Some of you may know about Kristin Ungerecht from the Pursuit 31 group on Facebook. If you do, you know she’s an amazing woman and a true inspiration for all of us. She surely lets her light shine for all to see. If you don’t know Kristin, I highly suggest getting to know this Godly woman. She recently traveled to Romania for a mission trip and I have the honor of giving you the 411 on her trip; who she saw, what inspired her, how God worked in the gypsies from the village she visited with fellow missionaries.
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1. What did you enjoy most about your work?
If I have to pick one thing, I think it would be bringing love and hope to the gypsy villages. At the start of my trip, I knew I was called to be in Romania. God had made that very clear. What I wasn’t sure of was why specifically I was being called there. I didn’t know what I wanted to see Him do or experience. I was just saying “yes” to Him and going. Our first day of ministry we walked into a village called Tinca. I started walking down this dusty road, side-stepping trash that was packed into the earth, and a small hand grasped mine. Then my other hand was claimed by another small hand. And looking at those two little girls, I heard God say to me, “This is why you’re here.” From that moment on, the gypsy villages had my heart.
2. Tell me something about the people from the country you visited?
The people of Romania are beautiful. They were so welcoming and interested in what we had to say. I sensed this readiness in them… a readiness for hope, for change. I really enjoyed getting to know our translators, the church members my team interacted with, and the people we met during ministry. They were very sweet and the ones who knew Jesus were so full of faith. They know the power our Lord has and they’re expectant to see Him work. It was a real privilege to be able to pray, worship and serve alongside them.
3. What was the economic situation of the people you ministered to?
For the most part, they were very poor. The gypsy villages varied in standing, but were all on a lower level of income. Tinca, the village that most touched my heart, was the poorest we visited. The further into the village you go, the more poverty you see. I saw six to eight people living in a small shack; children bathing in dirty water; toddlers without clothing; people with stomach pains from hunger. It’s not something a lot of people would expect from a European country, I think, but it’s a very real situation over there.
My team also ministered in public parks, children’s hospitals, orphanages, and juvenile detention centers. I’d say the people in the parks were more ‘middle class.’
4. What encouraged you in your work?
This may sound cliché, but my answer has to be Jesus. I can honestly say that had I walked into those villages not knowing my God and not listening to the Holy Spirit, I would have left feeling broken. I saw a lot of heartache– sickness, victims of abuse, poverty, spiritual oppression, hunger, pain, and loss. Some of the places I visited were deep in cycles of darkness and the people there were desperate for hope. Through it all, I heard from the Lord. I heard Him tell me that He cared for and was pursuing the hearts of the people of Romania. I felt Him grow my own heart for the same people, in a way that spoke of His love for them. Because of all He revealed to me about Himself, I was able to walk away hopeful and awed by my Savior. That was the most encouraging thing– watching Him work in me, in my teammates, and within the people of Romania.
5. Were many people responsive to the gospel or just a few? Why?
The people of Oradea and the gypsy villages were very receptive to the Gospel and willing to listen to us as we presented it to them. During my team’s time of minsitry, we were able to reach out to about 1700 people, with approximately 491 of them making decisions to know Christ. I can’t tell you how many of those people were sincere in their faith and made serious commitments. I can tell you that the Word of the Lord doesn’t return void, and the Word of the Lord was most definitely preached. One of the really encouraging things was that the people oftentimes wanted to us to pray for them. So even people who didn’t make that life-changing decision to follow Jesus were sensing the Spirit of God in our midst and anxious for us to pray over them.
6. Describe an experience you had on the mission trip that impacted your life?
I mentioned before that Romania experiences some spiritually oppression. I’ve never been in the thick of that sort of spiritual warfare, but one of our first ministry days our host church leader gave us information about demon possession and manifestation. It was something I’d never have heard here in the States, but I didn’t doubt it existed and listened intently as he spoke. The gypsy community seems to experience a lot of this darkness, as many deal in witchcraft and open those sorts of doors. Some of my team had been to the same city the year before and had come across a girl who was demon possessed. They had prayed over her for the demonic to be cast out and the next time they saw her, she was completely different.
We went to a small park one evening to do our vacation Bible school presentation. It was a small area, a grassy spot between apartment buildings. There was a gypsy girl there. She startled me at first. She would come running onto our tarp and just flail around on it, grabbing the edges and wrapping it around her body as she made these harsh cries. Her actions scared the other children and they made it clear that many were afraid of her. Two little girls were sitting with me, and told me not to let her get them. They ended up going to sit elsewhere to get away from her.
Something about this girl wasn’t sitting right with me. Her actions reminded me of the talk we’d had on the bus about oppression and possession. I got an odd feeling. I wondered if maybe there was something more going on. The girl came up to me and pinched my side fairly hard before one of our translators removed her. But she came back up to me during the presentation and began trying to smack at me with her hands. As she did, I grabbed her hands in my own and looked at her. And then I began to pray in a way I never had before. I demanded in the name of Jesus that whatever spirit was oppressing her leave her. I prayed that the Spirit of God would fill her instead, that she would know peace. I prayed that she would be a child of God and experience Him in a mighty way. She was taken away by the translators again to play on the swings, and later we left the park. After we boarded the bus, I found out that this was the same girl who had been there last year; the one who had been prayed over to be free from possession.
On our last day of ministry, that park was to be our final ministry site. Before we began our program, we were gathered as a team, discussing details. Suddenly that same girl was there, a huge smile on her face and she wrapped me up in the tightest hug. I was dumbstruck, but I hugged her back and then stood with my arms wrapped around her for several long minutes. And in those moments, I sensed that she was telling me something was different within her. It felt like she knew I had prayed over her, that it was a hug of gratitude.
