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.