Holding on to threads of hope


Emanuel Hospice; Casa Grace; Iochebed.  Differing foundations ministering to specific needs.  Yet, all with one thing in common; supporting each individual holding onto a frayed, fragile faith with strands of worn-out thread until in their quietness, fear and disappointment they cry: ‘listen to my heart’.  

The summer has gone where once the buds of freshly planted rose bushes blossomed into beauty, only to be replaced by withered petals falling to the ground.  As I study each individual, study their personality, trying to enter their situation, my heart sinks, my head aches and yes, I struggle trying to process.  Yet I’m grateful for the opportunity of giving a little something that will ease their pain and suffering. 

Entering another year of service, I long to love more than ever before, I long to care for those struggling to survive, to tell them of the One who will take their hand through the hardest of days.  For those facing a measure of suffering, their days are hard; for most of us, our struggles can be resolved, yet for those who live in my heart, separated by thousands of miles in Romania, their struggles are filled with the fear of the unknown, unanswered questions where the complexities keep on rising.  The horizon, the sun is shaded and life is meaningless.  May the Lord grant to each one of us a gentle spirit of wisdom and a depth of love for those without a place to anchor.

My colleagues in Emanuel Hospice enter into unexpected tragedy on a daily basis. During 2023 one hundred and sixty-nine patients ranging from babies to the elderly, lost their battle with cancer. Their unified love and compassion come from their undivided hearts; in moments of profound sorrow, the name of ‘Jesus’ is in every word they speak, as they graciously tell of a love that will soothe sorrow and sadness.  

Delia was a precious sixteen-year-old girl and as all teenagers do, dreaming of her future.  I outlined her prognosis last May in my prayer update.  I quote:   Delia (16) was diagnosed with cancer one year ago. She lives with her parents and her siblings (a sister and three brothers). Delia is confined to a wheelchair and is significantly affected by the fact that she cannot assist her mother in household duties. Her mother and father are devasted seeing her failing health but maintain their hope in God.  Delia’s condition continued to deteriorate rapidly, especially during the past number of weeks. She quietly passed away a few days ago.  Delia, who had just turned seventeen is survived by four younger siblings (three brothers and a sister). Before becoming sick, she loved to assist her mother with household duties and caring for her younger siblings. During this past year as her illness progressed, that was no longer possible as she was confined to bed on a permanent basis. Delia was diagnosed with a brain tumour; she was in our care for the past eleven months of her short life. Her family are in deep sorrow, they are walking through a barren desert of emptiness.  Delia’s passing has left an emptiness in six broken hearts, they will never be greeted by her beautiful smile, never share hopes, dreams together.  May the Lord whisper ‘peace’ in their sorrow.

Cristian.  Another patient I wrote to you about last month.  I quote: Cristian’s (14) condition is continuing to worsen. He is now at home being cared for by his mother and grandmother. His younger sister is grieving inwardly as she watches her brother grow weaker day by day. The whole family share in Cristian’s suffering as they quietly try to find reasons. There was no holiday celebration in this home, Cristian is unable to move, see, speak, eat. Heads are bowed in despair; try to feel their pain and remember them. This precious fourteen-year-old boy passed away two weeks ago. His family are devasted, especially his younger sister (10).  Cristian was very attached to her; her mother and grandmother are deeply concerned as the little girl is so overwhelmed by her sense of loss, she is developing complications causing added worry to the family.  Presently, investigations are in place to identify these symptoms. Her elderly grandmother cannot find the strength to go on. Her heart is broken and she is overwhelmed by grief.   Cristian was dearly loved. He was a treasured son, brother and grandson.  Grief is real, grief is personal, but grief is painful.  May the Lord take their hand through their emptiness. 

Peter (17) has been diagnosed with a rare syndrome and is confined to a wheelchair. He is cared for by loving parents. Recently, his father displayed symptoms confirming all was not well with him health wise.  After investigations, it is suspected he may be suffering from a cancer related illness.   His mother’s health too is very fragile, in fact, another cause for concern. Peter watches in silence; it is very difficult for him as he is totally dependent on his parents for every aspect of day-to-day living.  

All my patients possess a tender heart and a gracious spirit.  Thank you for holding them in prayer as well as providing food and hygiene products which is a real help to them.  (Estera).

Dora is a young patient in her thirties, who has recently been diagnosed with rectal cancer, resulting in a compulsory colostomy. Sadly, there is added pressure on Dora as her body is rejecting it.  Dora is cared for by her mother who struggles alone to provide the bare essentials and medical requirements.  This dear family is one of our social cases as their living conditions and finances are well below the level of acceptance. In fact, the provision of the ‘daily bread’ is secondary, since the ongoing medical expenses bring such an unwelcome pressure.  There is no support in place for these forgotten people.

