sarmales and sunday… day two & three #OneVillage

NOTE: I was without Internet on Saturday, so you’re going to get two posts in one, and I’m not even going to charge you extra. It’s just a bonus!

So for Saturday…
Some days mission work looks like Bible study and prayer. Some days it looks like sarmale. It’s a new word to my vocabulary, and I bet to yours, too. When we saw it on our tentative schedule for Saturday in Romania, we were all a little curious. I was especially inquisitive because it was preceded with the words, “Ladies learn to cook…” Those of you who know me well know that cooking is NOT one of my favorite things to do. I know how to do it, and I can do it, but the simple fact is… I prefer not to do it.

Ladies learn to cook sarmale.

Well, that got my full attention, and when we pulled up to Florine and Rodica’s house on Saturday evening and saw all the commotion in the yard… yes, not the kitchen, but the yard, I’ll confess I got a little worried. And, when I needed an apron, I began to sweat.

So what is sarmale, and why did we need to know how to make it? Sarmale is a cabbage roll stuffed with pork, rice, and lots of spices. We boiled 50… yes, 50!… heads of cabbage over a huge pot over an open flame. As we boiled the heads of cabbage, we peeled off the leaves. We then took the leaves, cut the “backbone” of the cabbage leaf off, stuffed the leaf with the pork/rice/spices mixture, rolled, and tucked. Then the little rolls go back in a big pot to be boiled again. Well, some of the little rolls did not go immediately into the pot because our Simpetru sisters often had to re-roll and re-tuck. #PinterestFail …  This is sarmale, and we did this exactly 4,000 times. I. Am. Not. Kidding. We started at 6:00 pm, and we rolled and tucked for 2-1/2 hours when we had to eat dinner. Our Simpetru sisters were still rolling and tucking when we left at about 9:30 pm.

IMG_6253You will not want to miss the priceless pics from this grand event. They were so good that I put them into a video which you can watch here.


All the sarmale had to be finished because it was for lunch following church on Sunday. Of course, Sunday’s service was not going to just be “church.” It will be the baby dedication of Florine and Rodica’s first grandson and the ordination ceremony for Cha Cha. More on the tomorrow.

I will tell you that the four of us who were “ladies learn to cook sarmale” returned to the hotel to scrub until our skin came off. The smell of four thousand sarmales does not come off easy. Just ask Penny.

Believe it or not, making sarmale was not the highlight of the day; however, it did produce the best pictures so that’s why I wrote about it first. The highlight of my day was this picture:

IMG_2841This picture is of a “home,” and I use that word loosely… very loosely. It is located in the small village of Adalin. Adeline is near Simpetru, and Marantha Missions is prayerful for a church in that village. We travel the road to Adalin… ok, so I’m using the word “road” loosely here, to prayer walk in that village. Prayer walking simply means we walked the streets of the village and prayed while walking. Prior to our trip, as a team we prepared prayers to pray over this village and two others we will walk in next week. I know. It sounds unbelievably simple, but how dare us to think we could do God’s work without God. Thus, prayer is critical.

As we were leaving the village to return to Simpetru, Cha Cha stopped at the home of a man and his family who needed food. We visited and prayed with him and then shared a parcel of food. As we were walking back to the van, I met the gypsy woman living in 119. I can’t begin to tell you the suffering and emptiness I saw in her eyes. Without words spoken, her eyes said to me, “I have nothing.” I immediately turned to Cha Cha, knowing we had additional food parcels in the van… but more importantly knowing what God commands us to do… especially when we have seen with his eyes.

There are huge cultural barriers when it comes to the gypsies… especially helping the gypsies, and no doubt I crossed one. I don’t care.

In my heart and in my prayers I’ve named her. She is “The Woman At 119.” She is like “The Samaritan Woman at the Well.” Both were nameless. Both have a past. Both were discarded by society. Both were in desperate need. And I followed Jesus’s lead. I’ve been praying for this woman continuously since I encountered her. And I’ll confess some my think my prayer is a little crazy, but I’ve learned that BIG, BOLD prayers are God’s specialty. If what I’m praying for is something I could do on my own, then evidently I don’t have a very big God. But I know better. There are no limits on God. Nothing is impossible. So… I’m asking God to save souls in Adalin through The Woman At 119… just like He did with The Samaritan Woman at the Well. It’s an Ephesians 3:20 kind of prayer. Just the kind I pray best.


And now… Sunday!
Wow! What a spectacular day! And… what a 3-1/2 hour church service… all in a language I don’t speak. Yes. The service was that long. And, it was held outside. The pictures are going to make you jealous. It was a beautiful day… and we had a brass band and a children’s orchestra. Seriously. It was way cool! Here are some pics:


Outdoor seating under a grape arbor… beautiful!



Confession: The brass band included an accordion player and two trumpeter players, but I was sort of crushing on the tuba player. Those cheeks cracked me up!


Children's orchestra at Simpetru with instruments purchased by Crawford FBC

Children’s orchestra at Simpetru with instruments purchased by Crawford FBC

Laura did an absolutely amazing job of sharing her testimony! She had several in the audience in tears! She also shared her gift of music through a piano solo. Pastor Jeff brought a great (but short!) message about Doubting Thomas.



There were multiple pastors who spoke as part of Cha Cha’s ordination service, but I can’t tell you too much about it because it was all in Romanian, and we did not have a translator; however, I can tell you this. When they gathered to lay hands on him and pray, it was beautiful. We were honored to be part of this very special day, and we pray God will continue to bless the work Cha Cha is doing in the villages of Romania.

After the four thousand sarmales we had prepared the day before were eaten by the 175+ group gathered, we cleaned up the church and headed to Simleu, a neighboring city. We worshipped with Pastor Dan and his wife, Claudia. Laura shared her favorite verse, and Penny had us all in tears with her testimony. No one would have known it was her first trip to Romania and her first time working with a translator. She allowed God to work through her and her words!



But the most fun of the evening was clearly brought by KeLe through her children’s message on Doubting Thomas. The children loved it!



And clearly I have a thing for puffy cheeks. This little girl was priceless!


Jeff and Marvin shared the sermon time and did a great job of teaching!

I’m still attempting to process all I’ve seen and heard over the past two days. It will take me awhile, but here’s one thing I know for sure: God’s love is a universal language…

We learned how to make sarmale from women who only speak Romanian, but yet who patiently modeled it for us… again and again. And we fed almost 200 people a meal. That’s God’s love.

A parcel of food spoke volumes to a gypsy woman who didn’t speak a word of English,. That’s God’s love.

My challenge: Don’t worry about getting every word right. Don’t worry about knowing all the right answers. Just speak love. His love. And He will be made known!