Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mos Nicolae

Today I went to a craft fair at the Peasant's Museum here in Bucuresti.  Artists and artisans from all over Romania came to display and sell their handiwork.  It was fascinating and beautiful.  I brought some of the beauty home with this painting and with beeswax candles to fill the house with the scent of honey.  Noemi and I are prepared to fend off hungry bears because it smells so delicious.

Tomorrow is St. Nicolas's Day so, in the words of Wikipedia...

In Hungary and Romania children typically leave their boots on the windowsill on the evening of December 5. By next morning Nikolaus (Szent Miklós traditionally but more commonly known as Mikulás in Hungary or Moş Nicolae (Sfântul Nicolae) in Romania) leaves candy and gifts if they have been good, or a rod (Hungarian: virgács, Romanian: nuieluşǎ) if they have been bad (most kids end up getting small gifts but also a small rod). In Hungary he is often accompanied by the Krampusz, the frightening helper who is out to take away the bad ones.

Here's what the girls will wake up to tomorrow.  You can't tell, but there are tiny pottery dishes tucked in there for the stuffed animals to have a tea party.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Incarnation

Artwork from

(If you receive our prayer letters you'll see this in your mailbox in a few days.)

This year, as I look forward to our first Christmas in Bucharest, the Incarnation has become more personal.  I stumbled across this realization in the most unlikely of places - the middle of a long-winded lecture to my daughter.  She had disobeyed, I had corrected and she had made the mistake of telling me that she "just HAD to do it."  Her statement was true.  Raising two children has dissolved any doubts that may have lurked in the deepest corners of my mind about the existence of our inherent sin natures.  Her mistake lay in starting a discussion with her mother because her mother was in the mood to talk and launched into a very.long.lecture.  I touched on the aforementioned sin nature and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us obey.  And then, since I was on a roll and we still had a couple blocks left to walk before we reached home, I launched into a treatise on how God understands how hard it is for us to obey.  And that's when I realized ... He understands it all.

We moved here to Bucharest from Minnesota, where we lived with my family for a year and a half.  My children saw their grandparents and cousins daily.  In spite of the blessings of Skype and phone calls, we still miss them and Joshua's family in Michigan intensely.  Jesus left heaven, the glorious face-to-face fellowship with God the Father, to come to earth and spend His first few years here hanging out with a teenage mom and a carpenter.  Our move can't even compare.

Language study is challenging.  Every conversation in Romanian requires every ounce of mental capacity we possess ... and even then we still are misunderstanding and misunderstood.  Jesus, the Word, came to earth as a speechless baby.  If He had an ear infection in his infancy He just had to scream and hope that Mary could figure it out like every mother and baby the world over.  Then, when He could speak, He was never fully understood.  No one got Him. His closest friends needed His parables explained.  He spoke spiritual language in a land of humans. He knows how hard it is to communicate cross-culturally.

Some days I feel pulled in twenty a hundred different directions.  Family, ministry, language study, friends, team.  Everyone needs something from me and I can't make any of them happy.  Jesus was followed by crowds of thousands of people.  They seemed to show up at the worst possible times, when He was most exhausted.  And He chose to love them and still make time to spend alone with His Father.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.  For ever frustration, large or small, we don't have to look far in the life of Jesus to realize that He gets it. He's been here.  He's lived it.  And He doesn't ask anything of us that He hasn't done Himself on an infinitely larger scale in the Incarnation.

For any struggles we have with out new life in Romania there are a myriad of blessings that come with it.  We are thrilled to be here, certain that this is where God wants us, and wouldn't want to be anywhere else.  Next month we'll write a year in review and let you know some of the exciting opportunities that God put in our path. 

Merry Christmas!
Kara (for the Dunckels)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Josh's Trip to Kiev

This summer I had the privilege to go to Kiev, Ukraine for a week to share in a short term mission trip with one of our supporting churches.  Here are a few photos from the trip and praise and prayer requests as well.
  • Praise God for the opportunity to go to Kiev, Ukraine and minister alongside a group of people from Oakridge Community Church. 
  • Praise God for the work that was able to be done in repairing part of the hospital that treats children affected by the Chernobyl accident. 
  • Praise God that no one was seriously hurt during the week of construction.
  • Praise God for the connection that the young people on the team were able to make to with a number of kids at the hospital for treatment.
  • Praise God for the good conversations I was able to have with the people I traveled to and from Ukraine with on a very long train ride.
  • Praise God for keeping Kara, Noemi, and Isobel safe while I was away.
  • Praise God for the time to reconnect and share with friends and supporters from OCC.  They encouraged me and allowed me to share with them in this time of ministry.

