Happy December! I pray that you all had a joy-filled and blessed Christmas and are still marveling at the goodness of our Father in sending His Beloved Son to this earth just so that we could have sweet fellowship with Him.
December was the beginning of my “nomadic wanderings” as I split time between living in Cluj and Sancraiu. In addition, I spent one week in Budapest, including a day trip to Vienna with my good friends Agi, Laszca and their 19 month old daughter Zsofia. The week of Christmas was spent in the villages of Sacuieu, Calatele and Sancraiu. My first village Christmas!
Because I stayed 3 nights/week in Cluj, I finally had time to explore the city. With the added bonus of being here in December, I got to experience Cluj at it’s finest: decorated for Christmas. Every piata (square) was beautifully decorated with a unique theme. All the streets, churches and buildings were lit, the sound of colinde (Christmas caroling) could be heard each night and the Christmas Market was bustling with merry people.
Staying in Cluj also afforded me more quality time working with Ciprian and the children at the gradinita (special needs kindergarten). Some of the kindergarten highlights include Timi dressing herself for the first time and Andrei feeding himself! These were 2 of my favorite “Christmas presents” this year.
Experiencing the Christmas Markets in Vienna was so special, especially because I finally got to see Agi, Laszca and my sweet Zsofia. Taking in all the sights, sounds and smells was definitely a treat for the senses. As we drove from Budapest to Vienna (3 hours), it also started to snow ~ the first snow of December! On a down note, my camera was stolen during my trip :
Happily. I do have a few pictures from Agi's camera!
My beloved city of Budapest is even more spectacular at Christmas! My dear friend Jenny Lotter, a fellow missionary to Romania, was flying home to the U.S. so we decided to head over to Budapest a few days before her flight and enjoy some quiet time. Well, I am not sure if quiet time was as much planned as forced. I ended up with bronchitis on my 1st day of our vacation and was prescribed rest and sleep by the doctor. However, Jenny and I were still able to wander around the Castle district and take in the beautiful Christmas Market at Vorosmarty Ter. Because I was in Budapest during Hanukkah, I also visited the synagogue and went to to see the lighting of the mennorah. After Jenny left, I continued to stay on in Budapest and visit former colleagues and friends. One of my former students, Viki, invited me to stay with her. We had a lovely time catching up. She is such an amazing young woman and I am so proud of all she has accomplished. On my last night, she prepared an early Christmas meal for me ~ the best turkey dinner I have ever tasted! Another great highlight from my time in Hungary was being able to attend church at Calvary Chapel Budapest. The church continues to grow and now has 3 services on Sunday mornings. It was nice to hear the message in English and also be able to take the Lord’s Supper.
Christmas in the Villages
Thanks to the generosity of people from my home church, we were able to purchase lots of sweet treats and oranges for the children in Calatele and Sacuieu. Before I left for Hungary, Nicu, Silvana and I spent a day in Cluj purchasing cookies, candies and chocolates. God gave us great favor with prices, so we were so amazed at all we could buy! We were thankful knowing that the children would receive something special for Christmas.
After loading Nicu’s and Fery’s cars until nothing more could fit, we headed to Calatele and delivered the Christmas gifts on the 22nd. The children were so surprised and excited! Many of them waited patiently in their homes, but some of the kids were too excited and just followed us from house to house. Watching the children open the boxes and bags was the best Christmas gift I could have asked for, and getting to tell each of them the reason for the gifts ~ because Jesus came to the earth for us~ was even sweeter. We were also blessed by Fery, his son Cutitaru, and Danut helping us to deliver the gifts. Seeing the spiritual growth in these men has been so encouraging.
The next day Fery and Danut came to Sancraiu and helped pack the cars full again, this time to go to Sacuieu. As we entered the village, the children came running to the cars! Despite their excitement, they each waited until we arrived at their homes. As we pulled up to Marioara’s home, her 2 youngest daughters (Lisa and Garoafa) ran to hug me. As I looked back, I glimpsed Marioara standing at the door, unashamedly weeping with joy. One of my other favorite moments was handing the gifts to Calin, a boy about 12 yrs old. He was not only the most gracious in accepting his gifts (“really, they are all for me?”), but he was also the most happiest about everything he received, even the socks and toothpaste!
I continue to be thankful for each of you~ and I pray that as we begin 2010, we will be filled with His joy and peace!