A WHITENED HARVEST

‘Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this!  Don’t coast through life without a passion.’  (John Piper)

Hidden scars of shame, abandonment and tragedy speak loudly on the faces of many women and young girls who knock on the door of Iochebed.  Their wounds are deep, they carry bruises from the rough road of circumstances they are forced to walk.  They have never known or acquired a comfort zone; rather, they are robbed of potential and bereft of hope.  I am troubled as I write of what I class as a tragic waste of lives lived in dark shadows of despair.  

Again, John Piper wrote:

Mara: a twenty-seven-year-old mother of nine children and pregnant with twins. At the tender age of twenty-seven with eleven children!  Mara contracted a severe form of covid affecting her heart and kidneys, resulting in many complications surrounding this pregnancy.  She is now entering thirty-one weeks into her pregnancy, her consultant has strongly advised constant bed rest for the next three weeks as they predict a thirty-four-week birth. May the Lord touch this young woman, watch over her nine little ones, grant blessing to this family through the gift of life through her twin babies.

 Daniela:  a mother of ten children.  She is facing financial hardship and came to our centre for counselling, requesting help regarding her five children who must have school uniforms and stationery in order to attend school.  Our precious team at Iochebed assisted with uniforms and school materials.   It was a great joy to see the Lord answer prayer through our small efforts. Please pray for Daniela, as her five older children are far away from the Lord, refusing to attend church, refusing to listen to their mother or treat her with respect.

Lacramioara:  also has ten children, nine boys and one girl.  She became pregnant after seven years and gave birth to a baby girl Sara. Lacramioara has financial issues, receiving no support from her partner, she has no other choice than to live at home with her parents. Little Sara contracted covid and Mummy must remain in the hospital with her young daughter.  Three of her boys are in the system. Such need.  Please remember her.

Valentina: a forty-three-year-old mother of ten children.  Valentina requested our prayers for her family.  Her husband is an alcoholic and a gambler.  Every penny he earns goes to feed his addictions.  There is no consideration given to his wife and ten children.   Schools have commenced in Suceava and Valentina could only send five of her ten children.  One child (female) entering high school had to remain at home as there was no money available for essential requirements entering grammar stream education.  We have assisted with clothing, school materials and hygiene products for the children.  Valentina cried with joy for the Lord to regard her with kindness and compassion.  Prayer points for this family: that Valentina may find a solution for the issues in her life; her husband to be released from the addiction to alcohol and gambling; for household salvation.

Sadness and poverty, a strange blending of words.  I find myself having to ‘stop’ to reflect on the grief and sorrow young parents are having to bear.  How can I write without remembering each little one who longs to be ‘at home with Mummy’?  I cannot.

Nico: a precious little boy of three (June update), is very sick.  His illness is progressing and his young mother is devastated. She is at home caring for Nico’s three siblings. All four children are under five years old. The father is constantly by Nico’s bedside, but it is so difficult to watch the little one you love go through chemotherapy. His mum is a gentle young lady possessing a sensitive nature; she cannot watch her beloved little boy suffer.  Broken hearts are part of life in Romania. 

Zente:he is a 3 year old diagnosed with epileptic encephalopathy, currently in hospital going through various tests and investigations. His condition worsened lately and his mother became extremely concerned regarding his condition.  His brother is very affected by Zente’s illness; he is very attached to his mummy and is finding it difficult to be without her every day. ‘I want my mummy’.

Kevin: Estera, Social Worker, Emanuel Hospice, has received confirmation from Assurance House regarding Kevin’s surgery. Kevin is scheduled for surgery on 13th October. This particular form of surgery is not without complications, the surgeon has highlighted certain risk elements.  Gabi (as a mother) is extremely anxious, she has no one to share her fears and deep emotion since the loss of her beloved Robi.  Kevin so needs his dad just now as he is frightened and nervous of what lies ahead.  France, where the surgery will take place, is far removed from a tiny village in Romania. 

Ela‘s mother, Angelina, is in deep sorrow.  The depth of her pain is evident, her heart is so broken she is unable to speak of Ela.   Aurelian and his mum need our prayers. I will continue to monitor this situation, as this family has been part of my life for many years.  There are difficult times ahead for Aurelian as his health continues to deteriorate.  Angelina knows one day she will be totally alone.  We need to assure her there is One who will never leave her or forsake her.  Through your loving support, our monthly Food Programme will continue.  

Sudden storms enter lives without warning.  The stillness of ‘peace’ has been replaced with unexpected turbulence.  Exhausted minds try to comprehend or understand ‘why?’  Clouds gather, weak frames are crushed by the force of an unwanted and unwelcome illness.   Peace has disappeared, in fact, peace is forgotten.   As you read, I ask you to pray that these precious lives will hear the still small voice saying: ‘Peace, be still’.  Writing to you this morning, methinks: ‘Why them and not me?’  One day, we will know the meaning of our tears.

Ildiko: a patient with cervix cancer, often suffering from ascites. Two weeks ago, her husband died suddenly from a heart attack. Besides the pain and the shock she is suffering, she has no finance to cover the funeral expenses. She has three adult children who cause their mother many anxious days.  Her children are in constant need of money owing to their addictions. Totally alone, lldiko struggles to survive. 

Veronica: another patient recently widowed during her battle with cancer. Her husband was in hospital approximately four weeks. During this time, the doctors were unable to reach a diagnosis. Eventually, her husband was discharged with a suspicion of pancreatic cancer. As they waited patiently for the biopsy results, he died suddenly. Veronica is now facing dark days of grief apart from the radiotherapy treatment which is ongoing. Veronica has pulmonary cancer with bone metastasis on her spine. The pain caused by the metastasis is extreme; she can only walk with the aid of a walking frame. Another widow, totally alone with her grief.

Domnica: she also suffers from cervix cancer.  Her husband suffers from dementia and her son is often violent towards his parents disbelieving that his mother is ill.  Domnica is now unable to walk, her daughter in law has responsibility for her care. The family live in unacceptable unsanitary conditions. Domnica is often confined to an extremely cold and drafty room.

Monika did most of the talking during our weekly conference call which lasted longer than usual.  I was unable to remove myself from my desk as I reflected on the case studies and in (everyday language) thought about the families held together like a piece of worn and threadbare string, barely surviving. Yes, you are correct again, I questioned ‘Why not me?’ As I thought of the sixty-one adults and one hundred and twenty-four children on our Feeding Programme, I became more aware in my heart of the urgency to tell the story of Jesus and His love.  So many have never heard, so many have never known. Together let us ‘Tell the old old story of Jesus and His love’.

The elderly: many walk miles (aided by a stick), they are desperate for food, hygiene. Parents urgently needing backpacks to enable their children to attend school.  Without our Feeding Programme, we would be unable to form a relationship with these precious people or have the opportunity to show God’s love to all.  The work of Casa Grace extends to the Orphanages and Therapy Centres.  Children have been reunited with their Mum or Dad, who, because of lack of resources had no other choice but to place their little darlings in an Orphanage. Some, up to eight years.  Monika shares: 

Families have been reunited, children were brought home from the orphanage as in Ana’s case, to live as a happy family once again. To have the support each month for one or two years meant so much to all of them and took them closer to God. We give thanks for those who accepted the Saviour into their hearts.  As I see the changes, rising prices at all levels, my heart is troubled …. but God reminds me to ask from Him. We asked and God answered and He answered through you Sister Shirley and your faithful friends of CASA Grace.  We thank God for you and your commitment to us.

PRAY FOR THE TEAM AT CASA GRACE:

We ask wisdom to help the families God guides us to; wisdom in our conversation: wisdom in presenting His word:  wisdom in displaying and showing the love of God as His children; Pray for each person we are in contact with through our Feeding Programme with Tell Romania.

We testify to the goodness of the Lord as we reflect on many of our former case studies.   Ana who has been reunited with her three children – Robi, Aniko, Micky – God granted us to meet them because of the food support and has been sustaining Ana through her cancer treatment. 

Andrada: she was extremely introverted, but had the courage to say the bible verse (Family supported in the past – dad suffers from schizophrenia). As a family they are encouraged by the relationship with the team of Casa Grace 

Sergiu:  a boy with behavioural problems – changed through his days at summer camp into a gentle boy offering comfort to the smallest child. Until then he was abusing every child at every afforded opportunity. As you encouraged us to support his family, we had the chance to spend a few days with him.   Please, pray with us for wisdom how to talk with his father (dependent on alcohol, stepmother (consuming alcohol) grandmother, who is very calm person just with many medical issues and with Sergiu who is behaving as a child that screams for love, affection and attention.

A letter from Neil (Social Worker, Casa Grace).

Dear Sister Shirley,

Thank you, because you take care of the poor families from Romania. We, at Casa, know that your effort to help them is a larger task now and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.   Your support means a lot to our desperately poor families because without it we would be unable to assist them or more importantly, impact their lives.   All over the world there are difficult situations, even the families who can find menial work, experience the change.  They barely manage themselves as it is now much harder than in the past. Most of them can’t afford to buy wood for heating this winter and do not know how they will pay their electricity.   Receiving food from your Feeding Programme helps save money for monthly bills and other essentials such as medical and utility bills.  We appreciate all you do for our beneficiaries and say ‘THANK YOU’ to those who faithfully donate to the Tell Romania project.  Your friends who donate for our families, thank you for your kindness for us. Thank you because you remember us and keep us in your hearts.

A divorced father of two girls aged ten and seven.  His situation has become untenable.  His former wife who has never contributed to her daughters has now opened a lawsuit against him.  She is unemployed and unable to pay court costs which could result in a prison sentence.   The father is now engaged in unexpected court costs even though he does not have the financial resources to cover essentials such as food, wood etc. Casa continues to supply food for this father and his two daughters.  The girls enjoyed their special days at our Summer camp in the mountains.  The excitement of their little faces was overwhelming as they spend every day at home alone while their father tries to find work. The state has provided social accommodation which is totally inhabitable.  No running water, no electric, repairs required to ceilings, windows … The father has been working hard to renovate the derelict building, a place the girls can call ‘home’.  A gracious man who is responsible, serious and hardworking.  He works hard to offer his girls an education, a choice of a better life that he has never known and never will. How can we forget them? 

As I close, I am thankful for my ‘alone times’ with the Lord.  A time to reflect, to listen and to gain direction for the way ahead.  Three of our Directors namely, David Morton; Freddy Smyth and Allan Hopper are presently part of a six-man work team working in Romania until October 1st.  Please remember them.   This week Hamilton had a one-hour conference call with Brother Paul Negrut, Rector of Emanuel University together with other faculty members. The new Semester, Theology classes and the Emanuel Journal, of which he is the Editor, were all discussed. Hamilton may not be physically in Romania but his heart remains there.

‘Our deeds are not the basis of our salvation; they are the evidence of our salvation. They are not foundation, they are demonstration.’  (John Piper)

Shirley, September 26th, 2022

42B Bernice Road, Co. Antrim. BT36 4QZ

‘The Worth of Worlds’

Downloading a video clip from food supplies being delivered to the war-torn areas of Ukraine, I watched an elderly lady with a halo of white hair as she stared in disbelief into the face of the brother delivering a food package.  The reality of these precious people trouble Hamilton and me. We continue to send finance.  Gone are the normal, the ordinary days; now young and old have had to face destruction and devastation where unexpected circumstances have brought them to the depths of poverty. Beauty has been swept away with a grave suddenness.  Thousands have lost their homes and possessions, where once they had plenty; food in their pantry, wood in their store, friends, family; now, their famine is sore. Had we no tests, had we no trials, would we take time to stop and think?  Thousands know the ‘Worth of Worlds’ but nothing and I repeat nothing, can ever show the preciousness of knowing and loving Jesus.

In thinking of my terminally ill patients, Psalm 59:10 comforted my heart. ‘My God with his loving kindness shall come to meet me at every corner’.  We all have corners in our heart; some are secret corners between God and us alone.  We have the assurance that the Lord will control all the corners of our way even those we class insurmountable.    My case studies disturb me. I hold my colleagues close in my heart, thanking the Lord for their devoted service, love and commitment to these dying souls as they minister comfort and assurance in the face of a continuous path of suffering.  To date we have lost one hundred and thirteen patients. The numbers are staggering, broken hearts left with only memories.

Aniela (69) was diagnosed with cervix cancer two years ago. Over the past few months, her sight began to fail owing to glaucoma, resulting in the fact that she is now totally blind. This precious lady of sixty-nine years of age lives alone in an apartment, the only friend or company she knows is that of her faithful dog. Her children come to visit, but care is administered by a neighbour.  Aniela, who is in the early stages of learning to cope with blindness, becomes distressed and overwhelmed with anxiety.  When she is alone there is a secret corner of fear in her heart. 

Veronica, diagnosed with cervix cancer.  Veronica is raising her granddaughter (13) alone. Her parents separated when she was a baby, now living in different cities with new partners. Veronica and her granddaughter have learned to face difficulties together; Sadly, the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy is making grandma very weary.  Yet, in the midst of her struggles, Veronica’s determination to fight the illness is evident.  Buried deep in the corner of her heart lies the reality of fear; fear of what will become of her beloved granddaughter, what the future will hold for her. No one loves her; she will be totally alone.

Aurora, a young mother with pulmonary cancer, is now in a coma.  Her husband and two teenage daughters must face the reality that death is imminent and will come soon.  The youngest girl is the one most severely affected, she is unable to process her mother’s pain in a positive way. They have watched Mummy suffer excruciating pain. This has created traumatizing aspects for a loving husband and two adoring daughters.

