A car honked window around 8:45 in the evening, and I looked up from the book in my lap. Startled, I quickly realized I wasn’t home. It feels hard to grasp I haven’t been here for very long, yet small things still startle me: a weird combination of discovering and settling in.
It’s been two years this week since I first stepped foot in Romania, and today while walking, I passed the building where I spent many hours of my first trip here and it silenced my thoughts a bit: what a journey it’s been, what love I’ve known in this city. This city has seen me in many different hours, hours of lacking, and hours of feeling as if I didn’t lack one single thing in the world.
A year ago I knew, sitting on a bench watching the sunlight glaze the mountains in the morning, that there would be more time for me in this country yet. I didn’t know then that by the end of the day, I would already be talking to people about this summer – still an abstract idea, but I knew then there was no mistake in thinking it. The Lord certainly led me here, years before and his purposes are still unfolding today. This trip has been the greatest means of grace in my life in learning to follow him, and I can barely comprehend I have a lifetime ahead of continuing to listen and to follow, by grace and grace alone.
How to describe this trip, so waited and prayed for, so lengthly written about in short letters and long journal entries, so perfectly orchestrated from every tiny detail I couldn’t even consider myself – seems impossible. There’s so much I want to tell, so much, and to so many people in particular; faces cross my mind constantly sunset after sunset, people who have been here with me, and who have prayed for overwhelming faithfulness for this country and for my time in it, which I can now write and say I have known.
I arrived in Romania on Saturday, after the quickest and easiest day of traveling. Navigating airports is surprisingly peaceful, quiet, and uneventful. The nine hour plane ride consisted of the guy beside me sleeping the entire trip as I didn’t sleep a second, but instead watched and cried over a movie for the first in years (the tears were about many things, I’m certain), drank lots of water, tried to sleep, eagerly waited for the lights to return so I could read properly, and watched the flight tracker for too long. I arrived early to Bucharest, exhausted, and after a day of slowly getting back to Craiova, I made it to see the first sunset of my trip. Moments after arriving, I was welcomed into the sweetest surprise of my life with my dear friends from previous trips (words from missionary Adoniram Judson come to mind: “If such exquisite delights as we have enjoyed with these now in paradise, and with one another, are allowed to sinful creatures on earth, what must the joys of heaven be?”).
Monday, I started at the school where I’m instructing. I met students, who have already given me a thousand stories to tell (yes, there’s so much I’d tell so many, so much), and teachers who have been nothing but helpful in helping me learn the ways of the English school from showing me where to pour coffee to how to walk home. Following school, I come home to the young couple I’m living with asking me to join them for dinner. On free days, I’ve had such sweet meetings with some of the girls I met at the student camp last year, letting them show me around the city and tell me all that is happening in their lives.
“There’s so much I want to tell you,” several of them have said, and yes, I understand.
And that’s life: life here, which is not a list of accomplishments or highlights from a two week trip. Living here, if only for a summer, is different but in a way that is crafted morning by morning. Two weeks here, and I’ve just begun. I’ve just found the shortest walk home from work, and the prettiest. I now recognize the smell of the flowers that line the sidewalks. I’m learning what water to drink, the different names for different common foods.
Of all the things I so want to tell so many people, one stands out most of all that I’m discovering: the best thing you can do is to go somewhere far from the streets you’ve always known, not just for the views, and live there. Let it not be what you planned, but everything you hoped for. Learn what trees to pick fruit from, pick up words of the language from conversations. Keep your eyes plastered on the windows, as you drive through countryside and take note of every grand house and every lowly shack. Never forget how the sun rises, and sets, at different times. Listen to people of another tongue speak and sing of this grace. Go with little, come back with less, don’t take much anything for yourself, but come back with everything stored up in a far more precious way.
Not even two weeks in, and there’s much more to lose, so much more to gain.