We flew into Budapest and hopped on buses to drive a further 18 hours into the Transylvanian alps. This place look like the stereotypical Eastern European towns you see portrayed in movies. Everything about them was dark and grey and dirty and a little creepy and just desperate for love. Driving into the town in a dozen huge coach buses made us celebrities of a sort. The local ministry there welcomed us with open arms and instantly put us to work.
The first year we were in Lupeni. There we built a skate park, taught English lessons and dealt with the "ditch." Oh the infamous ditch. A muddy, toxic waterway that we were tasked with making deeper and wider and lining with rocks to enhance the water flow, thus preventing the local hospital/school from flooding.
Looking back it was not the smartest idea to put ditch-mud all over my face. I have a very vivid memory of digging my shovel into a pile of garbage and uncovering a dead dog. Yeah, I wasn't kidding about the toxic part. There were hundreds of stray dogs running around the town because owning a pet is costly and many were just let loose- one of the many lasting affects of communism (along with the deep poverty and corruption). Needless to say we all left with a nasty cold, affectionately referred to as "Lupenitis."
And of course there was another pesky ditch flooding a local resident's farm to be tackled. Why are the dirtiest jobs always the most fun and rewarding?
Young Life's tagline is "you were made for this" and truly those two weeks of service made that real for me. We were made to know the perfect love of God and then to live it out in our lives so that others may know Him too. I have honestly never felt more like I was where I was meant to be than when I was in the trenches of that town. Covered in mud, eating the spam sandwiches, loving on the little kids, so excited just to hold our hands and tell us their names and have us braid their hair.