 Prayer Requests...
  • Pray that God will grant the hospital favor in the eyes of the government inspectors to remain open to treat these sick children.
  • Pray that God will continue to use Daryl to share the gospel with the children that come to this hospital for care.
  • Pray that this trip will mobilize OCC for further missions involvement.
  • Pray for God’s name to be praised and more would be added to His kingdom in the city of Kiev and Ukraine as a whole.
  • Pray that God would raise up Romanian believers to go and minister the Gospel in Ukraine.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Joshua is working with the Oakridge Community Church team at the children's hospital in Kiev this week. From the little I've been able to talk to him, things are going well and they're getting good work done. We'll have a post on the trip when Josh gets back to tell his stories.

I was looking forward to a quiet week at home, but it has turned out to be anything but. In a good way. Our days and lives are full of wonderful people here. Today the girls and I visited a Christian kindergarten for disadvantaged children run by a friend. We all had a wonderful time. I have to confess that I am one who tends to roll my eyes when people talk about going to another country and "falling in love with the children there", but these children were seriously precious. I can hardly wait to go back and see them again. I'm looking forward to volunteering there this fall. It will be a good chance to help out a great ministry, practice my toddler Romanian and give the girls exposure to Romanian language and friends. My job on today's visit was to take photos for fundraising materials, so I have tons of photos to cull through and edit. It's getting late, so tonight I am just throwing together yet another quick collage to give you some snapshots ... the brochure photos will look a little more polished, I hope.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Parcul Titan

Joshua is headed out to Kiev next week and I'm really looking forward to a quiet week at home. Living across the street from one of Bucuresti's most lovely parks keeps me from feeling trapped in the city in the summer. You can't tell we live in the most densely populated city in Europe from these pics, can you? If you look closely though, you can find a turtle:)

We're feeling very cosmopolitan lately...

We enjoyed hosting a family from Russia overnight last night. They came to meet a Romanian missionary to Siberia who is back here for a few weeks. They are a wonderful family who are dear friends of the Romanian missionary and his family. As far as we can tell, they are not believers. We look forward to seeing them again before they head back to Russia. It was a great opportunity for us to give a little help to a Romanian who has already been mobilized and sent out as a missionary. Noemi really enjoyed playing with their daughter until late at night and then again as soon as she woke up. Playing with toy animals on a pirate ship somehow transcends the language barrier

Joshua is really looking forward to meeting the team from Oakridge Community Church in Kiev next week to work in a children's hospital. It feels oddly normal for him to be travelling to a new country because it's just next-door (yet somehow takes 27 hours to travel by train).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It was a good day!

We have actually been having lots of good days. Joshua has a monthly pass for all the trams, buses and trolley-buses in Bucharest and is enjoying exploring and experiencing new things. Since that sounds like way less fun to me with two kids in tow I tend to spend more of my time in our neighborhood. I took a bunch of pictures of our neighborhood for another post to show you why I don't feel the need to get away from it all.

Romania just might be the most welcoming country to move to, as a foreigner. The people here are so incredibly patient and encouraging. That said, language and culture acquisition is still hard work. God has placed a lot of Romanians in our lives who are a great blessing to us in this process and I am so thankful for them! Today I met with a young mother in the park, who only speaks Romanian and I was so excited because, for the most part, I could understand her. She was really patient while I laboriously strung my words together into sentences. Even more exciting to me is the fact that she is someone who I can be a blessing to now, even with the limitation of my linguistic abilities ... or lack thereof. I'm farther down the road of motherhood and have the deep resources of a great God to draw on. She is home alone with a young baby most of the time and spending time with her in the park is something I can do with my children around. I have received so much here that I'm looking forward to being able to pour out grace as well.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Visa Process in Numbers

# of visits we have made to the Visa office in the past two months: 7

# of Visas we have in hand: 2

# of ice-cream cones bought to appease children tired of waiting at the visa office: approximately 6, but who's counting

# of visits to the visa office before they actually give us cards for Noemi and Isobel: anybody's guess

# of months before we get to turn around and do this all over again: 10.5

That said, it's totally worth it to be here in Romania.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Great Flood

So I took the girls for a walk this evening. It was a little warm, but not too sunny, so we went out to the playground by the ice cream stand. I looked at a big grey cloud in the distance and wondered which direction it was moving, then walked on. We were almost there when the heavens opened and poured forth rain. Sheets of it ... then blankets and comforters. We hid under a tree for a while before I decided that we couldn't possibly be any wetter if we were just walking home, so we headed out. The sidewalks were covered in water, several inches deep in some places. Noemi, shivering and running along side me commented, "I guess there's going to be another Flood after all." It was not a teachable moment to talk about God's faithfulness that never fails, etc, etc. It was time to run and run quickly to the sound of Isobel screaming. By time we crossed the street and reached the bridge by our house the rain had subsided to a gentle spring shower and there was a giant rainbow stretched across the sky. I'm sure God put it there just to remind Noemi that there will never be another Great Flood because He always keeps his promises.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Week at a glance

I'm trying to post more regularly ... at least once a week. The days here are flying by and I don't want to forget them or to forget to share them with all you.

