‘WALK WITH ME’
Childhood memories flash before our eyes of marking our footprints in the sand; memories bring a smile. Yet the footprints before us in the first blog of 2022 represent deep markings of darkness, testing and sadness. The reality of ‘Agony’ weighs heavy on my heart as I ‘try’ to comprehend the blackness of despair, fear of loss, hopelessness surrounding my patients and families. Anxiety is like a disease that spreads; eating away our resources until all strength is gone. I pray as I enter this new year of service that I may offer (in the words of the hymn writer) ‘strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow’. Sadly, for many, their tomorrows are limited, for others, tomorrow will never come. Seasons, climate, circumstances change; lives are torn apart by a thick quilt of dark skies formed by cruel thorns of suffering – their sunrise has been followed by sunset, which is sinking fast. Walk with me as I enter lives that have been stripped of all they once held dear.
I find the contents of my blog a painful reality. ‘Would I be willing to exchange my life for theirs?’ The true heartbeat of mission is an ever-listening ear to the heartfelt plea from those who know only the bitter taste of catastrophe. They suffer in silence trying to hide behind a smile, yet within they are crushed and broken. I find myself ‘withdrawing’ knowing my human limitations, reminded of the apostle Paul when he said ‘We …will keep to the limits God has apportioned us’. There is no confusion with God, as he knows exactly where he is taking me. Yet, there are times when case studies are complicated, where, as I read, I find it mind numbing. Their world is filled with unspeakable sadness. I do not understand ‘why’ so instead I will wait, listen and trust knowing in the words of John Newton:
‘Thou art coming to a King, Large petitions with thee bring,
For His grace and power are such. None can ever ask too much’.
‘Tell us, fool, who knows more of love – the one who has joys from it or the one who has trials and griefs? He answered: There cannot be any knowledge of love without both of them’. (Ramond Llull: The Book of the Lover and the Beloved). From personal experience I found ‘grief’ both painful and very real. Love heals deep wounds of sorrow; I pray as you read, we may all learn a lesson in loving. Many of us are spared pain, fear; the mountains in our life are distant mountains and we know not the pangs of hunger. We cannot control events but we can show love through our response. Let us walk together as we hold these precious people in our hearts.
Daniel: A dearly loved little boy, precious to his grandparents since they brought him to their village home when only one day old. A poor and humble home with little or no resources, living from day to day on meagre means, Daniel has now been ‘called home’. For Daniel’s grandparents it is a slow, hope-drenched crawl to survive each day without him. They are in the depths of grief. Their tears would fill a river; they are unable to open the door where he slept. Daniel’s friends come to visit and they are happy to see them but they are minus one who was dearly loved. There is no abundance of wealth but they are overflowing with love which is a constructive love. Funeral costs can be high in Romania, I have asked Estera to update me on this matter. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child and pray the peace and calmness of the Holy Spirit will come to this precious Christian couple in their moments of weakness.
Elena: A darling little girl of seven, diagnosed with spinal amyotrophy. She is lovingly cared for by her adoring mother. The father could only find employment abroad, where he is working to provide for his family. The little girl goes through periods where she is violently sick, unable to keep food in her stomach. Covid has now attacked her frail little body and her condition is worsening. The young mother feels so alone, watching her beloved daughter fading in health and longing for ‘Daddy’ to come home.
Marioara: Diagnosed with cancer. A grieving widow confined to bed, suffering from progressive stages of cancer. Her seventeen-year-old daughter loves and cares for her mother. The pain deepens as her two sons suffer from tetra paresis, with one of them permanently confined to a wheelchair. It is overwhelming to see how Marioara crawls in pain to her son’s wheelchair just to comfort him. There is a fourth child, a healthy seven-year-old boy who simply does not understand. It is hard to provide explanations; he watches in fear of tomorrow. They are a Christian family who love and trust the Lord. They are so grateful for the food we provide for them! They may not be rich in monetary matters but they are rich in love and grace. Each morning Marioara holds out her hand in faith knowing that one day she will understand.
