Missionary Diary: A return to routine in Romania

Jennifer Grocott and her husband Adi are missionaries with European Christian Mission (ECM) in Timisoara, in western Romania, where they live with their two children, Anna and Luca. Their aim is to equip local Christians to share the gospel of Jesus with the children of Romania.

My life looks very different from when I first moved from Australia to Timisoara, Romania back in 2003. I was 23 and single, having come on a two-year contract to volunteer at a government-run institution for disabled children. My mornings were slow, filled with quiet breakfasts, collecting water from the neighbourhood pump and buying fresh bread direct from the factory around the corner. I would walk to the other side of town to play and sing and serve the children that filled my heart with equal amounts of heartbreak and intense joy.

Eighteen years later I’m married to Adi, a Romanian, and we have our own two children, Anna, 6, and Luca, 4, who also bring abundant joy and occasional heartache into our lives. Now my mornings are filled with alarms, kids crawling into the pull-out couch we sleep on, hurried showers, making breakfasts, packing lunches, dressing, teeth brushing and combing hair to get our kids out the door and to school on time at 8.30am. But while mornings may be a mad scramble, we are so thankful that they can actually attend school, which wasn’t the case for the majority of last year.

While COVID shut down many opportunities for us, God revealed other ways for us to encourage and equip believers …

Heading to school, Anna flies ahead on her scooter and I walk briskly behind. I drop her off and retrace my steps home, treasuring the 20 minutes of alone time to think, process and pray about the day ahead. I arrive back at the apartment block and climb up the four flights of stairs that lead to the two-bedroom apartment we share with my husband’s parents. It is a tight squeeze, but we make it work. It was rough during COVID, having four adults and two young kids locked down inside a small apartment, but with the children in school, we all feel like we can breathe easier. Also, it gives Adi and I focused time to work before we need to pick them up at 12:30pm.

After moving back to Australia in 2011 to study at Sydney Missionary Bible College, along with Adi, we returned to Romania in August 2018 with the desire to encourage and equip local Christians to share the gospel of Jesus with children, so that through all parts of Romania, children get to hear and respond to the gospel and grow in their relationship with Jesus. It was our desire to partner with existing children’s ministry organisations and when we returned, we started reconnecting with colleagues and developing relationships, but then COVID hit. As the situation worsened, questions loomed: “What’s happening?”, “What do we do now?”. While COVID shut down many opportunities for us, God revealed other ways for us to encourage and equip believers to share and grow in the gospel.

I sit down and open my devotional, desperate to receive encouragement and refreshment from God’s word and then spend a time in prayer for ministry, our friends, family and myself. I catch up on emails from supporters, the ECM office, family and friends and then focus on the barrage of messages that have already built up last night and this morning. I contact the team of Sunday school teachers that I coordinate to make sure things are on track for this Sunday and they have all that they need. Now it’s time to Zoom in with my mentor Fey, who has been an absolute lifeline during this tumultuous time. She has been able to guide and advise me, reassure and comfort me, question and challenge me, as Adi and I have negotiated and strived to serve the church and our community through the pandemic. We end in prayer. As I walk back to Anna’s school to pick her up, I reflect on what Fey and I have shared and start to think through and pray about how I can implement some of the changes we talked about.

Outdoor COVID-safe Sunday school at Jennifer's local church

Outdoor, COVID-safe Sunday school at Jennifer’s local church

On the way home, we stop halfway at a local park and Anna eagerly approaches other children with her catchphrase, “Vrei sa fim prieteni?” (“Do you want to be friends?”). Some days I strike up conversations with another mother or grandmother at the park, but it doesn’t look like there is chance of that today. When we arrive home, Adi has picked up Luca from preschool and I let them play as I prepare lunch. The afternoon flies by, full of Lego and playdough, shopping and odd jobs, until it’s time to sit down for dinner. I am ever so thankful for my mother-in-law and the delicious contribution she has made this evening. Dinner over, we move through the night routine of bath, Bible and books, and we tuck Anna and Luca away for the night, ready to start all over again the next day.

It feels reassuring to have some sort of routine returning into our lives, but through the turmoil of the past two years, we have become so more aware of how little control we have and how vital it is remain forever dependent on our Creator, Saviour and Comforter. We cling to the reassurance that although we may not know what tomorrow may bring, our Lord does, and we can trust him entirely to guide us through each and every day.