MISSION TO ROMANIA
A La Grande mission team that served at a Christian youth camp in Romania for two weeks in August recalls the games that were played, the messages that were shared and the friendships that were formed.
But a highlight for the 17-member team from La Grande's First Baptist Church at Camp Integro in Romania's Transylvania region might be the "miracle of the hot dog buns."
One evening the team, led by First Baptist's youth director Jeffry Forbes, decorated the dining hall and treated the Romanian campers to an American-style meal.
The tastes from Oregon included hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.
The La Grande team, which included 10 youths and seven adults, had brought hot dog buns with them to Romania.
The group discovered that many of the buns had molded in transport. After tossing out the bad ones, they counted the edible buns and discovered there were 92.
They then counted the number of campers and leaders who were planning to eat the meal, and the number was the same: 92.
That to the La Grande group was almost as great of a miracle as the Biblical story of the five small loaves of bread that were broken and shared with 5,000 people who had gathered to see Jesus.
The team helped with two week-long camps during their stay in Romania.
After the first camp, which had 40 high school students in it, the team was to break away from the camp and become involved in other activities.
But there was no outside team from America or western Europe scheduled to assist with the camp during the second week. The camp would draw 80 campers, ranging in age from 13 to 29.
"They were short-handed," said Kellie Forbes, one of the adult leaders and wife of Jeffry Forbes. "They asked us if we would help with that camp. We prayed about it and decided to do that."
The La Grande team members described how a day at camp would go.
After a full day of activities for the campers that included English classes, crafts, games, volleyball and other sports, dinner was served at about 7 p.m.
Campers gathered at about 8:30 p.m. for worship and a Bible message, often taught by Jeffry Forbes and Jake Hart, another adult leader on the First Baptist team.
Team members then assisted with campers, who were broken into small groups. Campers were asked to share what they had learned in their 45 minutes of personal Bible reading and prayer time earlier that day and from the evening's message. Following the small groups, campers and staff often did not get to bed until after midnight.
A highlight for La Grande High School student Heidi Routt occurred one evening when several girls decided not to go to their small groups.
"They decided to go downstairs to pray," Routt recalled.
"It was difficult to pray, because we were laughing so much."
After a while, a woman began leading the group in songs to shift the focus to a more serious side.
"The campers began to pray," Routt said. "They prayed in Romanian, and we were praying in English."
The impromptu meeting ended with the singing of "Awesome God," she said.
Adult leader Trish White said she especially enjoyed the opportunity she had to build relationships with the campers. She remembers helping one girl in particular.
"I had a chance to talk to a 17-year-old girl about things she was struggling with," White said.
While the camps were under way, some of the La Grande team members traveled to the nearby village of Lunca Bradului. Appointments had been set up by a volunteer social worker to allow the members to visit with families in their modest homes.
Food and clothing was provided for the families, and Margaret Corig, an adult leader on the La Grande team, had a chance to share the story of Christ's death on the cross. A translator interpreted for her.
White said the families were very open to having the team come into their homes.
Corig recalled that "some of the people would break down and cry when they heard the gospel message.
Corig could not say how many people made a commitment to Christ in their homes, but added, "the seeds were planted."
Jake Hart said a highlight for him was to see the change in two teenage boys who attended the camp.
"They were a couple of tough boys, ages 13 and 14, who did not indicate they wanted to change," Hart said.
But when the La Grande team went to the town of Targu Mures to do some followup with the campers, a birthday party was held in a church. The party was for the young people who had made a commitment to Christ at camp.
Hart said he was excited when the two boys showed up at the party, indicating they were trusting Christ.
Bethany Barker, a student member on the La Grande team, agreed with the others that a high point was getting to know the campers.
She said a special moment occurred for her during the last day of camp, when a girl came up to her and gave her a spontaneous hug.
"It was wonderful to watch how God worked through all the people on our team," Kellie Forbes said.
The team brought with it $2,200 from First Baptist Church that it shared with Camp Integro. The money would go to offset the camp costs, making the week affordable for the campers.
Corig said the Romanians were impressed with how well the La Grande group worked together.
Corig said two of the Romanian girls came up to her at the end of the camp and said of the team, "I appreciate how you love one another."
Â— Dave Stave