The first time I worshipped with brethren here in Romania was on a Wednesday night, the day after I first arrived. Our plane had landed ten minutes after midnight Tuesday nigh, so Sam and I stayed in Bucharest for a couple of nights before we came here to Severin. The class that night was entirely in Romanian and I struggled to follow the Bible passages, not knowing the Romanian names for Bible books and not being very familiar with Romanian numbers yet. I was also exhausted from traveling and jet lag and I found paying attention to something I could not understand very difficult. At the end of the class one of the brothers prayed, and I realized I had not even thought about not being able to understand and pray with the congregation, but I just prayed myself as the congregation prayed together.
I was overwhelmed that night for many reasons, but I remember being particularly overwhelmed because I had not really realized what worshipping with brethren in a different language would be like, or how difficult it would be. Of course I knew everything would be in Romanian, but I had not thought about it much; I was thinking about so many other things instead.
Thankfully, it is much better now, and I hope it will continue to only get easier. It helps a lot that I understand more and more Romanian every day. At first I could recognize a handful of words and there was a chance I could figure out what was being said, but now I can almost always pick up enough to figure out what people are talking about, even if I don’t know every exact word they say. Worshipping in a language that I don’t really know is definitely a challenge, but I never fail to be encouraged by my brothers and sisters every time we meet, and I pray God is glorified.
The first time I tried to sing Romanian hymns was a challenge. Romanian is a pretty phonetic language, so reading and pronouncing it is not too difficult once you know the alphabet and pronunciations. I found it hard, however, to focus on correctly pronouncing everything, singing the right tune, and trying to figure out what I was singing all at the same time! It may have been better for me not to sing and instead figure out what the song was saying and focus on that, but I thought it would be more encouraging to others for me to sing. I just hope they didn’t mind my attempts at pronouncing all the Romanian words. Now I can usually recognize enough words to think about what I’m singing, and I have also started to translate some of the hymns we sing often. This way I can know for sure what I’m singing about and focus on that instead of trying to figure out what to focus on.
Listening and Learning
As we walked home on the first Sunday I told Sam that my next goal was to learn the books of the Bible in Romanian and make sure I knew all my numbers. That night I made a Quizlet of the New Testament books and reviewed my numbers. I was so excited the next Wednesday night when I turned to all the song numbers by myself! I am also slowly getting used to the Romanian names for the books in the Bible, so I am able to follow along during lessons, even if they are completely in Romanian. I have a bilingual Bible with Romanian and English, so I also try to follow along in Romanian to hopefully learn a little more. Whenever Sam preaches he has a translator, so I have the benefit both of hearing his sermon and hearing it in Romanian, which also helps me learn. Dad is starting to preach more in Romanian, but he always emails us his notes in English and Romanian so we can understand what he is saying. I am so thankful for the several opportunities I have to go to several studies throughout the week, both for the chance to study the Bible and learn with others, and to have another chance to hear everything being translated into Romanian.
A couple of weeks ago Sam and I attempted to have a VBS–type event for kids. We wrote the material, gathered supplied, and advertised our Bible Week on Facebook, with posters all over Severin, and by passing out about 800 fliers. Unfortunately no one from the city came, but we learned a lot during the process. A friend of ours who is a member of the church in Severin came every day to translate if anyone came for us to teach. Rebecca, Sorin’s daughter (Sorin is a member of the Severin congregation and the translator) came on two days. On the first day I taught her the days of creation, and the second day a visiting Christian from America taught her about Moses. One of the many benefits from our Bible Week experience was that I felt a lot more comfortable with teaching here with a translator.
Last Sunday I began teaching Bible class for Rebecca, only this time it was a little different because I did not have a translator. However, with the help of Google Translate, a Romanian Bible storybook, and lots of pictures, we were able to make it work. Since Rebecca is only three I decided to continue to review the days of creation for a few more weeks, then we will move on to something else, although she is already pretty good at knowing what God did on each day!
Overall, worship in a different language is difficult, but it is getting better. I am learning more and more of the language every day and I pray I will continue to learn. Again, I am always encouraged when I worship with my brothers and sisters in Romania, and I am constantly reminded of the great blessing we have in God’s family. Even in another country with a different language I am connected to so many people through God’s amazing family.
~ Julie Peters