This is Medgedia. A pastor who has courageously taken on the task of spreading a ministry of discipleship and unveiling truth in an otherwise un-reached area. Small churches are spreading like a fire, reaching those no one else will. They are diving in, rescuing, loving. A ministry to the children of the Rom (gypsy) and the community at large.
They share their lunch with us, and I talk to a visiting writer; charismatic, intelligent and kind. The writer is one of those people, the ones with unmistakable magnetism. I listen as she answers questions I never had to ask and also a few that I did. When I ask her if she ever feels concern about being intrusive or an inconvenience in her line of work, which I frequently do, she laughs at me and says "In Romania we have a saying and it is 'Don't step on your own feet'. If you want to do a thing, do it. Don't miss out on a thing no one has denied you, just because you're afraid they might."
We talk and laugh over perfect potatoes and coffee before we join the kids for their school day.
These children aren't used to school, or convention. They live apart and by a different set of rules, where taking things is considered fair and a type of honest work, and where the only acknowledged rule is not to offend anyone with express use of your left hand, which is considered dirty. Because the parents don't require the children to attend school, this outreach has become creative in how they've convinced the children to come and learn. Food and gifts in exchange for the children agreeing to showers, medical treatment and sitting for lessons. At any given moment, a child might decide they're done for the day, and walk out. They might forfeit the end of day gift, but they are fully able to do so, whenever they please. So to win over their attention, much less their hearts, has been no mean effort on the part of the team here.
They turn their beautiful faces to us as we walk in the room. I notice at once how several of them have eyes the color of lionite and they appraise us with cool curiosity. One girl is fascinated with my camera. She poses repeatedly, looking at once terribly young and also bearing lines of age far beyond her twelve years.
For their teachers, the children are full of smiles, frustration about the confounding quality of their math, proud celebration at problems solved, long-suffering sighs and the laying down of heads as attentions wane followed by renewed focus as their teachers, with eternal patience, win them back. The children agree to sing for my microphone and camera. They are excited to be recorded and clammor around, looking at everything, gingerly touching, leaning in to make funny little sound effects. When the teachers collect them all at the front of the room to sing their song, they are full of life. My camera, awake and alive, hungrily snaps away. They are so unused to sitting still that every photo is slightly blurry, no matter how high I run my shutter speed. It's like they're so full of movement and life and maybe too, so ready to bolt at a moment's notice, that they vibrate around the edges, faster than my shutter can fly. Even so, with each click my camera says; "I will never forget your face, I will never forget your face, I will never forget your face, I will never forget this moment, you and me. I will never forget you.".
This promise of not forgetting, this is the promise of family. On the ride home from Medgedia today, we are all so tired, Aaron and I, and our friends who have run themselves ragged to give us these days. But all the same, our friends wrestle with us, with faith, with the things that matter, in the blue-gold air, as we drive through the countryside.