I was unaware the beginning of my trip would be an indicator for the first three days of my travel. A great friend and mentor took me to the Airport and as God would have it, allowed me to be 2 1/2 hours early. I was excited as I got to the ticket counter because there were only eight people in front of me to check in for the first step of my flight from Kansas City to Detroit. When I stepped up to the counter, I was immediately informed that my flight was delayed by 2 1/2 hours, and would need to be re-routed through Minneapolis. The Delta agent worked furiously to find me a seat on a flight that was leaving in 35 minutes. I made the flight and caught my connection in Minneapolis to Amsterdam.
Little did I know at the time, Amsterdam would become my home for the next two days. As we arrived in Amsterdam, snow was gracefully falling from the sky. Upon arrival, I was very hungry, since I had not been able to eat lunch in Kansas City. As I walked through the airport I spotted a McDonald’s and decided to eat at what I thought would be the least costly option in the airport. Unfortunately, I ate the most expensive quarter pounder I’ve ever consumed, then waited for my 11:20 a.m. connection to Bucharest.
After a delayed a boarding process, we took our seats on the plane at approximately 12:30 p.m. I was carrying a computer bag and a carry on suitcase at the time. The boarding agents instructed me that my carry on suitcase would need to be checked for this flight. Unaware of the potential situation, I quickly agreed and checked my bag. Hindsight being 20/20, I wish I would put up a little resistance to checking the bag. Unbelievably, for the next almost five hours, we sat in the plane on the tarmac continually being told that we would depart in 30 minutes. At 5:15 p.m. we were finally told the flight had been canceled, and we were to exit the plane. We were then instructed to move to the transfer station and get in the queue. (For those that have never been to Europe do not have airline counters they have transfer stations, and you don’t stand in line you’d get in the queue.) After waiting in line for 1 1/2 hours, we were told that there would not be another flight to Bucharest until the next day. We were then instructed to get in line, I mean in the queue, to receive a hotel room paid for by KLM. I proceeded through customs, made my way to the queue with the other 125 people waiting for a hotel room. Thankfully, through this process, I met several guys who I bonded with and held each other’s place in line for the next four hours.
Upon receiving our room, we made our way to the hotel to get some rest. Fortunately, God had provided the foresight to have a way to call the United States. Within 20 minutes, I had called Delta, made my reservation, and called home to update my family.
The next day return to the airport to wait for my new flight that would take me to Paris and connect me to Bucharest. This flight was to leave Amsterdam at 4:00 p.m. and have me arriving in Bucharest at 9:00 p.m. A little after noon, I was told that this flight also had been canceled. Once again, I was participating in my new favorite activity, getting in the queue. You can imagine by this time the KLM employees were at their wits end dealing with frustrated travelers. Thankfully, the employee who helped me was ready to do whatever was necessary to get me to Bucharest. She booked me on a 9:00 p.m. direct flight to Bucharest and was blessed with being upgraded to a business class ticket.
The flight arrived in Bucharest early Saturday morning, almost two days behind schedule. I proceeded to the baggage claim only to find out that my nightmare was not over. I inquired about my bags while in Amsterdam and had been told they were already in Bucharest. Once again, I got in the queue, to see if the company that handled lost baggage had my luggage. My bags were nowhere to be found! I submitted a claim and left to find my host, Radu.
The first seminar I was to speak at had to be canceled, which freed the schedule for Saturday. On Saturday and Sunday, we visited his mother, who lives about 25 minutes outside of Bucharest. Sunday morning I was able to attend a Romanian Orthodox service. The church was in a very small village next door to the mother’s home. I had never been to an orthodox service, so I truly enjoyed watching and participating. Ok, I could not understand anything, because I do not speak Romanian, but I could still watch the people and observe their emotion during the liturgy.
I did not need a university degree to see that most in attendance had experienced a very difficult life. For those who do not know, Romania was behind the Iron Curtain until 1990. Most of these people had worked in manual labor for a majority of their lives.
As the service closed, my host asked me if I would say something to those in attendance. The thoughts racing through my head were something like this: “I have not prepared anything, I don’t know what to say, I don’t feel worthy.” I responded by telling my host that I was not prepared but at the end of the service, the priest motioned for me to come to the front of the church.
Obviously, my response was not communicated! As I walked to the front, I thought, “Ok, Lord what do you want me to say?” As my friend moved beside me to translate my words, I became very calm. I greeted them, thanked them for their wonderful hospitality and told them I was in Romania to help fathers.
When I mentioned fathers, their faces glowed! The Romanian church struggles with one of the same issues as we do in the American church. How to get men involved. I purposefully did not mention, to this point, the attendance which was 80% women and 20% men. After the service concluded, I stayed to meet the priest. As we spoke(through translation), I was asked for ideas to help draw men to their church. We spoke about the importance of fathers and parted ways. Sunday evening we headed back to Bucharest to prepare for Monday and Tuesday.
It was noon on Monday when my bags finally showed up from the airport! I felt like a new man when I was able to change my clothes. That afternoon was my first meeting in Bucharest. I met with the executive director of the American Christian school in Bucharest. We met for an hour to discuss the school’s involvement in future Dad Cents seminars and Savvy Dads seminars in Romania. It was an amazing time and a little slice of America all at once. A good friend always tells me “God is the great connector”, and it was so awesome to see how two “strangers” could meet in Bucharest to move God’s kingdom forward.
Tuesday was the day I was to make a three hour presentation to a group of business leaders. The presentation went very well, and it was fun to see the attendees come out of their shell. We had great discussions and I introduced multiple, new ideas to the group.
Through this discussion, I learned some scary things are happening in Romania. Take mortgages, for example, which have been recently introduced into Romanian Society. As you know, in the United States, when we take out a mortgage for our home, we place the house as collateral. In Romania, when a mortgage is issued against a home the house or apartment is not the only collateral required to fulfill the contract. Let me explain. In Romania, if a homeowner cannot make the payments not only is the home repossessed but their future earnings can be attached as well.
Let me give you an illustration. If a home sells for $100,000 and the owner defaults, the bank repossesses the house. If the bank then sells the home for $80,000, the bank as the right to the mortgagee’s future income for the $20,000 difference! I told the business leaders I would have a hard time signing them mortgage, unless I had a substantial savings account to cover my payments for 12 to 24 months. This is just one example of things that are happening in the financial world in Romania.
Before I left Romania, we discussed more seminars for 2011. I am very excited to be involved with Romania. God has opened some amazing doors to bring Biblical and practical financial ideas to the Romanian people. They have only been out of the grip of communist control for 20 years, which has left them with a generation of parents trying to wade their way through capitalism. The current generation of parents carries a huge responsibility and needs to be successful in teaching their children financial truth.