Friday, June 28, 2013

Imagine for a Moment...

This is a poem I wrote last year after returning from Romania. It was the only was I could process my thoughts and feelings and put them into words. This is still my heart....


Imagine for a moment…

A place where
The air is thick,                            
Darkness overcomes light,       
Oppression reigns.

In this place,
Abuse is rampant,          
Bodies are used, sold;     
Hope is lost.                        

In this nightmare,           
Loneliness abounds,       
Lost ones cry out,            
Morning never comes.

You can open your eyes.
You can wake up
From this nightmare.
But the orphans can’t.

Can you imagine this pain,
This hopelessness, this nightmare
As your reality?
They have to.

Now imagine for a moment…

A place where
The air is bright,
Light trumps darkness,
Christ reigns.

In this place,
Hugs and kisses heal,
Loving arms reach out,
Hope is found.

In this dream,
Love abounds,
Laughter rings out,
Mercies are new.

Open your eyes,
Picture their broken faces.
We can make this dream
Their reality.

Never forget their pain,
Their hopelessness, their nightmare.
We’re called make a difference.
We have to. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The End... and Home.

We finished our Romania adventure by awaking at 3am on Wednesday and quickly putting ourselves together (if you can say that). Victor picked us up to drive to the airport at 3:30. It was a nice last look at the city at night, but it was seriously hard to believe that we were actually leaving.

We checked in and got through the airport without a hitch. We swung by a couple of the shops because we had a bit of time, and RaeAnn bought me the cutest little elephant stuffed animal--a Romanian friend to always have with me. It was so sweet!

When we reached our gate, we settled down and grabbed a little something to eat. Ky, RaeAnn, and I were sitting against the window and Mom was facing us. In the section behind Mom, two Australian guys were sitting facing us. What ensued next was quite hilarious...

Australian guys: [things I don't want to repeat]

Ky and Me: [red faced, trying not to giggle]

Australian guy #1: Do they speak Spanish in Mexico?

Ky and Me: [died laughing] 

Australian guy #1 (to his friend): What language do they speak?

Australian guy #2: What language do you THINK they speak?

And we all died laughing at this point...

We then proceeded to laugh and joke with them and tease them endlessly. It was a good way to stay awake! At one point Ky handed me her phone and told me to take a picture of them without them knowing, so I acted like I was taking a picture of my mom.

Australian guy #2: Come on, we invented that! 

And so, they proceeded to pose for us--check out the picture on FB. Haha.


Our flight from Romania to Turkey was quite uneventful. I think all of us probably dosed off for a couple of minutes, but it was so short that we couldn't exactly get any meaningful rest in. Our layover in Turkey was again LONG, so we wandered around a bit before settling in the same restaurant that we did on the way over. And guess who was there? Our Australian friends! Of course. They gave us their wifi code so we could check in with our people, and then they proceeded to fall asleep at their table. We ordered some breakfast (omelets with cheese and beef ham). RaeAnn tried to ask the waiter if it was beef or ham, but he couldn't quite understand. I asked him cow or pig, and he finally said "pork". Phew! It turned out to be ham, and it was pretty good! After breakfast, we all (except for RaeAnn) fell asleep for a few minutes at our table. You gotta do whatcha gotta do!

I was a bit apprehensive when we boarded our flight in Turkey--I was not ready to sit on a plane for that long, much less leave Romania. But, there was a bit of a bright one sat in the row with Ky and myself....elbow room, leg room, everything room! That was certainly helpful! I tried to watch movies, but I kept getting bored and nodding off. I finally found a few random kid movies to watch. I walked around, watched some TV episodes, and read a bit. That flight is seriously NEVER ENDING! Perhaps the most annoying part of the flight was after we landed. We taxied for quite some time--during which a few people in the back decided to stand up and get their luggage before getting yelled at by the flight attendants. After we stopped taxiing (but before the seatbelt light went off) basically the whole back section of the plane stood up and started getting their luggage. NO ONE in the front two sections stood up at all. The man in front of me turned around and said, "It's because those people (in the front) are civilized)." I cracked up. So true! It took far too long, but we were FINALLY let off the plane...

