Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Your Word Does Not Return Void...

Three years ago, I met a young man named Bogdan at one of the camps for the Romanian ministry at which I am now serving (Joshua Project World Ministries.) Like the other youth at this camp, Bogdan was infected with HIV as a young child at either a hospital or clinic and had experienced ridicule, abandonment, and rejection due to contracting the disease. As a result, Bogdan was understandably sad, hard-hearted, and mostly...angry. I remember looking at him and thinking that it was an impossible situation. However, I was quickly reminded that we serve a God that makes the impossible, possible. Throughout the week, the truth about God's love and Christ's sacrifice was shared, however, it seemed that nothing penetrated Bogdan's heart. So hard was his heart, that I cried out for him one morning during our team prayer session. I weeped as I pleaded with God to soften and change what seemed to be a stone instead of a heart.

This is picture of the Bogdan I met three years ago. In this picture I see the tough, angry young man I met. What I mainly see are eyes that lack joy, hope, and most of all, love.

Regardless of what it looked like on the outside, the team and I could not see what God was doing on the inside. Over the course of the next two years, God continued to grow the seed that was placed in Bogdan from that camp in 2007, slowly breaking down walls and softening the exterior. Six months ago, Bogdan made a decision to give God control of his life, and three weeks ago, Bogdan was baptized.

This is the Bogdan I know today. This picture was taken last week at our first camp of the summer. In this young man, I see the peace, hope, and love that was missing three years ago. In this young man, I see my fellow brother in Christ. A radiant Bogdan attended camp last week. My heart was overjoyed as I watched him laugh with and hug others, but also cry as he prayed for the other young men and women at camp, asking God to change their lives as well.

Bogdan is making incredible strides in his new life with Christ. Not only is he faithful in attending the church plant that has started in our center, but he has cut off all ties with his former life and is surrounding himself with others that are choosing to live for God as well. He has even published a website at which others can learn about God. It's written in Romanian, but I would like to invite you to check out the incredible work of this young man:

I asked Bogdan if I could share his story for two reasons. Primarily, I want you to know the importance and value in sharing the Gospel, as well as the summer camps we conduct at Joshua Project World Ministries. Just because you may not see fruit from your labor, God is clear in Isaiah 55:10-11 that His word will not return void. It says,
"As the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Secondly, I want you to pray for our brother, Bogdan. He is a brave, young man who is choosing to live opposite to the world around him. The world says that he is worthless because he has HIV and that it is hopeless to believe in a God that you cannot see. Even if he wasn't infected, the outlook of Romanians in general is dim. Recently, the government has increased taxes (for the umpteeth time,) even taxing bank accounts. They've sliced the wages of non-governmental works 30% this last month, and there are rumors of taking away the pensions of disabled children, like those infected with HIV. Without this pension, many of them will have no source of income at all.

So I beseech you to pray. Pray for Bogdan. Pray that he would be strengthened and encouraged by others around him. Pray that God would raise up other Christian men to walk along side of him. Pray that he would grow in boldness and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Most of all, pray for his protection. His, and our adversary, the devil wants to destroy his life. He may not be able to have Bogdan's soul anymore, but he wants nothing more to make him ineffective for the Kingdom of God to the point of robbing Bogdan of everything he has...even life. So we must pray.

I hope this testimony of God's work encourages you and increases your own faith in the things you've been praying for. Know that God is always at work and that your prayers DO have an impact. If you are a follower of Christ, you have the ability through Jesus, to stand in the throne room of God when you pray. James 5:16 says, "...The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective."

So let's do it, let's be effective!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Like A Bull In A China Shop....

Ever had that "awkward" feeling where everything you do is out of sync? Yeah, that's been me for the last two weeks. The first few days were the most ridiculous. So I'm gonna call myself out, on the "internets." (That's for you KK ;-)

First I want you to take a look at my apartment. Oh yeah, it's green...pistachio to be exact. You know you're jealous.

Now, as you can tell from these first few pics, there's lots to be done to make this apartment feel like a home. The green color was so overpowering I hung my dish towels up on existing nails just so I would have SOMETHING to break up the color. The pic of the "living area" on the right shows some of the purchases I made during my first few weeks here. Don't worry, I bought paint....

Now, to get back to that "bull in a china shop feeling...." The first shopping trip turned out to be total disastrous in feeling like I had any control over my awkwardness at all. First, Tresha and I go to Plus where we loaded up our shopping cart with many much needed supplies. Everyone is staring because people don't normally buy very much stuff at stores, because they don't have the money to and here we are with a basket completely full of supplies. So, we've loaded all the items onto the belt and the checker starts his procedure.... Tresha reminds me I need bags (you pay for your bags and bag your own items here.) Duh! So I grab about 4 bags and start chunking items into the bags as fast as I can before the checker, who is basically shooting my items across the bar-code scanner, is finished. I'm basically a wreck. Not only is everyone staring at me, but I have to be finished with the bagging before the scanning is done...or else everyone will still be staring at the American who doesn't know how to check-out while she's fumbling around for her wallet....

Wallet? Wait a second, where's my wallet? That's right, I forgot my wallet. Praise God Tresha had enough cash to cover my purchases. After that, we went back to my apartment to salvage what was left of my pride and find my wallet. It was just where I left it by the way....

The next store was just as ridiculous. We had just as full a basket as the first store, however this time, we held up the line because the pot I chose didn't have a sticker on it. Tresha went back to find the pot on the shelf, during which a man elbowed her and she dropped the pot and broke the lid. Clean-up on Aisle 5!!!! She returned, with both the broken and properly "stickered" pot only for me to realize there are about twice as many eyes on me as before. I have never felt like such an outsider before.

That was the first few days. Now that it's been about two weeks, I'm settling in to my new apt and am slowly but surely making it feel more "home-y." As for the "awkward" feeling, well...let's just say that I'm now smiling at all the staring eyes. There are some things, you just can't fix...

Here are some more pictures of my "studio" apartment.

Re-vamped kitchen. Next, some green plants,
colorful pieces, and much needed painting!

The unfinished bedroom

And to the right, my friends, is the gypsy house across the street from my apartment. I am convinced the owner of my apartment borrowed their left over paint. I mean, it's the exact same color as my kitchen/living area. It's ridiculous!

Kind of reminds me of the wild color of houses I saw on the west side of San Antonio everyday as I drove to work ;-)

Finally, the view from my bedroom window. These mountains are some of the smaller ones in this area. Last Sunday, the McKnight's and I went to a lake up in the mountains. I was saddened when I realized I forgot my camera. However, I'm sure we will be back there again as it is only 30 minutes from where we live. God is good to provide such an oasis in the middle of a devastated country where so many have so little.

Stay tuned for pictures of the "kids" of the Joshua Project who I hope to capture on video and in pictures soon!