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)





A Day at the Woodshop

There have been many “Romanian” days but this one is right up there with the best.  The day started off calm enough, leaving for Tigmandru at 8:40 because the table saw was to arrive soon after 9:00.  Already you know — it didn’t come then.  For the next two and a half hours three-year-old Patrick who lives next door to the shop taught me the fine skill of cracking walnuts by stepping on them.  He kept bringing them to me to crack.

I did some work in the shop while waiting and started the fire since it was in the low 60’s.  Being curious I went outside to check the smoke coming out of the chimney … it wasn’t.  Smoke was coming out through the tiles and around the base of the chimney but not where it was supposed to come out.  It was plugged from birds making their home there.  I talked to Marius (who lives next door) using the best Romanian I had and said “fire” and he came running.  Told me what was going on and that we’d clean it out tomorrow.

20161003_113502In the meantime, 11 by now, Marius asked what was happening and I said I was waiting for the table saw to be delivered.  He said we should call the trucker – so we did.  He was “ten minutes” away.  Right, you know he didn’t arrive in ten minutes.  So about 40 minutes later he stopped on the opposite s20161003_113750ide of the road from the shop.  You need to know the road through Tigmandru is like a race track.  We eventually got across the road after a police van with lights blazing and a horse cart and many cars came by.

So now the saw is out behind the shop waiting for the technician to take it apart so we can get it through the door.  The door is 76 cm and the saw is 76 cm.  Actually, it’s 76 cm if you don’t count the rod that changes the angle of the blade … with that it’s 80 cm.  You do the math.

The technician is com20161003_114225ing at 2:00 … RIIIIIGHT.  In the meantime it’s time for lunch so I walk the half mile to the store and buy a hunk of salami, cheese, bread and a Fanta.  It was quite tasty.  I had a little left so I fed the shop guard dogs.

After lunch I went to pick up Atila at my regular time – 1 p.m.  After waiting an unusually long time for him – he’s always right there when I come – I find out he’s in the hospital and pretty sick but I don’t really get the full story.  I headed back to the shop and waited for Gabi.  When he arrived I had him call Magda and find out the story on Atila.  He is indeed sick but one story would have him back to work tomorrow and the other in 10 days.  I’ll find out tomorrow.

Gabi and I started working on projects and finished them just in time for the saw to arrive at 2:00.  Well, the saw arrived at 4:00.  The technician was also only 10 minutes away when he called and I waited in front of the shop and saw him blow right by.  He thought we were on the right side of the road.  He called, turned around and arrived.

20161003_163839By the time he took the saw apart and we figured it could fit through the door I knew he wasn’t going to finish in time for me to be at choir at 6.  Three and a half hours later the saw was installed.  All fences adjusted, sliding table works, electric checked out and we push the green button to start the saw….and you guessed correctly, it didn’t go on.  More rechecking and we discovered there is a safety on the back of the saw.  We adjust the nob … NOW the saw will work … wrong.  We find out that the switch has three positions.  We had it at the two that kept the saw from working.  Third time is a charm and we got it running!  By now it’s 7:10 and I completely missed choir rehearsal.

Home at 7:40 … hmm, that’s 11 hours from when I left this morning!  Supper waiting … thank you Sheri.

Considering the election from far away

imag0284We returned to Sighisoara on September 16 and life is much the same here as it was when we left in May.  My thoughts today, however, are not about our time here.  This morning was the morning after the debates those of you in the U.S. observed.  I’m guessing it would be impossible for any of you to not have heard a little about it.  This morning I sat alone in the Church on the Hill. (The building at the top of the hill in this picture.) This church is my sanctuary from the chaos of everyday life.  As I sat and looked at the 500-year-old building, I thought about the many souls who have passed through this building.  First, the Catholics, then Lutherans worshiped in this space.  Reformation, wars, communism and many more events I’m totally unaware of changed the lives of the entire community.  For as awful as many of those events were, life went on.  The building hosts the memory of the past.

