17 April 2006

Dedicating our Son to God

Shortly before we left Romania last month we had our son dedicated at our church there.

I have posted below my thought on his dedication, which were originally published in the church bulletin:

As Christian parents we are committed to raising our children to love and respect God.
We are committed to teaching them God's laws and helping them to understand that those laws were given to us out of love, since God knows far better than we do what will harm us and what will benefit us.
But standing up in front of the church to dedicate our child is more than just publicly acknowledging these commitments.
Dedicating a child means setting that child apart for God.
It means that we hand him over to God and declare that he is not ours, but he is God's.
This is not an easy step to take.
It is hard enough for us to give own lives to God and trust that he will take care of us. It is even harder to look at our own helpless baby and to accept that we are not the one who can best take care of him, but that we need to give his life to God as well.
But that is what we are doing today and we pray that over the years as we do our best to raise God's child that you will help us and hold us accountable to the commitment which we are making today to raise A as God's child.

Back in the USA

Our family is back in the US for the summer.

We'll be working here through the summer and fall with the hopes that we'll be able to save enough money to spend another 6+ months in Romania come winter.

07 March 2006

The Strengthening Lion

"Lion" is the English word for Romania's unit of currency leu (pl. lei). Over the last year the leu has been strengthening against both the dollar and the euro.

Although the Romanian economy is still very weak, this trend is positive for anyone who makes a living within Romania, since it means that any money which they earn has a greater value in the rest of the world.

This same trend, however, is disadvantageous to anyone who lives in Romania but who earns his money elsewhere. Even though the value of the leu has gone up, prices of goods and services have remained the same (or even gone up). That means that anyone whose income is in dollars or euros has less buying power in Romania now. This has obviously affected us a little, but it's not a huge problem. Where we have seen it become a problem is for leaders in churches and other Christian organizations who receive all or most of their income from the West. This income is usually fairly low anyways ($200-$300/month), but given that the dollar has dropped in value 10% against the leu over the past year, they have been forced to make difficult financial choices. For example, should the shortfall be taken out of family expenses or ministry expenses? Some have even had to consider giving up full-time ministry in order to take a job with a salary.

04 March 2006

Calling "Mama"

Our son, who is now 13 months old, is very good at understanding things we ask him to do and he is usually good about actually doing them. He had gotten into the habit of crying every morning when he woke up until one of us went to get him. A couple of weeks ago, Raluca told him that instead of crying he should call "Mama" and she would come and get him. And that is exactly what he started to do.

It was very sweet to hear our little boy calling out "Mama" first thing in the morning (although we would have prefered that he do it at a later hour).

But now he has gotten into the habit of calling for Raluca all the time. Whenever he wants any kind of attention at all he calls out "Mama!" over and over again until he gets what he wants.

It's not so cute anymore.

We're hoping he learns some new words soon.

22 February 2006

Our Growing Family

We are very happy to announce that our family is adding a member.

Not our nuclear family (for once), but our extended family. Raluca's brother Iuli and his wife Geanina are expecting their first baby at the beginning of October.

This is particulary exciting for me, since this is the first time that I will get to experience the birth of a nephew or neice. (By brothers have already experienced this twice and Raluca has once when her older brother's son was born ten years ago.)

Unfortunately we will be in the US when the baby is born, although we should be back in Romania before he (or she) is a month old.

Our living situation will be intersting, since we live with Iuli and Geaninia (and my mother-in-law) in a four room apartment here in Criaova. Come next winter there will be 5 adults and three children aged four and under living here.

20 February 2006

Preaching in Romanian

One of the responsibilities which I have in our Romanian church (proDEO), is that I am part of the preaching team. There are three of us on this team, Adrian Lauran (the senior pastor), Doru Tiulete (one of the associate pastors) and myself. We are currently preaching though the book of Act from start to finish.

At proDEO we generally meet as an entire church body every two weeks. On alternate Sundays we break into three smaller house groups where we can discuss the message from the week before in more detail.

As we plan to get through the book of Acts in about a year, but we are only preaching from the book twice a month, each sermon has to cover a chapter or more. This is not usually a problem since our Sunday morning sermons are usually ah hour long and you can say a lot in an hour.

