A Heartbreakingly Beautiful Girl

When Clara (the pastor’s wife and my hostess) tells me the ugly truths about life in Romania her voice and face are drained of all emotion, while mine are breaking up from emotions that can’t be contained.  That is how she told me about Sandy.  Clara and Leo have four children, and care for two other girls.  I had met one of them, Ruth, last year.  Ruth’s parents left her with her grandmother while they were divorcing.  When each parent re-married, neither wanted Ruth, so she stayed with her grandmother until the grandmother’s death.  At the time of the grandmother’s death, Ruth was six years old, and both parents had children with their new spouses.  Clara and Leo took her in.  The parents visit Ruth periodically, but Clara and Leo have legal guardianship of her.

When I heard Ruth’s story last year, I wondered how heartless people could be toward their own child—until this morning when I heard Sandy’s story.  Clara and Leo took Sandy into their home on weekends two years ago after her mother died and her father left her with her grandmother.  Clara asked about the mother’s death and learned that she had been forced into prostitution by her husband, and had died after a few years.  She didn’t say what she had died of, but considering all the risks of prostitution it could be anything:  AIDS or another STD, a drug overdose, murder, or suicide.  Clara didn’t say, but it really doesn’t matter, it was a result of prostitution.

When she saw the look on my face, Clara said, “I don’t know if he tried to get work or just wanted the easy way.”  I marveled at her refusal to judge a man who had prostituted the mother of his children.  She went on to tell me that the grandmother is in poor health, and that Sandy has a handicapped brother, so she helps them after school, but stays with Clara and Leo on the weekends so that she can go to church and have a chance to be a kid.  Knowing Clara the way I do, she probably also gives the grandmother money to help buy groceries and pay the bills.

But I wasn’t prepared for what came next.  Clara told me that she worries about Sandy’s dad returning to take her and sell her into prostitution because she’s tall and pretty like her mother was.  Sandy is twelve years old.

Again my face betrayed me.  Clara shrugged and said, “This is a common story in Romania.”  She said that some of the older girls from church send her notes, asking her and Leo to pray for them.  They respond to advertisements for well-paying summer jobs in Budapest, and go with their parents’ blessing.  Then when they arrive they learn that the work is prostitution.  Too ashamed to tell their parents, they work as prostitutes for the summer, then come back home with much-needed money for the family, and resume normal life as a student.  The notes always end the same way: begging Clara and Leo not to tell their parents.

Last year I had asked Clara about the issue of human trafficking.  I had heard that Romania is one of the places where the women enslaved into prostitution come from.  She told me about a little girl from their little city, Biberon: Christina was a pretty little blonde with blue eyes who her daughter, Elizabeth, knew from school.  One day Christina was walking home from school with a friend.  Just two blocks from home a man in a car pulled up to the curb and with urgency in his voice said to Christina, “Hurry! Get in the car!  Your mother sent me to get you!”  She got into the car and has never been seen or heard from again.  Christina’s friend hadn’t thought to notice anything about the man or his car because she had also believed his story.  This happened two years ago, when Christina was only ten years old.  Most likely Christina has been raped, beaten, and trafficked to a country in Western Europe because she doesn’t need a passport to move about within the European Union.

Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, and slavery is illegal in virtually every country in the world.  There are estimated to be more slaves today than in all the years of human history added together.  And if you think it’s not happening where you live, think again.  Check out your hometown on the slavery map:  http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/.  To read more about human trafficking, see: http://humantrafficking.org/.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  Edmund Burke

The Scars of Communism Part Two

As I wrote in The Scars of Communism (https://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/the-scars-of-communism/), just before coming on this trip to Hungary and Romania, I opened the box of books that I had gotten out of storage after a year, and the book at the very top was “Tortured for Christ” by Richard Wurmbrand.  The things suffered by Pastor Wurmbrand and the rest of the Underground Church really moved me.  After all, I could have been born in a Communist country, and had to suffer for my faith, too.

