November, 2018 – My Journey to Romania

November, 2018 – My Journey to Romania


  Part I

I remember being five years old and watching our church burn flat on the crossroads of Routes 1 and 6 in the backwoods of Maine.  An oil truck had stopped on the corner, and for whatever reason, exploded.  It was miraculous that no one, not even the driver was harmed, but our church was ablaze in seconds – gone.  I heard later that as devastating as it was to see this happen, that it probably was divine intervention from God.  The older men said that the church was so old that it was a real possibility that it could have collapsed on its own, and if it had happened on a Sunday, taken lives with it.  That was one of my earliest lessons in trusting God in all things.

Because it took some time to build a new church, we met to worship in my uncle’s home.  He was a godly man, giving freely of whatever he had.  One Sunday, a missionary to Costa Rica, John Beveridge, came by to speak. I still don’t know why he would have come to us.  We were only about fifteen people.  But this, also, was divine intervention in my young life from what the Lord would want from me in years to come.  After our ‘service’, we gathered around my aunt and uncle’s table for a meager lunch.  When finished, the other children ran outside to play, but I sat at the table listening to Mr. Beveridge’s stories of his missionary life in Central America.  My elbows were propped on the table with my hands holding my face, and I felt as if I – only five years old – could have listened to him forever.  That was in the day and age when children were seen and not heard.  But there was plenty going on in my head.  And I distinctly remember saying to myself, “Someday, I’m going to do that”.  And by that I meant travel afar to some foreign land to share Jesus’ love.  Until I was a grown up, I never realized that that was God’s hand on me at a tender age, an anointing on me for what would come.

As I grew, I forgot about John Beveridge – of what God had planted in my heart.  Fast-forwarding to my college years – a Christian college – taking nineteen and a half hours some semesters to finish a five-year program in four years, I had little time for socializing or extra-curricular activities except for College Missions Fellowship!  I was drawn to that every Wednesday evening – loving the missionaries I met, learning about other parts of the world – and after my third year spent three months in Trinidad and Tobago with my college’s supported Missionary Peace Corps.  I thought, “This is what I want to do with my life”!   I returned to school finishing my final year when reality set in knowing of all the college loans I needed to pay back, so my focus shifted to job and responsibility, and then to love and marriage.  My vision of missions, and my love for the Lord waned.

In a few years, realizing I had made some wrong choices, when the thought of missions crossed my mind from time to time, I deeply regretted my earlier decisions and knew that that would no longer be a possibility for me.  Or so I thought . . .   In the meantime, I found out that raising my three precious sons was my ‘mission field’ – that serving the Lord in my local church was my ‘home-mission field’ – that giving Gospel concerts and sharing Jesus’ love with the voice that God had allowed me to get trained at college, was my ‘mission field’.  I was contented – just to be serving my Creator and Savior in the way He was allowing me.  Until! – I was sitting in my classroom at Central High School in Providence, RI making wonderful plans for my life after retiring from teaching.

And they were wonderful plans!  My husband and I would move to Maine near where I had grown up and find a little house on the beautiful St. Croix River which separates Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.  I would sit on the rocky shore and gaze across at St. Andrews-By-the-Sea, and perhaps even get a boat and learn the tides and how to cross to that quaint and very old town.  It got even better.  I would have a ladies’ Bible Study in my home AND I would start an ‘Apple Pie Ministry’.  I would make apple pies, and randomly knock on people’s doors, hand them a pie, and tell them that Jesus loved them.  I still think that’s a great idea – and would love to do that!  But, God had something much different in mind.

As I was teaching, correcting papers, even while interacting with the students, or driving to and from work, the word ‘Romania’ started swirling around in my mind.  And then, I began thinking, ‘Romania, Romania, Romania’.  It started to get a little louder in my heart and mind, actually annoying – until – I realized what, or should I say ‘Who’ was the source of that ‘still, small voice’, and what He wanted from me.  I wish with all my heart I had had the spiritual maturity of an Isaiah and able to repeat the words of his commission – “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”  Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” “  (Isaiah 6.8)   Instead, I screamed out in my heart, and in no uncertain terms, to the ‘Holder of my next breath, of my next heartbeat, “I don’t think so!!”

