Little Children

‘Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world’. (1 John 4:4).

Hamilton’s recent publication was based on a study of the proofs of life in The First Epistle of John.  In proofreading the contents, I found it informative but more so, challenging.  As we enter another year, perhaps a year filled with distractions, circumstances beyond our control that are certainly not the ones we had planned, let us hide ourselves in the One who is greater than all that troubles our mind, remembering that ‘He who is in you is greater…’  What a promise with which to go forward into the unknown of 2024.

News channels filled with disturbing updates where the reality of ‘loss’ is beyond words.  Lives thrown into turmoil, homes, families gone in an instant.   Reflecting on 2023, I think of the pain and suffering of so many brought on suddenly and unexpectantly – war, floods, earthquakes, tragic loss of children leaving lives forever broken.  Speaking personally as I embrace a new year, I need to really see the circumstances, situations of my case studies as the Lord sees them.  I want everything to be made beautiful in my time, the Lord is the shield round about me, my glory and the lifter of my head and in His time, which is always perfect, the Lord will make all things beautiful, He is the One who knows the end from the beginning and in the silence of another morning methinks it makes things less complicated. This morning I read from Isaiah 46: 8-10: eleven words are engraved on my heart: ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’.  

During the past days, I found myself thinking of the many ‘hopeless sorrows’ filling my mind.  Surely there can be no higher calling than to give the gift of hope to parents bereft of children, to children longing to hold the hand of a beloved father, mother, brother, sister.  When we give compassion, we give love, we bring hope.  Jesus is the greatest gift we can give to a broken world.

My colleagues in Emanuel Hospice have encountered many cases overwhelmed by the failure and sadness of broken relationships, abuse, and loss.  Many of our patients are alone; they live their last days hoping someone will love them even with all their failures.

Andor is a patient suffering from colon cancer. He and his wife have lived a lifetime in the shadows of darkness and personal tragedy.  Fourteen years ago, they lost their beloved son and daughter as a result of a car accident; both were only toddlers, robbed of a lifetime of memories, two precious jewels gone in an instant.   A childless couple who has devoted the last fourteen years to one another.  Andor’s health is deteriorating; his days are short as the cancer is evolving throughout his body.  Another widow who will spend her last days alone with her thoughts of what might have been.  In the quietness of aloneness, only thoughts of those she loved but sadly lost.  Will you bring compassion, will you offer love?

Elisabeta has pulmonary cancer.  She lives alone in extremely poor conditions. She never had the joy of cradling a baby of her own and is a widowed lady with a background of sadness. Elisabeta, abused by her husband throughout their entire marriage, she never knew the true meaning of love; she never heard a soft word of endearment, only harsh and hurtful words followed by abuse.   Now, she is fully dependant on a lady who, for payment will shop for groceries, cook and clean.  She is still longing for love, reaching out for someone to genuinely touch her life.  Elisabeta has no pleasant memories, her last days are filled with a longing to matter to someone.  I repeat, will you bring compassion, will you offer love?

Florin is an elderly patient suffering from prostate cancer who is cared for by his aging wife.  They lost their daughter as the result of a brain tumour; now his wife has to embrace the painful task of caring for her beloved husband who is terminally ill. Florin accepts his illness with courage and serenity, but has expressed his concerns as to how his wife will manage without him.  All these elderly patients are reaching out for love.  Will you love them?

At the end of November, I wrote: Kristof (7) has relapsed for the third time. His family are devastated. The family have two younger children who have had to sacrifice the love and care of their mother as most of Kristof’s seven years have been spent in hospital. These children have been unable to make memories with their older brother. Kristof’s memories are not filled with the laughter of normal playtime; only the fear of treatment and medication. Please think of these special children this Christmas. This precious little boy will spend another Christmas Day in hospital.  Kristof did not see Christmas Day, quietly and peacefully this precious little boy of seven passed away.   His family are overwhelmed by grief.  His father rushed to the hospital to cradle his son in his arms as a frail little boy breathed his last breath.  Kristof passed away before ‘Daddy’ could spend final moments with his beloved son.  It was a quiet Christmas in the home of this precious family.  Let your love reach out and touch this precious grieving family.

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.

Fabia (22) has a rare skin disease; it is suspected she is also suffering from cancer.  Fabia has seen many consultants in order to find a solution to her severe problems with one of her hands. A young lady with her life in front of her. Pray for Fabia that she will open her heart and hear words of comfort, words of hope, words of love.

