I arrived in Arad by train about half past midnight. My first impression of a beautiful city with beautiful people was confirmed during my stay. The town is an interesting mix of intricate, old-world architecture and dreary former communist housing.
My first morning in Arad happened to be on a Sunday. I decided to attend services at Esperanta Biserica in hopes of finding directions to the group home where I would be staying. The pastor of the church was my contact in Arad.
As I walked through the doors of the sanctuary, my heart was touched by the angelic voices from the choir. The Romanian language is a delight to hear spoken and it is even more beautiful when put to music. Tears filled my eyes as I recognized the melody of ‘Lamb of God’. Even though I did not speak or understand Romanian, I realized that music is universal. That melody brought back memories of sitting next to my grandmother on a wooden pew in a small East Texas church, singing hymns while Ruby played the piano. I could almost smell the oiled benches, the worn leather of the hymnals and the faint piney woods scent of East Texas.
Stepping into the sanctuary was also like stepping back in time. The men were seated on the left side of the sanctuary and most of the women were seated on the right. Many of the older women were wearing head scarves and ALL of the women (except for me) were wearing dresses or skirts. The hymn was the last thing I recognized for the remainder of the TWO AND A HALF HOUR service. Well, that’s not exactly true. I noticed a female head subtly bouncing up and down and recognized the new mom baby-bounce. Another ‘universal’.
After church, I took a taxi to the home where I would stay. Several children greeted me outside and carried my bags in. I was just in time to sit down with them for lunch and the first course was homemade chicken soup. It is very common to start lunch with soup, especially for children. As we ate, the children introduced themselves. They ranged in age from 7 to a recent college grad.
The second course was Sarmale, or Romanian cabbage rolls. They were amazing! Lunch is the main meal and the entree was followed by home made cake. I would soon come to realize that the most amazing thing in the house was not the delicious food, but the wonderful children living there.