Romanian Grace

The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. -- St. Cyril of Jerusalem

13 October, 2007

American beauty

Fall is here...and about to pass us by. Temperatures next week are forecast not to climb too far above freezing until Wednesday. I think part of the cultural unconscious for Americans is to associate season changes with certain events, usually in the entertainment industry. There's the time of year when all the TV shows start their next "seasons" I don't actually know when that is, but probably in the fall). Then there is all the excitement that blows in with the crisper fall air, that we all know soon will give way to winter: the World Series. Can you be an American and not have a clue that that is going on when the leaves start changing and falling? Even in Romania, it has been on my mind, and I would not call myself a huge baseball fan. But here's what happened.

I had one of my students and a friend of his over the other day, and they were fiddling around in one room while I cleaned my kitchen. Something moved me to drop the pan I was soaping and sudsing, to walk back where they were, and say, "Let's play baseball." We had no bat, no ball, no gloves, no bases, no teams...but when have any of those ever stopped a determined American? Makes me wonder what would happened if I ever got really determined about things of weightier, spiritual matters, like the salvation of souls and such.

Anyway (since I started this entry about two weeks ago and need to go ahead and finish it [completion of tasks is not my forte, I have been told]), so we found a length of PVC pipe and a small inflated rubber ball. We rounded up a couple of other Americans and started pitching, batting, and fielding. It felt so natural, everyone of us knew exactly what to do. I think it is an inherent part of what most of us American boys are. Pretty soon, though, a few Romanian kids became interested, then a few more, and pretty soon we had enough for five on five or so, with a pretty rag-tag, mismatched group of kids from the block.

We had a blast. Half of the players didn't know where first base was or when to go there, or what to do once they got there. Brilliant. It was like coaching the first practice of t-ball, but with 12 year olds and such. In broken Romanian we tried to explain all the necessary rules of sandlot baseball (of which there are more than you might think), which we had never ever had to explain before. I don't remember ever having to be told that when you catch a fly ball, the batter is out, but if it is not a fly ball you have to throw it, quickly and accurately, to the base to which he is running or to the nearest base to which some other runner already on base is compelled to run. Sometimes you have to tag the runner, sometimes just the base.

One thing they knew quite well, though: it was AWESOME if you were able to run around all the bases and back to home plate (which we called fourth base for simplicity (no, we had not given up on simplicity yet)). So there was much mayhem and much rejoicing and much confusion and impatience when it came to figuring out whose turn it was to bat. We even made attempts to call balls and strikes, but the batter seldom knoew how many of each he had on him, so someone who knew what he was doing had to be the meanie who would take the bat away from the struck out batter (who had no clue he had struck out) and hand it to the next guy.

So. I don't know if baseball will ever catch on here in Romania. I doubt ESPN is going to line up any exhibition games with any American AAA's or not. But it was one moment of complete, unadulterated, American pastime fun.

09 October, 2007

pretty fall

There's a double meaning in that. First, there's this:

Then there's this:

In my ongoing effort to follow Paul's exhortation to the church in Corinth (somewhere in Asia Minor, not Mississippi) and become "all things to all people," the other night I decided that I should walk on my hands. Now, I have never walked on my hands successfully ever before in my life. But this particular night I was coming into my apartment building and there were two of the young boys whom I have gotten to know over the last year, mostly through their lighthearted harrassment of me in one way or another. Anyway, there they were, attempting handstands right there in the landing. To describe the scene more precisely, there they were at on the concrete landing at the top of the five concrete steps that lead from the door to the hallway. We made small talk. I asked them how long they could hold it. They said their record was (a shabby, in my mind) ten seconds or so. They even had a stopwatch. I asked if I could try and they became excited, obviously expecting some great enlightenment. First attempt: I lasted about two seconds, which really isn't a handstand at all, it is more of a thrust into the air of one's legs and hindquarters that ends right back where it began. I needed more of a kick, I thought. Second attmpt: more kick. I was about to flop over on by back onto the concrete, so I began scrambling with my hands to try to get my weight and balance shifted back the other way. My hands did not realize it when they reached the top of the steps, but my face and a few other points of contact on the left side of my body did. I was bleeding and hobbling to my apartment. My glasses were bent, for the time, beyond wearing. I figured I would need stitches. And perhaps some hard liquor to ease my pain and drown my foolishness.

The boys were duly impressed. This suffering for Jesus is rough business.

business as usual

We had our first team meeting as a whole team a little while ago. By "whole team" I mean all those people whom the Lord has specially called to serve him here in Romania with a common vision for God's glory and the planting of Romanian-led churches. We felt it was a good idea to meet so we could all have a similar idea of what that common vision is, exactly. Our latest members to arrive are Kim and Carol Watne, who are now doing language school way off in some other part of the country (a nine-hour train ride!). Here is a picture from that meeting. Context: Nicholas briefs the team on our basic modus operandi, PIMA, which is to plan, implement, measure, adjust. Actually, my personal "mo" is IMPA: implement, measure, panic, adjust.

Shortly after this meeting, our Team Administrator, Darin, and I went on a little vision and planning retreat of our own. Here's how it went.