Last month, I shared with you about ‘Our Kevin’ who is loved by so many of you.  I quote: 

Kevin was taken to Cluj by his mother. During the consultation the oncologist confirmed that the required surgery must take place in France, (also, the opinion of Kevin’s consultant in Oradea). It is a lengthy, intricate and complicated surgery; it would not be possible for this specialist surgery to be performed in Romania. Estera applied to Assurance House regarding the possibility of covering the cost incurred. As I write, confirmation has been received, all costs will be covered. Kevin’s mother is deeply affected and concerned regarding the whole procedure. We assured her that Kevin is in God’s hands and there are no safer hands. Gabi has walked a dark path since the home call of her beloved husband Robi. Pray for all our patients that in the dark passage of trial, their fears will be quelled and they will find His peace.

Kevin is now scheduled for the surgery at the end of October. To date, Assurance House have not issued the necessary documents to cover surgery costs etc.  In the stillness, fear and doubt surround Gabi. During the past eighteen months, fear has consumed this young mother. Kevin will return to school, as it is important to maintain his education status. In the long and lonely hours of waiting may Gabi hear the words ‘Do not be afraid; only believe’, (Mark 5: 36).

Florin (14) diagnosed with stage four cancer, continues to undergo chemotherapy.  Florin’s teenage years are not memorable ones; years filled with sickness, fear and coping with his hair loss, which is difficult for a young teenage boy.  Looking in the mirror is a struggle for him. These are the days Florin wants to stop receiving the treatment. Pray for Estera who so faithfully encourages him to continue.

Lavi (71) diagnosed with cancer, recently had a difficult surgery for a colostomy bag / lleostomy bag. Her elderly husband is our patient also, receiving care for his terminal illness.  Lavi is devastated as her condition continues to deteriorate. She can no longer care for her beloved husband and is totally dependent on her family.  A precious lady, a private lady, who only wanted their golden years to be memorable years.  Sadly, this is not so.

Families sinking, swept away by high waves of poverty.  Writing these lines cause me to measure my life, question my love in light of sacrifices I am prepared to make for love of the unloved.

Nearly three years they have waited.  Covid 19 brought worldwide change to the lives of the disadvantaged children of Casa Grace, orphans, down syndrome, abandoned children, mentally and physically disabled children and those living in a hurricane of dark poverty.  Plans were set in motion to take twenty-five young children for three days followed by twenty-six older children to the mountains.  Three days to discover another world.  A world filled with love which is unseen and unknown by these children.  

My dear friend Monika bravely decided to place the ‘naughtiest’ children in her room.  This is the Monika I know.  Dark eyes were firmly fixed on her as she prayed quietly in a corner of the small bedroom.  One little boy gently touched her shoulder, asking: ‘What are you doing?’. Monika explained she was praying to her Heavenly Father. The little boy replied: ‘I have never prayed. We never pray at home. Please, can you teach me to pray’.

Monika shares: Rares comes from a village one hour from Oradea. His mother suffers from mental disability and his father is an alcoholic. There are six children in the family; two who live with grandparents, the other four remain at home with their parents. The poverty and darkness are overwhelming; the light bulb had not been cleaned for many years… the blackness of spiritual darkness raged within.  Rares (10) is the oldest child; he suffers from attention problems.  His behaviour at camp was exceptionally naughty, but each day there was evidence of a slow change within his uncontrollable nature.   He slept in Monika’s room and confessed that there, he felt free from danger.  During the day and into the late night (as he falls asleep very late) the hugs and kind words were visibly calming him.  On the first night, his behaviour was totally unacceptable and frightening the other children in the room.  Monika said if he was unhappy in camp, arrangements could be made to take him home earlier.  He shared that at home his mother is punishing all of the six children all the time and they fear when their father returns home from work as he would be fully under the influence of alcohol.  Six children living in fear of what might happen next.   Sadness fills my heart to think a child prefers to stay with strangers instead of his parents. Footnote:  His parents did not come to the arranged meeting place to take Rares home.  Monika had to drive one hour to the village, upon arrival there no one was at home and no one could be found.  Rares was touched in his wee heart that a stranger drove one hour to take him home, saying it was too far to walk and he felt for the first time in his life someone cared about him.  Please think of this little boy. This is not a story; this little life is real.  Little Rares has no hope, I question, does he have a future?  May all the love and patience showed to him during his three days at camp, remain with him.  As the monthly food support from Tell Romania is taken to this family may the Lord grant an opportunity to talk about Him who is the provider! Monika writes:  Sister Shirley, thank you for the material support and the precious prayer support! May it take them from and remove the spiritual darkness!  Thank you very, very, very, very much!

Sebi (7) was very violent and aggressive, in fact, ready to hit any child or adult at any time without reason. Sebi was abandoned by his mother, and is in the care of his father.  After long working hours, his father spends the evenings drinking alcohol and becomes very aggressive. His partner lacks character.  Sad and unacceptable conditions for a little boy of seven.  Sebi’s grandmother moved from Oradea to be with him and to raise him. She is a very clean and hardworking lady who loves her grandson and is trying to be an example to this broken child.   A few weeks ago, she fell resulting in both her hips being broken, forcing her to move back to Oradea to live with her daughter. Sebi is filled with deep sadness because of this and as days were passing, he started to share his pain with Monika and was less and less wild. Monika speaks from her heart: ‘My heart was broken when he said that he doesn’t want to go home. He said he is used to watching television until late evening as this is the only way he can fall asleep. I said that I will tell them stories (introducing the message of the day) and it was a real challenge to make them listen… but on the other hand they were calming down as they greatly appreciated that someone was spending time with them).  I had a five-year-old boy, a ten-year-old girl (who was crying after her home). We were talking for 2-3 hours and they became more and more calm – we prayed… it was great to feel His peace’.   TEN HOURS SLEEP IN SIX NIGHTS!

Sister Shirley, thank you very much for supporting Sebi – he has food to eat, clothes to wear, school equipment and may all of these and the PRAYER bring the change that is vital. 

Mariana has now been discharged from hospital after spending three weeks far removed from her seven precious children.  Monika has spoken with the surgeon who performed the reconstruction of Mariana’s bowel.  Mariana is very weak as the surgery took many hours and she had to spend one week in ICU.  At present she is only permitted to have liquid food until the area surrounding her bowel has time to heal.    Mariana has expressed her gratitude to Tell Romania for their level of care, the monthly food provision, school provision, the sister who donated £500 making the surgery possible. Our desire is to see Mariana surrender her life to Christ.  Little is much when God is in it. 

I am proofreading yet another publication Hamilton is writing, due to be released Easter 2023.  The title ‘Beauty for Ashes’ caused me to ‘process’ my thoughts.   I began thinking of those who are ‘strangers’ to me, lives that hide away from reality, who make a ‘nest’ for their babies wherever one can be found.  As you read, I ask you to pray the Holy Spirit will transform lives gripped by fear and darkness into lives filled with joy, hope and assurance and that they will come to know personally there is indeed Beauty for Ashes to be found in Christ. 

Cosmina (16) gave birth to a baby girl by Caesarean section on August 9th.  She already has a baby boy aged one year and seven months.   Aged sixteen with two babies!  She became involved with a boy when she was only fourteen years of age. She believed the boy loved her; however, he did not assume responsibility for his child. Cosmina is ashamed, her mother who assisted in raising the first child, was firm in her decision to abandon the baby girl at birth in the hospital.  Cosmina confided in her mother she could not live knowing she had abandoned her baby.  Cosmina and her babies have moved to a small wooden house.  We insulated a room to ensure that in the freezing Romanian winter there would be warmth for the children.  They are struggling to make ends meet and will need help with pampers, clothes, medicines, food and wood for the winter.  Iochebed will continue to help them. May God touch this young mother and give her a speedy recovery, wisdom and patience to raise her children.

Sabina, has two children. One of the children has health issues and is unable to walk. She is now expecting her third child.   The consultant informed her that there is an issue with the baby and a different echography would need to be performed for a deeper investigation. Sabina requested our help as she had no finance to cover the cost incurred.  (The morphological echography in Romania is approx. £90). Gabi accompanied Sabina to the echography to support her. We give thanks to the Lord for His mercy; all is well with the pregnancy.   She has since gone for other tests which we also have covered.  Sabina has been asked to attend an interview with a gynaecologist as during the last tests various issues were highlighted.  We look to the Lord that Sabine will give birth to a healthy baby.  

Larisa, has a little boy of two years of age.  She came to Iochebed after receiving confirmation she is pregnant again.   Larisa is happy and wants this baby, but struggles financially. We met the cost of the echography to ensure she can remain under the care of her family doctor who will reinstate her medical insurance during the pregnancy in order to release her from having to pay hospital costs. The results of the echography were positive, there are no complications.  Pray for Larisa and a safe delivery of this precious gift of life.  

Anda, a young mother, twelve weeks pregnant, needs our prayerful support.  Her pregnancy has been difficult during these first three months.  Her sickness is extreme, up to the point of fainting. She spoke with her employers advising them of the circumstances. Her head of department advised her to search for another position. Anda is afraid of being unemployed and asked us to support her in prayer. May God bring peace, comfort and help her get through these hard times.

Tabita gave birth by Caesarean section (38 weeks). The baby boy was dead on delivery.  During the pregnancy, the doctor who performed the echography told her that the baby had severe malformations and it would be impossible for him to survive; Tabita prayed for a miracle. Tabita was discharged for the funeral, she must undergo treatment for possible infections. She is very frail and extremely weak. As you pray for Tabita, please pray for her physical and spiritual healing!

There are many arms to Tell Romania, one arm being the translation and publication of Christian literature.  Translation continues in Oradea with Hamilton’s book on the Pastoral Epistles about to be printed in two languages, namely, Russian and Hungarian.  Hamilton holds the position of Editor of the Journal ‘The Sower’ (Emanuel University, Oradea) and has been overseeing the Journal, contributing and proofreading for the faculty members who write since 2018. Yesterday, five local Theological Colleges received copies for their Library.  And we are not finished yet!  We will be releasing a new publication late October/early November (in time for the Christmas market).  This book is based on the proofs of life in I John, with the title: ‘TO MY LITTLE CHILDREN’.  This is a vital book for the pastors in Romania.  Two thousand copies are being printed for local bookshops, the Romanian pastors and also worldwide distribution is currently being organised. 

This afternoon I read: ‘May I not covet the world’s greatness!  It will cost me the crown of life!

I thought of the words of General William Booth: ‘God loves with a special love the man who has a passion for the impossible’.  Can we be a friend to someone?  Can someone depend on us?

Shirley

August 29, 2022

42b Bernice Road, Co. Antrim. BT36 4QZ

‘THERE MUST BE A REASON’

But Thou art making me, I thank Thee, sire.
What Thou hast done and doest Thou knows’t well.
And I will help Thee; gently in Thy fire
I will lie burning, on Thy potter’s wheel
I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel.
Thy grace shall be enough the grief to quell,
And growing strength perfect through weakness dire.
(George MacDonald – Diary of an Old Soul)

Mental anguish creates an inner sense of hopelessness.  Situations cause us to wonder ‘Why is this happening?’ or ‘Why is God permitting this to happen?’.  The psalmist David must have experienced a sense of despair when he penned: ‘I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living’ (Psalm 27: 13). 

Dark clouds continue to overshadow tiny village homes.  Lives interrupted by unexpected change where trials, not of their own choosing invaded their peace, the calmness of their sheltered world is shattered.  During my years of getting to know and indeed love my patients, children and families I have had but one goal – to build bridges.  Bridges that would replace walls of doubt and suspicion.  Looking back, many cracks and chips have been repaired in countless lives.

Ferenc suffers from gastric cancer. This patient and his wife are in deep sorrow as they mourn the loss of their beloved son.  A young man of thirty-eight who died due to a cerebrovascular attack.  A mother who has lost her son is now facing the possibility of losing her beloved husband.  Ferenc is in great distress; he cannot come to terms his wife will be left totally alone in this world.  He has expressed that the Lord is his comfort.  May this become a reality.

Iuliana has advanced breast cancer.  She has two daughters; the youngest girl is only eleven years of age.  Her husband is overwhelmed with grief as he tries to take care of his dying wife and children. The girls are exceptionally close to their mother; watching her suffer, growing weaker each day is causing them deep emotion and distress.  ‘Why does my Mummy have to die?’.

Maria is another patient with breast cancer and multiple metastasis. She has an exulcerated tumour in her breast area causing extreme pain owing to the bone metastasis. She is very agitated and has trouble sleeping because of extreme pain. She is also very anxious regarding her future and the strong possibility of death. Her family are exhausted and don’t know how to help her find peace. 

My Wee Ella.   I have known and loved this precious family since 2015. The news from Estera was news I did not want to hear.  Ella’s condition deteriorated, her frail, weak body could not fight infection and sadly she contacted Covid-19. Angelina, her mother, protected Ella throughout the pandemic, arranging treatment to be administered at home.  However, it became vital that due to her rare form of cancer, admission to hospital was necessary. Her illness continued to exacerbate and in her weakness, she contracted Covid for a second time.  Her body could not fight any longer; she passed away silently and alone.  Her mother and brother are devastated. Aurelian expressed his thanks for all the help they received from our dedicated team in Emanuel Hospice and for the provision of food and hygiene items. It was so emotional listening to him. Angelina cannot utter Ella’s name; her loss is unimaginable.  Ella was alert and intelligent, resolving all difficult issues surrounding the family. She will be missed. I still see her laughing as Estera and I climbed the eighteen flights of stairs to reach their flat.  Aurelian is a sensitive boy, suffering from the same form of this rare disease.  Ella had started to paint a portrait of Aurelian before she died; the painting depicted Aurelian waiting for her to return home.  Ella will never return home again.  The painting is unfinished.  I pray the hands of grace will embrace this home and that from their brokenness they will find the beauty of wholeness in the Lord.

