Life update: We’ve been crazy busy trying to get settled into our new house. On top of all the things we had planned to do – unpack boxes, setup storage, put up pictures – we’ve had plenty of unexpected adventures as well. The furnace died. So did the washing machine. But the biggest time-consuming project of all has been figuring out what to do with the lead paint in our kitchen cabinets. Oh, why are people painting kitchen cabinets anyway?
Sunday was a busy day in Romania. The team split up, each of us visiting a different church in the area. Donna, Jessica, and Jeremy each went to village churches. I stayed in R.V. and attended the service at Hope Baptist Church.
The service that morning was a special thanksgiving service so I’m not sure how well it compares to a “typical” service but I did make a few observations on how the service there differed from a typical American Baptist service.
- Lots of participants. There were multiple speakers – not full length sermons, per se – but each had their own devotional thought. We were also treated by several musicians and singers bringing special music. There was a choir of teenagers from the church in Copacheni.
- Corporate prayer. Prayer is a big deal in evangelical Romanian churches because the dominant religion of the country – Russian Orthodoxy – only practices formulaic prayers. In contrast, the Romanian churches I went to took corporate prayer very seriously and expected extensive participation from the entire congregation. The best analogy for the method employed by the Romanian church is what we in America might call “popcorn prayer.”
- Two hour service. Every Sunday service I attended (3 in total) was two hours long. Because of the number of participants and variety, the two hours went by quickly.
I had the opportunity to participate as well. In the morning service I preached on Deuteronomy 30:11ff. I wanted to encourage unbelievers to choose life by choosing to follow Jesus and I wanted young believers to choose life on a daily basis, submitting their whole lives to God’s rule. Dorin’s daughter, Andrada, a college student, translated for me. It’s a little challenging preaching through an interpreter but the challenge was not insurmountable. Once I got through some initial nervousness and figured out how to get into a rhythm with my interpreter the only difference was that I had to be more concise than normal, which probably ultimately helped focus my message.
After the morning service lunch was served. It was a special Romanian meal which I ate way too much of. The meal also gave me an opportunity to meet several young people from the church. One, Christian, was a fellow techie. He echoed the challenged faced by churches in R.V., that is, that many young people nurtured in the churches leave town to go to college and don’t return.
At 3:00 we went back to the sanctuary for the evening service (moved forward since everyone was already at the church for the luncheon). This was, again, a two hour service with praise songs, special music, and guest speakers, myself included. This time, I spoke on the call of Abraham in Genesis. I wanted to encourage the church to take risks in following Jesus and to obey in spite of uncertainty. Following this later afternoon service Florin, the missionary to the church in Copacheni, hosted a “quiz bowl” to give away the piles of fresh vegetables wonderfully displayed at the front of the church. The quiz bowl questions were hard and I was very impressed with the biblical literacy of the church. Our youth group would have been destroyed by their youth group in a competition (no offense guys).
Before the quiz bowl game ended I had to leave in order to make it on time to the evening service being held at the Pentecostal church across town. In many respects, the Pentecostal service was not unlike the Baptist service: multiple speakers, special music, and corporate prayer. The big difference was that in the Baptist church people prayed one at a time and in the Pentecostal church everyone prayed, out-loud, together. I did have some point of reference for this since it was the common practice of the Pentecostal church my wife and I attended briefly when we were in college. If people were speaking in tongues, I had no idea, since I didn’t understand what they were saying anyway. Andrada translated for me what the themes of the prayers were supposed to be (i.e., praising God, praying for lost friends, praying for the sick, etc.) so I took the opportunity to join in the prayer time.
This experience reminded me of the passage in Revelation where all the saints are gathered around the throne, multitudes from every nation, tribe, and tongue. God’s kingdom and church extend beyond national and linguistic boarders. It was a blessing to praise God with one voice, even though we were speaking different languages.
Once again, I had an opportunity to preach so I preached again on the call of Abraham. God had been using this passage to speak to me and I believe he used it to encourage the church in Romania.
The service wrapped up around 8 and we all headed back to Dorin’s home. We ate a delicious dinner. Dorin’s two grown children, Alin and Andrada, plus Andrada’s fiancé Anescu drove back to Sibiu and I, after a Skype chat with my wife, went promptly to sleep, exhausted from the busy day.