They say that a mission is a great place to spend Christmas. That statement took a while to sink in but once we realized that our grandchildren really were not on their way to Romania to pay a surprise visit, we began to enjoy the season. Bucharest is a beautiful place in the winter, if you look at the big picture. We were "blessed" with a beautiful snow storm which provided the ambiance.
This is a view of the center of the city. In the summer this is a green park and in the winter, it's a wonderland, complete with ice skating. In the distance is the "Palace of Parliament" built by the Communist leader, Ceausescu in 1984. It is the world's second-largest building (after the US Pentagon).
Mr. and Mrs. Claus
One of our NGO's invited us to a fundraiser Christmas concert in a beautiful Catholic church. We invited along all the senior couples serving in Bucharest to add to the donation. We started with dinner then walked 1 mile in the snow to get there. Then we walked back!
It was all worth it!
Our Christmas spirit spiked in an unexpected way.
Since including a short video clip in this blog of a little boy with a lamb on the Metro, I have been asked many questions. Yes, he was begging. You can pet his lamb for a price or just give him money. His mother was on the same train and she kept an eye on him. When someone gave him food or money, he would deliver it to his mom. As missionaries, we are told not to give money to beggars. This would make every missionary a target. In Romania, there are many poor people and many beggars and some of the poor stand on the sidewalk in the snow and try to sell carrots or radishes or flowers or cranberries. Sometimes, we buy just to buy. Our name tags have a special designation under our name: "Reprezentanta Umanitara" and it bothers us that we have to look away when a truly needy person asks us for a favor. We don't feel very "humanitarian"!
About a week before Christmas, my faithful Visiting Teacher in Spokane emailed me a quote from this month's message. She said it reminded her of us on our humanitarian mission. Thank you Lori, for this thoughtful gesture. It changed our mood, our purpose, our Christmas, our Mission.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
"Disciples of Christ throughout all ages of the world have been distinguished by their compassion . . . In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance.
Let us open our eyes and see the heavy heart, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers."
So, on Christmas Eve day, we left our apartment with baggies that contained 2 oranges, some chocolate dipped pretzels, and walnuts. We also cashed in a larger bill for some smaller ones. We boarded a bus and started looking for people to cheer. To some we gave the food and to others we gave 3-5 Ron (a buck or 2). We gave nothing to beggars (to be perfectly obedient to mission rules!). Our goal was to bring smiles to faces of the downtrodden. It was the best Christmas Eve we've ever had. I had my camera ready for some but mostly, taking a picture would have ruined the moment. Enjoy the two pictures below.
The smile....she just couldn't believe Denny just walked up and handed her money! A whole $4!
This woman had a shopping cart full of Tripe (stomach of sheep). Her smile was our thanks!
We have so many stories from that day that will be in our Christmas memories forever.
It is true...A mission is a great place to spend Christmas!
Finally, Christmas Day ended with the missionaries calling home. Twice a year (Christmas and Mother's Day) missionaries are allowed a phone call home. Every room in our little apartment was occupied. As I watched the drama unfold, I was reminded how very special this phone call was and I learned something that disturbed me. Parents in the States look forward to the sound of their son's or daughter's voice. Missionaries, not so much! At the end of the hour, they acted unaffected. What's with that?