From the time Vlad Ţepeş (the inspiration behind Dracula) held back the invasion of the Turkish empire, Romania has been a gateway into Europe and a center of the Christian-Muslim conflict. Seven hundred years after Vlad, thousands of men and women still come to this nation attempting to enter Europe, many of them coming from Muslim nations in Africa and Asia. Some are refugees fleeing war-torn countries, but most are average men and women seeking employment and a better life in Europe, and a few are involved in drug trafficking or other illegal activities. Although they claim all these and more reasons for making the long trek to Romania, we believe God is in fact the one calling many of them! Like our friends Emal and Rashid, who came to Romania looking for money in the drug trade but found new life in Jesus, we believe there are many more Muslims ready to discover the forgiveness of God right here in Romania. This Christmas, we did something special to bring them the good news.
While Bucharest is home to thousands of illegal immigrants, there are about 150 men, women, and children living in “The Camp,” an old apartment complex converted into a sort of prison with Huber privileges. The illegals will stay here—some for up to 3 or more years—while the Romanian government decides what to do with them. The “pot at the end of the rainbow” for them is declaration as a refugee fleeing war and the privilege of a European passport. This dream is for many just as unreal as the pot at the end of the actual rainbow, but it’s also one of their only chances for having a normal and legal existence in Europe.
Without declaration as a refugee, they will work for promises of cash that end up in many cases turning into the modern-day equivalent of slavery, long hours working in unsafe conditions for little or no pay, with no medical coverage and no legal resources. To be declared a refugee will not solve all their problems, but it will give them at least a small measure of legal standing in Romania.
This year, we gathered together as a church to bring them Christmas presents as a way to share the love of Jesus: groceries for the families; stickers, coloring books, and a few toys for the kids.
It was a chaotic, crazy time… People were all taking at the same time in all sorts of languages. Oranges and chickens were falling from piles onto the floor. Some were trying to take more groceries than they were allowed. The lights were only sometimes working. But God was in it. Nobody argued or fought. A few people asked for Bibles. People helped one another carry their gifts. The love of God was evident through the whole evening.
The most powerful moment for me was when I handed out the gifts for the children. Most of the kids would walk through the line with their parents, but one girl just stood in the corner. She would glance over by the children’s gifts every so often but seemed too shy to come up for a gift. Eventually, when the crowds left, I waved for her to come up, “Ai primit ceva? Did you receive something?” She shook her head. When I held out a coloring book and colored pencils for her, her eyes lit up and she had the biggest smile ever.
Though she spoke neither Romanian nor English, the light in her eyes was clear enough to understand. It’s the same light I picture seeing in Jesus’ eyes when I will one day stand in front of Him and hear Him tell me, “Well done, good and faithful slave” (Matthew 25:23). What a joy will be in those eyes!
Sorry for the lack of pictures. Everything was crazy, and I didn’t have a chance to take any. Still, we hope to do it again, so you’ll get to see pictures then.
1) Resources to do this more often.
2) Wisdom to know how to best help the refugees and illegals.
3) More gospel materials in various languages, especially French.
4) Follow-up with the gospel.
5) Hearts to be open to Jesus.
6) More volunteers to join us to minister.