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John's Romania Blog

Blog entries: 8.16.12 2.8.10 1.21.10 8.13.09 6.20.09 6.12.09 3.6.09 12.31.08 12.16.08 12.11.08 12.7.08 11.30.08 11.29.08 11.25.08 11.21.08 10.28.08 10.17.08 10.15.08 10.13.08 10.9.08 10.4.08 9.28.08 9.26.08 9.25.08 9.20.08 9.17.08 9.14.08 9.13.08 9.09.08 9.07.08 9.05.08 9.04.08 8.31.08 8.29.08

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8.16.12: John's Romania Blog Retired

I will be closing down this blog. I have transitioned my Romnia blog posts to my new blog, which is a "real" blog instead of the ghetto web blog I pieced together. With this transition, I want to focus on talking about relevant & controversial social/political/spiritual topics in our culture.

Some topics that I plan on talking about include gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, taking the Bible literally & science vs Christianity.

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2.8.10: Serbia

We've been in Serbia almost 2 weeks now. It's what I would consider a very unique place to do ministry in. Back in Bosnia, it was a Muslim country so we had to be careful about what songs we played, what we said and quoting Bible verses. Now that we are in Serbia, an orthodox country, one would think it would be much more relaxed about how much we can share. Unfortunately, that's not the way it is.

It's important to understand some of the history of Serbia to understand what it thinks of evangelical or protestant Christianity. Protestant Christianity is in general, a way of the West. When Serbia attacked Bosnia in 1992, surrounded Sarajevo and bombed it for 4 years, as well as sought to ethnically cleanse the Muslims from most everywhere in the Balkans, that kind of thing can get the rest of the world a little upset. NATO fought against Serbia, which many of the Western countries were apart of. USA is especially well known for its part. This creates some animosity towards the USA and the Western ways in general. For this reason, protestant Christianity is not very well received. To speak of many of the ideas from the New Testament will get you labeled as someone from a Ďsectí, and would pretty much mean you lose all credibility.

The most significant observation I've made is what in general the Serbian people think of Milosevic's reign during the late 90's. While to the outside world, it's an example of classic ethnic cleansing. To most of the Serbian people (this is based on first and second-hand observations, not based on a scientific study), the war of the 90's was a justified war about keeping the Balkan nations together. They think of Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo as part of their country. So in their minds they were merely fighting to keep their nation strong and together. From that perspective, although highly ignorant, it makes sense that they have resentment toward the Western people and Western ways. The scary thing is that without the proper acknowledgement of the ethnical cleansing and mass killings, it seems in that sense, that Serbia could be ripe for starting another war. The general people, at least the youth, don't want another war, which is very good. It just scares me when a nation doesn't take responsibility for evil they've done and chose to live in ignorance.

So that's my preface into why we have to be careful about talking about "Western" Christianity. The Serbian Orthodox Church has some interesting views. They don't pray to God, they pray through the saints. And although it's in general well-known through the Serbian people that to be good orthodox Christians you should follow Biblical principles, the lack of follow-through with these principles and the complacency in their lives towards spiritual things is overwhelming.

Because of these reasons, one of the main things we are doing in Serbia is building up relationships. There are 3 permanent people in the city where we are located, Uzice (pronounced 'Oo-zeetz-jay'). These people have only been there for a little more than a year though, so the ministry here is still very much in the pioneering stage. So we meet with the 3 permanent people and various groups of other people, to try to establish meaningful relationships and share with them. The leaders of the Uzice base have setup several means of reaching out to the people here. One of the main things they do is English club. These are groups that meet about once a week and practice English with each other. Sometimes they are very informal, meeting at a cafe and sometimes they meet in a building and we have more of a program.

My team does an English club at this big dorm for high school students. It mainly houses students who want to go to high school in Uzice but live too far away to commute to school every day. It houses about 250 students. In this building is also a small orphanage that houses about 30 orphans. The English club that my team did was with the high school students. The theme that we did the 1st week was about dreams, having small group discussions, talking about dreams, playing games that were related. The 2nd week the theme was decisions. We had some great conversations with our group, they opened up very easily. The goal of this is that the leaders continue on with this ministry and eventually get to share more intimate and even more meaningful things with them.

It's important to understand that a in culture like this, relationships are everything. Open evangelism will only get you labeled as someone in a 'sect' and cause you to lose all credibility. So it's so important for the leaders of the Uzice base to build relationships, gain respect and trust and eventually reach to them. So far it's encouraging to see the results.

We also have ministries with the orphanage kids. We do a sports program with them each Sunday. The goal of this ministry is the same as English club: Relationship building. We also do a creative club for the orphan kids during the week with a similar goal. Besides these ministries we do a lot of prayer walking around the city. The city is still a very un-reached place. Besides the 3 people at the base here they literally only know of 1 other evangelical Christian. The loose definition of an evangelical Christian I'm using is someone who prays to God and understands that God wants to know us personally and intimately.

One of the main groups that the leaders are trying to reach here are called hooligans. These are youth that form groups or gangs (not quite gangs, but for lack of a better word) that are centered around sports. Each group of hooligans has a specific sports team they endorse and in theory they can get pretty violent. Just imagine the mobs of people watching European football, it's that kind of group. From people we've talked with, in general they're not that violent, just somewhat rude, but some of them are ok. The main hooligan group in Uzice is called the 'Freedom Fighters'. One of the members from this group actually meets frequently with the leaders from our base and wants to help us. He has made it known that he wants to know God better and you can see it in his face that he's very caring and he wants to make a difference in the world. This member used to be more violent but had an accident where he got hit very hard in the head. Ever since then, he's a strong supporter of non-violence.

Out time in Serbia is coming to a close very rapidly. On Tuesday the 9th we leave to Timisoara for another 10 days or so. Laura then will be leaving the outreach early, going back to the USA for a friend's wedding! She leaves our team on the 10th, leaves Romania on the 11th and her planes flies out the 12th. It's sad that she's going but I will be back in Michigan with her on March 4th!

Comments:

Mike Petty (2010-02-08 15:34:44 ): Hitting people in the head = Converting someone from violence to non-violence? Hmmm, I should do more research on the subject... Haha, anyways, I think it's cool that you guys build relationships before telling them about Jesus. That's something we could do better here in the States too. I've been to churches that don't follow up with people after they do an alter call. Sad face for Laura leaving. Happy face for seeing her again on March 4th. :)

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1.21.10: First Impressions from Bosnia

Well this year, I've been blessed to do another mission trip with YWAM. This year we are in Bosnia and Serbia. We spent the first day in Sarajevo, trying to get a feel for the Bosnian people. It was very interesting learning about the strife of the region. Sarajevo went through the longest siege of any city, it happened in 1992-1996. The city is in a valley so it was literally surrounded by artillery, tanks, machine guns, snipers etc. Over 10 years later, there are still many buildings with bullet holes in them. The city (and country of Bosnia) is predominantly Muslim, of which many are relatively complacent Muslims.. It was the first time I'd seen such a high concentration of non-Arabic Muslims.

After walking around the city and observing the mosques and the people, someone on our team made an interesting observation. Paraphrased: "It's amazing to see all these half-hearted Muslims go to the mosque several times a day. I've seen so many Christians in America put way less effort than this. And the thing is, that these Muslims are putting more effort when what they believe is a lie. How hypocritical is it that American Christians (in general) put in so little effort when we have the truth with us?" That statement really resonated with me. I don't think this in a condemning way, but in a hopefully motivation way. If you take a step back and try to look at the situation, it's ridiculous how believers trusting in a lie put out more effort than people who know the truth. It's a perplexing situation.

We've spent this week in a city about an hour away from Sarajevo called Zenica (pronounced Zenitza). Our living accommodations are very nice here. We're staying in the house of a missionary who are on furlough. It's really nice to have a place where we can relax outside of the ministry site. The city is very accessible too. Everywhere we need to go is at most a 15 minute walk away. This makes traveling around on a daily basis pretty easy.

We spent each morning in an orphanage that is mostly Muslim. It's been interesting because one of our staff members had been there 2 years ago and she could instantly tell a huge difference in the atmosphere. The living conditions were better, the kids seemed better taken care of and the director of the orphanage was more open to visitors. When a team had been there 2 years ago they weren't allowed to do a kid's program, they were just allowed to paint the inside of the building. So it's great to see the change firsthand.

One interesting thing about the orphanage is that we're not allowed to directly speak about God. The leadership of the orphanage is primarily Muslim, they even give the children who enter the orphanage a Muslim name. It makes it a little complicated when we're doing some of our skits and programs, we have to make it more about Christian moral principles rather than being explicitly Christian. This presents a new of complexity to the ministry programs we're doing.

We do children's programs for several hours each day, of which, a large quantity of the time is spent, playing with and loving children. The groups are normally split up into a small kid's group, ages about 4-9 and an older kid's group, maybe 9-14. The small kid's have about 12 in the group. The older kids have about 20-30 in the group.

The little kids are very affectionate. They each have someone in our group that they run to at the beginning of their time, someone they spend a majority of their time with, in their arms mostly. Their need for affection is so great, it's great just to be able to hold them and love them. When another of the children try to get someone from our team's attention, they can often get very jealous and sometimes violent.

The older kids are quite affectionate too. There's one child that you can tell yearns so much for a family. He calls me his 'papa' and he loves to see Laura and I together. Although we can only say a few phrases to each other that we understand, he asks me often if Laura and I are together with hand gestures. He herds us to try to sit next to each other and then snuggles up next to us. He's constantly tugging on my arm and hugging me, gives kisses when I have to leave. His pleading urgency for family screams obviously from his actions.

The food here is good. A typical meal here is something called 'cevapi', which is a beef sausage, very tasty, served in pita bread, onion (which I ignore) and a little container of yogurt in a liquid form. Normally, I really don't like plain yogurt, it's normally sour and tasteless. But the yogurt here is a little bit sweeter or richer, I can't quite put it into words. But for whatever reason, it tastes really good, especially with the cevapi and pita bread. The Bosnian contact here tells us that the yogurt helps digestion and stomach issues.

Our time here has been very fruitful and fulfilling. We leave for Serbia on Sunday. So far traveling hasn't been too bad, the train rides were enjoyable. Thanks for praying and your support!

Comments:

Mike Petty (2010-01-21 11:41:18 ): Yay, an update to your blog. The Google ads on the side include, "Care for Romanian orphans," and "Teach English in Romania." Good job Google. It's pretty interesting that they are more devoted to their lie than we are to our truth. Do you think that is due to country/cultural differences, or Muslim/Christian differences? It's so sad, to me, to hear about all those love starved children. They just want to be hugged and listened to and played with, and they're clearly not getting that. I work with the 4 year olds and none of them come running up to me to hug me, and none of them give me kisses as I leave. They all have very loving parents that provide those needs. So, train raids. You kinda threw that in at the end there. What's the deal with train raids? Does it involve flash grenades and smoke bombs and people repelling down the sides of the train and crashing through the windows?

Brodiemom (2010-01-21 12:29:48 ): Islam with all its rules to follow reminds me of orthodox Judaism. The people find pleasure in following many rules, because it is their way of 'being close to God." Your living arrangements and food sound delightful (and yes yogurt is supposed to help the 'flora' in your intestines). that is so great that the orphanage is open to your being there. When you describe your loving on the kids I can't find the words, because I end up in tears.

Pottornesse (2010-02-06 20:08:38 ): OMG enjoyed reading your article. I added your rss to my google reader!

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8.13.09: What God's been doing in Romania

I've been back in Romania for just over 2 months now. It's been great so far. Thanks for everyone who is supporting me especially in prayer, it means a lot! Since I've been back, I've been doing a variety of things: Fixing computers, making websites, making various media / documents needed for ministry and administration. I'm really enjoying using my gifts for God's work.

Another thing that I've been involved with are helping out with the short term teams that visit and do ministry in Cluj. We had a really exciting time with our most recent team. Last week a team called "Crossover", a group of mostly collegiate level basketball players who are very talented. They put on a 3 day basketball camp for the youth of Cluj, Romania with the help of the YWAM (Youth With a Mission) staff.

The camp was broken up into parts, where they learned a lot about basketball as well as various other bonding activities. During the day there was a bible hour where a bible lesson was explained and then discussed in small groups. There was a very good turnout for these camps, around 100 kids each day. In the evening, a semi-pro teams were scheduled to come in and have exhibition matches against the Crossover staff.

It was interesting observing and hearing stories about the progression of relationships throughout the 3 days. The first day during bible hour, you could tell that the kids were interested, but there were barriers which prevented them from talking deeply and personally about their lives. During the second day of bible hour there was more questions about the material and more opening up. During the third day of bible hour, it was amazing to hear about the openness and joy that the kids had. Many kids said that bible hour was their favorite time at the end! It's amazing how God works through relationships. Through the love shown to these kids, so many of them opened up their harts, became vulnerable and learned about God.

On the last day of camp, they had an alter call and 70 kids raised their hands to accept Christ!! It is amazing to see such genuine life change in such a short time. A lady from a radio station interviewed some of the kids. Amidst a noisy gym and lots of cheering, one of the kids responded to the lady from the radio station that there was just so much peace where they were. The lady, confused, asked "Peace? How can things be peaceful with all that noise?" And the kid calmly replied with "Oh, it's the peace on the inside." Wow! This is just one of the many amazing stories of individual life change observed at this camp.

What's even better about 70 kids getting saved is that due to registering for this camp, we have the contact information for about 100 local kids, including 70 of them being recently saved! Pray that the follow-up meetings we have with these kids is fruitful. Pray that this isn't an experience that is easily forgotten. We've seen these kids lives' changed and now we have a foot in the door to discipling these youths. God is faithful, it was amazing to experience so many lives changed in such a short period of time! Praise the Lord!

For me personally, this experience has revitalized my mind about how important relationships are and how much power there is in loving people. When the kids from the camp first got to know the Crossover basketball team, they were tentative and shy. But the Crossover team was persistent and dedicated on loving these kids. And over the process of just a few days, the love they showed broke down barriers and made huge changes in these kid's lives.

Another thought that his experience has spurred is thinking about the fruit produced by ministering to people. Matthew 5:17 says "You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? I guess I always thought of the fruit from this passage as direct results from ministry done. The way I see it now is that the fruit of the spirit is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" from Galatians 5:22-34. The fruit of the spirit isn't necessarily the results that come out of it. We can't control other people's actions, all we can do is control what we do. So it's our responsibility to live in the Spirit and make sure we are producing fruit, the fruit from Galatians and leave the results up to God. It's impossible for a mere man to understand the intricacies of all the eternal repercussions of his fruit. So it's our job to just trust God will use us without worrying about manipulating the outcome to one that we feel is more favorable for us.

Comments:

Mike Petty (2009-08-13 11:28:29 ): That's a great quote about the kid and the interviewer. Although, it makes me a little sad that the interviewer didn't understand what the kid was talking about. God was moving in such a powerful way, and she missed the whole thing.

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6.20.09: Some Romanian Culture - The Romanian Wedding

I've really enjoyed observing things from subtle, to the extreme cultural differences between America and Romania. Lately, I've had some Romanian friends that have been talking about what a wedding in Romania is like. I found it quite interesting.

When you get a wedding invitation in Romania, some people view it more as an open act of war. Well, that's an overstatement, but there often is anxiety associated with a wedding invitation. The reason for this bane is that Romanian weddings require you to pay at least $100 per person, not couple or family, but more likely upwards of $200. And this is from a country much poorer than America where making this much money a month in wages isn't uncommon. If you're American you're probably thinking that they don't really expect everyone to pay that. Well on the contrary. If you don't come to the wedding, the insult to your family done would be much worse than to ditch a wedding in America.

There are 3 main reasons that I can see for having the weddings be so expensive. In no particular order:

  1. It helps the newly-married couple out tremendously. Often this extra money means the different for a down payment on a car, or even a house. It's great for the newly-married couple. It's a good tradition that really stresses a close and loving community.
  2. By going to someone's wedding you, you are making an implicit contract with the newly married couple saying that they will have to come to your wedding. And maybe by the time you get married and invite them to your wedding, they might have kids and then you'll get even more money! Right after the wedding, the married couple will take note of every guest who attended and how much they paid so they can have a record of it, if/when they attend the wedding of the current attendee.
  3. This reason is fairly straightforward. At a Romanian wedding, the meal often takes 6+ hours with an exuberant amount of courses served. With little, exaggeration, just imagine platters of found being thrown at you for 6 hours. Different friends have different feelings about the amount of food. Some say even if they don't eat the whole day before, they get stuffed way too early and feel engorged after each successive course was served. Others say it's a lot of food but ok if you pace yourself. I think I would probably feel more like the former group of friends. And of course you can't take any of it home, so an exorbatant amount of food inevitably gets wasted.

Overall, I think it's kind of silly to have such an exuberant feast and an exuberant cost. I like reasons 1 and 2 but 3 just seems wasteful to me. The Christian (protestant) weddings are traditionally very mundane. There's never alchohol or dancing. The non-Christian weddings usually quite the opposte. With a lot of drinking and dancing.

They also have some funny traditions at weddings. Normally, the groomsmen "steal" the bride away during the wedding for an extended time, maybe 3 hours. It's the groom's job to find his bride. From people I've talked to who have actually gone through this process, it's pretty annoying. I mean maybe for 3 minutes it would be fun, but I'm guessing for 3 hours it gets kind of old to be seperated from your wife on the wedding day.

About me, however, I don't forsee a Romanian wedding ever in my future. I'm really enjoying my time here now. There's a team from Pennsylvania right now. I've been helping out with the team, fixing computers, making documents, learning Romanian etc. I love being in Romania and eagerly await Laura coming in less than 40 days! Noapte Buna! (good night)

Comments:

Mike Petty (2009-06-20 17:57:26 ): They steal the bride?!? I don't think that's a good tradition at all.

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6.12.09: Back in Romania!

I'm back in Romania! It's an interesting feeling, definitely sad to leave Michigan and Laura but also exciting to be back here. 48 days until I see Laura!

The travelling was a little annoying. London is a huge airport and I had some frustrations there. There were 5 terminals that I had to chose from, each with its own security. My ticket from London to Budapest had "American Airlines" written all over it in big font so I assumed I would go the American Airlines terminal I had about a 2 hour layover so I wasn't too worried. Then I ran into what appeared to be a random bag search at security. There were 5 bags ahead of me and one lady taking apart each bag, piece by piece and then take some sample from the bag over to a machine, I assume searching for fingerprints of wanted people or maybe traces explosives. Anyways, the lady was very relaxed, to say the least, about her job. I waited in line for 45 minutes while she mozied around doing her job. By the time I got through security I had 45 minutes until my plane was supposed to leave. Then I frantically realized that my flight was not leaving from this terminal. I went to an American Airlines representative and he pointed out that in small font it read 'ba862' which matter-of-factly (according to him) meant that it was a British Airlines flight and not American Airlines. And even though the 2 airlines were partners, my flight was in a different terminal. I asked a few people if they could help me get to my terminal in time for my flight since I had already cleared security. They both responded that I would have to go through the other terminal's security and said a little rudely that they couldn't help me. Although hard to accept in the moment, they may not have been rude because there was really nothing they could do.

It's funny because the last time that I was at the London airport I had another issue. My passport wasn't in the best shape, as in it had been through the wash and the cover wasn't perfectly attached to the rest of it. I was leaving London at that time. The person who was checking my passport gave me a stern look and eventually told me that I could leave the country but if I wanted to come back to London I would have to get a new passport. Glad I didn't run into that lady this time! I have since taken the time to glue my passport cover back on but not get a new one.

Anyways, I frustratingly missed my flight. The only reason it was a big deal was that I had a van scheduled to pick me up from the airport and drive me 7 hours from Budapest to Romania and no way to personally contact them to tell them my new flight would be getting in 3 hours later and 1 hour past the time they were going to pick me up. I would essentially be stranded, at least for a while. I was a little tense on the airplane to Budapest but at the same time took it as an opportunity to just be faithful that God would take care of me. I eventually was at rest with it and trusted God. Even if I was stranded in Budapest it at least seemed a little exciting to entertain the prospect of exploring and finding my away around Budapest. Carrying around the 110lbs of baggage with me didn't however seem entertaining.

