Saturday 3 September 2016

Challenges in Bucharest

Hi friends,

We're sorry it's been awhile since we updated you. Truthfully, it's only been because we haven't really known what to say. Life has been a weird mix of great moments and difficult challenges since we left PDF and we kind of feel like we're living in survival mode.

Before we left for Romania we knew that the first three months of language and culture immersion would be very hard. We knew we'd face cultural challenges every day and that we'd be tired - we just didn't quite anticipate the roller coaster it would be! Our conclusion is and always has been that God knows what we need even before we ask Him, and that our first job is always to come to Him with thankful hearts, trusting that He will take care of us. We have to admit that these last 2 weeks have really challenged our faith in this regard and walking out this belief has felt uncomfortable and scary.

When we arrived in Bucharest facing the heat was our first challenge. It has calmed down considerably since we arrived, but sleeping in the heat has been difficult, especially for the kids. We have two rooms on the second floor of the Ionescu's home and thankfully the kids' room is cooler than ours is! We know our bodies will get used to the climate here, but it's hard to explain that to a 2-year-old who's sweating through her pyjamas at 8pm!

Our biggest challenge has definitely been living without a vehicle. We had somehow hoped to be able to buy a vehicle here within our first week or two and it's looking more and more like that's not going to happen even within the next 3 months. There are all sorts of rules here about who can and can't own vehicles based on whether or not the vehicle is an imported one or not, and based on in which city you're registering it. After spending many hours searching for a vehicle in the last two weeks, we found out only yesterday that we can't even legally buy a vehicle here until we have our visas, and we definitely can't register one until that time. When we heard this news we felt so deflated and frustrated, especially since we finally found a vehicle yesterday that would have been exactly what we needed and we've had Manu (our host) and our car expert friend Dan spending hours and hours helping us. All the rules here seem so confusing to us, and the process of owning a vehicle is so complicated here, especially for foreigners.

Since the Ionescu family lives outside of the city and it's more than a 10 kilometre walk to the nearest Metro station, we are kind of stranded without a vehicle of our own.  It's common for people here to drive with children on their lap instead of in a car seat, and so if we were comfortable with this we could all pile in Manu's little Dacia Logan car and drive places together (the 8 of us in a 5-seater). Coming from Canada, we aren't comfortable with this at all and with the crazy traffic in Bucharest we have decided that our kids will always ride in car seats while in the car, so it's necessary to have our own vehicle. Jerry and Manu found a rental vehicle with decent insurance (that's another story entirely...) for us to use for the last 5 days and we've been SO thankful to have the ability to go places to buy things we need and do the things we need to do. Jerry had to return the rental car last night at Gara de Nord (the train station in Bucharest) and after returning it and speaking on the phone with one of the PDF staff he hopped on a late-night train to Brasov to pick up one of the PDF vehicles for us to use for the next little while. It's the slow-er season at PDF right now and many of the staff are even on holidays so it sounds like us borrowing a vehicle isn't a problem. We are SO excited about this since it will allow us to attend our language lessons and language tutoring sessions and to see the sights of Bucharest and the surrounding area and visit some of the museums here to help us learn the history of Romania. It will also allow us to be able to drive Miriam to kindergarten every morning!

Yes, that's right - we've registered Miriam for Romanian kindergarten! This wasn't something we were planning to do until we were settled at PDF but another one of our huge challenges in the last two weeks has been arranging childcare for our girls for the times we're attending language classes. Before we came to Romania we were under the impression that this had been arranged somehow, but the last few days have had us praying and searching for a solution for care for the girls for at least 3 mornings per week. We looked into registering Miriam at the state-run kindergarten in the neighbourhood, but because it was already full and we would have had to offer a bribe to the director to get Miriam registered we decided against this option (we also heard that it doesn't have the best reputation for how the children are treated , so this also concerned us). We found a private kindergarten nearby that Miriam warmed up to immediately, and even though we have to pay a monthly fee for her to attend we really believe that it's the right place for her to be at the moment. She will attend every morning from 8:30am until 1pm and she'll eat breakfast and lunch with the other children at the kindergarten. Miriam's teacher speaks just enough English to help Miriam along and make sure she feels comfortable, but most of the staff and the other students speak only Romanian so we're really looking forward to the language-learning experience this will be for her. After her first day she was already using 2 new Romanian words without prompting from us!

The kindergarten also has a daycare option for children who are 2 years old, so sending Eden 3 mornings per week is a possibility but right now it's our last resort. It would really stretch our budget to send both girls, and we were hoping Eden would be able to stay home this year. At this point we have Mary (the Ionescus' teenage daughter) who can watch Eden for the next 2 weeks during our language class times, but after this time she goes back to school during the day so we'll need another solution or I'll have to quit our language class and stay home with her.

