By Alyssa Aldape
Other than the traditional Romanian church greeting, “pace,” yes, no, and a few other simple words, I can say with confidence that our group does not speak fluent Romanian, much less understand it enough to listen to a sermon.
So you can imagine our first morning in Bucharest, Romania, sitting in the pews of Providenta Baptist Church, clinging to “pace” and smiling.
One of the last songs we sang in worship was a tune familiar to our group. The piano played the simple melody of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and we all sang it in the language that we knew. As I sat listening to the congregation sing together in English and Romanian, worship quickly became a holy reminder of God’s bigger Kingdom and mission in the world.
There are times I need reminding that God’s mission transcends language. We are invited to step out of our comfort zone of understanding and join God and Romanian sisters and brothers in the Kingdom work.
We spent the week at the Ruth School – a longtime Cooperative Baptist Fellowship supported ministry, going on two field trips, working after school and our Dalton teachers gave a seminar of alternative teaching methods for students. Anyone in our group can and will tell you about a sweet child they met or taught or helped with a craft. The group can also tell you about some of the realities the children face on a daily basis. Particularly the Roma children.
The school is located in Ferentari — a low-income district in Romania — but despite the bad reputation the neighborhood has, the people of Project Ruth, led by CBF field personnel Ralph and Tammy Stocks, have worked to break down stereotypes and the cycle of poverty that many of the Roma families face. For seven days, we witnessed how important education is in breaking the cycle of poverty in the Roma community.
The poverty in the area is obvious and you cannot ignore its effects on the community. It is easy to feel helpless living so far away from Bucharest and because we see it all at once for such a short time.
But there is hope through the transformative work of God and through the Project Ruth.
As Christians we are compelled to love our neighbor as God loves us and the Ruth School is a direct response to God’s invitation to love the neighbor in Ferentari. It has been a month since we were at the Ruth School and we still think of the apartment buildings, the smiles of children and the teachers who seek to educate their students.
My hope is that those memories do not fade like our jet lag. My hope is that we remember the faces, the buildings, the language and the transformative work of Project Ruth and keep them as a reminder that the God of the world invites us to go beyond our comfort zones and beyond ourselves to love our neighbors from Dalton to Ferentari.
Read more about the ministry of Project Ruth and CBF field personnel Ralph and Tammy Stocks here.
Alyssa Aldape serves as the interim minister of community ministry and missions at First Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga.