Today I found a way to connect with the Romanian women living at River of Life by offering to either braid or curl their hair. One gal, 23-year-old Lavinia, eagerly agreed so I spent the next 10 or 15 minutes French braiding her shoulder-length hair. Within a few minutes, however, she undid it.
The beauty shop in full swing.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her. “Why did you take out the braid?”
“I no like,” she said in her low, gravelly voice. “I want you curl it.”
“Okay, then,” I said. “But you’ll have to wait your turn.”
“Okay,” she said.
And so I turned my attention and curling iron onto a 12-year-old girl. Lavinia waited patiently, jumping up several times to chase her cute-as-a-button daughter Ema, age 2. Rosie, a pregnant mother with two elementary-age daughters shyly motioned that she wanted a French braid, too. And then her youngest child tiptoed my way wearing a sweet smile and a hopeful expression. And so the beauty shop kicked into full swing. Beside us, three of the youngest children lined up their little chairs and sat in a row playing their own version of beauty shop. It was a fun time for all.
After lunch the women gathered around a long table for a cup of coffee and a meeting. Several village women, local believers, joined us. I presented a simple version of one of my speaking topics – “Overcoming the Pain and Shame of One’s Past.” When I think of these women’s pasts and the heartache they’ve endured, I wonder how they’ve even lived this long. Sexually and physically abused, homeless, growing up in hell-hole orphanages, these women are testimonies of a human’s ability to survive against incredible odds. Their lives carry scars – one seems skittish at times, as though she expects someone to hit her. Their critical thinking skills are challenged. Their parenting skills need a lot of encouragement.
Quite frankly, I feel as though handing them Scriptural platitudes is like a slap in the face. Christian lingo has neither place nor useful purpose. These gals need practical help and to be loved as Christ would love them. And that’s what they’re finding here. They’re the widows described in Scripture – abandoned and rejected. They’re the widows for whom Christ’s followers are commanded to care. How many more widows are out there? How many people are willing to go and lend a helping hand?
Gene checking Tante Maria’s blood pressure. She’s a Christian neighbor who came for the ladies’ meeting.
The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. “God, shake us from our comfy pews and teach us to value what You value. Plant within our hearts a passion for what You say is important.”