...and then there was passport control....

...and then we had to get our luggage...

...and then there was customs...


We finally made it out... and then there was the drive home, but not before a potty and Taco Bell. :)

....and traffic.... lots of it.

Can you tell I was tired and anxious to be home? :)

We got home around 8pm--about 27 hours after leaving Bucharest.

It felt so strange to walk through the house. I know part of that was because it was weird to be away from Romania, but another part was due to the fact that my body felt completely exhausted and disoriented. It was not long before I was in bed, crashed, and out.


Traveling that far does some strange things to a person. However, as I was sitting in bed last night, one of my prominent thoughts was, I'd do this all again tomorrow if I could see the CTL staff again and hold those sweet children again. No doubt.

If it's not obvious yet, God imprinted Romania on my heart from a young age, and as I grow up, that imprint only gets deeper. God has not called me to move to Romania. I know he has me here teaching in Bakersfield now for a purpose, and I will serve Him here as best I can, but I know that I'll go back to Romania someday--hopefully and prayerfully a lot of somedays. :)

CTL staff and kids, I miss you deeply--honestly more than I can say. I am praying for you, and I will do all that I can here to continue to serve you and this CTL ministry. I'll see you again someday--prayerfully sooner rather than later!

Te iubesc!!!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday....Our Last Day... :(

Our last day.... 

As I'm sitting here typing,  Ky and I are watching a gnarly thunder and  lightening storm outside. It is INCREDIBLE! What a precious gift from God on our last night--a reminder of His power over this city, our world, our lives, and the lives of these children. I'm astounded by His love and power and mercy.

Just now the rain started...what a sweet sweet sound...pouring rain.

Ok, let's back up a bit...

Today we began the day  with our usual meeting, minus Eliza who was going to be a little late. Since she wasn't there to play the guitar, we sang acapella. It was awesome. As the meeting came to a close, we presented thank you cards and little gifts to the staff--one of the main reasons we went to the mall last night. It was a sweet time to spend showing our appreciation for them--they are truly amazing people. 

The kids from #7 apartments came shortly after that and we took them to  the park. We played Hungry Hippo, Steal the Bacon, Dodgeball, and Soccer (and when I say "we", I mean Ky and the kids--we "older ladies" were not able to participate.) :)

We came back to the office for lunch, followed by some water games--Ky and I both participated in these and had a blast (and got a bit wet). When the water games were finished, we all lined up for a group picture on the back porch. And, lo and behold, buckets of water were poured down upon us from above. Luckily, I was mostly under cover, and Geanina (who came back today!) quickly pulled me inside, so I only got a bit wet. 

Bogdan debriefed with us for a while in the afternoon, and then Eliza took Ky and me to the Christian bookstore. We told her that we needed to pick up something quickly, but in  reality, the ladies were back at the office decorating and preparing for her surprise bridal shower!!!

Everything went so smoothly! She was so surprised!!! Some of the staff stayed and Eliza's sister Anna came. We played games, opened gifts, ate dinner, shared stories, and prayed over her. Toward the end, Eliza and I got some good quality time to just sit on the couch and talk--my favorite thing. It was such a sweet, sweet time--one that I will always remember. 

And then the hard part came... the girls had to leave. I couldn't hold back my tears (I've been so good so far). It was just so hard to say goodbye to them. They have been such an encouragement and blessing to me and I'm going to miss them so very much. But, thank God for technology and Facebook and iMessage!!! I know we'll keep in touch!

Then it was on to packing...

...and now the thunder storm.

We have to leave for the airport in less than five hours, but I just can't bring myself to try to sleep. It's so hard to say goodbye..

Please pray for safe travels and a smooth transition back home. Pray that our passion and hearts for Romania won't dwindle at all. Pray that God will continue to do a mighty work in this country and in our lives. 

Thank you!

Isus te iubeste si te iubesc! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

aMAzing Monday!

I have a bad case of the Mondays...simply because I don't want to leave!

Disclaimer: I'm sorry to disappoint, but this post won't be nearly as humorous as yesterday's. 

