Conversations with friends who disagree are more interesting. With those of the same opinion, you don't learn anything. It breaks down to: 'I agree more!'
I consider myself an optimist. I tend to see the positive first in people and situations. It's not better or worse then pessimists or realist perspectives, it's just my personality and approach.
I love my Missionary friends here in Romania. I've never known Evangelicals in the U.S. I had to travel to Romania to meet them and to find how they differ from the stereotypes in news and television.
I love too, my Romanian friends who often have a critical outlook on minorities, specifically Gypsies, in Romania.
In the past week I've had a whole variety of experiences and coversations. Experiences that show me how much I share in common with these people. And, conversations that reveal our differences.
A group of 20 Americans a Scottish man, and a few Romanians who escaped (quite dangerously) from Romania in 1981, came for a week's visit here in Ocna Mures. In order to meet these people, I've accompanied them on their program. This has meant attending several Pentecostal services. It's also meant visiting two of the areas poorest (and mostly Gypsy) communities where they were distributing sandwiches, medicine, and leading children's programs, games, and of course sermons for the adults.
Silivas is the village outside of town that is the poorest of the two communities we visited. It is about 20 minutes on a dirt road outside of town. It has about 30 mainly Gypsy families living there. The situation there has and remains extremely grave. Caprice, (more on her later) tells me that the infant mortality rate there was in 92 when they began their ministering there, was very high. Perhaps each year more then 8 babies would die from various problems. Through the church's help, they have been able to bring that number down. But, that is to give an idea of what kind of a poverty this community lives in.
I'd like to tell more about Caprice and her husband and the Church as their work is extremely inspiring. However, that's somewhat outside the scope of this blog, so browse to see me addressing that and other desciptions of Romania and my town further on.
The children there were so endearing. I stayed with the children's program. It included a puppet show, parachute games, a magic trick, and games. But, the first part of the program (employing the puppet) concerned the message of Jesus and his presence in your life. They wished to communicate that even when the children are afraid, even when they feel alone, when they feel that no one loves them, that Jesus is there for them.
I have seen these same children in town and on my street, alone, dirty, shoeless, and digging through the dumpsters and begging for bread or money.
As with poverty everywhere, their lives are filled with difficulty. What characterizes their village and their families are true of poor communities everywhere: lack of education, alcholism, lack of hygiene, hunger, spousal abuse, teenage pregnancy, etc.
Such a community bereft of concern from their larger community, ashamed of their poverty, oblivious to their responsibilities as parents is in great need of Jesus and the bible. What else could rescue them from their current habits? This is not a community with many choices, and none so complete as Christianity.
More then for the adults, I am touched by how these missionaries have come from so far to tell these children that they are not alone, that they are loved. This is God inspired and I am inspired by their actions and their faith. Lord knows these children vitally need this message.
These people are warm, funny, intelligent, passionate. It is hard not to be taken by their message. I'll go into greater depth about the church and my missionary friends who I know better in another blog.
Well, maybe that's where I'll end it for now. I'll fill you in on the greater picture soon.