The real nature of our endeavor didn’t really sink in until ten o’clock yesterday night. Our evening was at that point suddenly interrupted by the furious pounding of angry fists on our door while wild shouts in Romanian echoed in the hallway. Immediately, the three of us men jumped to the door to check the deadbolt and block it from opening. Rita and her kids huddled on the couch. Adrenaline shot through my bloodstream as we waited at the door for what seemed hours, Jake with his eye to the peephole. Finally, he breathed a sigh of relief, saying, “Oh, it’s the neighbors.”
I don’t think we have ever been happier to have our neighbors come pounding on our door at such an hour. Apparently, there was a leaky pipe somewhere in the bloc, and they had taken it upon themselves to discover the culprit. We were all laughing and grateful beyond words, but it took quite some time for the adrenaline to settle back down.
That’s when the magnitude of what we were doing finally hit me. This wasn’t just a fun little evening, this really was a life-and-death scenario.
You see, a few months ago, our friend Rita had greeted us during one of our meetings at the Gypsy community where she was living. Her face was bruised, three teeth were missing, and, worst of all, her spirit looked sorely defeated. We soon learned that her husband Iancu had begun to drink again and, when he drank, he would hit her. That was just the beginning of things. Later, Iancu attacked Kati (another woman in the community) when she stood to protect Rita; he pulled a knife and would have killed her but Teresa (another woman) grabbed the knife from him. For that, she got a couple bruises. To make matters worse, Iancu had begun to see another woman and was now hitting the kids; the oldest daughter (Zeta) was only 12 and the middle daughter (Mandra) had just recovered from a life-threatening infection in her lungs that had sent her to the hospital.
If all this wasn’t bad enough, though, the worst thing was the community’s reaction to Iancu. Although everyone agreed his actions were wrong, no one was willing to kick him out of the community or even join us to reprimand him. Even Rita and the women took an attitude of “Ce sa fac? What can you do?”
Even the police themselves seemed little interested in getting involved; one call to them had resulted in a visit hours later, long after anything could be done. Add to this the community’s hesitancy to get “one of their own” in trouble with the law, and it’s no wonder they all said “Ce sa fac?”
But last week, while Mandra was in the hospital struggling to stay alive, something changed in Rita. She told us one day she was planning to leave Iancu and move back in with her parents once her daughter was healthy again and she had money for train tickets. All of us agreed buying those tickets would be one cause we ought to support.
And then yesterday, while Jason was visiting the community, Rita told him, “Iancu heard about my plans to leave. He says he’s going to kill us.”
“Where is Iancu now?” Jason asked.
“He’s gone somewhere, but when he comes back…”
“How quickly can you leave?”
Within minutes, Rita and her kids had packed up all their belongings into two large grocery bags, and Jason had sent them out to meet me as I came to bring them to our house for the night. We took the back roads whenever possible and rushed quickly over those places where it was not, and everyone breathed a big sigh of relief when we made it without incident to our bloc and got into the elevator.
They were safe.
That night, we did our best to make our friends comfortable. We played games with the kids, showed them how to use the webcam, prayed for and with them… Finally feeling at peace, I think all of us had forgotten the real danger of what was going on. Our late-night visitors suddenly brought it all to mind again; this truly was a life-or-death situation, not so much for us, but certainly for Rita and her children.
In the morning, we got them a taxi to the train station and tickets for their trip. And now they’re in God’s hands.
The immediate danger is gone now, but please pray for Rita and her family. Pray with us that Iancu would come to a place of repentance, that Rita and her kids would be safe and healed in their hearts, that God would care for all they need while in their grandparents’ village, that this difficulty would bring the family closer to God and eventually restore them as a family, and that God would cause this to be for the glory of his name and the good of his kingdom.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).