My problem, though, has been that I have been preaching in English, which effectively cuts the amount of time which I have to preach down to 30 minutes or so. For our study, half an hour is not really enough time to flesh out a whole chapter. To eliminate this problem, I decided last month that I would finally start preaching in Romanian.

I have been speaking Romanian for more than five years and I really do not have any trouble at all conversing with someone in the language, but there is a lot of specialized, theological vocabulary which I still do not know very well which makes it daunting to speak at length about Biblical issues. Romanian is also a very complex language grammatically and so I will often find myself in the middle of a conversation and realize that I have no idea what the "right" way is of completing the sentence I have already started. This is not a problem in a casual conversation, but it is obviously not the ideal situation to find oneself in when preaching to 70 people.

It was those issues that kept me from attempting to preach in Romanian in the past. But it just did not seem right for me to keep preaching in English. I finally became a member of proDEO last month and we are working towards living here year-round. This really is our home and I felt that not preaching in Romanian was the last big thing which set me apart as an outsider here.

So, last month I gave my first sermon in Romanian and I preached the second yesterday. Reactions to my Romanian-language preaching have been mixed. Most people really appreciate the effort which I have made to prepare in Romanian, which obviously requires much more effort on my part than preparing a sermon in English. There are some people though, who have found it to be distracting when I occasionally butcher the language, although there seem to be far fewer members of this group.

It has been good for me to prepare sermons in Romanian, since it has forced me to learn some of the Christian words and phrases that I really should have mastered years ago. It is also good for me, since over time it will improve my ability to speak Romanian in all contexts. Practice makes perfect. In fact, I have already gotten feedback from church members that my sermon yesterday was delivered much more naturally than the one before. That was encouraging and I hope the pattern continues.

We'll find out soon enough. I am preaching again in two weeks.

15 February 2006

Laurelin's Light

As my father predicted, I have caught the blogging bug.
I have created a companion blog to Telperion's Light, called Laurelin's Light (bonus points awarded to anyone who understands the connection between the names), which will be devoted to my thoughts and comments regarding the world of film.
I had originally planned on adding such postings here, but I really want to keep this blog dedicated to our family and our ministry. This blog should just be of interest to those close to us personally, while I hope to eventually be able to attract a larger audience for Laurelin's Light.

This is actually something I have thought about doing for a while, it just took the creation of this family blog to get my off of my e-butt and actually do it.

14 February 2006

Dance of the Penguins

Just for fun, I put together a silly trailer mixing together elements from the trailers of two different penguin-related movies.

It can be found at the link below.

Section Added - Prayer Requests

We have added a new section to the blog.
At the top of the right-hand column you will now find a short list of prayer requests.
If you are so inclined to pray for our family and our ministry, this list should give you a good idea of what to pray for.
All of the items currently on the list are long-term issues; we are not anticipating immediate answers to any of these prayers.

Whenever we add an item to this list, we will post a blog article better explaining what our prayer request is. And, of course, whenever there is any change in the status of these requests we will post an update here.

Here are our first three prayer requests:

To Live in Romania Year-Round
We really feel that it is God's plan for us to eventually live and work in Romania year-round again. Right now that is not feasible (for a few reasons), but there are a number of opportunities which may be opening up in the not too distant future which may make this possible. Just pray that God will give us the wisdom to know which opportunities to pursue and the patience to wait for his timing.

A Building for proDEO Church
Right now our church meets in a rented room in a large house. Although we appreciate the significance of gathering in an "upper room" to worship God, the space has become very crowded and it is not the kind of building which most people who are seeking a church would gravitate towards.
proDEO has also been blessed with many young children over the last few years, but we have no space for most of them on Sunday mornings. Thus, Sunday school classes are spread throughout the city at different homes, which leads to some obvious logistical problems.
We are praying that God will eventually provide us with a building which will have enough space for our entire church family and which will be welcoming to seekers.

