Ireland-Romania Update 6
Every once in a while, I like to update people back in the States, or wherever, on what's going on over here. Not all of them read my blog as faithfully as you, dear friends. So, here is the newsletter I sent out today.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
Two weekends ago I went with some of my team Ed and Emily Hartman, and three of their children: Abi, Daniel, and Katy, to a nearby church. It was small and tucked away at the end of about seven dirt roads. I couldn't get there now if I wanted to. When we walked in, the man I assumed to be the pastor seemed very happy to see us, greeted us all, and motioned for us to sit down on the front row. The conversation went something like this:
Pastor- We are very glad to have you today. Ed, you will preach, won't you?
Ed- Well, I do not have a sermon prepared, but I could greet your congregation...
Pastor- You can have the whole preaching hour. [He then turns to me and says]- and you...
Me- My name is Nicholas. Good to meet you.
Pastor- Fine. You will teach also, for ten or fifteen minutes, to the young people. (I looked around and saw no one under fifty in the whole place).
Me- I don't think you want me to do that. I am not really a preacher.
Pastor- Ten or fifteen minutes. Fine! [He then addresses all of us (the Hartmans, their three children, and me), saying]- and you will sing a song for us today?
All- You REALLY don't want us to do that.
Pastor- Yes, of course! We would love for you to sing for us.
Well. We wound up singing "Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing", and when we finished, he just looked at me and gave me a nod that said in any language, "You're on." So on I went. The only notes I had been able to scribble down were the words, “magnet on fridge,” which I had marked through twice. After delivering the message through a translator, I did not know quite how to end, so I said, "That's all," and scuttled to my seat. I have never heard a sermon that ended with, "That's all." I am glad most Romanians have never seen Looney Tunes, or they would immediately have thought of Porky Pig at the end, when he says, "Abdipabdipabdip...that's all, folks!"
All that to say, the Lord worked mightily just to get me standing up there and to say anything remotely intelligible. I am not the most "together" guy I know, but I do like to prepare a little before speaking to crowds. I have since been called on to teach twice with no time to prepare, so I am learning to appreciate what I was told are the two most important words for a missionary: BE FLEXIBLE. But I think there has been another, greater benefit to my being compelled to stand up and to teach on that particular passage, where Paul describes the reality of his and all Christians’ daily struggle with sin. After Paul describes his struggle and his wretchedness, he goes on to say, "There is now NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS."
I don't know about you, but as a missionary (remember, servant of God and all that), I think I am supposed to be above petty sins; I am supposed to have this Christian thing sort of figured out; I ought to be nigh on perfect. One of my mom's friends said I am an angel on loan. See? Actually, most missionaries are just like that, but as for me, I’m with Paul.
So. I am learning how to respond when confronted with the reality of my sin, disobedience, and failure. To where do I run? Or, as the psalmist writes, “Whom have I in heaven but you, O God?” (Psalm 73:24) To whom do I run? To the Father who will not nor cannot condemn us. What if I totally fail as a teacher, a friend, a son, a missionary? No condemnation. What about when other people condemn me because I have disappointed or hurt them? No condemnation. What about when I condemn myself for giving into the same sins again...again? No condemnation. What about…. No condemnation.
Pray that I will be well acquainted with the Father's love for me, that I may go out and love others graciously and generously.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. The plan is to hike up the Magura, my favorite little mountain in Romania, as a team and have our dinner up there. Problem is, weather looks rough, so we are changing Thanksgiving to Friday instead. The thing is, no one here will even know. They have no clue what Thanksgiving is. I love living in a foreign culture. I decided to write this newsletter before Thanksgiving because I may be out for a few days afterwards. I do not know how many pounds of food and cooking utensils we are going to lug up that mountain, but it might hurt. You should be able to check out pictures from it on my blog site ( romaniangrace.blogspot.com) after the weekend.
Pray for me and our whole team this holiday season as we are away from our family and good friends.
Here are an additional few ways you can be praying for me right now. Last week I asked several of you to join me in praying that I would be able to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t know why, but it was just really really hard for me to get up. I have to be at school at 8:30 AM, and I was barely making it some days. I tried to rule out any possible diseases: malaria, bird flu, African sleeping sickness, Lyme’s disease…and I finally came to the conclusion that it has a lot to do with the stress of living in a totally foreign environment. It wears on a guy, I guess. Much of it goes unperceived, perhaps, but it takes every ounce of my concentration just to catch about 10% of what a Romanian says to me. Reading signs, going to the grocery store (see blog site); all these things add up. It was also a good reminder that I need the Lord far more than I will usually admit. Praying for his help in opening my eyelids and getting my feet on the floor reminded me that it is always and only by His Grace that I do that anyway. ( have made it up by 7AM two days this week).
Pray for my continued awareness of my dependence on God and for my general endurance and well being.
I am aware daily of my need to speak the language. It is a long and slow process (as any learning process must be for me), but one that is well worth working towards if I am to really minister to these people.
Pray that both I and my language teacher, Cati, will be patient and full of understanding during this process.
Those of you who know me are aware that I am pretty scattered. I could be a better teacher (the job I am called to do here) if I could come up with and adhere to a schedule and an organizational system, but to do so feels almost impossible for me. My innermost being repels anything that stinks of structure.
Pray that I will get my life in order!
That’s all, folks!