Romanian Teens Find Way to Socialize Safely – Church


Every Friday night, Elim Church holds a youth night services for teens that attend the church, Naomi Balka is one of them.

Amber Cazacu, Editor

On Friday nights, Naomi Balka closes her laptop after a long day of school and homework. She freshens up, changes from her comfy school clothes into jeans and a sweater. She looks in the mirror, puts on her makeup, and fixes her hair. She’s ready to do something she hadn’t been doing for the past five months – socialize.

I look forward to Friday nights, its the only social interaction I have with my friends. Im always at work or doing school, so I enjoy it a lot, said Balka.

For the past three years, Balka had attended youth night services at Elim Church located in Hollywood, Florida. However, when Coronavirus hit in March, everything shut down. For four months, Balka and her family didn’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary. In July, she and her family took a family vacation.

“But that was just with family, we took precautions like wearing masks everywhere and hand sanitizers,” she said.  

As the state of Florida moved into phase 2 of re-opening, youth night services at her church started back up again, and offered the 17-year-old the opportunity to socialize again, but with a twist.

Members of the Romanian Pentecostal church, including parents and pastors, put a plan in place for their younger members to be able to socialize safely. 

For one thing, they created a teen bubble, whereby children of the families of the tight, knit Romanian community will only socialize with each other and almost exclusively on Friday nights for the church youth group. 

“My child is in school all day and doesn’t interact with other kids. I have some reservations and concerns about it, but I know she misses her friends,” said Dina Cazacu, a mother of two teenagers who attend the youth night services

Even though they have created this bubble and are allowing the teens to go maskless, the church has put social distancing rules in place when they do get together, such as six feet apart and hand washing.  

When I get to church, the first thing I do is wash my hands, and I find a seat next to somebody I know that hasnt had any interactions or could put me at risk, said Balka.

The youth services go on for an hour and a half. They start off with worship and preaching after.

“I love attending youth night services. The only thing is that we can’t move chairs to sit with our friends, but that’s okay because it’s for our safety,” said Balka.

Afterward, the teens all get together and hang out at church. Some go to grab food from fast food places nearby the church (such as Taco Bell, McDonald’s, etc.) and bring it back to church to eat with their friends. There is a net and a hoop in a rec area and some teens change to play volleyball or basketball. Some just chill with their friends. Everybody without a mask.

“When people see us without masks they’re concerned about our health, but what they don’t know is that we pretty much grow up together. The only people who attend youth night are members of the church. This ensures our safety since we all know each other really well,” said Balka. 

Even though the teens have grown up with each other, trust each other, and are practicing some social distancing, there is still a risk of a virus outbreak. 

Since the youth services have started back up, two COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in youth group members. One was Daniel Baran, a college freshman at the University of Florida. 

I felt symptoms and went and got tested. The test took two weeks to come back, and it came back positive. I didnt go to youth night for weeks until it came back negative, said Baran.

This month, with Coronavirus cases reaching almost 800,000 state-wide, Gov. DeSantis moved to phase three, completely opening up Florida. Schools across the state are open to receive students for in-person learning. 

Although Balka will continue studying from home, she does have an after-school job at Chick-fil-a. Because the Friday night Elim youth program is her only opportunity to interact with her friends, she plans to keep going.  

“I don’t see my friends throughout the week since I’m either at work or doing school, so this is the only day of the week I get to hang out with them. After a long week I love seeing them, I look forward to it,” said Balka