Marius, another young patient suffering from lymphoma; the tumours have spread throughout his body affecting many organs and bodily functions. He is lovingly cared for by his wife who now has the total responsibility of providing care for her beloved husband. She has to find employment in order to raise finance for medication and utility bills and also care for their young son. They hunger for so much more, pray for them.

Melania is a patient diagnosed with liver cancer. Her body is becoming weaker and weaker owing to the ongoing sessions of chemotherapy.  Melania struggles emotionally and indeed spiritually; she suffers from severe bouts of depression.  Owing to the nature of her nervous disability, there is a lack of understanding and support from her family. In silence Melania suffers mentally; the quietness of a hospital ward is lonely. Owing to the high level of chemotherapy we are unable to visit on a regular basis. But there is One who is waiting in the silence of the shadows, who patiently waits to be invited to enter the darkness of night.  Pray Melania will invite the Saviour into her fear, her loneliness.  He is waiting.

Please pray for the husband and son of Cristina, another young patient who died from colon cancer a few days ago. I plan to commence therapy with her son; the cancer advanced very rapidly, Cristina’s husband and son had no time to prepare for her unexpected death. (Adriana).

 A different ministry is offered within Casa Grace.  Families becoming broken and torn apart by unfinished chapters in their lives.  Deep wounds, misunderstood, suffering shame, they are unable to move forward.  All case studies are individually processed and receive personal guidance over our two-year programme where counselling, food, hygiene and clothing are supplied.  All part of the inner healing process of accepting that although there is no permeance in their lives, God is unchanging and immovable.

SIX PRECIOUS JEWELS:  Rares (12) is the oldest of six children (4 boys/2 girls). He was born with differing mental delays; his learning capacity is limited and he struggles with school work.  While he longs to be able to read naturally like the other boys, for him, it is difficult. Words could not describe their family home; it is uninhabitable. But this is ‘home’ to nine people whose strivings never cease to end. A step-father, mother, grandmother and six children who barely survive. Unfortunately, their stepfather has a chronic alcohol problem. There is no extra-curriculum training offered, living in a small remote village, attending a village school. Mostly problems arise because they come from an extremely poor background, where the family are totally disorganised. Rares goes unnoticed and overlooked in important issues, leading to a lack of maturity. He is a very hard-working boy, always taking care of his two younger brothers, responsible to search for firewood and build a fire every day, Romania is cold in the freezing winter months.  Through it all, Rares still has a smile on his face.  He is so excited to see the arrival of our monthly food and hygiene as he receives chocolate from the food parcel. The chocolate is held tightly in his arms with a very happy face.  He searches for the washing powder, as he too is responsible for the weekly family wash.  May the daily bread supplied by our faithful supporters not only fill his empty tummy, but may his young heart feel your love. May this young boy know someone, somewhere cares enough to show it.  Your love in action goes beyond and more.   Stay close to our children.  

In this family Casian (2) and Marcus (3) are darling little boys, also with mental delays. Rares finds time from all of his household chores to care for these two precious young jewels, as mummy is unable to cope with the children on her own.  She is a very delicate and fragile young woman with many untreated health issues.  Apart from living in the depth and darkness of poverty, many of our families have no identity papers; therefore medication, treatment is not an option.   What lies in store for young Rares?   But as we provide for them from our shoe and backpack project, clothing, food, our prayer is that our Heavenly Father may grant us the wisdom to provide according to His will, God’s timing is always perfect.  I must confess I do stress, I do question, my heart aches as I think of their insecurity and their living conditions.  One fact I know for sure, God is faithful, therefore we can safely place all our trust in Him and in Him alone.  The Lord is the only One to whom I can turn for an overwhelming sense of security. Here I rest.

Larisa (9) is a real sweet little girl, she lives with grandma, together with Abel (5) and Petru (7).  No time for play or for normal day to day activities of a nine-year-old girl.  Larisa’s basket is overflowing with the harsh reality of deep poverty.  From a very young age, Larisa was always thankful for any form of support, yet always willing to share the good things which were minimal in her young life.  A nine-year-old young girl with one burning desire – to learn.   Your prayers and support have been the cornerstone in her crumbling life.  ‘A backpack for me?’ Her fully equipped backpack with the small sandwich box ensure she can take dry bread to school, otherwise she would go hungry and be unable to concentrate on learning. She has a warm place where she can do her homework and yes, because of you, she now has shoes and boots and clothes to go to school. Larisa loves her new fully equipped backpack. Remember, these children do not often know the joy of a new gift, toy or clothes. Thank you for loving my children. You now know why I find it impossible to sleep when writing my monthly update.  My heart is overwhelmed and my mind is troubled.  Thank you for walking with me.