Hope … we are here because there is hope in our Creator and our Creator has us in His hands.  As I think about how awful the outcome might be in this election cycle I can only hope that as we move on life will be sustained and we will not need to worry about which party rules and where the new president will take the country.  The country will survive … it may take awhile to move forward, but just as this church has stood for hundreds of years, so will a people who work for good and have a better vision for what we can be.

Today I’m happy that I can be here and reflect … away from the chaos of the media and politicking in the U.S.  I don’t know what the result of the election will be in November but I know I can work for justice and hope where I’m at … just as all of us can, wherever we are.

Every morning is Easter morning

20160426_071914The Avery and Marsh song “Every Morning is Easter Morning” has taken on a new meaning this year.  For most, Easter in Romania is May 1.  The Orthodox calendar for Easter is often a different date than in the West.  This Easter celebration was again different from any I’ve experienced.

Thursday was the service of darkness that we commemorate at Community Mennonite. We talked with the folks here and described the foot washing discipline that we grew up with and that we do at CMC.  They liked the idea and chose to integrate foot washing into the service.  Only a few of us had experienced it, so as part of the service Sheri and Jacque (a volunteer from Murfreesboro, TN) demonstrated.  The men then proceeded to the room in the back of the sanctuary and the women stayed.  There were seven of us men.

Here is where the Easter theme began to play in my mind.  The seventh person was a man who occasionally comes to Sunday morning worship and I was surprised to see him at church on Thursday evening.  Earlier in the service during the solo singing someone in the back was “singing” along.  He knew the words and was connecting.  It was the seventh person.  As we began the foot washing he was in the first group along with Nelu.  Nelu is one of the “rocks” of the congregation … firm but gentle, friendly and a great person.  Foot washing was also new to him.

footwashing As the visitor put his feet toward the basin Nelu took them … I’ll just say they were filthy … and washed them … really washed them.  When he finished, Nelu put his feet in the water and the visitor washed … and washed … and washed Nelu’s feet.  The pastor was going to tell him to stop but was encouraged not to.  They did finish eventually … hugged … gave a handshake and a kiss.  The symbolism of this event and the connection to Jesus made an impression that will stay in my mind.  The water … dirty … smelly … used … that those of us who followed also used, made the experience more real and graphic.  We had communion after the foot washing but the profound part of the evening was the foot washing.

The Friday morning service in the garden outside the wall of the citadel is a traditional service for the Veritas staff where the scriptures of the last days of Jesus are read in Romanian and English.  We sang, prayed and read the scripture as we looked at the crown of thorns and purple robe in the middle of the circle.  It was a thoughtful time in the peace next to a 600-year-old wall that could tell many stories.

Saturday afternoon was the kids’ program at Tigmandru.  It was typical as kids’ programs in Romania go … they sing, recite, sing and recite some more.  Sheri is the one who has had the opportunity to work with the kids since I’m in the woodshop in the afternoons.  She did a great job working with them and taught them some new songs.  Here’s one of them -” He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

20160430_163105The kids arrived to rehearse at 3 p.m.  They all sat on the stage … FOR THE NEXT TWO AND A HALF HOURS!  You have to realize that these kids are ages 3-12.  It’s amazing.  As I looked at them I thought of the word “hope”.  Some of the children were new to me but many I knew from before.  Of the kids I had worked with in our previous time in Romania, one delivered her first child this week.  20160430_153229Hope … despair … words that are defined differently depending on where you are coming from.  I look at the kids and think Easter.  Look at their faces.  What do you feel? Think? Wonder?  My buddy Marian is in the front row on the left.  He’s growing up!  Unless we come as a child …

