‘Never did His love begin and never can it cease.  It is from eternity and shall be to eternity’. (C.H. SPURGEON).

Autumn in my heart is a season of sadness.  I watch the leaves fall; their season of beauty has ended yet the breadth of sprawling roots firmly established over a long period of time determine their growth will remain. For a few of our Hospice patients their season of beauty is fading and may soon end.  The devotion of my colleagues as they faithfully plant deep roots of assurance, of peace and rest, assures our patients that the Lord is and will be with them in every season and that every circumstance is known to Him.  The storms of life will not overwhelm them.  Pray for my colleagues as they speak words of comfort.  Let us always be sensitive to our conscience and minister in love.  Loving God is loving one another.

Erika, a young patient with a melanoma and multiple metastasis is a very special young lady who hides the scars of her illness behind a smile.  She is finding it difficult to breathe as her lungs are impacted as a result of the progression of her illness. From the outward appearance Erika looks young and healthy, one would be unable to recognise how gravely ill she really is. With such bravery she is in complete control of her own pain management, although due to differing medications it can be complicated.  Most days are spent working in her garden; she operates a flower shop from her home, selling fresh flowers from her own garden. In this way she can assist her grandmother to finance food, medication, as she too is very ill.  During the first visit of our homecare team, Erika shared with us that she is on a spiritual journey, trying to find something, someone that will give her hope. We pray her searching will end as she meets the one who will walk every step of life’s journey with her.

Dorin, a patient with colon cancer, has undergone five consecutive surgeries during recent months. As a result, he is very weak and becoming extremely frail. Still, in the midst of all of this, Dorin has faith that he will recover and return to his normal life.  Our team requires Godly wisdom in speaking with him as they endeavour to tell him the way of salvation. But also, in maintaining hope in spite of his terminal illness.

Raluca is the daughter of a patient we lost a few months ago. This precious young lady has lost both her parents through cancer, Raluca is now totally alone with no close family remaining except for one aunt and a cousin who are also fighting breast cancer. Raluca is overwhelmed by loneliness, dealing with suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. May she hear a still small whisper ‘take my hand, you are loved’ and find everlasting peace.

Love holds everything and everybody together’ (Col 3: 14) NLV.

Florica is suffering from lung cancer. Due to this recent diagnosis, she has now moved to the home of her daughter as she is in need of constant care. Florica shared with us that she has never been ill throughout her entire lifetime; now the thought of not being in control of personal matters, or to be able to manage things by herself, is daunting.  The prospect of death is a reality and making her very anxious and agitated. Her daughter told us that often she is walking through the house at night, restless, unable to sleep, fearful of tomorrow and what the future may bring. May she as Raluca, hold out her hand to the One who knows everything about her and who loves her unconditionally.   The Word of God is filled with stories of love, yet this broken world is dying from a lack of love.

Andreea (18) is a new cancer patient.  Her condition is now terminal and she is lovingly cared for by one of her sisters.   This family faces deep pain and hardship as Andreea has another sibling who is very ill; an exhausted mother takes care of her.   It is a very touching situation; the family have endured hardship and suffering and are in the depths of despair.  Seasons of the heart are changing rapidly in this precious family.  The autumn leaves fall quickly as Mum cares for one daughter while another daughter cares for her beloved sister. Andreea is deteriorating rapidly.  This mother’s heart must be broken, knowing she may lose both her precious daughters.  Exhausted, at the close of a day, yet accepting without complaint, there is courage required as the dawn breaks for yet another new day.  With all this in mind, I pray the Lord will speak words of comfort and that His peace will calm this overwhelming storm. ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness’.  (Lamentations3: 23).

Ismael has been in our care for many years. He has undergone multiple bowel surgeries during his young life. The family live in a small town but within the Roma community. As their family grew, it was evident the season of change had arrived. During one of their mission trips, our work team extended their one storey, one room home by building a ‘loft’ in order to facilitate their growing family.  But one ‘dark eyed toddler’ entered my heart – Ismael.   I have watched him grow and mature into a fine young student.  His weight loss is a cause for concern; he also has an ongoing worry and struggles with his colostomy bags. He was one of the children who attended our Hospice camp recently. It was his first time he was able to attend. Estera was overjoyed as she watched him play as a normal child should during their recreational time.  Presently, we are sourcing appropriate medical items suitable for Ismael. 

