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I think my first two words in Romanian were "buna ziua". I soon began to neglect that phrase, however, in favor of the more fun and exciting phrase, "bine...foarte bine." Which of course means, "well...very well."
"How are you today?"
So you see, it served me well on my first trip to Romania. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Gee Dan, with language skills like that, it's clear that you should go back to Romania." So I did.
The desire to be a missionary has seemingly always been there for me. But I guess I can track it back to 7th grade when I was talking with my youth pastor about the future. I wanted to be a bush pilot, flying airplanes into hard to get places, pretty much just for the sheer joy of being able to get there. Scott said, "why don't you think about being a missionary pilot." I don't know if the thought had ever occurred to me before. I came across Through Gates of Splendor, the story of Jim Elliott, Nate Saint, and the others killed in Ecuador in 1956. I was impressed with Nate Saint - not only his ability as a mechanic and a pilot, but also about his desire to see Aucas come to Christ. This is what Nate wrote just before Christmas, 1955, just 3 weeks before he and the others would be killed.
...If God would grant us the vision, the word sacrifice would disappear from our lips and thoughts; we would hate the things that seem now so dear to us; our lives would suddenly be too short, we would despise time-robbing distractions and charge the enemy with all our energies in the name of Christ. May God help us to judge ourselves by the eternities that separate the Aucas from a comprehension of Christmas and Him, who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor so that we might, through His poverty, be made rich.
In 1992 I went to Moody Bible Institute as a "pre-aviation" major. There are a limited number of slots available at Moody's aviation school, and a large number of students desiring to go, so the weeding-out process starts early. Moody's Missionary Aviation major is split into two parts, 2 years of Bible courses, taught at the Chicago campus, and 3 years of mechanics and flight at the aviation school in Tennessee. After the first year in Chicago, I was invited to the evaluation camp - a one week "crash" course to determine whether you will be accepted into the aviation program. Well, the short of it is (and believe me, the story is much longer), I didn't get accepted. After dreaming and really, planning, to be a missionary pilot for more than 12 years, God said no. And I was crushed. I went back to Moody in the fall and eventually changed my major to missions.
Three years later I was on a missions trip to Latin America with CAM International. It was designed to give team members exposure to missions, to what CAM is doing in Central America, and how God is working. The last three weeks of the trip were spent in Guatemala. When our plane touched down there, I began to feel that sense of comfort that I had there on a previous missions trip. After three weeks, I was sure that's where God was calling me.
In the meantime, I began to work with the youth group at my church, Wayside Chapel, leading the youth worship team, teaching a small group Bible study, and helping to lead the youth missions team. The youth group was supporting some missionaries from our church, Luke and Jodi Veldt. Luke thought it would be a great idea to get the kids more directly involved in the work there, and invited us to bring a group for a short term trip. Since I was involved in the leadership, and I had the time (as I wasn't working at the time), I agreed to go as one of the team leaders. I wasn't really excited about it...since, you know, it's not Guatemala...but I went.
Luke began the week there by saying, "you know Dan, God loves you and I have a wonderful plan for your life." His plan, it turns out, was for me to come work with them. I told him I had other plans, involving a country on the other side of the world...The trip, as it turns out, was a good trip, and our kids grew a lot, learned a lot, and were a source of great encouragement to the folks there. But I knew I wouldn't be back. One of the members of the Romanian team was talking with Jodi and they said something about me coming back. I said, "God will have to give me a direct sign. Like...if I suddenly become fluent in Romanian...I'd take that as a sign I'm supposed to be here." My Romanian friend said, "Well, you already know how to say, 'foarte bine.'"
Five months after returning, I began to realize that I was praying for the Veldts and the Romanians I had met there, and praying for them a lot. So I started to think about why they were constantly on my mind. I started praying about whether God would have me go to Romania. After much wrestling (I'm pretty stubborn), it became clear to me that I should go.
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