On Saturday evening we attended the service at the Orthodox Cathedral.  It’s interesting because the service in Harrisonburg on that evening begins at 10 and ends at midnight.  This one begins at midnight and ends at 3 a.m.  We didn’t really stay for the entire service … just the beginning part.  Couldn’t stand for the three hours of the service.  Hundreds of folks are in the plaza in front of the church and at midnight the bells begin … big bells … loud bells … first two, then three, then ending with four different tones for 15 minutes.  All the while the bells are ringing the priest is chanting the resurrection story.  I guesIMAG1022s that is what he was chanting.  You really can’t hear him because the bells are too loud.  After some singing and walking around, the cathedral candles are lit … one by one.  People bring their candles and the flame is passed from one to another.  After about 30 minutes the priest bangs on the door to symbolize death being defeated and the congregation enters the church.  Those of us outside walked home with our candles lit, crossing the bridge, walking along the river.  The bells rang at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00 and probably later but I was asleep.

We celebrated Easter Sunday morning in our church (Sighisoara Nazarene) with  singing, praying, hearing the word of God, and taking communion with other believers.  The greeting “Cristos a înviat”… followed by “adevărat a înviat” could be heard starting every conversation.  The very cool element of saying “Christ is risen”  “Christ is risen indeed” here in Romania – and maybe other places but I can’t speak to that – is that they say it for the next 40 days … even in the grocery store.  I think that defines how we look at Easter.  How we look at Easter defines how we look at life … how we look at each other… how we experience Jesus.

20160501_131820We concluded our Easter activities with dinner at the home of Roberta Bustin.  Our meal began with the traditional cracking of red-dyed eggs as we repeated, “Cristos a înviat” with the response “adevărat a înviat”.  The 16 guests included a team from Holland, a volunteer from Germany, an American visitor now living in East Berlin, and four other Americans.  Sharing the joy of Easter around the dinner table with this diverse group of Christians was a fitting ending to our weekend.

20160429_043100We come to Jesus as the seventh person … we come to Jesus as a child … we come to Jesus with burdens we want to hold close … we come from all nations, from all economic settings.  Jesus has risen that we may have acceptance, hope, freedom and forgiveness.  Every morning is Easter morning!  Cristos a înviat!

Feeling at home

20150612_132441During our year-long sojourn in Romania, August 2013 – July 2014 we posted a lot of blogs. Everything was new and exciting and we wanted to share all that we were experiencing with our friends at home. Now we find ourselves back in Sighisoara for our second four-month stay since that first year; and we have settled into the routines of life here. We still enjoy the view of the citadel, the old buildings, tile roofs, listening to the church bells ringing, our daily walks to wherever we need to go. But they are part of the everyday for us; it feels normal, ordinary, like we belong here.

Of course we’re still working at learning the Romanian language, but that will never end! We see people on the street that we know almost every time we walk through town. We know where things are in the grocery store, and Jay knows every store in town that carries woodworking supplies (or doesn’t).

Speaking of woodworking, it’s time for an update. The Tâmplăria Tigmandru (Tigmandru woodshop) has been active again since Jan. 14 when we arrived this year. Jay and three men in the Tigmandru village work every afternoon from 1-5 p.m. We have just posted a Facebook page HERE.

20160304_163915The Facebook page is in Romanian, so most of you won’t be able to read it, but you can look at the pictures of the things that have been made. We’ve been promoting this Facebook page here in Romania, as that is where we will hopefully continue to get orders. Since we put up the page we’ve already had two requests for pricing for projects.

20160310_170558One of the current projects is making small trivets out of cherry wood with an inset of a tile designed by 20th century Anabaptists and made in the village of Corund. The interesting related story to the tiles is that historically the design is similar to Saxon and Hungarian art of the 15th c. We showed the tiles to a Saxon and he immediately said, “Saxon art”. We did the same to a Romanian and he said, “Hungarian art”. Anabaptists were in this area 500 years ago and were noted for their pottery. We are making these for the store of Mark the Spoonman and are also selling them in the House on the Rock International Café.