Marian (55) diagnosed with advanced cancer is cared for by his loving wife. They have four sons all under the age of seventeen, lovely boys with a caring and pleasing personality who are so attached to their father. Recently, Marian’s brother died unexpectedly after suffering a major stroke.   The family are devastated as Marian had requested him to become a paternal figure in the life of his boys.  He is gone before him. They are a Christian family and love the Lord, holding on to the hope that we have in Christ.  May the breath of our Lord breathe peace over this home during these difficult times.  They receive from our Feeding Programme.

Kevin was taken to Cluj by his mother.  During the consultation the oncologist confirmed the required surgery must take place in France. (also the opinion of Kevin’s consultant in Oradea).  It is a lengthy, intricate and complicated surgery; it would not be possible for this specialist surgery to be performed in Romania. Estera applied to Assurance House regarding the possibility of covering the cost incurred.   As I write, confirmation has been received, all costs will be covered. Kevin’s mother is deeply affected and concerned regarding the whole procedure.  We assure her that Kevin is in God’s hands and there are no safer hands.  Gabi has walked a dark path since the Home Call of her beloved husband Robi. Pray for all our patients that in the dark passage of trial, their fears will be quelled and they will find His peace.

Last month I informed you of the need for specialist equipment for our younger cancer patients.  I quote:  The Emanuel Hospice team need my help in sourcing an ‘Ear Pulse Oximeter’. Pulse Oximeters are used regularly on the fingers of our little ones to measure their oxygen levels. However, for the very young children (as for our precious Vicky) these do not always work; we would therefore require an Ear Pulse Oximeter. Pray for Brother Allan Hopper who is trying to source this equipment. This morning, 3 Nellcor Oximax infant oxygen sensor meters for infants 3-20kg; 1 new Blood Pressure Machine; 1 Nebuliser arrived with Emanuel Hospice Team.  The Paediatric doctor is overwhelmed by this much need provision and extends her appreciation to Brother Allan Hopper.  

The days I receive news of Ella, Vicki, Dani; the days I think of the empty village homes where family laughter once resounded; where a child’s room is now vacant; a favourite toy lying unused in a corner; the days when I review the case studies of my patients; these are the days I pray: ‘Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul’ (Psalm 143:8).

Romans 12: 2 ‘And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God’.  As I read this verse I think of Gabi, Loredana and Mahalia who minister into the lives of those coming from a different way of life, in fact, a different culture.  Their focus remains clear – The Lord is the Lord of ALL’ seasons of life. 

Flori (27) is mother to six young children.  Flori is in the early stages of her seventh pregnancy and has had to attend the Emergency Department of her local hospital owing to serious complications. An Obstetrician advised her to take extra care owing to evidence of the high risk that she could lose the baby.  We have paid for the consultation and medication and will continue to assist with required echographs, tests and medication during her pregnancy Please pray for Flori, they are an extremely poor family and even though this will be her seventh child she is frightened she will loss her precious baby. 

 Claudia has two little girls of seven and six years of age.  During May we informed you this family were homeless and unable to find a place to stay. Our small team of three were relentless in trying to secure a place to rent for Claudia, a place for two little girls to call ‘Home’.  Finally, a place has been found and we have agreed rental for the next consecutive months. We will also supply much needed food and hygiene supplies.   The little girl of seven has a health issue which will involve a consultation with a specialist in a larger city.  Gabi, has asked me to thank you on their behalf. The investigation has only been made possible by donations received for our ‘Iochebed’ babies.  Your gift of love has provided for a place to call ‘Home’ and satisfy hungry little tummies who formally searched through garbage bins for crumbs.

Alexandra is pregnant with her sixth child. She was so afraid and filled with an overwhelming fear when the pregnancy was confirmed.  Her first reaction was to consider aborting the baby.   Her fear stems from the fact that there are serious issues with two of her children.   Her debts continue to mount owing to the medical expenses. Alexandra’s outlook is clouded with fear, pray that the Lord will quieten her heart and that she will choose life for her unborn baby. 

 Simina (28) has had seven pregnancies.  She has five children as she had two miscarriages.  She faces an eighth pregnancy.  She is overwhelmed and does not want another baby, her husband is frequently away from the family home with his friends, spending all their money with no resources provided for his little ones.    When he returns home there are arguments due to lack of commitment and jealously.   May God touch her heart to treasure this gift of life.

Sorina (18) gave birth to a baby boy (Narcis) four months ago.  Sorina is young and inexperienced for her age.   The baby became ill and was admitted to hospital. After many tests, it was confirmed the baby was suffering from a liver condition.  Following two months of treatment there was no evidence of improvement. Sorina returned to the Paediatric hospital in Lasi, where her baby was seen by a qualified paediatrician.  Tests were carried out and a course of treatment put in place. Narcis has reacted well to the treatment.  Sorina will be required to bring the baby back to Lasi in four weeks to receive confirmation of the root cause of the liver disease.  The trauma of becoming a mother at such a young age and coping alone. Help her know she is not alone.

I seem to be ending my own private devotional time by praying five simple words: ‘Lord, teach me to love’.  It is not my wish to become repetitive but it won’t go away.  Early this morning, I found myself reading from the book of Mark.  A loving Heavenly Father who was motivated by compassion.  Compassion means ‘I love you’.  As I thought of this I thought of Monika and her dedicated team in Casa Grace (the House of Grace).  We have an obligation of the choices we make to those we serve in love.  ‘Lord, teach us to love’.

An unexpected telephone call to Monika afforded my colleagues in Casa Grace another opportunity to ‘love’.  The evidence of poverty and lack of ‘lunch’ observed by the head teacher of a local school, highlighted a serious area of concern. The opening words: ‘Can you help a little girl?  Her family are in the darkness of extreme poverty. The case study revealed not only Dickensian poverty but total spiritual darkness. The family of seven live in very poor conditions.  Their accommodation consists of rented rooms within an old and derelict house.  The rooms are dark, dismal, lacking light and without air.   Many neighbours share the same building.  Huddled together sits a mother (43) with the added responsibility of caring for her brother (38) who suffers from mental and physical disability.  There are two daughters aged twenty-five and twelve.  The girl of twelve is working hard at school trying to attain an education.  Sadly, the girl of twenty-five suffers from a mental disability; she has two sons aged six and five. Their father died from cancer prior to the birth of his second son. Owing to the level of her mental and physical capabilities she is unable to maintain a permanent position of employment.  At present she is picking fruit in the summer fruit farms.  As we reviewed the case study, we felt the brother’s condition warranted a disability allowance.  Duly completed forms have been submitted.  We have added this family to our Feeding Programme.

Mariana.  This morning, Monika and I spoke at length regarding Mariana’s situation.  All necessary scans were supposedly completed with surgery scheduled for tomorrow.  However, things have been placed on hold for now.  The consultant has requested further scans owing to the reconstruction of her bowel.  Mariana’s body has been rejecting the stoma placed during the last colostomy procedure.  There are complications.   Mariana will be hospitalised for a period of three weeks.  During this time, Monika has arranged for an Aunt of Mariana’s to care for the seven children.   The oldest sibling of Mariana’s seven children received high grades in her examination results.  She plans to study chemistry and biology with the view of becoming a specialist nurse or doctor.  The mountains and clouds are slowly being removed, the mushroom field and shabby home are a distant memory.  Pray that the Lord will open Mariana’s eyes, that her questions will dissipate to create a satisfaction of mind that all her struggles, worries, inadequacies, rejections, disappointments can be resolved in loving the One who first loved her.  

FOOTNOTE: Mariana is not alone in this. The Lord knew what was required and the £500 required for surgery has been provided by a sister who has been supporting Mariana throughout all of her treatments.   The Lord gives what is best and when needed.

This morning I found myself reading about various women in the bible and the qualities one should possess.  As I read: ‘She extends her hand to the poor; She reaches out her hands to the needy; She makes tapestry for herself; her clothing is of fine linen and purple …’  My thoughts turned to the Vocational Training Room where five years ago we refurbished the entire department with approximately ten Brother commercial and household sewing machines and a heavy-duty overlocking machine.  Dana and Berta are totally dedicated to this three-year module commencing from beginner to distinction. Graduation took place this week. 

Dana writes:  With God’s help I have completed another series of tailoring courses. I give thanks to God for using me in His work, I know I am only a small tool in His Hand but I give Him the glory. 

Elisa comes from one of our families receiving help from our Feeding Programme.  Elisa felt guided to attend the training class where she discovered her talents, she finished the course well.  Her father is unable to work due to an ongoing health condition, Elisa decided to open a tailoring workshop within their house, this will assist in bringing a much-needed income in to the family home.  She is a very special girl, younger and highly motivated by her highly talented skills in tailoring.  There is a waiting list for her services. 

2022 GraduationTabita Patcas was thrilled to be awarded the honour of being ‘top student’, being awarded a new Sewing Machine in recognition of her achievement.  Tabita is one of thirteen children consisting of seven boys and six girls. Their father contracted a virus resulting in him becoming brain dead.  He died leaving his beloved wife and thirteen children. 

FOOTNOTEI remember visiting this family shortly after the death of their father and I was overwhelmed by the love and peace in this humble home.  As I entered, I was greeted by the mother who was surrounded by her girls as they sat around the table peeling potatoes gathered from the fields – a very large caldron of potatoes was the main meal for fourteen.  The family love the Lord and throughout all the storms have never questioned His love for them.  Five of the girls have now taken our tailoring course.  Their plan is to design and make dresses for their church family.

Our outward appearance is important, we take pride in ‘how we look’.  This morning as I was choosing a ‘change of clothes’ Col 3: 14 entered my heart. ‘Put on love ….’  Need I say more?

Shirley, July 26, 202242B BERNICE ROAD, CO. ANTRIM. BT36 

‘The Uncertainty of Tomorrow’


Calmly we look behind us, on joys and sorrows past

We know that all is mercy now, and shall be well at last

Calmly we look before us, we fear no future ill

Enough for safety and for peace, if Thou are with us still’.  (Jane Borthwick)

I lay awake most of the night listening to the howling wind and driving rain.  My heart was heavy and I found my ‘molehills’ became mountains. I lost count of the number of ‘cuppas’ I sipped as I sat quietly trying to ‘give’ my worries, my ‘cares’ over to the Lord.  My restless and impatient spirit was bothering me; all I could see before me was darkness as I felt the uncertainty of broken hearts.  2022 is dwindling away and the baffling sense of loss overwhelms me. This morning, as I try to write, I am numb when I think of those who fear tomorrow as they gaze across a hopeless horizon. Their lives are as crushed leaves trodden into the ground.  The work is difficult but in the words of Isaac Watts: ‘Love so amazing, so divine, shall have my soul, my life, my all’.

A young mother sits quietly in anguish, stripped of the joy her darling Vicky brought to this humble home during her short time on this earth.  Never again will Vicky’s laughter be heard or the joy shared around the family table.  Joy faded from this home as life faded from this beautiful fragile rose.  Little Vicky was taken peacefully into the arms of the Saviour who said: ‘Suffer the little ones to come unto Me….’ Her young parents are in deep sorrow; they do not fully understand the reason ‘why’ but are comforted to know their precious little darling is free from suffering and that they will meet her again. My dear friend and colleague Estera called to assist with the funeral arrangements.  Vicky’s little sister came running to her: ‘Vicky is not here; Jesus came and took her to heaven’.  Her little brother sat quietly in the corner; playtime will never be the same.

Florin (Timotei’s brother) has commenced chemotherapy.  His parents are distraught and find the situation difficult to accept or indeed, understand.  Florin is aware of the side effects, making it much more difficult for him. In the calm of the night, I find myself thinking of my terminally ill little ones where for so many, a happy childhood is but a dream.  I remember visiting the oncology wards; one visit would have broken a heart of stone.   The Emanuel Hospice team need my help in sourcing an ‘Ear Pulse Oximeter’.  Pulse Oximeters are used regularly on the fingers of our little ones to measure their oxygen levels.  However, for the very young children (as for our precious Vicky) these do not always work; we would therefore require an Ear Pulse Oximeter.  Pray for Brother Allan Hopper who is trying to source this equipment.

Little Nico (3) diagnosed with cancer is now receiving chemotherapy.  His illness is progressing rapidly, all does not appear to be well. The consultant from the hospital in Cluj has advised his parents to give consideration to going abroad for investigative surgery. Another toddler of three unable to play and separated from the security of home.

Kevin is due to see his consultant this incoming week, when a decision will be made as to the next level of treatment. There is a difficult road ahead for Gabi and her young son who still miss a beloved husband and father. 

Ella’s weight continues to plummet, her body is wasting away and she is extremely weak. Aurialian, her brother also suffers from this rare form of cancer.  He too is frail; his hearing has almost gone and his weight is giving cause for concern. Angelina loves her children, but is deeply aware their illness is attacking their various vital organs.

Estera Writes: Thank you for holding us in your heart Sister Shirley.  Please continue to prayer for us as a team, we really need it.

Maria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2021. During the past six months she has undergone chemotherapy.  At the beginning of June, Maria went through a very serious surgery where her uterus and her peritoneum had to be removed. She is now waiting for the results of her biopsy and various tests. A decision will then be made regarding further chemotherapy.

Teodor suffers from cancer of his vocal cords.  He is totally unaware of his diagnosis. His family have made a decision not to tell him in order to protect him.  They feel if he knew the prognosis it would only add to his suffering.  Teodor endures a high level of pain and does not understand why he always feels exhausted and his days are weary days. His beloved wife died recently from Covid and he is in deep mourning. He confesses that loneliness is his worst form of suffering.   His son and family take care of him but since the death of his wife, life is meaningless.  He is a lonely man.

Lidia is in the depth of sadness.  Her beloved husband (Aurel) lost his battle to lung cancer this week.  Her son died approximately two years ago in a motorcycle accident.  She finds the grief of losing Aurel difficult, having not fully recovered from the death of her son.  Life was never the same for her husband who never accepted the death of his son.  The diagnosis of lung cancer developed soon after his son’s sudden death.

