As you may have heard, our mission trip to Romania was halted and redirected to Chicago when the volcano in Iceland shut down European airspace for almost a week. We would not have guessed that something which was so surprising and disappointing could end up being so valuable and enjoyable. On the morning of the first day of the mission trip, one of the teammates found these words in her daily devotional (dated April 16):
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8) Abraham ‘did not know where he was going’ – it simply was enough for him to know he went with God…In no way is it enough to set out cheerfully with God on any venture of faith. You must also be willing to take your ideas of what the journey will be like and tear them into tiny pieces, for nothing on the itinerary will happen as you expect.
As she shared this during the team meeting the next morning, God clearly reminded us of our role and His role. It was a reminder that proved invaluable the rest of the trip.
We’ve included some of the email traffic over the course of the trip in hopes that you might see how the Lord unveiled His plans one step at a time. The emails are between our team, Dwight Poggemiller (one of our hosts who serves with Greater Europe Mission in Romania), and Pastor Peter Bulica (our other host who serves as the pastor of Betel Baptist Church in Timisoara). We’ve also included a recap of the last two days of the trip, final thoughts, and some pictures of the team in Chicago.
The Lord was faithful to provide guidance, encouragement, and opportunities so that we might learn more about life following Him. We give thanks to the Lord for the way things turned out. The team is very excited to attempt the trip once again with high hopes of sharing Christ’s love in Romania, possibly as soon as this fall.
We pray the Lord uses this account to encourage you.
Matt and Chantal for the Romania Mission Team
Day 1 / Friday April 16
As you may have heard, our flight from Chicago to Munich was cancelled tonight. We talked to the Lufthansa customer service rep and initially her outlook was dim. It seemed liked things changed during the conversation and she let us know she was from Romania. She ended up booking the entire team standby on a flight to Frankfurt tomorrow afternoon. She is also trying to book us on flights all the way to TSR. She really did everything she could to get us there. We were encouraged.
This made for a full day for the team, especially the kids, but everyone handled the changes very well. The team is still hoping and praying we make it as soon as possible.
We are in a hotel in Chicago and will let you know when we hear about the next flight scheduled for Saturday at 2:00 pm central time.
God Bless You
Matt for the entire Romania Mission Team
Discussing the latest news at the airport
Day 2 / Saturday April 17
Thank you for your prayers and the efforts to enlist more prayer warriors.
The Lord has been gracious with us in many ways.
Our Lufthansa customer service friend from Romania (Marona) had notified another Lufthansa agent (Pavel from Bulgaria) that we would be checking on flight options. Pavel had a grim outlook initially but after 20 minutes of searching with no success, he was able to put us on standby for a flight tomorrow night (Sunday at 9 pm central) and the same flight on Monday night. He had told us two times in the first 20 minutes that this was not possible.
While standing in line with folks who are stranded in Chicago, two people on the team had the chance to share the Lord with two men in a pretty neat conversation about the meaning of life. The Lord has allowed us to start building relationships with the hotel staff. One middle eastern gentleman who works at the hotel asked about our purpose in going to Romania when we were seeking a meeting room. He gave us a great rate on the meeting room and asked us to pray for him. One of the children had a chance to have a spiritual conversation with a man on the way to the hotel last night. The Lord is opening some cool doors.
We’ve contacted some friends in Chicago who are looking into ministry opportunities while we are here. One of those contacts is the McGrady family who was initially going on the trip but had to change plans because their daughter Lily was diagnosed with diabetes. We’ll get to visit with Lily and her family tonight.
I’ll keep you posted as we receive more information on the flights. Please let me know if we can do anything else on this end.
Matt for the entire Romania Mission Team
Ready for breakfast
Day 3 / Sunday April 18
The McGrady’s joined us last night as planned and joined the team most of today. Since today’s (Sunday) flight was not scheduled to leave until 9 pm, we had a chance to worship at Moody Church in downtown Chicago. As we arrived, we learned it was the first Sunday of their missions conference. We heard a great message and were encouraged.
After church, the team had lunch, broke up into groups, and handed out 100 hamburgers to some of the homeless who live in the downtown Chicago area. The kids handed out notes about God’s love with each hamburger. One homeless girl in her early twenties started standing near the team during lunch but did not say anything. Two of the older children befriended her and shared the gospel with her. She hung out with the team for over two hours.
Team members had opportunities to share the Lord throughout the day: in a taxi with Mohammed, near the park with Norman, and on the subway with “Joe.” The kids were continually looking for more opportunities.
The team traveled by subway, bus, cab, and walked a few miles today. Everyone will sleep well tonight.