- Joshua was able to pick up his Visa last week and the girls and I should receive ours on Monday!

- I had a great afternoon out with some sweet friends on Saturday. They showed me around downtown Bucuresti, waited patiently while I shopped for kids books in Romanian. There was ice cream, there was music and dancing in the park (folk music festival), it was a perfect afternoon. Adela took me with her to visit a mother in the hospital with her premature baby - a tiny doll of a boy. I was able to pray with them, which was really a blessing to me.

- Our grammar teacher is on vacation this week, but we should start meeting with a language helper for practice in conversation. Joshua might also be able to use some of the free time to take a day trip or two out of Bucuresti.

- Thanks to a generous tax refund we are buying a dryer this week! Some friends are selling theirs before they move back to the States and we are buying it. This may seem like a strange thing to be excited about, but I spend so much time hanging up laundry and tripping on the drying rack that I'm really looking forward to it. Now I'll have more time to post here:)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer at the Seaside

Noemi has been talking about the beach since ... oh, about January. Oh, how she enjoyed Darlene's beach last summer! In an effort to redirect Noemi's attention from the unattainable I told her about Constanta, the Romanian city on the Black Sea. She had a personal connection to it because our friend/babysitter, Lumi, is from Constanta. When Lumi heard about Noemi's desire to see the beach she offered to show us around her hometown. Last weekend we took the train (5 hours each way multiplied by 2 small children = a million hours spent on the train) to Constanta and enjoyed a lovely weekend away, seeing another side of Romania. Luminita was a wonderful hostess and made sure we experienced the best of Constanta. Noemi enjoyed the beach and a dolphin show. Isobel enjoyed everything because life is just so exciting when you're almost 2.

Here's a glimpse of our weekend away. It's far more exciting that the scenes of our weekday life of nouns, verbs, adjectives, the conjunctive, the accusative .........

Friday, May 29, 2009

First Words

Isobel is nearing her second birthday (in August) and I'm eagerly waiting to hear her start using more words. She definitely isn't using the 20 words the average 18-month old is using or the 50 words a 2 year old should have. She communicates using the words 'mama', 'dada' and her own brute strength. I'm not worried about her speech delay yet because I consider it a matter of motivation. She can hoot like an owl, but doesn't say 'please'. Priorities, people, priorities.

Most of our lives are currently spent in language study, either formal or informal. Isobel is my little guinea pig. I find myself repeating every word or phrase when I'm talking to a baby, so with Isobel I just repeat what I've said in Romanian, if I know how. I get practice and she gets some language exposure. So yesterday when Isobel saw Noemi with water bottle and wanted a drink she said 'apa' (Romanian for water) instead of the usual point-and-yell technique. We were so proud! Her first complete word is a Romanian word.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Muzeul Satului

Today we spent the morning with some friends at the Village Museum. The museum relocated traditional homes from various regions in Romania onto their museum grounds. The girls were able to run around and explore while we enjoyed the diverse beauty of Romanian culture. Here's a glimpse of what we saw...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

We're Legal!

After three days of standing in various lines all members of our family have visas in process! Praise God! That said, these are 1-year visas, so I'm already praying that next year when we renew we will qualify for 5-year visas. The visa application process is expensive both in time and money, and I don't want to spend any more of either on visas than we have to. In addition, I love living in Romania and want to think of it as home, not as the place we're living for the next year.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tomorrow's Agenda: Standing in Lines

Today we went to the doctors office to get our certificates of health to submit with our visa papers. We walked and rode the tram across town on a HOT afternoon to get there and when we walked in the door the receptionist told me she knew we were coming but the doctor was not in due to a death in the family. In the split second it took me to wonder how she could know the doctor was not in and not call me and tell me before I schlepped my kids across town she told me that she would be happy to help me out. So today we received our certificates of health from the receptionist. We must have looked healthy:) So, God provided the papers we needed and spared us from wrangling our kids through doctors appointments. All Noemi and Isobel had to do was play with toys in the waiting room.

