Monday, October 31, 2011

Catch Up #3 From Sarah Simmons

October 2, 2011

This is Romania.

Much has happened since my last update. As I try to remember all the important moments, the information registers as a jumbled mess of laughter, tears, stress, joy, money spent, and friendships strengthened. So here is my best go at untangling this mess of memories to share with you all.

Catch Up #2 From Sarah Simmons

September 11, 2011

I Have Gained a Romanian Family

These past ten days (Has it only been ten?!) have been packed full of extreme felicity. I’ve taken a giant-sized bite out of Romanian hospitality; and I am better for it.

Catch Up #1 From Sarah Simmons

Hello Blogging World!

This is Sarah Simmons signing in for a couple blogposts. I’ve been keeping my own blog (kind-of) up to date since the beginning of our Romanian adventure. So I’m going to summarize what I’ve already written. Do enjoy. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beauty on High

Hey God, remember when you created the heavens and the earth? Well, I haven’t seen heaven yet, but I was able to get a small glimpse
of the beautiful earth that you created while I was in the
Retezat Mountains and it was mind-blowing. The beauty of your creation and
creations has humbled me once again. The feeling of being so small was real, it
made me realize just how incomprehensibly big you are, and how all power on
heaven and on earth really does lie in your hands. I was blessed in so many
ways on this trip, but also had to rely on you a lot for patience and strength.
Father, on this trip you struck me with the truth that there is power beyond
compare in the name of your Son, beauty beyond measure in vulnerability, and
satisfaction and peace in you that surpasses any pleasure here on earth.

As I was preparing for this trip to
Retezat, I was confident in my physical abilities, but still unsure of what to
expect. As we began the first incline, I was humbled by the intensity of the
incline and heaviness of the pack. I was exhausted and we were not even halfway
through the first day. I honestly wanted to give up at points. I remember
thinking “I didn’t sign up for this!” But throughout the day I was encouraged
by everyone else’s persistence and by the beauty of the place we were in. I
remember when things got really hard I would simply repeat the name of Jesus in
my head with every step. I knew I wasn’t alone, I knew no one else could help
me because their packs were just as heavy, and I was confident that the most
powerful name in the entire universe would give me the strength I needed to get
to our final destination each day, even if I felt like I could no longer

After long days of traveling up the
mountain, it was refreshing to know that I was able to have some time to sit
and listen to my sisters tell their stories. I remember being scared to reveal
things in my life that I had gone through, but as I was praying and preparing
the day that I was supposed to share my story, I was comforted by the fact that
my past is not who I am today and the places that God has brought me through
are all a testament to his incredible mercy, goodness, and faithfulness to his
promises. I knew this was a safe place and decided to dig deep into my life. It
was incredible to see everyone else doing the same thing. I was awed by some of
the crap that people have had to go through. Honestly at times I was sick to my
stomach and my heart literally ached for my sisters. But I was also able to see
the good that God had done in their lives as well. I think a lot of times,
women especially, tend to think that the messier their story, the less
beautiful it is or the less beautiful they are. But I can honestly say that
after hearing everything, my sisters were glowing! They were so beautiful and
pure; the scales were taken off my eyes and they were glowing with the love of
Christ. I knew I was getting a glimpse of how God sees us. This made me realize
why/how God must love us so much. If I was able to see through the grime and
messiness of a person’s life and simply see beauty, how much more does God see
them as beautiful! He loves our hearts and he loves to hear them. He is given
glory through our stories even if they seem to only hold brokenness and scars.
The beauty that comes from this vulnerability is something of a mystery that
can only be explained by our Heavenly Father.
There were a few experiences on the
mountain where peace literally flowed over me like a river. The first
experience was on the solo. In my time on the mountain, nothing profound
happened; I read, prayed, wrote in my journal and watched the clouds pass by.
But as I was sitting there I just felt as though no matter what was thrown at
me, I was going to be okay, I was safe, and I was in the arms of God. It did
not matter what came next, because I knew who was in control. I remember specific
times during the solo when I was cold, and then the sun would come out, then I
would be hot, and the sun would go behind a cloud. It may seem silly, but I
reminded me of God’s faithfulness and how I should not worry about tomorrow,
because I am being taken care of today. I was also reminded of God’s peace when
we stopped and ate lunch at the place where the horses were. I went up to the
peak and just sat there, taking in all the beauty that was in front of me. All
I could think of over and over was “God, you are enough.” I was so blessed by
those words. My time in Romania so far had been wonderful, but I still wasn’t
content with where I was. I was missing home and living for the next time I
would be able to speak with a friend or family member. I was not able “to be
where I am when I am where I am.” But something clicked while I was praying on
that peak that allowed me to be content. I knew it wasn’t always going to be
easy, but I felt like I was more equipped to handle it.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for the
truth that you revealed to me on this trip. I was able to see just how powerful
the name of Jesus is, how beauty can come through vulnerability and how you are
enough for me, no matter where I am in the world. As I was climbing the
mountain, repeating the name of Jesus in my head, I realized that this needs to
be something I do in my everyday life. When I am frustrated with a situation
and I feel like I can no longer carry on or have no motivation to, I need to
speak the name of your Son. I need to turn to you for help before I turn to
anyone else. The beauty that I was able to see in my sisters through
vulnerability really convicted me as well. I think from now on, if I am having
a hard time loving someone, I just need to sit down with them and get to know
them better. Knowing a story seems to be an incredible way of seeing people
through your eyes. I pray that I will have the willingness and strength to do
that. And when life is crashing over me, not allowing me to see or think
clearly, I want to remember the peace that comes from being still and waiting
patiently for you. I want to remember how it felt to be so confident in you
that nothing else mattered but being able to hold the hand of the God that
holds the world. Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing these truths to be
revealed, I ask that they would be fertilized and take deep root in my life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Ladies of Fall 2011