On with it...

We got to spend  the entire day today with children from the #6 apartments--so fun!

This morning we met them at the  mall so  that we could take them  bowling! Like I said, SO FUN! The  kids had a blast! Ok, ok, we did too! Not a whole lot of language is needed when you are yelling names, cheering each other on, and giving high fives. Precious  moments, let me tell you. One of my favorite parts of the whole day was toward the end of our bowling session when I asked little Valentina to bowl with me. She had been sitting and observing all morning, but didn't want to play. I grabbed her little hand, handed her a light ball, and had her roll it down the lane. On her first try, she knocked down nine pins. The joy on her face was indescribable. We cheered and hugged  and  high fived. From that moment on, Vali took all of  my turns for me. It was adorable!!!

After bowling I experienced my second high of the day--seeing the apartment  where CTL will house their six little girls come fall. As it is now, CTL works with a  TON of children in government run orphanages and social living apartments. But, in October, CTL will get to take six little girls out of the system and raise them as their own in an apartment--free from abuse, corruption, trafficking, etc. and filled with love and compassion and Jesus. This is a HUGE answer to prayer, it is so exciting to think of all that God will do in the lives of these children as they are being raised by the CTL staff. My heart was overjoyed and overwhelmed as I walked through the rooms of this apartment and imagined the life these little girls  will now be  able to live. God is doing a mighty work here, and I am confident that this apartment and these six girls are just the beginning of amazing things to come.

In the afternoon, we sang, played games, and hung out with the kids from the #6 apartments. It was sad to see them go this afternoon. I don't even like to think about leaving... 

After hanging out for a bit at the ministry center, Angela and Victor took us to the mall for a few last minute things. Angela wanted to go to one bus stop and  Victor wanted to go to another. So, guess what? We ended up walking the ENTIRE way to the mall! Apparently Victor's bus stop "had moved"....and, we didn't stop giving Victor a hard time the entire way--poor guy. :) It's ok, though, we enjoyed hanging out and being together. 

Now it's  far too late and I'm far too tired  to go on. I must say noapte buna (goodnight), but before I do, let me share  a few prayer requests  with you:

* Pray for the girls that will move into the CTL apartment in October and the staff that will raise them. Pray that God will do mighty things in their lives. 

* Pray for funds to come in so that CTL may buy their own property and build their own campus to raise more kids in the future. We're dreaming big in faith because our God is big and capable of miracles. 

* Pray for our last day--pray that we'll maximize our time, share God's love and encouragement, and connect more deeply to the children and the staff. 

Thank you for your continued prayer and support. 

Isus te iubeste si te iubesc!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sinaia Sunday

Today held a great many adventures in Sinaia (the mountains). Let me tell you about a few....

The day began with the alarm clock going off far too early (0515).

The day proceeded to take us on the metro to the train station where we promptly found our train,  boarded, walked a few cars, thought we were on the wrong train, panicked slightly, and then discovered we were looking at the wrong tickets and we were in fact on the correct train. Once settled, we enjoyed the scenery as we played a few rousing rounds of Yahtzee (quite an experience on a train, I might add).

Once in Sinaia, we walked and climbed and walked and climbed up a hill toward Peles Castle. I felt terrible for the ladies with leg problems, but they were troopers! We stopped at a quaint cafe as we neared the castle for a coffee (or Coke Zero in my case) and a couple pastries (the Romanians sure do know how to make them!). We proceeded to the castle after our short break and arrived just in time to begin the English tour.

