We Wait You
We Wait You
Chapter 1 PURPLE FLOWERS
IN A DARK PLACE "Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder!
Because I am doing something in your days-
you would not believe if you were told." -Habakkuk 1:5 September 1990, Vienna, Austria T ARYN, YOU'LL BE going to Romania." Nita's words sounded so matter-of-fact. I had just arrived at the hostel in Vienna for a briefing conference, and Nita had come to personally deliver my assignment. She proceeded to tell me how much she loved Romania and felt certain I would, too. I didn't believe her. The first two hours of my yearlong mission experience had not started well. If this indicated the kind of year that would follow, I was in trouble. Just the day before, I had to feign sadness when I said good-bye to my parents at the airport in Philadelphia. Instead, I felt sheer excitement about the adventure before me. I knew I would be spending the year in Eastern Europe, but I didn't know any specifics, only that I could end up in any of five countries. This unknown element added to my thrill. Romania was known to have the most heavy-handed regime and spartan living conditions of the Soviet Bloc. Spies lurked on every corner, and the people didn't have much water or food. Since I'd prefer a spa weekend to camping any day, I didn't think that would be a good fit for me. However, when I had been asked on the phone if I'd be open to Romania, I had admitted it wouldn't be my first choice, but I'd be willing. Years earlier I had learned to never say "no" to God. I hoped He would see my obedience and reward me for it. Every day after that phone call, I prayed and I pleaded, "Oh, God, please don't let it be Romania. Please, let me go to Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, anywhere but Romania!" When I checked in at the hostel in Vienna, the desk clerk told me my room was on the next floor up. "Take the lift," she said. "Your baggage is too heavy for the stairs." I climbed aboard the elevator, eager to freshen up after the all-night flight, but it didn't budge. So I pushed the button again and again. It still didn't move. As I was about to climb out, someone else entered and manually closed the inner accordion doors, starting the lift on its slow ascent. I had pushed the button marked "2," hoping for the next level, but that level turned out to be "1." My lift creaked on, overshooting my floor. I had forgotten about ground floors in Europe. I trudged back down the narrow stairs, lugging my bags, and coaxed the key to open my door. The bathroom was my next challenge. The water faucets worked differently, but at least they had water in Austria. I tried to figure out what the contraption was that looked like a urinal as I hunted for the pull-chain to flush the toilet. I took a deep breath. OK, I may not be a camper, but I know I can handle these things. Once I get to Poland, or maybe Hungary, if God wills it, I'll - That's when Nita knocked on my door with the news about Romania. I must have given all the right responses while Nita stood there. But as soon as she left, I crumpled to the floor like a limp pile of spaghetti, while scenes from spy thrillers danced in my head. I wondered how I could possibly handle living in a place like Romania if I couldn't even navigate a hostel in Austria. It's not that I intentionally got on my knees to pray. I wish I'd thought of the symbolism of starting my year by humbly expressing my utter dependence before God. I