8: Stretched Thin in Time and Space

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Questions from Readers
How do you know that God is Just Love? 
Ken, how did this become heart instead of just head knowledge?
(What follows is the eighth of an eleven-part series that is one answer to these questions.)

As a direct result of the changes wrought by the revolution, it was not long before it was time for Titi to make his second pilgrimage to the United States.  He and Ligia were being sponsored on a promotional tour by the Navigators.  Titi negotiated four days at the end of the trip to visit our family in Columbus, Ohio.  I was honored and delighted beyond words. 

It’s like finding an oasis in the desert with a bubbling natural spring of refreshing water and a variety of fruit trees in season.  This sanctuary in the barren wasteland nurtures body, mind and spirit.  You stay long enough in this haven to really rest, and for memories of the God forsaken wilderness to fade.  When, at the setting and the rising of the sun, you glance towards the desert possessed by sand and heat, you realize you have been healed.  The emptiness no longer sends out tremors of despair.  You are primed to resume the desert journey.  You are no longer afraid of how thin life can be stretched in time and space.  You have claimed for your own a fullness of life known by those who have traveled long and well very close to God.

It was not for me to know if I ever would see Titi and Ligia again, but while we were together faith blossomed.  In their presence I dwelt in a spiritual oasis and I was healed by the hope they had unearthed from beneath the sands of tyranny.   These were the best of times.  But it was time for them and for me to leave the oasis and set out on separate journeys.   Still, I believed that as long they were resisting oppression and as long I continued to seek the reviving love of God, we would be bonded by Christian love. 

In fact, we had a plan.  Titi had a contact with The Navigators, a para-church Christian mission organization that regularly sent emissaries through the Iron Curtain into Romania.   An undercover Christian could carry our letters and he could deliver the financial support that my church pledged to Titi and Ligia.   For 7 years, until communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, the First Baptist Church of Littleton dispatched $500 per quarter to Romania.  It was only later that we discovered that each gift was divided by the Bulzans between their family and the families of two other pastors, Paul and Nicolae, in Oradea.  Three families endured and carried on and outlived oppression, and we were there.  Letters were exchanged and I eventually learned that if I called Titi after midnight the telephone lines might be open and they would certainly be at home, about to begin another day.  I was overwhelmed with joy each time we connected.  The vast majority of times I tried to call we did not connect, and letters were separated by long months of waiting.  However, we were faithful and slowly, persistently, according to the timing of God, the world changed.

Romania, 1989

I read every word I could find about the Romanian Revolution of 1989.   Titi Bulzan, no longer an architect, now the pastor of the Golgatha Baptist Church in Arad, Romania, was also a principal organizer, with Drs. Nicolae and Paul, of the Baptist version of the revolution.   Titi represented the newly constituted Baptist Union in their international affairs and it was only a matter of time before he returned to the United States.

I was honored and delighted beyond words when I learned they would be coming to my new home and church in Columbus, Ohio.  Fortunately they would be with us over a weekend so it was easy to give them maximum exposure at my new church, Mountview Baptist, in Upper Arlington.  My people at Mountview had heard some of my stories about our Preaching Mission in Romania.  When the Bulzans visited and spoke, the church was fascinated and inspired by Titi’s accounts of Baptist survival during the previous eight years under communism. 

An unanticipated blessing of this visit with the Bulzans was the bonds that were created between Titi and Ligia and our children.  Immediately upon their arrival, after introductions, we sat down at the kitchen table to share two loaves of peasant bread.  My children, Stacey age 11, Lauren age 8, and Micah age 6, thought this was skimpy fare and made their opinions known.  But when I began cutting the hard bread and had passed the first two pieces to our guests, Titi erupted with pleasure.  “We have been in the states for almost 2 months and you are the first family to serve us Romanian bread, bread that tastes like home, bread that makes us feel like we are fully welcomed in your home.  Thank you Micah, thank you Lauren, thank you Stacey, you are the most wonderful children we have met in America.”  The children were hooked and the most loving relationships that could possibly be formed in four days were forged.  Titi prayed, “Our Lord Jesus, you are the Bread of Heaven, the substance of our spiritual lives, and together we will receive the gift of life from you in this delicious bread that is a bountiful feast.  Amen.”  Ligia suggested that we add butter to our scant fare and we also had a large bowl of fruit ready for everyone.

The kids reminded us that there were some strong cheeses in the refrigerator that Titi and Ligia might like.  They teased Titi into trying the most pungent one.  To get the children laughing Titi pretended to be overcome by the tang of strong Wisconsin cheddar.  He continued to act weird with the kids for pretty much all of the next few days.

One other transformational chain of events was set in motion during the Bulzan’s visit to Columbus.  Our entire family loaded the mini-van for the drive down to Cincinnati where Titi and Ligia would board a plane for their transcontinental flight back to Europe and the joyful and tear-filled reunion that awaited them with their four children.   Midway to the airport Titi said to the children, “Stacey, Lauren, Micah, I have an invitation for your dad.  Within the next year I want him to come back to Romania.  I need him to be an evangelist in my church.  There are many people in Arad who do not know the love of Jesus like you know His love.  I need a man like your dad who can teach and preach and love my people the way your dad loves you.  What do you think?  Can he come to Romania again?”  I was driving and could not see anyone’s reactions but suddenly Stacey drummed my shoulders and proclaimed, “Dad, you are going back to Romania!”

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