Adriana Writes:

Thank you for always being so understanding and for your prayers for the Hospice team and patients.  Our patients miss you.

So many lives filled with imperfection, trying to hide the scars of life behind a smile. They lack ‘assurance’; they question ‘trust’; they harbour ‘fear’.  We hold out our hands in love, telling them of Calvary Love, the love that can change what they used to be.  

Sorina (18) has a four-month baby boy – Narcis. The baby became very sick and had to be admitted to hospital.  After many tests, it was confirmed the baby was suffering from a liver condition.  Treatment was recommended, but now after two months there is no improvement.  A referral has been made to a larger hospital in Lasi where he will be seen by a paediatrician. Sorina is very young and inexperienced and is very concerned about her precious baby boy.

Alexandra (24) gave birth to a baby girl four weeks ago.  During the past two weeks it has been confirmed that Alexandra has an abnormality in one of her breasts.  An echography was performed and the results showed a mastitis.  Alexandra has commenced treatment but still suffers from pain and discomfort.  She has been referred to another consultant in Cluj.

Amalia (36) has a boy of thirteen.  Amalia came to our centre where we arranged scans which confirmed she is again pregnant. She has had two abortions in the past and confessed she does not want to give birth to a second child at her age.  Amalia was made aware of our standards on abortion during our counselling sessions, where she shared her fears of going through a pregnancy. She left assuring our team she would give the matter consideration.   Amalia has made a decision to keep her baby, as her son wishes to have a baby brother.   May the Lord be with her throughout these months and cause her receive this gift of life with joy!

Ana, yes, our Ana (four little girls), has been reunited with her husband.  Their oldest daughter has been diagnosed with cirrhosis.  Ana prayed that if her little girl would be healed, she would surrender her life to Christ. The miracle happened and the child has been healed.  Ana and her husband have surrendered their lives to the Lord and will be baptised together as a family, promising to turn their lives around in serving the Lord.  We give thanks to the Lord for their decision and pray for consistency in their young lives as a family. When I think back, Ana was forsaken and cast aside, left without a home, four little girls freezing as they walked the icy streets of Suceava. I recall precious friends in Limavady donating finance for Firewood for tiny toes and fingers to be warm.  Thanks to Calvary love, they do not live this way anymore.

Gabi Writes:

I am blessed to serve with you and thank you for working with me.  We are sisters together. Please continue to pray for our small team.

My precious friend Monika and I had a lengthy discussion on Friday.  We listened to one another’s words of concern.  I miss my times with my friends in Romania, but in being set apart for the past two years I have learned that to truly love the Lord, I must love my neighbour.  Choices can be made, decisions reached, work accomplished, but if I do not truly love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind, how can I love others?  Last evening, I was asked by a friend: ‘Shirley, why do you do this work?’  The answer is simple and easily defined in one word – ‘LOVE’. John 13: 34, 35 ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’.  

Our newest case study comprises of a father, mother and three children ranging from nineteen to nine years of age. The father has little or no memory of his childhood, having lost his mother as a young child; his adult life knows only trauma.  We, as a team at Casa Grace are unsure of the circumstances but can identify he is filled with anxiety, fear and darkness; there are no happy toddler memories.  The ability to face the outside world of employment seems quite impossible.   The dark shadows of fear are real.   Occasionally the family have frequented the Hungarian Baptist Church where Monika worships with her husband and two daughters.  But it is a rare occasion. 

We have been contacted by a member of staff responsible for teaching the youngest son (9). The little boy has noticeable delays in learning and would require and indeed benefit from the support of a specialist. We will proceed to move forward with enquiries.  As an introduction, Monika has contacted the leader of the Hungarian B.C. Children’s Club and together they plan to help this young boy to slowly move forward.  Slow steps of encouragement is all that is required to help him develop and identify his learning skills.  The oldest child, a girl of nineteen, is extremely shy and suffers from a form of autism but has a genuine desire to learn.  We plan to come alongside her to help her gain confidence in herself and accept her capabilities.  The mother is totally unqualified but willing to work.  She presently holds a cleaning position in a Kindergarten, functioning under the umbrella of the Reformed Church.  They recently moved to an old property, located in a pleasant area of Romania which benefits from being within walking distance to schools etc.  The house is in much need of repair; however, the family remain positive. We try to encourage them and tell them of the One who is and will be their strength in every circumstance of life. The monthly food and hygiene support from our Feeding Programme is essential for them, but more importantly, it is real evidence of God’s love for them as a family and that they matter to the Lord.   

In Oradea, the effects of the war continue to hit; the blows are hard and unexpected.  This month, every home and business received backdated electricity bills; the recalculated amount was four times higher than last year. It is difficult for the poor families to accept that each month the costs for food and hygiene items are rising. Since January, oil, pasta, flour, sugar has increased by 80% and still has not reached its limit.  Smaller factories are forced to close, as the selling market and raw materials are severely affected owing to the war.  Previously, I wrote to you regarding Ana from Stei, her two daughters never knew the comfort of a bed and how the Lord met the need through a brother and friend.  Ana has been made redundant, as the small factory where she worked was forced to close. We are now trying to source alternative employment for Ana, otherwise she will be unable to provide food and clothing for her girls.

The students continue to attend classes, taking pride in their achievements and working toward Graduation Day. Dana and Stefan remain totally committed in training and in sourcing job opportunities.  Their main aim is to instruct the students in the ways of the Lord.  

The twilight fades for many marginalised children. Orphans without a home, disabled and down syndrome children receiving life-changing therapy.  Abandoned babies, who do not know the love of a Mum, or a much needed ‘cuddle’.  Dora is committed to build bridges of hope.  Today, Brother Allan Hopper took another consignment of Pampers, Tena, baby wipes to the transport company travelling to Romania.  To us these are basic items, yet totally unavailable in Romania.  Will you build bridges with me?

Mariana waits for her appointment regarding further surgery and treatment.  She is anxious yet tries to display a positive attitude.  Her days are days of exhaustion and when all the seven children are tucked in bed Mariana is alone with her thoughts, trying to remain positive and hopeful.  Her oldest child (Mariana) received high grades in her final exams. She must now decide her choice of High School. It is encouraging to see that she is motivated to learn as her desire is to become a doctor. The young pastor from another village is faithful in his visitation; as yet Mariana has not committed her life to the Lord. 

The effects of the war are hitting hard.  Before the current situation in Ukraine, the surrounding area of Poroskova barely existed, living in the depths of poverty where basics such as clean water were a luxury.  Conditions are beyond words.  Another trip is planned for early July when clothes, hygiene products, food will be taken to them.  The team at Casa Grace have been sorting and packing boxes.    ‘Give us this day, our daily bread’. 

Monika writes: We are nearing the end of June and with the support of Tell Romania we are able to bring hope and light.  We pray for our families to be saved. We are so thankful for all of you who are supporting them through the Feeding Programme, enabling them to have food and clean clothes and houses, as we seek to also show them the way to Him. God Bless You and Thank You.

 Another month of pain that words alone could not describe.  Disturbing situations and circumstances, bringing me many sleepless nights.  The ‘facts’ written are real and these I hold in my heart with a prayer of thankfulness to the Lord for what He has given to me.  We may not all be called to suffer where life has brought disappointment, betrayal and loss; where distressing and unexpected circumstances erupt, leaving a path of suffering with a trail of bitterness behind.   The stormy seas of doubt have brought gale-force winds of hopelessness.  Yet, hope is all they have, a hope that whispers softly; a hope that calms; a hope that can turn the raging tempest to a gentle wind of peace.  Even in this broken world it is still possible to ‘Be Still’.  As you read the contents, I invite you to take one of these needs, make it ‘your very own’.  They need hope – They need you!

‘BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD; (Psalm 46: 10)

Shirley, June 27, 2022

42B Bernice Road, Co. Antrim. BT36 4QZ

‘Love’s Chain Cannot Be Broken’

“If I fear to hold another to the highest goal because it is so much easier to avoid doing so, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” (Amy Carmichael)

I have been thinking about different women in the bible, women whose love knew the cost of emotional sacrifice; who, despite deep trials, loneliness and pain, possessed an inner beauty with a sweetness no fragrance could portray.  I think of these servants of long ago and feel privileged in knowing and supporting the special women who serve in Emanuel Hospice, Casa Grace and Iochebed. They are set apart in a service that certainly demands sacrifice. 

In this age of uncertainty, thousands of Ukrainian refugees, displaced marginalised children and orphans, the families of Casa Grace, the Roma families of Iochebed and the patients of Emanuel Hospice have choices to make and many fear the outcome where there may not be a tomorrow.  Their future has been taken from them, replaced with a hidden fear.  For them, it will take courage to love again.  Love has caused them to sacrifice all they once held dear.  I write with a startling accuracy that disturbs my peace; I have had to stop writing on occasions as I couldn’t continue. As I wrote, I felt the weight of despair, the sense of banishment and I wept. Real people who fulfilled the role of a son, daughter, husband, wife, grandfather, grandmother, babies … they are treasured by someone.  Elizabeth Prentiss wrote:  

‘If you could once make up your mind in the fear of God never to undertake more work of any sort than you can carry on calmly, quietly, without hurry or flurry, and the instant you feel yourself growing nervous and like one out of breath, would stop and take breath, you would find this simple common-sense rule doing for you what no prayers or tears could ever accomplish’.  

A little boy of seven has been filled with fear these past months knowing that life will never be the same without his beloved Mummy. He is afraid to attend school in case his Mummy would be gone on his return.   Since my last update, Mariaora’s condition continued to deteriorate and a few days ago the Lord called her Home. They have no father as Mariaora raised her children alone after the death of her beloved husband.  There are four young children now alone, left without a beloved Father or Mother.  Mariaora’s daughter, who has carried the burden of knowing her Mum would not recover, will soon celebrate her eighteenth birthday and will resume the full and total responsibility of caring for her three siblings.   Two brothers who suffer from tetra paresis, one who is permanently confined to a wheelchair and the youngest brother of seven.   Four young children sit in disbelief, the pain on their little faces is deep as they try to focus on a future without the security of a loving Mother.  They are comforted knowing that their Mum remained close to the Lord and has no more pain.  The reality of days, weeks, months, years ahead seem insurmountable just now.  We will carefully monitor this situation in a life that will be so different for these precious children.  We will also continue to ensure food is available from our Feeding Programme.  All that ever was will never be the same again.  Mariaora loved her children dearly and wanted to live.  It was not her choice.  The children mattered to Mariaora; they matter to the Lord; they should matter to us.

Today, I was reading the feeding of the five thousand and how there was still enough remaining to fill twelve baskets. I know the baskets were filled with crumbs but they were full.   The aim of my Feeding Programmes is to keep the baskets full to feed the hungry but also to feed the hungry with the Bread of Life.   I am challenged as I read: ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered’.   I never cease to give thanks for those who share my passion.  Children left without parents, elderly grandparents still mourning the death of their precious little Daniel and many more left only with the fragment pieces of what once was; the best is gone.  Help me to help them find the One who will never leave them.

Timotei diagnosed with cancer. Timotei’s brother (Florin) was in our care for many years; he has now relapsed. The family are totally broken. The mother is lost, no words would describe the level of her personal pain. Another family engulfed in the darkness of sickness, poverty with no hope to hold on to.  We know there is a hope that can lift a weary head and a hope that strengthens the weak.  ‘Hope in the midst of shadows. One of my husband’s publications.

The results from Kevin’s scan confirmed he has relapsed. There has been no positive response from the consultant as the team of doctors need to assess the next level of treatment which will involve a difficult procedure in the future.

A little boy of seven and a little sister of four hold the hand of their precious little sister.  They do not fully understand the reason Vicki (3) is unable to play with them.   The petals continue to fall from this tiny, fragile rose. Her tiny body knows only pain.  Vicki is unable to walk as the stages of advanced cancer attack this small and fragile frame.   Her condition is getting worse every day.  Her young parents are devastated, knowing the parting will be unbearable.  A young mother’s heart is broken, as her precious Vicki will never become an adventurous teenager; all that will remain will be three years of memories for her alone to hold. 

A message from Estera: Thank you for giving to these precious people through the Feeding Programme who have little or (sometimes) nothing to eat. 

As I try to continue to write, my heart cannot comprehend the disappointment, the testing, the weariness of the journeys of these adult patients.  Methinks:  I wonder how many tears have fallen?  How many tears remain undried?

Ramona (41) was diagnosed with cervix cancer one year ago.  She prayed that surgery would save her life. In consultation, it was confirmed that due to the growth of the tumour, lifesaving surgery was not a possibility. Ramona has five children, three girls and two boys aged between ten and twenty-one.  Ramona did commence chemotherapy, believing the Lord would heal her. Sadly, Ramona has lost her battle and was called home into the presence of the Lord two weeks ago, leaving behind her husband, and five children.  She prayed until her final breath the Lord would heal her.  The family are broken.  ‘Until that day’.

Florian (45) is a patient with tongue cancer. To sip a glass of water is virtually impossible as he has difficult in swallowing.  Florian is cared for by his mother who has many health issues herself.  The patient was raised in a family dedicated to the Lord, but always hesitated in making a decision to follow the Lord.  After this diagnosis which came suddenly and unexpectantly, he decided to surrender his life to the Lord. His mother is amazed how he rejoices through his pain and suffering.  I ask you to pray that Florian’s end of life will be without pain and the he will be promoted to Glory peacefully.  May his precious mother know strength. 

Ioan (90) is a patient with an exulcerated sinus tumour.  Ioan also suffers from dementia which is now in a very advanced stage. He has no living relatives with the exception of one niece who takes care of him. This elderly gentleman is in a state of unconsciousness and is mostly alone in his apartment.  The only people who visit are his niece and our Hospice team.  At times our team try to communicate with him but it is difficult to know the level of his understanding. We accept as a team this is one of the cases where it seems little can be accomplished but we know that Ioan is precious in the eyes of our God. As my tears fall for this precious elderly gentleman, please whisper his name in prayer.