When I got to Budapest the van company had re-scheduled me for a later van ride. I just had to wait a few hours in the Budapest airport. I was very happy just to know I had a ride, I didn't mind the wait. And I laughed at myself for every doubting that God would "leave me stranded". It was really neat when I got on the van. I met some guy who was curiously similar to me. We were both in our 20's, christian guys traveling to Romania for missionary purposes and we both were web admininstrator people. It was very encouraging talking to him and also realizing that maybe this was why I missed my first van, to meet this cool guy.

Well I'm all settled in and excited. The base was kind of empty when I got here but now poeple are coming back from their various destinations. I've been finishin up cleaning some techincal documents for the base, making them look more professional. I also have been fixing, or trying to fix a bunch of old, defunct computers. I talked to the base leaders and they said they had lots for me to do.

It's quite interesting just being back in Romania. With just the thoughts and memories of what God has done here to me and through me I feel encouraged. I feel the need to pray a little more. I feel the need to seek God's voice a little more. I like it!

Comments:

Brodiemom (2009-06-12 17:52:35 ): That sounds so frustrating to be in the wrong terminal, but I know it's not hard to do. I did it also! In picking up Lesley at the Oakland airport, quite smaller than London, I found myself in the wrong terminal! That is nice that you are feeling close to God.

Mike Petty (2009-06-15 11:21:02 ): Hahaha, God likes to do that to me too. "Psst, Hey Mike. Do you trust Me?" "Yeah sure God. Whatev." *plans go awry, Mike stresses out.* "Psst, Hey Mike. How about now? Do you trust Me?" "Oh yeah. Trust. I almost forgot. Thanks God." Another thing that God likes to do to me, is give me a small reminder in preparation for a larger trial. "Dear Jesus, help me get to the gas station. My gas light is on, and I'm worried." "Ok Mike, we're at the gas station." "Thanks Jesus." "You're welcome. Now that I've proved (once again) that you can trust Me, how about you start trusting Me with x, y, and z that you've been stressing so much about lately?" "Ok."

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3.6.09: Back in the States for a Bit

Well it's been an interesting break since I've been back from Romania. I feel that my mind is falling behind on reality, hard to keep up with my always-changing way of life for a while. To sum it up, there was a big birthday bash for some members of my dad's family, I got to see people I hadn't seen in a while. One question several peopled asked me was where I'm living now. I found it difficult to come up with an answer. In my head I was thinking, "Do you mean a year ago? 6 Months ago? 2 months ago? This week? Next week? In a month from now? In 6 months from now?" The responses that I actually came up with were some mix of answering those questions. I feel like I can barely keep up with my life!

As I write this I'm on my way to Michigan to spend 3 months with my girlfriend Laura whose family has graciously welcomed me into their house for a whole 3 months, despite my best efforts to try to convince them that I might be a burden. After 3 months getting to know Laura's world, I go back to Romania in June. Laura goes too a little later. We have both made a 2 year commitment (which started in 2009 and lasts through 2010). Our next planned visit back to the US is tentatively scheduled for February 2010. I must say it's a bit outlandish thinking about such intricate plans in the future, normally not my stlyle! I used to joke that I didn't think more than 3 days in advance, (I remember I stole this saying from someone, I forget who). That kind of mindset combined with the comfortable Santa Barbara atmosphere makes for an incredibly relaxed and comfortable lifestyle, I'm not going to lie. This just helped to accentuate the difference in the kind of lifestyle I'm living now.

It's been kind of an introspective week for me. Before I left for Romania, I had never been outside of California for more than 2 weeks at a time. I was outside the country for around 5 months. When I leave California this time, I won't be back for at least a year. (I know you math majors are trying to calculate how long my next hiatus from California will be, but none of that!) I'm not incredibly sad to leave California, but at the same time, it's a strange feeling for several reasons. One reason it's strange is that I literally just got back from my longest exodus from California and to leave so soon after is just confusing. There's not one particular aspect of California I miss, there are a lot of parts. To name a few obvious things: Family, friends, sun, playing tennis, food, comfort, sun... And come to think about it, I think that's what I miss: The comfort and familariaty of home. I've always been someone who appreciates comfort and familiar things, but I'm really happy to be able with all the decisions that God has put in front of me. Don't let me fool you into thinking that I'm not incredibly excited about my next year in Michigan & Romania, because I'm uber excited!

I'm reading this book called "Under the Overpass", written my a fellow Westmont coleague who took 5 months off during his college days to voluntarily live homeless. His main motive was to get out of his comfy lifestyle and really trust God with all of his needs. From what I've read so far, I really like this idea. I can really relate with his reasoning. Looking back on it, I feel like I have similar motivations for wanting to go to Romania. It's just the different paths that God has led us through. I, too, was led by the spirit of God in determining what I needed to do with my life. I also felt and uneasy tension between the priviledged lifestyle some of us live in amidst so much pain and suffering in the world. Reading his book has been yet another confirmation that what I am doing is in God's will. Not that I needed another sign among the multitude, but it's nice to get little reminders along the way.

So that's where I'm at. I'm excited for the future, especially the immediate future where I get to spend 3 months in Laura's world. What's kind of funny and strange about that is that we've only been dating for half that long, 1.5 months. Now I'm sitting here, deep in thought, trying to contemplate how we've only been officially together for 1.5 months but it feels more like 1.5 years. I won't get into the lovey dovey details, but she is utterly amazing. I feel like I could write a book about her amazingness!

  • March 09 to early June 09 in Michigan
  • June 09 to February(ish) 2010 in Romania and who else knows where
  • Then some time in America and then back to Romania and then ???? dates TBD. More updates will continue, thanks for reading!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2009-03-06 15:55:31 ): Yay for everything. Yay for you and Laura. Yay for getting to travel. Yay for Laura's family's hospitality. Yay for going back to Romania. Yay for getting outside your comfort zone. Yay for beating me in basketball and Settlers one last time before you left. Yay for living inside of God's will for your life. Yay for reading Under the Overpass. (I have a copy if anyone wants to borrow it. It's a good read.) Yay for John. I'm glad we're friends. :) Keep the updates coming. :) PS, Daylight savings is this weekend. Also happening this weekend: The Watchmen comes out. I think it's going to be good. Matt Kissel went to the midnight showing, so for some better feedback you can ask him how it was.

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    12.31.08: Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!

    Well it's been a while since I've updated. Well we've been in Cairo about 3.5 weeks now and we still have another 2 or so weeks to go. Yesterday I finally got over my stubbornness towards medicine and picked up some antibiotics. You see, since the day I arrived in Cairo, I've been somewhat sick, I'm still not sure what it is. The best way I can describe it, is as a sinus infection. Every morning I would wake up congested and have tons of mucus stored up, as well as be very mucusy throughout the day. Overall, quite disgusting, yes. I also get these strange headaches, lower in my head than normal, like right behind my nose. So back to yesterday, on several reccomendations I finally decided to get some antibiotics. Last night I took my first pill. That evening's rest was the first time I've slept all the way through the morning without waking up. Also, when I woke up this morning, I didn't feel mucusy or congested at all. I was amazed. Throughout the day, I've been mucusy but I'm so grateful to actually sleep. Besides my infection, there was a nasty cold that went around our teams. For Christmas eve and Christmas I was completely wiped out because of it. Made celebrating Christmas non-ideal, but it was fun. It was my first Christmas away from home. It felt very weird but it was fun in a different way.

    We've been keeping pretty busy these last 2 weeks. Having the whole team sick at least made things seem busier at least. One girl on our team had a 104 degree temperature. I don't think I've ever had a temperature that high. This past few weeks we've been teaching english twice a week, which is one of my favorite activities. Although the American school system has totally failed at teaching me grammar concepts, I can figure out enough stuff to be a fairly adequate english teacher and enjoy it a lot. Before the class, I traditionally get a little antsy because speaking in front of people I don't know well for 3 hours isn't something that I'm in general good about, but I normally get over it and ease into the class pretty easily. We also spent 3 days from last week painting a Sudanese school. The children were very cute. I'm not too keen on the whole painting thing, but it was an enjoyable experience. Yesterday, we did our first family visits. It was fun and interesting to meet and talk to different Sudanese families. All of them had a lot of kids. We brought the families food and we talked and prayed with them.

    One thing that's getting to me in the constant traveling. Everyday we do something, it normally ends up being at least an hour each way, sometimes more. It can get very tedious. Things like traveling so much, being here during Christmas, getting tired of Egyptian food and thinking about the future has made me feel a little antsy about the future. I'm really excited about the future! I just booked my complicated plane ticket a few days ago. I'm going to go visit my sister Lesley on the way back from Romania. And when I return to Romania in March, I am going to visit someone else special which I will talk about later!

    Well tonight is New Year's Eve and we're having a little shindig here at our place. Both Romanian teams are coming over as well as the youth department from the organization we've been working with. It should be really fun! It's amazing to think that we have under 2 weeks left here in Cairo. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-12-31 12:57:21 ): Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too! :)

    M (2008-12-31 15:59:55 ): you actually got sick!! i almost feel like i should say "yay!" but too bad it never happened in the past when you actually wanted it to. =) also, you enjoy being suspiciously secret, don't you? still praying for you & the team!

    Brodie (2008-12-31 17:42:42 ): Antibiotics are great, aren't they! I am glad you are feeling better. The family visits sound touching. I also cannot believe you have only 2 weeks left in Cairo. But I am so excited that you will be coming back for a visit. Rah Rah toot toot!

    Roger Holcombe (2009-01-08 00:57:18 ): John- Thanks for the blog- Glad to hear things are coming along and your ministry is moving ahead- Prayers for your success and great health- Roger Holcombe - Shoreline Church

    Cristi (2009-01-29 12:55:33 ): man give me your skype adress..i want to talk with you. Miss you man!

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    12.16.08: Cairo and Sudanese

    So this evening we had an interesting evening. We went to an area in Cairo that we hadn't visited before where a hip hop meeting was going to take place. It's a ministry for the Sudanese, where we rap, dance and share our lives with Sudanese youth. So it started out flagging down a bus for our group of 16. We have 8 in our team and another team from Romania has joined us for 2 weeks. They're from our leader's church. They're really great people, a lot of fun, great people. So, the Cairo bus system confuses me. But here's what I understand of it: 15 passenger vans go all around Cairo, to certain areas, I don't know how you tell which van goes where, maybe some convoluted numbering scheme? But, we have the option of trying to pay to reserve a van for our group. When the vans arrive at the station it's pure chaos. People holding onto vans that haven't stopped yet, trying to reserve a seat for themselves. Mobs push and pile in. We had to find a van that would host our team and our Sudanese helper friend. After much time and many failed attempts to reserve a van, we finally got one. Now I know you math majors might be having a problem right now, 17 people plus 1 driver, 18 people in a 15 passenger van. Well, it was crowded but everyone sat. It was a great time and we were happy to be on our way finally. It looked like we might be a little late, but of course, any Sudanese gathering is subject to be at least 30-60 minutes late.

    I So we got there a little late, but we were the first ones there. Maybe we aimed to get there early at 6. So I met a really cool pastor of the area there. He was Sudanese of course, but his parents came from a Muslim background. His parents were muslim and his dad was even a priest (or whatever you call it) in the mosque. When he was growing up he had not 1, but 3 dreams where Jesus came to him, literally. On the third one he got the idea and sought after Christ. Since that, his mom became a believer and he now has the very busy job of encouraging the Sudanese youth. A little background about the Sudanese youth, gangs have become a big issue with these people. It's so sad to think of how thise people have been forced to flee their country because of violence and then they escape to freedom and end up killing each other in gangs. This tidbit of information will be important very soon in this story.

    So we started our program. Sang some songs, did a dance, shares some testimonies and we were about to commence the dancing part of the program. Then, an irrate Sudanese youth busted through the door with a rock about the size of a couple of Kleenex boxes. He went straight for some guy in the front, pushing him up against a table and threatening him with a rock. It all happened so very fast. Looking back on it, it seems like 10 seconds passed by in under 1 second. I pulled the angry teenager who had recently stormed in away from the person he was threatening and then a lot of people jumped in to help break it up. The angy young man stormed around the buliding, tossing some chairs for a while. It was potentially scary because we didn't know if a huge gang war was going to erupt. All the girls hid in the corner. But in the end, it was just one confused and angry person. The meeting continued on after that, with a little bit more tension.

    The rest of the meeting went well. The guy with the rock eventually came back, peacefully this time and explained why he was confused and asked forgiveness. In the end, 10 people made decisions for God after our program, it was a powerful time, definitely a lot of factors at work there. It was a great night, being with the other team from Romania who are a lot of fun. We got back at around 11:30 and ate a well-deserved dinner. And now I'm up at 1am again. I can sleep when I leave Egypt! This is the first day since I've been in Cairo where I think I might not be sick. We'll see how I feel in the morning. I'm having a great time and God is doing great things!

    Comments:

    M (2008-12-16 18:23:18 ): that is awesome! i will continue to pray for you and your team. (i just had to try commenting to see if it does or doesn't work. =) )

    Brodiemom (2008-12-16 19:27:54 ): John, I pray for you a lot, but today I had an urge to pray for your safety. I wonder if it coincided with the scary event in which you displayed a lot of courage! What a wonderful story about the pastor. And the rap program sounds like fun and definitely fruitful. Way to go John!

    Mike Petty (2008-12-17 21:07:54 ): Yo yo yo, my name is John. I'm here to sing you a rap themed song. The Holy Ghost and Jesus too, are pretty much the cat-man-du. They're sick and fly and cronk legit. They kinda make you want to spit. Spit if you love Jesus!! Come on hock one up for the Lord! Was it kinda like that?

    M (2008-12-18 12:50:19 ): i hope not mike....i hope not

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    12.11.08: Life in Cairo

    Oh man, the experiences of a half of week in Cairo. I'm not sure where to start so I'll just start with the Metro. The metro reminds me a lot about B.A.R.T. (Bay area rapid transit), except for a round trip ticket here is about .40 cents opposed to 14 dollars or so. Also, the cars are mostly gender seperated. I'm still a little confused about it, like I know 2 are reserved for women, 2 are reserved mixed cars and the rest are male. But, being in a male dominated society, men can do anything. So there have been some awkward metro rides when I've accidentally been on an all-female car with my team. But overall, the metro is really nice for getting across such a metropolis of a city.

    I wish I started a count of how many times a taxi has honked at our group while we're walking, asking if we want a ride. They're so freaking aggressive, I feel like no matter what part of town we're in there's at least 3 taxis constantly following us in case we change our mind and want a ride. Also, the drivers are pretty crazy which makes crossing the street interesting. It pretty much consists of going out into the street and finagling your way through a maze of cars hoping that they will actually stop and not hit you. So far, I'm alive!

    And oh my, everyone in Egypt, all the kids, everyone whos how to say 2 things in english, "What's your name" and "Welcome to Egypt". And everyone we pass (slight exaggeration) says these 2 phrases to us. While it is quite a stroke to my ego, because we feel like celebrities at how many people greet us and stare at us, it can get quite tiring and annoying when you're walking downtown for 30 minutes.

    So one of the first thing's we did here was teach english to Sudanese refugees. I taught one of the more advanced classes. It was a very good time, I got to learn about these people who have fled Sudan and now live in Cairo. It was kind of tough for me to talk for 2 hours with 7 people whom I don't know very well, especially since my head has been so congested making it hard to think, but it worked out fine. One little funny story that sticks out was when we introduced each other. I had everyone say their name, how many brothers and sisters they have and their favorite animal. One of the students' answer was that his favorite animal was a cow. I asked him why and he responded with something like this: They are good to eat, they make milk which is good to drink and when I will have a wife, I will offer her family a cow. I thought that was a pretty good answer. The Sudanese also have such interesting names, at least to me, some of them are "Shoot", "Dang", "Lucky" and "Amen".

    So at the end of teaching english, leads me to my next story. One of those "you had to be there to fully understand the funnyness of the situation", but it's still funny I hope as a typed story. So one of the nuns at the Catholic monestary we are staying at told us we have to be back at 9, one told us to be back by 10. So... we got back that night at 9:30, very starved and ready to eat. The monestary is guarded by a door that you have to open from the inside. But when we got there, no one answered. I timidly pushed open the door, only to find out that the elctric gate can be easily pushed open, that's reassuring huh. So we got into the property, only to find a locked door to the building. After ringing the doorbell and getting no answer as well as making sure none of the doors were open, we were getting kind of desperate. We weren't frustrated, the situation was actually quite comical. So we see a light on at the bottom floor. Me being the respectful, polite gentleman, once I get hoisted up, I gently knock on the window saying "Pardon, Mademesoille, nous somme l'equippe de Romana". So, then the leader of our team takes a more radical approach ;) She starts banging on the window like a mad woman, then we hear muffled cries of "Non, non, non!!!" After about 15 more minutes of this, someone was finally woken up to let us in.

    I wasn't there when the nun who spoke french, no english, opened the door for the other 4 members of our team, who didn't speak much french. At first the nun thought we were looking for a hotel or something, not recognizing that we were the team that had been staying with them the last 3 days! She kept saying something to the extent of "Here, not a hotel". When she finally realized that it was people that lived here she kept on scolding "la dernier fois!!! la dernier fois!!!" Which means it's the last time. Oh man, those were some angry nuns. This prompted us to look for housing, because being back by 9pm was just not a possibility for us. The rest of the team loves re-enactig my soft gentle "Pardon Mademesoille" haha!

    So tomorrow we move into our own little 3 bedroom apartment in Cario which we will be staying in until we leave in mid January.. It overlooks the Nile from the 16th floor windows. It's a pretty good location and we will finally have some freeeeeedom! We have a very full week with the Sudanese and we'll be doing a lot of great activities with them! I know I had more Cairo stories I forgot about but I'll remeber them for another time.

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-12-11 18:51:23 ): I forget who was visiting. One of Dan's friends probably. But I told them that we found Bart on the San Francisco public transportation system, and kept him as our own. It took them a second to make the connection between Bay Area Rapid Transit, and Bart, but they got there. They believed me (why do people still believe me when I speak?), so I went with it.

    M (2008-12-11 19:08:03 ): LOL that nun story *was* funny, and i'm sure it was even funnier actually being there. lol...at first i thought you meant that the nun was banging on the window like a mad woman, but you meant someone on your team! ha. that makes more sense. so it does sound like a good thing that your team has their own place to live for the rest of the time. sounds like fun!

    Brodiemom (2008-12-11 21:14:34 ): That's great that you get to teach English. It's interesting that when we think of our favorite animal, we think of it imaginatively. When that man answered a cow, he had very real reasons why. I guess when your life is stressed about food,, shelter, health, there is less time left over for one's imagination. You are brave and daring to peek into the window of a nun! Even if you do have gentle French. That nun who answered the door was brave to answer at night! The Bart thing was funny. I remember when you first asked me if I wanted to take Bart. I thought you said do you want to take BART. Ha!

    Heather (2008-12-11 23:42:20 ): Love the story about the nuns. I can imagine Ame banging on the window like crazy and it just cracks me up. :) When you were talking about that man saying his favorite animal was a cow....it's so practical! When my friend Anne was in Uganda she had many a man offer her cows for her hand in marriage....as she was there for longer they kept upping the anty and offering more cows but no dice. I'm so glad to hear that you've found somewhere else to stay! I've been praying for ya'll after Ana Maria talked to me about how you guys weren't able to cook at that convent. And the curfew thing would be difficult to do when you're trying to do friendship-style ministry. Praise God for His provision! Bless you guys.

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    12.7.08: In Cairo

    Well out time in Upper Egypt has sadly concluded. I will cherish the friendships made and the great people there. It's too bad we only got to stay there 7 days. The other team should be arriving there this evening. It seems like it would be so much fun to be there when they arrived, to show them around and to just see their reaction when they see everything I saw. But alas, that will not be happening. We got to see the other team for a bit when we exchanged cars as we were going north to Cairo and they were going south. It was so awesome to see them, so awesome! Everyone looked just a little bit different, it was so fun. We only got to talk for maybe 15 minutes but it was a glorious time, like re-uniting with a long lost friend.

    The overall trip to Cairo was somewhat uneventful. We were a bit crammed but everything went pretty smoothly. We arrived this evening at a big catholic church where we will stay for a few weeks, maybe all 5 of the weeks we're in Cairo. Apparently we're in a lot safer area now compared to Upper Egypt where the muslim people are in generally considered to be more fundamentalistic. So while we couldn't go off the premise in Upper Egypt by ourselves, we can here, or at least in small groups if there's a girl as there's more adherent danger if you're a girl by yourself than as a guy. We will be making food for ourselves while we're here and we can't use the kitchen, so it should be interesting. We have access to the place's silverware/dishes and stuff though. We've been spoiled the last 2 weeks though.

