Everything New

Cristian & Otilia Stroia September 01 2018, 3:08 pm | 0 Comments

“This can’t be happening to me. I didn’t do anything to deserve this!” My head was spinning, my heart was racing, and I wasn’t able to hold back my tears. The doctor and nurses buzzed like bees around me, chattering and trying to explain things. But I was zoning out, staring at the white hospital room ceiling. How had I gotten here? I wished I could crack that ceiling open and let my bitter prayers fly to heaven.
It had started like a normal week; even better than most. It was right before our most anticipated event of the year, Cristian’s astronomy-themed trip for the children in our vacation Bible school. Besides that, our hearts were overwhelmed with joy that we were finally going to become parents for the first time. But then the devil began his work of sabotaging our joys, one after another.

First, it was our car. Just one day before the trip, Cristian found it badly scratched all around in a public parking lot. We really cared about that car, and I have to confess that I almost cried when I saw how bad it looked. Not to mention the repair estimate, which was about half the car’s value. After a short conversation with the police, realizing there was no time left to solve the crime, Cristian went back to his preparations for the next day. (Apparently you can’t sue children for drawing on your car with rusty nails under a non-working surveillance camera!)

The next attack targeted our health. With all that day’s stress and the accumulated exhaustion of a few extremely busy weeks, Cristian began feeling weak and dizzy with stomach pain and no appetite. There was no time to fix that either, so he spent all three days of the astronomy trip eating nothing but toast and trying to keep positive. Fortunately, nobody else seemed to notice how sick he felt.

The last day of their astronomy trip found me on a hospital bed with a diagnosis of high miscarriage risk, wondering what had just happened to us. At that point I was too sedated and scared to think clearly, but later that day I started to connect the dots. We were on a battlefield. Everything we cared about—our possessions, health, family, faith and work—were all under serious attack. I knew that the astronomy trip had the potential to be one of the greatest accomplishments of our project, so I tried to do some damage control and keep the worrying news for myself until that night when they were going to return. But Cristian suspected something was not right, so I had to drop the news on him over the phone. It was the games day, meaning that apart from all the organizing being on his shoulders, he had to entertain 20 children and their teachers, all while keeping his mind clear and a smile on his face as his stomach endured spasms of pain. Despite all of this, the trip was a real success and a blessing for everybody involved.

Sadly, after a few days in which everything humanly possible was done, we left the hospital with an unanswered prayer and without our little one. It was heartbreaking, and it affected both of us in so many ways. It was the most difficult time we had ever faced, a time of questions, sadness, anger and tears. Also, this unexpected turn came at a time when we were weighing the decision to take on a new AFM project. We loved working with AFM, but we had a few reservations about things like our possessions, families, jobs, safety, a new language and fear of unknown.

As I write this story, exactly three years have passed since that awful day when I lost something very important and learned what other things were not so important. I remember thinking, Only a few days ago I was crying over a scratched car. Now I don’t care about it much at all. Those moments when I was feeling like my whole world had collapsed, the things that kept me sane were, interestingly enough, not things. Not a shiny car, not a stable home, not the two jobs I loved, not the fact that I was communicating in my own language. Instead, it was my husband, who was still feeling weak but did everything in his power to make me comfortable, day and night. It was our landlord who drove me to the hospital early in the morning, still wearing his pajamas, and took care of me until Cristian arrived. It was the kind old lady in the room next to mine who checked on me all the time, trying to lift my spirits and make me eat. It was the friends from church who visited me, bringing food and warm hugs. It was our lovely field directors who offered their unconditional support along with our future colleagues at the AFM office who were praying for us three times a day.

It wasn’t until later that year that I started to process what happened and realized that everything that really matters in this life, or in the next one for that matter, is people—actual, real people. Not that jobs, possessions and comfort are bad things. They just aren’t the most important things. From that point on, I started to feel less and less attached to the things I used to value. This tragic loss popped the bubble I was living in, forcing me to face my worst fears and surrender them to God. When I told Cristian that I was running out of reasons not to go with AFM, he just smiled. In his mind, that question had been settled for a while.

Fast forward to a sunny September day two years ago. The scene looked familiar, but it felt oh, so different. The doctor and nurses buzzed around me like bees, chattering and asking me questions I didn’t even hear. Staring at the white ceiling with tears rolling down my face, I asked God how this could be happening to me and what I had done to deserve it. Only this time I was not heartbroken and scared, but grateful and ridiculously happy. I looked down at the tiny miracle in my arms, our perfect baby boy with bright red lips and round face, who was pressing his chubby cheeks to my face in a peaceful hug. I remember in that moment I told myself that this is exactly what heaven must be like. It’s when you still remember all the pain, sadness and suffering, but you can’t feel it anymore. You know it’s still there, but it doesn’t define you anymore. “Thank you, God. Thank you!” I repeated this short prayer like a broken disk the whole day, the next night and every day after that.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed way. He who was seated on the throne said ‘I am making everything new!’”(Rev. 21:4, 5). It became clearer than ever that we had been called to share this amazing hope of things made new, and we were glad to accept. Only a few months after that, along with four suitcases and our bundle of joy, we were standing at the airport ready for the adventure of our lives. As we were heading to America to prepare for our next project, we remembered how God led us to pay forward what we had received ourselves. We are ready to invest everything in people—His children—because they are all that matters.

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