So I have been spending my evenings this week reading a book Kevin's mom sent in the mail called We Wait You: Waiting on God in Eastern Europe. It was written by Taryn Hutchison, who came over here as a missionary in 1990, just months after the Iron Curtain fell. Hard to believe that this fall it will have been 20 years since communism fell here!
I have to say that I literally laughed and cried numerous times while reading the book. She came to Romania as her assignment with Campus Crusade, which she said was her last choice, but she just fell in love with the Romanians and her ministry there. She came over to lead a Stint team (short term) and ended up staying in Romania for five years before moving to Budapest, where she lived for another five years.
One of the craziest things about this book is that I actually KNOW many of the people she talks about in the book. Lots of missionaries in this part of Europe often end up moving to Hungary because missions have their headquarters here. So some of the people she knew in Romania (Americans and some Romanians) now live here, and some of the people she knew while living in Budapest still live here. It was so weird to read and say, "Hey, I know them!" She also had pictures in the book, and it was fun to see old pictures of some people I know. One of the couples she worked with in Cluj, Romania, had their first baby while she was a part of their team, and now that baby girl is a freshman at ICSB! CRAZY!
There are a few Romanian women in my Bible study on Thursday afternoons, and they were in the book. The woman who leads my Bible study was even roommates with Taryn for a short time while in Romania. It was just so neat to read that and hear of their past ministries there. Plus, she also mentions hanging out with Rilla, who is a woman in my mission who lived here for years and now works in the UWM headquarters in Charlotte, NC. Again, CRAZY!
I just really enjoyed this book and think it is a great book for anyone coming over here to read or for people who support missionaries in Central and Eastern Europe. There are some bits of good history in there that help you understand people here and what life was like. Most Americans do not understand, and I am including myself in that group. As Taryn described in her book and as I have heard from many Hungarian friends, time literally stood still during the 45 years they were ruled by the Soviets after WW2. They had no idea that the world moved on, that technology got better, that there was so much more out there. They lived as if it were still in the 1940's with no change. They were locked out of the outside world and made to fear everyone, not knowing who was a spy or part of the secret police. They were told for 45 years, "There is no God." Ahhh!
She said that there were believers though who still followed Christ, in spite of knowing what could happen to them. They had these secret underground churches where they would divide one Bible into chunks so that they each could have a piece of the Bible to memorize and then they would get together and switch to get a new chunk. Westerners had tried to get Bibles into the country, but when the border control would find them, they would tear them apart and turn them into toilet paper. I thought of the symbolic significance of turning God's holy Word into something to wipe your rear end with, and I cried. They did not take a single precious word from the Bible for granted. How many Bibles do I have and that I can freely read and share with others without fear? Wow, I have it easy!
Often some spy would get into one of these churches and record the names of everyone there. Suddenly all of those people would lose their jobs and the more outspoken ones would never be seen or heard from again. Here is a quote from her book that also struck me:
"The depth of faith in that room humbled me. Many of these believers had suffered for years, never faltering in their belief that living for Jesus was more important than anything. They didn't demand that He give them good health, good jobs, money, safety, or freedom--willingly laying all of that aside. Yet they were truly free, even the ones who had been imprisoned, harassed, or had loved ones tortured or murdered because of Christ."
Some of her experiences were just wild here, ones that don't happen to everyone but seemed to always happen to her. I laughed at some of them, fully understanding and feeling her pain in the situation. Others were just awful and I praised the Lord that it has not happened to us. Robbery is a big thing here, and we have yet to experience that while so many others have. We had that one scare last year when someone tried to make a quick entry but left when the door didn't crash in on their first try. I continue to pray for safety and praise the Lord that he has protected us from that thus far.
Taryn also shared her struggles with going back to the States to visit and then when she permanently moved back in 2000. Most people anticipate having big changes and difficulty when moving to a new country overseas but don't often anticipate the same struggles moving back to our home country. They now realize that it is often just as big and difficult of a move to go back as it was to move away, and they now provide all sorts of "re-entry" training and seminars to help people readjust to life back in the US. It was funny because Audrey and I just had that conversation earlier this week. A teacher at school also mentioned to me how two of her college aged children are struggling right now with being back.
And on the title of the book: We Wait You... This was something Taryn heard countless times from people over here. "We wait you. Long time." "We wait you. Why did you take so long? We waited 45 years for the Americans to come and set us free." "When I was a child, we used to say that even if the Americans were coming in a wheelbarrow, they should be here by now." She said it was never said with condemnation, but always asked. She said that she "heard joy that we were here now, relief that freedom had come to them at last, at least in small steps as they progressed toward true democracy." Yep. I got choked up reading that a lot too.
So this weekend as we celebrate God's ultimate gift to us by the sacrifice of his Son on the cross for our sins, we can rejoice in knowing that Jesus did not remain dead but rose again to give us the gift of eternal life through him. God let Jesus experience the separation from him so that we would have not have to. We were spared. We are all free. Praise Him!