“I don’t like this!  It’s theater!”

This morning I observed three church services.  I say observed because one was in German, another in Romanian and one in English. I guess understanding one out of three isn’t too bad. It was a beautiful morning and I walked to the Church on the Hill where the Saxon’s held their church service outside.  On my way to the church the bells from three Orthodox churches were ringing and I could hear the Orthodox priests chanting as their service was also outside.

I reached the church and the Saxons were gathering.  There were 20 total and my guess is at least 16 are older than I am.  This is a rare experience because here most of the folks we relate to are younger than me … by many years. The bells from the Church on the Hill began to ring and throughout Sighisoara the bells were calling us to worship.  I didn’t understand most of the text, but the songs were clear.  Come Thou Almighty King was the first song. Holy, Holy, Holy was also sung.  As the members participated in the ritual of the worship it was clear they were all familiar with the standing, sitting, responses and hymns.

As I pondered the moment, I thought of the building in front of me dating back to around 1200 and thinking about the many people – Romans, Catholics and Protestants who had worshiped there.  Thinking of the present day I felt deep sadness.  Sadness for the 20 who braved the walk up the hill to worship and for the thousands of Saxons who have left the city – all in the past 25 years.  Their tradition has all but died.

My friend said to me this morning, “I hate this!  This is theater”.  His words struck me as being profound.  The simplicty and the conviction of his observation made me think. His church is dying.  It is dying because his people have left the city and because the church has not adjusted to a new paradigm.  They clearly knew the ritual, but for younger folks the spiritual connection is not present.  For the youth, the church is theater.  For those who came I am sure it was a meaningful event and the community that remains has strong ties one to another but their church will be gone in less than 20 years.

The words “This is theater” touch me deeply.  Having been involved in leading worship for many years I ask the question … has what I have done been “theater”?  Worship needs to lead us to action where what we have experienced transform us and be communicated to others.  I know I have attempted to lead my choirs and audiences to experience the music in a way that moves us all to think beyond ourselves, but have I fooled myself into believing that?

The idea of theater also enters my mind as I think about the events of the past week … theater of the President and theater of the demonstrators.  If the events of the past week are to be more than theater, action needs to follow.  For one of those two, history would say that the actions have indeed only been theater.  It is my prayer that the actions of the demonstrators will move all of us to transform our norms, to move to a different understanding of community and our fellow humans.  If the events of the past week are indeed theater … nothing will change.

After writing this, an incredible double rainbow appeared in our eastern sky.  There IS hope!


P.S.  To my theater friends, no offense intended.

Stop and smell the roses

Stop … and smell the roses. (They aren’t blooming now but you get the idea.)

I confess that I am a slow learner.  All my life I’ve had a job to DO and the primary focus was to get the job done.  Two encounters with clients this week again made me aware that I need to just stop and listen and observe.  Thursday evening I went to a friend’s house to meet a potential client for the wood shop. When I arrived, the dining room table was spread with fruits, cheese, salami, sausages and ham.  Wine glasses were set. I was again made aware that the first contact for anyone here in Romania is a social one. When the clients came to talk about furniture we talked about family, politics, history and many other topics. We eventually got around to furniture but with no conclusion … that will come after our second meeting next week.

Saturday I visited another client’s home where I had been four times before. This was just to return a flash drive that I had borrowed. It was the middle of the afternoon when I arrived and I was just going to return the drive and talk about the furniture we were making and return home, but the first thing he said was, “Would you like some sarmale?” … my favorite Romanian food.  One thing I HAVE learned is never to turn down a simple invitation like this … even though I had just eaten. At the table were the three family members and two guests. The sixth chair … and plate not taken was mine, almost like it was set just for me. The next question was how many sarmale would I like to have. I said one. I got three, along with mamaliga. I was there not about business but about relationships. I was welcomed and didn’t feel like I was intruding. Many topics were discussed … but not furniture. After two hours I started home.

As I walked the mile and a half home I had time to think and observe. I saw new flowers coming through the cold earth. I saw a new perspective of the Church on the Hill … a forgotten part of the Jewish cemetery … willow trees beginning to bud.

In all of this I am reminded to stop. I NEED to stop and see what my world really is and experience the essence of hospitality and friendship … making new friends … talking without an agenda … listening to the concerns and lives of others. I didn’t need to eat the cheese and fruit or the sarmale but here, I really DID need to eat. It is easy for me to tell myself to slow down but the reality is that most times I say I’m too busy to slow down … there is something quite wrong with those thoughts! I am a slow learner but maybe someday I will get it right.


A season of wonder

Advent, the season of anticipation and wonder.  This week the word “wonder” has been cemented in my mind.  On Tuesday I drove to work and the trees were magnificently coated with the silver frost that often occurs here.  The beauty in the trees is a vision that is spectacular each time I see it.  The picture of the trees made me think again about how much beauty there is around me that I take so much for granted.  Whether I am in Harrisonburg or Tigmandru or Sighisoara the beauty is ever present.

I think what has caused me to reflect a bit on the beauty and wonder is the chaos that surrounds us on a daily basis.  The chaos that is the US government, guns, laws disrespecting people and a rise of hatred that overpowers the beauty around us.  I look for hope.  I look for change.  I look to a better tomorrow.  As I look I can’t be encumbered with the desperation that so many feel.

This is the season of Joy and celebration and wonder.  It is my prayer that the wonder of the miracle of Jesus coming among us can be celebrated throughout the year and not just on December 25.  It is my prayer that we daily see the beauty around us.  It is my prayer that we show the love of Jesus, beauty and wonder to those we meet every day.  May we see the beauty in every day and may that lead us all to a better understanding of each other.


We keep coming back

Our apartment is directly behind the white building in the center.

Last night we returned to begin our 6th year in Romania.  Sleep was a challenge and I was awake at 5 ready to begin the day.  After breakfast I ventured out to see if I remembered any of my limited vocabulary and take care of some errands.  First was to exchange dollars for Lei and Euros.  Right now the exchange rate is the best (in our favor) it has been in the five previous years.  Then I went for coffee at the local shop where I talked with the worker that I have come to know.  She is going to university the end of the month.  Her year’s tuition is 2800 lei ($700).  Next, off to the market.

Today is one of the two big market days.  What a magnificent spread of fruits and vegetables.  This is zacusca season (zacusca is a spread made from all the veggies in your garden).  Multitudes of tomatoes, peppers and egg plant along with the typical root crops of potatoes, carrots and celery root.  The two folks I go back to often – one for honey and the other for apples – were happy to see me back.  And then there were the grapes!  The aroma of grapes – white, red and black – fills the market and streets. I also saw two others that I’ve worked with in the past year.  It was nice to see familiar faces and have a conversation … one in English and three in Romanian.

The weather today is exceptional – the low 80s with no humidity to speak of.  I sat in a park by the river and watched as people walked by and stared at me.  They were staring not because I’m an American and look out of place but because I had shorts on and they were in coats and sweaters and hats.  We have such a different take on temperature and how to dress.

There were a few changes this past summer.  The alley leading to the market was paved!  No longer do we need to dodge the potholes and the mess of the wet muddy street.  Also, from the time we arrived five years ago there was an inactive fountain along the main road that was always an eyesore.  They now have the water flowing and the globe at the center rotates.  In the front are the flags of the EU.  I guess England is still there but I’ll have to check to be sure.

As we were leaving to go to the grocery store we discovered a new event in Sighisoara which was the award ceremony for the first stage of a bicycle road race. We couldn’t get out of our apartment driveway because they had it blocked off for the race. This was prep for the European race in England in a couple weeks.  Racers were from all over Eastern Europe.


I talked with a mechanic from Estonia about the race and he said it’s like a minor league Tour de France.  I also overheard one of the team members joke to the organizer saying, “Could you please have the race in a beautiful city next year?”  Today they were spoiled with the beautiful weather.

Today I am hopeful.  I’m hopeful because people are happy we are here.  I don’t think it’s because they think we will accomplish great things but they are happy someone WANTS to come to Romania and be a part of their lives.  I think our success in being here will not be visible.  It will be in sharing the love of God with friends and giving them the opportunity to dream and work and grow.

Pray that we have wisdom to do what needs to be done and that the Spirit of God can move in ways we might never imagine.


Here we go again!

