Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Day 4 - Back To Budapest - Now The Fun Begins!

I'll flesh out my exciting trip from Romania to Hungary later, but I just wanted to get a quick blog up before I hit the Hungarian hay!  I actually don't start until later tomorrow, but I think 6 hours of driving a less than spunky stick shift on a windy, mountainous, two lane highway kind of sapped me.

So - I got back into Budapest about 3:30.  I was able to stop at the Spar thats actually IN the airport - crazy - and pick up something to eat so when I got to Jodi's I just jumped in the shower and got ready for the evening.

I met the group that I was going with at the hotel, which is only about a 5 minute walk from Jodi's (well, 15 if you stop at the Cafe for a latte on the way :) around 5.  It was a new dorm we were at tonight - one of the dorms for the technical university.

We have a guy who does buying for JC Penney and so he gave a business talk.  

We played some games.  

We had giant Hungarian pizza :) 

And we got to hang out and talk with a lot of pretty neat Hungarian students who actually wanted to stand around and talk to a bunch of weird Americans...

And here's the cool part.  So - they had some problems from this university getting the authorization to do the event this evening.  It ended up that they got the authorization at the end of last week and so they brought in fliers for them to hang up which, they forgot to do.  And then this afternoon - FEK found out the dorm forgot to put the fliers out so they just put out an email blast like a few hours before the event and then had some of our group go around to rooms to invite students.  We actually had about 25 - 30 students that showed up - which is better than some other dorms I've been at where we've advertised.  So - that was pretty awesome.

But the really cool of the cool part is that one of the girls who is in the dorm actually just became a believer and has started getting involved with FEK a little.  But she didn't know the event was happening tonight until she came home and heard some other students talking about the group giving out pizza tonight and she thought "pizza?  I wonder if thats FEK?"  How hilarious that free pizza is synonymous with FEK :)  So then, she was out in the hall and saw one of our guys and ended up going around inviting students with him.  She came down to the event and somehow I thought she looked familiar but just thought - it must be deja vu or something.

After the meeting she came up kind of shyly and asked me if I remembered her.  I looked and I told her she looked familiar but I couldn't remember.... Turns out - she had come to Thanksgiving last year! :)  She went on and on about how special that time was and that was right before she gave her life to Jesus and she was at that point where she was asking questions and Thanksgiving had been a special part of her coming to know Jesus.  Isn't that AWESOME! :)  And what an awesome year for this to happen with all of you connected to it!!! :)

She's at your far left looking at this picture... blue shirt and big untraditional Hungarian toothy smile :)

Her name is Agnes (its actually pronounced Ag-nish).  She's an absolute sweetie and I invited her again this year and she almost started crying.  She was so excited.  She stood for a while talking to me and my friend Leslie (who is also doing Thanksgiving) and she ended up saying - "I do have one thing that I have to ask you..."  She ended up telling us that she has a hard time talking to people about her faith and she feels so badly about it.  That she tends to hang out with her FEK friends so much that she doesn't know that many people in her new dorm so when she found out about the event she wanted to ask people to come, but she doesn't really know people.  Leslie and I just encouraged her a little to, first of all not feel badly or guilty when she doesn't share her faith, but to just pray for opportunities and the courage to do so when and where God opens a door.  And second - I did encourage her to take small steps to just become friends with people in her dorm - starting by inviting a few girls for Thanksgiving.  SO - I already have a little growing list - but its a great guest list and I'm so happy that we can use this just to reach out to other girls!

Theres also another girl, Blanca, that just came up and started talking to me this evening - I'm planning on sending her an invite to Thanksgiving as well.  

SO  - if you think of it - please pray for Agnes that we can just love on her and encourage her and that she'd grow.  And pray that she makes some new friends who will come to Thanksgiving as well - and that even Blanca will come and will connect with Agnes.  Funny how God works....!

And the one answer to prayer for me is that - I think I'd mentioned that I brought a ton of my old suits and stuff with me that I don't wear anymore but are still really good "business" clothes.  I figured that I'd give them to girls who are going to be starting out in the work world - however, the only girls I'm connected with really right now are long out of college or still in high school. Guess what - Agnes is in her last year of her masters so - she's moving out into the work world soon!  Someone for my clothes!:)  

Thanks for your prayers!  I'm at the Corvinus University English classes tomorrow morning and we have the university outreach tomorrow night.  You can pray for those things as well!

Happy Tuesday - completed here!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Day 3 - Ioana And Alison's Wild Adventures

SO I have to add an addendum to my Day 3 post because its actually pretty hilarious...