    This catholic buliding (monestary/church/area, not sure what it's called) is nice, but it kind of reminds me of a place. Not intimately, but it just reminds me a little of the isolated place where "The Shining" took place. I think it has mostly to do with the shape of the buildings, the sparse lighting, the quietness and the isolation. I can't wait to go out running. I've felt so pent up and doing stairs for exercise (what I did in Upper Egypt) wasn't quite cutting it. I'm unsure of the internet situation here.

    Oh!! I get to speak french here. I think this is the first time I've had a practical use for my french... ever! We'll see how well those 4 years of french have paid off. The nuns all speak french I think, at least the ones I've met, few of them speak english. I already had a couple conversations with one of the nuns who didn't know any english and I remembered more than I thought. The problem is that as I've been learning Romanian I've been inadvertently throwing out the french I remember. It's really hard to try to say a french sentence. Whenever I try to think of a french sentence my mind defaults to english and I have to smack the Romanian out of my head and try to recall how to say things in french. I guess it's good for my romanian!

    Comments:

    M (2008-12-07 13:08:49 ): that's cool that you get to use french! i used to know some french. i'm surprised you remember enough to say sentences at all. you must have studied it longer than i did.

    Brodiemom (2008-12-07 14:03:47 ): Your fluency in French always blew my mind. To have conversations in French is a wonderful thing that you do. I can understand the interference with Romanian now in your mind, but I think you are correct that using your French will sort it all out and help both. The nuns must be from France? If so I wonder what order. The French order of nuns called Notre Dame de Namur began a college in San Mateo/Belmont by that same name. Living in a monestery/abbey is very different. Some people go to such a place as a retreat to get in touch with God. And what a nice, safe haven for your team.

    Heather (2008-12-07 21:16:20 ): The same thing happened to me! All of the French I learned in grade school seemed to completely leave my mind when I learned Romanian. It's an interesting feeling trying to say sentences in French when all that comes to mind are Romanian words. Being tri-lingual is definitely not for me. Je ne vorbesc limba romana. Ha. Bless you guys! I'm praying for ya'll!

    John (2008-12-09 06:58:25 ): The nuns are not from France to my knowledge. Egypt was occupied by France via Napoleon from around 1800 to the 1880s. So French is a relatively well known language. Of course, Arabic is Egypt's official language.

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    11.30.08: Traveling to Upper Egypt

    Wow, what a crazy adventure this has been so far. We were supposed to go by van to Cairo and then take a train to Upper Egypt. When we got close to Cairo we hit a redonkulous amount of traffic, way more than anyone had excpected. The sooner we got to Cairo, the more distubring and potentially stressful the situation seemed to escalate. The first thing I noticed was the traffic, which was pretty obvious. Drivers in Egypt and especially Cairo are by far the craziest drivers I've seen. The amount of swerving in and out of traffic. I can't imagine we missed oncoming traffic by more than a couple of inches. On this long bridge/overpass thing where the traffic was bad, we passed at least 20 cars in the stretch of about 10 miles, all parked on the side of the road, having car trouble. The next thing I noticed was the tremendous amount of smog. Sorry LA, you can't even compete with this smog: Thicker than San Francisco smog and the smell of it alternated between a more putrid than the smell of a thousand diesel trucks spewing out filth all at the same time and rank a very rancid sewage system.

    So, by this time, halfway into the metropolis kown as Cairo, we realized that since the traffic was so monumentall bad, that there was no way we were going to make our train which we had reserved. It's a holiday weekend and there was no way to get other train tickets. We had one more idea, try to race the train to the firs stop. Our contact was going to meet us there. It wasn't looking very good. At this time, it was one of those 5 times during the day where Islamic people stop whatever they're doing to pray. While the traffic going into Cairo was wretched, there was no traffic leaving Cairo. Our minivan was in the left side of the road, with a cement divider seperating us from the other side of traffic. All of a sudden a car slammed against the cemet divider with lots of sparks. It skidded down past us as we sat in traffic. That was freaky but also kind of prepared us in a way to give us some perspective on inevitably missing the train.

    Driving through Cairo was just plain dreary and depressing. On the way to Cairo is just a huge sea of people on the right side of the freeway. A lot of them are walking or hitchhiking. Apparently it's pretty common to try to hithhike into the city. As we drive slowly by in traffic, we see cars and buses crammed full of people staring at us wide-eyed for the most part. Most of the guys spent their time oggling, winking and honking at the girls in our car. We're learning firsthand the perverseness of this culture. In the city of Cairo itself, was just as gross. The drivers honked and swerved in and out. They honk so much. It seems whenever they pass a car they honk and then the car that got honked at honks and then other random cars in the area feel obligated to honk back. I mean, what's the point of all this nonsense honking, it gets quite agitating. The streets in Cairo were gross and the people for the most part looked frustrated and annoyed. You could see guys peeing off in random litle corners. It made me miss Santa Barbara and even Romania a whole lot!

    So yea, we missed the train at the Giza train stop. We were kind of at an empass right now. To stay in Cairo, to try to find transportation and housing at 6pm would be a nightmare. It would be over budget, delay our trip even more, and navigating around Cairo is a nightmare in general. So thank God that our minivan driver agreed to take us to Upper Egypt. It did cost a fair bit of money, but we were ahead of budget anyways for the transportation so it appears we will be just about breaking even with the unexpected cost of having to go by minivan instead of train. It is a lot safer here, so maybe we were being protected. Well right now I'm in the back of the minivan getting rattled all over and it's about 8pm. We should arrive in Upper Egypt by around `1am, later than scheduled but I'm glad we've made it so far.

    Also, we played soccer today, it was really fun. But I caught a ball to the face and now the right side of my jaw is kind of irked. I'm pretty sure it's not dislocated or broken, based on feeling around my jaw. But, it is quite painful to eat, sometimes. For lunch, I ate ok, but when I was eating recently it hurt a lot and I could barely eat. So I'm hoping and praying it's just a muscle/ligament strain, because that will heal in a couple of days or sooner! But if my jaw is out of place, well that's no fun ;) But I'm pretty sure that's not the case. It's been an interesting trip and we haven't even got to Upper Egypt yet. More to come later!

    Well we got in at about 1:30am. Question: Why do the roosters here crow at 1:30am? I don't have a witty retort, it was just something that had crossed my mind at that time. It's morning now, my jaw feels a lot better which I'm very thankful for. It's a very interesting, different atmosphere here. It will be interesting to see how it goes here. No internet that I can find so I'll post this later, la revedere.

    Comments:

    Brodiemom (2008-12-01 15:32:10 ): Whew! I'm all wound up justing reading about your experience. Thank you for sharing all the details! It made it seem so real. I knew China had bad smog, but I didn't know about Cairo. It makes sense since there are so many people! What kind of living situation do you have?

    Mike Petty (2008-12-01 15:55:54 ): Adventures are never fun during the adventure, but always fun to look back on. I waited in line in front of Best Buy for 7 hours, and was bored most of the time, but looking back on it, I'm glad I did it. :)

    Cristina (2008-12-01 18:23:37 ): Thank you so much for writing stuff about how is there, how are you guys doing etc. I really miss you all and i wish i was there with you, but yea...:) I'm praying that you will feel better. I'm praying for you all and i love you, guys so much! Miss you! P.S: Ai grija de echipa mea! Multumesc! :D

    Kathy Miller (2008-12-03 20:10:44 ): Hi John, I am enjoying reading your blog, it makes me miss Egypt! Eat some hummus for me!

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    11.29.08: Second Week in Egypt

    Well it's been almost a week since I've arrived in Egypt now. It's been a good time. We ended up staying longer at the base here than we expected. We'll be leaving it tomorrow afternoon and arriving in Upper Egypt late in the evening. Upper Egypt is actually south of where we're at now but it earns its name because of it's higher elevation. We'll be meeting and ministering to the coptic christians there, which is a branch that shares similarities with European orthodoxy.

    The people here are really great. Although, for the most part there is a rather large language barrier, most of them don't know english very well, we seem to find a way to communicate. I made a firm decision very early in the week not to make a full-hearted attempt to learn arabic. I'm just not that good at learning languages. I have enough trouble trying to learn Romanian, a latin-based language. Arabic is just completely different, with very few arabic words having any similarities with english words. A couple of the girls here who are good at learning languages are learning a lot, which boggles my mind how they can pick up so many different sounds so quickly.

    The bugs really love me here. I have 34 mosquito bites on my feet alone. At least I think they are mosquitos, but other theories are still in question including ants, fleas and insert misc bug name here. They don't bother me too much though so it's not a big deal.

    Let's see what else has been going on. We saw a few camels the last few days, although they only have 1 hump so there's speculation that they might be called something else, (Mike?) Since we've stayed at the base for an unexpectedly long amount of time, we've been doing a lot of team time, rehearshing our dances/skits and stuff, as well as a fair amount of work around the base. I'm pretty sure I've done more sanding and painting in the last week than I have...ever? We sanded down and painted the inside of 2 small houses. We also sanded down, painted with primer, then sanded again a bunch of tables for school desks.

    I was quite sick the other day, something with my stomach. It seems to have passed by now. Hah, a funny tidbit of info. The team was when I was sick and at some point I prayed that if the sickness was contagious that it would die with me, the sickness that is. That translation got a little discombobulated and I think they prayed that I die with the disease, hah, don't worry it was a funny situation. What else, the food is pretty good here, a lot better than I had excpected, although I think we're kind of being spoiled here. The weather is amazing, very Santa Barbara-ish. Oh and I almos forgot about Thanksgiving. I think I remembered it only about halfway through the day. It's strange to think that time doesn't stand still when I'm not around, it should! Wow, it's already Sunday. Well we will begin ministry in Upper Egypt on Monday, God-willing. Pray for us! Also, pray for school finances, while we have the plane tickets covered, we still don't have quite all the money needed to stay in Egypt the whole time. God is in control and we're having a great time here. Blessings!

    Comments:

    Brodiemom (2008-11-29 16:16:39 ): I'm glad to hear you have time at the base with good food and good people, though I had no idea you were going to be sanding and painting! You must have the Tilford blood that insects are attracted to. But if they were mosquito bites, I think you would see the mosquitos biting sometimes. It very well might be fleas! Don't let them get into your hair! Perhaps they are bed bugs. Too bad you probably can't find Band-Aid anti-Itch gel. There are two species of camels, one of which has only one hump. So you are ministering to coptic Christians. I thought you were to be in Cairo ministering to Sudanese refugees. What town will you be in? I just read about the coptic Christians. They were part of the church (what we call the Catholic Church), but there was a disagreement about wording/theology so the Coptics broke away and now have their own Pope. It will be wonderful to experience such a devout group of Christians. They fast 210 days out of the year! AS you can see, I am very excited for you and pray that you will touch hearts.

    Mike Petty (2008-11-30 16:20:40 ): What am I, a camel expert? I agree with Brodiemom that camels can have one or two humps. What do I base this knowledge on? Pretty much just a hunch. I don't feel like looking it up. Bart loves Menifee. He spent the first night indoors. Then we took him out for a bit on Thursday (on a leash). He found a hiding spot under a couch and stayed there for a while. Then I took him back inside. On Friday, I was in Irvine helping my sister move, so we weren't around. Then on Saturday, I took him out for a couple hours without a leash, and he wandered all over the place. Then I brought him back inside. Then later, we decided to let him roam free without supervision for a while. When we went to go find him, he wasn't in his usual spot. We looked around for a while but we couldn't find him. Then I found him at the top of a tree! hahaha. The tree was only 15 feet high or something, but Bart was way up at the top. Then I brought him back inside. On Sunday morning we let him out again, and he went back up in that tree. He loves the outdoors. He was frolicking in the weeds, and rolling in the dirt, and smelling things, and hiding in bushes, and climbing trees. :)

    M (2008-12-01 00:13:21 ): yay for Bart!!

    John (2008-12-02 13:22:32 ): A one humped camel is called a "dromedary". A 2-humped camel is called a "Bactrian camel". But I guess they're both 'camels' per se. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel

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    11.25.08: Safe in Wonderful Egypt

    It's monday evening now and the whole team and I have arrived safely in Egypt. It's a really nice and interesting culture. The place we're staying right now feels like paradise. A huge base with lots of great people, great food and a loving community. We're learning a little arabic and learning how to communicate with the people better, most speak english and arabic, but arabic is their mother tongue. Today, Monday we just relaxed most of the day and met with teams for a while. Nearly everyone is getting some tanning action, to feel the sun so radiently is incredibly exciting.

    A short recap of our travel on Sunday. We took a bus from Cluj, Romania to Budapest, Hungary which took about 7 hours. I walked on the bus with sandals on when it was snowing, what a fun experience! We flew from Budapest directly to Cairo, which only took 4-5 hours I think. It didn't feel that long since we had been in the bus for so long. Then in the evening, we traveled by van to where we're at now. When I got off the plane in Cairo, I felt like I was at home in Santa Barbara. It felt like a warm Santa BArbara evening and I could see palm trees!

    Well that's all for now, our team will be leaving the base on Sunday, the other team will be leaving the base sooner, this Wednesday. So far so amazing!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-11-25 10:38:54 ): Yay.

    Brodiemom (2008-11-25 11:27:47 ): Sounds wonderful.

    M (2008-11-25 12:48:41 ): you *would* wear sandals when it's snowing! =)

    M (2008-11-27 00:43:44 ): i saw your "learn romanian" page. it reminds me of latin!

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    11.22.08: Leaving for Egypt in 8 hours!

    Ok, it's about time to update this thing again I guess huh! So we're leaving for Egypt in 8 hours and we'll be gone for 7 weeks. We spent the day packing stuff today, it's tough packing what we need for ministry, clothing donations as well as our own clothes in a suitcase that's under 20 kgs, (~44 lbs). The team we're going with consists of 7 people total: Ana Maria is leading the team, Claudia from Romania, Cristi & Lidgia from Romania, Kyndra from Texas, Elike from Holland and me. We split up the responsibilities of the team for things like cooking, cleaning, kid's program, worship time etc... My responsibilities include helping lead worship with Cristi, accounting, transportation and of course preaching! I'm still a little scared about preaching, talking for 30-60 minutes is a bit intimidating for me, but I have several outlines of stuff I want to talk about.

    So I had a spot of random good news last night. So, as some of you may remember, I've had enourmous trouble with airlines in this trip, will not enormous, but at least frustrating. And my goal last night was to try to cancel my flight back which is scheduled December 1st, (mostly because I'll be in Egypt at the time), it's a long story, I've explained it before, but the bottom line is that flight is worthless to me. So I was expecting a night of torture trying to get this return flight cancelled, and it turned out to be miraculously simple. I called, said I would like to cancel the flight, braced myself and then the guy said "Ok, that's it." So I should be refunded almost half of the ticket that I originally bought. And since I bought the ticket so last minute and during summer when they were expensive, I will be getting enough money back to pay for a flight from Cluj back to SFO and back. It's quite amazing! I'm planning on returning to the states for a while. I was thinking of mid/late February, until early March. For people in California, would that be a good time to visit? Hmm, that's my tentative schedule because I'm planning on being back for the middle of march when there's tentatively going to be another DTS school starting.

    Oh man, I'm really excited for Egypt, I'm leaving in 7 hours now! We're taking a van ride, around 7 hours to Budapest and then a direct flight to Cairo, Egypt. I don't think the travel time is going to be much of a hassle. I should be able to get internet and post some blog updates and stuff, but I'm not totally sure of the conditions there, but I'll try to update as much as possible, at least to say I'm alive and stuff. But don't fret, God is in control and please pray!

    Comments:

    M (2008-11-22 16:39:57 ): i'll be praying! and may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

    Brodiemom (2008-11-22 17:04:27 ): I am so glad you got to communicate before you left. How exciting. And that's nice that there is a direct flight to Cairo. I couldn't tell for certain but it seems you are the only male going? What happened to everyone else? I was also wondering how you preach when I thought earlier you said there is a law against preaching. I must have remembered incorrectly. But anyway, I have confidence that you have the heart to be a good preacher and I have confidence that God will work through you to touch people in a tender and meaningful way. Cairo has some modern areas, so I am certain there are coffee shops, if not even a Starbucks, that will be 'hot spots' for wireless computers. Have a blessed time, and I will pray that the love you all show to everyone you meet will have a wonderful and fruitful outcome.

    Heather (2008-11-22 22:24:12 ): So exciting! God bless your time and your ministry in Egypt. I will be praying for ya'll.

    Brodiemom (2008-11-23 11:01:08 ): Don't click the above links. It looks like bad SPAM.

    Mike Petty (2008-11-23 12:49:07 ): :D Yay Egypt. I think you're going to be a great preacher. I think this because you don't really know what you're doing, and it's in those situations when we are more willing to let God come in and take over. So I suppose I should revise my statement. I think God is going to be a great preacher. :-p Feb to March sounds good to me. Let me know if you need a place to crash. :) My living situation right now is kinda up in the air, but by then it should come back down to earth.

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    10.28.08: Egypt

    We're definitely going to Egypt in late November for the outreach. We'll be there for about 7 weeks. From about Thanksgiving until the first week of January. It's pretty exciting. Personally, I haven't gotten into it that much, it's a tough transition as my mind is still wrapped up in matters from US and Romania. But I'm beginning to get excited. It's going to be a little dangerous, it's an Islamic state who don't like Christians too much, but it's not as bad as some of the other Islamic states. We won't be ministering to Islamic people directly because we don't want to go to jail. We will mainly be ministering to Sudan refugees. But we're not going to be like those brilliant people who decided to camp out right next to the border of Sudan who got kidnapped and eventually released. So no need to worry. For those who don't know, Sudan is going through kind of a Civil War dealio right now and it borders Egypt. A lot of refugees are entering Egypt. In the next few weeks I will (or should be) learning a lot more about Egypt. So I should have more info soon.

    It's been a while since I've written. Last week's speaker was this guy named Bob Plank. He was quite the dynamic speaker. It's heard to explain how his teaching has affected me. He's quite the expert in the Bible and also just a super smart guy. He has spent years and years studying the Bible. His wisdom of the Old Testament and how well he understands the transition from the Old to the New Testament is just inspiring. It really makes me want to study the Bible more in depth.

    I've tried getting more serious about learning Romanian in the last several days. I'm making a little website to try to help me and others understand it better. Eventually it will be nifty, not right now though. God has still been teaching me lots of things throughout the week. I got a package today in the mail, weee! The main thing to be excited about is deoderant. Romanian deoderant, although the brand names are the same as the ones from the US, is extremely weak and doesn't work very well. I would apply it and then an hour later it would be like I never put it on at all. Now I have US Old Spice deoderant, yeay!

    Oh, last weekend was fun. We played soccer, it was competitive enough to be real fun. Then we went into town and saw the most popular Romanian Christian band called Decann. They are really good. It was a fun time. Then we had ice cream and walked home, really fun Saturday.

    Comments:

    Brodiemom (2008-10-28 18:22:45 ): John, it is so exciting that you will be in Egypt! What a wonderful experience! What religion are the Sudanese? I have no idea! More later, I am at work.

    Mike Petty (2008-10-28 19:36:57 ): Am I going to have to start thinking of clever things to say about pyramids, so that when pictures get posted to Facebook, I will have something to say? Lol, yay deoderant!!

    M (2008-10-28 23:43:24 ): i didn't know you were going to Egypt! that's so cool! how is that going to work with the whole language thing? oh, and did your visa get worked out yet?

    John (2008-10-29 08:28:40 ): M, There will be translators. The most common languages in the area are Arabic and English, so we can speak in our native tongue to at least some of the people. The visa thing isn't important at the moment. As long as I leave and re-enter the country every 3 months I don't have to worry about a visa. I'll take care of it eventually.

    M (2008-10-29 13:55:59 ): works out well that you're going to Egypt then! =)

    Anonymous (2008-11-02 10:56:19 ): "DECEAN!" :P

    Brodiemom (2008-11-04 00:56:24 ): When do you leave for Egypt? Will you continue your blog there?

    Cristina :) (2008-11-11 15:28:59 ): I'm so excited that we are going in Egipt! YAYYYY!

