And Just Like That...
...it was over. The end. La revedere. Even with my extended trip, it went by far too quickly. I don't know exactly at this moment why God had me stay in Romania for eight more days than originally planned, but He has shown me glimpses here and there, and I am beyond grateful for them.
We began Tuesday at the office with the usual morning meeting, except that Bogdan brought pastries so that I "wouldn't be so sad." Opposite effect, Bogdan! Way to make me cry! As we began worship and went on through devotion and prayer, I couldn't hold back the tears. They silently poured out of my eyes as I sat there and tried to focus.
It didn't help any that I went with Bogdan right after that to exchange money and get my passport. As we quickly debriefed a bit of my trip, I had to do so through the cloud of tears. It was just too much.
After I got myself together, the girls and I headed to Home of Hope to spend the morning with the little ones. I was looking forward to their giggles and smiles as I needed a bit of lightheartedness in my morning. They didn't disappoint. We played for a bit at the apartment before heading to the park. Their hugs and laughter and smiles were certainly good for the soul. I'm really going to miss those little ones.
The goodbyes had to continue at lunch as I said "see you later" to Gianni, Ioana, and Simona--my heart growing increasingly heavy with each one.
After lunch we headed over to Chitila. Nelu had Carmen and the girl interns in the car, so we used the opportunity to jam to some T-Swift. Carmen may or may not have gotten some of it on video. All I have to say is that it was quite refreshing to forget about leaving for a few minutes and just sing and dance and laugh.
We had planned on taking some of the girls from Chitila to McDonalds as a change of pace, but there were, of course, a few hiccups in the way as we arrived and tried to gather the girls we planned on taking. After some time, we each grabbed a hand or an arm and headed out on the tram.
It was so nice to be able to sit at McDonalds with the girls and just visit and be. Although my beloved Flori was there (and was the one I was "assigned to" on the way over), I sat with Ioana at lunch and spoke to her in English (with a bit of translation help from Florina). I got to hear more of her heart and learn about some of her future dreams, and I felt immediately drawn to her. She has so much potential, and my heart is so burdened for her. Please join me in praying for her along with the other girls.
As we returned to the center with the girls, little Ana squealed and ran up to me. The little ones had been out somewhere, so they were unable to come with us, but I was so grateful that she was outside at that moment. She hugged and kissed me and told me how much she loved me, and my heart (albeit full) absolutely ripped apart. Here is this young, impressionable, seemingly innocent girl amidst the chaos of the situation and saturated with the influence of the older girls, who themselves have dealt with an abundance of abuse in their lives. I look at Ana right now and think ahead five years. What will her life look like? Will that precious smile still be evident? Will the joy in her heart remain? Or will she become hard and jaded with years of abuse and/or possible trafficking?
God, please protect this precious one! I pray that with the continued support and love of CTL, and the love of Jesus that the staff brings to these kids, that there will be a future for them--a future of hope and potential and success, a future of trusting Jesus, not one of despair and brokenness and whatever else you can imagine.
I can try in words and utterings here, but the story of Chitila, of so many orphanages around Romania is one that is so difficult to tell, so hard to truly convey... But God knows. He knows every inch of every one of those girls, every hair on their heads, every tear they've cried, every desperate plea they've uttered. And, I know that He loves His precious daughters far more than the CTL staff or I ever could. I have to entrust them to Him as I leave and remain faithful in prayer.
After leaving Chitila, Nelu and Florina went with the interns to grab some dinner--my last Shoarma. We enjoyed some good conversation and laughter before I had to say goodbye to Florina (as Nelu would be the one taking me to the airport). As our time together drew to a close, I honestly sat at the table, laughing at something she said, and tears starting pouring down my cheeks. I've never experienced anything quite like it. I've never experienced anyone like Florina before. I love her dearly, and I'm going to miss her like crazy until I see her again.
The interns then headed back to the apartment to hang out for a while as it was our last opportunity to be together. We again put the phones down and enjoyed a few hours of good conversation. I'm really going to miss that. I thank God for those sweet opportunities.
It was late already when we said goodnight, and then our power kept switching off and on (which meant no fan when it was off, and super loud beeping when it would come back on). Because of that, Bailey and I didn't get much sleep. Fortunately for Leanne, I think she slept through all of it.
Nelu picked me up around 4:30 this morning, and we enjoyed a nice ride to the airport. I held it together really well until he hugged me for the last time and I had to walk through security. Again, tears literally poured out of the eyes. Guys, this is so foreign to me. I don't understand how this water keeps appearing so easily. I guess it just means these people are extra special or that they've touched my heart even more than I can consciously imagine. The last wave goodbye was the worst before I rounded the corner and headed toward my gate.
Now I'm sitting in Amsterdam, ready to board my flight my LAX. Please pray that it all goes smoothly, that I sleep if I need to, and that God would prepare my heart for the transition back. Thanks so much for all your love and support throughout this journey. Love to you all!