Category Archives: Bucharest

Ten “Miracles” on our Journey to Home Ownership

Many of you know that over summer we felt God leading us to become home owners, something I never would have wanted to do in the past. We’ve never had a large amount of savings, didn’t like the idea of going into debt, and have always wanted to stay flexible to follow Jesus anywhere. But God made it abundantly clear that this was His direction for us. And so like the Hebrew slaves advancing into Canaan to conquer a land they’d never seen, stirred on solely by their trust in God as the one who led them, so too we embarked by faith on this crazy adventure of buying an apartment in Bucharest.

The whole process has been an incredible rollercoaster ride of faith, with all the ups and downs that a rollercoaster entails, and we can hardly wait to be done. The journey has been more exhausting than I ever would have imagined but also more full of the Father’s clear fingerprints than I ever would have thought. Again and again, we were confronted with an impossible situation, and again and again, we watched God simply do it. Through the course of it all, it became clear that this really was His direction and plan, and that He really was intending to provide, each end every step of the way, through every terrifying twist and turn of the rollercoaster.

As a way to give honor to God, join me in remembering these ten “miracles” we encountered on this journey.

1. Supporters gave over 10,000 euros in just a few days.

  • On July 5, we found out we’d need to move in September, five months before our rental contract would come to an end. After praying, looking at rental prices, and talking with our bank about a loan, we felt it was time to purchase a home. As confirmation that this was God’s direction, I asked Him to provide 10,000 euros in support. (This was the additional amount we would need for a downpayment based on the conversation with our bank.) He provided it in a few days!

2. We found an apartment that doesn’t need immediate renovation, is the size we need, a price we can afford, and in a great location for ministry.

  • Our search began disappointingly. Every apartment we saw was either too small, too far from the city, no longer available, in need of total renovation, or way too expensive… sometimes all five! We finally stumbled on an older apartment in a neighborhood where we’ve felt especially led to minister and already have some established relationships. We loved it right away. The only downside was the price, but when the seller accepted our offer, we could hardly believe it and counted it another confirmation that God was leading us.

3. We found a bank that would work with us and offered a loan for the exact amount we needed.

  • Next, we went back to our bank to continue the loan process… where the door was promptly closed because of how Laura’s previous employer had recorded her income. One after another, every bank we talked to also rejected us, either because I’m not Romanian, or because Laura is still on maternity leave, or (at the one bank that would consider my income) because I don’t have a fixed salary. We even contacted an agency that helps banks get new customers, but after hearing our situation, they said it would be impossible. In the midst of all the discouraging results, though, God was still at work. An employee at one bank suggested we call her friend who worked with an agency similar to the one we had contacted. Within a couple days, she found a bank that offered us a loan for 40,000 euros, the exact amount we needed for the apartment. God is good!

4. When the bank changed their agreement, supporters generously covered the loss.

  • A few days after signing the loan agreement and a week before we needed to move, the bank called with news that made us question everything: they would not lend us the full amount originally promised but only 27,000 euros. This was completely unexpected, and there was simply no way we could raise the rest of the money we would need. We desperately needed God’s guidance! After praying, Laura and I felt God give us contradictory messages: Laura felt the apartment was meant for us, but I felt we should put everything in storage and follow Him. Amazingly, both of us heard correctly! After beginning to move into storage and announcing our decision, a number of supporters contacted us, wanting to help. In the end, enough support came in to cover the remaining portion!

5. Despite a sudden increase in prices, the seller was able to find a new apartment.

  • We signed an initial contract promising to buy the apartment, and then left Bucharest to spend a couple weeks with Laura’s parents while we were temporarily homeless. Shortly after leaving, a new law caused apartment prices to skyrocket, meaning the apartment into which the seller was planning to move was now way overpriced and out of his budget. Miraculously, the real estate agent was able to talk him back down to the original price!

6. A supporter requested his money back, but where God guides, God provides.

  • Meanwhile, a supporter from Romania contacted us to say he was not comfortable with us getting a loan from a bank and wanted his donation back. It was a sizeable gift, enough to mean we couldn’t afford the apartment any more, and it was from someone who had always been hugely encouraging, and so we were completely shocked and felt at a total loss. Both Laura and I were so exhausted by the last few months that we were ready to simply give up, admit we made a mistake, and start looking for a place to rent. And then a few days later, a friend called to say he’d been thinking about us all week and wanted to hear how we were doing. Without telling him details, he offered to cover a large portion of the need. Later, other supporters sent in enough funds to cover the remaining amount. Where God guides, God provides!

