What a trip it has been so far! The Lord has been so good to us.
Lewis and I decided to return to Romania with the Foundation for Hope team this year, along with our 3 young children. Our last trip was in March 2015 when we were pregnant with our son James, now 4 years old. This was a big decision as we knew not only the logistics of flying across the world with little ones could be quite stressful and exhausting but we knew the ministry itself would be wearing as a family. Even after excitingly signing up for the trip we wondered, how would we contribute to the team in serving others while also trying to just be parents to 3 little people under the age of 5 in a foreign country? Nonetheless, we saw God directing our hearts to go and we decided we would do as much as we could, recognizing we might be more limited than when just the two of us came last.
For months we have been talking as a family about what all we would do in Romania, what it would be like, what kinds of things the kids might see and do that would be both similar and different to their lives at home. We talked about how blessed we are as a family and how we want to be a blessing to others. If you ask our kids why they were going to Romania, you would probably hear our older two shout “to talk about Jesus” or “JESUS!!!” We were ready to see how God would use this time to shape our hearts and minds and grow us to be more like Him.
As our departure got closer and the coronavirus began to spread and make more headlines, we agreed that we never felt God telling us not to go. We both felt very sure and continued to pray that God would make it very clear to us if we needed to stay home. So as we packed and prepared we stepped out in faith, not knowing what the trip would look like, with kids, or with sickness. (And if anyone knows me and how much I dislike germs, you know I bought all the things to try to keep our family healthy and strong before and during this trip). Lewis and I talked a lot about the balance between trusting the Lord and being responsible. So we took it very seriously and have been trying to avoid picking up what we can.
As you may know, we arrived in Romania Tuesday evening after surviving on no sleep since we went to bed Sunday night( thankfully the kids slept a little during our 24 hours of travel). We were told at our team dinner Tuesday night that unlike years past, due to the scares of coronavirus our ministry would be limited and many things would have to be adjusted on a daily basis or even canceled. Romania’s government was already limiting public meeting sizes and putting stipulations into a place that would eliminate different aspects of the planned ministries we would be doing. We as a family have been very grateful for the thought and care the Thomas’s have put into looking out for our team.
We were thankful to settle in after a team dinner at our wonderful accommodations. We have been so thankful for the troopers our kids have been. They may have their moments, like we all do, especially with changing time zones and lots of travel time, but we are so thankful for the answered prayer of good nighttime rest.
Wednesday was a wonderful time of working together as a team to sort medical supplies and making bags to take to various villages and institutions. It was fun to see the kids (our older two plus some of their cousins on the trip) helping on the assembly line to put items in each bag. I was so thankful they had the opportunity to serve with the team in this way and look forward to talking to them about it more in the days to come. That afternoon we went to a village church for an evening service. Being in Pastor John’s church was a delight after serving in one of his other churches 5 years ago.
After returning fairly late we carted our crew off to bed to gear up for a packed day of ministry. Unbeknownst to us, Lewis’s parents stayed up through the night trying to get our itineraries changed to come home early. As soon as they got off the phone with our airline, successfully changing our flights to Monday, the US announced the travel ban from Europe beginning Friday at midnight. Almost immediately we would have to begin changing plans again and around 4 AM we would hear a knock on the door explaining we were packing up to leave the country and the bus would be there at 5 AM. As Lewis and I threw all of our things in the suitcases that were so neatly organized just 24 hours prior, we prayed to the Lord for wisdom, protection, and safety.
I am so thankful to our team for helping in so many ways with our children. We had students helping to carry our kids’ backpacks and dear friends and family holding our baby and helping take our suitcases to the bus as we tried to take our confused children and startled selves to the bus.
I won’t go into all the details but the Lord has provided numerous times as we feel he has directed the steps of Lewis’s parents to guide this team in safety. We made it safely to Budapest, Hungary later Thursday morning. We waited for some time to see if we could get flights home any sooner, but the answer was to wait.
In the waiting, The Lord provided a wonderful hotel for all of us to stay together. As we continue to wait, we have had time to talk, reflect and ask questions with each other. To some, it may seem we came unnecessarily. To some, it may seem like we came for nothing. To some, it may seem we put our family in danger. But God seems to be showing us that even the short 36 hours we were in Romania were for something, something significant. God called us to obey. And now we have the opportunity to talk to our kids too about this example and how we need to serve the Lord regardless if we know what the future holds. But it’s also a challenge to my heart. Will I chose to obey Him in the little things when we return home, like in being patient with my kids or kind to my family and friends? Will we pursue a relationship with our neighbors to share the love of Jesus when it would be easier to just spend time to ourselves or with our close friends from church? Will we use our time and resources to help others when it may mean a slight inconvenience to our schedule or plans?
Thank you all for praying for us and our team. Looking forward to being HOME, Lord willing Monday night!