Tomorrow we (hopefully) submit our visa papers. Please pray that all goes well, all our papers are in order, and the applications are processed quickly. Every time we have an appointment or do any paperwork for our visa process Noemi asks me about it. By now she's used to it so she explains it to me ... "we have to [go to such and such an office] because we have to stay in Romania ... we have to." God has brought us here and I trust Him to keep us here as long as He can use us.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Buchurest Spring (Bucuresti Primavara)

Joshua has been sick this week, so I haven't had a chance to write. Isobel's on my lap, assisting me right now:) So without further ado (or tiny hands on my keyboard) here's a glimpse of our beatiful spring. Summer's coming quickly.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Settling In

Every day I feel more at home in Buchurest. The biggest reason I am enjoying our new home is because Romanian culture is so relational. People are open to conversation and to friendship. We are developing exciting new relationships with friends at church. This is incredibly helpful for us in our language study and someday we hope to be a blessing to them as we minister alongside them. Noemi is struggling with the language barrier in her interactions with other children. I so appreciate the Romanian children for their persistant friendliness. God has placed several children in her life who are patient and consistently reach out to her even when she is withdrawn.
I am a detail person, so it's also the little things that make me love living here. I found 'my' fruit and vegetable market. If anyone has seen me raiding the Grubers' garden or shopping at the Stillwater Farmer's Market, they will realize how important this is to me. I love my fresh produce! The vendor at my market is patient with me and after the first time I asked him the correct way to say something, he started teaching me the words for the items I couldn't name. I'm now a loyal customer.
After singing the praises of Romania, I want to make it clear that we do, indeed, miss our friends and family from home. So you should all feel free to come visit:)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Not too busy to blog!

I'm so sorry I have not been faithful about posting lately. There have been so many moments, events and days that I was eager to write about but never found the time to sit down and put them into words. I'll try to touch on the major highlights of our last few weeks.

Hristos a inviat! Christ is Risen!
We enjoyed celebrating our first Easter in Romania. I appreciate how Christ centered the Easter traditions are here. It is also interesting that Easter is a more important holiday than Christmas here. We watched the city shut down for two days to celebrate.

In order to lengthen our legal stay in the country until our visa papers were processed we needed to travel outside Romanian this month. We chose a quick and easy trip across the border to the town of Rousse,Bulgaria. We enjoyed the family time and the girls enjoyed exploring ancient
castle ruins and riding the train.

A Church Home!

Almost three weeks ago we decided to settle down at a Baptist church in our neighborhood. Since then we have seen the start of many new friendships and we are looking forward to watching them grow. As a PK whose church has always been the center of her social life, I'm pretty excited. There is even a children's program for Noemi to attend! I spend Sunday mornings up in the mothers' room with other mothers of wiggly babies. It is probably my best language learning opportunity of the whole week.

The church is strong and growing. It is easy to see and hear from people how God is at work there.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Prayer Update

Here's a sneak peek at our next prayer letter...

Last month we enjoyed our first trip to the beautiful mountains of Romania for our team retreat. We enjoyed getting to know our teammates, learning more about their ministries, and studying the Bible together.

Life is now settling down to its new ‘normal’. We are studying Romanian language and culture in and out of the classroom. Kara’s current favorite language learning method is watching Sesame Street in Romanian. Noemi and Isobel have no objections to this practice. We have been blessed with an experienced language teacher with a heart for serving missionaries. Our babysitter is also a blessing, kind and gentle with our children and very helpful with our language learning.

Outside of language study, Joshua has been attending a Kairos course at the OC office. Kairos is a missions education course that our team is sharing with churches around Romania. Attending the course gives us perspective on what OC is currently involved in as we look forward to our future ministry after language study. On Sundays we are attending a variety of churches around Bucharest before we choose a church and settle down.

Prayer Requests:

- Successful language study
- Wisdom in choosing a church
- Healthy adjustment for our children

Sunday, March 22, 2009


God faithfully brought our boxes safely here last Friday and we've been settling into our new home even more as we unpack. The girls have been enjoying their books all the more for having lived without them for two months. It's fun to be surrounded by some familiar things again. I have to extend a big THANK YOU to the guys at Gruber Pallets for packing and wrapping our boxes. They made the trip on two boats and who-knows-how-many trucks unscathed.