We had a good team meeting tonight and are still hoping we can get on the Monday evening flight.
Obviously, the Lord has been kind and encouraging to us in the midst of changed plans. We are grateful for all of this.
We’ll be in touch as soon as we know more about the flights. Thank you for all the coordination on your end.
Matt for the entire Romania Mission Team
The team at Moody Church
Prepping food for the hungry
Day 4 / Monday April 19
Dwight and Pastor Peter,
After spending the day watching for information from the airline and assessing the situation, it now seems clear to us that we should not try to come to Timisoara this week. This is a very hard decision but one that the entire team agreed with when we considered the facts together. Many tears were shed when the decision was final.
When we arrived at the airport this evening to wait for our chance to board a flight to Munich or Frankfurt, the chief of Lufthansa in Chicago came out and made an announcement to all the waiting passengers. He said Lufthansa would only check bags for passengers to Germany and could not give any assurance that passengers could get to connecting cities in the next few days. He said travel from Germany onward to other European cities would be very difficult because of the thousands of stranded passengers. He said hotels, rail, rental cars, and buses are completely booked up would not be available for a while. Information we received today from Lufthansa, our travel agent, and other sources indicated that arriving in Romania Wednesday night was the best case scenario and that arriving too late to host the family conference was likely.
We think it is best to postpone the trip until we can come again for a full itinerary of opportunities rather than a compressed four night stay. Assuming that you agree, we’d like to look at timeframes when this might work for both of you.
We are saddened because we cannot be with you and the families and children in Romania. We hope the cancellation of the family conference and other ministry plans will not cause great difficulties. We appreciate the tremendous work you have both put into this trip. We give thanks to the Lord for all these events that have helped us grow in our understanding of His ways. We hope to continue ministering here in Chicago for the next few days.
Please express our sadness for this temporary setback and gratitude for the efforts of all the ministry partners, especially Doru.
One of the Lufthansa customer service agents that helped us this week is a gal from Romania named Marona. She has tried to help us every way possible. After the decision had been made to not attempt the trip, she came out from behind the counter and met the entire team. It was a neat scene as the whole team sang “God is so Good” in Romanian to Marona, with the entire Lufthansa ticket counter listening in.
We pray the Lord will bless you richly and provide for all your needs this week.
Matt for the entire Romania Mission Team
Making the hard decision to postpone our trip to Romania
Waiting for a cab, enjoying our surroundings
Day 5 / Tuesday April 20
(From Pastor Peter)
Dear Matt and the Team,
When reading your message, I started to cry knowing how much effort, prayer and dedication you have invested into this minitry trip. Howerver, knowing that our God is always a Sovereign One, we have peace.
Along with the church elders and other people involved, we have prayed for your team all these days. We are looking forward to having you here in Timisoara in Autumn. Please give us some options from which we will be able to chose.
I talked at the Hotel and with the other people involved in the Project and all are very sorry for what happened but at the same time full of expectation for another opportunity.
May the Lord Jesus Christ pour on you many blessings,
Yours in Christ,
(From Dwight Poggemiller)
Matt, Chantal, & Team,
Obviously, we are very sad, as well, that things did not work out, especially after all the preparation that you made to get here. We agree with you, though, that this is the wisest course of action with travel here in Europe so uncertain. We will be glad to reschedule your time here with as much of the ministry we had planned with you for a time in the future.
We are so encouraged, though, by the powerful testimony you have been to Marona and the Lufthansa staff. We know the Lord will continue to use you, as He has already, as you minister in the Chicago area for the next few days. Many would just pack up and go home. This certainly speaks to your dedication and trust in the Lord who wants to use us in each location that He places us. Ministry is not just found in the destination, but throughout the journey. We have been commanded “As you are going…make disciples.” You have been powerful examples of that to us and we look forward to ministering together with you all again here in Romania soon.
With all the recent natural disasters and problems facing Europe, in particular, we have got to believe that the Lord is trying to get the attention of Europeans. This means that we must step up our efforts, first and foremost, in prayer for spiritual breakthrough across this region. You and the Team can have a powerful part in that as you prepare to return.
We will look forward to staying in touch and planning your return to serve here. In the meantime, we will be praying for your continued impact there in the Chicago area.
In His Love & Grace,
Dwight, Melissa, Dwight Luke, David Christian, & Lydia Joy
Prepping to hand out candy and Starbucks (with verses on the cup) at the airport
Day 6 / Wednesday April 21
Thank you for praying for our mission trip. It has been a very rich time but has not gone quite like we thought it would.
