God Gave Me a Song

We are good Baptists. At least we were good Baptists. We may have turned a corner this morning at the Baptist Church at Topa de Crisa. It goes without saying that being in the presence of believers of another tongue is an amazing experience. When they sing an old hymn in the native language it is euphoric. All was well with our soul until communion.

The bread was passed and taken without incident. Then it came time for the cup. In the Bible Belt the wine is grape juice, Welch’s, fortified with antioxidants and Vitamin D. You can buy Baptist Bible Belt communion juice next to orange juice and just down the aisle from cheese at the Piggly Wiggly. In Romania, communion juice comes from the vineyard, off the vine, aged, fermented, wine!

There I stood beside Pastor Othneal, facing the congregation, and also facing the front two rows filled with our Bible Belt mission team. I knew what was about to happen. The communion cup looked like that of the Piggly Wiggly variety, not of the vineyard variety. Appearances can be deceiving but, your throat knows the difference. The moment our team took the cup, the look on each face declared this stuff was not from The Pig.

If I could have video taped the expression that came across my naive, raised under shelter, independent Baptist Christian School educated, wife’s face, I would be a shoe in for the $10,000 prize on Funniest Home Video. Her face shouted, “It burns, and I think I am drunk.” Joan began to hack. Some of the men in the group looked as if they wanted seconds. Watching the whole thing I almost got the Holy giggles. The Holy giggles is that laugh you get in church and you can’t stop. But the service continued and the beads of sweat that formed on my forehead begged it to stop before I busted a gut in front of the godly Romanian people. The Bible says that there is much rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents. If all of Heaven had its eyes on Topa de Crisa this morning, it was surely entertained.

Following the afternoon service, we were invited to the home of Dana and Nel. Dana had, for lunch, already fed us one of the greatest meals I have ever ingested. Dana taught me that Americans have no idea what to do with beef. We are not the beef people. Romanians now hold the title. Following the afternoon meal the team began to inquire about each of our host’s stories during the communist reign. What was life like for them? What was church like for them? We all sat in stunned shock over the stories we heard. It was convicting and encouraging all at the same time. I know I kept voicing a monotonous, “wow”, but trust me each “wow” was a tone of worship and awe. It is hard to sit in a room of people to whom faith means something far different than the garden variety faith we have in America and not sense the presence of God.

Pastor Othneal told us of a great Romanian composer who wrote over 8,000 songs of faith during communist rule. He said that the communists arrested this man and imprisoned him in a camp. They broke his hands and wrists so that he could no longer compose songs. One night in the winter the guards marched the composer out into the cold, stripped him naked, and forced him to stand in the elements while the guards stood in the warm and ridiculed him. After many hours they brought the naked, frozen composer back inside and asked him, “What did your God do for you out there?” His reply was simple, “God gave me a song.”

There is so much more I have in my heart to share, but there is not enough ink, nor is ink adequate to catch the movement and emotion of the Holy Spirit in my life as I listened to these amazing people. As I listened to them, God gave me a song. The Holy Spirit brought my spirit to marvel at the wonder of the grace and power of God upon the persecuted. He also questioned me. What is the fabric of my faith? From what sort of loom am I woven? My faith, and that of so many who call themselves Christians is so fickle. Forgive me for being so blunt, but some of the garbage I cough up from my heart and the garbage that I deal with as a pastor in a Bible Belt church is not welcome in the room I just left; it is a disgrace. Bible Belt believers of the Piggly Wiggly variety need an hour in the home of Dana and Nel. It is an awakening to what should be done with beef and what should be done with faith. It is the gospel and it is salvation manifested in the story of a family and their people.


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