Elena is a patient with gastric cancer, currently under chemotherapy. The treatment is very harsh; she has days in which she vomits most of the food she is able to consume. The Hospice team supported her during the treatment, trying to control the symptoms of both the treatment and the illness.  She is now fed mostly by perfusions which takes approximately three hours each day; her body is now refusing to process food.  

A message from AdrianaPray for our adult patients that we may minister to them with the love of the Lord.

Many of us are unacquainted with poverty and, for some, even suffering. The apostle Paul penned: ‘I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities.’ My adopted son, Andrei shared a case study with me; it moved me to tears: Andrei writes: ‘One of my students, Alex (16) is living with his mother and younger brother of eight and grandmother in Vigna, a village near Arad; the father left his wife and children. The elderly grandmother is ill and the only one working is their mother. Alex has hearing difficulties with a disability of being unable to wear hearing aids.  Their financial and social status is extremely poor. Alex is very careful with money; he purchased a photo printer to enable him to print photographs to assist in the financial running of this small village home.  He also works in the village cutting grass and helping where needed. Alex is meticulous and with every leu he spends – he does not spend money on what is not urgently required.  They live in a gypsy neighbourhood where their windows have been broken on many occasions.  They have had to replace the windows (yet again), invest in the building of a high wall with a video camera for protection.  This was not a luxury but an urgent requirement of safety for the family.  They have been forced to take a loan from the bank in order to proceed.  The father refuses any contact and does not contribute to the welfare of his children.  A gift we can offer is the promise of our gracious Lord that His grace is sufficient.  Pray Alex and his family accept this gift into their lives. I pray every day ‘Lord, teach me to love’.  If I am to truly serve, I must serve even the paths not of my choosing.  Let us show this young man the true meaning of love. 

A message from Pastor Andrei As the work in my home church continues to grow, the work of ‘The Farm’known as the Ferma Church weighs heavy on my heart.  Two young ladies and one young man from the church are working with children.  Every Wednesday approximately fourteen children gather. Their interest and enthusiasm to participate in the leisure time, learning Bible verses, singing songs and listening to the Word of God is encouraging. Thirty children also attend our weekly children’s meeting in Sofronea.

Last month I updated you regarding Andreea.  I quote: 

Andreea (20) lives in fear as a storm of oppression continues to sweep through. Iochebed paid for a recent scan which confirmed she is twenty weeks pregnant with twin boys.  Her tears were uncontrollable when she received the news as her boyfriend is refusing to support her. Andreea does not know how she will manage now that she has been scorned by one, she trusted and loved.  Yes, fear is real!  The following days were filled with oppression resulting in Andreea becoming ill and hospitalised. The doctors are now fearing the risk of an early labour which could present complications

Andreea now has given birth to twin boys, born prematurely with a lower weight than normal.  The condition of the babies is one of concern and they will remain in hospital for a long period of time.  Andreea sits alone in a dark corner of need.  Please pray that in her spiritual darkness she will find the One who can remove all darkness and give her a new beginning with her twin boys. 

Sorina has two children and suffered a miscarriage at the beginning of May.  She confessed on hearing the news of a third pregnancy she became upset as she didn’t feel ready for another child. The last child was born prematurely and had several health issues. Dark clouds of fear are covering her path as she feels the miscarriage is a punishment from God because in her heart it was an unwanted pregnancy. Sorina needs to be released from these thoughts that torture her weak mind.

 Claudia is Mum to two little girls aged seven and six. They are homeless and at present living in a shelter for homeless people.   She came to Iochebed totally desolate and two hungry little girls by her side.  Claudia had no means to feed her children.  As our team listened to her story, a hot meal was provided. The father of the girls deserted them; Claudia initially moved back to her parents.  However, they have only two rooms where her parents and her ill grandmother live with one of the girls.  We advised her to go to her village to search for a room or a house and we will pay the rent. After searching for a long time for even one small room, she went to the mayor who was unwilling to assist, refusing to become involved.  Please pray that God find them a place to stay together.

 Tabita (37) is a faithful mother to her four children aged nineteen, eighteen, nine and three.  She is now twenty-seven weeks pregnant, having previously suffered a miscarriage.  Last week, she had an ultrasound where it was confirmed that the fetus has malformations in the heart, brain, feet and a suspicion of Trisomy 18.  The consultant told Tabita there it is a high probability that the baby will not survive after the birth. Tabita is in total shock. Her trust is in God alone, praying and trusting the baby will be normal. 

Alexandra gave birth last week to her first baby.  A healthy baby girl weighing 7lbs 4ozs. Unfortunately, she has lactation problems. Alexandra wants to breastfeed but has serious pains caused by the wounds and feels overwhelmed. May God give her strength and heal her both in body and mind.

A message from Gabi: Everything is in His hands; we are glad to be together in this ministry with you.  May the Lord guide us together so that His name be glorified.  I am touched and I thank God for you and your heart that is always ready to help. 

As I share my next case study, I find myself asking the Lord to intervene in what speaks to me of ‘hopeless situations’.  Where shall I start?  Where do I begin?  During the month of May the poverty soared throughout the Roma villages.  Hard issues of life sadly are a day-to-day reality for these families who huddle together just to keep warm with little or no food or indeed furniture.  Perhaps a Mushroom field is as soft as a settee?  Monika felt so overwhelmed, Casa Grace transported food, hygiene, clothing, furniture, toys, pushchairs; the list goes on. The level of poverty is unspeakable. We decided to go a little further even into the neighbouring villages where many Roma families also reside. The poverty had to be seen to be believed.  Lack of employment but more importantly, the lack of the Lord Jesus in their pale faces and searching eyes.  We have also been contacted by families who were on our programme previously.  They are struggling with rising costs, medical problems where great expense is incurred.  No money for medication or much needed medical examinations.  As I think on these things, I feel uneasy and must continue to possess the awareness that there are those who know hunger and who live in fear of eviction.    Please pray that I may know godly wisdom and guidance as we together as a team prayerfully consider our next step.  

A message from Monika:  I wish I could greet you once again and feel your heartbeat.  I miss the light you spread to our families; you tread so softly. You are missed. We long to meet again.

A new family was recommended to our team at Casa Grace by a schoolteacher of the oldest daughter.   This family is comprised of two girls aged eleven and one.  Both girls have two different fathers. The mother drives her oldest daughter to school as she is unable to walk or be left unattended.  Her recent partner displayed signs of drug abuse. Therefore, the family were forced to move to another town where they were given the opportunity to live with a cousin of the mother.  A wise decision where both families could share the expenses of the rented apartment.  Sadly, the oldest girl is being abused at school by other children owing to her disability.  The team at Casa Grace have stepped in and funded Psychology sessions.  The reports have been encouraging as the young girl is making progress and beginning to feel better about herself.   In fact, we feel the mother would also benefit from Psychology treatment, as she maintains a distance from our team even though we are sympathetic to her situation. The father of the oldest girl is in contact but the father of the baby wants no communication whatsoever.  The mother was forced to use the majority of her maternity allowance in order to pay for rent and bank payments on a car.  The car is not a luxury, it is a requirement, as the oldest girl suffers from a severe back disability and must wear a special corset to enable her to walk.  Last month the family could not afford to change the garment as they had no surplus money. The support of food and hygiene products is a blessing to them. We pray there will be a change in attitude and that their hearts will come to know the Saviour.  

A message from Neli:  We miss you a lot, Mari and I send our love and entrust you into God’s hand. 

Dana, supervisor of the Vocation Training Room, is both imaginative and inspirational.  We have many students studying our three modules yet one girl has entered Dana’s heart.  Debora (17) comes from a large family of girls.  The family are modest in their dress with impeccable behaviour. Dana soon recognised Deborah’s ability and has made quality time for this young student.  Through her intense training Deborah is now able to make her own wardrobe and has assisted her family by making each one of her sisters a personal dress.  I received pictures of all the dresses and I was amazed at her ability, displaying modern designs of frills around the hems of the dresses etc. Sisters Berta and Dana are dedicated to train the girls and ladies.  All who enter the tailoring course are taught with attention to detail.   I pray as they minister practically and share the gospel over their ‘break time’ the Lord will be glorified.

A message from Dana:  I am thankful to the Lord for all our students.  I thank the Lord for using Sister Berta and I to impact these lives for His glory.  God bless all those who through Tell Romania maintain the successful running of this ministry.

I close with a heaviness of heart, all these pages represent real people, real lives.  I look back on my own life. Yes, there have been shadows, pain, loneliness, but I have known unfailing love and sustaining grace.  I know the One who is Saviour; Redeemer; Comforter, Healer; Provider and most of all – Friend.  Can we be a friend to One today?

‘Let us not be surprised when we have to face difficulties. When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow the stronger. Let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind that blows, but strong in spirit to resist.’

(Amy Carmichael)

Shirley, May 27, 2022.

42 B Bernice Road, Co. Antrim. BT36 4QZ

The Broken

Neither go back in fear and misgiving to the past, nor in anxiety and forecasting to the future; but lie quiet under His hand, having no will but His’ (H.E. Manning)

I find myself longing for a ‘quiet place’, a place where the Lord can read the perplexity of my heart.  The media brings to our attention disturbing situations, I listen, I think, but I haven’t been there!  Do I know the quietness of an empty house; laughter replaced by a deafening silence.  Unexpected events have changed my agenda, giving me time to examine my stewardship and commitment to those whose lives know only brokenness and sorrow.  They know not the true meaning of ‘quietness’ they have no ‘quiet place’, no home, they walk on, surrounded by shadows of darkness. They need a place of shelter, of rest, to be rescued from dangers seen and unseen.

Fear is real, in fact for many it is part of their personality.  Young girls living in life-threatening conditions, yearning to belong, to matter to someone, to know what it is to be loved.    I am reminded by the Psalmist that the Lord is our personal comforter through all the trials of life.  He is a God whose heart is filled with compassion, a heart that can provide an inner relief and a lasting peace as nothing else is able to do. 

Andreea (20) lives in fear as a storm of oppression continues to sweep through.  Iochebed paid for a recent scan which confirmed she is twenty weeks pregnant with twin boys.  Her tears were uncontrollable when she received the news as her boyfriend is refusing to support her.  Andreea does not know how she will manage now that she has been scorned by one she trusted and loved.  Yes, fear is real!  The following days were filled with oppression resulting in Andreea becoming ill and hospitalised. The doctors are now fearing the risk of an early labour which could present complications. 

Sabina yearns to be understood and accepted, she feels alone and unwanted.   One of her children suffers from a brain disorder, demanding twenty-four hours of careful monitoring.  Sabina came to Iochebed requesting a pregnancy test which confirmed she is nine weeks pregnant.   She fears this new life could be born with the same brain disorder.   Pray Sabina will be delivered from her overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks, placing her trust in the One who will deliver her from all fear.

 Paula (22) has a little girl of four years of age.  During the past four years she has suffered two miscarriages leaving her filled with the fear of loss.  She too came requesting a pregnancy test – Paula is seven weeks pregnant.  She confided that she fears the loss of a third pregnancy and asked us to pray for her. May God touch her young life and give her the assurance that: ‘Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul “Therefore I hope in Him!”’ (Lam. 3: 22-24)

Dina is one of our older mothers (40); she gave birth to a baby boy on 6th April 2022. During the birth she was very weak and feeling sick. After various tests the doctors detected a strong anaemia, giving cause for concern.  Dina remains in hospital for further investigations and treatment. She is unable to feed her baby and has requested us to pray, knowing the Lord is the only one who can lift the shadows of fear and discouragement.

Still, they come, those who live in the shadows trying to hide the scars of life.  They question: ‘Will it ever change; will I ever get things together?’  Pray that through the love shown by Gabi, Mahilia and Loredana, lives will come to know the One who can heal and restore the bruised, the broken.  He stands with healing hands outstretched.

UPDATE ON ISABELLA FROM GABI:

Isabella (14) underwent surgery on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.  She has now been discharged from hospital.   The heart surgery was successful by the mercy and grace of God.   Isabella, her mother and the entire family wish to acknowledge and thank all who donated to make the surgery possible.   ‘Thank You’.

Poverty is a form of suffering; many are tormented, worn out from anxiety and fear as they count their last penny.  I still envisage in my mind the image of an elderly lady trying to balance the essential grocery list against her urgent medical requirements. She was dying from cancer and had little or no money to buy her medication.   I had to ask myself if I do not love the poorest of the poor then how can I say I love the Lord?  As I quietly placed a gift on the wooden plank across her zimmer which acted as a table, she kissed the ‘plank’. Love is kind. 

Reka (10) is lovingly cared for by elderly grandparents.  They are a devout Hungarian family who take this role very seriously. Casa Grace was contacted by a teacher from her school stating that although Reka is learning well, they feel it would be vital for us as a Foundation to offer help and assistance to this family.  Reka’s mother relinquished all responsibility as she is in another relationship; her grandparents are her only family and have cared for her since she was a baby.  Reka suffers from chronic asthma and has many problems; her grandfather suffered a serious heart attack. Grandma, although in poor health herself, cares for a disabled person as their pension is insufficient. We viewed the case study and after all documentation was received, a decision to assist them was passed.   It was a moving experience for Monika to visit with them in their sparce, simple home.   Tears dropped onto the wooden table as they thanked us for the food and hygiene support. ‘When I was hungry ….’ Thank you for removing the blackness of despair, offering hope through your monthly support of our Feeding Programmes.   

