‘Love Thy Neighbour’

Love your neighbour as yourself’. (Matthew 22: 39)

A cold October morning yet the beautiful autumnal colours of the falling leaves brought joy as I felt their crispness beneath my feet.  Autumn days are a constant reminder that the shades of life change and we are unable to stop their progress.  Visits today were emotional; I listened to hushed tones of sadness from lives in the ‘yellow leaf’ of life, lives nearing the end of this earthly pilgrimage.  ‘We are alone, forgotten, no one calls, no one remembers us. When you are old, you are not remembered’.  Quickly finding a corner on the bed, I whispered: ‘I remember you, but more importantly there is One who never forgets you. Your name is engraved on his hands. How can you ever be forgotten? A faint smile appeared on a weary face where years of hard labour had forfeited his youth.  I read in Matthew 22 that I am to love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind and my neighbour …. The testimony of this precious brother spoke to me of years proving the enduring faithfulness of his Lord.  Once a young soldier and then a Ceausescu prisoner, now an old disciple.  He spoke of how the Lord protected him many times where to his amazement no device or emergency could harm him or found him unprepared.  The faithfulness of the heart of his Father and the touch of his Father’s arm accompanied him from the freshness of youth to these declining years.  His partially blind wife sat sobbing in the corner. Yes, indeed the beautiful roses in our garden soon fade, their freshness, fragrance and colour gone forever; trees become unproductive until the next season.  Pierre Seguier said:  My soul it is like a garden full of shelter and fountains’.  This soldier of patience, loyalty, service has been a place of shelter and refreshing fountains to many over his seventy years.

Sister Lucretia, a gentle lady, whose life has been one of pain and abuse at the hands of an alcoholic husband, now in advanced stages of cancer, talks of her trust in her Lord. There is no trace of sourness or fear; her seasons of pain have drawn her nearer to the cross.

Sister Vali aged forty (pregnant with her tenth child), her village home so cold the youngest child snuggled beneath a blanket to do his homework.  No stove, no form of heating for the winter ahead in Suceava and a new baby to consider.  Her face shone, with no evidence of concern as she softly said, ‘If God wants me to have a stove, he will send one’. Earthly friends can become fickle, prone to change, but we have a Friend who never changes and who provision is unending. The harvest of joy entered this village home as by faith we have installed a stove. £300 has been received from a brother in Belfast and a sister in Portstewart. Jesus, our Saviour, Shepherd, Friend, Our Prophet, Priest, and King. Our Lord, our Life, our Way, our End. Accept the praise we bring.

Alina (27), four children aged 7, 4, 2, and a baby of sixteen months). She gave birth to another baby who died at 4 months of a heart block caused by acute pneumonia. Alina came to Iochebed in the spring for a pregnancy test. She was upset to learn she was pregnant so soon after the birth of her baby as they are an extremely poor family with no finance. They moved from the mountain village to a village closer to the city, living in a small house consisting of one room for seven people. A baby girl was born on 24 September, her name is Roxana Adina. She has been diagnosed with a congenital malformation of her hip and Alina has been advised by the Paediatrician to take the baby immediately to the Children’s Hospital in Lasi for a consultation by a specialist.  If the baby does not receive immediate attention, she could develop a serious health issue resulting in being unable to walk.  300 Romania Lei is required (£60) for transport to Lasi. The ravine of anxiety is a deep canyon with steep sidewalks. Please remember Alina and her little ones that the Lord will make all beautiful in His time.

Memories cause us to reminisce; today was one of those days as I visited two families, both with different needs, but who have been in the Casa Grace programme for the past two years. Two endearing little boys rushing home from school. Now through tragic circumstances, the mother and her children have no home and live with their grandmother.  It is a place of disrepair, one room and yet a room filled with so much love.  A young widow left with two children who travelled miles from her village home at 3 am every morning to her place of employment. The sadness was overwhelming as they mourned the loss of a young husband and father.  Her unwavering trust in the Lord resulted in a new beginning.  Hearts of compassion glowed with joy remembering small unexpected acts of kindness.

‘Unexpected acts of kindness’.  Only for the love of a devoted grandmother, two very sick little boys would be placed in an orphanage as they are unwanted by their parents.  Stefan (11) diagnosed with Spastic Tetra Paresis weighing 1.5 stone and his younger brother recently receiving the same diagnoses.  Stephan lies in a hospital crying out in pain, his tiny body where his bones are so brittle, a bone in his right foot broke as he was turned in bed.  His grandmother is exhausted with grief; grief with the present and what of the future?  It costs to carry and as I hold this family in my heart my prayer is that this grandmother will come to know the One who will carry her little lambs close to his heart of love.  I find the emotion is not a harvest of plenty only the opposite. Many fathers, mothers, grandparents filled with emotion and because of love question if it is better to place their little lambs in an orphanage.  The Lord has opened his hand enabling me through the love of all who provide for the feeding programme to make it possible that such a decision does not have to be made.  Feed my lambs.

‘Fulfil A Wish’ Whether young or elderly, there is one special moment they may wish to remember before leaving this earthly life. Kevin (9) known to many as he has been our patient since the age of two, undergoing many corrective surgeries to straighten his feet.  Gabi (mother) carries him to school every morning. Esteria and I discussed the case wondering what could be done; the same day my friend Barbara contacted me for her daily update. Suffice to say a new bicycle was purchased for Kevin.  Estera and I drove to the village and carefully removed it from the back of the car.  Kevin appeared and I can truthfully say I have never seen such joy or appreciation in a child.  ‘God gave this to me; this is a gift from God’ he kept shouting, trying to walk to his father and grandmother.  This family have been precious to me for some years now. Each time we visit we try to drop little seeds along the way. The harvest of joy was mine as I learned today the father, mother, Kevin and grandmother were baptised in the river three months ago and weekly services and prayer meetings are held in this humble home.

This morning Marinela and I met for discussions and patient reviews. I was shocked to learn there is no Palliative Care available in any hospital to patients in the last stages of cancer; you are sent home to die. The dedicated team of Emanuel Hospice minister in homes but are only able to cover ten per cent of the great need!  Love is a personal gift, ours to share or ours to keep.  Love demands effort, sacrifice, but our goal must always be as that of our Lord that our labour of love should be a blessing.  My husband had a word of encouragement in his short address at Hospice Chapel on Friday and as I scanned the faces before me, silently comparing my service with the raindrops of blessing they drop, I am privileged to be part of this work where they offer love, care but tell of a life beyond this life.

The Service of Thanksgiving held in Emanuel Baptist Church on Sunday was soul searching and soul melting.  I gazed around the hundreds of young students entering Emanuel University, and my heart was overwhelmed with joy, whether in Theology, Management, Music, Social Work, Literature, all had a mind to serve the Lord.  Chatting to the Theology students, one thing was evident, their young hearts possessed an ardent love and their vow to serve was irrevocable; one of total consecration.  Each year I see the changing faces in Emanuel University but still remember those special moments with special students in past years.  I have not forgotten them and they in turn have all been in contact once they knew a certain Professor and Mrs Shirley were on Campus.  Andrei and Ligia; Alex and Silvia; Daria; Oana; Anna Ruth …. And many others. Hamilton has been meeting staff and students again, teaching in the Masters classes and organising the International Conference to be held on Thursday 17th October, where he will also present a paper. It will be good to be preaching again in Cihei Baptist Church, near Oradea tomorrow.  

Alison has been engaged in last minute preparation of the thirty-two boxes in storage awaiting transportation to Tarsin. They arrived safely. Monika and I took time over the contents ensuring priority was given to the urgent needs.  Beautiful jumpers knitted in larger sizes were provided by Rae Scott, Agherton Parish Knit & Knatter, Portstewart.  One in particular stood out in colour and design, lovingly knitted by Sadie who is ninety-two years of age.  Their hearts have been touched by the Cighid Adult Orphan project and they are busy knitting warm hats and mittens for my Christmas mission trip.  Speaking of Cighid, papers have been submitted to the State requesting permission for me to visit on Thursday 17th October. With this in mind and a mind to work, Monika and I set out on a mission.  Nine hours later after searching for the best sale price in what felt throughout like the whole of Romania, finally we settled on our price and items, purchasing 100 pairs of trousers; 100 pairs of socks; 100 towels and beautiful soup and dinner plates.  Love has its worth, the people who lovingly made this possible has shown a heart of compassion.   The apostle Paul tells us to ‘put on a heart of compassion’, whether to great or small, may we continue to breathe the air of love. 

I have come to learn I will love my neighbour as I ought only if I love the Lord my God first.

The Lord continues to open His hand and I thank you for bringing hope and joy to many without.

Shirley, October 12, 2019