Part II

Never for a day was the idea of Romania far from my mind and heart, but I happened to be in my home church in Maine where I ran into old friends who had been missionaries in England for many years.  When Jeannie and I saw each other, we hugged, and she said that I must come to them as soon as I could arrange it –  in England.  And that I did.  It was an amazing month working with the Gujarati Indians, eating their amazing foods, fellowshipping with them, and sharing Christ with them.  I truly loved them.  One morning towards the end of my time in Leicester, England, I got up real early and stepped into the garden behind John and Jeannie’s home just to talk to my Heavenly Father in the quiet of the day.  I can remember standing there looking heaven-ward and saying, “Oh, Lord, it wasn’t Romania that you meant for me! It was here with the Gujarats!  I’m sorry I didn’t hear Your voice as I should have, but it’s okay isn’t it, Lord, as long as I have figured out where it is You want me.“  I was quite pleased with this ‘epiphany’ . . .

It was back to the States in a few short days, getting through jet-lag, re-orientating myself to New England, and getting back on schedule in Massachusetts.  However, I learned shortly, that I had not received mixed messages from God, and that He was far from through with His first, original, and only plan for me.  I slept well the first night I got back to MA (from sheer exhaustion), but the second night, jet-lag kicked in and I found myself awake – very awake – in the middle of the night.  Rather than just lie there in my bed, I decided to turn on the TV to see what the latest news was in my own country – what had gone on while I was abroad.  Only the Lord could orchestrate what happened next!

I had no idea what channel the television had been left on, but the very second the picture and sound came on, there was a television pastor pointing his finger right at the camera (at me!) saying, “Have YOU thought about going to Romania?”  I knew immediately what was going on, slapped my hand against my forehead, and screamed in my heart, “NOOOOOOO!”  It was that very minute that I knew God meant business.  He meant for me to go to Romania!  And of course, I translated that to mean for a ‘missions trip’.  That aside, at His insistence, I went to my computer the next day – had just acquired one, and hardly knew more than how to ‘turn it on’ – looked up, and over my shoulder (to Him), and told Him to ‘wait and see – that He would see nothing would come up when I typed in ‘Missionaries in Romania’.  I gasped!  A whole flurry of them appeared!  I knew, then, that this was real – and if He were going to truly insist on my being obedient to Him, then I knew I would want a Christian base while I would be there – to come home at night with the support and encouragement of other Christians.  I sat for hours at the computer reading every single one of the mission statements of those who appeared in that ‘flurry’.

Deciding on one in Bucharest, I emailed an American woman a very brief summation of what I felt the Lord was wanting me to do.  In no time at all, I received an answer saying, “Come ahead!  We would love to have you.”  But that was not the end of it.  I sensed the Lord saying in my heart, “I didn’t say just anywhere in Romania. I want you to be where I need you”.  At that point, this whole process became more over-whelming than ever.  How in the world would I figure out my journey to ‘somewhere’ in Romania?  After days of agonizing, praying, seeking God’s face, I decided to go to my pastors and share with them what the Lord had put in my heart.  Ultimately, they suggested that I contact our church’s International Mission Board.  I did.  It was a miserable couple of months with so many demands from the Board, such invasion of my person and privacy, and grilling and drilling to the extent that I probably would never do that again.  But!  God did use them to get me where He wanted me.  At first, their response was that they had ‘nothing’ in Romania but wondered if I would be willing to go to some other country.  To be polite, I affirmed that I would, but I knew Romania was where the Lord had been leading my heart for three years.   In three short days, they called back and their exact words were, “You’ll never guess what.  Something has opened up in Romania”.  Answering ever so politely, they should have known that I was saying ‘Duh’ in my head!  They proceeded to give me the information I needed, and I prepared to leave for Romania – so nervous! – that  sleep was only fitful after that.

I spent the morning of the day of my flight, pacing up and down the hallway in my house screaming and crying out to the Lord (once again in my heart), “Couldn’t you have sent me to South Boston?!  That would have been scary enough!!!”  My oldest son got me to Logan Airport trying his best to lovingly calm and comfort me.  We prayed together at the airport, and then he told me that ‘it would be okay’.  I’m glad that I was panicking and sobbing so pathetically (all inside me, of course) that I couldn’t answer him.  Because if I could, I would have said, “Shut up.  You are not the one going!!!”   I boarded the plane, Air France, in what I will always remember as ‘Sheer Fear!’  There was much confusion in Paris in changing planes, but finally I got boarded onto an old army-type plane with propellers to take me to Bucharest.  I was no less panicky but was exhausted emotionally and physically from not only the long trip, but also the trauma.  I finally could feel the plane descending, and as I looked out the window all I could see was a beautiful patch-work of fields in greens and yellows and tans from the different crops.  Farmland!!  And I began to cry again, but this time, softly.  It was not from fear, but from a familiarity like I had grown up in – in Maine.  Immediately, my heart was at peace – flooded with peace!  This is where God had sent me!  I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was where God wanted me.  And before my feet even touched Romanian soil, I muttered the words, “Lord, I LOVE Romania – and her people!”