Maria is in the twelfth grade and first in her class but finances fall short of requirements. As a family they live in a small house where conditions are totally unacceptable. It is in total disrepair and the conditions are unbelievable. Maria’s mother suffers from a severe disability, while her grandmother suffers from chronic depression and her great grandmother is also both very elderly and ill. Maria attends the catholic church. Her mother has lived a life filled with hardship and grief and although suffering from a disability in her leg she works part time. Grandma is grieving as her son lost his battle with cancer and her heart is broken. Her husband was an alcoholic and sold their apartment forcing them to move to this inadequate place. The great grandmother is very weak. Maria knows only sadness and has no stability in her young life.  What hope is there for Maria?  Her future is unknown, her days are consumed with sadness, poverty and uncertainty.  Will you reach out in love through the darkness to this young life?

Deep waters of hardship, hunger, pain, sorrow, weakness, shattered dreams and broken promises.  They need a sense of belonging. Pray that through the love shown by our team at Casa Grace, precious lives will know the true and real meaning of ‘belonging’.

My friend Dora has served hundreds of marginalised and unloved children who need to feel worthy of love and being loved.  She writes: ‘Working with abandoned children, children from the community with disabilities you come to know that apart from “professionalism” one needs to love.  Loving a special child is opening a door to them.  Patience and love will open a closed door of unacceptance to therapy; children who cry, vegetate, will see that love changes circumstances. Smiling, patience will improve their quality of life.  If no one else cares we care.   Not all children are the same or have the same potential.  A lot depends on the diagnosis, the time when they commence therapy and one must not ignore the genetic aspect. All of them have one special need, the need to be loved. It is good to take time to analyse that love is a requirement as is eating, drinking, sleeping. Love can change behaviour, a person and a life… Let us love in practical ways, not just by word.  Love can change the world; love can change those around us’.

The Vocational Training Room, under the excellent care of Dana and Berta, continues to impact lives and families.   Time and patience is a ‘must’ whether the module is beginner, distinguish or advanced.  The students are very interested and are making excellent progress in the field of tailoring and craft.   Many come from large families who feel privileged in being taught this vital skill, which enables them to make clothes for their siblings and the extended family. The girls are very grateful to the Lord for this opportunity.   It is both vital and important when one struggles to feed hungry mouths.

UPDATE ON MARIANA FROM MONIKA:

Mariana is waiting to be called for further tests scheduled during August.  Reconstruction surgery is postponed until all tests take place and results received.

The fear of sickness, death is a fear many harbour silently in their heart.  Fears differ as do people, since they come from different backgrounds and lifestyles.  I find it difficult each month to share the circumstances surrounding my precious patients (young and elderly) within the work of Emanual Hospice.  The pain in my heart is real and I pray that the sweetness of the One who is unseen will watch over the lonely, the frail and the dying.  Today is ours, but what of tomorrow?  For many their tomorrows are limited.

Last month we wrote: Nicolas (4) a new patient, also diagnosed with cancer. Pray for him, as he will require urgent surgery to remove a tumour. Further information regarding his condition will be confirmed following surgery and biopsy results.  Little Nicolas was moved to Bucharest where surgery was performed last week. Sadly, the doctors were unable to remove his tumour. They await biopsy results. Pray for his young parents as they struggle with the agony of waiting. 

Cornel (61) diagnosed with pulmonary neoplasm, is now in the terminal phase, cared for by his loving wife. He does not always recognise her as he also suffers from cerebral metastasis. He does not receive any income from the state.   They are part of the Tell Romania Feeding Programme.   This precious couple are so grateful for the food provided for them. No one should die alone, hungry and without love.  Thank you for assisting us in granting dignity to precious people during their final days.

Kevin is precious to many of you His MRI is showing a slow growth in the tumour and we wait in anticipation for a consultation outlining the next stage.   Kevin has been a patient of Emanuel Hospice since infanthood.  Gabi is concerned, please pray for her as she misses her beloved husband (Robi) and is fearful for the future. 

Lili (50) is a patient with gastric cancer and ileostomy. She fought the illness for several years; recently the doctor confirmed she will have no longer than three months to live.  Upon receiving this devastating news, she has fallen into a state of depression as she waits to die. Her faith in God is strong and she tries to accept that the Lord does not stretch out his hand of healing to all of his people. She confided in Adriana that one of the most difficult things will be to say goodbye to her beloved husband and her two children, Naomi (20) and Andrei (17). She is discouraged as her brothers and other relatives do not believe in God. The fact that she is not getting better has caused them to reject God even more. 

Julianna (58) suffers from cervix cancer. Her husband was baptised approximately twenty years ago, but she always delayed the decision. Since becoming ill, she has been tormented by her wasted years away from God and wants to be baptised. We pray her decision will be granted and that she will find forgiveness and peace. We also pray her two children will find their Lord in a very personal way and find comfort after the death of their beloved mother.

Stela (57), also diagnosed with cervix cancer, became sick following the sudden death of her husband three years ago.  Her son and daughter-in-law were baptised recently and Stela is not far from the Kingdom of God. Pray that she will eventually make a decision and lay her life on the Altar of Grace.  Pray as this illness evolves that Stela will come to know ‘The Lord is my portion’. 

It is with sadness and regret we find many of our patients only turn their face to God on their death bed.  May they know the true meaning of Saving Grace’ and true repentance.  Eternity is real. 

The refugee crisis continues. Our workers and volunteers are growing tired, yet the work is maintained. Monika and Gabi continue in their roles as Director of Casa Grace and Iochebed yet found the time to be involved in sending one tonne of food to the Ukraine a few days ago.  Pastors Catalin, Ovi, Andrei working as pastors also serve within the confines of their respective churches to care for the refugees.  Alex, taking food, medicine, clothing, bedding to Moldova.  Pray for them.

Catlin, a former student of my husband, in fact one of the first two students from Romania to enter the Irish Baptist College, writes: 

Nikolai pulled his car in front of our church building just as we were almost driving away after the midweek prayer service. He saw the banner and stopped to ask for help. He was exhausted and stressed after driving from Kyiv to Bucharest in order to help some of his children find their way into Europe. His house in Kyiv was broken into and he was now going back to his wife and other children. He was very thankful to be able to wash, sleep and eat in our church accommodation.  

Iacob and his son Eldar came to stay in our church basement from Chernovtsi while his wife and other three children were located in another part of the city nearer Suceava. He shared with us how God miraculously helped him cross the border and how grateful he is for all the help the Ukrainian people are receiving in Suceava. He also shared with us of the atrocities committed by the Russian army, some of which we found unbelievable.

One of our local Christian mayors organised a barbecue for all the refugees who were able to be transported to his location. After the barbeque they were exposed to the Gospel message preached by one of our guests. The Holy Spirit worked in the heart of at least one soul who came forward requesting prayer. 

The drama of many displaced Ukrainian families continues, as many are boarding the trains in Suceava in order to reach their destinations. Our prayer is that their final destination will be in the arms of our loving Lord Jesus, the only place where they can find real refuge and shelter.  

In response to my opening quotation from H. E. Manning.  May I with unhesitating obedience keep a quietness of spirit and whisper ‘Yes Lord’.

Shirley

42B Bernice Road, Co. Antrim. BT36 4QZ

Why?

Another month, another blog. Cries of sorrow and lives crushed by affliction, heartache and hardship cause me to walk another mile. My journey seems far from over!  One word dominates my thinking: Why?’    Irene Webster-Smith, missionary to Japan, took as her life verse, three simple words: ‘Everything by prayer’ (Phil 4: 6).  The Lord’s will governs all, events seen and unseen; the hush of silent Ukrainian refugees facing the unknown; the hungry, the unwanted and abandoned child; the widow; the dying. Regarded perhaps by many as ‘second class’ people, these are my neighbours; their scars have left a lasting impression on my heart and whatever I do to the least of these, I must do it as ‘unto Him.’. 

Hearts are broken, in fact, changed forever. The unending blows of the hammer are heavy as they pound unyielding strikes of suffering.  The wounds are raw and deep, physical wounds, wounds of a broken heart, wounds of fear, wounds of war that will never fade, even with time.  The silence of darkness is a reality as the forsaken and those facing impossible situations question: ‘Where do I start?’; ‘What shall I do?’; ‘Does anyone care?’; ‘All that ever was, will it ever be again?’.  I am reminded of the words found in Psalm 46: 10 ‘Be still and know that I am God’.  Yes, even in our restlessness, we must wait for the Lord, hope in the Lord and wait for the morning.  Morning will come.

Petals of suffering continue to fall, terminally ill patients facing their worst fears in loss of health, perhaps the loss of a loved one or even their own life

Falling petals

One little petal, Vicki (3) entered the care of Emanuel Hospice two weeks ago. She has advanced cancer.  A difficult and heart rendering decision has been made to halt her curative treatment; it is simply not working.  There are two other children in this family – a brother (7) and a sister (4).  Vicki is very small and fragile.  This precious little flower knows only pain as the illness has now spread throughout her tiny body. A little one of three unable to walk, when she should be creating memories during these formative years. I cannot comprehend the sorrow in the hearts of these young parents as they watch their little flower fade before their eyes. Her little eyes searching for answers and asking Mummy ‘Why so much pain Mummy?’  The evident parting will be painful for her adoring parents, Vicki is precious and dearly loved by her family whose path of suffering seems harsh and unending.  Next time you see a little one of three skipping, jumping, playing, natural for a three-year-old, whisper ‘Vicki’.

Mariara is the mother of four children. Her condition continues to deteriorate, so much so, she is now in hospital.  Her little boy of seven is filled with fear.  In fear of losing his mum, his tears flow and they are real tears as he cries: ‘Life will never be the same without ‘My Mummy’.’   

Nicolas (4) a new patient, also diagnosed with cancer. Pray for him as he will require urgent surgery to remove a tumour. Further information regarding his condition will be confirmed following surgery and biopsy results. 

In my days of sadness, which if honest are many, in my quiet moments I think of the little ones who are terminally ill and where for many there is no expectancy of life. Yes, it tears me in to small pieces.  I hold my precious friend Estera close in my heart and miss my visits with her to ‘My Children’.  God knows ‘Why’.  Faces come to mind; Damian was a precious little boy who died two years ago following a brain tumour.  He used to know it was ‘Sister Shirley’ visiting with Estera as when he lost his sight; he used the power of smell and always recognised my perfume.  His brother (16) was baptised yesterday.  Estera and I are thrilled Marco made a decision to follow the Lord.

One patient I will never forget is my friend Dorina who died leaving two precious children, Diana and David.  I still maintain my contact with David and Diana as they became special in my life.  Many of you will recall Diana milking the cows at 5am in the morning before boarding the bus bound for Oradea to attend school.  Diana was also baptised yesterday in their home Pentecostal church.  Diana has chosen nursing as her profession in memory of her darling Mum, I thank the Lord that through the affliction and loss of her Mum, Diana will be an instrument of mercy to many.

Kevin is waiting to be scheduled for surgery and Ella, our precious Ella, her young life is filled with pain and continuous struggle. A young teenager whose body is held captive by a raging disease. 

Jennifer has lost her beloved father.  Laszio, who was suffering from gastric cancer, died a few days ago.  Jennifer’s mother abandoned her family many years ago; therefore, she will now be in the care of her grandmother who shared with us that Jennifer is overwhelmed by grief. She constantly fears that something will happen to her grandmother and that if her grandmother dies, she will be totally alone in this world.  The grandmother is distraught, the last wish of her son Laszio before he died was to smoke one final cigar.  This thought is causing overwhelming distress during her time of grieving for her son.

Mr. Filip (67) – liver cancer and multiple metastasis. After he finished his chemotherapy, a metastasis appeared on his ribs, he required immediate radiotherapy. Soon after, another metastasis appeared on the sternum and on his lower back. These are very painful, and because of the metastasis on his lower back, he is unable to sit on a bed or chair for more than a few minutes. He constantly walks around the house and sits only to rest for a few minutes. He endures many sleepless nights trying to find a position in which the pain is bearable.

Elisabeta (62) – tumour localized on the left part of her neck. The tumour has exulcerated causing extreme pain. Elisabeta also suffers from dementia displaying many episodes of anger, verbally assaulting nurses and refusing to co-operate with them.  Her sister called requesting help from our Hospice team because Elisabeta is constantly left alone. Her carer does not take proper care of her. 

Love has many price tags, some of little or no value. Such are the price tags placed on the abundance of children with disabilities. Dora, who is a team member of Casa Grace, has one hundred and seventeen children in her therapy classes. Sixty-seven represent families from the community and fifty orphans.  New cases are mostly Autistic and Down Syndrome children with many of our families representing children displaying both disabilities. Without the service offered free by Casa Grace, these children would not have the opportunity to attend therapy classes. 

Dominic (20 months) is one of our Down Syndrome babies.  He has eye deficiencies and is totally dependent on his mother.  He becomes very distressed during therapy sessions. Our aim is to decrease his total dependence on his mother, and through the use of audio and visual toys cause him to become more independent, a normal and adventurous baby boy.

Sophia (2) Down Syndrome, is able to walk unaided if she maintains total eye contact.  We use her curiosity to help her explore the environment and form a bond of communication.

Elijah (3) was abandoned by the state system. He is underdeveloped and would pass for a baby of one year old.  He suffers from congenital Syphilis, and is mentally delayed, suffering from spells of pneumonia. He is able to walk with the aid of a stick.  Our aim is to use his audio attention to encourage him to crawl and to explore the environment to teach him the art of listening through musical toys.  I miss nursing him!

I never cease to be amazed at the mass colouring of yellow formed by the gorse blooming along the country roadside in Spring.  Gorse blooming from thorns, a harvest of wheat from grain… where there is injury, may I bring peace.

