The world watched in wonder at the sudden overthrow of the communist government of Romania and the brutal dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. At that time, in late December 1989, I was walking through another war in Mozambique. Now only three months later in 1990 I was flying with the cross into the chaotic revolution in Romania.
From my diary I wrote these words: “I bolted the cross together in front of the hotel here in the capital city of Bucharest. This drew an immediate crowd of taxi drivers, many moneychangers, hotel workers, and prostitutes. There was a heavy, sad and discontented feeling among the people of Bucharest. At certain places along the street candles burn and there are piles of flowers where people remember those who have died in the fighting. The drab communist architecture added to the somber mood.
Often the streets are completely blocked by crowds of demonstrators protesting. Armored cars and tanks are parked with the machine gun toting troops watching. The people seem to be protesting about many different things.
In some ways it’s a bit different here because people think I’m protesting something also! It’s not just a simple walk with the cross. A lot of buildings in the central area are bullet riddled and blackened with smoke that stains the concrete and stone
walls. I bought some red tulips and tied them on the cross. As I approached one large intersection that has a roundabout for traffic, I was broken hearted to see a very large area covered with thousands of candles, flowers, crosses and funeral wreaths. Crowds of people were weeping and lighting candles. The shell marks on the buildings told the story of the massacre.
The people, deep in grief or occupied with protest, did not try to talk or gather about the cross. They seemed to respect me but generally let me move along with my own purpose.
I lay down tonight with a heavy heart at the pain of the people. Oh, Jesus, help the
suffering, the poor, and the oppressed. The dictatorship has fallen but confusion
has risen. How far humanity has gone from the peace of the Garden of Eden, how
needed for the human heart to hear,”Peace, good will toward all men!”
The walk today was profound. The sidewalks going out of the city were quite
empty and in the few cars the drivers just stared and would not wave. As I reached
the outskirts of Bucharest I saw a crowd and smoke rising. As I walked nearer I
could see scores of crosses on fresh graves covered with flowers. There was a
huge billboard listing the names of hundreds of people who had been killed. This
had once been a park but was now converted into a cemetery. I carried the
cross there, knelt and prayed for the hurting, grieving people. There was a
constant flow of crowds coming and going. No one spoke English but they
could tell my concern. Later in the day I walked by a Romanian Orthodox Church
that was being freshly repaired. There were the bright pink and blue paintings of
the life of Jesus and saints on the outside. What a joy to see the expression of faith
in Christ as the heel of the atheist oppression is lifted. I was invited to a home. For
the meal they served green onions, goat cheese, black olives, bread, Romanian brew mixed with “teen” soft drinks and cigarettes! They did not speak English but we had good fellowship by signs and a dictionary.
It was a cold, wet day in Constanta beside the Black Sea. The city seemed almost abandoned today, Palm Sunday. I saw a Romanian Orthodox Church and it was filled and overflowing with worshipers carrying palm branches remembering the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the week before He was crucified. I bought a palm branch and put it on the cross.
As I walked on I heard a voice behind me in English, “Where are you from?” The young man was named Dan. He is an English teacher but has not been allowed to speak to English until the last few months. Leaving the cross in these gardens, we went inside his family’s apartment. His father is a famous poet and newspaper writer. They cooked a big fish for me and we discussed the world and the life of Jesus. Dan prayed to receive and follow Jesus before I left. I walked out into the pouring rain as I felt I should go on. I knew in my heart God had something else ahead for today. I promised to return to their home tomorrow.
After walking in a big loop through the city, I returned to the hotel ready to go to my unheated and cold room. There was a man and little girl waiting for me. There are a lot of beggars about and it breaks my heart. They did not want money but something else. It was difficult to understand but I finally could understand ‘Hallelujah’. We now had a word. Then with motions I saw they wanted to put the cross on their car and drive me somewhere! We left and went to his apartment. It was in a high rise building with no heat, many windows were broken out and now rags filled the holes. The inside was the pit of poverty. The children all wore in heavy clothes inside. The father was so proud to have me in their home. We got all the children and his lovely wife and drove on to church where I met the pastor. They wanted to see the cross and have me preach but no one spoke English. They were trying to phone people but no one was at home. Some even left to preach in the area but no one was there to interpret. The singing in the little Pentecostal church continued. A lady about thirty years old came and sat beside me and said, “I speak English very well, I can interpret but they don’t want me.” I was amazed and said, “Why?” She replied, “Because I had a baby without a husband.” She looked so rejected. Deep love filled my heart and I said, “Perhaps that is why I’m here, to restore you!”
I took her to the pastor and said with her interpreting, “You want me to preach, you can’t find an interpreter, and all the time this lady is here and you knew it, she can speak English. Were Jesus here, and
He is, don’t you think He would use her. Perhaps after her rejection,
and tears she may have the most pure heart now among us. Jesus
has called us to lift up people, not stomp them down. The Lord sent
me out in the rain and cold because there was something more to do
today. This is it, let God be glorified, let’s use this lady to interpret and
restore her before the people. After all everyone here is a sinner,
let’s leave judgment to God.”
The pastor and the lady embraced in tears, she did a glorious job interpreting. God had restored her in the eyes of the people from being shunned, rejected, and judged unworthy. When I completed my message, the people were crying and hugging her. Then she was invited over to a family home where we had a big late- night meal with a group from the church. The formerly shunned woman was enjoying fellowship.
When I arrived back to the dump hotel I had a message from Dan, “Please write me the prayer you prayed at my house. My father wants to print it in the newspaper so all the readers can also pray and have Jesus in their lives. We want the people to have what came into our home today.”
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt