Shortly after becoming a Christian over 10 years ago, I dreamed of becoming a missionary where people were oppressed and hurting. I could feel the calling, but didn’t think it possible for me to actually go. I allowed my passport to expire without ever using it. It wasn’t until all the struggles I had throughout 2011 that I felt I really had to submit to that calling to go. Last year I filed bankruptcy due to overwhelming medical bills, my father died the next day, I lost my job, and to top it all off, was diagnosed with stage four cancer and told I would eventually die. Although I could feel the darkness closing in, I shouted, “I will yet praise Him!” I assured my unbelieving doctor that “I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord” (Psalm 118:17). It was in Romania this past summer that I could boldly, in faith say, “Dumnezeu ma vindecat de cancer.”
With 2011 being such a devastating year for me I had to reassess my walk of obedience to God. As I was out hiking and having a conversation with God He said, “Carrie, you have settled. I have planned for you much greater things and promise to be your everything in all things.” Going on missions was one thing that I have set on the back burner thinking I would just end up somewhere as a missionary at some point. I enlisted the help of a friend who to keep me accountable getting back on track with where God was leading. I still remember talking to her about my desire to do a missions trip and being convicted by her response of, “Why don’t you just go?” I had to come face-to-face with my fears and apprehensions of going on a mission trip, but even louder than those hindrances was the call of God and the desire to walk worthy of that calling at any cost. After all, my doctor told me I was going to die, what more is there to fear?
I heard of Outstretched Hands of Romania through church and listened to testimonies of Brad and his family every year. I longed to be a part of what they were doing in Romania. It was rather simple to make the contact with Brad and let him know what my desire was. I was a little fearful of telling him about the cancer because I thought he would not allow me to join them. However, this didn’t even faze Brad; he is a man of understanding and wisdom, knowing that God is much bigger than this cancer. He also encouraged me with testimony of others healed while in Romania. My cancer was already beginning to diminish to the surprise of my doctor, and I made up my mind to continue to cling to Psalm 118:17 as God’s promise for me:
I shall not die but live, and shall declare the works and recount the illustrious acts of the Lord.
I have never gone overseas and have never done a missions trip, but I was prepared to go alone and be open to whatever God had in mind. I planned my trip to be a month since I had the time now to do this. When I showed up in Romania I was cordially greeted by two young men from Outstretched Hands who took me to where I would be staying –a very comfy, well furnished, modern, dorm-like room. My first week was spent holding back tears as I experienced the selfless, ministry endeavors of the team. Visiting the many village churches and seeing the richness of Christ among the team and church members humbled me. Without all the special effects and entertainment, we were able to worship God as the face-to-face Friend and Holy God He is. I didn’t know the words to their music, but each time we came together to worship I felt as though I was in the throne room with my Maker and imagined this is what Jesus meant in John 4:23 about worshiping Him in Spirit and in Truth. Not wanting to leave, I extended my stay another month and ten days.
I don’t feel I gave nearly as much as I received while there. I learned a lot about true faith in God and really trusting in Him. I also felt I had the freedom to express my belief in the uncompromised Word of God without judgment. I learned so much by living out the Word in real life as a servant of Christ. The people I met on the OH team and in the villages quickly became close-knit brothers and sisters in Christ that I remain in contact with to this day. I can be vulnerable before them and receive nothing but love, encouragement, and truth. As I stood alongside the OH team in ministering to the poor and the children I could clearly see their vision to: “Raise an army of children and poor to bring the gospel to the unreached parts of Romania.” Even as I now look at my photos from my time there I can see Jesus at work fulfilling that vision.
Upon returning to the States I feel like a new life has started, much like being saved all over again. I feel that my mission has really just begun here. The Holy Spirit did a great work of transformation during my stay in Romania that has surpassed my last five years of spiritual growth. Brad and the team have a Spirit-led ability to see others as God sees them and to bring forth those things they see. I was affirmed of my strength in Christ and value to the Body of Christ. I didn’t just sit back and watch others be used by God; I was also greatly encouraged to share as someone who has something to offer.
If you are considering a mission trip to serve alongside Outstretched Hands of Romania, be prepared to have your heart broken for the things that break God’s heart; but also be prepared to have your heart filled to overflowing with the Love of God through His beautiful people in Romania.
Picture Slide Show from my time in Romania Spring/Summer 2012. Credit for the Song goes to Decean from Decean Live – Mission Possible. Credit for some pictures goes to A. Bixler.
Although Romania is no longer communist, some of that mentality remains. This can be seen in the drab looking buildings and people’s faces. This is not a place to walk down the street and smile at people. To me, an American, their lack of cheer can come off as almost hostile. I have gone on many wanderings now and feel that if I smile at someone it may be considered offensive. I have been received well while shopping despite my limited ability to speak Romanian though. I will add that Romanians are some of the nicest, most generous, hospitable people I have ever met.