And in The Wild Life (https://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/the-wild-life/) I wrote:

Today there was a conference for the seniors of the church, at which Pastor H. Koraćs Gėza spoke.  I was told that I would have about five minutes to speak to them.  So of course I prayed about it, and here’s what I said:

Looking out here at all the gray hair, I am aware that many of you and your parents kept your faith in Christ under the oppressive rule of the atheistic Communists.  I have two things to say to you: First, I am deeply sorry that my country believed the lies of the Communists and did nothing to help you.  Secondly, I know that someday you will trade your silver crowns for gold crowns.  I am here to honor you for your faithful service to your Lord and mine.

To the young people here I say: learn from these elders, and share the love of Christ with everyone you know.

And finally, I would like to thank Pastor Gėza for coming.  It is an honor to meet you.

When Pastor Gėza returned to the platform, he observed that Christianity had actually flourished and grown under Communist oppression.  He said that Christianity now faces a far more dangerous enemy in the form of complacency.  I believe he’s right.

It is the danger of complacency in Eastern Europe is that it is following the same pattern that makes Western Europe such a difficult mission field.  Complacency has caused Western Europe to evolve from nominal Christianity through religious disconnection, cynicism, and xenophobia to become the secular, materialistic, humanistic, hedonistic, nihilistic, hopeless, suicidal people they’ve become, seeking answers in drugs and alcohol, Eastern Philosophies, Witchcraft, and Satanism.  Is it any wonder that abortion and human trafficking thrives in such an environment?  In Switzerland it is now possible to request physician-assisted suicide without any physical illness.

The most frightening thing of all is that the United States is following the unfortunate pattern of Europe.

What does complacency look like?  Complacency looks like Christianity, but lacks the power of the Holy Spirit, or as the Apostle Paul put it: “having a form of godliness but denying its power,” (2 Timothy 3:5).  Complacency seeks answers and help through human means instead of looking to God as the Source of all things.  Complacency seeks its own comfort instead of God’s way.

When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” Complacency answers, “But I have family responsibilities,” (Matthew 8:21).

When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” Complacency answers, “OK, but let me say goodbye to my family,” (Luke 9:61).

When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” Complacency answers, “But it’s dangerous,” (John 12:25-26).

When Jesus says, “Follow Me” Complacency answers, “But the food there is gross!  I can’t sleep on the floor!  There’s no electricity!  No internet!  No phone signal!” (Matthew 8:19-20).

Complacency makes all sorts of excuses for not following Jesus, and some of them seem appropriate and valid.  But there are missionaries all around the world who have said yes to Jesus even though it meant leaving family responsibilities, saying goodbye to family, going into danger, eating disgusting food, sleeping on the floor, without electricity, internet or phone.

But Complacency is worse than that.  Complacency doesn’t want to rock the boat by bringing Jesus into the school or the workplace.  Complacency believes in the separation of church and state.  Complacency won’t even talk about Jesus at parties with friends, for fear of offending someone.

Because of these attitudes, Jesus is no longer welcome in our schools or workplaces; Biblical Christianity has no say in lawmaking; and political correctness has become more important in American society than the salvation of souls.  Those people that you’re so worried about offending need to hear the Good News that Jesus died for them.  And the person you know with the hardest heart is someone who desperately needs Jesus.

Jesus was meek and gentle, and offensive to the people who rejected Him and His free offer of salvation.  He never backed down from telling the truth.  He is our Perfect Example, and like Him, we need to be ready to “offend” people with the truth.  But to do that, we’ve got to step out of our comfort zone.  We’ve got to give up comfortable Complacency.  We’ve got to pick up our cross and follow Him, even when that leads us away from family and friends.  And to do that we’ve got to trust God.

Here’s one last thought:  Have you ever read the list of the people who are going to hell in Revelation 21:8?  “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars —they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”  Look who leads the list: not the murderers, not idolaters, but the cowardly!  Many times throughout the Bible we are encouraged to be strong, bold, and courageous.  Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels,” (Mark 8:38).