The road was dusty, a mixture of rocks, compacted shoes and trash. The sun shone down on us as we left the bus and entered the village of Tinca, one of the largest and poorest gypsy villages in the area. As we walked along the main road, children flocked to us, grabbing hands and leading people forward. I prayed for God to bring me a child for each hand, ones that I was meant to focus on and be intentional with.
He did just that.
Soon my hands were tightly grasped by two young girls. They were barefoot, had dirty hair and faces scarred from cigarette burns and small cuts, but their eyes gleamed and their smiles were bright as they looked up at me. As they led me deeper into the village, watching as I sidestepped large pools of stagnant water, I knew: this was why I was here.
The first girl asked me my name. I told her it was Kristin, which she translated to what was to become my Romanian name- Cristina. Then she took a yellow marker and slowly wrote each letter onto my arm– first completing my name, then her friend’s name, and then her own. Andreea.
She wrote her name on my arm, and it was permanently etched into my heart.
When we reached the grassy area we were to make our Gospel presentation in, Andreea and her friend both snuggled close to me, one on each side, a sea of children all around us. They got as close to me as they could, hugging and grinning up at me. I returned the embrace and prayed over them, my heart stirring deeply for these kids.
Andreea brought her baby brother, Abram, to me a little later. He couldn’t have been older than two years old, a sweet faced little one wearing only a worn girls hand-me-down t-shirt. She told me through a translator that Abram was sick, that I should go hold him in the shade so he wouldn’t throw up. It wasn’t an area of the village I was allowed to go to, so, heart sad, I tried to hand him back to her. ‘No, no,’ she said, not taking him from my arms. Not for the first time, I was humbled and moved by the realization that my holding a child was so important in this place. To Andreea, Abram being held by me was more important than getting him out of the sun, even when he was sick. So I held little Abram until I had to leave Tinca. I sang over him, telling him how Jesus loved his beautiful little face. I prayed for his healing, both physically and spiritually. I prayed that he would grow up to be a man of God, one to bring the light of Christ into his village. And all the while, Abram smiled.
Before we left the village, our team prayed for anyone who wanted prayer for healing. All of my little ones wanted prayer, so Sefe (my translator and new friend) and I began to put our hands on each of them and pray for their healing, both physical and spiritual. Andreea asked us to pray for her face. It wasn’t until after I spoke to Sefe later that I understood that the marks on her cheeks she had pointed to were scars from abuse. My heart broke for her, realizing that her request was for the scars on her face to heal and fade. I prayed that they would– that the marks would fade, that her hurt would be healed, and that she would be freed from that sort of darkness in her life.
That first day in Tinca really shaped the rest of the trip for me. My heart stayed there, somewhere in the midst of a gypsy village, amongst love-starved children. There was a lot of poverty and darkness in that place, but in the eyes of the children I saw a spark. They crave love, yes, but I sensed hope within them, hope that they would find that love. My prayer is that they recognize Christ as their hope and are overwhelmed by His love. My prayer is that more people go into that village and share the Gospel with them. My prayer is for Tinca to be free from darkness and radiate His marvelous light.