Ioana and I had dinner with the guys and did some mall-walking :)
And then we decided we wanted to go someplace nice for dessert - someplace that had a nice view.  So we asked someone local in the area if they had a recommendation and we were directed to a little place up on one of the hills that overlooks the city.

We put in the GPS the location and then we drive through the city, deciding we were experiencing horrible Cluj rush hour traffic.  Literally took forever!  Then we get to the base of the hill and we find that is barricaded by police.  We drive to another road up the hill - barricaded.  The next one, the same thing.  Ioana finally mentions that someone had mentioned that there was a futbol game going on and thats probably what it was about.  So - the next road we get to, she comments "I bet if YOU asked, they'd let us up since you're American."

So, we pull up to the police with my side facing them and I said in my best blonde, American voice "we're trying to get up the hill?"  The police say something in their Romanian language and shake their heads.  I continue to play the blonde thing and say "but how are we supposed to get up to the hotel?" The police kind of look around and start shrugging.  And then I keep on the blonde thing and pretty soon, sure enough, he moves the barricade and looks around and quickly motions for us to go through.  It was pretty hilarious.

But then the joke was on us, because once we started going up the hill, the GPS put us on this dirty, pot-holed rode that I think we almost burned out engine out on going up.  It was pretty scary, but even more hilarious :)

And when we got up - the view was worth it.  The pictures of course never do it justice, but just know the actuality of the view was way better...

And BTW, Mark Putman ---
yet more proof that Romania is the country you want to be doing missions in!  AND they serve their drinks ICE COLD!

I had to share this too... 
The local university here is named "Babes" ... I just laugh whenever I see it.  And its like Budapest where the campuses are all separate so the math one is right by us and then there are others all over the city.  Its actually pronounced "Bah-bish" but I like to think its just .... "babes".... :)

And the flowers are abundant here in Romania.  There are people all over selling flowers for dirt cheap.  You can buy this gorgeous bouquet of flowers for like 5 lei which is about $1.50.  The people just stand all over selling flowers, like person to person.  Most of them tend to be older people too so it makes me feel really bad and I want to buy all their flowers to help them.  

I'm glad I stayed this extra day in Romania for the fact that I was reading in I Corinthians 16:17 and its where Paul says how he rejoices that these guys came because "they refreshed my spirit..." and I just thought how thats so important for people who are working in the field, no matter what organization or platform or mission they're working with.  It can be tiring and endless and sometimes, they just need encouragement and someone to sit and listen to them and I'm happy to say - mission accomplished here in Cluj!

Thanks for praying for this trip and NOW - tomorrow I drive back around 8 or 9 in the morning and so I'll be back for the evening dorm outreach and my BHHP week will officially begin.

Monday - Day 3 - Breakfast Is Ready!

Good morning from Cluj!  Still here with Ioana and the boys - sounds like a pop group or something.... hmmm...  
Actually - one of the guys who has volunteered from Indiana to help with the Freedom Tour has a band back home.  They've actually recorded about 15 songs I think and they've done some concerts - I actually heard some of their stuff and they're pretty good.  We were joking though as, apparently, the other week, they were at a church that had a special guest musician who is a Romanian pan-piper.. or something like that.  They showed me his picture - he has a greased back mullet and and a suit and is seriously holding his wooden instrument with great conviction.  Since then, I've been determined to get Nathan a panpipe so that he could add that to his group back home.  And I FOUND A PANPIPE!  And not only that, but it has ROMANIA carved on it.  So - he's ready to go and as you can see, we're even working on album covers.  I'd listen!  And if the album was titled "Ioana And the Boys!"  I'd double listen!

I may have mentioned, but this whole 37 day trip for "Ioana And the Boys" is them sleeping in peoples houses from churches and such so - no privacy, no time alone, restaurant eating and otherwise feeling like you're inconveniencing people.  So - Ioana and I decided to make the guys breakfast this morning since we have the flat to ourselves.  We had to do some improvisions as there is no pancake batter or syrup here.  We discovered there are no measuring cups either - at least in this apartment.  So I got a homemade recipe for pancakes from my friend in China (which I think I am ALWAYS going to use now as its AMAZING!) and we found a plastic shake container or something and had to translate cups to centiliters and ounces.  Guessed at the big pat of butter when I needed 1/4 cup and 2 tbs.  Guessed at the other items calling for tbs and tsp.  But - in the end it turned out amazing!  We did scrambled eggs and found these sausages that actually smelled pretty good but - since there were 4 guys, didn't get to try them :)  Its ok.  We did a fruit salad.  I made kind of syrup/compote with blueberries and one with blackberries (which the blueberries we used were HORRIBLE as they were extremely sour - pancakes better without them).  All in all - everyone was well fed and enjoyed a morning where they could just chill out without being in other peoples way and had their meeting in a nice private place without sitting in the middle of a restaurant or something.