We return to Romania with renewed strength and vision.  The pattern we hope to maintain is nine months in Romania and three here.  Time will tell what the future holds.  The summer has, for the most part been restful and invigorating.  Restful in being with our granddaughter and watching her grow.  Restful in that we have had many meals and coffees with friends to catch up on our lives.  The summer has been invigorating in experiencing the support from folks in our church, Community Mennonite, and from our community.  I don’t think we fully know how many prayers are being said for us when we’re in Romania.  Our conversations have enabled us to reflect on the last year and dream about the coming year.

As we look forward to our return we see opportunities and challenges.  We think if we didn’t have those, returning would be less exciting.  Moving into the fourth year of the woodshop, we already have orders to complete.  All of our jobs have come from contacts we have and from those who have seen what we make and would like us to make something for them.  We hope to begin to market our products to the wider community in the coming months.

Sheri will continue to work with the Kids’ Club at the Nazarene Church in Tigmandru and give counsel to the leadership of Veritas.  In addition she will work on fundraising and informing the public of the mission of Veritas.  The relationships in both organizations continue to inspire and challenge her.

For your enjoyment we invite you to listen to music from our August 12 fundraising event.  In the program for that event, we wrote:  “It is fitting that a fundraiser for Hartzlers would include music from a choir which brings together singers from Eastern Mennonite High School touring choirs from 1976 through 2018.  (Jay directed from 1982-2015.)”  We were blessed with the participation of 50 singers and by the quality of their singing.  And for me (Jay) it was a delight to direct so many of my former students once again.

Doamne Buzele

Lord of the Small


 O Magnify


Not One Sparrow is Forgotten

Our work in Romania has always included music.  Jay continues to direct adult and children’s choirs in Sighisoara.  Sheri leads singing for the Kids’ Club in Tigmandru and for some of the Veritas clubs.  We always include singing when we give devotions for the Veritas staff and we assist with worship music at the Sighisoara and Tigmandru Nazarene churches.

 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”   Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

As we return to Romania in early September, we go with gratitude.  We ask that you pray with us that the message of Christ will dwell in us during this next season of service.

Jay and Sheri

Staying Busy in the Tigmandru Woodshop

Here is a bit of an update on the shop.  First, we thank you for your financial support. It has kept us going.  The business is essentially three years old and although we are in the red without your help we are closer to breaking even than I thought we would be at this time.  Most of our large purchases have been made and we are now having to replace some of the smaller electric tools that have been overworked.


We now have an industrial jointer/planer that has enabled us to do some nice oak pieces, primarily two kitchens.  One of the kitchens has a solid oak counter top.  A third kitchen was finished at the end of last year.

Other projects include bunk beds (8), beds/dresser combination, shelves, wood boxes for fire wood, boxes for Mark the spoonman (he carves them after we make the box), a shoe rack (everyone takes off shoes when entering a house and this piece was a cupboard for shoes), a cabinet to cover the heating pipes (all houses have heaters with exposed pipes so we made a cabinet to cover them up – and we have another to make next fall) and smaller projects. We currently have orders for a desk, outside bench, picture frames, tea boxes, more shelving and a table.

The encouraging aspect of our work is that we are getting work from referrals.  Folks have seen what we have done and have asked if we can make something for them … because they like what they have seen.

This year we are also paying the men above minimum wage.  That puts a stretch to our budget but it’s working out OK.  I would still like to add workers and possibly have a morning and afternoon shift but finding workers is difficult.  Even though we pay above the minimum wage they feel it isn’t enough to make it worth their time.  Those who go to Germany or England or Austria make MUCH more than we could ever pay them.

Because of this, we’ve had some transition in workers.  Gaby went to England in February where he could earn in one week what would take him a month and a half here. I was sad to see him go but understand why. He came back in May when the situation didn’t work out.

Gaby’s dad, Marin, started to work with us in February. Marin had worked for five years in a large woodshop near here.  He has been a good addition to the shop and had a very short learning curve.

I have been able to find sources for kiln-dried oak in recent months, one of the earlier frustrations.  However, I can no longer get kiln-dried walnut.  Many of the recent projects have been made out of pine.

The downside of this year has been our car/truck died.  We’ve used it for three years and it has hauled MANY boards.  To meet inspection the ’96 VW repairs would cost 1000 Euros … the car is worth 500 Euros.  In the fall we will have to replace it.

