We awoke to rain falling on the roof and mist outside. The weather had finally broke, but never mind we have had several days of sunshine.
As today was to be the first of our two visits to the prison’s, we needed to be away early for the drive to Gherla which is about an hour away. Dr Stanca goes into the prison every week so we relied on her for direction – oops! She goes by train as she doesn’t drive. We ended up in the industrial part of Cluj which was in the right direction but a dead end basically. After asking for directions and going along an unclassified road we got onto the road for Gherla, but now we were falling behind time. Romanian road craft is.....? well let’s say frantic for the want of a better word. The best thing is to go with the flow and keeps your eyes peeled, so John went native as we drove to Gherla. Fortunately we arrived at the prison only a few minutes late.
The prison was built by Mary Theresa, queen in the nineteenth century for the criminals of Europe. The prison houses 1,500 inmates consisting of men and youths. The political cells are 30 feet below the river Somes and this means that they are very wet. I don’t think they are in use any more. We were taken into the education block and 28 men came to listen to us talk about our lives and why we had come to Romania. It was a pleasure to be with them and share; unlike British prisons there is no parole or early release system, if someone is sentenced to 20 years they serve 20 years. When we had finished talking to the men we were shown the painting room where the men paint Jesus for the Orhtordox church. These paintings are magnificent and done with an incredible amount of talent. We also saw other drawings and paintings the men had done and these are top class pieces of art. There is so much talent going to waste that could be of great benefit to humanity. Unfortunately for obvious reasons, we could not take photos. We left the prison after two hours, but in that time our lives had taken on a new perspective.
On our way back we dropped off Dr Stanca in Cluj and made our way back to FAF (Family Aid Foundation) for lunch. As we got out of the car Snitchell, Pastor Rufus’s dog, made his customary greeting and we filed in for minced beef topped with cheese and sour cream. After lunch it was time to regroup and prepare for the afternoon service at the Baptist Church in Mera, about 10 miles north west of Cluj.
Atti went with us and we arranged to meet Pastor Pal on the outskirts of Mera. This is Pastor Pal’s second church that he serves but is far poorer than the one at Luna De Sus. As we got further into Mera the road became steadily worse until it was mainly just mud and we arrived at this small Baptist Church that is over 100 years old. As we went inside the air was thick with smoke from the burner that sits in the middle of the church, I looked up to see if any fish or joints of meat were hanging for smoking. On the left the women were sat and on the right the men – very traditional. There was a real sense of the love of God among the people and we had a blessed time with them. When the service had finished we took photos and one of the women came up to Anita and gave her a necklace. These necklaces are made of plastic beads and are very ornate and colourful. The women make them and then go to the markets to sell them, so we ended up going to one of the homes to see more of these necklaces and ornate trinkets. We have brought some with us that we are going to see if we can sell for her at church.
Once again we got blessed more than the people we came to bless. We arrived back at FAF to a pasta dinner and enjoyed an evening of relaxing and talking.