We were not able to get farther than Chicago on our way to Romania because of the cloud of volcanic ash over Europe. Once flights finally began operating, the travel backlog was enormous and the airlines could not tell us how long we might be stuck at the airport in Germany waiting to get to Romania. It was clear we would miss more than half of our time and ministry opportunities in Romania. We decided with our ministry partners in Romania that is was best to reschedule the trip and the family conference. Many tears were shed when the final decision was made.
Even though we were planning on sharing the Lord with people in Romania, God has given us great opportunities to love people here in Chicago. God has graciously provided the chance to distribute food and Bibles in downtown Chicago, coffee and candy at the airport, have spiritual conversations with hotel staff and guests, sing “God is so Good” in Romanian/English to the Lufthansa staff and ticketing area, spend several hours with (and almost adopt) a 20 year-old girl living on the streets, share the Lord in taxicabs and subways, and work with an inner city ministry to youth (Inner City Impact). The kids have been in the thick of it, sharing Christ and giving Bibles to adults almost every day. While part of the team had to leave to preserve time off for our future Romania trip, most of the team will be here through Saturday. Tomorrow we get to share Christ’s love during an after school program with a group of 60-100 kids who come from difficult situations. Please pray the Lord will make the most of our time here and use the team to expand His Kingdom.
The Lord is teaching the team valuable things and showing us His goodness and faithfulness through this trip. We have felt the prayer support. Thank you for lifting us up before the Lord.
We’ll share more details after our return home. May the Lord bless you richly.
In His Name,
Matt for the entire Romania Mission Team
A new friend
Loving the subway
Recap of Days 7-8 / Thursday April 22 and Friday April 23
On Thursday and Friday, the team had the chance to spend a few hours each day sharing Christ’s love in the downtown area. We split into three teams and came up with a handful of ways to remind people of God’s plan for their lives. We handed out gift cards, we gave away food and candy, and we purchased food and drink for the next 10 people in line at Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonalds, and Starbucks. People were generally very surprised. When people asked why we were doing this, we shared about the Lord and gave them a scroll with a handwritten verse to remind them about God’s gracious offer of life with Him. The Lord opened doors for some great conversations.
We had one more chance to serve alongside the staff at Inner City Impact (ICI) ministering to children during an after school program. It was an eye opening experience that the whole team enjoyed a great deal. It was inspiring to watch the faithfulness of the staff as they minister day after day to kids that live in a very challenging and sometimes harsh environment.
When we were traveling to ICI, we were approached by a man in his late twenties named Brian. Brian asked for money to buy a subway ticket. We told him we’d walk with him to the subway and buy his ticket if he wanted. He agreed. As the team walked the three blocks to the subway, Brian opened up and shared how his drug use that started ten years ago had led him to prison and into a heroin addiction. He expressed his desire to be free from the chains that held him. When we arrived at the subway station, the team gathered around Brian and prayed for the Lord to unshackle him so he might have a new life with the Lord. Brian was crying when we finished praying. We encouraged Brian to take the next step into a Christ-centered rehab program and shared ways we could stay in touch and help. We continue to pray for our friend Brian.
At ICI, the director encouraged us to ask the Lord to lead us in connecting with kids who needed a touch. One of the children we met that night was named Titus. Titus began the evening with his sweatshirt hood pulled up to hide his sour, sullen expression. When an ICI staff told him to put his hood down, he refused defiantly, saying, “Go ahead and kick me out!” He received two disciplinary marks (three and you’re out) and had to take a “time out.” As Titus was sitting out, one of the ladies on the team went over and began talking with him. She stayed close to Titus for the rest of the program. The change in Titus during that time was hard to believe. The hood came down and Titus started to smile, laugh, and talk. He even let the teammate pray with him at the end of the evening. As she said good-bye and began to walk away, Titus ran around to get in front of her and began gushing about his report card grades. He even asked her to come meet his family. It was a great picture of the power of love. We continue to pray for Titus and are thankful he is connected to ICI.
Playing with new friends at Inner City Impact
Some naps are not optional
The Lord used the kids on the trip not only to open doors but also to help us see what He is like. As we travelled through the streets, the children were always keeping an eye out for someone in need. Any time we approached someone who looked like they might be hungry, they would offer whatever we had in our backpacks, including our team lunches. Inevitably, that would start a 5 to 15 minute conversation with a new friend. The Lord used the alert, bold, and compassionate eyes of the children on the team to bless many people and to encourage the parents to have the same perspective.
We are deeply grateful for all the Lord did during the trip to teach us about Him, about the people in Chicago, and about ourselves. We are very thankful for the chances He gave the team to love people and see His Kingdom growing. Because of our trip, we pray with fresh enthusiasm and trust, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.”
Mission 3:16 – family style