    M (2008-11-14 13:28:36 ): fire info: http://www.xanga.com/melissamatilda/682264558/item.html

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    10.17.08: Fideistic Rationalism vs Rational Fideism

    So this kind of one of those which came first, the chicken or the egg questions. To paraphrase the title, is faith the basis for our spiritual beliefs which trumps rational thought or is it the other way around? I remember thinking about this issue before and deciding that I felt that fideistic rationalism seemed more reasonable, meaning that rational is the precursor to spirituality and once we've made a rational decision, we supplement this with faith. The reason that I thought rationalism has to come before faith is mostly because of the way my brain works. I love rationalizing things, often even going too far in my head. I believe that the Covenant that God has shown us is more than reasonable. Obviously, without faith, my spiritual beliefs couldn't be complete. If God made it so everyone could fully believe in God based on rational alone, then there would be no free choice, because it's so blatantly obvious that God exists. In a sense, God would be forcing us to love him based on the overwhelming evidence. But God doesn't want us to be robots, he wants us to have the free will to choose what we want. This whole issue could turn into a tangent, so I'll stop there for now. My point of bringing this up is that God gives us enough rational power to discern what's reasonable and then we must have faith about the things that ration can't fully justify. My major problem with rational fideism (faith has precedence over ration), is that pretty much it feels like a breeding ground for cults. If you put faith over reason, you could end up righteously following Christ, but you could also end up in a cult, justifying all kinds of atrociousness in the name of "faith".

    Well, based on some of the things God has shown me through faith, I've been inclined to evaluate my position of supporting fideistic rationalism. Also, the other day in class, the teacher, Steve shared a story that was very powerful. This made me really think about faith vs reason. So Steve's story was from his first outreach he led which was in Mexico. The paraphrased story is that they were going to a number of places in Mexico where they would be doing various outreaches. It was the night before they were about to leave one night for the next location, out of a wealthy and civilized area of Mexico to a much more primitive area. They had learned of a couple people that had become quite sick, possibly Typhoid. There was also a married couple with a baby that were concerned about the sickness. There were also issues with the bus they were using and some people had expressed concerned about driving very far. It would be more reasonable to stay in the civilized area to fix the bus. So they worshipped and prayed together to see what God's heart was on the matter.

    They had a very powerful prayer and worship time. During that time, a number of Bible verses were laid on people's hearts that all enforced the theme of "Go and I will be with you." Steve was very encouraged that there didn't seem to be a single thought of staying and they would go in faith. Well to Steve's dismay, when they went around after the prayer time and talked about what they thought they should do, every single one of the 26 people thought it would make more sense to stay because of the sickness and bus parts. Steve pretty much said, "God just spoke to us to go during our time of seeking him, I think we should listen to God and go by faith!" Steve was a bit worried that no one else felt the same kind of zeal that he did and it must have been especially difficult knowing that he was going against reason and had lives that could be in danger because of his decisions. But he was confident that God spoke to everyone there and made it clear, so the decision was made.

    To make a long and good story short and lackluster, the trip went amazing. Sickness was suppressed, they miraculously found a part they needed for the old school bus at a tiny little auto parts store. When they got to the village, the response they received was phenomenal. Hundreds flocked to them and gave their lives eagerly to Christ. It's amazing God blessed them for the faith they demonstrated. Who knows what would have happened if they didn't listen to God. Now it's obvious that rationalism trumps faith right... Er, this got me thinking.

    Through these events I've concluded that fideistic rationalism is still the best way to determine God's objective truths. This includes the objective ways that God has revealed himself throughout the ages. But, (this is the new stuff), I can now see that rational fideism is the way we should seek God subjectively. In other words, we should make a decision of who God is, based on a precedence of rationalism. But once we're confident that we have found God, we should give precedence to faith over reason. This is hard for me to type and even harder for me to truly understand. Often times, God's will does align with what humans would call "rational thought". It's very difficult for us deal with things that seem irrational to us. We have the tendency to think that we know everything. But the thing is, with our extremely limited understanding relative to God's, we can't hope to have insight and understanding like God. So at times, we have to do things that God calls us to do that seem irrational. Steve's story illustrates the black and white scenario of following God's will vs following reason. And I have to admit based on evidence from my life, that the rational fideistic way of life (faith over reason), is the way that we need to act in accordance with following God's heart.

    To bring this home, I can think of several stories. The most obvious story was the story of how I came to Romania. I've already written about it so I'll just paraphrase it to show how it supports the point I'm making that when we are discerning God's will we have to give faith precedence over reason. It would have been so easy, so comfortable, so logical for me to stay in Santa Barbara and "advance my career". And from a rationalist point of view, it probably would have been the obvious, correct choice. But I was seeking God's will in the preceding months and God had been building up in my heart a desire to go to Romania. I remember sitting in the scrum area with most of the CallWave Engineering department. And before they even announced the layoffs my heart was already off in Romania, anxious to get back to my desk to email YWAM Cluj and ask them if it was too late to submit an application even though it was already 28 days late, I hadn't started the application yet and the school started in four days. This is where God was speaking to me, revealing his heart to me. Much like Steve's story, I met a strong force of rationalism after God had spoken to me. The evening of the layoffs we had a big get together with all the CallWave people that had been laid off and quit before the day along with with the recent people who got laid off. I remember at least partially trying to block out what God had spoke to me that day about going to Romania. Why? Because everything in Santa Barbara sounded so good, so rational. By the end of the next day I had plans for 6 potential companies in Santa Barbara that wanted to interview me. I must admit, this was certainly a stroke to my ego. There was a wide variety of companies that were interested, from small 6 person start ups, to a branch of Microsoft where my old boss worked and I was nearly certain I could get a job. This was the test! Take the rational route or obey God? Well to make a long story short, I chose to go with what God had put in my heart. It was difficult a few weeks after that hearing about friends flying out to Washington for Microsoft's training program and thinking that it could have been me! But it was worth it. And I don't know what I would have done if I passed up listening to God lead my heart so obviously.

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-10-17 11:09:47 ): That was very well thought out and written. I agree with you about everything you said. God gives our rational minds just enough rationality to get us started in our faith. There is overwhelming evidence that He exists. Then he makes us step out in faith just enough to help us grow. There are so many stories in the Bible that refer to people going against rationality. Noah was asked to build a boat and prepare for rain when it had never rained ever. Abraham was asked to kill his own son, even though the son was promised to him by God in the Abrahamic covenant. Peter stepped out of the boat and onto the water, despite all rationality that tells him that solids are denser than liquids and he would sink. So I agree with everything you said. I just have one thing to add. When deciding between the rational choice and the faith choice in our lives, I think that the faith choice is the rational choice. If God tells me to do something, it's irrational to disobey or to disagree. If God told me to build a boat, kill my son, walk on water, or go to Romania, my rational brain would tell me that obeying God and taking that step of faith is the rational choice, and not the other way around. It's not wishful thinking when I say I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It's my rational mind, looking at God's track record, seeing that He has come through for me in situations 1-99, and believing that He'll be there for me when #100 comes around.

    Popescu (2008-10-20 04:00:06 ): John, i just read up on some of your blog posts. Nice to hear you are having a good time. I took the easy route as you put it and hooked up with adecn. Back in the land of Zak and Dano again and its great. Sorry i don't know any bible quotes :-/

    Brodiemom (2008-10-21 10:59:52 ): You have interesting ideas to consider and ponder. I am probably a proponent of taking the leap of faith first, then learning about God. I think people are diverse and each way can work well, depending upon the person.

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    10.15.08: Cluj & Homosexuality

    So I've talked a little about the ways of the West and how we are seeing more and more ways in Cluj that are being influenced by the West, mostly in negative ways unfortunately. The other day, we learned of yet another immoral cultural movement that was starting right here in Cluj. The first "gay" broadcasting in Cluj has started, broadcasted over the internet. Now if I understand correctly, they want to broadcast this channel to show up on regular tv. It's like the West holding up a piece of candy and Romania grabs it without thinking about it or even looking what it is. That feels like the way that Romania is adopting Western traditions.

    So to kick off this shindig, they were having a gay film festival in town this week. Some people from our base felt inclined to go pray and maybe talk to some people at the film festival, me included. So 4 of us went last night. I wasn't expecting to actually go into the film festival, but we split up into two groups. One group prayed and walked around outside and the other group, the group I was in actually went into the film festival. It was nothing as big as the Santa Barbara Film Festival or whatnot, just a room to fit 100 or so people.

    The movies were about what I expected, except fortunately not as graphic as I dreaded: Very strange, immoral and put across very strong messages that supports homosexual ideals. One of the short films showed a married couple who were pregnant. They went to the doctor for a checkup and the doctor found the baby had a "disease" called "Fabulosity!" Then the camera zoomed in to see the baby in the womb dancing around with rainbows all over him. "Oh no" the parents exclaimed, is there a cure? "I'm afraid not" said the doctor sadly. To summarize the movie, it was trying to state that people are born homosexual or straight. This is one of the core issues in the debate about homosexuality. Of course, there's no scientific proof to either support this claim, so it gives people free reign to think whatever they want.

    I actually learned an interesting argument today by our teacher this week against homosexuality in genetics. According to the Darwinistic, naturalistic way of life that most non-Christians believe in (not all), species survive based on something called natural selection. Now take a moment to think about natural selection combined with homosexuality, think about it... Ok, if you haven't got it yet, I'll connect the dots. If there were such thing as a "gay gene", then it would become extinct! Long before there was artificial insemination, there were homosexual people. How did these homosexual people pass this "gene" on? Sure, some participated in heterosexual relationships and maybe have passed it on. But it's a pretty ridiculous claim to say that homosexual people must do something against their "nature" and have heterosexual relationships if they want their "gay gene" to pass on.

    Another short film showed the struggle of a troubled woman who wanted to become a man. It was so powerfully depressing how she talked about how "there's not just 2 sexes, come on!". These people are just so confused. Then there was a film that showed how monogamous, homosexual relationships can work. I found this particularly comical, since in general, sexual promiscuity is promoted throughout the homosexual community. In fact, the flyer we got when we walked into the festival actually read: "Don't give up sex, give up risk!". That slogan was really powerful, in a dark, dark way.

    The last film we started watching before we left, went further than any of the others before us. It was about this independent film maker who was just trying to make a living. This guy was dressed like a woman. So his quest took him all over the place. He practiced Hinduism for a while, was heavily into drugs for a while. The movie picks up when he went to Cuba and discovered Santeria. Santeria is pretty much a witchcraft cult. Supposedly Fidel Castro secretly practiced this and it helped him avoid US assassination attempts. So this guy, Carlos who made the movie and dressed like a woman, got caught up in Santeria. He went to some priest who told him three things: 1) He has a cavity (oh Billy). 2) There is an evil spirit in his house of his hometown (I don't doubt that) 3) His wife will leave him. 4) He really wants to be a woman at heart. So this guy, Carlos was so touched because he did want to be a woman, as if it wasn't difficult to see from his appearance. And attempting to change genders is normally a pretty good reason for a spouse to leave. Anyways, Carlos went home and did some evil witchcraft voodoo at his house which the priest instructed him to do to remove the evil spirit, some practices that looked extremely silly. He had to wave a towel around his house for a while, then spit some water out of his front door and then close the door 3 times. I couldn't help but laugh at how silly and ridiculous this cult was. No one else in the building laughed. That scared me. Really scared me and helped me to shape some insights.

    So after that, we left and met up and talked with the other Christians who were praying. It was very interesting to see how new the homosexual culture was too many of these Romanians. It's not bad, innocence is nothing to be ashamed of. At one point, noticing the naivety of someone that I didn't expect, I asked one of the Christian guys what he would do if a homosexual walked into his church. His response kind of got me flustered and fired up. He said he wasn't sure. Not sure?!?!?! In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised. He had never thought of what to do. And why would have known what to do if he had never been in a situation where he had to think about it? It was just innocence.

    Well anyways, I was kind of worked up and I went off on my little schmeel. Homosexual people are no different than us. We all have sin in their life. Just because their sin is on the outside and easy to see, doesn't mean they're any worse than the guy sitting next to him, someone who secretly is possessed by greed and pride. Generalization: So much of the church body is quick to cast condemnation to homosexuals and it's very frustrating. By casting homosexuals in a different group and discriminating against them, Christians are just making the situation far worse. Not only are we failing to love our fallen brethren who so obviously need our love, these Christians let the world know that we, Christians are self-righteous, prejudice and judgmental. Generalization over. The Christians that perpetuate these ideals towards homosexuals are doing so tremendously more harm than if they were just sitting at home twiddling their fingers.

    So one question I've thought about is why Christians can be so hostile and judgmental towards one people group. I've determined at least a large portion of the reason for this judgmental attitude is simply pride. Pride in a church manifests itself primarily in a feeling of superiority over another group of people. The other group of people can be another group of Christians or any other people group. This is how churches divide, this is how evil, judgmental attitudes in Christians are developed. If the church looked at homosexuals as sinners who need to be loved, we could overcome this unhealthy sense of superior pride.

    Those were my general revelations about Christian attitudes and stereotypes, now I'd like to go a little deeper. When I was watching these short films I remember God leading my thoughts to ask how this evil exists. When I thought about all these films, I wondered about their childhood, I wondered about what kind of love they received as children. The thing I realized is that these people are just victims of a poor upbringing. They all needed to be loved and they didn't get what they needed as a child. So what did they do? Well combined with the innate human need to have a purpose for their life, they did what so many Americans do. Metaphorically, they closed their eyes, waved their arms about and desperately clung to the first thing that they felt temporarily fulfillment from. Often for American youth it's drugs, sexual immorality and in the cases I was witnessing, it's gender confusion. And then they cling onto it because it's the only way they've felt love and fulfillment in their life before. In this way the Church has failed to reach people. When people they do hear about Christ and the fulfillment that lasts forever instead of temporary fulfillment, it's often in a negative, judgmental light. The Church fails again.

    Now I'm no expert in the subject, but I'm suspicious of how much time and energy people focus on "curing" homosexuality. The way I see it is that homosexuality is just the outer skin of the issue, a symptom of a much deeper problem. I think people can be "straightened out" but I'm not sure if I see the point. If you scratch off a problem on the outer most lairs, the root of the issue is still there. And more bad fruit will fester up on the outer most lairs, just in different forms. I think we need to focus on targeting the root of the problem, which is obviously different in everyone, but in general I think most of the time it's not being loved and not being fulfilled. So I say strop trying to address the surface issue and focus on healing people at the core. Help people receive healing from where the evilness originated so people can be healed from the inside out. Once people have found their identity in Christ, I believe that the outer issues can be resolved much easier. Am I being too idealistic about this process? Maybe. But I feel we have to do believe God can truly change people, inside and on the outside. So as Christians, go out and love people, care about people, don't let pride allow you to be judgmental and self-righteous about any people group!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-10-15 11:02:11 ): Honestly, my first reaction was poor them. They're so confused. How sad. I'm also a sinner that needlessly clings onto my sin of choice. I also desparatly need God's grace and forgiveness on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. What justification could I possibly have for looking down on a sinner if I am a sinner too? Another thought I had was this: Narrow is the path to righteousness and there are few who find it, and wide is the path that leads to destruction. There are alot of Christians in the world. So much that it makes me think that if we were all walking down the path to righteousness, then that path would have to be pretty wide. Jesus said that the path isn't wide, so that means that there are "Christians" out there that think they're on the narrow path, but instead are on the path to destruction. More and more I keep hearing about "Christians" that aren't loving, that aren't serving, that aren't giving, and it makes me think that more and more I could be sitting next to someone in church that I won't get to hang out with in Heaven. Maybe I'm confused about how many Christians are out there, and maybe I'm confused about how wide a "narrow" path can be and still be considered narrow, but it's just something I've been thinking about.

    John (2008-10-16 04:08:18 ): Mike, I think I disagree in general about what you're saying. But before I say more, what passage is that you're speaking of?

    John (2008-10-17 07:10:07 ): Nm, I found the passage, Matthew 7:13-14, unless there's another supporting passage you're talking about. In the NIV it states: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." What I see from this passage is more of an answer to the "Do all streams lead to one river?" question. This passage says no to this question, explaining that not all worldviews lead to heaven. There are a number of worldviews that do lead do destruction. Especially in a generation that supports so much "New Age Spirituality" it's important to recognize this. Well that's what I think of that verse.

    Mike Petty (2008-10-17 11:20:29 ): What about Luke 13:22-30? 22Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, 24"Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' "But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' 26"Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' 27"But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!' 28"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last." This seems to be saying that there will be people that know which door to go through, but they will still be unable to get through it.

    M (2008-10-17 12:57:57 ): John, I can see where your view of that verse in Matthew is coming from, but I'm not sure I agree. The passage isn't talking about multiple roads that lead to destruction. It's talking about one very wide road that is easy to find. ... I dunno... I can see Mike's interpretation as well as yours. But it seems to me that the passage may be more about seeking and about laziness. It's easy to take the big road that everyone is going on--it's an easier journey. But it takes work and seeking to find the narrow gate, and a lot less people really seek it and find it and stay on it. Well, I thought I had a point, but now I'm not sure what it was.. =)

    Brodiemom (2008-10-21 01:28:07 ): John you are so right about how we Christians appear judgmental, self-righteous etc. That is the reason I like the web site of the evangelical Christian donaldmillerwords.com. I need to say something about natural selection because that was one of the area of my graduate studies. First, let me say that there is no evidence one way or the other than homosexual behavior is genetically based. And there probably won't be evidence as such, because there is rarely evidence that complex behaviors are genetically based. But your teacher was incorrect in his reson why homosexual behavior cannot be genetic. He basically said that because homosexuals cannot reproduce, then they could not continue the gene in the gene pool. That is not true. There are many diseases that are y based and lead children to die before their sexual maturity. So how are these genetically-based diseases continued in the gene pool? People carry genes that are not expressed. For example, I have blue eyes but my children have hazel eyes. Even though I have blue eyes I also genes for hazel eyes, they just aren't expressed. I think there is even an example that some people from Africa has a gene that protects them from typhoid so it has a benefit, but that gene is coupled with another gene that leads to sickle cell anemia, a deletrious gene. Isn't that amazing?

    Brodiemom (2008-10-21 01:32:26 ): I have another comment about how we Christians tend to judge homosexuality because it is more appparent. In other words, I feel similar to you. I think gay people are judged more than others because their sin is so obvious. I remember an example from CPC that really cemented this into my brain. At a Saturday night service, a past Elder of CPC gave his testimony about how he was changed. Previously, he had been greedy and used underhanded practices with his clients so that he could earn more money from business deals. This was his way of life, a life of greed. His testimony was that now he had changed through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is wonderful testimony that people need to hear and use as an example that they too can change. But what I realized was that his greediness was during the time he was an Elder, and an Elder has the duty to try to not sin, to live an exemplary life. Needless to say a gay person is not allowed to be an Elder. But this Elder was greedy in his business deals during the time he was an Elder. He had great sin (Jesus mentions love of money, greediness, more often than sexual sin in the Bible) yet did not feel repentance during his time as an Elder. How many Elders of our church are sinning, but their sin is not apparent because it is inside.

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    10.13.08: A Little Orthodox Expedition

    So this Sunday I decided to go to the Orthodox church. Romania is an Orthodox nation and there are a lot of Orthodox churches. I believe all of them are pretty corrupt from what I've heard. I decided I want to see it for myself. The one I went to is kind of in the middle of town. The inside was pretty extravagant, lots of "pretty" pictures and such. Lots and lots of pictures of saints, Jesus was pretty much indististinguishable from saints most of the time. It felt very dark when I was in there. I went at 10am and I think a service was starting around then. When I first got in, I noticed two large lines. The first line I saw was people standing in line to buy stuff. I didn't linger around and stare, but I saw most of the people walk away with candles which I believe were purchases for the atonement of sin. Quite depressing to see so many people so confused and brainwashed. The whole 30 minutes I was there that line was never empty, I'm not sure what else people buy there. I know I've seen random Orthodox people try to sell stuff around town, normally pictures of saints. The other line I saw was a line to go to the front of the church thingy. The line lead to two pictures of which I didn't get a clear view of. They were probably either saints or Jesus or Mary maybe? But the tradition is that they kiss these portraits. I guess it's kind of special, but it was also kind of gross. Can you imagine how many lips have kissed those things just in one day? Definitely thousands. I even saw one guy kiss the picture with some tongue!! Ok, not really. But I mean, do you think they even wash those things? One guy with mono or something could really wreak some havoc.