The rest of our time in that park, she was completely changed from the first day we’d been there. She smiled and played with us, and then sat and listened to our presentation. She was completely changed from the first day I met her. I’d never seen or experienced anything like it and have no doubt that God did something huge in her life. It’s not something I’ll easily forget.
7. Tell us about your devotional Bible study time schedule on the field. Was it hard to maintain?
One of the great things about Global Expeditions, the organization I went through, is that they know the importance of spending time with Christ. An hour of “quiet time” was built into our schedule, so each morning I was able to spend concentrated time in the Word and in communication with Him. It was such sweet time and He spoke so clearly to me during it. It was amazing. 🙂
8. What did you appreciate most about the culture where you visited?
Honestly, I’m not sure I could pinpoint one thing. I loved how friendly the people were in a general sense. We could easily approach children and adults alike in public parks and tell them what we were doing and they were always so kind and receptive to us. I sensed a very hospitable nature in them and I loved that.
9. Tell me about the special friendship you had with any of the locals. Will it continue now that you’re back?
One of the translators, Sefora (Sefe), from our host-church was a young lady my age. We actually have mutual friends and that family had told me to find her when I got there because I’d be in good hands with her. She ended up being the translator for my ministry group, so we were able to spend a good deal of time together. Sefe has great faith and a sweet spirit. We hit it off pretty well and ended up spending a lot of time together on our free day. We made sure to exchange information so we could find each other on Facebook, and I do feel like I’ll be back in Oradea someday (sooner than later, I hope), so I think we’ll continue to be friends. 🙂
10. What was the security like in the country?
It felt safe there, though Romania does have a lot of human trafficking issues. We did always go places in small groups with at least one guy in the group, but that was more of a precaution. While we were there, a kidnapping ring was at work and I believe 6 or 7 children had been taken. We prayed against it and the whole business of human trafficking, but it wasn’t something we experienced firsthand or something that threatened our safety outright. The church where we stayed had an alarm system, but it never felt like we were in any danger.
11. How were church services different or alike in the country you visited?
Oh, I loved the church services! The worship in our host church was incredible. They completely express themselves in their worship– jumping was a common occurance, dancing, clapping, raising hands, singing, etc. Completely free worship, which I loved. They were always so full of faith and so passionate about the power of Christ in conversation and prayer. That church is praying and believing that God will do great things in Romania and I don’t doubt it will happen. I really enjoyed and admired their church.
12. What are some specific prayer requests you have for the people in the country you visited?
Pray that the oppression and darkness in the gypsy villages will be lifted and that they will experience the freedom and light of Christ. Pray that leaders would rise up amongst the church, people passionate about Christ and making Him known. Pray against human trafficking, corrupt government leaders, and abortion– all issues occurring in Romania. Pray that the hearts of the people would continued be softened and that people who know the Lord would come there to boldly proclaim the Gospel.
13. What was the great spiritual need you noticed while there? Physical need?
Ultimately, they just need Jesus, like we all do. These are people dealing with heavy things– heartache, loss, abuse, rape, sickness and physical ailments, demonic possession and spiritual oppression, etc. I don’t think you can call out any one thing and say it’s the biggest need, other than their need for Christ. Physically there’s all kinds of need within the gypsy villages. Many need food and clean water– many children wanted prayer over their stomachs and I could share other things, too, to that effect; clothes that are clean and fit properly– I saw many children without clothes and many little boys wearing girl hand-me-downs; homes to shelter from weather; medicines and medical treatment– I saw a toddler whose body was covered in burns. She’d been caught in the house during a fire and the family can’t afford ointment to help the child heal. There are many more with additional needs and concerns as well. There’s a lot that could be done in those villages.
14. What items did you bring with you and how did they help you along your journey?
I brought my journal, Bible, and pens to write down things as they happened so I wouldn’t forget the emotions or moments amongst such a fast-paced trip. I’m so glad I did! I was able to journal during my time with God and at various other points. It will be great to have a book I can go back to and refresh my memory and allow Him to speak to me again. I also brought a foldable memory-foam camping pillow. It was awesome to have that for the travel days. As a team we brought some little toys (like clown noses) and candy to give to the children. They loved it and we enjoyed seeing the joy on their faces.
15. Were you able to share the gospel freely in the country you visited or were there problems?
We didn’t have any issues with a lack of freedom in sharing the Gospel. Romania is open to speaking about Christ, and our host church was able to get the necessary permits to do our presentations in the parks. 🙂
16. What was really important to you in your time there that you want others to know about?
One thing that God really instilled in me was that His love requires compassionate, bold action. The longer I was there, the more I felt I understood what it meant when Jesus saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion. I’ve spent a good deal of my life as a very shy person. He’s slowly but surely been giving me more and more boldness, but in Romania I felt like He gave me an abundance of it. I was loving people in ways far bolder than I was used to– where I would have silently prayed after the fact, in Romania I was praying out loud, in the moment, with my hands on people; where I would have been hesitant to move, in Romania I was acting quickly out of love; where I would have hung back, in Romania I was immersed in the thick of things. He was stretching me to greater love– love more like His own– the entire trip and it’s been staying with me at home. I’m still a work in progress, but He used this trip to make a leap of growth in me. When you’re open to His best, to being changed by the Holy Spirit, He is faithful to give it.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20