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!