Today we set off once again in glorious sunshine (sorry…) to paint the church at Telechiu – the smaller and poorer of the two gypsy churches. Amelia, the pastor’s wife, took us under her wing and ensured we were watered and toileted happily throughout the day – with a fresh earth closet and a bowl of water for handwashing.
Today’s task was to paint the outside walls, window frames and outer fence. As has now become tradition, Daniel donned his bright orange tracksuit and divided us into teams, with strict instructions on painting methodology and pre-chosen colours to match his tracksuit! We were joined during the day by around 8 people from the gypsy community who threw themselves into the work with gusto, including 13 year-old Robbie and accordion player Vali(?). The gypsy lads took on the hazardous jobs balancing ladders against ladders precariously to paint up by the roof. Conversation through the day was enhanced in a mixture of English, French and pidgin Romanian.
It couldn’t be a purely wholesome day of hard work, of course, there was plenty of ‘messy church’ and slap ‘n’ stick to keep us going. Wendy, under instruction from our Vicarly leader, planted a painty hand against Lynne’s bottom so hard and loud that the thwack and Lynne’s squeal echoed down the street. The small crowd gathered outside the church gates looked on in total bemusement at these strange antics.
The frivolity soon dissipated as we took a walk through the community, and were welcomed into Vali’s home which consisted of a single room with one bed, a stove and a cabinet of half a dozen impeccably folded t-shirts. As of tomorrow the family runs out of food, so he will travel to France to get work to provide for his family. He will have to leave behind his wife, baby, and young twins, who are in hospital and can’t be brought home as there is no electricity.
The overriding impression of the day was of warmth, laughter and working together with the church community – throughout this there was a real sense of God’s presence. We were humbled that the community members gave constant thanks to God for what we’d achieved and done together (lots of ‘muzelmeem, muzelmeem!’ – we thank you, we thank you). We were an encouragement to them, but much more so they were an encouragement to us.
Ben painted a cross on the front of the church to finish off our hard work.
The day has ended with Daniel, Mona and Emma showing us video clips of their church in Oradea and the amazing outreach they have been doing particularly for students and young people in their 20s, including a flashmob of ‘spontaneous’ singing in the centre of Oradea (www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXNuTVOmorI) and an event attended by 5,000 people advertised in advance on TV. Reckon we could learn a thing or two from them in Tonbridge!
It’s been a fantastic week, we’ve really bonded as a team and learned lots from members of the communities we’ve worked with. As we head home, we’ll be thinking about how to build on what’s happened out here. Really looking forward to sharing with you all back at home.
Glynis H & Nicola