Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dracula, Vampires, and Other Supernatural Powers

By Sydney Scrogham

Do you believe in miracles? Do you wish that the Twilight stories were real? What if you could come face-to-face with the supernatural and live to tell about it?

Sighisoara, Romania
Romania, as a whole, is known as Dracula’s home. On the last day of my trip, my team took a bus ride to the medieval city of Sighisoara, Romania. (Try saying that five times fast.) Stepping into the city, I felt like I was in a movie, or walking through the countries of Epcot at Disney World. Stumbling on uneven cobblestones, marveling at the pastel colors of buildings, trying to wrap my mind around how this church was built before America even existed, I tried to capture the beauty of the city on camera. I failed. There’s something about breathing the air, hearing the honking cars and screeching birds, and feeling the sun on my face with a cool breeze that a camera just can’t capture.

Dracula's birthplace
Our guide took us to Dracula’s birthplace, a bright yellow building now made into a restaurant for tourists. He told us how Vlad Dracul was known as “The Impaler,” and feared by many people. His original last name meant “Spikes,” but at some point Vlad had decided to take his father’s name from the coat of arms. The coat of arms was a dragon, and since there is no Romanian word for “dragon,” Vlad’s name simply became “Dracul.” Once the Germans heard stories of Vlad the Impaler, the truth had become twisted. As his victims were being impaled, Vlad would sit by and eat; the Germans made up the myth of Vlad Dracul drinking the blood of his victims. Voila, the legend of Dracula.

Sign outside Dracula's birthplace
As I listened to this brief snippet of history, I couldn’t help but think of all the stories on the shelves now about vampires. Why are people so fascinated with the supernatural? What is so appealing about a lover that can suck you dry before you blink? Okay, maybe that’s a bit over the top, but still—it’s like something deep inside of us knows there’s something bigger than us out there in the universe.

Vacation Bible School in one of Oradea's parks
Back in Oradea, Romania, I’d gotten to see a little taste of that supernatural in action. My team had just done a vacation Bible school curriculum in a local park with children who bubbled over with enthusiasm, much like American children. Now, breaking into our small groups, we moved out around the basketball court to ask people if we could pray for them.

My small group went to talk to an elderly couple. They reminded me a lot of my own grandparents, gentle faces with smiles, shaky hands, and soft voices. Our translator helped us talk to the woman, who told us her husband, Alexander, was sick with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Alexander’s face was like a stone—completely blank. We prayed for his healing once and didn’t see a change in his demeanor, but his wife thanked us anyway. We were getting ready to walk away when Jonathan, one of my teammates, suggested that we pray for Alexander again.

Trying not to feel disappointed, I laid my hand on Alexander’s shoulder one more time and started to pray. While we were praying, Jonathan began singing “How Great Is Our God.” I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that some of the girls in our small group were starting to back away from the prayer circle with overwhelming tears in their eyes. I couldn’t see Alexander because of the white baseball cap on his head, but I stepped away to offer one of the girls a tissue. When I looked back at everyone, I could see the lower half of Alexander’s wrinkled face. His lower lip was trembling violently with emotion, and a tear dripped off the tip of his nose. My heart swelled inside my chest, suffocating me, and I, too, began to cry out of love for a man I’d never met before. I could be his granddaughter; my grandfather could be dying, slowly wasting away with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

The fortress
Our prayers were cut short by one of our leaders telling us we needed to leave the park suddenly for safety reasons. We each hugged Alexander, who looked at us, his eyes taking us in for the first time, while he continued to sob. Our translator spoke to him, and he nodded. Alexander’s wife had told us that he couldn’t understand words anymore because of the Alzheimer’s, and I almost laughed, because he certainly understood now.

As we walked away from the park that evening, I knew I’d seen God heal a man and defy the laws of medicine and science. In a supernatural surge, all of us had ended up in tears. The funny thing about miracles is that they have a way of growing on everyone who witnesses them. The new books on the shelves staring vamps and werewolves and people with wings might not be too far off. I’ve seen it with my own eyes—the supernatural does exist.

Author Sydney Scrogham walking through the streets of Sishisoara 

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