7. The slow and bureaucratic process actually worked to our benefit.

  • On the other side of things, the paperwork for the house was proving more difficult for our real estate agent to acquire than she had expected. While we at first found it annoying to see no progress being made from one week to the next, it actually ended up being a blessing. What if the paperwork had been ready sooner? Considering what had happened with one of the donations, it’s very likely that we wouldn’t have had the money and so would have had to back out of our agreement to purchase the apartment, paying a fine in the process. But because things were moving so slowly, we had enough time to get the financial side figured out, and nobody ever found out. God’s timing is always perfect!

8. We found a temporary place to rent for under $200 a month!

  • At the same time, we were also coming up empty in our search for a temporary home in Bucharest so we could get back to some sort of a normal life. We had originally expected to stay at the Baptist dormitory, where there are always extra rooms for non-students who don’t mind a shared bathroom and kitchen, but to our surprise every room was booked until January. Searching online, everything else we could find was either too expensive or too far from the city. At the end of September, Laura had the thought to call the dorms again, and amazingly a bunch of rooms had opened up since our last call. (Thank you, Covid-19 restrictions?) They easily found one for us, and we’re paying only $175 a month, heat, electricity, and water included.

9. The bank waived a required document that would have cost upwards of 10,000 euros to obtain.

  • The last week of October, the real estate agent called us very upset. The bank was requiring a document for the house that would necessitate an inspection costing over 10,000 euros. This was a document that the agent had asked about in the very beginning, and we were assured it wouldn’t be necessary. To be told now that it would be required was not only a complete shock but also effectively meant the deal was off. Short of miracle, we wouldn’t be able to buy the apartment and had just wasted three months of our time. We could understand why the agent was upset. We were, too! As Laura and I prayed and sought God’s direction, though, we still felt like this was the apartment He wanted for us. We just had no idea how or even if it would happen! A few days later, the real estate agent called us: the bank had miraculously decided to drop their requirement!

10. The euro suddenly dropped in value when it was time to convert and transfer the money.

  • All summer, the euro had been increasing in value while the dollar and the leu had in general been decreasing. Since we would be paying for the apartment in euros but most of our money was in dollars and Romanian lei, this was not at all what we wanted. A couple days before signing the contract, however, the euro made a sudden drop and stayed there until the day after we had finished transferring money. I’m not saying God orchestrated the fall in value just for us, but with the new conversion rates, we ended up saving a few hundred dollars. God’s timing really is perfect.

Sometimes when God leads somewhere, everything is smooth, easy sailing. But other times it’s a complete battle each step of the way. This time, it was a battle. But it’s one that we didn’t win by aggressively fundraising, scheming and planning, penny-pinching, using all our strength and wisdom to figure out how on earth to make it happen. No, each of the problems we encountered, every insurmountable obstacle, each impossibility was crossed by God, either working on people’s hearts or orchestrating events. Like the conquest of Jericho could only be credited to God, not to Joshua’s military brilliance or technological advantage, and was living confirmation of His command to the Hebrews to enter the land, so too has our process been so clearly directed and sustained by God.

Thanks for all of you who prayed, gave, and encouraged us in this great adventure!

God is in the Awkward

I hate being awkward.  I hate looking strange, weird, unusual.  I hate making people feel uncomfortable.

But I love to share the gospel because it completely changed my life.  And I love to share it with complete strangers.

Those two things usually don’t work well together, but I’ve learned how to bring up the gospel in ways that remove the awkwardness.  I try to make it as natural and normal as possible.  I have friends who seem to relish the awkwardness… and sharing the gospel with them is always an interesting adventure.  And it usually ends with me realizing I don’t need to be afraid of awkward moments because God is in the awkward moment.

In June, I met with two friends, and we set out to Unirii Park to share the gospel.  At one point, the quietest in the group points to a young man sitting on a bench and asks us, “What do you think about him?  Should we talk to him?”

“Sure!” I responded, not really feeling it but willing to go for it and wanting to be encouraging.  “Since you felt the impression, why don’t you start the conversation?”  (Did you see how smoothly I got out of responsibility?)

So he approached and said quietly in Romanian, “We want to tell you about the gospel…”

The young man looked confusingly at my friend, looked at the people around him, smiled awkwardly, lifted his hands and shrugged, said something in an unfamiliar language to the woman next to him… and then smiled awkwardly again at my friend.

“English?” I asked, when it dawned on me that perhaps he hadn’t understood a word my friend had said.

“Little,” the young man smiled, looking very relieved.  “Ukraine.”  He then pointed to himself, the woman on the bench with him, and an elderly couple on the neighboring bench.  We found out they were his family, mom, grandpa, and grandma.

And that’s how one of the most amazing (and awkward) conversations of the day began…  But the awkwardness didn’t stop there.

