How many Canadian women get to spend their 51st birthday in Romania? I do, I do!
And what a day it was!
Gene and I left the hotel for an early morning walk and decided to visit the Orthodox cathedral a block away – the one where a dozen or so children were executed in 1989. We noticed that people walking or driving past the structure will “cross” themselves. When we stepped inside, we heard a man’s voice singing. Actually, it sounded more like liturgical chanting. His voice echoed through the cathedral, drawing people in and leading them through formal motions of worship. One priest stood in the front; 10 people knelt before him. Another priest entered a room swinging an incense holder before a table covered with burning candles. Nearby was a wooden box nearly the size of a casket, with its lid off. People took turns kneeling beside it and gazing into it – likely it contained the bones of a supposed saint. And there were people lining up to kiss golden images of saints. Other than the man who sung, no one even whispered. The atmosphere was one of reverence.
It’s fascinating to travel and see that wherever we go, people are seeking God. In India, they sought the Hindu gods through rituals and sacrifices. Here, they seek Him through tradition. But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” My heart breaks when I see people steeped in religious rules and regulations but having no understanding of Jesus, the one whom we’re to worship in spirit and in truth.
After taking the team souvenir shopping, we ate lunch at McDonald’s. You read it correctly. It’s the fanciest McDonald’s I’ve ever seen, and it has a European-style outdoor eating area right on the main square in Timisoara. Plus, it has salads. My system is craving fresh veggies and fruit as the diet here doesn’t include much of those.
As we ate, a beggar boy about 9 years old came to us with a fist full of slightly wilted red roses, likely stolen from someone’s garden. Gene gave him the equivalent of $4 and then gave them to me for my birthday! Now that’s a dozen roses I’ll never forget! You should have seen the kid’s face when he realized he’d actually made a sale!
Moments later, another beggar, this one about 14 years old, approached. He stood directly behind me whining in Romanian. At one point, his voice sounded like a high soprano, and then he meowed like a cat. We tried hard to ignore him but he wouldn’t leave us alone. A McDonald’s employee asked him to leave several times, but he’d return seconds later and repeat his whining. Suddenly two police officers appeared from a side street. That’s all it took for the boy to run away before stopping to light a cigarette.
The afternoon was spent driving to the River of Life project – a home for abused women and children. We’ve stayed there on two occasions in the past year, so it was sheer delight to visit again. The women all gave me huge hugs and kisses. Even their kids came running to us. Emma, about 3 years old, came directly to me and cuddled with her head on my shoulder for several minutes.
The day ended with dinner at an outdoor restaurant with the team and our four IM missionaries. We debriefed by discussing how the ministry time went with the young adults, and then we prayed for Andy and Tresha, and Tony and Claudia. An unexpected treat was when a waiter and waitress brought a tiramisu birthday cake to our table for everyone to enjoy.
My life is so rich with family, friends, and ministry. I’m so very, very blessed.
Tomorrow we’re headed back to Budapest. That will take six hours by van. Our team will fly home on Saturday, and Gene and Kim and I will do a 3-hour tour of Budapest before catching a train to Slovakia. I likely won’t update my travel blog again until Sunday because of the full schedules.
BTW, thank you to all who wished me a happy birthday via email or Facebook. I haven’t had a chance to check Facebook on this trip…hopefully that time will come soon.