The strains of Christmas Carols have filled our hearts and homes.  As I think of my families on our Feeding Programme, Goodwill to men can be extended in a variety of ways.  Monthly food and hygiene packages are a must, indeed a lifeline for a hungry family but there are heartfelt hugs, hospitality, treats for my children, peace for troubled minds.  As we minister month by month to families in the depth of poverty, we tell them of Jesus, the Bread of Life, who also can be Light in their darkness.  Thank you for your support.

Reka, her world is shattered.  Many of you will recall the story of how precious Reka’s grandfather was to her.  This beautiful little girl was abandoned by her mother and loved and cherished throughout her ten years by her grandparents.  Her grandfather was her world.  Four weeks ago, Reka’s grandfather (65) was diagnosed with cancer; his passing came unexpectantly.   Reka suffers from severe asthmatic problems and is home schooled during the severe winter months. A footnote of encouragement:  Every morning prior to eating breakfast, the family gathered around the laminated plaque we enclose with each food parcel, it is a wall plaque telling of the One who is the Bread of life.  Other gifts are only fading shadows compared with the Gift of Life. I pray Reka’s grandfather came to know the One who is the giver of life.

Monika and her three daughters live in a small isolated village located two hours from Oradea. Christmas 2023 was one three little girls will never forget.  Their beloved ‘Daddy’ diagnosed with cancer four weeks ago, passed away suddenly.  We pray as we have supported and will continue to support this family, the seed we plant will germinate and grow in their hearts.   Unexpected funeral expenses created a heavy burden for this young mother. We will continue to offer food and hygiene on a monthly basis.  Through our shoe project, warm shoes, boots and backpacks have enabled the girls to attend school. There is always ‘one’ we can share the gift of God’s love.  Let us continue to tell others.

Petru (50) and his family are supported each month with food and hygiene. A heart rendering case study of a family of thirteen children who have known only poverty, yet a family who possessed such love one for the other.   Petru and his oldest son served in the local church, sadly his young son lost his life as a result of a car accident.  Now, tragedy has hit again as recently Petru lost his wife to cancer leaving him with the full responsibility of raising eight children alone (10 – 18 years of age), Rebeca, Elisei, Isaia, Salomea, Doritea, Naomi, Petru, Filip, as the remaining four children have now families of their own.  Eight siblings faced a Christmas without ‘Mum’; eight children are fearful of their future. Life has been cruel and unkind to them; they feel totally forsaken and indeed alone.  The creator of the universe, the One who formed the world with His own hands, spoke the word in such a way we could understand.  May assurance and love fill the hearts of these eight frightened and lonely children.  There was no Christmas in the hearts of these children only moments and reflections of sadness.

Our Dora has returned home to ‘Daddy’ after being in a care home for one year.  It has been a difficult year of separation both for John and Dora.  John encountered several health issues and underwent surgery for a hip replacement.  During this time, work was implemented to accommodate the ongoing needs, as Dora becomes older and less active.  It was always our plan to have Dora spend Christmas at home.   We continue to support John as he lovingly cares for his precious daughter.  John has embraced the loss of his young wife and daughter, raising Dora since a baby.  Monika visited this week as Dora was patiently waiting on her gifts from Auntie Barbara. As I watched the video link and heard Dora cry: ‘Sister Shirley, I need to see you, perhaps I could fly to you?’ She is still treasured and I do love her childlike faith.   They need your continuous prayer support as John is aging, making each day harder and she has a few more health issues that makes walking more difficult for him.

Gabi, Mahalia and Loredana have had busy days during December.  The snows, chilling winds, freezing conditions are hazardous for those living in makeshift homes.  The door of Iochebed has opened throughout these cold and uninviting weeks of a Romania winter.  During November a further two babies were born and sixty mothers assisted with medicine, finance for firewood, purchasing furnaces for a wooden hut without heat, food, hygiene.  Each family and in some cases the parents, grandparents, received winter shoes and boots, with the backpacks continuing to be a blessing.  One family said: ‘This is the best present’.  Another case where we assisted in obtaining wood for the winter, is a young mother who chose to give birth to her baby. The mother is sick and the father of the baby is aggressive and refused to care for her and the baby. We cannot pass by.

Estera gave birth to her first child on November 26th, a baby girl of 3.1 kilos. Little Doroteea was sent to intensive care as she was born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. Estera informed us that the birth of Doroteea was a miracle as she was advised during her echography that the baby had no brain, also her spinal cord was much shorter.  The medical staff advised Estera that the baby would not survive, she refused to accept but rather decided to pray for a normal birth.  Following the birth of her daughter, the little one required oxygen.  A few days later the first of planned surgeries was performed to address the baby’s spina bifida and our miracle baby was able to breathe unaided. Pray for baby Doroteea who has to undergo further planned surgeries.  Remember this new mum, as Estera has had no time to recover personally as she is required to attend to her baby in the hospital.  

