Sometime in February was a year that I've been here. Despite my inclination toward sentimentalism (mostly just on the blog--I'm a strong Myers-Briggs T but all the F in me seems to make its way out here), there was no one-year-anniversary blog.
But today was one of those days. It was the kind you look back and see all the space of a year, all its change, the things it pulls along behind it. We did our first official evangelism event today--surveys about Easter on campus--and sitting in the sun praying with one of my students, I was astonished at the things God has done for me.
This probably falls in the category of your classic crossing-culture stories, but this time last year I went with the students to do surveys in the dorms in Bucuresti. And it was horrible. Actually, it was the only time I've cried in front of anyone here about anything. I'd gone along with two guys, one a coworker and fellow Link staff, the other a Romanian graduate. Two months in I could have some conversation in Romanian but there was no way I'd be able to do anything in terms of discussion, so I came along as self-appointed pray-er. I'd stand there, listen, and pray the whole time while following as much conversation as I could.
I'm not really sure how the next part happened, but the whole time Andrei, the Romanian guy, kept trying to get me to join in on the conversation. It should be said that I'm not exactly articulate when speaking English (if only I could write everything!) and so some days there's no hope at all in Romanian. And at some point, with the best of intentions, he put me on the spot and there I was attempting to explain the biblical role of the Lamb in the Old Testament and what it had to do with Easter and Jesus. To be fair, he started by explaining I was learning the language, but I was (and usually still am) too stubborn to speak in English and, however it really was, the whole thing felt like watching a train wreck.
About an hour layer, about to get on the metro, after an hour of stewing in my own frustration, I guess Andrei asked me how I thought it went. And I just sort of stood there and said who knows what and then started to cry so spent the next five minutes waiting for the train staring at the ceiling.
What a difference a year makes.
Today I went paired up with a student who's stepping into new leadership, who's learning and growing in a lot of things. She was nervous before we started and I did the things for her my staff must have done for me, and we went out having conversations with people about God and Easter and all sorts of things. Lots of cool things happened. One pair of students we approached turned out to be a girl who'd just come to Petra (a local church that started out of the student movement) for the first time Sunday (neither of us go there so we'd never seen her before), who was looking for community and opened up for thirty minutes with the girl I was with. The other one was an atheist and the two of us sat for that same thirty minutes talking about how much our bodies do that we don't even think about, how he thought we were just animals and there wasn't any purpose of life but a continuing cycle. It was a great conversation, actually, and we think he'll come to our Easter event Wednesday. We're praying anyway. And another girl recognized me--one I have no memory of whatsoever--she said that I lived in X neighborhood, that I came to the little store she worked at. She lives in the same neighborhood and said she's interested in reading the Bible.
It is incredible to see God work and today was so encouraging. The funny thing is that it didn't have much to do with language. Language is surely the biggest outward and quantitative indicator of change over this last year, being able to do things I wondered if I ever would, especially given what it looked like last time we did surveys. But that was background. Stepping into one of, what is for me, the few natural places of leadership that isn't simply relational (I'm talking about evangelism, although to be fair that is super relational...) and showing, leading this student, watching her learn and trust God in something scary. Watching her get excited about it. This is what this is really about. It isn't just rhetoric.
And it's also a reminder of just how much this is his work. And he isn't a God who swoops in to save the day after a desperate half-meant prayer (if you're lucky). He's the sovereign God who was weaving things into the answer to that prayer way longer ago than we can imagine. This was my other favorite part of the day, sitting there in the sun with her, talking about how we are to pray without ceasing, praying for students we'd just talked to.
So then. We're going out again tomorrow, this time to the dorms. Pray for us!