We welcome your continued partnership with us in the work of the shop.  It is heartening to see how much the workers have learned and it is truly a blessing that we continue to have as much work as we can do working 20 hours a week.

Our tax-deductible on-line donation site (through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries) is available HERE or checks can be sent to Global Treasury Services Church of the Nazarene,  P.O. Box 843116, Kansas City, MO 64184-3116 with  Tigmandru Woodshop in the Memo line.

Thank you for your interest in this work and for your prayers as we look forward to a summer in the U.S and then a return to Romania in September, 2018.


On being grateful

The summer months in the U.S. in 2017 were unusual.  Instead of actively doing all of my normal activities, I was forced to stop completely in my tracks.  While I’m generally happiest when I’m doing something (unless it’s reading a good book) rather than sitting, the forced inactivity was a good time for me think about all the things in life that I appreciate.

I have been struggling with leg and back issues for most of the four years we’ve been in Romania, but the early months of 2017 were particularly daunting.  In Romania I found myself walking less and less, taking taxis, sitting to do as many things as possible, and generally dealing with pain.  There was no question that something had to happen before we could contemplate returning this fall.  So in early August I had a hip replacement.

Now we’re back in Romania and I continue to heal and think about the things this process has made me grateful for:

  1. My husband Jay, who during my early post-surgery days was my nurse, my physical therapist, cook, and cleaner while keeping his sense of humor.  I hated asking for help for so many small things I couldn’t do on my own.   I have a new appreciation for those with handicaps and the elderly whose daily reality is relying on others for assistance and am grateful that I can once again take care of myself.
  2. My friends and family who brought meals, “babysat” when Jay needed to be out of the house for a while, visited when the days got long, and generally supported me in so many ways.
  3. The opportunity to have this surgery and a surgeon in my hometown who could do it successfully. Now that we’re back in Romania, I am more aware of all the older people who walk with a limp, and I wonder whether they’re experiencing pain and what their options are for relieving it.
  4. For a God who is the great healer. It’s astonishing to me that muscles that have been severed can recover and regain strength.  Doing my daily exercises and walking helps the process, but we are indeed wondrously made.
  5. For a warm, dry house. During the days of my recovery I watched news of Hurricane Harvey.  I can’t imagine the horror of losing everything to flooding, but I was drawn to the stories of elderly and handicapped people who had to add this to their already difficult lives and have been unable to imagine what it would have been like for me to be in this flooding during these post-op days.
  6. For hope. I continue to heal and with the help of a good therapist here in Romania, I have been able to get relief from the sciatic pain that continued post-surgery.  I am hopeful that I will be completely well before long and am so grateful for the days once again where I feel “normal”.   I continue to interact with people of all ages here in Romania who don’t have hope that their lives will ever be different from the day to day struggles they experience.
  7. For new life. In October we welcomed a granddaughter (and our first grandchild) into our family.  We’re able to see and talk to baby Rosalyn every Sunday afternoon via FaceBook chat.  So I’m thankful for technology that makes this possible.

    What am I doing in Romania during these months of continued healing?  I had decided before we returned, that I would give myself time to recover before diving into all my former activities.  And I have been able to do that most of the time.

    I am taking Romanian language two mornings a week from a young college grad, Lori, who also helps out at Kids’ Club in Tigmandru.  This has been very helpful as I felt like I had hit a plateau in my language learning.

    I have been able to work from home, writing the Veritas fall newsletter and monthly update emails.  These are sent out in English to people in the U.S. and English-speaking EU countries.   The fall Veritas View newsletter is available on the Veritas website at

I continue to go to Tigmandru two afternoons a week where my work involves singing with the children and leading crafts.  We have had between 30 and 55 children each day.  Two Romanian Studies program students have been helping with games and working with the younger children, so that has made preparing for and leading crafts much easier for me.  The time with the children in Tigmandru continues to give me energy and joy.

I have also begun singing again with those who attend the special needs program at Veritas each Thursday.  We’re preparing for Christmas parties and caroling so I’ve been learning some new Romanian songs with them.  This group of adults (along with staff and student pictured here) aren’t the best singers  but they make up for it with their enthusiasm.  The favorite song continues to be “Kum Ba Ya” so we sing that every week!