The most challenging aspect in the shop is finding materials and keeping the table saw working. It broke again for the third time, but thankfully the parts are available locally. Dried wood and plywood are nowhere to be found. We have two projects that need both. The pine we use is so wet that after gluing two boards together they just fall apart because the glue doesn’t hold. The trivets are a good project because they are small. It remains to be seen what will happen to the larger bookcase and table that we made. One of the advantages of coming back repeatedly is that Jay has built a network of people who can provide wood and repair the tools, etc. Jay says, “I think some people are recognizing that we make a good product. It takes time but the end result is worth it. The guys take extreme care to be exact and I’m not going to complain about that.”

Sheri finds joy 20160223_092806in her work in Tigmandru with the kids’ club two afternoons a week. She works with Roxana (a young woman who leads the work of the club) to plan craft activities and they also spend time together in language learning – both English and Romanian. Sheri is always trying to find new Romanian children’s songs to sing with the children, which is part of the kids’ club each time they meet. She is happy to be working with Diana (talented teen who plays guitar) since Jay is no longer available during the time the club meets. The best part of kids’ club of course are the children and now that communicating with them is a bit easier, it’s a lot of fun.

Sheri is also spending time each week working with staff at the Veritas Family Center. One day’s work involved making 90 muffins for a Mother’s Day event (March 8 here in Romania); another day was spent as the receptionist; a couple of days were spent in leadership team meetings (in Romanian), but most days involve computer work, updating the Veritas website, and working at fundraising activities.

We are spending two evenings a week with choirs and also sing (and play) with the worship team at Sighisoara Nazarene Church on Sundays. Monday night’s adult choir of 20 is singing works by Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Telemann. After the start with one male singer, we now have a balanced group. 20160316_120450A concert will be given on May 8 which will also include the children’s choir. This choir of 17 meets on Wed. nights. The children are ages 8-12 and were auditioned to get into the group. The main criteria was being able to match pitches! The children are singing Romanian, English, Hebrew and Swahili songs.

Our lives are rich with friendships and activities that make up our days. So even though we haven’t been very faithful in posting to this blog site, we haven’t forgotten you, our friends and family. We continue to be grateful for technology that allows us to stay connected through Facebook chat, email, and Magic Jack phone calls. And we are grateful that we know God is with us through the ordinary everyday activities as well as in the challenging moments when we realize, once again, that we are foreigners, and always will be, even though we also feel at home.

We look forward to sharing with many of you in person during June, July and August when we’ll back in the U.S.   In the meantime, please continue to keep us in your prayers.

P.S. We continue to welcome contributions to the woodshop. Money is being used to pay salaries to the workers until the shop becomes self-sustaining. Your gift is tax deductible and you can give online HERE.

On the Way

20160114_025544The day before we began our recent work in Romania I listened to Lonnie Yoder’s chapel speech, ”On the Way”.  What struck me was something I’ve thought about but never focused on.  We have a goal, a destination, a job, but probably more important are the events on the way that direct us toward our planned goals.

I thought about that a lot in our travel here.  To the airport … flying … the hotel … and the bus trip to Sighisoara.  What I saw were people helping others … tired people … sad people … cynical people.  All the time I wondered what draws me here to this place.  Yesterday I talked to a friend who was happy we were back and he said, “I can’t believe it!  You WANT to be here and not in the United States where everything is so wonderful”.  I asked him if he’s followed our politics lately.  Enough said.

20160115_084101So what does draw me here?  There are similar people and needs in Harrisonburg and in every part of the globe.  I think part of the reason is the history of a people whose lives have been imposed on by outside forces which have taken their hope away.  Again, that is the plight of many people … but I’m here … in Romania.  If it is possible to light a flame of hope in an unemployed worker – that is enough. If I can inspire a child to find music as a positive force in their life – that is enough.  If our presence here says to someone that your country is beautiful and a desirable place to be – that is enough.


Our first Sunday morning in Sighisoara.

On the way I hope I don’t miss the God moments that may come.  On the way I hope God can open my eyes to what can make a difference in someone’s life.  I was listening to Robin and Linda Williams yesterday (yes, don’t faint) and heard “Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones”.  I hope I can see the events that may seem like a stumbling block on the way to be stepping stones for what God has for us to do here.