Monika and Neli continue their journey through muddy streets without roads to the next village where another family waits patiently for their monthly food provision.  The weather is dark, dismal, wet, cold as is the atmosphere inside the village home. The food, hygiene, backpacks, shoes, toys are gently touched by two small girls. Sofia (5) and Ana (2).  Their eyes stare at the chocolate bars in amazement. They never see chocolate or sweets, as there is barely enough money for food.  The girls playfully wear a backpack, play with the dolls and doll’s house we brought.  This was a belated Christmas for two beautiful little girls as there was no Christmas in this humble home. The father is a young man of thirty-nine, who suffers from a severe heart condition.  His wife abandoned the family home, leaving him to provide and raise three children alone.  His new wife is a hard-working gipsy lady, the two little girls are born from the second marriage. However, his wife has health issues which creates a heavy burden upon this family.  Seven meals required around an empty table.  The older children are so thankful for the food you provide, our Feeding Programme goes beyond and more.

Here the weather is very windy, cold, wet making harder the life of those who are struggling. As I’m writing these words, my heart is full of sadness as I see and feel the darkness of poverty. It is so painful to see children smiling as we visit them, while their face shows the burden of life. In talking with them, God calms my heart and encourages me, remembering that His Light can change these precious lives, even when as a human I don’t see the future very bright. As a second thought, He is telling us to continue to love and serve them and He is overlooking and will bring out the best. Thank you for being with us on this journey. (Monika).

A.W. Tozer penned: ‘The man who has God for his treasure has all things in one’.  Our team of three dedicated ladies in Iochebed reach out in love to those imprisoned, held captive by a life of hurt and trauma.  They are tired of striving for what seems impossible, all they have known is rejection and poverty.  Our team teach the importance of a balanced life of consistency where they can come to know the One who can cause their striving to cease.  

Coming to Iochebed, Iuliana (25) is ten weeks into her pregnancy.  During 2023, she miscarried, resulting in serious complications. She has embraced this pregnancy with fear of a second miscarriage.  Pray the Lord will speak words of peace to her heart, a heart that is filled with fear and uncertainty.  Pray that Iuliana will be released from thoughts that trouble her longing heart. 

Estera is very young to be a mother.  Baby Dorothea entered this world four weeks ago. She was born with disabilities of hydrocephalus and spina bifida.  Despite the doctor’s prognostics, Doroteea is fighting to survive.  She has undergone an intervention for spina bifida and recently a tube was installed to drain surplus liquid from her brain. Following surgery, Doroteea contracted bronchitis; her breathing was cause for concern and she was moved to a life support machine. Estera is heartbroken, unable to sleep as she faces the unknown with her precious baby daughter.  May God touch this precious little one with healing grace.  Estera will require an inner strength to care for this fragile baby.  Pray for her.  

Mihaela is expecting her second child at the end of January.  She has no one to turn to and needs our support to enable her to give birth without complications. The past months have been difficult for her; with a heaviness of heart, she came asking us to pray for her and to stay close beside her.  The silence of loneliness is a stark reality. 

Sarina (17) has no other option that to raise her baby daughter alone. A young teenage girl with the responsibility of a four-month-old baby daughter.  The poverty is beyond words, as she shared with us we learned she has been sleeping on the floor with her baby daughter in her arms.  Four walls, a space without furniture.   Once aware of the situation, we purchased a day-bed immediately, where she and the baby can sleep. Those who support the work of Iochebed, blessed Sarina and her baby through your love and faithful donations to our various foundations. 

During December you blessed us with so many gifts for children and their families they forgot their troubles and enjoyed the gifts received. We succeeded in blessing seventy families with food and over one hundred and fifty-five children received gifts – this was made possible through God’s help that was shown through your kind hearts. We praise the Lord for all the people that last year were a part of our story.  Please pray for the babies born during January 2024.  It is important to develop a relationship with the mothers and to remain involved in the lives of all the babies born through the work of Iochebed. (Gabi, Mihaela, Loredana)

Thank you for taking time to prayerfully read my January update.  I have shared my heart, introduced you to those who continually wrestle through endless days where nothing seems to change.  They live in a cloud surrounded by a hostile mist of uncertainty. The searching eyes of children without a future; the face of an elderly grandparent who silently wonders ‘am I enough for what is needed?’. Yes, I am troubled then I remember the words of a gospel song sung by The Imperials and the Gaither Group:

When you’re up against a struggle that shatters all your dreams
And your hopes have been cruelly crushed by Satan’s manifested schemes
And you feel the urge within you to submit to earthly fears
Don’t let the faith you’re standing in seem to disappear.

 Praise the Lord, He can work through those who praise Him
Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise
Praise the Lord, for the chains that seems to bind you
Serve only to remind you that they drop powerless behind you
When you praise Him

Pray for Emanuel Hospice; Casa Grace and Iochebed as they minister to show God’s amazing grace. I close by quoting the words of C.H. Spurgeon.

‘Praise is the rehearsal of our eternal song.  By grace we learn to sing.

And in glory we continue to sing’.

Shirley, January 26, 2024

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