This week we will take our first trip out of Bucharest and into the beautiful mountains of Romania. We have an OC team retreat in Sibiu. There will be snow. I would be more excited about this if I hadn't just moved from Minnesota. Snow aside, we are looking forward to seeing more of Romania and to getting to know our teammates.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness

Romania is a country of extroverts. It is impossible for me to go anywhere with my children without interacting with strangers. To date these interactions are, almost without fail, positive. Today I took the girls on the Metro to a friends house and back. Here's a sample of my day.

- We travelled in rush hour on a packed train and I couldn't get off at the stop I needed because there were too many people between my stroller and the door. Everyone in the general vicinity was aware of my plight (probably because Isobel was shouting at the top of her lungs). When we reached the next stop people pushed back the crowd getting off the train, the crowd getting on the train, and lifted my stroller off the train for me. I'm not sure whether to chalk this up as an act of kindness or an act of desperation to escape the volume of Isobel's voice.

- A man helped me carry Isobel in her stroller up the stairs.

- A different man helped me lift Isobel in her stroller over the gate to exit the Metro and offered to help me with (more) stairs.

-On the way home Noemi was staring at the bag of an older woman because it was filled with soft pretzels ... so the woman gave Noemi a pretzel.

- A man offered his seat to Noemi on the train.

- A sweet older woman volunteered to walk Noemi off the train so I could steer the stroller and then walked Noemi up the stairs so I could carry the stroller. She was unaware of our newly perfected system of holding onto the scarf hanging from the stroller:)

- My babysitter volunteered to stay late this afternoon when she saw how busy we were.

I have been overwhelmed with the kindness of strangers lately, not so much because I can't carry a stroller up the stairs, but because it is an enourmous help with language learning. I can't learn to speak unless there's someone to speak with.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


TCK stands for Third Culture Kids, which is what my children became the day we moved to Bucharest. It is an identity with its challenges and blessings. I read an encouraging post on the topic over at Simple Mom this week.

International Women's Day

Today is the International Women's Day! The flower stalls are in full swing again this weekend. From what I can tell it is celebrated like Mothers Day but including women without children. Flowers and chocolates seem to factor heavily. Here's a link to a little history about the holiday

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Spring is here! I went outside without a coat today, so it's official.

On March 1st Romanians celebrate the coming of spring with Martisor (mar-tsi-shore). The sidewalks are lined with vendors selling flowers and trinkets to celebrate the holiday. Here's a link for those who are interested in the history of the holiday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I need to start carrying my camera around with me. These early days in Bucharest are full of first impressions just begging to be recorded. Yesterday's snapshot would have been of the Bolivian music group performing outside our Metro entrance ... dressed as American Indians with feather headdresses to the ground.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Home Sweet Home

A teammate helped us through the apartment hunting process and when he saw our options he told us that God really wants us in Bucharest. God had prepared the perfect place for our family to live. Here's a bird's eye view...

10 Things We Love About Bucharest

We have been enjoying our new hometown over the last few weeks. Since we were offline and unable to share all the interesting and exciting things we ran into, I'll catch up with a list ...

10. Buying fresh bread from the bakery around the corner every day.

9. Parks, parks everywhere.

8. Nicer subway trains than Chicago!

7. Flower shops on (almost) every corner

6. Shoarma (our new favorite fast food)

5. Our landlady, Mina

4. Our teammates

3. Our apartment

2. Green grass and growing flowers in February

1. The warm, friendly Romanian people

Friday, January 30, 2009

Giving Thanks

Psalm 105:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works!

Thank God for safe travel! God gave our family (and our luggage) a safe trip to Bucharest a week before I sat down to write this letter. He also provided many kind strangers to give us a hand with bags and car seats as we traipsed up and down the aisles of three different planes.

Thank God for our team! I cannot begin to list the number of ways they have served us this week. They arranged temporary housing for us before our arrival and stocked the kitchen with groceries and the living room with toys. When our children woke up hungry and rowdy in the middle of the night I didn’t have to rummage in boxes for snacks and toys. Meals were prepared for our first week. Teammates watched our children for hours this week while we hunted for an apartment. Another teammate doubled as a real estate agent for us, spending hours setting up appointments for us to see apartments and driving us all over the city. We have been richly blessed and can’t wait to find ways we can serve them also.

Thank God for our children! Noemi and Isobel have been so resilient in the course of this move. We took Noemi to the park in Bucharest the other day and she made a friend, in spite of her language barrier. Isobel managed to navigate the shift in time zones and cut two molars at the same time. She’s quite the multi-tasker.

Thank God for a home! God provided a hospitable apartment for our family after just a few days of searching. We are so excited to be able to settle into our new home and begin language study.

Kara (for the Dunckels)