— Jay

An update to our last blog – Romanian Take Three.  An online giving page has been set up if you’d like to contribute to the Tigmandru Woodshop project.  You can find the page HERE.

Romania Take Three

Jay officially retired from a 40-year teaching career in June, 2015 and after two earlier stays in Romania (once for a full year, and more recently for four months), we are looking forward to returning once again as Nazarene Mission Corps workers from January 12 through May 19, 2016.

Jay’s primary work during this time will be to continue teaching woodworking skills and developing products in the woodshop in Tigmandru. 20140425_174509Named Tamplăria Tigmandru (meaning Tigmandru Woodshop) it will become an official Romanian business early in 2016.  If you want a refresher on what all has happened in the woodshop since work started on it two years ago, see our August, 2015 post The Woodshop Saga Continues.


Our biggest need for the woodshop currently is for funding to cover salaries for the workers for the next two years. In Romania we are obligated to contract with workers for a specific number of hours of work per month. Since we don’t have ongoing wood projects in place yet, in order to pay wages beginning in January we will have to have a source of money to draw from.

20150812_090719You can help by contributing to a special tax-deductible Nazarene project: Eurasia-Romania-Woodshop. (Address at end of this blog.) We need $16,000 to cover wages, health care, pension and taxes for four workers working half time for two years.  Their take home pay will be Romanian minimum wage. It is our goal that the money we earn in the next two years will be banked and used for salaries in the third year of the workshop.  At that time the shop will be become self-sustaining.

Here are a few photos of items made in the woodshop in July and August.

The shop is closed during the months we’ve been back in the U.S. (since October 1) so Jay and the men are all anxious to get back to work again.

20150904_093215Sheri will be spending much of her time with Veritas, working with director Petra Popa on fundraising efforts. She’ll also help with marketing for the woodshop and will work with the Tigmandru Kid’s Club two afternoons a week.

IMG_0108Both of us are excited about starting a children’s choir in Sighisoara as well as an adult choir. Schools do not have choir programs, so we’re not sure what the turn out might be, but we’re hoping to introduce children to choral music and to music from around the world. The adult choir will be focusing on learning and performing one or two major works, still to be determined. Two years ago an adult choir performed The Messiah and many in that choir expressed interest in singing again, so we’ll see if we can put together a balanced group.

As we think about returning to Romania, it’s clear that it has become a second home to us. We still wish we could speak Romanian better, but we understand more than we did two years ago, so there’s hope! We have made many good friends and we return knowing that once again we are answering God’s call for this time in our lives.

Thanks for your continued prayer support and if you can contribute to the wages for the men in the woodshop, we – and they – will be grateful! The address where checks can be sent is:

Global Treasury Services
Church of the Nazarene
PO Box 843116
Kansas City, MO 64184-3116

Put Eurasia-Romania-Woodshop in the memo line.

P.S.  During our three months at home this fall, Jay enjoyed making 10 nativity barns, modeled after Romanian house/barns of the past.  He made one for us, posted it on Facebook, and then was kept busy making barns for people who ordered them.  Each is unique, made of scraps of walnut, cherry, mahogany and oak wood Jay had in his shop.

Here’s the barn, with the ceramic nativity set we purchased from a potter in Codlea, Romania. For more pictures of the barn-making project, go to Jay’s Woodshop Facebook page.
nativity barnWe wish all of you a joyous Christmas and peace-filled New Year.


On ending another four months in Romania

20150913_172636This week our second stay in Romania comes to an end. The more we think we know about our life here the less we understand. This time was different in that our work seemed to see progress, specifically in the wood shop. Working with Atilla, Gabi and Neluțu was a learning experience for me as well as them. Not having taught woodworking before, I basically used my instincts and previous experience to help them learn how to use the tools and be safe. We completed many projects and have projects lined up for our next time back which we are hoping will be in January.