And this is what Ioana has to put up with.... 4 guys.... FOUR GUYS!  Do I need to say anything more.  They say things like "oh my word - we lost the van keys!" and then everyone panics and then they're like "hehehehe.... totally joking".  And they're like - "I'll take your picture - I'm really good.  I was actually a professional photographer" and this is what you get....and then a "hehehehe".

Due to that:)... and a few other things, I started tossing around staying another night for Ioana even though I know I was going to miss another morning of BHHP and the group is smaller.  I put out the proverbial fleece and started praying about it and gave myself 30 minutes to decide and at the end of the 30 minutes, I knew I had to stay.  SO - I'm here for another night and I'll leave early tomorrow.  8 or 9.  I should get back to Budapest city by about 3 or 4 which means I'll be there for the evening outreach but I'll miss the morning high school classes.

But I'll get another night with Ioana and be able to be here for her when she needs me.... And right now thats whats important to me....And thats where I'm feeling like God is leading me... And thats why I'm here! :)

They're finishing classes at the high school - I couldn't get in because I hadn't been planned on and theres security so I couldn't see a Romanian high school.  Oh well.  But - I'm off to drive over and meet them at the mall where theres a Starbucks!  I get to be in on their strategic planning meeting!  Get to see Ioana in action - yay!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Day 2 - Cluj, Romania

It's Sunday in Romania.

This morning we are at a small church (I believe it's possibly a Baptist church) and the Eliberare leader, Ryan, is preaching and then they are doing a short presentation on human trafficking.  It's a little odd as there's no nursery - call me American - and were sitting here in the midst of a small room full of people with screaming babies and talking/roaming toddlers and middle school children who are frequenting the bathroom and the drinking fountain.  It's very distracting - but the Romanians don't seem to pay notice so .... I'm trying not to but, it is very distracting.

Driving here, you can't help but notice churches everywhere.  I believe most of them are orthodox.  You drive through the town and here orthodox mass coming out over loudspeakers.  

The group went on to an early afternoon church service while I opted to go back to the flat and mentally prep for the week (aka eat, relax and nap).
Around 4 I met them all at the mall and then Ioana and I walked around the downtown area.

This is the Theatre - Arts building.

This is Emi Nescu, the most famous Romanian poet - at least thats what Ioana tells me :)

Old city walls and castle...

Again, an evening meeting for the group with a small group and I once again opted to go back to the flat.  Ioana and are planning to have all the guys over for breakfast tomorrow and so I started cleaning up and cutting up fruit and getting stuff ready.  

I think I'm mentally ready for BHHP and it will be nice to stay with Jodi so I get down time at night.  Sometimes it is hard being in a room with someone you just met and never having privacy after a really long day where you're mentally exhausted.  Sometimes you get a great new friend and other times, its just someone who you feel awkward around. So - I'm quite happy being with Jodi and knowing well be good just doing our own thing but having some chat time as this is usually the only time each year we get to see each other.

So - you can all pray for me tomorrow afternoon as I drive back from Cluj.  7 hours on that two lane road and I won't have anyone to say "Alison - don't be stupid by passing that truck!:)". I'm gonna have to count in myself to chose my life over saving some time!  Thanks in advance for prayers!

Oh - this is a shout out for Mark Putman!  YOU'RE GOING TO THE WRONG COUNTRY FOR MISSIONS TRIPS!  You need to hit Romania because apparently - its so abundant they just throw your liquid gold on the streets here!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cluj Napoca, Romania - Day 1... Day 2? No I'll Call It Day 1:)

It's my first full day in the EU.  Yesterday was Germany then Hungary and then a wild ride to Romania.  The wild ride was definitely partly my fault - ok all my fault.  Romania doesn't really have a highway system so its all two lane backroads.  And then theres the fact that I like to drive fast and there were plenty of others driving fast so you pass semis quick and then speed on a little farther until you get stuck behind another truck.   

So Romania is part of the EU but its not part of the "Schengen area" so it's not part of the EU border-free agreement.  So when we went to Austria and Poland we went through these old deserted check points where we didnt have to stop.  But last night, we had to stop at the Romanian border.  

It's actually kind of a, I don't want to use the word terrifying, but maybe sobering experience.  It's dark, there are about 5 big men in dark uniforms standing around.  There are some guns, there's language that you don't recognize being spoken, they stand over your car and then they take your passport and flag you over to the side and they walk away into a building - with your passport.... Thank goodness Ioana was there so at least thank goodness she knew what was being said and what was happening.