Resources for proDEO Media Group
One of the projects which we have taken on within the church is the development of a Media Group. Our three-tier goal for this group is to:
1) create media for use within proDEO
2) create media for use by other Christian organizations in Romania
3) create media for the general population of Romania

We have a lot of raw talent within proDEO, but in order to train these people to create professional media, we need to have professional equipment.
Right now only Raluca and I have professional equipment and we are only here 3-6 months/year.
Our prayer is that within the next couple of years the church will be able to acquire a decent digital SLR camera and a small Apple Computer.

09 February 2006

Finally Joining My Church

On Sunday 28 January, at the annual meeting of the 4th Baptist Church of Craiova, Romania (better know as pro DEO), the body voted unanimously to accept four new members. Pro DEO was founded three years ago this month with 22 members; the addition of these four brings the total up to 50.

I am very proud to be one of the four new members accepted into the church.

In truth, I have always considered pro DEO to be my church even before it actually existed as a church. Pro DEO came into being as a natural outgrowth of the student ministry in Craiova (OSCEC). My first contact with OSCEC was in 1996, which was the first summer that I spent in Romania helping to lead English Camps for university students. It was at one of these camps that I first met students from Craiova; people whom I now number among my dearest friends.
My relationship with these people grew stronger in 1998 and 1999. Those were the first years that OSCEC organized English Camps on its own (instead of simply attending the camps organized my OSCE Timisoara) and its US partner was my home church, Rye Bethany.
After four summers in Romania leading camps, I was led by the Lord to serve here long term and he brought me to Craiova, where I worked directly with OSCEC for two years (2000-2001).

It was during our last year here (2001), that members of OSCEC started talking about founding a church. Raluca and I were invited to be a part of the group which met on a regular basis to talk and pray about the pros and cons of undertaking such a project. This group met for over a year and tried pursuing a number of other options before finally coming to the conclusion that it was indeed God's will for us to start a new church here in Craiova. Unfortunately, by that time Raluca and I were no longer in Romania, since circumstances had forced us to return to the United States.

Even so, when pro DEO was officially founded in 2003, Raluca was one of the founding members. I would have joined at that time as well, since we considered pro DEO our home church from the beginning, but this was not an option for political reasons.
Now that we are living in Romania for more than half of each year (and hope to eventually be able to live here year-round) the time was finally right for me to join pro DEO.

It makes me very happy to finally be officially recognized as a member of the church which I have always considered to be my church.

08 February 2006

Bad Translation

While members of my family were visiting us here in Europe over the holidays we found ourselves being amused by how horribly some translators had managed to mangle the English language on printed materials, such as menus, hotel regulation pamphlets and toy packaging.

After they had all left, I came into possession of what may well be the most mis-translated piece of packaging which has ever been printed. My mother-in-law bought L a really cheap toy laptop which supposedly teaches children Spanish, but which actually has many keys which produce sounds and words that have no connection with the letters and numbers printed on them.

Anyways, the instructions on the box are in "English," but only in the sense that the words are recognizable English words. The grammar and the sentence structure seems to be from a wholly unearthly language.

For your viewing pleasure, I have typed out the instuctions below. I have also tried to reproduce the punctuation and formatting as faithfully as possible, but some stuff I just couldn't recreate using a standard keyboard.

Keep in mind that these instructions were written in English by someone in China wanting to sell a Spanish speaking toy in Romania. Something was bound to get lost in translation somewhere.

Work Electric voltage:DC 4.5v
Altogether 45 keys
26 letter of alphabets key, A- Z
piece character key, 1-10
4 Melodies key, an animal key.
1 tone color key,1 Demo Melody key,
1 animal sings a song the key
3 Modes key
Two.The function says all:
Melody Key. Under any mode the function is constant namely:
A. Press animal key, have the “Di” a musical instrument for.
at the same time Mode3 key tone color change for dog
B. tone color key, the hair” Di” a musical instrument for.
Mode3 key tone color changes Piano tone color.
C. the key of Demo Melody, continue to sing 2 Melodies song.
D. the animal sings a song the key. Singing the 1 head :Speech Melody.
2. Mode1:
Here the mode is next, pressing letter of alphabet.
arithmetic figure key, reads aloud the letter of alphabet.
arithmetic figure.
3. Mode2:
Here the mode is next, pressing letter of alphabet
arithmetic figure key. The side reads aloud first the spelling.
then read aloud to should of word.
4. Mode3:
Here the mode is next. Pressing letter of alphabet key to then read aloud first the word.
again the hair is a rightness of should of sound effect:Press arithmetic figure key.
Then play the key with the current tone color.