Our final set of challenges has really just been adjusting to the culture here. Our host family is SO kind and we would have had an impossible time here without Manu to help us along. He's been our translator, our problem solver, and he's been so supportive and generous with his time. And Feli has cooked a delicious main meal for us every day - we're really enjoying the Romanian cuisine and she's a great cook!! We've also really enjoyed talking with the family over 10pm meals of bread and salami and hearing all about life in Romania, and getting to know them. We have laughed so much together and it's so great that our relationships are growing daily.

On the other hand, we have really missed the dependability of the North American daily schedule: 3 meals a day at reasonable times and dependable wake-up and bed times. Here, most days the rest of the family sleeps in quite late, eats breakfast anytime between 10 and noon, and serves one main meal anytime between 4pm and 9pm. This has been challenging for the kids because they're awake at 6:30 or 7am no matter what time they go to bed and they are used to regular meals and naps. After 2 weeks here we still haven't figured out a solution to this one - we're trying to live in a culturally appropriate way but at the same time we're struggling to make sure the needs of our kids are met and they're not overly hungry or becoming overtired. But we are comforted by the fact that God knows what our kids need and that He loves them...even more than we do. We're trusting Him to help us navigate this situation with grace and cultural sensitivity and embrace it as preparation for ministry here.

In sharing our challenges with you we want to make sure we're not coming across as negative or ungrateful - we have had many awesome moments of bonding with our host family and lots of fun moments just the 4 of us as we have been exploring Bucharest. We had our first language lesson this week and we absolutely loved it! We're so thankful that God lead us to this language school and provided such a good teacher for us. We know that the challenges and discomforts we're experiencing are for the purpose of growth and we're praying that God will help us rest in them instead of running from them. Our life just feels like a big mess right now and the temptation to run in the other directions is very real. As Pastor Laurence shared in a recent sermon at Riverwood Church, Jesus calls us to "walk toward the mess". We're just praying for grace as we do it.

Visiting the Bucharest Centru (pronounced Chen-true) and the old town (Lipscani) area of Bucharest has really been a highlight for us. We had a great time as a family just exploring the cobblestone streets and learning a little bit about the culture here. We can't wait to go back and explore more, and maybe visit some of the museums and parks that Bucharest has to offer.

We also took a long walk near the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, the second largest administrative building in the world. We didn't go for the tour, but we plan to while we're here.  We also walked all the way up and down Bulevardul Unirii, which is the famous street in Bucharest with all the fountains (check out this photo).

And of course, we enjoyed not one but TWO trips to IKEA so far - we needed to buy pillows for ourselves and the kids, some other bedding and a few shelves for our clothes so we're not living out of suitcases on the floor for the next 3 months.

Here's our latest video update for your viewing pleasure featuring scenes from Bucharest:

Well friends, that's all we have right now for an update! We've added our prayer requests below, and we'd really appreciate your prayers for us!

Right now we're looking for a small, very committed group of people who will commit to praying for us and our ministry every day. We have some prayer requests that we'd rather not post publicly, so if you would like to join us in this way please send us an email by clicking here so we can add you to our list of daily prayer warriors.

Prayer Requests: 

-  Please continue to pray for Jerry's back.  He has found a great physical therapist here who is helping him, but every session costs 50 euros (about $75 Canadian) so we have to be cautious about how often he goes.

- Please pray for our search for a vehicle and the difficulty this is for us. We have borrowed a car from PDF for the foreseeable future, but this is not a permanent solution.

- Please pray for our truck to sell! It still hasn't sold and it's not only an added stress for us from far away but it's also an added financial burden.

- Please pray for our financial support situation! We are praising God for several one-time gifts that have made a HUGE difference for us! We are still in need of monthly supporters to help us meet our financial support goal and we're still about $600/month short of our monthly support requirement. Our expenses are beginning to roll in and we're struggling a little bit in this area.

- Please pray for our visa situation to be smooth and quick! Applying for a visa in Romania is a complicated process with many steps, including obtaining a criminal record check from Canada while we're here.

- Please pray for students to sign up for the bible school at PDF this spring! There are already 3 students who are very interested in attending, and we can't run the bible school with fewer than 10 students so we're trusting God to bring the students He wants to participate in the program.

- Please pray for continued protection and provision for our children as we travel and adjust to a new place, and for how they're coping emotionally with all the change in their lives. We're noticing they're struggling with the change to another language and all the changes that come with living in another culture and a home that isn't their own (daily schedule and food are very different, etc.). Pray that they will have positive attitudes as we teach them about being thankful in all circumstances.

Thanks friends! We love you, and we appreciate your support and prayers so much!
We'll share another update soon!

If you're interested in making a donation to our ministry, all information on how to donate is HERE.


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