Our Thanksgiving celebration didn’t include family this year, but it was a time to be thankful for the many blessings we have had over the past year and for the privilege of continuing to live and work in this beautiful country.

We wish you all a blessed Advent Season.


Back to Work in the Woodshop

We’ve been back in Romania a month.  It felt like we were gone a very long time but the language and daily routines quickly returned.  Sheri is doing much better with the language than I am but I’m surviving.  We are back in our apartment close to the center of town where we have easy access to most things we need.

Firewood boxes

Here is a glimpse of the work in the woodshop over the last month.  We have begun slowly working on a walnut coffee table.  The table will be an ongoing project for the year and I’m looking forward to how it will look when finished.  Nelutu has orders for five wood boxes for firewood used in the wood stoves in Tigmandru.  That has been his project along with Attila.   Gaby and I worked on fixing pieces for two clients.  The variety of work projects has been good.

Telling that is the easy part, but we also needed …

  • to get a new (for us) jointer/planer paid for and delivered
  • to get the shop wired for 3-phase electric for the jointer/planer
  • to buy and transport 150 board feet of oak for our two kitchen projects

All of the above are intertwined and difficult to explain so maybe you can put it together as I tell each story.

We purchased a used 41 cm jointer/planer to replace our 26 cm one that has been less than accurate for us.  After standing in many lines in two different banks the money was transferred to our account and the tool was delivered Monday, Nov. 7. It was supposed to come in the afternoon.  The driver came at 11.  This is a 356 kg machine, 784 lbs.  No one was there to help unload since we are only there in the afternoon.  The delivery person called me … which was a very bad idea.  No English on his part and I could tell by his Romanian he wasn’t happy.  Moving ahead … he got three men to come and help unload and not having been there I can’t really tell the entire story.  I’ll just say a fight almost broke out and for sure there was heightened speech with words I know I’ve not heard here.  He did unload it … between the road and sidewalk.  That means it was about six feet from the road with major traffic going past.  And he left.

Getting creative to move a heavy tool into the shop.

I got to Tigmandru at 1 p.m. that afternoon and saw the tool sitting alongside the road.  Remember – it’s 784 lbs.  How do we move it from there another six feet to get it in through the gate, and then 25 yards into the shop?   Four workers – I knew one of them – were walking down the sidewalk.  We asked for help and they obliged.  NO PROBLEM!  Sorta.  We enlisted one more man so there were now eight people working and we could barely move it.  This picture gives you an idea of how, an hour later, it made it into the shop.  Their help was well worth the $6 I paid them – total.

Rough-cutting the hardwood

On Thursday that week we went to Cris – 20 minutes from town – where I get our hardwoods.  I can’t begin to describe the amount of wood my friend Urban has.  He is Swiss and has been in Romania about 20 years.  He has two forest areas where he cuts lumber.  His shop is fantastic.  I took the guys out to help with the wood.  We rented a truck and driver from Tigmandru to transport it.  The boards are 4m (13’) long and average a foot in width.  They are big and heavy.  I usually transport the wood on top of my car but this time it was impossible.  I asked Urban for papers that verified that he had sold me the wood.  I won’t go into why he wouldn’t give them to me but that is another story.  My fear was that if the truck got stopped by the police and we didn’t have papers they could take the wood AND the truck.  It’s a Romanian law to discourage pirating of wood – which is a big problem.  We made it back to the shop without getting stopped and continued working on the kitchen.

After numerous calls to our electrician and no promise of him coming to run the wire for our new tool he showed up on Friday afternoon.  Upon his arrival and after much conversation, Romanian style, it was discovered we didn’t have either the correct wire or the receptical for the power.  He and I went to a store in Chendu (2 km away) to purchase them and they actually had what we needed – almost.  Monday we’ll find out if what he did works.  The fun part for me was that we had a good conversation to and from the store … in Romanian with only a few words in English.

I could talk about a crow’s nest in our chimney, mold on the walls, wood that is unavailable or a variety of other things … but I will spare you.

Thanks to those of you who have contributed to the work of the shop.  Our future projects are two more kitchens, boxes for Mark the spoon man, entertainment shelving and a computer table.  If you are reading this and haven’t helped financially and would like to, we could use the help.  Contributions can be sent to Community Mennonite Church, 70 S. High Street, Harrisonburg VA 22802 with Romanian Woodshop in the memo line.