    Some other random observations about the church is that almost everyone was standing except for a few people sitting on chairs on the isde, mostly elderly. I'm not sure how long the service lasted because I left after 30 minutes, but the whole time during the service, it was just these 5 or so priest-ish people chanting some stuff and then the choir chanting similar stuff after. The priests waved some candles around and stuff, very mundane stuff really. There was also some stuff that I thought was pretty funny. You know how people make the cross on their body, touching their head, then heart then right shoulder and then the left shoulder? And while doing this they say "Father, Son & Holy Spirit." Well it was quite droll to see some lazy people do this. They would start at the bottom of their neck, and then move their hand 2 inches down, 2 inches to the right and then 2 inches to the left. God saw that lazy man! The orthodox people made this cross quite often, I think it had something to do with the way the priests waved their candles around. They would make the cross around twice a minute or so. So needless to say, it was quite funny seeing the lazy guy make his cross. I wonder if any of the orthodox people noticed I wasn't making the cross thingy.

    Not too much more to update about, well that I can think of at least! I'm learning Romanian slowly, the grammar is slowly killlllling me on the inside. You can't take a Romanian sentence and translate it word by word, you have to look at the whole sentence. This is quite frustrating for someone meticulous like me who likes to systematically break things down.

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-10-13 22:05:04 ): Yeah, it would be frustrating for me too. Although, I enjoyed taking spanish in high school.

    Brodiemom (2008-10-14 01:49:37 ): Sounds as though the people had no 'connection' to God. That is sad. My expereince at a Greek Orthodox church with my friend Margo was intersting. In the lobby there is an area with candles. Margo bought me one so I lit it as I said a prayer (weird thing was that my prayer was answered within a week!). The ceiling had icons of 4-5 of the apostles in gold leaf, sort of stylized, not real pictures but icons. That was weird. The choir was in a loft behind us and they sang in Greek. I have to say it was beautiful. I thought the priest (dressed in heavy brightly colored robes) was going to be boring, but his sermon was very down to earth and intersting. Obviously I had a better expereince than you did. You saw people disconnected from God and that is sad. To me their kissing of the portraits seems like a outward manifestation of their ddep desire to know God. I hope they do some day.

    M (2008-10-14 14:16:51 ): interestingly, i just read this: "When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, 'Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.' Peter answered: 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!...Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord.'" Seems like it's pretty clear that for the church to sell something and say people will get a spiritual benefit from it isn't good. But I don't think it's bad that the church sells things...it's just what they advertise it as and what people think it's for. However...if people are generous with the resources God has given them, the church shouldn't have to sell things to make money...so yeah

    M (2008-10-14 15:12:58 ): oh, that was starting in Acts 8:18

    John (2008-10-14 16:53:23 ): That's a great passage M, good job! If it wasn't obvious from my writing, the Romanian Orthodox church is not selling stuff to raise money like a bake sale, it's definitely for corrupt reasons, they're told they need to for repentance. Also, the Romanian Orthodox Bible is not quite the same as the Bible as we consider it. I'm not sure if they have Acts... But it would be interesting to dig deeper...

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    10.9.08: What God Actually Confirmed

    Ok, so I'm super excited about what's going on. I guess I'll just go ahead and explain what I have been trying to understand is God's will or not. Well it is God's will, he's confirmed it quite miraculously as per my description from my last post. Well, actually, first a little background: Our speaker 2 weeks ago, at one point had us have some quiet time and just to ask God what is on his heart. And what I wrote down is truly what I believe God spoke to me. What God spoke to me was not complete sentences, but just a bunch of words. A bunch of words with a strong theme. All of them had to do with missions and discipleship. A lot of them repeated. It was quite interesting, because although I was feeling a bit homesick at the time, I thought about home a couple times and what followed directly after that thought was leaving what I called 'home'. In other words, although my desires at the time would be to return to Santa Barbara, I found it quite clear that this wasn't part of God's plan, at least for now. It was really surprising what I was writing. I knew I had considered being a part of missions but never had such a strong message come to me.

    Well after this time with God I must admit I was a bit shaken up. Because if this was something from God, it was something that I couldn't ignore. But what if this just something that I selfishly wanted, it's feasible that I would try to convince myself to believe it and then tell myself it was from God. I am well aware of both the magnitude of the situation as well as the potential disaster of the situation if I was just making this up in my head. I'm glad I don't have to rationalize this anymore because of God's confirmations.

    So the bottom line, with everything that God has spoken and confirmed is that I am called to be in missions. I don't know the full extent of it but I have a good idea. I have a heart for teaching, counseling, training and worship. These are things I've known for a while. I love the atmosphere at the DTS school and I know I would love to counsel, teach and be a part of future students' lives. I have talked to a few staff here and staying here seems to make the most sense to me, although of course there are those things called 'details' that will have to be worked out eventually. But that is what's on my heart now.

    I know the gifts that God has put on my heart which I have briefly explained. I also know the strong love for Romania and the people here. God has given me love for this country over the years, there's no denying it. Kathy Miller has been a missionary here from the States for the last 14 or so years. She was explaining how she fell in love with Romania. There was a lot I could relate with. She described going to impoverished villages and being given the best food that the people had, giving everything they had. I can relate to exactly what she was talking about, having a very similar story in regards to the first time I went to Romania.

    It's been a really exciting week. The confirmations seem to keep on coming. Two days I was passing by and Alin, the head of the YWAM base here in Cluj started talking to me. Long story short, apparently he had been praying for a drummer for years and so it just happens, I am a drummer :) He was contemplating buying a drum set for the school. They have an old one here, it's very near dead. I think the only thing scrapable from it is maybe the cymbal stands and the base/toms (not the skins though). So it's exciting to see another potential reason why I may be here. Looking back at my time in college, I think it was maybe the 3rd or 4th time I attended Shoreline Community Church in Santa Barbara, the worship team announced that their drummer had left. God's timing is amazing indeed!

    I remember during the conference in Medias I had a vision or just a very intense thought that suddenly came in my mind one day. I just had this idea that would be amazing if the YWAM worship band played live in Cluj. I mean I come from a town where everybody claimed there was 'nothing to do'. But live music? Good live music in a park or something? Who wouldn't want to go to that? And obviously, whether implicitly or explicitly, we would be playing worship music. What a great way to reach younger people. I feel like I'm part of a generation that is spoken to through music so often, where people identify with on a number of levels. As Christians, what better way to reach people than by going out and giving something that people love with a message they need! I don't know, it sounds amazing to me but maybe Iím getting a little too idealistic :)

    Then there was another confirmation this morning when I was reading through my Bible. I had finished Galatians and was looking for something else. I know I've been thinking about the way Communism has impacted Romania. So that's maybe why I decided to take a look at a theocracy (pretty much the opposite of Communism) to see how it worked back then, in the book of Judges. Within the first few chapters I noticed a theme that confirms my decision even more. In Judges, a theocratic leader was appointed by God. During this time, God's people prospered (for the most part). But due to poor education, when that leader died, people often reverted back to paganism and idolatry. Why? Well it seemed like it was shouting off the pages to me that they weren't educated and trained! Itís great to share the good news of God, better than great. But when we only share enough to get them to say a prayer and they are forgotten about, who knows what they really know in their heart? How important it is to train and disciple our generation.

    Comments:

    M (2008-10-09 12:47:38 ): ok, i'm going to start crying here in an empty math classroom. this is so awesome. i'm so excited for you. keep seeking God with all your heart and inspiring others to do the same.

    M (2008-10-10 01:49:50 ): btw, i really agree with you about training and discipleship. there are so many young people who even grow up in the church who don't know hardly anything actually about Scripture and theology or much encouragement in that area. the church really needs people who have a heart for that. which is partly the reason i'm excited about teaching at christian schools. anyway..yeah

    Brodiemom (2008-10-10 02:40:31 ): You are so blessed to be able to hear God speak to you. You are following what is in your heart, and John,your heart is so full of love, it seems you just cannot keep it in but desire to share it. I realize there are a lot of details to be decided. Keep praying and be open. As a side note, before I read your blog today, I worried that in Romania you wouldn't be able to play drums and you wouldn't be able to play tennis. Well, little did I know drumming was a part your stay in Romania. John, have you ever thought about going to seminary? It sounds as though your mind and heart are in this area. But I can understand your love of Romania. There is something so beautiful about the countryside and its people.

    Cristina :) (2008-10-10 13:53:23 ): Yaaaaayyyy! John, is so cool. I'm so excited about this. I'm so happy that God spoke to you and what it's awesome it's that you have heart for the youth. Every time when God is calling somebody to disciple other people, my heart is just jumping :)). I don't have words to say more stuff...but yea, keep praying and seeking God. He is so amazing. P.s: finally we will have a drummer. Thank you, Lord! :)

    Mike Petty (2008-10-13 21:48:14 ): Who was it that said that you were going to go off to Romania, get married, and never come back? Was it Tyler? Well, he's one for two so far...(unless you're already married and just didn't tell us. Then he's 2 for 2.)

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    10.4.08: Confirmation

    So right now my mind is kind of going crazy. It seems that what I've been praying about is being confirmed piece by piece. It's exhilarating, but scary. So I'll say right now that one thing that God has put on my mind since nearly the first day and something that continues to come up over and over again in my mind is what to do after this DTS in January. Something I struggle with is discerning my own voice with God's voice. I know God speaks to people and I know God speaks to me. It becomes difficult for me to discern God's will versus my will when the voice in question is something good. There was a time last week when I felt very passionately about what God was speaking to me. I'll get into what God was speaking to me about later.

    Upon reflection, I realized what I believed was God's will strongly aligned with my own desires. So it was suspect in my mind whether it was God's will or mine. Well, from talking to people, unfortunately and obviously, there's no formula to discern God's will versus my will. But, there are pretty much 3 good ideas I've learned or re-learned to determine who's will it actually is. The first thing is obviously to pray diligently about it. Secondly, is to seek wise, unbiased counsel about it. Third, is to look for confirmation from God. All pretty basic huh? Yea, I agree. And I have been a little frustrated wondering if I would be stumped for the rest of my life about whether or not God actually spoke to me or not. The last few days I've been pretty convinced that the only thing left to do was wait patiently for God to either confirm or deny what was going on. It's been quite interesting seeing how the story has unfolded since.

    1st Confirmation: Right now, I am in the most free and open position in my life right now. Once I finish this school, I can pick up my stuff and do whatever I want, no obligations, just absolute freedom. The only thing that was really holding me back from this was Bart, my kitty, to be continued ;)

    2nd Confirmation: So I was legitimately worried about Bart the last few days. Wondering if he would be abandoned when my old roomies move, wondering if I should come back and take care of him (obviously not the only reason to come back, but just another). My amazing friends came through though. My un-roomie, Mike found a friend who wanted Bart and if that didn't work his loving family would take him, what a great weight off my shoulders! I have been looking and praying for confirmation and bam!

    3rd Confirmation: So this all just happened this evening. Some of the details are hard to explain but I'll do my best to be thorough without taking forever to explain it. So when I left the airport in SF, I had a round trip flight booked to leave SF in September to Romania and return in January. There's a slight problem with this, in that you can only stay in Romania for 90 days without obtaining a visa. A visa must be obtained while in the US and given my time crunch, this wasn't an option for me at all. So when I tried to check-in for my flights, United Airlines had a problem that I didn't have a visa and I was staying longer than 90 days. The problem is that if I went to Romania for longer than the allotted 90 days and came back, United Airlines would be fined heavily for letting me break the allotted 90 days, I would also be fined heavily, something like $100/day I stayed late. That would end up being about $7000 for me so I'm glad they brought it to my attention. But the thing is, I won't be violating any laws. All you have to do is leave Romania and then come back to the country and you get another 90 days! But United Airlines didn't quite like this story, something about blah blah blah the law says they can't do this blah blah blah. So after many phone calls, they finally let me leave the SF airport... after they changed my return flight from January 18th 2009, to December 1st, 2008. Hmm, that's helpful. A flight right in the middle of the school. I didn't like this at all, but they said it was the only way they could let me get on the flight to Romania, so I complied.

    So I've been putting off talking to the airlines to try to re-assign my ticket back to January 18th because I figured it would be a pain. Tonight I did it, OH BILLY! It was a huge pain. But a blessing in the end. So, I started by calling CheapTickets. They let me know they couldn't do crap, but they could call Lufthansa, who was in charge of my flight. This is where it got just plain silly. So now we're on a conference call with someone from Lufthansa. So get this, there's a $250 charge if I want to switch my flight time back to January. I complain, he talks to his superior. So he comes back and to summarize, his supervisor let him know that if I wanted to change my ticket, it wouldn't be $250 (yeay!), it would be $500!! Yep, that's right. If I want my plane ticket to be what it was ORIGINALLY, I would have to pay the fee when United switched it originally and then a fee to switch it back! I asked the Lufthansa guy a couple times how the heck United switched the date without having to pay the fee but he had no idea. So now the CheapTickets guy, the Lufthansa guy and me are on a conference call and of course it's time to make this a 4-way call and get a United Airlines guy on the phone too to ask them how the heck they hacked the system and didn't have to pay for the flight change. Then I get the message that I love to hear when using CallWave on my computer, "You have 3 minutes left." So I explain the situation and call Lufthansa back and talk to someone different who gives me the same answer as the first Lufthansa person after talking to her supervisor. Then I called United Airlines where they pretty much said there's nothing they could do because I still don't have a visa and anyways, they don't much feel like paying $500 to get my flight back to its original state. So that was a fun 1.5 hours tonight.

    Now of course I could just pay the fee to get the ticket back. But at that price, I'd be paying over 50% of the ticket over again. Financially, I could. But God knows me. He knows I'm frugal and he knows that I look at the principle of the matter. I feel like I'm caught in a maze when I think of this matter and it's quite frustrating. At least it was frustrating for about a minute or two. Then I couldn't help but get excited. To me this is like God metaphorically clearing his throat and saying, 'Believe me yet'? It's kind of amazing how a story so frustrating and unsuccessful can end in extreme excitement just moments later.

    4th Confirmation: My Aunt sent me an email the other day and it was all about "confirmation" in her church. Exciting!

    So I mentioned earlier in this post that I would GET TO THE POINT later and finally say the matter of which I was debating if God was speaking to me or not. Well I may have misled, I will state what the matter that God spoke to me about, but not today! Ohhh, a cliffhanger, Weeee ;) The point I want to get across right now is that God is faithful and does give us confirmations to what he speaks to us, it's just not as obvious as we would like all the time. We have to be in close communication with God and we have to look for His signs. Oh and we also have to be patient!

    Ok, time to catch up on some updates. Today, we went to a children's hospital where we did ministry. We sang some fun songs, did a craft, skit and some other fun stuff. I think it went really well. The kids ranged from 5 to 16, mostly in the 6-7 range. There were maybe around 12 kids there and then some of them had their mother with them. We wanted to teach the kids that God loves them and that you can talk to God through prayer anytime. It was my job to write the message which I gladly volunteered for, anything to get out of doing something like making the skit or craft! I like speaking sometimes now. We decided to incorporate the message with the skit. We would have a girl crying out to God and I would be God and answer her. It's kind of challenging to think up a message that's simple enough for little children to understand but at the same time, teaches them something important. Overall, it went well. I don't know quite enough Romanian to speak to the children efficiently, but I want to get there.

    So about last Saturday, I started feeling a little sick. (DISCLAIMER: I don't get sick, just a "little sick"). So by Monday I was coughing and had quite a runny nose. But since I'm so good at sharing, I decided to spread the sickness, err, I mean spread the love and get 3/4 of the rest of the school sick. It's quite nice to look back on the week and know that you accomplished something this week, hah! I'm better now, just a little cough left, but sore throat and runny now are gone. A fair amount of people are still sick though, oops! Maybe I should have washed my nalgene bottle more than once in the last month? Hmm, too late now!

    In terms of culture shock, so far it hasn't been too bad for me. I remember a lot of it from the last time I was here. One thing that I have been a little naive about is culture about partial nudity, mainly guys with shirts off. I know at Westmont, everyone, well most people walked with a towel to the shower. It was just natural. Apparently this is not acceptable in this culture, heh. Also, a couple of times, people have knocked to come in and I would be ignorantly reading or something with my shirt off. The girl would look shocked to see me with my shirt off, oops! Guess it's a cultural thing. In Santa Barbara I go to work with my shirt off! (Well not really, that's a lie). It reminds me of the one time I got kicked out of school. I was in pre-school and it was hot so I took my shirt off. Apparently I refused to put it back on, I don't remember it too well. But wouldn't it be funny if I got kicked out of this school for the same reason, hah!

    A few days ago, a group of us went to a Jewish synagogue for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. We weren't really inquiring about Judaism, just interested in observing some culture. I think, if I heard correctly that they only allow non-Jews into this synagogue this one time a year. The service was mind-numbingly boring. The rabbi dude read the Torah in Yiddish for an hour. I would have been happy to leave after 5 minutes. There were some cool looking Jewish dudes though. Also yamakkas (I have no idea how to spell this), how do they stay on?! They look like they just rest on your head, but I would jerk my head about violently and they would just stay on in a magical fashion. It was interesting to see practicing Jewish people in a religious ceremony, I wonder if the service was like a Jewish service would be like before Christ. I doubt they would be very similar.

    Someone asked me what my experience was the last time I was in Romania so I'll say a few words about that. I went with my church 2 different occasions. When I first went to Romania in the summer of 2001 I felt like I was in a totally different world, I learned a lot about God. I know and even recognized it at the time that at least part of the reason I felt this way was just because I was in a new place, it was exciting and that in a situation like that, and given how spiritually immature I was, it's easy to confuse God's presence with just an awesome experience. But I could tell it was more than just an awesome experience by the way it impacted my life and changed my focus. When I left after my 2 week trip in 2002, I wasn't sure if I was going to be back. I knew I would think and pray about it, but I wasn't sure. I think it was just the closeness to God that clung to me through the years. I still remember where I would have my quiet time. I still remember where I sat. I still remember what it felt like to be totally immersed in God's presence. I remember one time I was called on to pray in front of a big group. I'm not great at improvisation and this was a huge group of over 100, more than I was used to talking to. I remember walking up to pray and instead of thinking of what I was going to pray about all I could think was "oh crap, oh crap, oh crap." I started to pray and every time I had to wait for the translator to speak I thought "oh crap, oh crap, oh crap." I have no idea what I prayed about but I think it went well. That was just one moment where I know I could be used by God fully. That was just one memory that stuck out. I think through that time, God put Romanian people on my heart.

    Some other news, Gabby, the wife leader of YWAM Cluj, just had her 2nd baby, Julia. It was a very exciting time. We heard she was having trouble getting that baby out (she was at least a week overdue) and we prayed she wouldn't have to have a c-section. Within 30 minutes we learned she had pushed the baby out, yeay! Very cute baby.

    I'm going out of town this weekend with one of the staffers, Ana Maria and 2 other students. It should be fun, we're going to a very historic town, "Alba Julia". I know nothing about it yet. We're leaving in about 4 hours Weee. I wanted to write an update since I've been slacking. God is good and I'm excited for the confirmation he has shown me!

    Comments:

    M (2008-10-03 23:52:39 ): good points: diligent prayer. and patience. i need to work on both of those things...seems like i've been trying to and failing for years. but i can hear you saying that's not a reason not to keep trying, and you're right. =) booo cliffhangers

    Brodiemom (2008-10-05 01:33:35 ): Iam glad you are getting opportunities to give sermonettes and speak in public. I am proud of you. You are quite the fiction/nonfiction writer creating cliffhangers. I think I followed your story, but I dont' understand the reason you said you need to return to the US to get a Visa, yet you don't seem to be planning to do that. That part doesn't mesh with what you seem to be leading up to. BUT I guess that is the reason it is a cliff hanger! I am also trying to get engaged with listening to God. My small group is reading The Way of Prayer and it is about the different ways of praying and yes, praying with your eyes opened! It is about getting still inside, getting rid of the running dialogue we have in our heads, clearing our minds to we can hear God. It comes with practicing. We are all committed to really trying the suggestions in this book, The Way of Prayer by Jane E Vennard. It is a Companions in Christ book.

