31 January 2011

Between the Foreign and the Familiar

It’s very early here in the small village of Susani, Romania. I’m wrapped in a warm wool blanket, reading and writing, on the sofa of the living room of Ovidiu and Adina Petric, a kind couple who works daily to serve the people here. Our 22-hour journey by plane and van brought us here last night, to this home filled perfumed with the fragrance of homemade chicken soup and sarmale (cabbage rolls served with sour cream).

Chicken soup with handmade noodles. And a pepper. Divine.

Today we’ll travel another six hours by van to a ski area near Brasov – a village where, for three days, we’ll work with 32 teenagers selected to participate in a youth discipleship camp. I’ve worked at camps before, yet I know this will be an experience fresh and new.
There’s so much about this country I want to know. Her past is a strange tango of romance and rule, and she seems almost out of place among her neighbors. Last night we walked through one of the squares in Timisoara, a large city in western Romania. The regal buildings are still embossed with the pockmarks of bullets from former battles, and reminders of the years of Communist rule are evident.
An ornate Orthodox church stands guard at the end of the promenade; at the other end stands an opera house which was disfigured with a strange bland facade by the Communist rulers.
Between the two buildings, I hear:
“I’ll heal the maimed, I’ll bring home the homeless. In the very countries where they were hated they will be venerated.”
Like her history, Romania’s language is also a tango. She is the only country in Eastern Europe to have words filled with Latin roots, and she dances daily with her Slavic neighbors, creating a language filled with turns and spins that make it richer and more complex.

One of several German villages that dot the roads of Transylvania.
I think of the conversations yet to be had with the teens, and how inadequate I feel in this moment. Then I hear:
“I’ll give them a language undistorted, unpolluted, words to address God in worship and, united, to serve me with their shoulders to the wheel.”
As I ponder the days ahead, I find myself dancing the strange tango of familiar and foreign. I take the hand of the One who so graciously leads, and hear:
“Your God is present among you, a strong Warrior there to save you. Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with His love and delight you with His songs.”
And so the dance begins.

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