Thanks for you prayers and thoughts as we continue working in a wonderful part of our world!


Reflecting on retirement

T20170309_160955his weekend is the bi-annual convention of the American Choral Directors Association.  Two years ago this weekend I was sitting in a concert at the convention and it became clear to me that my time to retire had come … an epiphany.  For months I had struggled with the thought of retirement but when I heard the song, “I will not leave you comfortless” I knew the struggle was over.  The entire concert by the Santa Fe Desert Choral moved me to tears.  (The concert is posted on YouTube)

I’m not fully adjusted to the retired life but the change is an opportunity for new adventure and life experience.  Yesterday I sat in the pew at the Church on the Hill in Sighisoara and reflected on my choirs.  The sound of the choirs and my interaction with the students is what I miss.  The memory of “In paradisum” which we sang in that space is still fresh.  I know it’s a cliche to say but the 40 years of teaching went by so quickly that I regret that I rarely stopped to listen to life.  The formal school teaching is behind but I often find myself thinking about the experience.

IMG_0112I enjoyed my time in the classroom. I think having my boys in school heightened my joy in teaching.  Rarely, if ever, did I go home thinking I should get out of this job. I often felt sorry for my colleagues who were struggling to make it from day to day. I think the joy came because in the classes or choirs we were working toward a common goal.  Our goal was to make music that inspired us and our audiences, and to honor each other and work for a better understanding of who we are as children of God.

20170304_160306Now as I think about retirement I reflect on my past and see how my teaching connects to my present situation. The 40 years prepared me for much of what I’m doing now.  I’m still teaching but with a very different perspective.  I’m teaching, but it’s very clear I’m learning more than I’m teaching. Whether it be in the wood shop or with the teens or the children’s choir or the adult choir, the work I do with each group is built on the building blocks of my first 40 years. I am blessed. I have the opportunity to choose, to use the gifts I have in benefiting others, to share the love of Jesus.

I’m inspired through making music, working with friends, making furniture and learning about life.


Merry Christmas!

Dear Friends

20161225_155131A Christmas blessing to all of you!  We won’t recount the experiences of the past year because many of you already know what we’ve been doing from watching our Facebook posts. Your support for us is the best Christmas gift you could imagine.

We learn more and more every day how your prayers and and care for us miles and miles away is what gives us stability and the desire to keep doing what we are doing.

20161221_205442For some reason this Christmas seems more like Christmas than some of the others we have experienced.  The gifts we have received have been in the form of words … unexpected words … from people who we barely know.  One such person was a member of our adult choir.  He is a 76-year-old German man.   He came to choir a few times last September but then returned the first of November.  He speaks no Romanian so everything in rehearsal needed to be translated into German for him.  During our party after the concert this week he wanted to speak.  He said he’s sung all his life but was never able to sing in a “professional” group like our choir.  He’s not the best  singer in the choir but he has a warm heart.  He said his greatest gift this Christmas was being able to sing in the choir.  Sometimes we never know what the gifts are that we give to others and the gifts we receive are often ones we could never imagine.

jay-and-new-bedAnother Christmas gift this year was from the man for whom we made a bed (in the Tigmandru Woodshop).  When the final piece was delivered, I was offered a cup of tea and then a bag of gifts which included homemade zacusca (a vegetable spread which everyone here makes!), a tiny bottle of grape polinca (firewater), and a jar of pepper jam used to flavor meat.  These homemade offerings (and many others we’ve received) come from the heart of the giver.  We are happy to be the recipients.

Our gift to you this Christmas is a sampling of the Christmas music we were a part of this Advent season.  As with our experience with choirs in the past, the joy of making music together and seeing the joy in the faces of the choir members is a blessing.  We continue to enjoy the rich diversity of the adult choir and the joy of singing with children in the Sighisoara choir and in Tigmandru.  Six video clips from the Sighisoara choirs in performance on December 21 can be found on YouTube here:  RomanianNotesVideos.

May the gifts of love and friendship and the peace of God be yours this Christmas.  May the love of Jesus fill your hearts so much that you have strength to endure whatever may arise in your life and that you can share your love of Jesus with others.

Jay (and Sheri)