Realizations from Romania: Mission trip opens eyes, teaches gratefulness

Alanis King

Summer: a time for heading to the beach, soaking up some sun, going on vacations, and getting away from school for a couple of months. When we think of summer getaways, however, an impoverished area on the other side of the world isn’t exactly the first thing to come to mind. While it doesn’t sound like the typical thing to do while on vacation from school, seniors Cassidy Lovett, Kinsey Craig, and Julia Kwasnica joined their youth group from First Baptist Church on a ten-day mission trip to spread the Gospel in the village of Coman in Romania.

“We worked with two churches [in Romania] and the people who lead them,” Lovett said. “They were brothers, Raul and Alexe. Raul had the more established Baptist church in the town, and Alexe had the village church.”

Despite having a mere ten days for their evangelical efforts, FBC’s youth group tried to bring Christ permanently into the lives of the rural Romanian citizens by introducing them to Alexe’s church in the Comani village.

“Alexe’s church is in the process of developing, so we went around and tried to get people to come to his church,” Craig said.

Craig said that the other church in the Comani village, the orthodox church, was led by a priest who focused on fearing God rather than having a personal relationship with Him, and who cursed Alexe and the members of his church.

“I thought it was really amazing how Alexe was so strong in his faith and that he didn’t let other people’s opinions affect him,” Craig said. “There were many people in the village who were orthodox who would see Alexe and just curse at him and say awful things about him, but he didn’t let it sway him.”

Alexe, however, wasn’t the only person in the village who faced persecution from the members of the orthodox church.

“One of the translators actually lived in the village and she grew up in the orthodox church,” Craig said. “Her family had raised her orthodox, and then she came to have a personal relationship with Jesus with Alexe’s church. Her neighbors, the people she had grown up knowing, were saying awful things to her [like] ‘how could you do this to your parents?’, ‘what have you done?’, and that was very shocking to me. I look up to her because there were so many people around her who were criticizing the things that she was doing, but her faith overcame that.”

Another shock for FBC’s youth group came from the scenery in Romania. Kwasnica said that she knew what to expect of the Romanian lifestyle, but the reality of the poverty was more drastic than her expectations. The abundance of horse-drawn carts in the urban areas – some of which served as people’s homes – was culturally eye opening for Kwasnica. Craig agreed, adding that the structures were old and worn and the houses weren’t in good condition.

“There’s a lot of poverty in Romania and it’s very split,” Craig said. “You can be in a city one second and drive two miles and you’re in a village where there’s absolutely nothing.”

The amount of poverty and barrenness they experienced had a strong effect on the group, giving them the realization of how much material possessions are taken for granted here in the U.S. in comparison to Romania.

“It taught me to be grateful for what I have, because people over there are really happy even though they don’t have very much,” Kwasnica said.

Lovett felt the same way, and remembering the lifestyle that she encountered while in Romania helps her attitude in her daily life.

“Initially when I first got back, I just realized how much I have,” Lovett said. “That’s kind of stuck with me because when I’m having a bad day, I’m like, ‘it could be so much worse.’”

Lovett said that having become accustomed to the Romanian lifestyle, her first taste of normalcy was in the American hotel in Bucharest, Romania before their flight home, and that something as simple as a nice shower with adequate room to bathe was amazing.

“We take so much for granted over here,” Lovett said. “We have air conditioning, we have lights, we have paved roads, we have all of it. We have clothes everyday, and over there, they’re lucky if they have a plate of food at the end of the day.”

Craig said that the mission trip made her realize how blessed she is, and how much she looks over the things she has here.

“It just made my religion and my faith stronger, and it also made me more grateful for my family,” Craig said.

The trip affected Lovett on a personal level, and she said that she will return to Romania next summer if the opportunity presents itself.

“I don’t know how much of an impact we made, but it made an impact on me,” Lovett said.