I had been to the castle last year, so I was excited, but not expecting anything different than I had already seen. Boy, was I mistaken!--but wait, let me back up. When we entered the "lobby" of the castle, we had to put little booties over our shoes. Anyone who knows me knows that I can't stand socks or shoes (especially in my current condition), so I was not looking forward to this. It was ok at first, but my foot did grow increasingly sensitive and felt a bit like a hot, tingling mess. However, the castle was phenomenal, so I proceeded to distract myself. Colette even asked how she could become queen and our guide asked if she was available tomorrow. He was quite funny! As we came upon the end of the tour, I began to turn around to head back to the entrance, but our tour guide asked if we had paid for the optional extended tour. We didn't think so (Denisa bought the tickets), but we handed him our tickets anyway to check. He told us we were ok to proceed. Pe bune? I was seriously excited. I had never seen the upstairs part of the castle. And, let me tell you what, is was AMAZING! We got to see secret doors, the bedrooms, the bathroom, a crazy huge closet, the servants quarters, and much more. We were honestly like giddy little children as we approached each room. So worth it! As the tour ended and we met Denisa outside, we told  her how excited we were about the extended tour...and guess what?...she didn't even pay for it!  Our guide must have just really liked us and he let us go anyway!!! So neat! Definite high!....or so we thought!

As we journeyed down toward town, we stopped at a few of the shopping stalls and bartered our  way into a few nice things. Just as we were finishing up our shopping adventures, thunder roared. And when I say "roared", I mean a 747 taking its seat at the Crystal Cathedral "roared"! It was INTENSE! The drops started shortly after  that, and before  long we were caught in a full blown HUGE thunder and lightening storm--unlike anything we get in California. I LOVED it! We, of course, had no umbrellas, and many of us  didn't even have sweaters, so we just embraced it--and laughed and yelped  and  laughed some more. As we were trying to look for somewhere to eat, it even began to HAIL--huge hail stones! It was crazy! We found a nice little restaurant and sat our hot mess selves down for something to eat. Seriously, I looked a wreck--see??

After lunch we headed back to the train station, but not before getting a chocolate filled pretzel (what! those things exist!?). Once on the train (no confusion this time), we played another round of Yahtzee. By the end of the game, we could hardly keep our eyes open, so we basically all passed out--well, all except Ky and  RaeAnn I think. I awoke to a little Romanian child singing--loudly. And she  didn't stop. The entire way home! It was seriously annoying. But, we joked amongst ourselves and tried to laugh it off. 

Upon arrival, we took the metro to get some din din (as if we hadn't eaten enough already) and  the bus back to the ministry center. EXHAUSTED! It's not even 9pm and we're all ready for bed! 

Tomorrow we'll have children from #6 apartments with us all day. I heard a rumor that we may even take  them bowling. That would be exciting! I'll let you know. :)

Thanks again for your continued prayers!  

Please pray for deep connections, seeds planted, and God's name lifted high on our last two days (kills me to say that!). 

Noapte buna! (Goodnight) 

Isus te iubeste si te iubesc! (Jesus loves you and I love you!) 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Already? Nu bine!

How is it already Saturday?!?

It made my heart sad tonight when I realized that we only have two days left with the kids. It gets  harder to leave every year... 

This morning we had little kids from the Little Explorers program come to the office. Eliza heads it up and she does  an incredible job. We didn't interact too much with the kids because there are a lot of volunteers from Eliza's church that help, but we were able to do a lot in the kitchen and serve lunch to the kids. It was really sweet to see them recite Bible verses and sing worship songs and work together as teams to accomplish tasks.

In between the morning session and the afternoon Bible study, all of the Romanian adults left and we had two Romanian girls with us for a little over two hours without a translator. I was a bit nervous at first, not knowing what we'd do with them, but we all busted out our limited verbal language and a bit of sign language and we had a great time together. We played games, looked at pictures, ate ice cream, and RaeAnn even cut one of the girl's bangs (all without a translator thank you very much!). 

In the afternoon, the girls' Bible study came to the office for their last meeting. We hung out for a while, cut some more hair (RaeAnn is amazing!), and played some really fun games. We've gotten to know these girls quite well, so it's really neat to be able to call them by name and interact with them on a deeper level. After the games (and some celebratory cake and ice cream), Florina, Denisa, and Angela spoke to the girls. Although we couldn't understand Florina or Denisa, we could see the deep love and compassion they had for these girls as they spoke. They so deeply desire that these girls will turn to the Lord and live for Him rather than for themselves. Some of the girls were even in tears, and it was so sweet to witness. These girls know that they are loved by these amazing women, and it's our prayer that they'll know the even deeper love of Jesus as their Savior. 