Yes, we know...we are a little late in getting this thing going this year...not because we haven't been doing exciting things and meeting amazing people, but because of technical reasons (take it up with blogger and gmail.)

But hey...continue to check out this site because updates will be coming soon!

Below is a picture of our students from when they first arrived in Romania and we were up in Sinaia (seems like so long ago!!)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

All My People on the Floor Let's Party All Night

The soundtrack to life in Romania is a bouncing dance beat reverberating off the gray walls of the concrete apartment blocks that line the streets and out of every television blaring Kiss TV. There's "Ya Bb," Sam and I's favorite, "All My People," "Tot Mai Sus," "Freedom," "Never Be Alone," and "Senorita," just to name a few, but beware because these songs will hijack your mind; if one of these songs is playing nearby the beat just might captivate you from head to toe so you can't resist the urge to let loose on the floor. Just a warning. Romanian music is intoxicating, to say the least.

I went to a music festival that happened to be taking place just a block from my house, and I was shocked to see the mix of people in the crowd watching the overtly sexual performance by pop singer Andrea Balan. Wearing strappy stilettos and barely-there outfits to match their hot and heavy dance moves and music, this was not a concert where I expected to see elderly people. But there they were, older women with fixed gazes, clearly admiring what was happening on stage. This impression was only confirmed when my host mother and I sat down on a park bench to talk with a distant relative of my host mom and her mother: they were both gushing about how beautiful the performance was and the energy and costumes and everything involved. This is culture shock for me, having a mother who cannot shop in a store with loud, thumping music, nor give even the least bit of approval to suggestive music, dancing or clothing. Even my host dad, who is in his fifties, plays this music in the car, and Andre and Mariana Zaba, an older couple, had Kiss radio playing at their little shack out in the countryside while we helped make zacusca.

As of now I can only guess that young and old Romanians alike enjoy this disco music because its steady bass and catchy melodies drown out the harsh realities of daily life here. During my home stay my host parents Adina and Petre would often complain of terrible back pain and headaches, as a result of hard work in their multiple gardens and various tasks around their house. I think more of the pain is mental rather than physical because they do take an abundance of cigarette breaks throughout the day. One day my host father was explaining how the work never ends, and "asta este viata." This is the reality they live with in this rural Romanian town, and yet they seem to squeeze every ounce of life out of each day. They always have people dropping by to visit and eat "prejitura" (cake) or my host father will make a joke about the most ordinary of occurrences. They take their food very seriously as it is literally what brings the family, and even the gypsy workmen helping them, together; they don't want the perfect, chemical-induced produce from the supermarket, but they work the land to produce their own produce that is bursting with flavor. After all, sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls), ciorba de fasole (bean soup), and cartofii prejit (french fries) would not taste the same if they were tainted by artificial produce, as I have figured out.

Romanians are still lost in the music of the revolution, having yet to fully emerge from the conformity and dependence that communism ingrained in the people. Gradually the music is growing softer and softer as individuals are enlivened to their own power to love, to create, and to think freely. Programs like Impact are drowning out the music of corruption and distrust, and simultaneously the strengths of Romanian culture, such as their dedication to family, their blunt honesty, their keen sense of humor and their resourcefulness, are creating a new kind of music, ushering in renewed hope of greater freedom.