One of our assignments for Orientation Training was to visit a church of a different culture and language from us, and of a different culture than one we had visited, or will serve in. The idea was for us to get out of our comfort zone so we turn to God and reflect on any feelings, good, bad or indifferent about being in a new environment. And also to challenge our view of what "church" is and what part it plays in feeding us spiritually. It is an excellent project! I would even recommend for you to stretch yourself and try and find an ethnic church in your area.
Anyway, we chose to go to the Maranatha Romanian Church of God. Just as a precaution, I looked up some information on the Romanian culture. It was suggested that a woman not reach out to shake a man's hand, but to wait for him to extend his hand first; when in a private conversation, it is considered rude to place your hands in your pockets; and women typically wear a head scarf while in a church building and make certain their legs are covered underneath their skirts. I was very glad I had read this information prior to our visit!
Upon arriving at the church, I noticed that the congregation was segregated by gender. The women and children were on the right side and the men were on the left. After mentioning this to Kevin (who was initially oblivious to this), we parted ways. Adah and I took a seat and had almost a whole row of chairs to ourselves. After a few minutes, I noticed a young man speaking to Kevin. A few more minutes later, the young man handed Kevin an electronic device. Then, a young lady brought me one as well. It was a small receiver with some headphones. As I put the headphones in my ears, I heard English! I was so excited to hear the meaning of what they were singing. They had the songs on Power point, and we did notice quite a few similarities when compared to French, but the perfect translations were much better!
The service began with a song. After the song, we all prayed, with everyone kneeling on the ground, the women facing forward, and the men facing backward. The only exceptions were the elderly who just sat in their chairs. When everyone prayed, the prayed aloud. You could hear so much passion in their voices. This lasted about 10 minutes before everyone stood up again and sang another song. Once the song was over, we all sat down and a man walked up to the front and said a few words and invited us to all kneel again for prayer. This was repeated several times, only to be broken by a young woman singing, then later, some of the children played musical instruments. It was so beautiful to see and hear so many prayers. I only wish each prayer could have been translated.
After the first hour, Adah began to grow weary of her own toys and not being permitted to roam the aisles. I got up and took her to the bathroom to check her diaper and give her a minute to stretch. During this time, people were walking in and filling more and more seats. What started as a room of about 20 people slowly filled to around 60 people. As more people entered, the prayers became more fervent and more loud. Unfortunately, Adah became more anxious and more tired. During the next hour, I had to walk out one more time to allow her to burn off some energy. I could only hold her still for so long while trying to enjoy everything going on around me, and unfortunately Kevin couldn't do much to help out this time.
Then one of the men came forward and began to preach about the things God had laid on his heart. I didn't get to enjoy the sermon since Adah decided that throwing her toys to the toy-less children behind her was much more fun and had long since ripped out the headphones. Unfortunately, the grandmother behind us did not appreciate that and admonished me and Adah in Romanian and sat Adah's toys in her bag at the end of the aisle. Oops!
Overall, I enjoyed the three hour service that took me out of my usual comfort zone. The music touched my heart and the prayers filled my soul. Even though the only person who spoke English was the translator, many people shook our hands and greeted us afterwards. They were very polite and glad we came.