It's never fun to say goodbye to the girls, but fortunately we'll be able to see most all of them again on Tuesday. :) 

Denisa and Angela are spending the night tonight because we're all going to the mountains tomorrow, so the  evening held a bit of pizza, some  Joes and M&Ms, and a rousing round of YAHTZEE!  Denisa and I both rolled Yahtzees, but Angela still beat us. Pe bune! (For real?!) 

I'm looking forward to a day to relax in the mountains tomorrow with these wonderful ladies, but I'll be anxious to see the kids again on Monday. 

Thanks again for your continued prayers! Keep lifting up all of the requests that I've mentioned in the previous posts. :)

Isus te iubeste si te iubesc1 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday--The One Time I Don't Like Friday....

Everybody loves a Friday....especially this one.....but I don't like it because it means that our time here is getting shorter. :(

I don't mind waking up to my alarm clock here because I know that in a short time, I'll be seeing some of my favorite people in the world, listening to God's word, and worshipping together. I'm going to miss this so much when I go home...

This morning we traveled back to Tei. As hot and tiring as public transportation can be, it is a great time to get to know the staff better and make sweet memories. I love every opportunity I have to connect with them. When we got to Tei, the children were so excited to see us. I got to see Rebeca (my sweet girl from last year) and I was so excited. I gave her a picture I had of the two of us and she  was quite surprised. It was a joy to see her again and love on her. We sang songs, children recited Bible verses (that was incredible!), and we played on the bounce house and the trampoline. I love hearing their belly laughs and seeing the joy on their faces when they get to let loose and just play as little kids should with people surrounding them that deeply love them. When one child's turn was up on the trampoline, the kids wanted to count to 10 in English to signal the end of  their turn. Something that simple brought them so much joy. One of the youngest ones (an absolute doll!) even practiced counting to 10 in
English with me. I have it on video, so ask me about  it when you see me!

A couple of the older boys from one of the social apartments came to help us at Tei today, and it was such an encouragement to see them interact with the kids and help wherever there was a need.

In the afternoon, some older kids came to the ministry center and we played team building games and interacted with them for quite a while. It's been great to see some of the same faces multiple days in a row and really connect with some of these dear children. RaeAnn cut some more hair, and Ky and I dried and straightened some. They loved it!

After the children left, Angela took us back to Uniri to a Christian book store to pick up a few things--CDs, t-shirts, wall art, etc., and then we walked around the mall a bit. It's quite exhausting to go out at night (especially for Mama and her bum knee), but it's so nice to be out seeing the town and experiencing as much as we can in the short time that we're here. We can rest when we get home (well, most of us), so I say we just soak it all in!

We enjoyed another amazing meal prepared by Mama Maria when we returned home, relaxed a bit while telling stories and highs and lows, and FaceTimed the Wanner girls. We miss them so much already!

Tomorrow we'll get to help out with Little Explorers (a Bible study for younger kids) in the morning and the girls' Bible study in the afternoon. I'm really looking forward to seeing the older girls again!

As you can probably tell, the days are long and can be exhausting, but they are filled with such joy and love. It is easy to see God's hand whenever we go, and the work that this CTL staff does everyday is overwhelmingly amazing. They are true examples of salt and light and true religion--taking care of widows and orphans. I love them all dearly. 

Prayer Requests:

* CTL staff--praying for God's wisdom and discernment as they plan and interact with the children. Pray that God will fill them to overflowing with His love and grace so  that they may love the children every day. Pray for strength as  they give so much of themselves each day. 

* Divine Appointments--pray that seeds are planted. Pray that our stories may touch these precious hearts. Pray that we'll make the most out of the next few days and be open to the Spirit. 

Thank you so much for your  prayers and support!

Isus te iubeste si te iubesc! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday (or Friday Eve!).

Thursday already? It hardly seems possible....

Half of  our team left early this morning, and it was super sad to see them go. We're really  going to miss them!

