It is currently Tuesday night, and this morning our class was required to go our separate ways in order to start classes again for second semester. Back to classrooms and labs. Back to book reports and exams. Back to life as it was before Romania.
But in some ways, we can never go back to life as it was before Romania.
A week ago tonight our class was treated to a home cooked meal and a 'disco' organized by the students from Impact clubs around Lupeni and Uricani. The night was a particular blessing to me as I had been able to get to know many of the students from the Uricani club through my home stay experience. In fact, after my 'home stay,' I had been able to meet up with both my host siblings and their friends on multiple occasions; thus the night was a bittersweet goodbye. As we laughed, danced and shared our lives together for one more night... we schemed of ways to see each other again, even if it were years down the line. Some of our friends had created facebook accounts so that we could exchange photos and keep in touch, and some talked of visiting America, while we talked of coming back to the Jiu Valley (this time in the SUMMER); but the theme was the same: this would not be the last time we saw one another.
As I think about our new friends, even now I maintain that we will meet again. However, such plans are not always in our hands, thus I've been considering the 'what if's' of the situation. What if a week ago really was 'goodbye'?
Earlier in the day last Tuesday, our group was able to sit down for one last 'class meeting.' During that meeting we discussed anything and everything concerning our trip. From thoughts about the Orthodox Church, to how amazingly crazy Brandi and Dana were to start the New Horizons Foundation, to how we would answer everyone's favorite post-interim question ("How was it?" --like it is actually possible to describe 'how it was' in a few sentences!). However, one topic of discussion really caught my attention: hope. How did Dana and Brandi manage to maintain their hope despite all of their set backs in Romania? What colored the hope of the revolutionaries who revolted against communism in the first place? And what type of hopes and dreams did the Impact students have for their country, and for themselves?
Hope is a word that sparkles in Romania-- in ways that it never could in America. We talk about the 'American dream,' and discuss the desire to graduate from college. While in Romania, the dream is for so much more. The dream is for a society that trusts each other and helps. One where free enterprise, free thought, and imagination are encouraged for the first time in 50 years. The dream that people will start asking 'why', and that someone will have the answer.
Last Tuesday, as we were giving our final hugs and reminding one another to keep in touch, I couldn't help but think that my new friends were the definition of hope. They are all working hard to change their country, their schools, their families and even themselves. They are starting to ask 'why'; and teaching others to do likewise. And maybe more importantly, they are coming up with the answers to their own questions and problems.
And, therefore, I am OK with the 'what ifs.'
As Paul put it in Ephesians 2:13 "But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ."
I would love to see my Romanian siblings again. I would love to sit in the No Name Cafe in Uricani with a steaming cup of ciocolata calda again. I would love for some of my friends to come to America. But even if none of that is possible, I am reassured by the fact that our friends back in Romania are determined to change the course of Romania's history. The students there will continue on in their education and quest for social change, Brandi and Dana will continue on in their awesome work with Viatsa and the Impact clubs, and us Calvin students will continue on in our own modes of renewal---separated by thousands of miles, but with the same goals and driven by the same source of hope.
"But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you." - Psalm 39:7