    Skylar (2008-10-05 16:53:14 ): This is an awesome blog... im really glad to hear that God has spoken to you on that level!! :] And that Bart is in good hands!!!

    Mike Petty (2008-10-07 16:06:37 ): Bwahaha, you think Bart's in good hands. Actually he's in my basement sweat shop knitting South American quilts along with all the other neighborhood kitties that have gone "missing" recently. On an unrelated note, does anyone want to purchase a finely hand crafted authentic South American quilt. I can get you a good deal, only $100.

    John (2008-10-08 01:51:04 ): Hand crafted or paw crafted...?

    Mike Petty (2008-10-20 12:52:05 ): edit: hand* crafted * - crafted by cats that don't have paws instead of hands.

    Mike Petty (2008-10-20 12:53:34 ): double edit: hand* crafted. (* = crafted by cats that have paws instead of hands.) (Why, when I hit enter in the comment box to create a new paragraph, does it not carry over when I click add comment?)

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    9.28.08: Church & Stuff

    So, I'll start with the "stuff". Once again I'm struck by the awesomeness of God's timing. The last 2 teachers that have visited the school over the last 2 weeks have taught a lot about spiritual warfare and healing. One of my best friends, Tyler, just told me something that kind of rocked my world. His mom has been dealing with cancer for the last year or so. It was getting better. Now it's labeled "terminal" and "incurable". My heart breaks for Tyler and his family. It's good to know that his mom has always brought so much joy wherever she goes and whatever the circumstances. But I can't stop thinking about my discussions with Don and wondering what God thinks of an "incurable" illness. I encourage you, wherever you are, to pray for a healing for Tyler's mom. I'm not sure what more can be done except prayer.

    So Today I went to church with Cristi again, a church called 'Agape'. There were only about 15 people, but it was nice. They asked me to speak again. Last time it was whatever I wanted, this week it was themed ;) He gave me about 5 minutes to think about something to speak that had to do with the prodigal son. Fortunately, I was already of thinking what God had been teaching me so I had a good idea about what I was going to talk about. It didn't really tie that well into the prodigal son, but it went well enough. It's strange, I've never liked public speaking, at all, but I was very comfortable speaking. I think I figured out why. Nearly every time when I have spoken in a public manner, it was something that I wasn't very passionate about. But when God's teaching me neat things, I enjoy it. It's also really nice speaking with a translator because you get some extra seconds to think of what you're going to say next. I don't think I'm gifted enough to be really good at public speaking, but it's nice to know that when I'm passionate about something I can speak every once in a while. Here's pretty much what I talked about, a little more eloquent and bulky I'm sure:

    One thing that God has been teaching me recently is that we need to constantly strive to be transferring head knowledge ( things we know in our head) to heart knowledge ( something we have experienced and know to be true). It's very easy to get a lot of head knowledge. Head knowledge in and of itself is not bad. But if we want to truly understand God's heart, head knowledge isn't going to help us and in time, if head knowledge is refined and not converted to heart knowledge, it can even be a hindrance on our relationship with God. When I first became a Christian, it was really hard for me to understand God. I was learning a lot about him, head knowledge, but I'm the type of person that if I don't experience something, I don't really gain heart knowledge of it. It wasn't until God was doing things in my life that I really cultivated my knowledge and idea of God in my heart.

    I didn't grow up in the church, so quite often the following happened: I would hear something in church, read something in the Bible, hear something a Christian said or even just observe Christian behavior and I would belief a certain principle. Then, days or even years later I would come across the head knowledge I had learned and realize that it was either partially untrue or completely untrue. This greatly bothered me, especially being someone who is very stubborn and has trouble admitting when I'm wrong. To admit that I've taken for granted some belief, only to realize that it's rubbish is really hard for me. That's why I've learned it's so important to critically analyze what we belief so we can make the jump from head knowledge to heart knowledge. My Pastor Dan from Santa Barbara in a sermon, encouraged us to question what he was preaching, to look in the Bible and see if what he says was actually true because even he makes mistakes. That's the kind of attitude we need to have.

    Here are just a few of the things that I've always thought about one way, but when thinking about it deeper, realized that I didn't know what I was talking about. One thing that was brought up recently, it isn't profound, but just an example, is praying with our eyes closed. Why do we pray with them closed? Did Jesus or anyone in the Bible ever explicitly close or open their eyes? Or is it just the culture we live in that has taught us to think a certain way without questioning it? Sure, closing your eyes probably makes it easier to focus, especially for the people who get distracted easily. But why not pray with your eyes open too? I say again, it's not a profound point, I'm just trying to get you to think about areas in your life that you have head knowledge that hasn't been converted into heart knowledge.

    A more profound realization for me was thinking about evolution. In high school, I was taught a very strict 5000 year theory with no question of doubt. I'm not going to get into that whole debate, but what I learned from thinking and praying about evolution is that human minds are inadequate to understand a lot of stuff. If God wanted us to know a lot of things, why did he leave so much ambiguity in the Bible? It's actually quite simple if you think about it. God knows that men will and always have wanted to tear about the words of God, looking for one little blemish that would blow apart our whole system of relying on the Truth of the Bible. Why give the legalists more ammunition for bad-mouthing God when there are certain principles and ideas that humans cannot just understand. That's why the Bible doesn't tell us every single detail about humanity and the earth we live in. Because we wouldn't be able to comprehend so much of it and even if we did, we don't NEED to know it. It could also be an issue of having faith in God. If God gave too much proof that he exists that every rational being in the universe could be easily convinced that He exists, then there would be no freedom of choice because only a mentally deranged person wouldn't accept Christ as Lord. ( Ok, I didn't talk about this last paragraph in church)

    Another reason why we should strive for heart knowledge, is that God's Covenant with us is personal. Before Christ, the Covenant ( or contact ) between God and his people was not personal. People were saved through observing the law. To be blunt, I don't think it would be a fun time to live in, in retrospect with my knowledge of Christ at least. But Christ came to make a new Covenant with his people. A personal Covenant that revolves around grace and faith. The head knowledge that people had before Christ was how people were saved. But now, a personal relationship with Jesus will only suffice. You cannot obtain this relationship through head knowledge! The only way to initiate and grow deeper in this personal relationship is through heart knowledge, experiencing God for ourselves. ( Ok, this didn't have much to do with the prodigal son ;)

    Ok, well that was my mini-sermon, plus a little more based on what I've though about. Sorry it was long! Ok, about this weekend... Friday we had a "Love Feast", not to be confused with a "Love Fest". It's hard to differentiate the 2 phrases from people with Romanian accents ;) In layman's terms, it was a party. It was really fun. We decorated, ( well I didn't much! ) and prepared food and stuff. Then we had a quasi talent show / played games. There's one game that I thought was really fun and is worth mentioning. So there are about 6 people, a scarf, mittens and a hat. Oh, there's also a very intensively wrapped package. So the 6 people roll a dice. When they get a 6, they have to put on the scarf, hat and mittens and attempt to open the package. The first person to break through gets whatever is in the package. But the catch is, people are taking turns rolling a dice, fast! So if person A rolls a 6 and starts putting on the misc clothes and unwrapping the package, and person B rolls a 6, person A has to stop and give their clothes to person B. It's really fun. I got to play it. I wrapped a few layers off of the package, but there were a lot! So that was Friday evening, really fun.

    On Saturday, 3 friends and I went to the Cluj mall. It was fun to hang around Cluj and stuff, wasn't too keen on the shopping! It's a pretty cool area. We went to Pizza Hut for dinner, it was probably the best Pizza Hut I had ever been to. We walked back to meet up with some friends to watch the Batman movie. On the way back, we stopped at this really cool fountain plaza area. They had lights and loud classical music and a really cool water fountain! It was a really fun evening. Then we all saw the movie, and went back home. Then I watched the new Office thanks to Ryan who got it for me. And then played some cards and went to sleep.

    I've been feeling a little sick the last few days. Notice I said a little sick, which is vastly different from being sick. If you're sick, you're impaired and stay home from work/classes etc. But I don't get sick, right Mike?! At least that's what Mike's reference form said ;) But my nose is a little runny and throat is a little sore. That won't hold me back though! Another week is about to begin, I bet this one will go as fast as the last one. Pray for Tyler's mom!!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-09-30 17:13:25 ): You're not sick. If I said you don't get sick it must be true, therefore you're not sick. QED. That scarf/dice game sounds fun. What if when you "roll" a six, you "roll" it in such a way that the dice ends up really far from everyone else ("roll" = throw), and you get to unwrap the package for a long time? ;) That's cool about heart/head knowledge. I agree with it, and I think there's even a Bible verse that backs you up. James 1:22, Do not only be hearers of the word, but doers of the word. Don't just hear the word and store it in your head, go out and do it and live it with your heart. :)

    M (2008-10-01 13:05:09 ): i was wondering--when did you go to romania before, and with who? i remember you saying something about it, but i can't remember the details. and i was curious, what about the last experience made you want to go back again?

    John (2008-10-01 15:40:51 ): Good question agent M. I'll touch on that in my next post.

    John (2008-10-01 15:50:02 ): RE: Dice game - You see it's risky to throw the dice far. Except for the very first person to roll a 6. But once someone has rolled a 6, there's always someone unwrapping the package. So if you chuck the dice and a 6 doesn't roll, you're giving the person a lot of time to unwrap the package. See how that works? I suppose that before someone has rolled a 6 it would be smart to chuck them, but normally people are just learning how the game works at that time and haven't thought about intricate strategies by then. But if we ever play it, I will your hax.

    Anonymous (2008-10-01 17:45:31 ): oh and what happened with your Visa? just wondering

    M (2008-10-01 17:45:50 ): oops i was anonymous by accident =)

    Brodiemom (2008-10-02 11:17:26 ): I am praying for Tyler's mom. I am so sorry to hear about her. Do I think there can be a miracle. Certianly. But do I think that if a miracle doens't occur that that means I didn't pray enough, or pray with enough faith? No. God wouldn't lay such a guilt trip on us. Also it just doesn't make sense. If a baby dies in its mother's womb, does that mean the baby didn't pray enough? Or that the mother and family didn't pray enough? If a baby is born with a genetic defect and dies within two years, does that mean there hasn't been enough prayer? Of course not. Miracles happen sometimes, and we don't understand the reason. Only God does. In the cases above, we pray but if our prayers are not answered we celebrate that baby living for two years. We celebrate what we have been given in life by God. Even if we are at a very low point, we can celebrate that we have God's love. We may be destitute. We may be so ill and almost at death's bed, but we have that 'peace and love that surpasses all understanding" and that can bring us comfort, even when the 'outside' world is in chaos.

    Mike Petty (2008-10-03 13:50:46 ): When I throw the dice across the room, of course I'm assuming that it will fall down a vent, land on a 6, the 6 will be verified visually with a flashlight, but the dice will not be able to be retrieved without powertools, giving me ample time to open the package, and win the game.

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    9.26.08: New Thoughts & Revelations

    So I got to talk to Don today some more. I must say the conversation didn't go like I expected it to. We dove right in. Don admits that God does allow evil to happen, but that anything can be prayed for and healed. I'm still not sure how I feel about that, but I'm leaning towards that making sense. Then he brought up some other challenging points.

    Challenging point 1: The Old Testament is antiquated! This struck me as quite a strange statement. The way he explained is that before Jesus there was the Covenent of the Law. The people were saved by the Law, that was the way people communicated with God. That was the contract or Covenant between God and his people. So Galations 3 is a passage I've read before but apparently not well enough. To sum up the chapter, it's declaring that the old Covenant of the Law is gone and the new Covenant of Grace & Faith completely replaces it. Don went as far as to say that we don't even have to pay attention to keep the 10 commandments, saying that they're useful in a sense but no longer needed. Man, do I have the desire to see Don and TL3 go at each other in a debate. Anyways, now what I was always tought is that this passage calls for certain laws from the OT to be antiquated, not the entire thing. The way I was taught was that there were "moral" and "ceremonial" laws from the OT. Along with these laws, there are many chapters about God that tells us about his character. Ceremonial laws are definitely gone. This is the specific way that people related to God and are no longer necessary. Moral laws like the 10 commandments, I always thought and was taught should still be kept. Also, chapters that tell us about God's character I always thought as having the same importance as anything from the NT. But according to Don, ( which I don't agree with, it's not clear ), everything from the OT is antiquated because it was written before the new Covenant. I forgot to mention that Abraham's Covenant IS carried over from the OT, as depicted in Galations 3: 15-18. So it was interesting wrestling with this interesting and new view of the OT that I hadn't thought about before. I am not saying for certain that Don's theory is wrong and I'm glad I had a chance to critically analyze what I actually believe about this issue, for it is something that I honestly haven't thought that much on my own about, but have been merely fed by others.

    Well, the reason this was brought up was because in Job it's obvious that God allowed the Devil to torment Satan. And even though Job was faithful, incredibly righteous and still shunned evil, God did not heal and restore Job until much later. This puts a damper on Don's theory. But since it's in the OT, the book of Job is antiquated and doesn't hold as much power as the NT. Don admitted that if the book of Job was theoretically in the NT rather than the OT, he would have to re-evaluate his position.

    Challenging Point 2: Another issue which was brought up during this talk was the issue of Lutheran predestination. Pretty much the idea that God knows everything, even events that haven't happened yet. Some say that if God knows how everything is going to happen then we have no free will. I feel like I've already argued this thing to death and came out on the side that God does know everything even in the future. I don't think it takes away from our free will, which I know is so vitally important to so many core Christian ideals and also, obviously, to the heart of God. I think it's really hard to think about it. But God knows infinitely more than us so it's not hard to imagine that God can know what you're choice to make without depriving you of your freedom of choice.

    One of Don's points that supports that God knows everything but cannot possibly know the future is that there are Biblical examples of where God has changes his mind. The 2 he brought up were Genesis 18 & 1st Samuel 15. Genesis 18: 16-33 talks about how Abraham seemingly "negotiates" with God and brings down the number of righteous people that need to be found to save the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. This negotiation is hard to pinpoint as God changing his mind. It's indecisive. It seems more like a game of guessing the number. God says he won't destroy S&G if there are fifty righteous poeple. And then Abraham's like "What if it's less than 50?" And then God's like, "Yes, I would do it if you find 45"... Etc etc and Abraham finally is happy to find that God would spare S&G if 10 righteous people were found. If you ask me, it just seems that Abraham was bad at math ;) Any logical person would know that the more efficient way would have been to keep guessing n / 2 to narrow down the number set a lot faster than the way Abraham did it. This would have saved Abraham many guesses and might have even gotten a more accurate number! Well with all that said, I don't think it's obvious in any way that Abraham changed God's mind. It's possible, but not proof.

    The other passage where God "changed his mind" is 1st Samuel 15:10-11. In this passage, God expresses "grief" that God has made Saul king. Ok, does this show that God made a mistake? Does this show that God changed mind? He thought Saul was going to be all buddy-buddy with God, but Saul did something God didn't see coming? I don't think so. I think this passage shows that God is hurt when we rebel from him. God's heart breaks when his people stray from him, especially ones that were once close. Now, I realize in other translations of the Bible, this wording is different. I have been looking at the NIV. In the NAS, for example the wording is "I regret that I have made Saul king." In the good old NLT (Thanks TL3!) it says "I am sorry that I ever made Saul king." This version isn't harsh like the NAS. I guess I would have to fully understand the Greek to put forth a confident answer about whether God changes his mind or not. For now, I will just have to add this to the list of "I'll know when I get to heaven" because there doesn't seem to be an obvious answer for us mere humans. I now just have to learn to be perfectly content with that answer ;)

    Ok, well that's the stuff I've been contemplating. I must admit that I love it when I contemplate on issues that I've accepted for so long without thoroughly analyzing. Ok some lighter notes: I saw the sun for the first time in TWELVE days!! I guess there were 2 days I could notice the sun behind a sea of clouds, but today I actually saw the real thing. Of course tonight it started raining again, hah! What else... We're doing a mini-outreach at the children's hospital on Monday. A little 30 minute presentation thingy. I got to make up the message, it's quite challenging trying to think up how to relate prayer to children. We have a really creative team though ( where I lack ) and we're making a great mini drama and stuff that makes the whole thing fun. Apparently I have a very good voice to play God? I didn't quite understand why, I think they said because my voice was deep and mellow?

    Tomorrow we're having a "Love Feast", which pretty much means a party. There was some contriversy between the non-Romanian speakers whether it was a "Love Feast" or "Love Fest" ;) It should be really fun tomorrow. Also, I realized I didn't bring my chord to download my pictures to my computer or recharge my camera. But never fear, Cristina, one of the staffers, takes an exorbitant amount of pictures and she's very good. So I don't think I'll need my camera much anyways! I must say that the time is going by at an alarming rate. Only when I stop to think about Santa Barbara does the time seem to slow down a bit. This week has gone by way too fast, but I guess that's at least a good thing on some levels. I found at least one person here is excited for 'The Office' premiere too, so that should be fun. I'm also learning more Romanian. When people talk now I can now understand maybe 1 of 5 words and I can say very simple statements. It's going to be a long journey but I'm enjoying it so far!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-09-25 16:30:12 ): When I got to this part: "Man, do I have the desire to see Don and TL3 go at each other in a," my imagination got really excited. Then as my eyes traced back to the next line I found, "debate." Awww, I thought you were going to set up a steel cage match of doom or something. I partly agree that we're under the new covenant, and don't need the old covenant anymore, but there are still valuable lessons, and important history, contained in the Old Testament. It kinda sounds like he wishes the Bible was only the New Testament. That's kinda weird to me. Have fun at your Love Feast. Remember to pace yourself. Too much love to fast may induce fits of pining for a soul mate, the ability to watch 6 Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movies in a row, and the inability to watch professional wrestling.

    Mike Petty (2008-09-25 16:31:14 ): edit: "Too much love, too fast, may...

    M (2008-09-26 20:00:48 ): 1) i saw barty yesterday when we watched the office :D 2) if God is outside of time and not limited by time and is infinite...why can't he know the future and why does that necessarily take away our free will? anyway, that's a rhetorical question. i feel like i've thought that one to death too. 3) i would also love to see TL3 and Don debate. it would be intense. =) 4) yes, the old testament is old, and much of it doesn't directly apply to us. but does that mean we can't learn important things from it, like about God's character? especially if we believe that God *doesn't* change, his character doesn't change, then the OT has SO many things that are relevant to us to learn about who our God is. i've also always leaned in the direction of their being moral and ceremonial laws in the OT and the moral ones still matter. i still think that. but i could see how it could be argued that really the teachings of Jesus are the new covenant, and Jesus says things about divorce and mu

    M (2008-09-26 20:04:20 ): hmm apparently there is a character limit.. i think i said something like this: Jesus says things about divorce and murder too, and they are more strict than the 10 commandments (don't even look at someone lustfully, much less commit adultery; don't even say angry words to someone, much less murder). Jesus reiterates the 10 commandments in many ways. i don't see how they couldn't be relevant. anyway, i said more but i can't remember the way i phrased it now.

    John (2008-09-27 03:01:09 ): Ok M, I fixed the comment thing, now it's 10,000 characters opposed to 1000. I think you're right about the OT. Playing devil's advocate, I'll try to explain what I think Don meant a little better. The Covenant of the NT is so drastically different than the Covenant of the OT that we can not take anything THEOLOGICALLY from the OT, especially when there's something in the OT that doesn't seem to match up with something in the NT. That doesn't mean we can't learn about God's character and his old Covenant with his people. And I think we do learn a lot about God from the OT. But we have to be differentiate learning about God's character and incorporating it into our own theology, because it is a different Covenant. And although God certainly doesn't change, God's Covenant with his people certainly does change. It's a very fine difference between God changing and his Covenant changing. With that said, I still agree with you for the most part and not what I just wrote, I just wanted to present the other side in a fair manner. I think you and Don would actually be in agreement about Jesus re-iterating the 10 commandments which seems like support that the 10 commandments are in fact antiquated. I'm almost certain that every principle from the 10 commandments are covered in the NT, which makes me think... I'm still not sure though :)

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    9.25.08: The Personality Test & Does God Allow Evil?

