My first taste of Romania is not what I expected it to be.
Firstly, the natural beauty of this country has taken my breath away. In the three hour car journey from Bucharest to our base in Sacele, I was captivated by the landscape we passed through. Long highways weave through leagues of rolling hills and rural plains, covered here and there by patches of deciduous forest. For miles into the distance all you can see is uninhabited land drenched in the light of the setting sun, until, in the horizon, your eyes are met by ominous, foreboding mountain ranges. The road to Brasov then plunges us into deep forest, silent and hauntingly beautiful. Night approaches as we wind up into mountains covered in pine trees.
We’re truly deep into the country that has become the setting of the West’s fascination with vampires – I feel I’m walking the pages of a gothic novel as we pass through this Transylvanian landscape.
My second big surprise was the huge contrasts in urban Romania. As we pass through Bucharest, I’m greeted on the one hand by the familiar sights of Western shopping centres and high streets (home to brands like H&M, Deichmann, and MacDonalds); on the other we pass blocks of monolithic Soviet-era Communist apartment blocks. A little further out we’re met by the sights of rural Romania – herders herding goats, horses and carts, traditional agricultural buildings.
We finally arrive at FAST’s headquarters in Sacele, to be warmly greeted by our hosts, Daniel and Ema, who head up the organisation. After greetings, gladly received cups of tea, and prayers, we’re tucked in bed after a long day’s travelling.
Day Two: church services, picnics and mountain ranges
Today we had the opportunity to travel into Brasov as a group to worship at a small, English-speaking church I’m the city. We had a wonderful time worshiping alongside and meeting Romanians, Germans, Americans, an Austrian, South Africans, and, of course, us English folk. I always love services like this. Although we’re a diverse group of people speaking many tongues, from many nations, we’re united as family – brothers and sisters drawn together praising our Father. It’s a taste of that image of heaven in Revelation, where people of all tribes and nations bow before the throne of God to praise him. I love it.
Not long after, we’re heading out of Brasov into the mountains after a short picnic stop. We journey through more vast forest, more sun-bathed countryside. We eventually end up at our destination: a ski resort that turns into a base for walkers, climbers and cyclists during the summer months.
Next, we plunge into a small summit-bound cable car as a group, and trundle hundreds of kilometres up, up, up into the mountains. As the foot of the mountain vanishes beneath my feet and I’m carried as if flying to its peak, I’m continually awestruck by the glory, the beauty, the majesty of God revealed in the scenery around me. We soon reach the top, we exit, and I look down.
I’ve never seen anything like it. We’re 1,799m above sea level, looking down into the basin that houses Brasov. We’re surrounded by mountain ranges whose peaks are hidden in thick, swirling cloud. It takes my breath away, again an again- we’re treated to a view miles of unbroken Transylvanian countryside and mountain ranges stretching into the horizon.
These words from Psalm 98 come to mind:
Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord , for he comes to judge the earth. (vv. 8,9b)
God never stops surprising me with his beauty, his creativity, his majesty.
After this moment of encounter, We’re soon back in Sacele: tomorrow, work begins.