I was a bright-eyed (naïve) nineteen-year-old heading over to a formerly Communist country. I had very little knowledge of the language. I had no ties with any missionary agency. I had no salary and no way to support myself, except to live off the savings I had accumulated during my year of work between high school and college. I had no close friends in Romania, only a handful of acquaintances. I had no idea when I would be returning to the U.S., only that my place of residence would be a Christian university campus.
Truth be told, I wasn’t scared. The situation didn’t frighten me. Yes, I dreaded the loneliness that would overwhelm me when I said goodbye to my parents. I dreaded the time that would pass before I could speak Romanian fluently. But my decision had been firm. God had led me to this place. No time to look back.
In my journal, I wrote about arriving in Oradea:
“The streets of Oradea were soon before us. The sky was sunny and the weather was lovely. The city was bustling with activity; the leaves just beginning to change colors and surrender from the trees. Looking over the city, I realized that this was now my new home. The excitement, anticipation, and wait of the past few months were for this moment – to be in the place where I belong… to serve.”
The excitement soon turned to sadness. After I said goodbye to my parents, I went to my dorm room and wept. What have I done? I remember thinking. I have left everything I’ve ever known. I have left everyone who loves me. I don’t know the language. I don’t know the culture. I don’t even know any people. And I’m supposed to minister here?
The tears flowed as I seriously questioned my calling. Even now, I choke up when I recall the emotions of that moment. And as I think of the ways God blessed the following five years of my life, I am overwhelmed. He gave me more opportunities to minister than I could have dreamed of. He gave me the ability to speak Romanian fluently within a few months. He gave me my precious wife. He blessed us with our first child.
When I flip through the journal I kept during the first year in Romania, I am embarrassed at my immaturity, my naive expectations and unbridled idealism. My disdain for my former self, however, is kept in check by the thought that ten years from now, I may entertain similar thoughts regarding where I’m at now! If anything, the journal reminds me that life is a journey.
The big story is about God. And this God is the One who calls us, who equips us, who goes before us, and then sends us off into the sunset of his plan, as heralds of his Son and the salvation he has brought to earth.
Thank you, Father, for calling me to Romania ten years ago. Thank you for sustaining me, strengthening me, and using me for your purposes. Please do the same in the next ten years, and grant me faith so that I will continue to follow you wherever you lead.