Lldiko: (68) The trauma of emergency surgery confirmed a diagnosis of colon cancer. The tumour is spreading rapidly with the result that it has affected her walking. She is now being immobilized in bed. This dear lady has no family apart from an elderly brother who comes once every day to help her. The fact is that she is constantly alone with no one to assist with her basic needs. The most difficult part of her loneliness is during the night when fear and panic trouble and torment her feeble mind. For her time stands still. No one ever knocks her door, No one cares. Lldiko is totally unaware of the seriousness of her illness and hopes one day she will recover. Springtime in Romania is precious to her but her brother is hiding the truth from her, often making excuses for her weakness and inability to walk.
Lucretia: (78) is a patient with breast cancer and bone metastasis, often with major pain, especially in her arms. She is unable to walk without assistance. One major problem is that she has difficulty in swallowing certain food or medication owing to the fact that as a little girl she drank caustic soda. The caustic soda damaged her stomach and larynx, and now she is often prone to fits of choking. Yesterday she choked and had to be taken to the Accident and Emergency Department. Lucretia has a disabled husband who has had one leg amputated owing to complications arising from his diabetes. They have one daughter who takes care of them but she too is ill, being diagnosed with lupus a few years ago. There was another daughter, but sadly she died from breast cancer at the age of forty-nine after two years of suffering. This family is experiencing great hardship and needs our support in prayer.
Mr. Constantin: (69), is a patient with pancreatic cancer. This gentleman has no family or relatives. He lives most of the time in isolation and loneliness. Sometimes a neighbour will display kindness to this sad frame of a man, trying to help, when and where possible. He lives in very unsanitary conditions, being one of our social cases. Unfortunately, due to his unhealthy living accommodation, his lungs are affected with periods of dyspnoea episodes. Panic sets in during these episodes.
Exiles and strangers living in dry and barren fields in a world they find hostile. I write of hungry children whose jars do not overflow with honey; there is no surplus of food; in fact, most days insufficient food to satisfy them. Yet they feel privileged in travelling many miles to school each day, longing to learn, to have a place in this world of unacceptance. ‘Who is my neighbour?’. Monika, Director of Casa Grace, received a request from Romanian language Professors from two different high-schools. Dedicated teachers, observing and displaying care for their pupils, they noticed these children were anxious to learn, so much wanted an education, that they were prepared to commute each day through inclement weather, although their clothes were not suited to the freezing climate. They were also quick to notice their lunch boxes were empty. I wonder have we ever felt famished or thirsty? Amidst all this adversity they were still faithful in attending school and came with a smile. March 2020 brought many changes to everyone with our three feeding programmes expanding rapidly. We had operated within a 30 Kilometre radius; now we have extended this to 60 Kilometres. It is important to do the things we can do under God’s direction. Were we willing to help these children? Of course, the answer was ‘YES’. Two of my colleagues made the long journey to the first family. Monika sent me an image of the house and I could not believe this was ‘home’ to this family. To record it was in disrepair, unacceptable conditions with only a partial roof, is an understatement. It was a small house with only basic items, lacking hygiene. Inside, we found an elderly lady, (Mother) weak and unable to walk. As in all new referrals, we requested her disability paper but we felt she was unable to understand as there appeared to be a mental deficiency. All the children were at school with one child working. Her husband has developed health problems relating to heart issues; he is not well but tries to work. The depth of poverty affected my colleagues. Each family have their own personal case study yet this lady was unable to supply the relevant documentation. We persevered and persisted in pursuing with the aid of the school teacher, who has seen the positive attitude of the teenagers she is teaching. May Casa Grace be able to show light to them as they do not attend any church, they don’t know the One who can change life and who gives to us our daily bread! We will show them the love of God through counselling, the support of food, hygiene, clothes and school supplies.
