Sunday has always been my favorite day of the week, but when you get the opportunity to worship in three churches on one Sunday, it’s an amazing favorite day of the week.
We began this morning at the church in Cha Cha’s hometown, Jac. The church was full of people, and it was evident from the minute we walked in the building… they were there to worship. When we arrived the service had already begun because they people had arrived early. They had already begun singing and praising God. After we arrived, Pastor Pastor (really, that’s his name!) began prayer – not a prayer – but prayer. Prayer voiced aloud to God. As they felt led, people took turns praying aloud, lifting their needs and their burdens to God. Although I could not understand the words they spoke, it was absolutely beautiful to see them be completely vulnerable before God and one another. Boldly approaching the throne of grace. Confident that the Lord and Savior was hearing their prayers. Beautiful! The children of the church were also involved in worship. Two teenage girls sang a duet, and then they led a quartet of younger girls in song. It was such a special treat for us, but I suspicion it happens regularly. KeLe shared her testimony, and Doyle shared one of his favorite scriptures. Laura and I also sang. We had to leave before the service was over so we could make it to the next church, so I’m not sure how the service ended. Re-read this paragraph if you aren’t feeling surprised or amazed right now. Yes, the Romanian church service is a good bit longer than ours. They arrive early, and they stay well past an hour. They are not concerned with time. They are concerned with worship.
Next we joined the church service in the very tiny mountain village of Galpaia. And, once again, we found that everyone had arrived early, and they were already singing when we arrived. This church was tiny in number, but mighty in praise! They only had about ten people in attendance, but they lifted their voices to God in song and prayer. They never took their eyes off Jeff while he preached, and Jeff didn’t have to solicit an amen… they were voiced freely and frequently! These people were hungry for God and willing to boldly worship him. Pastor Don blessed us all with a tearful thank you after we led the service, and the hearty hugs we received afterwards spoke of their appreciation. They may have thought we blessed them, but I can promise you, we were the blessed ones by having the opportunity to worship with them.
From Galpaia, we journeyed back to Simpetru to Florine and Rodika’s house. And on the way, we got to experience something I will never forget! On the day we drove from Cluj-Napoca to Zalau, we passed several shepherds and flocks of sheep. When we arrived in Zalau, I immediately told Cha Cha that I wanted to get pictures of a shepherd and his sheep. We passed flocks every day, and each time I’d remind him. Or, as he would say, I pestered him! But today was the day, as there was a large flock (I’d guess about 200 sheep) grazing just beyond a plowed field. When Laura spotted them, I asked Cha Cha to stop. He pulled over, and we walked across the plowed field to see. What an amazing experience, especially when you know the Lord, our God is our Shepherd and we are his sheep. The Word of God portrays it perfectly!
We did eventually make it to Florine and Rodika’s, but only after I’d taken about 25 pictures. Grin! Once again we had a spectacular meal. Rodika’s cooking has put a few pounds on all of us! She made the best cake for dessert today – yellow cake with a fresh whipped creme icing mixed with fresh fruit. Pure delight!
We had a little bit of resting before heading to Cha Cha’s church just down the street from Florine and Rodika’s house. When we arrived to open the church at 3:30 pm, and people were waiting for us. We were greeted by the widow woman we had distributed food to yesterday and her precious one-year old granddaughter. I’ve probably already used the word “precious” about 100 times in my posts about our trips, but let me tell you… this little darling was PRECIOUS! She had on the cutest little red hat, and her smile stole my heart instantly. I tried to get her to interact with me, but she was so very shy and hid behind her grandmother’s skirt. Others quickly arrived, and filled the church. We all participated in the service, since it was our last one to lead. The “Rays of Sunshine” – as Jeff has named Laura and me – sang several songs, and the the congregation sang several, too. Doyle also sang an old hymn a capella, and he sang it beautifully! KeLe shared a favorite scripture, and Marvin told the story of Rosalia (see Day 2 in Simleu). I shared some verses that are part of my testimony, and Jeff preached a sermon that spoke directly to the hearts of everyone present, even those of us who had heard it three times in one day. While Jeff was preaching, I was being a bit mischievous. I’m sure you can’t imagine that. I was winking and smiling, and sneaking little hand waves to that precious little one. At first, I couldn’t get her to respond, but she slowly warmed up and I finally got her to wave back at me. I should probably mention at this point that all of us were sitting up on the very small stage at the front of the church. The little girl was quite busy during the service, up and down out of her chair, in and out of her grandmother’s lap, but after Jeff finished preaching, the congregation began to sing more songs. The precious little one got out of her chair and began walking toward the front of the church. Her grandmother followed her, so I assumed she was going to let her go outside, but… she walked straight towards me! I got up out of my chair and reached out my arms, and she reached her little arms right up to me. I picked her up and my heart melted. She held on to my neck, and we returned to my chair where she sat absolutely still as a church mouse in my lap. I experienced one of the sweetest moments yet while holding that precious baby girl! And, while the singing continued, she went sound asleep in my arms! We concluded the service with Laura and I singing Amazing Grace and then the church members singing it to us in Romanian while I held that sweet baby girl. Amazing grace indeed!
I kept thinking of ways to stall so I didn’t have to hand her back over to her grandmother and could sneak her back to Texas so I’d finally have my hands on a baby girl, but no luck. I handed over, still sound asleep, and I got the sweetest hug and kiss from her grandmother. Amazing grace indeed!
We headed back to Florine and Rodika’s for one last supper. We have been blessed by this hard-working, humble couple in ways I will not forget. They truly demonstrate what it means to serve others, and I pray I follow their beautiful example of amazing grace.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Psalm 23 KJV
Father God, thank you for the restoration you provided for my soul today. In Jac. In Galpaia. In Simpetru. In Your house. With Your people. By Your grace alone. Amen.