Today was quite different than any day we've had so far. We stayed at the office today and the children came to us. Now that many of the children are in social apartments, it is easier for them to travel to the office rather than the staff trying to go to them.

In the  morning we had children from social apartments #6 come to the office. These were new faces, and it was a joy to get to know them. We played games (we introduced them to LCR and they LOVED it!), sang songs, painted more spoons, and I shared my story. I loved being able to share my heart with these little ones and remind them that it is God that created them. It is God that is their Father. And, it is God who loves them far beyond any human could. 

In the afternoon, some older children came to the office--ones that we have seen before--and  it was SO great to reconnect with them. Geanina even came back, and I was overjoyed. We did more of the same with the kids this afternoon with the exception of RaeAnn (the woman who does everything!) who cut a couple of the girls' hair. It was seriously amazing to watch. They've most likely never  had  their hair cut by a person who is licensed, and it was difficult for them to sit still, but it was obvious  that they felt so special and so cared for. It's  incredible to watch such a simple thing make such a big difference.

After the children left and we consumed more of Mama's amazing cooking, Angela took the five of us back to Old Town for some gelato. YUM. We, of course, shared our highs and lows and a few more laughs. It was a beautiful night, so we quite enjoyed our time outdoors. 

Tomorrow we will go back to Tei (the day center for little kids). I'm praying that I'll get to see Rebeca, the dear girl who I connected with last year (she's probably on some of your fridges too!). In the afternoon, another group of kids will come to the office. I'm quite looking forward to it. :)

Thanks for your prayers! Here are a few requests if you think of it:

* Pray that the other half of our team gets home safely and adjusts well to life back home.

* Pray for us physically--for mom's knee and my feet (they are getting weary) and any other ailments.

* Pray for deep connections as we spend the next few days with the children. Pray that we'll be open to the Holy Spirit and that the children will see God in us and experience Him in a new way. 

Isus te iubeste si te iubesc! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hump Day Update (Wednesday)

Usually Wednesdays are described as hump days. However, I'd describe today as...


Our morning began in the usual (amazing) way--worship, devotion, and prayer (I'll never tire of beginning my day like this).  I was able to share the devotion this morning, so I spoke about the song "Mighty to Save" and shared my story about Geanina and the worship night last night (read yesterday's post if you missed it). Then I shared one of my favorite verses, Zephaniah 3:17:

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

What an incredible promise and encouragement... :)

This morning we traveled to Tei (a day center for young children from extremely poor families). These little guys clamor for your love and attention. As soon as one finds you and clings to you, it's difficult to put him or her down. We sang songs, Eliza told them a story, we jumped on the trampoline, played on the inflatable slide, and painted spoons (come to the banquet in October if you'd like to know more about these spoons). ;) Toward the end of our time there, we gathered a small group of children and started playing Ring Around the Rosie, the Hokey Pokey, and London Bridges. It was all in English, of course, but the kids jumped right in, caught on, and had a blast. Language doesn't matter as much when you're laughing and loving on kids. 

As much as I always hate leaving Tei, I couldn't WAIT to get to Don Orione in the afternoon. This is a private Catholic center for children with disabilities and elderly people. The second I walked  in I could tell there was an overwhelming difference from "rehab." This place is huge, clean, well staffed, and full of resources. Some of the kids from Rehab were moved to Don Orione recently, and it was such an encouragement to know immediately that they were  finally getting the care they so desperately needed. Nelu called Lili (his sister and former CTL staff member) as soon as we arrived, and I was so excited to see her that I could hardly sit down in the lobby. As soon as I did see her, I was seriously overjoyed--I've really missed her over the years.

Lili took us all around Don Orione, showed us the different rooms, showed us some of the kids, and explained all the amazing programs they have going on there. It was so neat to see the huge smile  on the faces of some of the kids that just recently came from Rehab. They've only been there a short time, yet there is an obvious difference. Praise God! The whole time we were walking around, I was so anxious to see Valentin or Jack (a baby I fell in love with last year). He was in one of the last rooms  we saw, and as soon as I turned the corner, my heart was (again!) overjoyed. He looked so good!!! And, he's only been out of Rehab for a few weeks. Again, praise God! I got to hold him, laugh with him, tickle him, take pictures with him (I'll have to show you in person), and just soak him in. We didn't get to stay too long, but even that short time was such an encouragement to my heart. I know that God is taking care of this little one, His precious son, and I know that he is now in good hands. Thank you, God! 

