Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Growing Small in Baile Tusnad

Hello, it's me, and the day before Easter I arrived at the Carpathian Legacy children's home in Baile Tusnad. I'm still in Romania, but in a predominantly Hungarian region, ethnically, linguistically, and culturally. So if I'm a fish out of water being an American in Romania, I'm like, extra dry here in a place where I only speak a handful of Hungarian words and phrases.

How are you? Good. What is your name? Gentle, smart, beautiful. Thank you. You're welcome. Those already comprise a good deal of what I know. So why on earth am I here?

When I became a missionary, which I guess could have officially happened when I graduated from college or moved here, or maybe when I went on my very first trip to Mexico, I signed up for this: for putting myself in situations where I'd have to learn what was going on even when I really had no idea. Lately I've been praying God would just miraculously give me the ability to speak Hungarian. Hey, it happens to some people. The bright side is I'm feeling more secure in my Romanian. The grass is always greener.

So my point is, I'm used to being uncomfortable, to not totally knowing how to communicate. My purpose here is beside all that. My purpose is to be here for the children.

It's my third full day here, and I've seen what life is like, at least during the Easter holiday. A lot of kids have gone to be with whatever family they have, but there are still twenty or thirty kids here. These are the ones with no other place to go.

There's yelling, tumbling, tears, mysterious cuts and scrapes ("What happened to your knuckles?" I wanted to ask one older boy) and games played, movies watched, floors swept. Meal times bring everyone to one table, with schnitzel, bread smeared with eggplant spread (love this), sweet hot tea and veggies. It's still too chilly to play outside. I hope spring drags its feet over here, to the coldest place in Romania, before I leave.

I've learned in Piatra that I gravitate to the kids who are a little rough around the edges. Kids that are disobedient, awkward, maladjusted, desperate. I really try not to shower any children with more attention than any other. But to the ones who need what I have, I give willingly.

There's a little girl here named Kati. Yeah, like a Hungarian form of my name. She's nine years old and small. At a young age she didn't have much food, so now she's always the last one lingering around the table after meals, chewing on a piece of chicken or bread. She used to eat so much she'd make herself sick, so the caregivers try to watch her.

She has other behavioral problems, too. She whines and requires more attention than her house mother, Eva, is able to give her, with eleven other children to care for. Today Kati was given multiplication problems to solve, to get her to focus and sit still. I tried helping her with them, getting her to add two to four, two to six, two to eight. She would wind up with the wrong answer, somehow between the abacus and the numbers on the page, even getting a number smaller than the one before.

I bonded with Kati on Easter. She snuggled up to me on the seat as we all watched TV. Then she painted my nails white and glittery. Today before math Szende, an older girl, Kati and I played monkey in the middle. Szende speaks pretty good English and she's incredibly sweet, a laugh always at the ready.

I'm trying to spend time around all of the kids. The language barrier is tricky. Some kids just don't know what do with someone they can't actually talk to. So it's taking some creativity. I use photography as much as I can, but the kids get tired of having their picture taken. I have a lot more time to play and get to know these kids, the ones with no other home, and I'm hoping I can make a difference with love, with patience, with God's help.

There's this quote by Shane Claiborne that I've been reminded of, which goes like, "We grow smaller and smaller until we take over the world." As a missionary I've learned how to be small. Maybe I've taken it for granted, but working in small ways, in unconventional ways, is where the difference is made.

Got to go. I need to do something like play thumb war or throw a ball around.

Thanks for reading! To donate to my mission work, check out my GoFundMe.

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