As "Peace" is shared, a Christmas lesson is learned from Romania

The great thing about travel is that you can discover yourself through people you never met. Here is a Christmas story from a place where Christmas was only a dream. Photo: Company Logo

BUCHAREST, ROMANIADecember 24, 2012 – Winter in Eastern Europe during the Cold War was a place of desperation and darkness.

Three days after Christmas, I traveled to Romania with a group of college students when Nicolae Ceausescou was in power. It was a time of foreboding and our purpose was to gain insights about the struggles of organized religion under Communism.

Christmas wasn’t acknowledged by the government, but the New Year’s trees were brightly decorated, providing rare bursts of color in otherwise bleak surroundings.

At 5:30 p.m. we were greeted by Reverend Ilie Ionescu, at a small Baptist church in the eastern part of Bucharest. He thanked us and said, “My members will appreciate your visit very much.  For them you represent hope.  For them you are freedom.”  

“We have more than 400 members,” he continued, “but there are no young people. Everyone is elderly. To go to services, we must register with the government, and they make it very difficult to get decent jobs if we worship.  So the young stay away.  For older people it does not matter so much. Only the choir has young people.  Singing is considered cultural, not religious, so the young can sing because it is not counted against them.”

“If you don’t mind, we will seat you in the balcony so you will have a better view,” said Ionescu as we prepared to enter the sanctuary.

Considering the difficulties of weather and transportation, the number of people in attendance was impressive with the church nearly filled to capacity.

By American standards the service was lengthy.           

The women sat on the left side of the aisle while the men were seated to the right.  No one removed their coats. Other than a small stained glass window at the front of the sanctuary, the only color was in the babushkas the ladies wore on their heads.

When the service began, Reverend Ionescu explained the reason for the visit by the students.  His comments seemed only to further arouse curiosity among the members of the church.  Throughout the service they kept turning to look up at the balcony.

For the next couple of hours, the Romanians below continuously turned toward the balcony, communicating only with their eyes as they reached out with their hearts.

Following the service, the students walked down to the vestibule to greet the Romanian people. The interpreter took a position by the door while the students formed a semicircle through the narthex, shaking hands with the departing Romanians. 

They looked tired.  Haggard.  Desperate. Yet they were deeply appreciative that young Americans had journeyed so far to spend time with them.              

Then one old woman caught the eye of a female student. As she approached the girl, she quietly uttered the word, “Pace.”

The interpreter translated, “’Pace.’  In Romanian it means ‘Peace.’”

The student turned to the Romanian woman with a warm smile and repeated the word, “Pace.”

A classmate standing nearby overheard the exchange and instantly spoke to another woman in front of him.  “Pace,” he said.

An uncontrollable smile spread across the woman’s face as she returned the wish.

Soon the vestibule was filled with voices echoing the same simple word, “Pace.”  No other word was necessary. None would have been more appropriate.  

They repeated it over and over again, “Pace.  Pace.  Pace.”

In the dim light of the room, the young student removed a small bible she had brought from home and placed it in the palm of the Romanian woman’s hand, covering it with her own.  The woman gazed intently at her new friend for a long moment before looking down at the treasure wrapped in her ancient fingers.  And then she began to cry.

As the tears made silent trails down her cheeks, the old woman looked at the interpreter and said something in her native language.  When she finished, he translated her words. 

She says, “All of my life I have dreamed of owning a bible written in English.  For me this is a symbol.  Today, you have answered my prayers.”

The room had been silenced by a Romanian woman who had but one simple wish; to possess a book written in a language she could neither read nor understand.  Yet a book represented all the  hopes and dreams and aspirations for a life she would never know.

But the Romanian woman wasn’t finished. She spoke once again.

“She says, ‘I only know three words in English,’” he repeated. 

The Romanian woman moved forward and hugged the student. 

Then, as she pulled away she whispered into the young woman’s ear, “I love you.”

Her voice was muffled, but in the quiet of the room it could be heard by those near her. Three words.  Simple words.  The only English words the old Romanian woman knew. “I love you.” 

There, even in that bleak corner of the world the cold no longer mattered.  It had been nullified by something far greater.  In the span of a few brief, unanticipated moments we discovered that faith will always overcome despair. There will always be candles to brighten the darkness, flickering with their silent, gentle flames of hope.

The moment was spiritually uplifting and joyful. Through it all the faith of the Romanian people had endured, for perhaps better than anyone else, they knew the true meaning of the word, “Pace.”

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countriesSuggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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