Hello there! The Romania GO Team is currently located in Warsaw, Poland, preparing to return home. On the first day of our polish adventures we took a free tour around Old Town and debriefed on a rooftop garden of a library. After getting scolded for sitting on the grass (the Polish must be very particular about their greenery), we dined at a milk bar in the artsy part of town, Praga. No milk to be found, but there was some yummy food in this communist era restaurant; although the sugar pasta had a unique flavor not typically enjoyed by most. Conveniently located a few minutes from our hostel is a coffee shop where we can load up on caffeine and sugar for the day. The pancakes were deliciously sickening and everyone is a big fan of the coffee. On our second day of adventures we explored a garden, where we were yet again told to get off the grass, and then given free time to explore Old Town. Old Town is your picturesque European postcard, while New Town is similar to our big cities. We encountered many opportunities to buy family trinkets and find our own knick knacks, along with lunch and other unhealthy treats. We went through the Warsaw Uprising museum to get in a mild dose of education in our trip. We finished off our day with some Italian food, a light fountain show, and some ice cream treats from Om Nom Nom (as fun to eat as it is to say). It has been helpful and relaxing spending a few short days to look at the trip and reflect with the team. It has been a crazy experience and talking it over with people who have seen the same things has proven helpful. We look forward to seeing everyone very soon!
Now here is a message brought to you by the one and only Jed Munson…
Why thank you Samantha, we’re looking at relatively mild weather for the next few days, with the high for today reaching 72 degrees and….haha…get it? It’s like a news broadcast or something…okay.
It’s been well over 24 hours since we’ve arrived in Poland, and I still haven’t seen a single sausage. Needless to say, I’m mildly disappointed. I thought the streets of Poland would be flooded with Polish sausages, hence the name. But alas, it was not to be. I feel deceived.
Apart from the being sausageless, Warsaw has treated us kindly, showering us with charm around every cobblestone corner. Lounging in the mercifully mild weather, we’ve gotten the chance to embrace the tourism culture of the area and have fortuitously bumped into many interesting characters. Yesterday I saw a bear. Today I saw a peacock. But fear not, most of the characters I speak of were quite human (unless…of course…aliens? Sorry, it’s late).
The time here has given us all a chance to wind down and process our experiences in Romania. Personally, I’ve found myself wrestling with various spiritual instabilities that have been magnified by our time there. While I wish that I could say this trip has helped me to solidify my faith, and from it I have become a new guy, this isn’t the reality that I live in. To be honest, I’m more confused and more afraid than ever before. I feel guilty for what I have. I feel shame for nurturing my self-created demons. I feel a cold fear for what the future has in store. Psalm 39 has helped me to understand these tensions, as it perfectly articulates the imperfections under which my faith seems to suffocate. The passage whispers a simple truth, “each man is but a breath.” We are all a part of something so much bigger. Oh, we hear it all the time, yeah, yeah, but to truly understand that…wow, I suppose that takes a lifetime. There are so many seemingly insignificant doubts that nag at my mind, effectively chiseling away at the foundation of my worldview. But Pontius Pilate expresses perhaps the most poignant universal frustration of all time in John chapter 18, verse 38, when Jesus says, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” to which Pilate responds, “what is truth?” Oh silly Pilate, eh? …the Truth right before him, God in flesh, the Savior, the Holy Lamb, Jesus the Christ, right in front of him. And still the question burned. In the same way, it burns in me. I wander in the putrescence of my chosen depravity, pompous, blind, recalcitrant—squandering everything I’ve been given. And the Truth is probably right in front of me. I think I’m beginning to see it.
Sometimes the simplest of beings can elicit the greatest truths. The Truth is right in front of us as He was in front of Pilate. Not literally, because I doubt this laptop is the Truth…(although in our day, such technology has replaced our intentionality in pursuing truth, but that’s a different topic)…but more in the sense that God has given us everything we need to see in order to believe. I looked at a tree the other day. It was just a tree. But for some reason, for a second, it was the most beautiful thing in the world. And then I saw all the trees. What a labyrinth of beauty we’re exploring. As Jimmy has often spoken of, camp this year was about bringing glimpses of heaven to a broken world. Camp was beautiful. It was perfectly imperfect, just how it was supposed to be. The Truth was right there. And it still is.
Now that we prepare to return to Madison, we’re all thinking the same thing…TACO BELL! Just kidding, but maybe not really…anyway, we’re all thinking…what next? Like honestly. The array of emotions and experiences that took place at camp is not specific to camp, or even Romania at that. Much of the same adversity and much of the same hope exists everywhere in the world, wherever we go, even in Madison. I’ve tried to use this idea to encourage myself as I jump back into a world of complex responsibility and distraction. This isn’t merely the end of some conventional mission trip; it’s the advent of a lifelong mission that starts now. We have to choose God every moment of our lives, day after day, with every breath. Yes, it’s tiring, yes it’s painful. But our time in Romania, interacting with campers despite social and language barriers, adapting to unexpected changes, bringing love in the midst of emptiness, has shown us the type of perseverance that is spoken of in Romans chapter 5—the kind that transforms suffering into character and hope.
I seek peace in this land of strays. Oh, to be a bird, soaring in the belly of the heavens. To be anything at all. To be a crustacean, swimming in the belly of the deep. To be anything at all. Oh to be an ant, crawling on the belly of the Wise Oak. To be anything at all, is to be everything. How can it be? Oh how can it be?
Jimmy here, thank you for all your support and encouragement. We felt your love and prayers over the last 2 weeks and are excited to share our stories with you. What Jed talked about is a beautifully real experience and I encourage you all to wrestle with those same feelings of confusing doubts that I believe are essential to deepening our relationship with God. Our time in Romania powerfully revealed the nature of God and all of us are coming back more alive with His Spirit. For some that manifests itself in the way Jed talked about, and for many God is easier to understand and closer than ever to our souls. We will still be processing when we get home, and pray you will help and comfort us as we do.