Special Phoneme:
Bell Telephone
Piano Violin Xylphone

03 February 2006

Bono's Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast

Alright, this has nothing to do with our family, but I could not help but post this.
Yesterday Bono spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast and he challenged his audience, which included the President and First Lady, to increase the aid which America gives to the world's poor by 1% of the National Budget (it is currently below 1%).

No matter what your faith or political leaning, his words are worth heading, but to those of us who share his Christian faith they hit particualry hard and cannot be ignored. (And if any of you doubt that Bono has faith, you should listen to his words here, which - backed up by his actions on behalf of the poor - put most high-profile "Christians" to shame.)

Here are a few quotes from the speech, with a link to the entire text at the end of this artice:

"Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.
And that’s too bad.
Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it.
But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment."

"A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it… I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea…
And this wise man said: stop.
He said, stop asking God to bless what you’re doing.
Get involved in what God is doing—because it’s already blessed.
Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.
And that is what He’s calling us to do."

"And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.
That’s why I say there’s the law of the land… and then there is a higher standard. There’s the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it’s OK to protect our agriculture but it’s not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?
. . .
God will not accept that.
Mine won’t, at least. Will yours?"

01 February 2006

Where are the Kids' Names?

You'll notice that we will not be writing the names of our children in any of the posts, nor will we be posting any pictures of the children on this blog.
The reason is privacy. This blog is intended to be a way for us to let those close to us know what is going in in our lives, but by posting this information on the internet we are making it available to anyone in the world. Those who are intended to read this blog already know our children's names. It you ever post any comments on the blog, please respect this decision and refrain from referring to the children by their names.

Even more importantly, we do not want pictures of our children floating around randomly in cyberspace for anyone to do whatever they want with them. If anyone would like pictures of our children for personal use then please feel free to request them via e-mail.


Ti and Raluca

Celebrating Our Son's First Birthday

Today was our son's first birthday.
It was pretty nice and laid back. I didn't work today, since we decided a couple of years ago that we really want birthdays to mean something in this family and so we try as hard as we can to keep those days free so we can spend them together as a family.
It was one of the first nice days which we have had here in Craiova and we wanted to all take a walk together, but A was completely exhausted today and we were not able to work in a walk around his nap schedule.

L and I made a birthday cake for A this morning (she loves cooking with me).
Once it was cooked, I cut and rearranged pieces of it so that it looked like a car and Raluca detailed it with coconut. Then I cut an orange in half and put each of the two halves on the bottom as wheels.
A is completely crazy about cars, so we knew that he would like that.

The funny thing was that when we put him in front of his big car-shaped chocolate cake he didn't touch it. He is usually crazy about sweets and L dove right into her cake on her first birthday, but A didn't seem to know what to do with it. Even when we gave him a bite of the cake he was more interested in the orange tires than the chocolate.
That boy knows what's really healthy for him . . .
He actually loves fruit. He can eat an entire orange all by himself and will then beg for more.

Since A loves cars, his mamaie bought his a toy truck with a flatbed which carries four little cars. He loved it, or course, but so did his big sister, who didn't want to share his toy with him. She started to build a garage for the cars with her Duplo blocks and then got really angry with A when he dared to come and take his cars to play with.

All in all it was a nice peaceful day, although it would have been much nicer had we not all been so exhausted (and of course we missed having A's American uncles and grandparents here).

31 January 2006

Welcome to the Light

Well, we finally broke down and joined the league of bloggers.
The idea behind this blog is first of all to provide a place where we can easily update all of our friends and relations on how our life is going in whatever part of the world we happen to be in at the time.

We especially want to use it as a way to keep grandparents, uncles and other close relatives up to date on the lives of our two rapidly growing children.

I'm sure we'll also end up commenting on other events that go on around the world, but we'll have to wait and see about that.

If and when any of you happen to read this page, we'd love to hear your comments.

God bless,

Ti and Raluca