An elderly village lady whose dark eyes are filled with sadness is trying to grow flowers from thorns.   Her grandson was abandoned by his mother, left in the care of a father who displayed no love and offered no responsibility. Forgetting her own pain and sacrificing friends and home, this grandmother moved from Oradea to a village to a home in disrepair where she renovated one room, kitchen and bathroom for herself and her beloved grandson.  His father has chosen to live with another lady. What love this grandmother shows in making a home for a little boy who has only known seven years of existing in a wilderness. Many thorns have pierced his young life.  We as a team in Casa Grace prayed, knowing when God says give, there is nothing to lose.  But papers were a must, a first priority. Finally, documents have been received from the State to enable us to move forward with our two-year counselling and feeding programme.  The village home is sparsely furnished but spotlessly clean.  Perhaps for some, a place of nothingness?  Would I be prepared to live in a place of self-despair, in unfavourable conditions, intractable people, facing impossible odds?  The Lord can transform all human suffering into blessing.  Come with us, come and help us.

A quiet and peaceful family consisting of a mother, father and two daughters of fifteen and twelve years of age, living in a small one-bedroom apartment.  The mother donated one of her kidneys to her brother, resulting in numerous health problems with severe complications leaving her extremely weak, unable to work.  The father works full time as a pastry chef. Casa Grace has accepted this family into our programme as this family displayed courage during their time of health failure.  To receive food and hygiene is a blessing for them but we have a higher goal, that they will come to know the One who gives living bread.  Pray for the team at Casa Grace that they may know guidance and be able to give wise counsel.

David is a hard-working young man.  David’s mother was killed when he was very young and his father is in prison.  He, together with his brothers and sisters were placed within the Child Protection system. Life is complicated for him as he is on his own now and it is difficult to know his inner thoughts.   Our team at Casa Grace talk with him and offer support.  This week we installed a used washing machine into his one room apartment.  We wait in faith for a transformation in his life.

There are times when many feel forgotten, forsaken, when sorrow heaps into mounds of the unthinkable.  The point of despair is a constant road of suffering for:

Isabela (14) is the daughter of a lady who has been under the supervision of Iochebed for the past two years. Jasmina (mother) has experienced constant hardships of life, including the heartbreak of two unwanted pregnancies.  Isabela has serious heart issues which require immediate heart surgery.  Last year, she went to a doctor for a consultation. The heart specialist works only in the private sector therefore surgery, medication and hospital fees must be paid. This family has no financial means to move forward for the surgery as Jasmina has five other children at home; the father is the only one working. We have paid for travel, consultancy and other fees to the hospital in Bucharest on three occasions.   After each visit, they returned home with a new set of tests also financed by Iochebed.  Once results are received and confirmed, Isabela will be scheduled for immediate surgery. We want to support them financially in travel expenses and other urgent needs. We pray that God will touch Isabela and that the surgery be successful. We look to the Lord to send the finance.

FOOTNOTE: An email from Gabi has just been received stating that Isabela has undergone heart surgery a few hours ago, she is in the ICU of the Marie Curie Children’s Hospital, Bucharest.  ISABELA NEEDS OUR PRAYERS.


Ana is a mother of five children where there are no seasons of joy in her life.  Spring time and Summer never come; it is always winter in her heart.  Her little girl of eight is ill, test results show cirrhosis of the liver.  Ana is filled with fear and uncertainty and has requested prayer for her little one.  Ana’s world has collapsed around her feet; her voice trembles as she speaks.  Pray the winds of faith will blow in healing and that Lord will touch her daughter.


Nicoleta (22) is thirty-one weeks pregnant. Recently she was told that the baby’s umbilical cord is twisted around the neck area. The doctor has advised it will not be possible to give birth naturally and they need to perform a caesarean section before term. May God comfort her and give Nicoleta peace.

 
Andreea (16) is a young mother with a five-month-old baby.  Andreea was unaware she was pregnant again and continued to do physical work.  During the night she miscarried; this occurred a few days ago.  Andreea is very young and frightened but is unable to go to hospital as there is no one to care for her five-month-old baby.  We have advised her to go to hospital but she is refusing saying she is feeling better now and does not have the money to travel to the city of Suceava. May the Lord protect this young teenager from infections and may she overcome the shock of loss!

The Baptist church in Sofronea where Andrei is pastoring has now resumed normal Sunday services within the church building with the orchestra and choir participating. They plan for the children’s meetings to recommence in the village. Pray children will come as the gospel story of Jesus and his love is shared.  Preparations are in progress to work with children linked to the Ferma church. A young lady has come forward requesting to become involved in serving the Lord.   Saturday outreach will be held every week. Pray she will be effective and consistent as there is a lot of ground work to be accomplished. These children are totally unchurched. 

Andrei continues to preach the word faithfully every Sunday.  Presently, preparation classes are being held for baptism.  Four people came forward in salvation and have expressed their desire to follow the Lord in baptism. We give God the thanks for his ‘tokens of blessing’.   Andrei and Ligia will travel to Sibiu this weekend for the Annual Baptist Conference, Andrei has been asked to preach in the Baptist church in Drobeta Turnu-Severin, a city south of Romania.  Pray for my adopted son that God will move in his young heart and make him a fisher of men.  May the catch of fish be in abundance as he throws out the net.

Lily had been in a coma since her car accident in December (three months).  She was transferred to a private hospital in Oradea.  In answer to prayer, Lily has resumed consciousness and is able to move her hands and feet.  However, she is unable to speak.  Her mother, mother-in-law are members of Andrei’s church in Sofronia.  Lily moved to Arad approximately ten years ago where she now lives with her family.  Her recovery will be long and closely monitored.  Pray for this tragic situation.

Many of you are aware, I have been writing a weekly report on the Ukrainian refugee situation.  Monika, Gabi, Pastor(s) Catalin, Ovi, Andrei and Alex, together with teams of volunteers continue ministering on the borders. Finance is transferred daily to secure the purchasing of medicine, food, hygiene and urgent requirements.  Speaking with Monika (minutes ago) I learned that Casa Grace have been requested to secure a place of refuge for a period of two weeks to accommodate fifty-two Ukrainian orphans. A secure place approximately fifty kilometres outside Oradea has been identified with stocks of medicine, food, hygiene and clothing ready and available.  I ask for your prayer support – appropriate papers/documents are causing a delay in this process.  May we know Godly counsel and wisdom in this matter. 

We may ask: ‘Why?’   God will explain ‘Why?’.  ‘I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness’.  (Ps 17: 15)

Shirley, 
Wednesday, March 30, 2022  
 

A vocation to love

A LOVE THAT KNOWS NO LIMIT:

Serving ‘others’:  Lately, I find myself taking a close look at my own personal service, reviewing the depth of my compassion.  For the first time in my life, I can honestly say, I am ‘deeply troubled.  Writing my blog highlights my own area of weaknesses. I feel helpless as I try to respond to the overwhelming needs.  I must not miss my purpose and so in faith I leave my feelings of inadequacy and weakness to the strength of the One who will never fail.  Thousands of Ukrainian people are crossing the border from Ukraine into Suceava where Iochebed is located, mainly mothers with their little ones. Christian volunteers were the first to welcome the refugees at the border, offering sandwiches, water, tea, coffee, bibles, free transportation and accommodation.  Many refugees have also crossed the border in other parts of Romania.  Romanian Christian families are opening their homes and assisting in every way possible.  

Note that this image is for illustration purposes only and is not from Romania or Ukraine

Pray for all our friends throughout Romania: Pastors; Faculty; Students; Casa Grace; Emanuel Hospice and Iochebed.  ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Matt: 25: 35). The proof of loving God is loving people‘LOVE’does not come with rules, it is not complicated, it is our opportunity to express the character and nature of our Heavenly Father whose ‘LOVE’ indeed knows no limit.

The quietness of the snowflakes falling in the early hours comforted me.  I watched as soft layers of snow formed a flawless white carpet.  Hours later, the perfection of flawless beauty had been marred by the scars of deep footprints.  In my January blog, I made reference to footprints. I pray as I write again this month that footprints of kindness will act as a miracle-working grain or seed that would germinate and grow into something beautiful.  My plans, once fixed, have changed; changed by Divine appointment.  My patients, families and children are who they are; they were not given a choice and accept whatever comes.  Life is for living; many barely exist, yet they manage to smile hoping with another day, things may be different.  Our Feeding Programme(s); Medication: Humanitarian Aid; Response to Crisis Needs are given in faith, believing that paths of suffering will become mountain paths filled with outbursts of beauty.  Time for me to return to my ABC(s) where lessons of trust, patience and expectancy will teach me the impossible is possible.  

Trials are not pleasant; life, whilst for living, can be grievous.  The smoking volcanic mountain erupts forming a heap of unimaginable pain and suffering.  We, as God’s children know the true meaning of ‘rest’ as found in Matt: 11: 28 ‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’.  The weariness of struggle is real and exhausting work.   How long?  Will my pain ever end?  The team of Emanuel Hospice offer palliative care to the terminally ill and in love share the gospel telling them that although they may not know what tomorrow may hold, they can know the One who holds tomorrow and that His grace is sufficient for them and that His strength is made perfect in their weakness.

SERVING IN LOVE:

The service of Emanuel Hospice springs from hearts that beat with ‘mission’.  A mission to serve in the spirit of love. Comfort and dignity is offered to those who struggle with physical, psychological, social and spiritual suffering related to terminal illness. All is freely given in the spirit of Christian love.   Thank you for your partnership which enables us to continue the feeding programme to the dying adults and children. Our team provide palliative care services for both adults and children in Oradea and rural areas with a capacity of eighty adults and thirty children.  Special cases such as our ‘Wee Ella’ who many of you will remember are monitored.  Ella is very weak at present, a young teenager whose body is wasting away due to the progression of her illness. Her brother Aurialian’s condition is more advanced, a young man in his early twenties totally dependent on his mother. With a true devotion, as a candle is consumed by the passion of its flame, may we be consumed to love and serve these precious patients.  Indeed, the heartbeat of our mission is to love and serve and remember those who walk a path of suffering.

Samuel (10) a new patient, diagnosed with tetra paresis. Samuel is one of four children and is lovingly cared for by his mother and father. They live in the dark corners of extreme poverty, existing from one day to the other. A family in deep need and in deep distress.

Marioara:  Widowed and confined to bed suffering from advanced stages of cancer. A CT scan has confirmed her illness has spread throughout her body.  Her young teenage daughter (17) quietly carries this burden of knowing her beloved mum will not recover.  She alone will have the responsibility of caring for her two brothers who suffer from tetra paresis, one who is permanently confined to a wheelchair.  Marioara is heartbroken, her children have lost their father and fears the outcome of her illness.   A cry from a heartbroken mum: ‘Who will love my children?’ The little boy of seven refuses to attend school fearing his beloved mum will be gone on his return. Marioara remains close to the Lord, knowing that the very hairs of her head are numbered and her name is engraved on his hands. Surround her with ‘LOVE’.

Pety (17) diagnosed with a rare liver disorder.  His brother died very young with the same illness. As his illness progresses, investigations will be ongoing to confirm if the illness is malignant. 

Marinela (Director) and my dear Estera visited the grandparents of little Daniel to offer emotional and spiritual support. Daniel’s grandfather’s pain is such that he is unable to communicate with Daniel’s friends.  The memories are too painful.  Through his tears he tells us that the Lord is everything to him as he is all he has now.  Grief is real, but God is the healer of broken hearts.

Ramona (41) diagnosed with cervix cancer one year ago, was anticipating surgery that could possibly save her life.  In consultation, it has been confirmed that due to the growth of the tumour, it is impossible to perform lifesaving surgery.   Ramona has five children, three girls and two boys aged between ten and twenty-one.  Adriana (Physiologist) is visiting the family to work with the younger children. Ramona will commence chemotherapy soon, believing the Lord will heal her. Ramona maintains care of the family home and her children, lovingly assisted by her mother.

Indrie Family:  Lazar, diagnosed with colon cancer, died last week.  His four children loved ‘their Daddy’ and he them.  He fought hard during these past two years of deep pain and emotional suffering, but the illness became completely out of control.  Adriana is also visiting this family to offer support to his wife, who is struggling to cope with the loss of her husband.  Her heart is broken because of the physical suffering she watched her beloved husband go through before his final breath.  Adriana is working closely with Sara (10) the youngest daughter of the family as she is deeply affected. 

Ildiko (66) unknown to her family this precious lady has been suffering from breast cancer for several years.   She refused any form of treatment until now; the tumour has exulcerated forming an open wound.  Her chest and torso are both affected, bleeding heavily and requiring clean dressings every day.  Our nursing staff are challenged as this is one of the most difficult cases they have ever encountered, 

‘WHERE IS LOVE?’

Eleanor Roosevelt penned: ‘It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know.  We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like calms in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death’.

                 Four ladies whose dreams lie in ashes.  Beautiful babies, children who lack security and wonder ‘will life always be this way?’.  They live in constant fear, the fear of tomorrow, rejection and of ever knowing the true meaning of love.

                 A few days ago, a bouncing baby boy (two months) was brought to Iochebed by the aunt of his young mother who suffers from schizophrenia.  After the birth she developed post-natal depression and remains in hospital.  Her fear is handling her heart, her tomorrow(s).  Her strength is gone as she has never known love.  This beautiful baby has no documents, no identity, therefore there are no benefits available. No mother to draw safe parameters for him, to guard or direct him.  Who will purchase dried milk, pampers, clothing?  Betrayed, bereft of love, alone.  A lost cause?   This is a challenge to love.  Love penetrates the core of hopelessness and mends the brokenness.

                 Five children pleaded with their mother to return home to live with their father, insisting she would ‘try again.  Roxana was forsaken and left totally alone, a lady who has only known extreme hardship.  In fear and for the sake of her children she agreed.  She is pregnant again and fears the future.  Her previous births have all been difficult and the memory of raising her children, perhaps alone again, overwhelms her.  We pray the Lord will speak peace to this searching and aching heart.  We pray Roxana will be able to carry the baby full term.