    So I forget if I've mentioned it before, but almost every week a new speakers comes and visits with us. This week it is a husband/wife team, Don & Cheryl who will be teaching about personalities and hearing God's voice. If the combined subject matter seems strange to you, then you're not the only one. But today, we took the personality test and I think we'll be talking about this for at least another day or two. I've taken this test several times before, although maybe I slightly different variation. But the results seemed very familiar. It's called the D.I.S.C. test. It's a very short test where you rate how certain groups of words describe yourself. The main categories are Dominant, Influencing, Steadiness & Compliance. It would take a while to go through all the differences and there's probably resources online somewhere, but I ranked very high in S & C, very low in D & I. To summarize, S represents logic, passivism, practical, loyal. C represents analytical, precise side. D represents leadership, confidence, goal-oriented. I represents creative, emotional, talkative etc. So needless to say, the results didn't surprise me. It was fun to look around at the whole class and snicker as our realizations and stereotypes were enforced. It was a very useful exercise in trying to understand people though, I must admit. Just yesterday while preparing a big lunch for the school, it was very obvious to see how the Dominant personalities clashed and the S-type personalities (like me!) tried to keep the peace and follow orders efficiently.

    I have also noticed something funny. I don't think I've mentioned 'Romania time' yet, but Romanians are notorious for being late. A Romanian 10 mins can mean anywhere from 15-20, depending on the person. I couldn't help but notice nearly (or every) Romanian was quite strong in the 'I' personality trait. This is the trait that represents a kind of free-spiritedness, which often leads them to be late all the time! ;)

    So today's entry has 2 very different subjects since I've been slacking on writing. So today, Don talked about hearing God's voice. It was very obvious and reviewish for a while like I was expecting. Then it got real spicy. He mentioned that he really wanted us to think about what he was about to say and that it's not imperative that we all necessarily believe it.Now a little background, most of the YWAM people/speakers are quite charismatic, meaning they believe very strongly in the ability to heal and speak in tongues and stuff. So I forget exactly what he was talking about, but he started talking about healings. He stated that if you pray for someone and they're not healed then there's 2 possible explanations for it. 1) God is a liar or 2) You lacked the faith/closeness to God. He kind of brushed past this which got me thinking something like "Ummm, what about the 3rd option of God allowed evil to happen?". Well, he never stated this, although I patiently waited for him to come back to it. So I brought up the point that shouldn't there be a 3rd option where God allows evil to happen.

    This is where it got real spicy. So he said that he was glad I brought that point up because he wants us to question our beliefs that the church has been feeding us, look through the Bible, critically search our hearts and at least think about if the church has been feeding us the true Word of God. I must say, as a very contrarian thinker, I totally agree with this point. There have been many times in my life that I have held a belief about God my whole life, not because I've thought about it and come to a rational conclusion, but because someone at some point in time made me believe it and I blindly accepted it without thinking it. And often times, these things that I have been taught and blindly accepted are right. But, on several occassions, I have been appalled to realize that things that I had accepted for so long were just totally proposterous and not necessarily true at all. I could go off on that tanget, but I'll get back to the point.

    What he said is that if something bad happens we can always stop/heal/repair it. In other words, God doesn't allow any evil to happen that we can not stop. He didn't explicitly say this, but he jumped around it to try to get us thinking about this issue. I'm almost certain that's what he'll say tomorrow. I will talk to him tomorrow and we'll see if he confirms this. My first reaction was to almost laugh in disbelief at what I was hearing. It almost feels that we are playing God if we think we can cure any illness. You see, for as long as I remember knowing or caring about God, I have always thought that God allowed evil. But I was having another one of those moments where I believe something but I can't think WHY I believe it, which gets me a little worked up that I could believe something for so long that's not necessarily true!

    Then I started to think about it from the other angle, that maybe he's right. He did have some good points. Why would God allow anyone to have cancer? That's a simple situation to think about it. Does God ever smite someone with cancer? Why would an all-loving God purposefully smite or allow something like this to happen? Ok, I think it's pretty easy to rule out the possibility that God smitten something with cancer. But, what about the case where God allows something evil to happen? Well, according to the speaker today, we can heal/fix anything if we pray to God with...enough gusto (for lack of a better word), I'm not sure the best word to use.

    So I've been reading through Job today and I find it very hard to believe that God never allows evil. We'll see what happens today!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-09-25 11:01:04 ): Matt 13:24-30 talks about the parable of the weeds. God only planted the good seed, but Satan came in and planted weeds. This parable seems to me to be saying that there will come a day (the harvest/end times) when the weeds will not be tolerated, and will be thrown into the fire. However, until that day the weeds will be allowed to stay because if you pull out the weeds, you might pull out the wheat as well. Does this parable say that God allows evil? Maybe. I'm not a Bible expert. There's also a difference between evil and trials. Gold is refined in the fire, but is the fire evil? One last thing. There are Biblical examples of prayer changing God's mind. Remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? Abraham prayed a few times trying to save the city if only he could find some righteuos men, and God said ok. (Genesis 18) Well, those are all the thoughts in my head. Let me (and the rest of the internet through this blog) know how the next talk goes. :)

    John (2008-09-25 14:37:32 ): I'm aware of 2 popular instances where God "changed" his mind. Genesis 18 & 1st Samuel 15 where God is "grieved" that Saul is king. Both instances don't definitevly say God changes his mind, although it's one possible interpretation.

    Mike Petty (2008-09-25 16:13:48 ): True, and in my case God didn't really change his mind. He wanted to destroy the city and He did. I suppose it's more an example of God hearing our prayers than anything else.

    M (2008-09-26 19:49:52 ): what about tornados and forest fires...etc? if we have enough faith than there won't be any of those either? i guess i'm thinking that what this guy is saying makes sense theoretically. but this is a fallen world. no one's faith is perfect. maybe if everyone had faith all the time, then there would be no evil that God allowed to happen, because we would all have enough faith that it wouldn't happen at all. but the fact is, this is a fallen world, not everyone has faith (and those who do sometimes see miracles). but because it's a fallen world...and not everyone has faith... there IS evil that happens. or things that happen that aren't the way God intended. such as cancer. etc. but then what about death? if we have enough faith, we won't die? death isn't the way things are supposed to be. but i thought one of the whole points of the resurrection is that death has been conquered. the resurrection of Jesus' physical body means that our physical world, as well as spirituall

    M (2008-09-26 19:50:21 ): FYI, i wrote that before i read your other post, which i will read now =)

    M (2008-09-26 20:30:49 ): oh that got cut off too. my main point was that we live in a fallen world, so there is evil, and/or that things aren't they way they are supposed to be. but the whole point of christianity is that we have been redeemed through Jesus--"now, but not yet" is the way my priest puts it. we are redeemed now, but we are still waiting for the full culmination of our redemtion when Jesus returns. anyway, if i ramble too much i will be cut off again. =) but i thought of romans 8:12-27, which offer a perspective on this that makes sense to me.

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    9.20.08: Spiritual Warfare

    This week's speaker was Graham Powell who is apparently pretty renowned for his speaking on spiritual warfare. It's been interesting. His 2 main points that he's stressed the last few days are 1) Spiritual warfare exists and is all around us and 2) Christians can have demons inside of them, (not to be confused with demon possession which cannot happen to Christians since Jesus possesses us). He has told us a lot of stories about how he has personally encountered evil spirits and even commanded them to come out of people. This stuff is kind of difficult to fully understand. I believe what he was saying, he has a lot of biblical backup to support his claims. It's just kind of hard to truly believe this kind of thing without having first hand experience with it. That's mostly just part of my personality, I need to see something in action to truly believe and understand it. Like when I first became a Christian, it was hard for me to really believe that the all-loving creator of the universe wanted to have a personal relationship with me. It was something that I had to first experience before achieving a new level of belief that comes from practically experiencing something.

    Graham spent a lot of time telling stories of his experience dealing with demons or evil spirits. He also stressed that obviously not all problems are caused by spirits. It's kind of disturbing to think that you might have some kind of evil spirit in you though.

    So Graham has the ability to discern the presence of evil spirits. Another gift that Graham has is the ability to speak in tongues. For some reason, this was hard for me to comprehend. I guess theoretically, it doesn't seem hard at all to grasp. If God created the earth and is omnipotent and omniscient, giving a supernatural ability to a man seems fairly reasonable. I guess to believe it and fully understand it are 2 different things. Some of the spiritual gifts are described in 1st Corinthians 12: 8-11, quite interesting.

    So there was time during the week that the students could meet with Graham and ask him questions and/or receive prayer. At first I wasn't too enthused to meet with him but after hearing him talk on Thursday, I changed my mind. I thought at the very least, it would be an interesting experience.

    It was an interesting experience and I think it was very effective. I started by telling him about myself and areas I would like to receive prayer or freedom from an evil presence. So I started talking about my broken childhood etc and then we prayed for a while. It was a very good time. He spontaneously broke out in tongues ( I think it sounded like Italian or Spanish, but who knows. It didn't mean much to me because I didn't understand what he was saying, but neat nonetheless ). So at some point I remember him saying something to the extent of "We close the door on the past." And right then I had some vision that raced through my head and repeated itself. Call it a vision from God, a symbol or just my imagination, but it certainly seemed divine. It was an image from the home where I grew up. It was the door from the hallway to the family room that we left open most of the time during the day. It suddenly had slammed shut. This repeated over and over in my head. Then a flood of memories just came through my mind that seemed to fade away, not the good memories, the bad. It felt like closure. It wasn't a demon coming out or anything, just more like a new peace. When I left the room I felt a lightness in my heart, it's kind of hard to describe. It wasn't a very noticeable difference, just enough to feel liberating.

    Some other notes/updates: It's been raining spontaneously and been MUCH colder than it normally is for this time of the year. The first 2 days I got here it was hot, now it's like a brisk Santa Barbara winter! I haven't seen the sun in about 6 days now, which is typical during the Romanian winter, not now. I miss the sun, Santa Barbara has truly spoiled me. Also, we have daily work chores. The ones I normally do are cleaning up the kitchen/eating area after lunch & dinner. I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure I've done more cleaning in the last 2 weeks than I have in the last 2 years! I'm not complaining at all and I might be exaggerating, I can't tell, I just thought it was an interesting observation. OH, also, today is a monumental day for me. This days represents the longest I've been oustide of California! I think the longest I've been absent from California was 2 weeks when I went on a mission trip and when I visited Africa with my grandma and cousin. I've now been away from California for 15 days! Weee!

    P.S. I'm excited to play settlers today with my American friends in about 6.5 hours! I played a practice game to make sure I still remember how to play and I won. Bring it on or "Mishka" as they say in Romanian, ( "Mishka" means "Come on" or the like in Romanian. This is becoming one of my favorite sayings. After it got stuck in my head I learned it has slightly rude connotations, but it's too late because it's easy to say and it's suck in my head! ).

    P.P.S. I think I may be vitamin deprived. Normally I don't like carrots, but now I kind of crave them, probably for the vitamins. I bought some orange juice the other day and it's never tasted better. I don't know if the orange juice was really good or I was missing vitamin C. Also, I actually ate fish for the first time in my life. It didn't taste fishy at all, it was really strange, that's what made it good. I ate very catiously, waiting for it to taste like fish when I was chewing but it never happened.

    Comments:

    M (2008-09-20 13:32:31 ): That's cool about how he prayed for you. Reading about things like that makes me think that if people actually prayed for each other more and expected God to move in their lives, things like that would probably happen a lot more often. Anyway, I feel more eager to start up the Bible study again in the next few weeks, but I feel like there is hardly anyone that will come. I guess that doesn't matter too much though..as long as it happens. Unrelated, but I played a volleyball game the other day, faculty agains the girl's volleyball team and for some reason thought of your "COME ON." I can't picture you saying "mishka" though, so you'll have to demonstrate someday.

    Brodiemom (2008-09-21 14:14:37 ): Thank you for sharing about your praying experience. You write about it in a beautiful way, being able to describe what you were feeling and thinking and the nuances of that experience. And I am glad that you received from prayer some type of healing peace, whether it came, as you said, from your imagination, God's intervention, your psyche, the prayer.

    Brodiemom (2008-09-21 14:21:41 ): When you and I came back from Romania in 2001, I became interested in learning about spiritual warfare. Perhaps it had been mentioned in one of our lessons. I ask Cheryl Thompson and she told me of a wonderful preacher/writer named Ray Stedman. Stedman was a pastor of Peninsula Bible Church on the peninsula in the Bay area (I forget the town). His sermons are online and they are very good. When I was doing my retirement home ministry I used his sermons as the basis of my sermonettes. Anyway he wrote a book on spiritual warfare but you can listen to his semrons on that subject online. http://www.raystedman.org/battle/0292.html is a good one. http://www.raystedman.org/battle/index.html is a page where there are 19 sermons on spiritual warfare. He is a good writer/preacher and he uses examples to make it understandable.

    Brodiemom (2008-09-21 14:25:37 ): Moms are happy when their their children expand their diet to healthy foods. They worry less. I am glad you are thinking fish is OK. I hope sometime you try fresh swordfish or fresh halibut.

    Mike Petty (2008-09-22 16:37:26 ): Or Fish Sticks! Mmmmmm.

    Mike Petty (2008-09-22 16:45:31 ): Spiritual warfare is something that I'm becoming more and more aware of. I'm going to go through Ephesians 6:10-18 on my own soon, and try to figure out how to fight some of those spiritual battles.

    Mishka (2008-09-23 11:32:47 ): wait, you definitely liked the fish you tried at the bach. party dinner

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    9.17.08: Learning More

    So I finished reading this book about the founder of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) called "Is That Really You God?" It's quite an intense book, seems kind of fairytale-ish at times, but a very inspiring book. It pretty much tells this guys journey who was called to create YWAM, sending young missionaries out across the entire world. It's one of those books that you either have to accept 1) That God is alive and works personally in our lives on a day to day basis or 2) That this guy is a total liar that enjoys manipulating and lieing to people. I side with the former, it's just hard to believe some of the stuff that happened on his journey.

    The reason I bring this up is because it's gotten me to re-consider how I view prayer. Mark 11:24 says: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." This goes along with the powerful demonstrations of prayer in the book I just read. This applies to both big things and little things in life. To me, to pray for the little things, for example finding something you have misplaced seems so trivial that it almost feels like testing God. There have been 2 times while I've been here that I've casually misplaced something and after looking for a while I decided to casually pray to find them. To my surprise, both times, I found the items I was looking for within about 5 seconds. I know it's no huge miracle but the little reminders that God hears our prayers are huge blessings for me. Definitely an encouragement to draw even closer to God and see what things He can put on my heart and the great things that can happen.

    On a cultural note, it's really interesting to observe the contrast between feminism in the US versus Romania. In the US, woman want to be the exact same as men, or so it seems that's what we're heading to. In Romania, women are proud to be women. Things like fixing things or moving large objects are things women gladly pass off for men to do. Also, at the national Romania YWAM conference, many of the women in leadership prayed for more men to take up their natural position of leadership throughout YWAM. I'm not quite sure how I feel about all of it. On a personal and maybe selfish level, it feels good to be a man. We have fewer guys than girls in our DTS, so it's important for a guy to be with a group of girls when we're in a city or using public transportation. Rape / harassment are big concerns. But I haven't determined if the western feminist movement is necessarily a bad thing. I've thought about the contrast for a while and I feel kind of stumped in my train of thought. So for now, I just think it's interesting observing the difference of cultures.

    Some other ligher notes, I think I'm become addicted to Romania sunflower seeds, they're just simply amazing. Romanian water tastes MUCH better than SoCal water. Romanians eat bread with everything and I rather like this tradition. I just did laundry for the first time and I packed light enough to do all my laundry in 1 load of clothes. This is either very good or bad, I haven't figured out which yet... Also, there is no dryer so my clothes are hanging in my room, very wet still. It's also raining outside. Some peers have said that their clothes have stayed wet for 3 days trying to dry, this could get intereting! Graham Powell is speaking on spiritual warfare this week, a very interesting topic that isn't talked much about in the church (I never heard it talked about at Westmont or church). Also another note, unless I'm misunderstanding something horribly, Romanians don't use pronouns a lot. So if I wanted to say "I am" for example, I = 'eu' and am = 'sunt'. So you would think that "I am" would translate to "Eu sunt". But actually to say "I am", it's just "sunt". Which seems silly to me! But it's just another thing to get used to with the language.

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-09-17 12:10:51 ): Hi, my name is Mike. I'm addicted to Ovaltine. Go ahead John. You're safe in this group. You can admit your addiction.

    John (2008-09-17 15:52:28 ): Mike, thanks for your honesty. When I get back, I will drive out the Ovaltine demon from you and give you peace.

    Pastor Dan (2008-09-17 16:27:30 ): I've enjoyed reading your blog. It's wonderful that you are able to be so transparent about what you are both thinking and feeling. Everyone here at Shoreline misses you. P.S. Bring some of those Romanian Sunflower Seeds home!

    M (2008-09-17 20:04:33 ): i've been kind of stumped in the past about what i think about feminism too. american feminism doesn't make sense to me for one because i don't think it makes sense for women to be exactly like men and also because american feminists seem to put down men for not treating women like men...i don't know how to explain it because it doesn't even make any sense. i think people need to move more towards encouraging each other to develop their gifts and talents while also encouraging each other to take on appropriate responsibilities.. i could say a lot more but i'll just leave it at men and women are different.

    Mike Petty (2008-09-17 23:37:36 ): Why do I need to have the last word? I don't know. It's a compulsion. Time for more Ovaltine.

    Brodiemom (2008-09-18 02:35:09 ): Sex differences! What a topic! Did you know that men and women are built differently in the way their ligaments connect at the elbow such that men throw baseballs completely differently. So there are some basic differences. A long time ago it was shown men are slightly better in spatial and math problems. The thing is the variation is so large that most men and women overlap with similar abilities. And there are those unusual examples I remember a guy in graduate school with extremem verbal, literau abilities. He even wrote poetry and was an exellent cook. What did his girlfriend do? She was able to take apart a Volkwagon car engine, fix it, and put it back together again. So what I am saying is that men and women should develop their God-given abilities. They should not be awayed by cultural biases, but develop their God-given ones.

    Brodiemom (2008-09-18 02:38:55 ): The power of prayer. John do you remember that awful night in SB when my car was stuck? We had AAA come out and then they left. It seemed like a hopeless night. Then I remembered to pray! I prayed and the next service person to arrive appeared to be a long haired blonde. I believed in God's power but I was uncertain. Well, there was another person and they both knew what to do and got my car unstuck. Every time God answers my prayers it seems amazing. I feel blessed and loved. He does answer prayers.

    Brodiemom (2008-09-18 02:40:13 ): Well John you know I love nuts and seeds so I cannot wait to taste those Romanian sunflower seeds. Please bring some home.

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    9.14.08: Some More Thoughts

    I remember some other stuff I forgot to write about. Yesterday, it was quite gloomy and I was actually beginning to feel a little home sick. You see, I'm used to the Santa Barbara June gloom that rolls away at around noon and then gives birth to the beautiful Santa Barbara sun. But this gloom lasted the whole day and made me miss Santa Barbara. Things I miss right now in no particular order: Santa Barbara weather, talking with friends on skype, tennis, riding my bike, chipotle, game nights, 'the office', playing the drums, my old roomies, settlers ( although this can be remedied ).

    But there are some things that I've learned or re-learned I really like. Again, in no particular order: Romanian cereal (I don't understand why I crave it), this lemon curts jam-type stuff, I can't explain it except that it takes like a yummy lemon bar, all the people here, living in a community of awesome people, playing dutch blitz (I thought I would dominate everyone because I played for a while, but I do no such thing), learning a new language, fellowship, oh and ROMANIA SUNFLOWER SEEDS, they're so much better than American sunflower seeds, I cannot put it into words. So much better!

    Oh and just a few last thoughts. One, my stomach doesn't hurt anymore, I'm so glad I didn't go through my whole bottle of tums in a few weeks, (at the rate I was going the first 3 days this would have been the case). I walked to church today with Emma. It was about an hour walk into town. Cluj downtown is actually really pretty. Apparently, they had to dity it up for Romania to get into the EU. Really pretty, there was also this like drill team thingy competition that apparently was the championships across all of Europe. (It has the baton thing, I forget what it was called). But anyways, we saw that on the way to church. The people at Emma and Dave's church were really nice. The worship songs were all new to me but it was fun. I also learned the way to downtown Cluj. It's gotten a little more brisk here, but it's a beautiful day.

