It’s a chilling thing to visit a culture buried in terror.
The first time our family ventured into the eastern Romanian village of Gemenele, we were thoroughly enchanted. Cherry and plum trees, weighty with fruit, grew in street-side ditches. Dazzling fields of sunflowers stretched sometimes clear to the horizon. Impossibly green grape arbors adorned almost every house. Gray geese foraged around in the shade of ornate concrete fences. Horse-carts lumbered from house to field, entire families carrying ancient hoes and rakes like standards into battle. The entire village seemed abuzz, a busy crossroads in an ocean of rich and verdant fields.
Debbie exhausted herself, defying daunting heat to stage a terrific children’s program, aided by Romanian volunteers, translators and our nine-year-old son Luke. The first time that hidden terror raised its venomous head was when Luke broke out about 15 Frisbees and began to toss them out like Mardi Gras trinkets to a mob of frenetic village kids. To our shock and dismay, the children who caught them clutched them tightly, turned tail and ran pell-mell for home. We had to send volunteers inside houses to convince the hoarding victors that this was not the intent of the game.
An explanation dawned later. Despite their numbers, each child had grown up in serious isolation. Most had no experience -- none ever -- of playing together outside of an organized school setting,...and for good reason. Under 45 years of murderous communist rule, as many as a third of the Romanian population was at one time or another paid by the government to report suspicious speech or activity. More reports earned more rewards, often with little regard for the truth. Children, by nature, talk. And a report of what some child might have spoken about his parents, a report delivered into the right hands, could bring armed police, interrogations, beatings, violent removal to labor camps, or even disappearance or death. So the truth dawned all around us: there were no shared toys, no soccer games, no playgrounds, no gatherings, no common play, not even spontaneous laughter -- and this 12 years after the “Christmas Revolution” brought the country “freedom.” Even curious mothers, talking among themselves, did so with scowls, pursed lips, cautious whispers. Men commonly retreated into silence and alcohol, the more relaxed environment of the local grog-house.
You can imagine the difficulty of trying to share the grace and healing in such an environment.
So this month Luke and I go back. We go to serve a persistent pastor whom we have come to know and deeply love. We go to strengthen a small circle of established believers, demonstrating for them how Christ in them can tear down strongholds, equipping them with a plan which allows them to carry a gift basket every month for a year into any home in Gemenele where the family is welcoming a newborn child. Twelve gift baskets for each family. Twelve months. Twelve opportunities in each new-born’s home to coax the family beyond the reach of terror and into grace and freedom.
It’s difficult for me to compare working in Europe and visiting Asia. Despite surging government opposition, hunger for Christ in Asia is massive, and opportunities abound. On the other end of the spectrum, working in Eastern Europe is excruciatingly slow and very painful. Yet the Scripture says Christ died for ALL men. Thank you for affording us the opportunity to carry His life, His name, His Spirit EVERYWHERE! We are literally eternally grateful!
Dave & Debbie Diamond