                 Elena has three children of eight, seven and three years.  She came to our centre requesting a scan which confirmed she is pregnant with her fourth child.  Elena was distraught as she is extremely poor and cannot afford a fourth child, so her first reaction was to reject the pregnancy. During our counselling sessions we outlined that at six weeks the baby’s heart is beating and when we asked her to look at the images, her heart was clearly moved and with tearful eyes said she wishes to keep the baby.  Another challenge to love and support this gift of life.  Iochebed will be able to support this mother through the practical and prayerful support of those who stand with us in Tell Romania.

                 Lucia has three children (one year, ten months and six months).  She also came to the centre requesting a scan which again proved positive.  Lucia was shocked and shared her fears of caring for a fourth child.  Her husband is ill, requiring surgery.  He does not have insurance; therefore, they must pay for hospitalisation, surgery, treatment etc. He is unable to work and they barely manage to survive.  She told us her three little ones were hungry especially the baby as she had no food at all.  Our team are amazing in the giving of their time, love and patience. Lucia has made a decision to keep her baby.  We at Iochebed will support throughout the pregnancy and after.  We will also meet urgent medical needs.  BUT we can only do this because YOU care.  May the Lord bless you for standing with us in the work God has called us to do.  We serve as one.

                 THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE:

‘O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!

Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!

Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love

Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

                 I find these words incredible, praying for such a love to be cultivated within me.  I think of a small team of ladies in Casa Grace, whom I am privileged to call friends.  Different personalities form our female species, all differing as individuals – there is the Mary and the Martha.  The small team of Casa Grace touch many lives.  Dana in her role as Supervisor of the Vocational Training Room, teaching three different modules each year.  Ladies travelling from villages, young adults, all eager to learn where modules from beginner through to distinction are taught.  Elisabeth (22) is one of fifteen children, taking the third training course which is the most advanced module.  She lives 70 kms from Oradea and travels four hours to take her module in Casa.  She lives in a small village and attends a local village Church with her large family. Elizabeth discovered her ability to create skirts, shirts, blouses, hair accessories etc.  She purchased a sewing machine and started out on a new venture.  Now, she has many clients, mainly from the church as they require modest dresses. She has become part of our family at Casa Grace, attending twice weekly until the completion of her final module, when she will graduate.   She displays a good attitude towards work and works with great urgency.  She is thankful for the opportunity she has been given to go through all the stages to become a seamstress of excellence.  Dora, bringing sunshine into the darkness of our Kingdom Kids based within the Orphan Centre.  Monika, Berta, Cornelia, Marilena trying to gain an insight into the struggles and emotions of social cases who form the desperately poor.   These people are friendless and alone, I call Monika a ‘nest maker’.  Every knock on the door of Casa is a knock for help.

                 Before any family can be accepted on to our two-year Feeding Programme, an initial evaluation takes place.  Monika forwarded pictures of two families who have submitted applications.   I scanned the images, the only thing of beauty I could see was the beautiful winter sky.  The contrast within the two village houses was unbelievable.  Lives without the Lord, lives filled with misery, sickness, poverty. We are so thankful those of you who support our three Feeding Programmes.  It does change lives as during the two years our team offer counselling and management advice.  A lady who was on our programme is now in a position where she is assisting in her Roma village.  God’s love changes lives. 

                 There was no sink unit, table, chairs; the food cupboard was a shelf with a few jars of pickled winter vegetables which is normally placed on bread as the main meal of the day. This family has started attending a Pentecostal church.  Although the snow had passed, the torrential rain was a battle.  The village is far removed from the main road and this family walk one hour to a train station in order to come to Oradea. The mother is from a Roma background and unable to read or write and has been diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes, her long-term diagnoses is grave as she is in danger of becoming blind in both eyes at any time.  Each morning in the darkness of the early morning she walks her young daughter to the train station, repeating this one hour walk on her daughter’s return from school. During the day she tries to find work (cleaning and preparing chickens).  Her son was born with health issues and remains very weak; however, he is studying at University in order to become an Accountant.  Home is literally an ‘empty shell’ but it is spotless.  We decided two months ago to take this family on to our Feeding Programme, offering hygiene products also.

                 Knowing there are situations filled with a darkness that is totally black fills me with despair but with your help, we can offer ‘hope’.  Let us together bring the dawning of a new day.  Hold the value of ‘LOVE’ in your heart.

                 DO YOU KNOW, YOU ARE LOVED?

                 Oswald Chambers wrote: ‘The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us and talk to us, but those who live their lives like stars in heaven and the lilies in the field, perfectly simply and unaffectedly.  Those are the lives that mould us.’  As I read these words, I think of my adopted son Andrei, who is seeking to excel in his ministry as a young pastor, but who is not blinded to the broken and shattered lives around him in the surrounding villages near Sofronia where God has called him to serve.

Andrei is filled with a passion for the lost, teaching religious studies in the village schools and coming face to face with extreme poverty and brokenness.  Young children are running to the safety and warmth of school, escaping from an environment where parents display abusive behaviour.  A tiny figure of a little boy shivering with fear greeted Andrei – he has just witnessed another disagreement between his parents where his father abused and hit his mother.

Two other school children, seven and sixteen years of age, coming from a poor village, forced to live with their grandmother as their parents are divorced.  They are so gentle with a beautiful nature.  We may be strangers to such living conditions but they do exist.  I shudder to think of the many ‘steps and stairs’ I used to see huddled in the corner of a one room wooden shack – this was home.  Today, a disused train carriage is home to many!  They survive from day to day on a diet of emptiness and longing.  Our service should radiate from a flame of passion; if even only a flicker it should burn with a holy flame of love, love for those perhaps we class ‘2ndclass’. Love, in its true meaning is unknown there.   The world is dying for words of kindness; it appears to be a lost art.  Andrei is consumed with a passion for these children who are without identity. They are simply leaves, rose petals that will fall and blow away, never to be remembered.  Can we remember them?  Can we love them?  A small church with five members, namely: ‘Ferma’ which is ‘The Farm’ has been formed. Only love can change and rebuild lives.  ‘There is nothing so kindling as to see the soul of man or woman follow right over the edge of the usual into the untracked land – for love of Him, sheer love of Him. (A. Carmichael).  Together, let the flicker of our candle light their darkness

‘When God overcomes our difficulties for us, we have the assurance that we are engaged in His work and not our own’ (George Muller).

Shirley, Sunday, February 27, 2022

42B Bernice Road, BT36 4QZ

FOOTPRINTS OF SUFFERING

‘WALK WITH ME’

Footprints in the sand
Footprints in the sand

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.

‘FORSAKEN’

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.  

‘IMPOSSIBLE?’

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

‘What might have been?’

‘But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God’.

The most wonderful gift ever given was the gift of Jesus to a world in desperate need of a Saviour.   Jesus is the true meaning of this blessed time of year.  For a child there is no other day as important as Christmas Day. As we grow older the glow and excitement of Christmas fades. Reflecting on the memories of Christmas past, ‘Wonderful, Counsellor’, ‘Prince of Peace’, ‘Unto us a child is born’, ‘O Holy Night’, still cause me to glow with excitement and thanksgiving.  This Christmas let us celebrate the birthday of the King.

The Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen, is famous for his fairy-tale, ‘The Little Match Girl’.  Glancing through the pages reminded me of the hundreds of children throughout Romania who shiver barefoot; those trying to survive on cold streets, families in remote villages huddling together for warmth, who have no money to purchase firewood.  December is cold; winter snow greeted my colleagues this morning.  January to March bring freezing conditions. The reality hit hard as I read an urgent email; one line read: ‘Sister Shirley, I do not want to place you under pressure but please can you help?’  At this moment I asked myself: ‘What might have been?’

I question my heart these days, asking myself ‘have I any need I cannot meet or that has not been met?’  Before you focus upon my short blog this month, pray that you will read with a heart tuned to listen.  Children, families with one moment of need, urgent need, real need.  The urgency of one is breaking my heart.  

Daniel (12) has been discharged from hospital today.  Home for Christmas but home to a freezing room.  An adorable little boy lovingly cared for by his devoted grandparents; to them he is their beloved son. Their daughter abandoned Dani after giving birth to him in hospital. Dani regards his grandparents as his parents. They are humble village people who barely exist from day to day as they are extremely poor.   Dani is now unable to walk; his cancer is progressing; he will not recover.  Once a month Dani is taken by ambulance to hospital for palliative care and chemotherapy. They have no money for firewood. A baby abandoned, terminal cancer, I do not know how long Dani will live. But for the remainder of his days, will you offer comfort and warmth in the face of such suffering, uncertainty and anxiety. ‘What might have been?’

Maria (59) was admitted into our care in early autumn. She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014 and went through several extensive surgical procedures followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Despite oncological treatment, the disease recurred with bone metastases.  Spring 2021, Maria’s weight plummeted resulting in physical weakness and lack of appetite. Further investigations confirmed the disease had progressed beyond any surgical possibilities. She was advised to have palliative radiation therapy.  After a few sessions, the radiotherapist told Maria it was futile.  Maria’s pain continued to increase through to the summer of 2021 with numbness in the lower limbs. She found increasing difficulty in doing any physical effort, including walking or standing; a CT scan showed a spinal fracture. She became increasingly bedbound until she is now paraplegic and immobilised.  Hopeless in front of the evolving disease, she returned home to live the remainder of her days with her family and friends. Maria is totally dependent on her husband and has lost the will to live. The entire Hospice team visit her, sharing hope and offering guidance.  God is in control of all that comes our way. Pray Maria will find him, know him and come to love him. ‘What might have been?’

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house ….’ We know this poem well. December 6th was St. Nicholas Day in Romania. Early in the morning there was a stirring within the three bungalows housing our adult orphans in the area of Cighid Forest. The excited throng hurriedly made their way to the front door to see if St. Nicholas had left gifts.  Bethany Baptist Church Knit & Knatter Group under the direction of Marion Morrow ensured all our precious treasures in Cighid were not forgotten.  How could I forget them?  I love them.  They were thrilled to receive Dolls and Cadbury Chocolate. The men decided to hide the bars inside their pullovers (good move methinks). The ladies proceeded to measure the dolls to ensure all were the same size!  We can smile but they are someone’s son, someone’s daughter. I miss my times with them and yes, constantly ask myself: ‘What might have been?’

The desolate, insecure and those banished from any form of privilege that was never theirs, need to feel loved and accepted.  Hos. 13: 5-6 ‘I cared for you in the wilderness, in a land of burning heat, as if you were in pasture.’  The team of Casa Grace are caring for families who live in the wilderness of despair.  Six hundred children will receive a shoebox filled with a little something to bring a ‘smile’ this Christmas.  Families will receive food and hygiene; the homeless who have traversed a hopeless terrain will be shown love.  We may never walk in their footprints; we may never hear their voice; we may never walk their way, BUT we can show we care.  

Mariana has finally received a date for her surgery, January 9, 2022. Surgery will be extensive and she will be required to spend two to three weeks in hospital.  Mariana and her seven children will open their shoeboxes in their new home.  A first for them. Last year was open fields.

Eight thousand bible stories (Hungarian) in DVD format are on route to Romania, for the Hungarian Baptist Churches ensuring that thousands of children will not feel forgotten. Tom Patterson made many journeys to Tesco to secure the total sum of forty-one banana boxes. Seventy-two shoeboxes provided by Monkstown Baptist Church under the direction of Natalia Montgomery have arrived with Pastor Andrei, Sofronea. Another two boxes from Allan Hopper are on route.  Children and elderly are remembered.  Thank you.

Children with disabilities are like a butterfly with one broken wing.  Beautiful as the other butterflies – they just need a little help to open both wings.  I thank the Lord for Dora and her love for the disabled and orphaned children, also the abandoned babies.  Therapy classes are essential.  It takes time and lots of love and patience.  Ruth Hanna through her knitting will provide ‘treats’ for the children who attend our therapy centre. Sweat Shirts were purchased by Mavis Patterson for those who come on these freezing mornings without a coat. Carol Williamson provided handmaid duvets, playmats all in beautiful colours.  One little boy, Florin, has stolen her heart as he has mine. He and his friends travel many miles to attend our classes, often arriving without a coat. Carol has ensured they will be warm this Christmas.  I smile as I remember ‘My Dora’ who still talks about her ‘Auntie Barbara’. Sisters Margaret (Limavady); Patsy (Lisburn) Sheila (Carryduff) knitting beautiful jumpers etc.   ‘What might have been?’

Christmas is far removed from many young lives; winter is the only season in their hearts.  Life is cold and meaningless for Sabina who has four young children, the youngest only four weeks old.  An unmarried mother with no food and living in freezing conditions.  Vasilica gave birth to a baby girl in September.  The father of the child has gone and she is alone.  Her father is unable to help as he is a widower and cares for his disabled son.  Isabela (14) has been diagnosed with a hole in her heart which is growing larger.  If she does not have immediate surgery there will be complications in her lung area.  She must travel to a specialist hospital in Brasov. Iochebed have paid for the transport but we are asking the Lord to provide the finance for her heart surgery.  Two unexpected telephone calls just now from Limavady and Monkstown areas, enquiring if Georgina has firewood for Christmas and which child needs a toy for Christmas.  This is what love does, it remembers another’s weakness and gives and gives and gives again.

Days of emotion overtake me at times, I feel everything depends on ‘me’.  How wrong am I in my thinking? Jehoshaphat resolved in his heart to seek guidance of the Lord.    I greet 2022 determined to dedicate the remaining years of my life to ‘try’ to accomplish the work I feel called to do.  My prayer as I enter another new year: ‘Lord, ‘If only I may finish my course with joy’.

Shirley, December 15, 2021, 

42B Bernice Road, Co. Antrim. BT36 4QZ.