Twenty-five years ago at the beginning of my first sabbatical when we were working with Habitat for Humanity, a friend asked me, “What makes poor people poor?” That question has stuck with me ever since and I still don’t have an answer. After our time here I would ask, “What makes a Romanian a Romanian?” I don’t have an answer for that question either. The answer is far deeper than being born here. In an American way of thinking we want answers and want to make things happen … move forward … change … advance. When that doesn’t happen we wonder why. I’m beginning to understand – but will never really understand. Acceptance of the daily experience here is a start and working within that framework is essential.

I want to tell you the story of one man. His life is an example of the complexity of this country. I’ll call him Hans rather than his real name because he is a humble man and would not want his story to be told. Hans is a Saxon. In the early 90’s when Saxons were free to leave Romania, he and his wife along with his brother stayed. His father and all the rest of their siblings and his wife’s siblings left for Germany. Hans and his wife made a conscious decision to stay because of their roots. Romania is their country. Even with all the persecution, poverty, diversity, prejudice and isolation … they decided to stay.

Hans grew up with four brothers and parents in a two-room house. A third room was added which helped the overcrowding. He can still name every Saxon house on the road that led from his home to school. He told stories of fights he would have with the Romanian boys as they passed them on their way to school. He didn’t like to fight but felt it was his responsibility to protect his younger brothers. Hans told stories of his youth when he could ride a horse or bike through the countryside and stop at a random Saxon home for a meal or overnight. To hear the joy in his voice as he talked of his past and the sadness related to the current state of affairs at the same time was profound.

Romania and specifically Sighishoara is very different now. Where there were once 5,000 Saxons in Sighisoara there are now less than 500. Where the Saxons were once dominant they are now an afterthought. Romanian, Hungarian, Saxon and Roma (gypsy) all co-exist but there is little love shown one to the other.

Here is where the amazing character of Hans comes out. On our way to the village where he works … once a Saxon village and now only two remaining … we stopped three times to pick up food. We bought bread, potatoes and meat. As we entered the village of less than 200 people we saw a young man … early 20’s, a gypsy. Hans waved to him and said to me that the young man has three children. On occasion Hans hires the young man to do work for him. Almost in the same breath he said that on three occasions the young man had stolen from him … but he still hires him …”I hire him because he needs a job.”   Our first stop was to deliver the bread to an elderly couple, second to deliver the meat. Our last was to the family of the young man where we gave them the potatoes. All gypsy families. “Whatsoever you have done unto the least of these….”

The second story, and in my mind the most profound, is how Hans lives out his faith. Twenty-five years ago his and two other families formed a corporation. It would be like at our home church if a small group of three couples decided to do a service project … but on a MUCH larger scale. Being Saxon they have connections in Germany where support is bountiful. To make a long story shorter they have founded a home for unwed mothers, are restoring a village and have a second-hand clothes store that sells 1000 boxes of clothes every month to support the ministry. This is THREE families.

He and his wife have dedicated their lives to their country. Their faith runs deep and the expression of their faith is so hidden that few notice. In some ways, seeing him work, hearing him talk and knowing what his life experience has been gives me the freedom to try anything that might give hope or support to anyone I work with. I could go on with stories but it would take too long. If we meet, I’ll be happy to share some of them with you.

The Woodshop Saga Continues

The Țigmandru Woodshop is open for business – sort of!  Every afternoon from 1-5 p.m. the sounds of voices, sawing and planing come from the building that houses the shop on the main street of Tigmandru.  It’s an exciting time especially because it’s been such a long journey to get to this point.  Since we arrived back in Sighisoara in June, it seemed like every week for the first month Jay made a contact with other woodworkers, with people who suggested items that could be made in the shop, or with potential sources of wood.  We felt God’s leading in these connections, and we recognize that the woodshop is a reality because of the prayers of God’s people.  We are grateful.

