My first trip to Romania was two years ago, and this was many of the current orphan attendees’ first year at camp. I feel very blessed to be able to recall that experience at Coffee House last night, because it is proof of how much each of the orphans has grown and developed in their time at Open Roads. Coffee House is what we call the pre-camp get together event where all the campers and counselors gather to get to know one another before diving in to our week at a secluded camp near the mountains (pray for us). It was a joyful event and so hilariously fun. There were a number of times I was laughing so hard, I was concerned I might pee my pants.We played a number of games, but my personal favorite was a game called Viking. To play this game, there needs to be a circle of at least 5 people. One person starts as the Viking Chief, while the persons two the left and right are the crew. The Viking Chief raises his arms and screams for as long as his lungs can stand it, and then shouts VIKING and throws his arms down in the direction of another person. This other person becomes the new Viking chief. The Chief’s crew is always rowing on either side of him, and if anyone is slow on the draw, he or she is out. The orphans love this game. It gave them a chance to aerate their lungs at the very least. I probably would have been able to hear Jimmy’s Viking war cry from two blocks away. What is really wonderful about his game is that I saw some of the shy orphans really getting into it in their own gentle way. A friend from a previous trip, Mioara, is quiet and as sweet as mango schwarma. She may not have had the loudest war cry, but whenever she had the privilege of passing on Viking chiefdom, I saw her smile softly to herself. It is crazy to me that Mioara has developed such confidence over the past few years so as to be able to participate in such an obnoxious game; only a God as good as ours could have done such a number on her heart.
God was clearly at work in the lives of the Romanians, and He sometimes demonstrates His influence through the strangest mediums. You see, at the Coffee House we snacked on some interesting pastries. There was a variety of flavors offered; I liked exactly one of them. (Despite my distaste for rosemary flavored cheese rolls, I at least had shwarma of the divine to look forward to.) Needless to say, I didn’t exactly chow down on the Coffee House pastries, and surprisingly, neither did my table partner, one of the orphans I met last time I was here (I will protect her privacy and not say her name). This is shocking because when I first met her, she binge ate at camp, probably because she often went hungry. Today, she is living in the ethos community where her physical and emotional needs are cared for, and she didn’t need to stuff herself full of as much food as she could manage…although she did drink all of my bubbly water when she thought I couldn’t see. This particular girl also danced in imitation of a ballerina for the entire camp as part of one of the evening pull up games. Her confidence and sense of peace and well-being was heart-warming and impressive.
Of course at the event we did other things such as sing worship, dance to previous camp songs, play pull up games, pretty much basic camp stuff, but the most important aspect of the evening was socializing and building relationships. Of course, our relationship-building-pro, Pat, was in her element when she interacted with another orphan girl. I met her on my previous trip as well and my first interaction with her was moderately terrifying. She is strong as an ox, and has an aggressive way of interacting, and so when she first burst into my cabin intent on picking a fight with one of our other campers, shouting at us in a language that I don’t understand, and stomping around the room, I may have been just slightly befuddled (sarcasm). After one particularly difficult night with Mariana, Pat had a conversation with her about God’s love for her, and I saw that when Pat went to set a hand comfortingly on this girl’s shoulder, and she flinched and threw up her hands defensively. She thought Pat would beat her for bad behavior. Yesterday, at Coffee House, I met her again for the first time in over two years, she is still aggressive and loud, it is her defense mechanism, but she wasn’t afraid to touch people, or be touched by other people. It was such an encouragement to see her walk up to Pat and place a hand lovingly on her shoulder. What a beautiful turn-around; something inside of her is changing for the better.
What a blessing it is for us to live life alongside the orphans, even if it is only for a few weeks. God is clearly doing such amazing things in their lives through Open Roads, and Coffee House night was evidence of His loving influence. It was so encouraging to see the how God is using Daniel and Dana’s ministry to minister to the orphans, and what a blessing it is to be associated with a God that is in the business of performing miracles.
Shout Out to Ali the mosquito!
After three days with no sleep, Ali finally snapped. Using a pool noodle as her blood-sucking nose, she buzzed around pretending to be a mosquito for the better part of an hour. Actually, she perfected a rather impressive sneaking technique. It is called buzzing as loudly as possible. Following her lurid approach she attacked her victims with the end of a pool noodle while the stared at her blankly with irritated expressions. Jimmy was the only one that played along when he tried to swat her dead. It was probably a major highlight in my life.