The German/Euro conference drew to a close, but we made some tentative plans to get back together to discuss some mission possibilities for the next year – Johannes & ICHTHYS, as a part of the German national ministry, were going to do an ‘all-country” outreach to at least 4 cities in Germany… & maybe we could be a part of it, a plan that included my two traveling companions too…
Through some juggling of our itinerary, our fearless leader told us that we’d be coming back to Frankfurt in a couple of days, after doing our scouting trip to Romania – scouting out the land, seeing where we’d be, who we’d be with, etc…
We made our way to the airport, & boarded a plane to… Budapest. As in Hungary. So here we were, 7 days into a 10 day trip, where the set purpose was to go to Romania in preparation for a mission we would be leading there just 3 short months away, & we still hadn’t quite arrived…
But, we’d been to London. Birmingham. Newcastle. To Frankfurt. To Fulda. And now Budapest.
We arrived in Budapest, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, & took a taxi to the hotel where we’d be staying. Our stuff was unloaded, & “we” decided to do some site-seeing, which involved driving across the bridge between Buda & Pest, as well as seeing some of the things that the Romans had done to Hungary. Most of my memories about this revolve around frustration, inaction, & attempts to endure… without losing it, if possible.
Next morning around 9, we rented a car (something the size of a YUGO if my memory serves me right,) & began the 220km (140 mile) voyage to Oradea, a city about 8 km inside the Romanian border. What should have taken us 2 ½ hours to drive ended up taking 9… we got lost on some Hungarian back roads; found a ‘restaurant’ based in someone’s home, at which we ordered… wait for it… wait for it… Hungarian goulash. By the grace of God, we came across an English speaker that directed us to the road we needed to cross into Romania – (NOTE: Hungarian is like no other language I’ve ever seen or studied… And there is no way to ‘fake’ one’s way through social situations like we’d been doing in England & Germany… it really was a harbinger of what was to come in Romania…)
The two things that I remember the most about the road to Romania were:
Somehow, again by the grace of God, we navigated our way to the main landmark in Oradea around 6 p.m., at which point we were met by our guide, Moises – a Romanian about 25, who took us to his church, the one we would be doing the outreach ‘with.’ A church service was beginning, but the 3 of us were ushered into the pastor’s office to meet him.
I could hear the music playing in the sanctuary, signaling that worship had begun – I was irritated at the ongoing snafu that was our traveling situation; I was bothered with my traveling companions in the way that happens when you’re with someone 24/7. I was tired, & my mind was drifting… all the while, Moises was translating for the three of us & the pastor. I wanted to go to wherever it was we were staying & go to sleep, so I wasn’t paying attention to the conversation… what I remember was our Fearless Leader saying, “Sure he’ll do it! It’s all good!” I thought, “this can’t be good…”
Fearless Leader said, “They’re going to introduce us to the congregation - & you’re going to play a song on the guitar. Isn’t that great?”
Great was the last word that would have come to my mind to describe how I was feeling at that moment – I couldn’t believe that I’d been volunteered to play the guitar – this was only about 1 year after I’d started playing, & maybe 3 months from the time that I could make it through a song without stopping. Playing AND singing… well, that was always an adventure, & one that I’d only attempted within the safe confines of youth group with a bunch of students that loved me, no matter what. And now I was going to play a song, without any chord sheets, singing in English, in a place where I’d never been, didn’t know the language or customs, & felt absolutely zero confidence in my ability to pull it off.
At that point, Moises told us, “It’s time,” & led us down a hallway to a door, which he opened… & we found that it opened up directly onto the stage. We were led to the back of the stage where there were several chairs waiting for us.
It was a big church, with 3 levels or floors; it seated probably 1200 people, & was about ¾ full. I started to hyperventilate – I had never felt so naked before, & while Fearless Leader spoke to the crowd, through Moises, about who we were & what we were doing, I prayed hard. I prayed quick. I asked for deliverance, for rapture, for anything that would get me out of the situation.
When I found I wasn’t going anywhere, I prayed that God would give me a song to sing – preferably one of those that I knew by heart… at that moment, I could barely remember my own name, let alone the chords & WORDS to a song… the worship guy brought his guitar over & gave it to me. I stood up, legs quaking, & put it on… the strap was too small, making me feel (look) like a mariachi band guitar player with my guitar all up in my face. He gave me a pick & pointed me to the front of the stage. It had to be the longest 10 feet I’d ever walked. The microphone was too high for me. To be heard through it, I had to point my head to the ceiling & sing up to it. Deep breath.
Peace. Waves of peace. I started to strum… the lyrics & chords to In The Secret came to the front of my head. And I sang from my guts.
At some point the song ended, & I handed off the guitar to someone, & made my way back to my chair, relieved. My knees were still shaking, & I was famished. And exhausted. And thankful that it was over… our host told us that shortly after the service, he’d take us to our hotel where we could rest/sleep, & get ready for the next day’s happenings… & the purpose of our entire trip, the scouting out of Oradea.
Turns out the service lasted another 3 hours. 3 hours. 3 hours. And by the time we left, it was 10 p.m. By that point, I was almost delirious with exhaustion & hunger, & thought as we pulled up to the “Hotel Dacia” that at least our day was over. Little did I know that the fun was just beginning… ☺