From Romania with love

EVERETT – Just months after taking early retirement as a major with the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia, Dana Libby and his wife, Mary, a former police dispatcher, were living in a hilltop village in Transylvania, Romania.

Mary and Dana Libby are the new leaders of the Salvation Army in Everett. The couple came to the non-profit in early July after spending several years doing mission work overseas.

“Not quite the retirement we had planned on,” Dana Libby quipped.

And neither has been much of their life since then been what they planned on.

The Libbys arrived in July to lead the Salvation Army in Everett. They went to Romania in 1998 for what would be a 21/2-year stint with International Teams, an interdenominational ministry.

When they first moved into their new home, the couple weren’t getting any mail. Dana Libby remembers kneeling in the dirt on a road asking kids ages 3 to 5 who had learned English to help him translate so he could speak to the postman.

Nearly every part of daily life was different. Bills weren’t paid by check, you stood in line and paid cash. And in the European tradition, you didn’t go to one supermarket to buy groceries, but to several specialty shops.

“Once you get over the hump of being embarrassed over being the silly foreigner, it’s OK,” Dana Libby said.

His 12-year-old Romanian car was prone to breakdowns and repairs. “I felt like I ought to be paying the auto parts man for teaching me Romanian,” he said with a laugh.

Although the adjustment to life abroad initially can be hard, Dana Libby said, most who experience it consider it life-changing. “The end result is they see how big the world is and how complex the problems are,” he said.

He and his wife remember Romania as a place where people put unusual emphasis on hospitality and friendship.

“Their view is, if you have a need and you’re part of the village and you fail to ask for help, they feel badly,” he said. “To them, that means you don’t count them as a friend.

“It turns a lot of our world view here on its head,” he added.

He and his wife next went to Wales from 2000 to 2002 to work in International Teams’ European office, then returned to the United States to work for the U.S. Center for World Missions in Los Angeles.They became involved with the Salvation Army almost by chance. One Sunday the couple were looking for a place to attend church in Los Angeles, scanning the Internet for the times of services. Mary saw a listing for a Salvation Army church nearby.

“As soon as we sat down, it was like this is where we need to be,” he said. “There was a peace that that’s where we were to be serving.”

Their activities with the church included work with the homeless and those undergoing drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and efforts to provide assistance to 1,000 families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.They had no specific request for assignment in the Salvation Army, saying they would go anywhere in the western region, which begins in Kansas and extends to the Pacific Ocean islands.

When he and his wife were told of their appointment to Everett, “I had to get the map to find out where Everett was,” Dana Libby said.

“Great,” he remembers thinking, “sounds fantastic.”

Mary Libby, 55, has a background in accounting. She has helped organize Christmas and Thanksgiving events, including holiday dinners for families in need.

Dana Libby, 47, works on long-term planning, meeting with local groups and assisting clients with social service needs.

“What I learned from our time in missions is people support projects where they see that there’s a tangible benefit for other people,” Dana Libby said.

“For something like Christmas or Thanksgiving … it’s no more complex than helping families have better holidays than they otherwise might have.”

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