Samira (16) is the mother of a one year and one month baby girl. Recently she suffered a miscarriage which has proved to be a most painful experience for the young sixteen-year-old girl.  Simira became a mother at the young age of fifteen. I pray as Samira reflects on her young life, already filled with pain, that she will embrace the indescribable gift of life in salvation and forgiveness.  Our level of care covers material needs but more importantly it must cover spiritual needs.  These young Roma girls come to Iochebed longing to be heard, to be understood, searching for love.  The love of God can reach beyond all longing.

Marta is a mother of two children- a one year baby girl and a 5 months baby boy. She asked us to support her in prayer, especially her baby girl who has health issues. We have financed her medical tests and bought the required medicines for her baby. When one reaches out, we have an obligation to take their hand. 

Sarina is a mother of a 3 months old baby girl. She is a minor, but chose to fight for her baby’s life. After the first snow, the water came through the roof and her roof of her makeshift home fell apart. She was distraught with nowhere to go, no one to help.  She had heard of the House of Grace that reached out in love to those in need and came, sharing her story with our team.   We purchased materials for the roof and implemented the work in order that her baby is warm and safe.   When we think of our own children and how we care for them, think of Sarina who, a child herself, has the responsibility of a precious baby daughter.  May she feel our love reaching out to her, touching her. Changing her?

The villagers of Sofronea have been blessed this Christmas as they received a personal shoebox from Monkstown Baptist Church.  Children and elderly were remembered.  Let me share a few lines from my adopted son Andrei who pastors the church:

Greetings and love from your brothers and sisters in Christ from Sofronea, Romania.

 We are so grateful for your generosity. This year, as on previous years, we feel blessed and loved by your gracious gifts. All the shoeboxes were distributed to families in need and to the children we are ministering in the village, as well as children from our church. By the grace of God, we continue to work with children outside our church who need to hear the Gospel and these presents were exactly what we needed to show our love and appreciation to these children. We are eager to continue the good work and we would appreciate your prayers for this ministry.

May God bless you and keep you and reward your generosity. I know that every sacrifice done for God’s Kingdom is known by Him. As you saw our needs, I know that God sees yours and He can fulfil those needs in an unimaginable way.

Another arm in the ministry and outreach of Tell Romania is our Vocational Training Room.  A place of learning the art of sewing but also the opportunity of learning to remake yourself, to forget the past and to move forward with a quiet heart of trust.  My friend and colleague Dana sent me this report:

Another academic year behind, another course completed, another group of students entering our tailoring course next semester.  

All the girls and village ladies were very interested in this particular course and this was seen in the garments designed and made.  At the end of each course, in addition to the graduation examination for the diploma, we hold a competition, namely the Golden Needle Award. The best overall student receives the gift of a new domestic sewing machine.  This year, first prize went to Florina Tiriteu (23) who lives in the district of Hidiselul de Dobresti, Bihor.  Florina has ten brothers and sisters, 6 boys and 4 girls. She is single and working in a factory, in Marghita, 55 kms from Oradea, a small city, where she is only sewing straight lines.  Her heart yearned to know more about the art of sewing, having heard of our success in training hundreds of students over the years, she made contact, willing to commute.  Her talent soon became evident as we watched her progress faithfully week by week. Florina is very shy, but very motivated; she was overwhelmed to receive the first prize of a sewing machine of her very own. 

As I thought of those perhaps without academic skills who long, who want to be better, who crave for personal training in a skill of their choice, the Lord spoke to my heart of the need to replace our embroidery machine, a huge expense and yet as I waited in the silence of my heart, I saw God move in an amazing way of provision.  To date our waiting list is past taking.  A transformation has taken place in many lives. We view the importance of our coffee break where the Word of God is read and the story of the cross revealed.  God’s Word changes lives. 

As we enter 2024 the words of Psalm 9:10 are precious to me. ‘Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you’

Hold these thoughts close to your heart:

He lights the path before us (Psalm 119: 105)

He guides, He leads (Proverbs 37: 5-6)

He will never abandon us (Hebrews 13: 5)

He will answer us in our distress (Psalm 20: 1)


Shirley, December 28th, 2023                  42B Bernice Road, Newtownabbey. BT36 4QZ.