    Comments:

    M (2008-09-14 21:07:02 ): duuude (yes i just said that), just tell me when works for you to play settlers and as long as i'm not sleeping or in class, i'll be there. =) also, i'm not as insightful as you lately since i seem to loose insightfulness when i'm stressed, but here is where i write things: xanga.com/melissamatilda

    Brodiemom (2008-09-15 04:09:50 ): You have a lot of things to be thankful for when you were in Santa Barbara! Riding your bike and playing tennis are great ways to keep physically active. Playing the drums and settlers are great ways to keep creatively active. Sharing with friends is a great way to keep socially and emotionally 'attuned.' I can see how you miss them. Now you are walking for exercise, playing dutch blitz for creaivity, I think. What is it? And you are amking new friends. I am so glad that your stomach feels better. You know how moms are concerned about those things like health!

    Mike Petty (2008-09-15 21:56:30 ): I'll mail you some Chipotle if you mail me some Romanian cereal.

    Alissa (2008-09-16 01:38:59 ): Dity it up???? hehe...

    John (2008-09-16 04:01:22 ): Errr dity.... I think I meant 'tidy'? Maybe I'm becoming dislexic, hah!

    Mike Petty (2008-09-16 11:33:42 ): I thought you meant dirty when you said dity. EU: "Romania, you're too pretty. You can't be in our club." Romania: "Awww, what if I dirty myself up a bit." EU: "Fine, as long as I'm prettier than you, you can join." Romania: "Yay, I can feel my self confidence rising!"

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    9.13.08: Back from Medias

    Ok, this is probably end up being a rather long post as I was gone for 3 days. Where to start, where to start. The drive to Medias wasn't too bad. It was about a 3 hour drive, but if the whole thing was on American highways, it would have taken about half that time. Most of the drive was through villages which didn't really have freeways. Did I mention that Romanian drivers are crazy? That's just a sidenote. There are a lot of stoplights that are just flashing yellow to yield. So most of driving in Romania ( No I didn't drive ) can be very confusing at times.

    So on the drive, I was talking to Goldy, who was alive during the Communist times. When she was age 7, her appendix burst. Her family couldn't drive here to the hospital. All Romania cars are either even or odd ( licence plate I believe ). During the weekend, the evens and odds had to alternate which weekend they could drive. So if one weekend the odd cars could drive, the next weekend only the even cars could drive. This was a problem, because Goldy's father and grandfather both had an even car. The day her appendix burst was a Saturday when only the odd numbers could drive. So although the hospital was only a few miles away, her family couldn't take her because they had the flu. So at 10am, Goldy's family had started calling the hospital. By 5pm the ambulance finally came. Yep, 7 hours for an ambulance to come a few miles. By the time they diagnosed what she had, they had to take her to surgery immediately or she would die. Of course, you can't get emergency surgery (or anything really ) without a bribe. So after her father bribed the doctor, she was finally operated on. She would have died if she hadn't been opereated on within the hour.

    This doctor also had a habit of leaving surgery instruments in patients after surgery. ( No I'm not kidding, I thought Goldy was kidding, but I confirmed she wasn't ). The sad thing is Romanian hospitals haven't improved much today. You still need to bribe a doctor if you want something done right and for the most part, they are very incompetent compared to American doctors. Oh the strange stuff the doctors do here. Apparently, if a 70 year old woman has appendicitis, they will say how she lived a good life and most likely let her die, even though they could save her life. Another strange custom, if the doctors find cancer in a patient and project them to die in 3 months let's say, get ready for this... They do NOT tell the patient and the force the patient's family to secrecy. So they expect the loved ones to just sit back and lie to the person with cancer, even though they know they're most likely to be dead in 3 months. It's simply horrendous. Romania, is still in a large sense, stuck in the Communist times. It's quite sad really. Oh another hospital horror story, this guy who works with YWAM, Aaron and his wife adopted a child. They found out that this child was most likely fed human food for the first 8 months of her life and they found their baby Emma with a number of digestive problems. Taking this baby to several different doctors, they all explained that the baby looked too healthy for something to be wrong with her, even though the obvious symptoms she was having. Can you believe that, the baby looks healthy on the outside therefore we won't do tests on her and she must be ok! Gahh!

    So I was expecting to see some familiar faces at the conference. It was funny, because I could have sworned I recognized Alina, but she looked a little different so I figured it was someone else. Then I found out later it was in fact her! The funny thing is that I did the exact same thing with Luminitza! It was great talking to both of them. They were translators and helped out with YWAM stuff when I was in Romania years ago. They both said wanted to say 'hi' to you mom. I vowed that at the conference if I saw someone else I thought I recongized I would be a bit rude and just assume it was the person and go up and say hi. But that situation didn't happen again during the conference.

    The conference, in itself was really good. It was good to see what was going on in the other YWAM's in Romania. This was a national YWAM conference if I forget to mention that. I think when it boils down to it, it felt like a high school rally, just with the focus on serving God rather than winning a football team, well obviously it was deeper too. But that's just what it felt like to me. I know I haven't been called into full-time missionary work stuff, at least yet, but I'm not convinced it's not what I'm supposed to do either. I've only been here 7 days and I'm trying not to get ahead of myself and just enjoy the moment and seek God genuinely.

    The people in YWAM talk very confidently about hearing God's voice on a regular basis. I know this means different things to different people. I won't really get into that. But I often find the way that God leads me is through little hints, whether it be a feeling, an opportunity or a situation that I've been put in. I was meditating a lot about why I'm here, maybe getting ahead of myself too much. But the conclusion I've tentatively come to is that while God may not audible say things to me for me to easily understand, seeking after him is just as important as if He did. Because God is often subtle in my life. Although I didn't get anything like a calling to be a missionary, I'm finding it very difficult to think about eventually leaving Romania. I know that's not a direct calling from God, but it could be an indirect calling. Obviously it's way too early to be drawing any conclusions about what I'm going to be doing after this with my life. And even if I were to draw conclusions about what I was going to with my life, my plans would be quite possibly useless because God has both subtle and drastic ways of correcting your path. So I'm going to abstain from making any decisions anytime soon about what to do with my life.

    After thinking about it for a while, one reason what I really enjoy about YWAM and being in Romania, is the lack of materialism, especially the kind demonstrated while being at the school, see Acts 2:42-47 for more details. Personally, I haven't gone as far as the passage states, but I'm leaning more and more towards that philosophy. One thing about living in the USA that has always bothered me is materialism. Now just a note, I don't say this to be condoning in any way to one or any people, but merely what I personally feel and the heart that God has given me. Since around the time that I went away to college, I've never liked spending money on myself, at least relatively in my culture. I enjoy spending money on friends, but to spend money on myself, I find it much harder to justify spending money on myself. It's so encouraging just to be around people that aren't driven by consumerism. People that live on the extreme opposite end of the stereotypical consumeristic American. It's fun to think of the things that I can spend my money which could be so much more helpful than the things that people spend their money on in the US. I'm not sure how I will be able to handle the materialism when I get back...

    God has shown me an interesting parrellel between my life and a book I have recently read (or rather listened to). The book I'm referring to is chronologically the 6th book in the Narnia series, The Silver Chair. Towards the beginning of the book, Aslan calls 2 children out from their world. He wants to tell them the directions they need on their journey, but one child's selfishness gets in the way, so the responsibility for hearing and responding to the directions is dependent upon one child. Aslan makes sure the child knows the directions like the back of her hand. The instructions are there to help the children on their journey. If they fail one of instructions the whole journey is not lost, but it does get more difficult. As it ends up, the kids end up messing up at least 2 of 4 instructions. This makes their journey much, much more perilous than Aslan had intended it to be. The children could have executed the instructions they failed, but fear and lack of faith caused them to fail.

    Eventually, through much toil, the children achieve their objective. They took the hard way, but Aslan provided a way through anyways. I can find this nearly identical to my life. When I graduated college I narrow-mindedly decided that I needed to have a job. It wasn't until over a year after that I realize I had not followed God's instructions. And much like the children, I encounted turmoil that shouldn't have happened if I had followed the directions clearly. But also like the children, God provided a way back to my objective, which in my case, is to be in Romania and see what God's plan is for the rest of my life. So, like the children's journey, it wasn't perfect and it's probably a safe assumption that God knew that I wouldn't follow his plan, but it worked out and I'm back on the path I know I'm supposed to be.

    Comments:

    M (2008-09-13 15:01:17 ): the part about not telling patients when they are dying and expecting families to keep it quiet is sometimes true in japan too (the bribing part isn't!), although for different reasons. interesting.. i always knew you should have a blog! i really appreciate the things you have to say about life. your comments about materialism and listening to God's voice are both things that i've thought a lot about before and struggled with. i agree with you a lot about the subtle ways God guides. and i really like the silver chair too (*4th* book ...*cough*) =)

    John (2008-09-14 09:14:59 ): 6th book chronologically M!!!

    Brodiemom (2008-09-15 03:56:59 ): Many many years ago there was a debate about whether to tell someone they are dying. Some doctors did; others told the relatives and then let them decide whether to tell the person. of course, it is different now. No one, not even relatives, can see our medical test results unless we sign off. Materialism should not be confused with earning a living. God gave us gifts and we should use those gifts to provide goods and services. What we do with our money after we earn it is very different. I think of a couple of people from our church, CPC,. Ken Leung is of chinese descent and he is a very wealthy businessman. So he went to China and got permission from the government to build an orphange. Granted he got some funds raised and some churches supported this project, but he used a great deal of his own money. So he used his gifts to make a lot of money and I am certain he lives in a very beautiful home but he made a consious effort to give back to God. Another person at our chur

    Brodiemom (2008-09-15 03:59:41 ): Another person at our church is very wealthy and lives in Blackhawk. She was very concerned about orphans from AIDS in Africa. She went to Uganda on her own, made contacts, She has many African children sponsored by people in the US and just completed raising $500,000 for a school in Uganda for orphans of AIDS. I am uncertain the reason you are concerned about materialism. It seems you have already 'conquered' it, knowing how you have lived the past 6 years. Bravo! That was so interesting how you made the analogy of the book and your recent events., How insightful. John, I have different thoughts about your getting a jog after college. I think it was important that you were able to experience being successful at earning a living to support yourself. Parents support you during college, but it is a big step to being 'out on your own' and you really should applaud yourself. Having a job and dong ministry are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps you haven't found the right job and

    Brodiemom (2008-09-15 04:01:10 ): Perhaps you haven't found the right job and the right ministry. I am glad you are seeking God to help you discern.

    Mike Petty (2008-09-15 21:20:33 ): They fed the baby human food?! That's what I eat! Atrocious! (You probably meant something much more horrific...like cauliflower. Your hospital comment earlier about how they scare you now makes much more sense. I know what you mean about the materialism in this country. We are a nation of consumers. In high school, everytime I went down to Mexico with the interact club it reminded me how little we could live on, and how little our stuff means. You are allowed to be successful, but you can't let it define you. You have to let your relationship with God define who you are.

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    9.09.08: Conference Tomorrow

    Tomorrow we are leaving for a conference with all the DTS schools in Romania, I think somewhere between 5 and 7. I think there's a lot of group teaching and obviously a lot of praying and worship. I didn't catch much else about it. I think it's in Medias or something like that.

    Today we had the first worship since I have been here. It was really good, very moving and excited.

    I think I may have some kind of mild stomach sickness. For the last 3 days, everytime I am done eating, my stomach has hurt quite a bit. I feel like I'm about 2/3 of the way to throwing up, but nothing so far. I'm really glad I bought a new container of tums to take on the trip. Also, when I smell chicken I just feel really gross. Maybe my stomach didn't approve with some of the chicken we ate on Sunday. Whatever it is, it's bearable so I'm thankful for that.

    One another quick note, I'm making an effort to learn Romanian. We're watching a video series on 'love and relationships'. I must say, I am quite thankful for my Westmont education, as most of the stuff we've been going over seems like either review or just obvious. But anyways, the video we're watching is spoken in English and then translated into Romanian. So it's a great opportunity to learn the language when I'm not learning anything else. Asides from picking up miscellaneous words/sayings from the videos, I've also learned the alphabet, numbers 1-10 and also the days of the week. Starting with Sunday and spelled phonetically: Duminica, Luni, Martz, Mirakul, Joie, Viner, Simbatta. That's it for now, hopefully more to come!

    Comments:

    M (2008-09-09 18:39:34 ): yay john! good for you for making the effort to learn the language. it'll be awesome when you start understanding things people are saying. hope you feel better soon.

    Brodiemom (2008-09-10 02:33:52 ): John, I looked up Medias on Google maps to see where you are going. It looks as though it is a small city 50 miles from Cluj. There were photos of the city. It looks very pretty.

    Brodiemom (2008-09-10 02:44:53 ): Yes you had a great education at Westmont. Now is your time to get closer to God. I am concerned about your tummy. Please get it checked out by a doctor if it sitll hurts after you eat by Friday. It is wonderful to learn a new language. I remember that the days of the week were similar to those of French. Thanks for writing them out phonectically.

    Mike Petty (2008-09-15 19:27:36 ): Dude, a tummy ache? Suck it up. I once had an alien burst out of my chest cavity, and I was golfing by that afternoon. Wait, no, that was the movie Alien...and there was no golfing. Feel better!

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    9.07.08: First Sunday

    Well today was my first Sunday. I decided to go with Cristy's church, a fairly new church. It is located in downtown Cluj. The ride there was quite interesting. One of Cristy's friend picked us up, also the bassist. I'm fairly certain there are no seat belt laws in Romania. That will be relevant in a moment.

    So the car was kind of a mini SUV. It had 2 seats in the front and the back was just an open place for people to sit in the back. Sitting in the back combined with an extremely bumpy road, made for an interesting trip.

    The church itself was nice, a loving congregation. The worship music was pretty good. I recognized several of the songs and am getting better at understanding Romanian. Apparently I had been away from Romania for too long, for I forgot that pastors often enjoy inviting guests up to share something from their heart. And when I say 'invite', it's really more accurate to say 'demand in a loving way'. Immediately when the pastor mentioned that we should prepare something (during the middle of the service of course), I immediately had memories of Pastor Pope asking me to speak during a bunch of random occassions when I was in Romania during the summer of 2002. Andy (my British roomate) and I gave our little talks. Cristy's wife did her best to translate the sermon for me, but it was long and kind of difficult to follow.

    I liked the church, but I will probably try other churches. From what I hear from a friend, is that their church is looking for a drummer. So I might have to check that out that opportunity. We'll see what God's will is. Oh, the ride home back we nearly died. We were zooming by and a car started backing out. I couldn't see because I was in the back being swirled around like a fish in the laundry machine, but apparently it was really close.

    Comments:

    Brodiemom (2008-09-08 15:37:21 ): John, It sounds as though you are having a blessed time. I also remember your telling me that you had given a sermon years ago at Pastor Pope's request. did I understand you that you gave testimony this past Sunday. I wasn't certain. I am so glad you are safe after that near collision. I look at blog everyday. May God pour out His blessings to you during your time in Romania. Love, Mom

    Mike Petty (2008-09-15 19:24:33 ): You should totally go for that drummer job, because, as we all know, chicks dig Romanian drummers that don't obey common safety laws, such as the seatbelt law.

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    9.05.08: Finally I'm Here!

    I have arrived safely. I feel like not all of me is here and part of it feels like a dream, but I think I'm here! Paul, the leader of the DTS school drove me back, I remember him from when I visited before. I learned that one of my best friends from Romania, Vali, got married just last Saturday. I best be seeing him some time when I'm here.

    There's 12 people total at the school. There's 1 guy from England, 1 girl from Amsterdam, and the rest are from either the US or Romania. A fun group so far. I got to talk a lot to this one guy named Cristi, who has grown up in Romania his whole life. I learned a lot about the spiritual state of Romania from him. Apparently, out of the people who are 'Christians' in Romania, a vast majority are 'Orthodox'. This type of orthodox is quite disturbing though. The way Cristi described it, it sounded much like Catholicism during the dark ages. Apparently you can go to a priest and if you pay enough money, he can put a curse on a family you don't like. This church even claims they have the right to banish someone from heaven, for the right price of course. People become priests not from a calling of God, but if they want to make money. It is just so corrupt.

    They keep a Bible with many extra chapters. In one of these chapters, it tells of the devilish Western ways, equating modern protestant Christianity to satan worship. With that in place, the majority of the orthodox church rejects any 'western' traditions of the Bible. And by 'western' I mean the true translation of the Bible, without the chapters the corrupt orthodox put in. Through this fear that the clergy of the orthodox church has created, prevents truth. It's sad on many levels and very primitive when you think about the history of the church.

    I'm really excited to here!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-09-15 19:21:57 ): So if I want to be rich, I should become a priest? Do they have a union? jk, that's intense. When they added those chapters to the Bible, did they take out the ones that talked about how you shouldn't add things to the Bible?

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    9.04.08: Traveling

    Well right now I'm in the Denver airport. There were some slight complications when leaving SFO. So apparently I was supposed to get a visa before I left. I specifically asked my contacts from Romania and they said that I didn't need to, that I can just get it when I reach Cluj. But the airline didn't think so. The issue is that without a visa you can stay in Romania for 90 days. SFO seemed to claim that you can't get a visa while in Romania, I would have to get it while in the US. But unless I grossly misunderstood something from YWAM, this is not the case and I can get a visa while in Cluj

    Anyways, what the airport did to remedy this situation, was just re-book my return flight to leave before 90 days was up. Obviously this will have to be changed back when I get my visa established. I guess that's just the price I pay for making such a big decision with so little time to prepare! I know I shouldn't worry about it, God will work it out.

    I didn't sleep last night. I was mostly worried that if I fell asleep, I wouldn't wake up by 4am . I have been known to sleep through my alarm clock during a busy and lack of sleep week, like the one I've had. All that to say I'm tired and it feels good to sleep on the plane whenever I can!

    I just watched probably one of the worst movies I've ever seen. I missed the title but it was about how Owen Wilson's homeless character helped 3 high school kids from getting bullied. The movie had 2 crucial turning points. The first one was where Owen Wilson taught the 'geeks' to cheap shot the bullies. The last major turning point was when Owen Wilson was informed that one of the bullies was over 18. This allowed Owen Wilson to beat up the bullies and the climax of the movie. I can't complain though because it helped pass the time on a 10 hour flight!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-09-15 19:19:16 ): Drillbit Taylor is the name of the movie, for others who would like to avoid it.

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    8.31.08: Accepted!

    I'm in! I have been accepted to the Romania disclipeship training school for 2008! Thanks you everyone for the support so far. I am leaving the country Thursday morning, September 5th.

    I'm continued to be amazed by God's magnificent timing. This labor day weekend I got to see 3 of my best friends that live in Ohio and northern California. We had planned this get together for months, it just happened to be the last weekend that I will be in the US! I also got to share the last Sunday with my church celebrating and saying goodbye to them... at least for a while. And then of course seeing everybody from CallWave at once was great! What are the chances of all these things coming together... Rhetorical question. I have a lot of packing and organizing to do these next few days but I am very excited!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-09-15 17:15:46 ): Note to anyone else that needs a reference: I write good ones. :)

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    8.29.08: To Go or Not To Go?

    So the inevitable layoffs at Callwave finally happened. I have been thinking about applying to a Disclipeship Training School (DTS) in Romania for quite a long time now. Ever since I knew my job would be terminated eventually ( realizing this was inevitable January of 08). When the layoffs finally happened on 8/28/08, I was frustrated to realize the timing that the DTS applications for Romania were due on August 1st. And the school started on September 1st. What horrible timing! If they just did the layoffs a month before! Knowing it was mostly like too late, I still regrettably sent an email to Romania to see if it wasn't too late.

    I was quite shocked to learn that it was NOT too late, even though the school starts in a mere 3 days! Well I'm going through the application now and franticly trying to get my references in order, ( Randy, pick up the phone! ) This is that I've known I've wanted to do for a while. Everything just seems to fit perfectly. With each moment it feels more and more right. Hah, Randy just called me back, like I said, every moment is feeling more right!

    Comments:

    Mike Petty (2008-09-15 17:14:00 ): I'm just now catching up on this blog.

    Mike Petty (2008-09-15 17:14:40 ): I notice there's not a date stamp for my comment. I'm going to pretend I read this on the 29th then.

    John (2008-09-16 03:56:01 ): Don't worry, I store when the comments took place, so I know!!

    Mike Petty (2008-09-16 11:28:07 ): Ahh, you caught me! There are timestamps everywhere!

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