At one point, the third man in our group received a word of knowledge and asked, “Grandma, pain in her body?  In her knees?”  The young man nodded “yes” excitedly.  “I pray for her,” my friend said and then, without giving any warning, without asking permission, my friend knelt down in front of grandma and put his hands right on her knees.

The stunned look on her face was priceless.

Grandpa, not knowing what on earth was happening, jumped to his feet and pulled his arm back.  I don’t know what was going through his mind, but it looked like he was ready to throw a punch at my friend.

My friend, meanwhile, was oblivious and simply prayed a quick prayer of healing for grandma’s knee.

She stood up and began to walk, without limping.

The family was overjoyed, and everyone (even grandpa) was smiling.

“Jesus healed you,” my friend explained.  “He is God and He’s alive.  Through Him we can be forgiven.  Through Him we can go to heaven.”  He shared a simple but clear account of the gospel.  “Do you want to pray with me?”

All the family nodded their heads after the young man translated.

“Great!  Repeat after me.”

The young man translated.  Everyone nodded.

“Jesus.”

“Jesus,” everybody echoed in English.

“Thank you for paying the price for my sins.”

“Thank you mmmph rrrmmph eprounvosdljh…” the family attempted to copy my friend.

“No, no, they don’t know what they’re saying.

“Use Google Translate,” I suggested.

I’m sure it was obvious to all of you reading, but Google Translate did *not* work.

“Okay, I pray in English.  You,” my friend pointed to the young man, “translate into Ukrainian.  Everyone,” he pointed to the family, “repeats in Ukrainian.”

Finally something that made sense!

The whole family prayed together, and when we got done, they had the biggest smiles on their faces.  They hugged all of us and kept saying, “Thank you.”

And I stood there stunned that God actually did something.  None of those awkward moments, none of the weirdness, none of the strangeness stopped Him from healing grandma’s knee and touching this family’s hearts.

Petrache Lupu – The Shepherd Who Saw God

petrache big            On Sunday, the 16th of June, 1935, in the town of Maglavit, a seventeen-year-old, poor shepherd with a speech impediment finally worked up enough courage to announce to his church a short message he claimed came directly from God the Father, whom he swore had visited him in the form of an old man while he was tending sheep.  His message, a stereotypical Old Testament “turn or burn” indictment of his people, was met with both obvious incredulity and a similarly expected enthusiasm.  Both those in favor and those against the happenings in Maglavit, and especially those hoping to profit from the events, spread the news far and wide.  Newspapers were full of stories of miracles, healings, and prophecies as excitement over the shepherd boy who had seen God spread.  In time, over two million people would take part in the spectacular events of Maglavit.  Today, much of the events that took place are shrouded in mystery.  Who was Petrache Lupu, the man who claimed to see God, and what can we learn from his life rife with visions, miracles, and extravagant stories reminiscent of Ezekiel or Isaiah?

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Jacob: A New Identity (Genesis 32:24-33:4)

[As part of our “Loving the Bible” class at Scoala Biblica Piatra Vie, each student is required to write a paper about some passage in the Bible and then present it to the class.  I decided that since I’m requiring my busy students to do the paper, I should do it as well.  Below is my paper about Jacob and his strange, late-night wrestling competition.]

To every child ever born God has given a destiny and purpose.  He has specific plans for each human being and has not only created each person with such individual and unique personalities, likes and dislikes, even talents, but He has also ordained specific things for him to do during his short lifetime, things that only that particular individual can accomplish.  Regrettably, most Christians are so haunted by their failures that they see only a long list of lost opportunities, resulting in a deep and pervasive sense of disappointment, a fear of having somehow missed God’s plans and purposes for their life.  For many, this sense is great enough that they fail to see by faith the redemptive power of God to bring restoration and renewal.  For those who have felt the weight of such a list of failures, there is much encouragement in the life of Jacob, in particular, in one fateful night when God met him and revealed his new identity.

July 24, 2015 - 'No Longer Jacob'

July 24, 2015 – ‘No Longer Jacob’

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The Third Day

[As part of the Loving the Bible class at Scoala Biblica Piatra Vie, students had to rewrite Genesis 22:1-19, choosing to either write all or just a portion of the story in their own words. The following is my rewrite.]

Three days.

It had been three days of heavy and brooding silence in my spirit, each day heavier and more terrifying than the last as the mountain reared its ugly head and took form, and step by dreadful step grew larger, more defined, and more hideous for what it signified. The end of our journey.

And now, here finally, my boy in my arms at last, how heavy was his weight. Oh, how heavy and terrible the weight!

“My boy…” I mumbled, terror and sorrow mixed in my trembling voice. “My dear Isaac…”

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Exodus 24 – Maintaining Intimacy with God

December 6, 2010 - 'His Word Is My Life'

December 6, 2010 – ‘His Word Is My Life’

How’s your prayer life? you ask a random Christian. Nine times out of ten, he’ll respond, Uh… not as good as it should be… and then lower his eyes with a guilty look.

