My trip to Romania began the moment I entered the airport and experienced typical travel problems: flight delays and bad weather. I was supposed to leave on Friday afternoon from DFW airport, but after being at the airport for seven hours, we never left.
Finally, on Saturday, I was seated in the very last seat of the airplane. Less than an hour before landing, the captain announced that he did not have the clearance to land at Dulles International Airport in Washington; therefore, he would have to take the airplane to Richmond, Virginia, and then go back to Washington when the weather permitted.
The man sitting next to me knew I had missed my flight on Friday, and he told me he was also not supposed to be on the airplane. He had visited Dallas on business and was supposed to leave for Washington on Friday, but he had decided to stay one extra night.
After the captain’s announcement, the man tapped me on my shoulder and asked, “Where is your final destination anyway?”
I replied, “Romania.”
The man almost jumped off his seat, and with a big smile, he declared, “Really? I am from Romania, born and raised.”
What are the odds, I thought. With Romania on my mind, I quickly prayed that I would not miss my connecting flight.
A few moments later, the captain announced, “Well folks, we just received notification from Dulles, and they are telling us that we can make our scheduled landing after all.”
With that answer to prayer, I turned to my Romanian companion and began a conversation with him that led me to sharing the Gospel with him that afternoon. I knew my mission had begun.
Without any further delays, I arrived at my final destination, Romania. On Monday morning, our team assembled and drove to a gym in the city where orphans attended a camp. Our team included a couple of missionaries, a few staff members from a foundation in charge of the camps, a team of United States college students that had been working in Romania all summer, a group of Romanian high school students that served as interpreters, and a church team from Fort Worth. Although we all came from different places, we had one goal in mind: to make a difference in the lives of orphans.
When we first gathered together at the camp, we sang several worship songs. Then, it was time for me to share my story. It is not easy to share about a hurtful past, but I knew God had prepared this moment for these kids. I pushed through the difficult parts, hoping to connect to at least one child. When I began to tell my story, the kids were expressionless. But as the translator communicated my story, I observed many of them looking at the floor whenever they heard something with which they could identify: abuse, beatings, and abandonment.
Although my story is difficult, I always ended on a positive note because the purpose was to give them hope. I shared how I forgave those that hurt me and how I have a relationship with my mother and father, which was all possible because of my relationship with Christ, because of what He did for me and for them.
After speaking to the kids, they were so warm and inviting; they hugged me and asked me to play soccer with them. Many kids gave me a small gift: a leaf, a wristband, a handwritten thank-you note, a bracelet. It was a small gesture but a great sign of their generosity.
One thank-you note read, “I will never forget your story. It make(s) me want to change my life… You make me understand that I am not a mistake, God can use me, He has a plan for me and I’m never alone.”
Throughout the trip, I shared my story seven times to over 200 children and teens as well as to 30 adults. Also, I taught an evangelism seminar to over 40 people at a local church. Many of the orphans asked me to come back with my wife. After hearing my story, the pastor of the local church asked me to return to Romania to equip more Romanians to be prepared to share their stories and their faith, like Emese.
“I praise God for every moment He blessed me with by hearing, your story,” wrote Emese, a young Romanian volunteer who wants to help Romanian children, “All the teaching you gave us these days made me realize how strong is the power of prayer.”
Sharing my story allowed me to connect to the kids and to share my faith with them. Sharing my story allowed me to connect to the local church and to help others share their stories to make a difference. My trip made me realize stories matter—not just my story but all our stories. Think about how we could transform our communities and our world if we all simply shared our stories.
I want to thank you, Chase Oakers, for your prayers. Every day, I could feel the power of your prayers and of the Holy Spirit working through me (even when facing delays in my travel plans). I hope you will pray for opportunities to share your story with others both locally and globally.