She walked right off that plane and into my waiting arms with this declaration of intent:
"I'm going back next year! And I'm taking my friends!"
Back to the 11 hour flight before the 7 hour drive in the sweltering heat.
Back to the rooster and the neighing horse outside her window each morning.
Back to the sheep and the goats, the geese and the cows, roaming freely across fields and roadways.
Back to a people set free from communism but still struggling to find their way in this world.
Back to the church service in a language her ears don't understand and her tongue doesn't speak.
Back to meals around a table with strangers who are brothers and sisters by faith.
Back to the homes of starving children scarfing down bananas and hot dogs as fast as they can swallow.
Back to the brown eyes and the blue eyes searching hard, looking for help and for hope.
Back to the stories told through translators of a Father who never forsakes.
Back to the giggles and chuckles and smiles that need no translation at all.
Back to the songs and the games and the crafts and the children joining in.
Back to the vibrant, jolly pastor and his wife who selflessly serve, who dream great-big-God-sized dreams and who wait and trust in the Lord.
Back to the grandmother who rises early to prepare meals for the team.
Back to the college students who translate stories, prayers, and hope.
Back to the people . . . the ones who have burrowed their way deep into the corners of her heart.
So the morning after she returned home, she shook off jet-lag like a blanket tossed aside on the bed, and she went to care for two sweet preschool boys she had missed while she was away. Then she came home that afternoon and pulled the coffee can off the counter...the one she had stuffed full of cash and coins to pay for her trip this year. She sat down on the floor and counted out what she had earned, setting aside her tithe and stuffing the rest in the can. Then with a smile and a nod, she popped on the lid, and she patted the top of the can. And she turned to me and said with conviction, "That's my first installment - for when I go back next year."
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go,
and I will bring you back to this land.
I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
Genesis 28:15, NIV 1984
Photos of Romania by my dad, who traveled and served with my firstborn on her first mission trip overseas.