As I prayed about what to bring to Romania, I felt I needed to bring blessings. I made a lot of colorful laminated cards with various scriptures translated into Romanian (Jeremiah 29:11-13, Numbers 6:24-26, Isaiah 54:10, John 8:36, Deuteronomy 7:9, Exodus 14:14, Psalm 119:50, Romans 15:13, etc…..go ahead look those up, they are awesome). I keep these cards in my wallet so that when I purchase something using the proper greetings in Romanian of course, I can give them a blessing card. I’ve done some shopping and haven’t used the cards until just a little while ago.
I went shopping at a second hand clothing store (which, from what I hear, have just started popping up everywhere). The clerk and I struggled through a conversation with my limited Romanian. Despite this challenge she found the exact shirt in the exact size I was requesting. It’s a beautiful designer shirt with the tag still on it for only 25 lei (US dollars is approximately 1/3 that). As I was paying I began to feel a very strong presence of the Lord. Forget speaking Romanian at that point, I don’t think I could have even managed English. The Holy Spirit told me to give her the Numbers 6 blessing. I didn’t want her to see my shakiness as I fumbled with my wallet. Thankfully, because this was the Holy Spirit’s gig, I got the right card out gracefully. I thanked her in Romanian and gave her the card. The power of God was so strong I felt like I couldn’t even walk. I left the store, turned the corner and immediately encountered my first dog attack.
I heard about the territorial dogs in Romania that I should watch out for but was assured that in Calarasi it really wasn’t a big issue. Loose dogs are all over the place and I have walked past plenty to have my guard down around them. But yes, this little dog came at me like a devilish terror. I assertively ssssshhhhh him but he came at me more. I could almost feel his breath at my ankles and the subsequent bite. However, I just kept thinking about holding my peace, remaining calm, and that actual evil will not come to me. I crossed the street. The little devil followed me. Strange thing about that is several other people were walking right past him even before I got to him!! All through this I still felt the heavy presence of the Lord and eventually escaped unscathed. I included a picture of the local hospital. Phew! Thank God I was unscathed. I really don’t want to go there for any medical care.
This morning during worship God put heavy on my heart “powers and principalities” and being fully armored in the Lord. Later someone else gave that exact word to the group. There is such a strong oppressive power here in Romania. After getting free from the little mean dog I could clearly see how he resembled the devil intimidating and chasing away the power of God and His word. God is my protector and I need only to hold my peace being fully armored. It’s no coincidence that I just blessed someone with a powerful word of God, was filled mightily with the presence of God and then suffered an intimidating, threatening attack. How is it that this little dog chose me to attack and not all the other people walking by? (No, I did not have any food on me.)
Please pray for Romania and missionaries here. This is some rough territory that so terribly needs freedom, love, revival, and a huge, huge spiritual breakthrough. Also, never neglect providing for those who serve the Lord so selflessly in dark places.
Hospital in Calarasi
I’ve been here a few days and have not had much to say to the world about my experiences thus far. I would have to say it’s been a bit overwhelming and I’m speechless. Thankfully, other than perhaps my emotions, I have not suffered much jet lag. I definitely picked some good flights, and the very minimal layover time helped a lot.
I have been hanging out at the Hope Center in the Caramidari neighborhood. Many may see that place as hopeless, but I do see an army of poor children being raised to bring the Gospel to unreached parts of Romania. The team at the Hope Center really love, love, love these children. It’s amazing to watch them hug and love children that are very dirty and smelly, much like those commercials you see for other ministries in third world countries. Yes, it looks like that, seriously. I haven’t taken pictures yet out of respect for the people, but I will take some eventually because I want the memories to come with me. And they will serve as good prayer reminders.
My emotions have been quite raw, but I’m coming around now. I wasn’t eating much the first few days but made a very awesome scrambled egg, spinach, garlic concoction a little bit ago. Being away from my juicer is rough, but I can find some raw veggies/fruits here to indulge in.
That is it for now. We will be going to Roseti in a couple hours to visit a church plant there. There are some Norwegian folks here who have financed the Hope Center among other things they so generously gave to make possible. They will be recognized for this tonight at the church. I am very blessed to be here.
I just got to Călărași a few hours ago and ate a really huge candy bar. I think it’s monday, but I’m not really sure. Glad tomorrow is a holiday here and I can chill and get over any jetlag issues before it’s work time. I took a picture of the mall in București where I exchanged some money and ate some really good chicken. I should have stopped at the chicken….an entire huge candy bar at 1:30 in the morning?!? But I had to, it was a gift.
In 48 hours I will be on a plane heading to Istanbul, where I will have a brief layover. Then . . . ROMANIA! It’s almost unbelievable that this time has come. The last few weeks has been high anxiety, overflowing in peace, full of discouragement, joyfully confident in the Lord, and…very busy. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). I’m exhausted, so I have not much more to say….read my March 30th post for more information about my trip.