Ianko (14) is sinking fast, as his condition continues to deteriorate.  He has tetra paresis. Each breath is now a constant struggle even with the support of an oxygen cylinder.  Lanko is now fed through a feeding tube and has another tube inserted to drain the infection from his lungs.  Every day is increasingly difficult for his grandmother; she herself is ill, many seasons have come and gone in her life, this is now a season of sorrow.  Lanko is treasured by his grandmother; she cares with him from a heart overflowing with love. This aged lady gives and gives and gives again without complaint.  There are no rainbows in her sky, no bright tomorrows. Soon the winter season will arrive; she will be left alone in the coldness of sorrow.

Many think their situations are hopeless.  Nothing is impossible with our God. May these precious patients, young and old, their families, our team, know a peace that passes all understanding. 

In this hustling world where many are measured by their ‘achievements’ in life, we encounter those who simply fall short of what they feel is expected of them in order to be accepted. Lives engulfed by a feeling of worthlessness, enslaved by a wasted life filled with wrong decisions, resulting in tragic consequences.  They found no loyalty in the love they chose, yet they hope against hopelessness their seasons will change. Our faithful team in Iochebed tell of a love that is beyond all, a love that will never leave or forsake. Still, the season of hurt remains, it is still winter in many broken hearts.  The look on the faces of little children as young mothers come asking for food and basic essentials; these little ones are hungry!  Where is the spring, summer?  The autumn leaves fall throughout the year followed by a harsh and relentless winter. We welcome those who come, telling them they are loved, loved with a love beyond all.  A bewildered look follows as they whisper ‘But who am I, really, even me?’.  God’s love is limitless and remains, yes, even in our failures. The hymnwriter penned so truly: ‘The love of God is greater far, than tongue or pen can ever tell, It goes beyond …’

Alina (23) is fearful as she anticipates the birth of her child next month. Her joy is overshadowed by the fear of giving birth naturally. During a recent consultation with her obstetrician, she inquired regarding the possibility of a caesarean section; this was not an option.  Please pray Alina will find peace and accept the benefits of a natural pregnancy/ birth, may she gain strength and confidence which will enable her to welcome her gift of life into her longing arms.   

Georgiana.  I have written about this case study on many occasions.  Georgina has two young children; her husband was under house arrest, but is now serving the remainder of his sentence in prison.  A lonely and distraught figure appeared in the doorway of Iochebed where Gabi welcomed Georgina and her children with open arms and a hot cuppa. She was clearly in a state of panic and came pleading for help.  She was asked to leave the house of her husband’s parents.  She and her children have returned temporarily to her father’s home but this is ‘temporary’. Gabi spoke lovingly to her, assuring her we will assist during this period when she is striving to exist from day to day. Our feeding programme will supply food and hygiene, baby clothing, pampers, dried milk. Certainly, winter in Georgina’s heart, help us breathe fresh air into this season of dearth when all the leaves are falling, help us counsel her in such a way her strivings will cease.

Maria Tabita (18) is twenty weeks pregnant.  A young teenager worn out, struggling to understand ‘why me?’ A young life that should be filled with the joys of spring is gripped by fear of her future.  Maria Tabita is unable to attend a hospital as her identity card has expired, resulting in the fact that no consultations, scans, medical tests etc. can take place.  Her parents have distanced themselves from their daughter owing to her decision to abandon school and move in with her boyfriend.  Annie Johnson Flint wrote a poem ‘The Double Clasp’ Verse 1:

The Saviour’s hand – how close its hold. That none can loosen, non can break,

No powers of heaven or earth or hell. That loving clasp can ever shake’.

This young lady needs to place her hand into the hands of the Lord who can intervene in this situation, mending the brokenness of relationships, the healing hurts, bringing restoration, resolving the identity papers. Many bridges seem to have fallen; pray for our faithful team in Iochebed as they repair and built brokenness. 

Gabi writesWe are so grateful for the honour of serving together.  I thank the Lord for every person who has opened their heart to the pro-life ministry in Suceava, helping families to have a better life, helping sick children and parents who are overwhelmed by their inability to provide a decent life for their families. This month, we helped many families with school items, enabling children to attend school. My dear ones from far away, thank you for your kindness and for your choice to be part of God’s story we write every day in Iochebed.

I Cor 7: 32 ‘I want you to be without care’.  Yet our team in Casa Grace deal with case studies on a daily basis who know nothing else but the anxiety of poverty.  Many living in shelters for the homeless with no prospects of a little corner to call ‘home’.

