up into the van and started driving out to a village. I was pretty apprehensive about this village visit, for a couple of reasons. Two of our team members were not coming--they had stayed to cook dinner for the pastor's family, which was a very nice gesture. I didn't know I was going to be accompanying the others out into the village either, but they wanted me to come. And I didn't know what to expect, and neither did any of us, really. This wasn't a typical church service, even by Romanian village standards.
A man in one of the villages, not a pastor, but a bachelor in his sixties, wanted to have an evangelistic service for several of his neighbors--many who were unsaved. We pretty much didn't know what that would look like until we got there.
And I wish I had taken a few pictures, because this place was interesting. We had a few benches and plastic chairs all gathered round this guy's back yard. The guy kept a LOT of chickens. He also kept bees. So we were sitting there listening to chickens "amen" our pastor as he preached an evangelistic message, and we were constantly swatting bees out of our hair--not that they were threatening at all. They were pretty "tame," as bees go, and weren't going to sting anyone without good reason. It was a pretty remarkable experience being there.
Before the service had even started, this very old woman with a walker had come. The man's back yard was on a very sharp incline. It took this lady, with help, about twenty minutes to come down the hill. It was obvious how badly she had wanted to come.
Well, my pastor preached, the other pastor translated, and the service was over. I felt pretty useless being there, so I tried to talk to some of the young ladies who had attended. But small talk is just not my thing. After saying hello and "I'm glad you came," I ran out of things to say, and my brain froze up. That happens quite frequently. So I just walked away in awkward defeat and figured the night was a bust.
But then, as I was gathering my things, the elderly lady called me over. She started talking and talking, and the guy who was translating for me really didn't have much of an opportunity to get a word in edgewise to tell me what she was saying. He did manage to tell me that she had been injured and a lady had come to take care of her. She said that this lady had read the Scriptures to her while taking care of her. Through the ministry of her caretaker, the old lady had become a Believer, but she wanted to be baptized. I looked into this dear lady's face and was mesmorized. She just kept talking, and I felt as though I had met a long-lost sister. I felt as though I was looking into the face of an angel...perhaps, as the writer of Hebrews described, I was entertaining an angel unaware.
And right after I thought that, the Swiss missionary, the one translating for us said, "She says you have the face of an angel, and that you remind her of the lady who took care of her and read the Scriptures to her."
About that time, another lady came near. I don't know her exact relation to the older lady, but I could tell that she was either a really close friend or a family member. She knew a few words in English, enough to learn my name was Ruth. For some reason that I never learned, this caused an emotional reaction in her. So I asked her what her name was. She didn't understand.
The Swiss missionary was still listening to the older woman, so I called the pastor's son over. I knew his English was good enough to at least ask what someone's name was. So he did his first translating work and I found out the woman's name was Maria. Then I asked what the older lady's name was.
It was Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is a strong name in my family. It's my oldest niece's name, my sister's middle name, my mother's first name (she goes by her middle name, as I do), my grandmother's middle name, my great-grandmother's middle name, and I don't even know how far it goes back after that. But I had been sitting there, looking at that dear lady, feeling as though she was my sister, a close part of my family. Upon learning her name, I also had a very emotional reaction. I was in tears, just so blessed by that encounter. And Maria and I wept together, even though we couldn't understand one anothers' language, even though we had just met.
I spoke with and listened to Elizabeth for a few more minutes, gazing into that dear woman's face. It really did seem to be the face of an angel, wrinkled and aged as it was. And I couldn't help but rejoice in the knowledge that One Day I'm going to get to see her again, not bent over in age, not needing a walker. We'll be able to talk to one another without an interpreter. And I even felt a little jealous of her, because most-likely, the wait for her won't be nearly as long. But I'll see her again. It was such a joyous thing.
After many hugs, we parted, and I was riding back in the van, away from that wonderful village with those wonderful people. The pastor's son was being funny, as he tends to be quite often. And I realized he was wearing this bright RED shirt--a baseball shirt. The team name? Angels. I laughed to myself, treasuring the memories I'd just made. The waking-dream made sense now.
There's a lot of experiences I'll treasure from Romania, but the people. It's all about the people. These are people so different, and yet so similar to us. I have brothers and sisters a world away, but they are my family. And I'm praying for them as I also pray for those who are not in my family.
I don't know what would happen to you if you went on a trip to Romania, to Thailand, to wherever. But if you've never been out of your country of origin, then you really should go. There are experiences, places, and people who will change your life. I'm so glad I went to Romania. I didn't know why I was going, but I know now.
I'll never forget the people I met. They've changed my life forever. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have gone. All glory to the Giver.