A brief history:

August, 2013 – we arrive in Sighisoara. The idea for beginning a woodshop in Tigmandru is greeted as an answer to prayer.

IMAG0349Sept – identify a location for the woodshop – renovating two “rooms” at the back of a property owned by the Tigmandru Nazarene Church.  See our Facebook post HERE for more pictures of the space and beginning work.

IMAG0927Oct./Nov. – renovating/making the building for the woodshop begins. With horse and wagon, materials are brought to the site, cement is poured, bricks laid, windows and doors are put in, insulation is added. A wood stove is put in but it’s too cold to apply the stucco. We wait.

20131206_144217March, 2014 – stucco applied, but need even warmer weather to paint walls. (The paint slid off the wall.) Floors are laid while we wait.

20140425_175321May – purchase table saw and router/jointer, only to discover that the three-phase electric needed is not available and will cost approx. $3,000 and take three months to do the paperwork required and get the transformer installed and wires run.

20140425_174509August, 2014 – The building is completed and we return to the U.S. for another year of Jay teaching at Eastern Mennonite, hoping that by summer of 2015 the electric work will be completed.



June, 2015 – we arrive back in Romania – no three-phase electric. Plus now there is an eight square foot spot of mold in the ceiling from where water came in through the roof tiles.

July – repair the roof, put in new drywall for the ceiling, re-paint. And finally the three-phase electric gets installed.

Jay goes out to the shop to check things out and the plug that was installed for the three phase is the same plug on the saw. Another call to the electrician, another week of waiting to get it changed.

20150724_125237July 31 – work in the shop begins with four apprentices, ages 37, 17, 35 and 55 – Nilutu, Gabi, Mihai, and Atilla.

It’s been two months shy of two years since we began the process to get a shop going. A grant from the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Europe has been gratefully received and additional tools have been purchased.

August – The first product – a small box – has been made.  A cabinet to store the tools is in process.

Of course the electric saga continues. The outlets that were installed weren’t industrial strength. At present there are no lights in the ceiling. And so it goes.

At this point, a man in Sighisoara who runs two tourist shops has ordered 40 small boxes. He wants to carve them and then sell them in his store. Jay has also had requests for kitchen cabinets and some small furniture items.

20150814_090414I (Sheri) am enjoying seeing Jay in teaching mode, even though it’s in a shop instead of a music classroom.

Here’s what Jay has to say about his experience:

The apprentices are eager to learn how to work with wood and are fun to be with. Many times as we use the saw and planer I think of Dennis Brubaker and the former shop at EMS. I feel like I can barely stay ahead of the four as they run the tools. I’m more impressed with Dennis and his patience and ability to keep his sanity as he taught a classroom of students.

After all the delays, the sound of the saw running was music to my ears.  Listen and watch here: The Tigmandru Woodshop YouTube post.

The first week (August 10-14) was a good one learning how to saw boards and plane them. The tools are very above average for here and I’m thankful for the financial help many of you have given to purchase them. As we got to the third day of work the jointer didn’t turn on. After an hour we discovered someone had pulled the plug from the wall by holding onto the chord – which disconnected the wire. Nothing is easy.

As for the projects, the boxes are a good start. Beyond the boxes we really don’t have anything specific except to make some kitchen cabinets for the Nazarene Church in Tigmandru. The problem is that I can’t find plywood. The three Home Depot type stores here in Romania only carry 1/4” ply. There is no ¾ – or 2 cm anywhere that I know of.  I’ll keep looking. Wood is an issue here. If I have a supply of wood that I’m working with I need to have “stamped” documentation of where it came from … for every board. I’m working with English walnut, cherry, beech, and pine … all of which I picked up from a friend and have no papers. We’ll see how that works out.

In another six weeks we’ll be returning to the U.S.  More training needs to happen before the woodshop can operate without Jay’s supervision. So what does that mean for our future? We continue to feel as though God has something for us to do with the people of Tigmandru. Please pray with us that we will know how to follow God’s leading as we finish this four-month stay and consider the future.