The summer season has ended in Romania with September 11th hailing the first day of school.  One of the most difficult situations for single parents is a child without appropriate clothing, shoes, backpacks filled with stationery also a small sandwich box containing sandwiches.  Without these ‘essentials’ a child cannot attend school.  This is applicable from Kindergarten to Grammar school education.  Many of our Roma children love to learn but more importantly they want to be accepted.   Speaking with Monika today, her words to me and I repeat:

Sister Shirley, this would not happen without your Feeding Programme, the hygiene products we purchase and your allowance for packed lunches are a must.  It is not only the warm meals and clean clothes you make possible, it is also the evidence of God’s love.  May the Lord bless all who support you in this ministry, the Feeding Programme, filling backpacks, providing shoes’.

How can we not care, how can we not remove the struggle of mental anguish?

Samuel (12) lives in a small village with his mother, sister, grandmother and aunt. His father abandoned his children when they were babies, leaving his wife to care and provide for the family. His aunt works as a cleaner, his beloved grandmother is totally paralysed, requiring twenty-four-hour care.  Samuel’s mother has full responsibility for her mother and is her sole carer.  It is tiring and indeed difficult to provide twenty-four-hour care when you have two children to support and ensure homework is completed every evening. Samuel’s behaviour is exemplary and he displays a desire to excel in his studies.  The family attend a local church, Samuel confided in Monika during camp he is thinking about salvation.  Being Samuel’s first time in Casa Grace camp, we identified his sadness as he expressed his sorrow in lacking a father’s love, questioning why he abandoned him.  He is filled with anxiety as he watches his beloved mother try to find resources sufficient for each day.  And yet, as a team, we were encouraged to see that he is really searching for the Lord.  I pray the love and care you give to them in supporting our Feeding Programme will bring them closer to the realisation others care and Samuel will come to know his Heavenly Father.

Gabi (11) is extremely intelligent with impeccable manners.  He speaks English fluently and has attained excellent grades in school. Unfortunately, he was born with a dislocation in both hips, also excessive brain fluids, his condition was not diagnosed until it was too late for treatment. He is very attached to his mother who has experienced great sadness in her life.  Her husband died of cancer when Gabi was young. She herself is ill and has suffered deep depression which resulted in a dependence on alcohol. The wider family try to support Gabi and his mother as they are in need of care and protection.  Gabi would not receive nutritional food to nourish his frail body without our Feeding Programme.  Your faithful monthly support is placing food on their table.  It grieves us that his mother is not open to learn the story of Jesus and His love. She recently received a diagnosis of liver cancer and is presently undergoing investigations to assess the stage of her cancer.  A lot for an eleven-year-old boy to process ‘Who will care for me?  Who will want me?  Will I be alone?’  There is something special about the word ‘touch’.  To touch with compassion, with empathy is to speak peace to troubled hearts through seasons of darkness.  

Natalia accompanied by her two children travel many miles to Casa Grace to receive from our Feeding Programme.  We are unable to visit with them in their home as neighbours ask where and how do you receive food packages?  One can identify the fear in their eyes as they receive from our hand.  The family are far removed from God, yet were content to send their two youngest children to Casa camp. They are humbled by our support, as it provides food on their empty table and sandwiches for their five children to take to school. This case study came to our attention through the schools the children attend.  All the children behave well with the exception of their daughter.  The five children comprise of one daughter and four boys who all suffer from various disorders.  Our team at Casa Grace are in the very early stage of processing and identifying the problems of the oldest boy (15) who, it would appear, suffers from autism. The Lord is able to take negative lives and turn them around in order to make something beautiful.  May all our families remove the dark threads from their tapestry of life and sew silver and gold to make ‘something beautiful’.

As I conclude this journal of my heart, I am deeply moved and humbled by your support enabling the continuance of our three Feeding Programmes.  While in many parts of the world others have nothing and their store houses are empty, because of you, we can offer hot soup to the elderly, a small packed lunch for children to take to school. Much of the ministry of our Lord was around a table or feeding multitudes on a mountainside.  Jesus said: ‘I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6: 34) NIV.

As Spurgeon said, ‘Let gratitude be awakened; let humility be deepened; let love be quickened’.

Shirley, September 26, 2023      42B Bernice Road, Co. Antrim. BT36 4QZ