This evening we enjoyed some Italian food with Bogdan and Victor. It was delicious, of course. We shared our highs and lows over dinner, and, of course, a few laughs. 

After dinner, we played a couple rounds of LCR  and had to say goodbye to half of our team. So bittersweet after such an incredible day! Please pray for them as they travel home tomorrow, and pray for us as we adjust to them not being with us. We'll miss them!!

Until next time...

Isus te Iubeste si te iubescc! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Tuesday--Are There any Songs About Tuesday??

Anyway...our day began with Mama's French toast, some great worship in Romanian and English, and great devotion by Reagan. 

This morning we journeyed to rehab (an orphanage for kids with disabilities)--usually one of my favorite places. I was overjoyed to see Alex when we got there (a dear boy that Neal got  really close to last year--Neal, I gave him a big hug from you). We gathered a few of the kids and walked them to McDonalds. It is never an easy thing, but it is incredible to think of the joy of simply taking a child outdoors and to McDonalds. It was a great challenge and an eye opening experience for the entire team. It warms my heart  that this CTL staff works with these children so often, pouring love and affection out toward  them so selflessly. 

We had another delicious lunch at the office prepared by the wonderful Mama Maria before some of the older kids came to the office for our afternoon outing to the park. 

We took around 15-20 kids to a really nice park somewhere in Bucharest. The kids got to go through a "fun house" (let's be real, we were all over it too) and it was a BLAST. It was incredible to laugh with them, run around with them, and experience such joy without the worry of a language barrier. After that we went for a crazy round of bumper cars (seriously, American bumper cars ain't got nothing on these guys!). We rammed and jarred and laughed  hysterically. I LOVED it!

However, the best  was yet  to come...

This evening  we had a BBQ and worship night with some of the older kids. We ate chicken and mici (my FAVORITE) and salad (well, other  people, not me), and laughed and interacted with the kids. My favorite part? Geanina came--a girl that I grew really close to last year. Some of you have her picture  on your fridge.  I was  overjoyed to see her. I spent the evening next to her with my hand on her shoulder  or knee or her head resting on my shoulder. My heart was full. Her orphanage was recently closed, so she's  living in a Social Living Apartment right now. It's all very new  and she's not used to the big transition. Please  continue to pray for  her! 

Perhaps my favorite part of the evening is  when we sang "Mighty to Save" and Geanina rested her head on my shoulder. You see, after coming home last year, I was at the Flood with Living Grace and that song was a part of the worship set. As soon as it came on, Geanina's face was imprinted into my mind and I couldn't picture anything  else.....

..."My Savior, He can move the  mountains. My God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save. Forever, Author of salvation, He rose and conquered the grave. Jesus conquered the grave."

He is mighty to save. Last year, I trusted Him to save Geanina, and that  will continue to be my prayer for her and all of these precious children. He is MIGHTY to save. 

We concluded the evening with our usual highs and lows and tears streaming down our faces (not from crying, but because RaeAnn made us laugh way too hard).  Laughter is so cleansing. :) 

Tomorrow is  perhaps the highlight of my week (if all goes as  planned). Tei (the little ones) in the morning, and  Don Orione in the afternoon (where Valentin is--he is also on some of your refrigerators). I can't WAIT!!! 

Again, thank you so much for your continued prayers. Here are a few prayer requests if you think about them:

* Transition--there is a lot of transition going on right now with centers closing and children being moved around. In addition to that, the children are  finishing school. Please pray that they will make these transitions smoothly and be able  to still be connected to CTL. 

* Our team--the first part of  our team is quickly coming to a close on their time here. Pray that we'll all make the most of their remaining time  here. Pray that God will work in mighty ways in and through them as they finish up and after they return home. 

Thanks so much!

Isus te iubeste si te iubesc!