We were sitting in the park spread out on blankets. It was a beautiful afternoon and there wasn’t anywhere else we needed to be. We had prayer walked around Bucharest in smaller groups that morning and came together for a time of sharing over a picnic lunch. Most everywhere we went in the city, we stood out: Americans in Eastern Europe. But in the park, sitting down, gathered with Romanian and Brazilian friends, there wasn’t much to notice.
Still it seemed that a gathering of ten and twelve people was an unusual sight. Over the course of the afternoon, we were met with a lot of stares from passersby. Some were merely curious; others appeared less welcoming of our presence—and our prayers.
Over the course of the afternoon, we were met with a lot of stares from passersby. Some were merely curious; others appeared less welcoming of our presence—and our prayers.
It wasn’t long before a woman strayed off the park path and approached our circle of bowed heads. She mumbled in Romanian to us, and a Romanian-speaking friend in our group handed her a big green apple. The woman reached out eagerly for it and the apple disappeared into one of the many folds of her ragged clothes.
We continued to pray and still she lingered, speaking a bit louder and more hurried. She wasn’t asking for prayer; she was trying to disrupt it. Our friend who had handed her the apple stood up and began quietly speaking to the woman. She didn’t send the woman away. In no rush, she listened, responded, listened some more, and after a few minutes the woman quieted down and left on her own.
One of the men in our group, a recently arrived missionary from Brazil, began sharing about God’s call on his life and his journey from Brazil to Romania. As we began praying for him, a man who had been nearby napping awoke and, bothered by our presence, began yelling. Never getting too close but making his own presence known, for a period of time the man continued to yell what we later discovered were curses directed at us. We continued to encourage and pray for our Brazilian brother, and eventually the man grew tired and left.
The Lord’s presence was with us in that park.
Still the afternoon had the Lord’s anointing on it. When one friend had to leave, two new friends were there to take his seat. Stories were shared of God doing the impossible as encouragement and reminder, intermingled with times of prayer for our dear friends and for a city we were coming to love. The Lord’s presence was with us in that park.
As we began closing our time together that afternoon, a young man briskly veered off the nearby path and came boldly up to our group. He had an easy manner to him and asked inquisitively what we were doing in the park and where we were from. Our Romanian friends gave a brief explanation, which was all he needed to hear before telling us about a heart condition he had and money he needed for treatment. Our friends told him that money we did not have, but we all would be happy to pray for him.
He sat down in the circle and those nearest to him gathered around, but before anyone could begin praying, the young man began speaking rapidly. A friend translated his gloom and doom words into English for us. When he finally fell silent, we prayed for him. At the close of the prayer time, he once again began speaking words of doom and gloom to us, but for the most part, the words fell on deaf ears and with no further reaction from us, he too moved on.
The beggar. The demonic. The mentally ill. Each of them found us in the park that sunny afternoon…They came because of the Lord’s presence.
The beggar. The demonic. The mentally ill. Each of them found us in the park that sunny afternoon, not because some of us were Americans or because others spoke their language. They came because of the Lord’s presence. They came in their poverty, torment, and brokenness, drawn to the One who has eternal riches, who can set free, who heals and restores completely.
That afternoon reminds us that the Lord continues to draw the outcast to Him today just as He did two thousand years ago. We may never know this side of heaven what seeds were sown in those three hearts in a city park in Bucharest that beautiful spring afternoon. Maybe, just maybe, we will all meet again someday.