Three weeks. Three of the most eye-opening, beautiful, challenging, life-changing weeks of my life. I sit here now, back on campus on a cold rainy night, and I struggle to find where to begin. It took me two weeks to finally be able to sit down and try and write what’s on my heart. How do you summarize three weeks that completely opened your eyes, delivered you some of the heaviest and most beautiful moments of your life, and broke your heart and yet caused it to overflow at the same time?
As I began the trip, I asked the Lord for three things: that He would open my eyes to see what He sees, that He would show me His heart, and that He would break my heart for what breaks His.
And He did all three.
Never before in my entire life have I seen more of who God is. He is good, He is loving, and He is powerful. We traveled to a beautiful country with incredible people. The relationships we forged while there and the wonderful culture we were immersed in are things I will never be able to forget. Over our three weeks there, we worked with three different ministries (Teen Challenge Romania, Children to Love, and Outstretched Hands of Romania) where we did homeless outreach, cultivated relationships with the dear people in Teen Challenge’s rehab program, worked with orphans, and worked in the Roma gypsy communities. They were some of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had.
Yet while we there, we saw and experienced heavy realities that absolutely broke my heart. We visited abandoned buildings that served as homes for the homeless – homes that have no electricity and little firewood for stoves to keep warm in the bitter 10 degree weather. We brought food to families who are struggling with where their next meal will come from. We saw the drug addiction that is clutching the streets of Romania. We were lowered into a sewer where we met a 15-year-old boy who ran away from his dysfunctional home and now lives in the sewer to survive. We hugged and loved on multiple orphans who have never known what it’s like to be loved and cherished by parents. We prayed over helpless little children in a rehab center who have been completely abandoned by their families. We walked through a gypsy village where families of 10-15 people (some of whom were sick) live in dirt-poor, tiny one-room homes. We prayed over a home of around 8 siblings whose mother died and whose father is in and out of jail.
And my heart absolutely broke for it all. As I’ve been back home processing everything, something has sunk deep into my heart: we saw the world as the way God didn’t intend it to be – with pain, suffering, and evil. It broke my heart to see such darkness sitting on such a beautiful country. It tore my heart out to say goodbye to the multiple orphans we developed relationships with, knowing how desperately they want to continue to be loved and how there are so few people in their lives to give them such love. It broke my heart to leave a gypsy home of a dear tired mother with 11 children who shyly smiled up at you as you held their hands and hugged them on your lap. If your heart can literally physically hurt, then mine has been hurting so badly I’ve almost wished I could take it out.
Yet despite seeing such heavy and heart-breaking realities, I saw something else. I saw something a thousand times more powerful than any evil, any pain, any struggle. I saw hope. Hope like I’ve never seen before in my entire life. In those homes – on those streets – in those orphanages – I saw pieces of light breaking through the darkness. God’s presence is undeniably powerful there. And I mean undeniably. I saw Him fighting for each orphan, each homeless person, each gypsy. Yes, darkness and evil are real, but our God is so much more powerful. In the end, the enemy won’t stand a chance against His might and love.
We walked through these struggling places and met people on fire for the Lord, itching to share their hope with broken people around them. We met people curious and hungry for God and His truth. We visited beginning church plants passionate about coming together to worship the Lord, become more like Him, and spread His Gospel. We met incredible people in the ministries we worked with who are selflessly devoted to bringing God’s love and truth to the people of Romania every single day of their lives. We were told incredible stories from the people at Teen Challenge who felt trapped in drug addiction but were rescued, redeemed, and restored by God. We met a precious 12-year-old girl in one of the gypsy communities who had given her life over to the Lord and couldn’t contain her love for Him, despite her poverty-stricken, beyond difficult family situation. We met an older gypsy woman who, despite living very humbly with her sick husband, greatly loved and praised the Lord and had faith of steel.
It’s a lot to take in.
Despite the darkness, God is saving lives. Redeeming hearts. Protecting and fighting for His created and dearly loved ones. People are hungry for and curious about the Lord. Despite such brokenness, the name of God – God, who 1 John 1:5 says “is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” – is uttered, praised, and sought after every day.
And that is something you can’t ignore.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5).
When I asked God to open my eyes to see what He saw, He did by showing me a broken world, marred by darkness, but a world in which hope is breaking through and refusing to be conquered. I don’t even know how to fully describe it, but God showed me His heart while we were there. I saw all the people in Romania, and therefore the rest of the world, as people who God deems as worthy, valuable, and inherently precious. He wants them to come home more than anything. The brokenness of our world breaks His
heart. Truly, truly breaks it. But the core of His heart is how He breathtakingly loves His creation. His love protects us, provides for us, comforts us, strengthens us, fights for us. By His great love and grace He chose to come and save us.
And that is literally life-changing.
I sit here now, and I’m thankful. I’m thankful God opened this door for my team and let us go out into His beautiful and loved world and experience His work in it. I’m thankful He let us see His heart, His purpose, and His powerful hope. I’m humbled and overwhelmed.
So friend, as you’re reading this, be encouraged. If you know Jesus, revel at His power and love. Praise Him for who He is. Be reminded that the same God who is saving lives and restoring hope every place on earth is the same God who lives inside of and loves you.
And friend, if you’re reading this and you don’t know God, let the truth that He loves you, fights for you, and died for you sink in. This God, who can save and redeem any life, loves you more than you could ever imagine. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I’ve seen it. So wherever you are, wherever your heart is, turn your eyes to God who is defined by love and grace. You won’t regret it.
Thanks for reading, friends. More to come. (:
All the glory to Him,
“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” ~Jeremiah 31:3
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” ~John 8:12
Here is a link to my photo album from the trip! http://bit.ly/2ldVJJs