The second family touched Monika’s heart. They have gone through a lifetime of hurt, sadness and rejection. This family attend a local catholic church located in their village, where everyone lives together in peace and where each family shares one with the other from the little they have. During these cold evenings when it is minus 18 degrees, wild mushrooms from the fields can make a large pot of hot soup! The poverty must be seen to be believed. During the visit, from very little the grandmother made hot pancakes. This would be the evening meal for her grandchildren returning from school. The house is clean with the bare essentials. There is evidence they literally survive from day to day. This hurts my aching heart! They focus on encouraging the children to attend school, to listen and to receive an education. Their aim is to offer their children a lifeline far removed from the Dickensian style of living. Their school teacher is very impressed with the grades of the daughter from this family in her class and has recommended the entire family as hard-working and dedicated. BUT they need support, encouragement and someone to show they care. Monika was encouraged by their sincerity and humble thanks for our support of food and clothing. I find this amazing – they live in the same village where Mariana and her seven children reside. Their paths have not crossed as yet. I pray they will meet by divine appointment. Mariana has had partial surgery only owing to complications. She remains in hospital as it is safer than returning to her village when covid cases are rising.
The real test of love is loving in days of difficulty, in different settings, loving those with different personalities, different mood patterns, those searching for security and recognition as a person even though many do not have an identity. Love is not competitive; love is showing kindness in hopeless situations. For such we must form deep roots of trust. To them it seems impossible as this has been their life for generations. I was praying for a ‘rainbow’ to brighten their dark skies. This morning, my friend Iris sent two banana boxes of new clothing for Iochebed. God’s rainbow will be a blessing to:
Corina (36) a single mother raising her two children (19 years and 2 years) alone. This month the chimney collapsed and the furnace had to be removed. They had no other choice than to remain in freezing conditions with the little girl forced to sleep fully clothed, crying with the cold. We purchased a furnace to bring heat, plus the cooking facilities. We also assisted financially with materials and work to repair the chimney. Corina has no words to thank everyone for the gift she received from God! May God help this family’s needs as He did until now!
Sabina (35) came requesting a pregnancy test which confirmed she is in her sixth week of pregnancy. Sadly, her reaction was not one of joy rather of rejection expressing thoughts of abortion as she has decided to leave the father of her baby. My colleagues explained to her in great detail the real effects of abortion, mentally, physically and spiritually. Sabina left the centre feeling confused and undecided. May the Lord impact her thoughts. We have offered financial assistance regarding various medical consultations, tests and medication. We will also care for the baby for the first year. She was unwilling to accept as she does not want to keep the baby. Only God can change her heart and thoughts.
Petronela is a loving and faithful mother of six children. Serious hardships surrounded her during her last pregnancy when it was confirmed she has hepatitis B. Petronela informed us recently that baby Alexandru must undergo surgery for a hernia. The Lord reached down and gathered baby Alexandru in his arms and healed the child. No surgery required!
Ana-Maria (21) a loving and faithful wife who lives in very difficult circumstances. She and her husband do not have a place of their own and are forced to live in one room with their in-laws. Ana-Marie is thirteen weeks pregnant, and longing for the day when she will hold her baby. Another sad situation – no job – no finance – young adults with nowhere to go. We will assist them financially, praying the Lord will turn their circumstances around.
Mihaela (42) has eight children. Mihaela came to our centre requesting a pregnancy test which confirmed she is pregnant with her ninth child. She was shocked! Forty-Two and nine little mouths to feed! Mihaela is physically unwell and needs our support and help during the pregnancy period. We will be involved with the medical tests because she is unable to pay for them. Mihaela needs the Lord. ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matt 11: 28).
Psalm 90 has always been one of my most loved psalms. Why? It expresses my times of joy and my days of sorrow. My writing is how things are and whether it is the work of Emanuel Hospice, Casa Grace Foundation or Iochebed, we need to embrace these incredible situations. Many are not skilled, accomplished, accepted, but they are ‘real people’. Today, I have taken a look back over my life and how I have been blessed, I am rich in so many ways. This earthly pilgrimage is short and I ask that the remaining days of my journey will be directed by God to the end.
‘Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’
Shirley, January 28th, 2022