I have been home from Romania for over two weeks now. Our team went feeling prepared. We had talked with the missionaries, we had prayed individually and corporately. We had a solid prayer covering in place and felt like God gave us specific strategies for our ten days there. My part was to train the leadership team in how to use the Joseph study as a tool for discipleship and inner healing as well as to lead the church body through a conference version of the study. I was prepared. I had taught the study several times and spent weeks working with Karen to adapt the material. I wasn’t feeling overly confident but I felt like I had done all I could so I was at peace.
We arrived to find out our briefing from the missionaries wasn’t as all-encompassing as we had thought. We were under the impression the church was very traditional when in reality the leadership team had some traditional backgrounds but the church itself was made up of local villagers who had never received more than a first or second grade education. They could not read or write, most had never heard the Word of God because they were not regular attendees on Sunday mornings. The village had no electricity or running water. Most families were living in absolute poverty. The village had one water pump that dried up by around noon each day because the source was running out. The children played in the streets with horse poop. There was debate amongst our team the first day as to whether it was mud pies or horse poop they were playing with until we realized- there is no water to make mud.
The need was over-whelming. One mother of six followed us around the first few days begging for prayer for her sick children and weeping as we prayed over them. My heart was broken. We spent the week ministering to the leadership team and praying for people in the village. Friday evening we brought some bread and gave it to a few of the poorest families- the mother of six being one of them.
Saturday morning the Joseph study was to begin. I felt overwhelmed as I stood up to speak. The church was full of people whose language I could not speak, whose lives of poverty and hardship I could not relate to, and whose culture was completely foreign to me. I have spoken many times over the last few years at Riverstone Church and each time I say that I am totally dependent on the Lord but I realized that Saturday morning how untrue that statement has been. Without even realizing to what extent- I have relied on my ability to communicate, to speak the same language as my audience, to share the same cultural experiences, to make them laugh to lighten the heavy moments- but here in the small village of Soard I had nothing. I stood in front of a room of blank faces and I told the story of Joseph in shortened words and broken phrases through an interpreter. I tried moments of humor but nothing translated. Nothing. Blank stares. The story is long and I start breaking out in a sweat as the room gets antsy. They are farmers, not students. They are not used to sitting and listening - especially the men sitting and listening to a woman. The plan was to tell Joseph’s story and then show illustrations I had made of Joseph’s life and my life. But I can’t finish. The whole session has felt like I am wading through mud up to my chest. They are over it- I am over it. It’s lunch time so I skip the illustrations, pray and dismiss them.
Our team goes to lunch but all I want to do is find a place to curl up and cry. This was not how I had imagined the teaching going. I was going to be funny and engaging and they were going to connect with Joseph’s life and their hearts were going to begin a journey to freedom with the Lord! Instead- the thought of having to teach two more sessions like that made me want to throw up. It’s 11:30 am in Soard which means it is 4:30 am at home. I have very spotty wifi but even if I could reach out- I know no one is awake to pray for me. Then a miracle happens. An email pops up on my phone from Denise – one of my prayer covering. This is the first glimmer of hope I have felt since I walked out of the church to lunch. I email back and ask her to pray over the next two sessions and she immediately replies that she is praying.
When we arrive back at the church for the second session – it is chaos. The kids are out of control- grabbing at craft supplies and knocking drinks out of team member’s hands. I find out the mother who had cried and begged us to help her children had taken the bread we gave her and sold it for cigarettes so her children showed up hungry again. An old man walks up and asks three of our team members to buy him medicine. We offer to pray but he gets angry and refuses. All he wants is money for medicine. The service is starting and worship begins. But I am done. I am so frustrated and confused. I really felt like I had heard from the Lord about bringing the Joseph study to Romania but it was not working. The church was full of even more people than before lunch but they were only there in hopes we would give them bread. I thought “We should have just ministered to the leadership team. This is a waste of time trying to teach the village.” And I was angry. I stood in the back of the church moments away from teaching and my heart was bitter. But as the room full of people lifted their voices in worship and as Denise lifted her voice in prayer, the Lord gently spoke so clearly to my heart. “Brooke, who cares if they only came for bread? How many times have you only come to me because you needed ‘bread’? All that matters is they came…Don’t despise their brokenness”
And I was undone. I stood and wept as they worshipped. I wept over the Lord’s goodness and patience with my brokenness and I repented over my lack of love. And then I taught the second session. And there was a shift. I felt the Lord as I taught- it was still a room full of blank faces but I knew that Jesus was speaking something to someone. I told them how Jesus wanted to heal their broken places and fill the broken parts with His goodness. At the end I asked them to close their eyes – which they didn’t- if you’ve never experienced this-it’s real awkward when you ask a room full of people to close their eyes and they just stare at you. I started to sweat again. I asked anyone that wanted Jesus to heal their broken places to raise their hands. In that church full of people – one man raised his hand. The man who wanted medicine but not prayer. The man who walked away angry. He was brave enough in a room full of people with eyes wide open, listening to a woman who was not funny or engaging , to raise his hand and ask for Jesus to touch him. And I was undone. Because he came for medicine but Jesus didn’t care. Jesus knew he needed the Great Physician and He was willing to meet that man in his place of need. Jesus knew I needed to see what His love really looks like and He sent me and He met me there in my place of need.
Because it doesn’t matter why we come- it only matters that we come.