I was picked up at the airport by a missionary who delivered me three hours north to Brasov – and to the flat of the Romanian office manager of another American missionary.  I made my home with her the next month.  After a couple of days of rest, this woman took me to government offices to get me approved to even visit an orphanage.  The government official wouldn’t even look me in the eye and insisted that I wasn’t needed nor even wanted.  I sat talking with the Lord – not understanding that I had gone through all I had in the past couple of years for these people to just put me on a plane and send me back to the States.  I use this phrase again – I was grilled and drilled by the government for over an hour – all the while praying silently to answer properly.  I was sick to my stomach.  And what I didn’t know at the time was – I would be the first American ever allowed in this particular orphanage.  It was the worst of the worst State-run orphanages!  – and they were just as nervous not knowing if they allowed me to enter Barza Mica what I would do in the long run with my month’s visit.  But God is everywhere!!  The official ended the interview looking me in the eye, and actually smiling a bit saying to my translator, “Tell her I like her, and ask her if she will come back another year”.  Can you imagine?!  Only the Lord could do that!

And now for a third time, I will use ‘grilling and drilling’ again – exactly what I had to go through again the next day with the officials at the orphanage.  Once again, my stomach sank as my translator argued with them and I just sat there feeling so defeated.  After forty-five minutes or so, the doctor gave me a faint smile, and said, “You are welcome here”.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was almost too good to be true!  The following day I returned to the orphanage with my translator ready to love on these precious little ones that had been discarded, abandoned, thrown-away, aborted-but-lived.  In my head over the past several months, I had rocked them and sung “Jesus Loves Me” over and over to them.  But when I walked into the first room, I was shocked!  I froze!  I had never seen anything like it.  Fourteen little ones in a 9×9 room – with more diseases than I knew existed, two to a crib, some lying on the floor, one in a child’s wheelchair, flies crawling all over them laying eggs in their ears – and a smell that made my translator throw-up!  As I approached a little one to touch his face, he flinched and turned away from me.  I realized that probably the only time he ever was touched was a back-hand across the head.

As I began to sing “Jesus Loves Me” to one of these precious little marginalized and desperate ones, I collapsed in tears.  What I was looking at was beyond anything I could have ever imagined.  I told the workers I had to leave.  My body, my mind, my psyche couldn’t handle it anymore.  The next day I got up and we returned to the orphanage.  On my part, it was a repeat performance.  We went back home.  The only difference this time was that I got upset in a different way.  I got on my knees by my little bed, looked upward and said, “I didn’t come here to fall to pieces!!  I came here to DO YOUR WILL!!”  I returned to the orphanage the third day.  That day in July, 2001, marked the first day of a now eighteen year-long love affair with ‘the helpless’ (Psalm 41.1a) and ‘the least of these’ – in the form of orphans.  (Matthew 25.40)

I may write Part III, IV, V, and more another time.  I have volumes of journals filled with notes ‘My Journey – My Life in Romania’.  The calling from the Lord turned out not to be just a mission’s trip.  The work has grown every year – and exponentially so at different times – into many ‘arms’ of service.  I just wanted  readers to know that in spite of shipping two to three thousand pounds of clothing each year to Romania, helping to build a house for a woman who lived in a field, helping to build a church in the village of Halchiu, ministering to beggars on the streets, providing our orphans with both prescription and OTC meds, clothing and food, keeping Barza up to code so that the government won’t take it away from us, and so much more, my original calling was to the orphans.  It was as if Jesus spoke to me so clearly saying, “Dawn, I don’t walk the earth physically anymore, so would you go to this place where I want you in Romania and love these cast-off little ones and let Me love them through you”.  The orphans will always be my priority.  Loving them is my JOY and my privilege!

“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.”  – Psalm 68.5