Personally, my prayer life took a massive hit when I moved to Bucharest, Romania. Besides the natural factors of moving from a slower-paced small town in rural Wisconsin to a large, fast-paced European capital city, there is also the spiritual factor of an enemy who wants to keep me from the presence of the One who gives life, direction, power, anointing. I was still reading the Bible, but not every day, and I regularly rushed through it so I could get something practical done… My heart wasn’t connecting with God, the spring of living water.

September 4, 2012 - 'Baptize Me In Fire'

September 4, 2012 – ‘Baptize Me In Fire’

I could feel my heart getting colder towards God, but I hadn’t realized how bad I had let things get until I took a week off to go to Turkey. In my mind, I thought, Yes! I finally can get some time to rest and recuperate spiritually. I’m gonna read so much of the Bible and spend so much time with God. It’s going to be awesome! But when I got to Turkey, I didn’t want to read the Bible! I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to play music and worship God. I didn’t want to make art for him. I didn’t even really feel guilty for this!

It was a rude wake up call! But I responded quickly, made some changes in my life, and have been fighting this cold, dead heart ever since I recognized the problem. Already, I can see a drastic change in my attitude and desire towards prayer and the presence of God.

I want to share with you some tips from my experience. All of these tips are pretty basic, but they’re things that I had let slide, things that can make the difference between a religious, dry, dead prayer life and a life-giving, abundant, empowering, relationship with God.

Let’s look at Moses’ life, perhaps one of the best examples we have of a man who kept a sustained and intense intimacy with God despite incredible demands on his time and a number of serious weaknesses. Turn to Exodus 24

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8 Reasons You Should Never Become a Missionary

***None of this is original.  I took it all from the Laura Parker Blog (here).  I hope she doesn’t mind.***

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1. Don’t Become a Missionary if You Think You Are Going to Change the World. First, high expectations doom to disappoint, but, also, maybe your desire to change the world is trumping your desire to serve. Ask yourself if you would be happy moving overseas to a much harsher environment in order to quietly help a local, while getting no recognition and seeing no fruit in the process. If you can answer honestly yes, then maybe you’re still in the running. {Don’t worry, we thought we would’ve answered yes, but found out that we really had some unhealthy saviour-complexes to begin with. You can read about that here: On Living a Good Story and Not Trying So Hard and The Guy in the Orange Shirt.}

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A Home for Daniel and Maria

One of our closest friends and fellow laborers we’ve met while here is Daniel. We met him about 2 years ago, when he was a new Christian recently returned from working in Finland. He shared his life story with us, how he had grown up in a bad home, how he became involved with crime, drugs, and prostitution, and how God had rescued him and completely changed him.

After trying but failing to kill himself with a drug overdose, he started reading the Bible and realized that Jesus had died for him and all he needed to do was receive His forgiveness. From that moment, everything began changing. He threw away the drugs, he stopped visiting prostitutes, he stopped lying and cheating, and all he wanted to do was tell everyone about Jesus.

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Succeeding in Failing

Failure One time, I told a mom I know, “Wow, you’re really patient!” She laughed, rolled her eyes, and said, “I wish! You must only see me on my good days!”

Another time, I told a friend, “You play guitar really well! You’ve definitely got a gift.” He responded, “Yeah, well, you should see the guys who really know how to play. I try my best, though…”

Someone told me once, “I really like your artwork. You’re really talented.” I immediately responded, “Well, I like doing it, but I still have a hard time getting the proportions right, and on this one, this part is all wrong, and this part didn’t turn out how I wanted…”

Because I have some natural talent in art, I see all my failures when I make a piece of art. I see the shapes are wrong, the colors are ugly, the piece is expressionless and without emotion… I see these failures because I have a talent here. If I had no talent in art, I would not see my failures. I would have no idea of how far I was from where I could be, should be.

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Apostle: A Possible Postulate

I’ve been studying the word “apostle” recently.  While I don’t have any “ground-breaking” things to say, I did realize some things that I hadn’t noticed before.

Before getting to the things that I found surprising, let me just say….  I know people tend to freak out when anyone starts talking about apostles, especially when that person believes in the present gift and calling, but bear with me.  Don’t freak out.  Yet.

Okay, now that that’s done, let’s start with some basics:

1) The term “apostle” used to be a normal Greek word, not a religious word with a capital letter on the front of it.  That capital letter and the religious context only came later, much later.  In the beginning, it was a word just like any other, just like how “born again” used to mean simply being born a second time, not “prayed a prayer and go to an evangelical church somewhat regularly.”

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