We dropped Nathan, an American guy who is working with Eliberare and he came with Ioana to Hungary to get me.  It was a 3 1/2 hour/4 hour drive and then Ioana took over and we had another 2 1/2/3 hours to go.  

We have an apartment rented and so we were taken up and settled in right away.  After looking around the apartment we decided two things - first of all, the owners are Hungarian and second, they're Christians.  There were desks with books on shelves that were filled with Bibles and books on books from the Bible.  And they're all in Hungarian:)

We talked for a little too long and then finally went to bed around 1:30 - that's a.m.:). And I didn't set an alarm so it was after 11 - a.m. - when I finally got up:). I believe I am well rested today!!!  
Ioana and I talked for a while.  She was able to do some confiding and venting and from what she said, I was able to so some encouraging, which I'm happy to be able to do!  We left around 1pm and headed out for the day.

I had to note these roses in the apartment courtyard... They were huge!  I don't even know how they got that tall!  

This is a statute of Michael something or other... Ioana told me he's the guy who united Romania.  There were 3 different regions in Romania; Moldova, Multenia and Transylvania.  I'm not sure of the details, but apparently they're all friendly and happy and they build statues to this guy now - but before they didn't quite get along.  

And these are the three seals for the regions.

And the Romanian flag - had to get that in there. 

Cluj is in the northwest area of Romania, the Transylvanian region that used to be part of Hungary (quite some time ago) and its actually surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains which you can see in this picture below...

In the afternoon Ioana and I had lunch/dinner in the old town square area.  Extremely cute.

So a little about Ioana...
Our meeting was a God-meeting:). I like those because I look back and I think - God completely wants me in this life for a reason - sometimes for me, sometimes for them...most of the time for both of us...
I had been asked by a friend to attend an event for International Justice Mission.  It's an organization that works with anti human trafficking around the world.  Its an organization I really didnt know anything about and haven't done anything with since.  It was just an event that God wanted me at so I could sit next to Ioana.  She had just moved to Chicago from Nashville area.  She was starting to work with an ESL program at Willow Creek Church.  She's originally from Romania and then came to the US for college.

Long and short, she came to know Christ and she then came over to the states for college and lived with a Christian family while she attended college.  She got her bachelors.  She got a masters.  Did some work with an American company and then ended up moving to Chicago because she felt like God was moving her there.  I met her in December, we got to be friends and then she came to Asheville for a New Years friend get-together with me and some other friends.   Then went to a Christian conference in Atlanta immediately after.  Within 3 days she had texted and emailed me telling me that she really felt like God was calling her to go back to Romania to work with human trafficking.  Apparently Romania is one of the big "doors" for human trafficking in Europe.  As far as women and girls that are brought to the US for the market there, about 50% of them are Romanian who have been lied to by someone who has promised them something that is not real.  It's actually pretty horribly sad.  

Ioana worked with another organization for about a year (thats where I visited her in Greece last year after BHHP) and she kind of trained with them and then found a different organization that had just started up in Romania.  It's called Eliberare - it means something like release in Romanian.  It's a Christian organization started by an American guy.  

So now I'm here in Cluj Napoca because Ioana sent out the bat signal a few months ago:). She had told me that they were going to start doing this 37 day "Freedom Tour" and she would need me... More for support than anything else.  But the signal went up and I, of course, said yes.  And it's a good thing too!  She's a single woman traveling around Romania in a van with 4 guys, working 16 hour days sometimes, and in a few weeks she's only taken one day off.  She needed me;). She needed to vent about stuff to talk about things like feelings and be able to have some emotions and have some reaffirmation that what she's doing is good and worth something.  She's working with police and media and she's actually stopping things that shouldn't be happening and helping victims and she's doing things here from the perspective that people are worth something because of God and that He values them.  

The US embassy has joined with Eliberare.  The Embassy has these places in Romanian libraries called "American Corner".  The Embassy has asked them to work with American Corners doing presentations.  We're at the library in Cluj tonight 

- they showed the American movie Human Trafficking (library choice) and now they're speaking.

I'm just sitting watching everything.  
I'm not here doing anything particularly huge or very involved with their group - but I know that Im giving Ioana some respite, mental and otherwise, that she's needed.  She keeps  on saying "you're here until Monday!" And my heart feels happy:). Job done - and that's pretty easy.  Vacation for me - vacation for Ioana!

I love Ioana!  Please pray for them as they do this 37 day tour and as Ioana shares her passion and her love for God with people in Romania!