‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ Matt 22: 39
‘Sister Shirley, where is love?’ This is one of the many questions I have been asked during the third week of our mission trip. How long should I keep on loving? As long as I have breath to love with my whole heart in serving others. In James 1: 27 we read that true godliness is ‘To visit orphans and widows in their affliction…’ The word visit means much more than just calling; it is used by Zechariah in Luke 1: 78 prophesying of the coming of Christ ‘The Sunrise shall visit us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death…’ I learn from this that the word visit means to minister in love, as Jesus did, sacrificing Himself for others. Love’s greatest example, giving all He had to give. Our love must always be sincere, patient and kind; we join our hands in the bond that ‘perfect love knows no fear.’ This is my service.
As I was preparing to leave for my visits on Monday, Hamilton asked, ‘Shirley, have you enough money?’ ‘I am fine, I have 20 Lei which will be sufficient to buy some black grapes for your breakfast tomorrow morning’ (no wheaten bread in Romania). ‘Please take this 200 Lei with you, just in case of an emergency situation you may hear of.’ ‘If it pleases you, thank you.’ I hurriedly made my way down the many steps and smiled as I thought of the heart and kindness of my husband, silently praying that I would have a heart of acceptance in the place God has assigned me to serve His people, a calling to carry the lost, dying, hungry. A small ministry but assigned to me.
As I looked at the broken down entrance to the back yard where a husband and wife occupy a tiny room, my heart sank. No health, no home, no food, no hope! As I entered, I tenderly sat down on the side of the bed where ‘B’ was lying, I kissed her forehead, noticing she had fallen and had severe facial bruising. She was pale and in extreme pain and through her tears she asked me, ‘Why is no one listening, why will no one help? I do not want to leave my husband just now. I know we are poor but I am human, I am a woman and only want to know if there is hope, but no one will help me.’ This adult patient is in the advanced stages of cervical cancer.
I turned to her husband who was sitting sobbing in a corner, ‘How much do you need for treatment?’ His answer: ‘200 Lei.’ Before you call, I will answer. (They receive from the food programme).
Sister ‘D’ welcomed me with her amazing smile; she had just celebrated her 45th birthday on Friday and was delighted a team from Emanuel Hospice came to make her day special. Diana and David were busy milking the cows, collecting eggs from the hens, digging the fields, while their father worked with the other animals. This is a normal routine; every day before leaving for school and returning from school, Diana and David work extremely hard. David’s tumour remains unchanged as does his amazing smile; both children are so kind and gentle.
Tuesday, 14th March, the day longed for by one special girl – ‘My Dora.’ The birthday girl was radiant and filled with excitement, her hair beautifully washed and her eyes shining with expectation. ‘Sister Shirley, you have come a very long way, but I knew you would come, because you promised.’ Because I promised! My word, my bond, assuring Dora that I would definetely come. How important is our word, our promise. He has promised never to leave us or forsake … a word of hope for the hopelessness and brokenness of many lives.
‘Sister Shirley, I love you because you are my friend. I don’t want you to leave as I will be on my own but I know you will visit me again.’ The operative word – VISIT.
Thinking of my next day, my mind reflected on Moses, a tiny baby placed in bulrushes. Esther, a little orphan girl with only her uncle. Jospeh, rejected, sold by his brothers, yet God in His plan and time exalted them all into roles of authority FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS. My day in the Orphanage was special. I played with Kingdom Kids and met many of my friends who suffer from Down Syndrome. Little ‘R’ saw me and kissed my hand, and as I played on the floor, yes on the floor, we had great fun with the other children who receive thirty minutes of therapy on a one to one basis. It was over all too soon and time to leave. As I walked down the corridor to the exit, I noticed two gypsy orphans in an adjacent room, I offered them an ‘Easter Chick’ donated by Agherton Parish Mother’s Union, Portstewart. They laughed and laughed and their wee faces filled with so much joy. Their dark eyes focused on mine as they gave them back ‘Gypsy boys do not get things for free, but thank you.’ ‘Of course this is free; this is for you and a little secret if you like chocolata this is scrummy.’ I quickly opened the silver paper from the Cadbury Cream Egg and left. I could hear their laughter fill the corridor. All the children received their Easter Eggs.
I had the privilege of meeting a family who attend Emanuel Baptist Church. The father is suffering from Cirrhosis of the Liver; his two sons nineteen and sixteen are mentally retarded and suffer from severe autism; they also have two daughters. They are extremely poor, yet the love, the joy of the Lord that filled that home was overwhelming. There is a peace filling every corner of their humble home. We chatted for some time and offering from the very little the family had, they provided lemonade and cookies. A father and mother who love until it hurts.
Two beautiful young boys aged five and three were waiting on the bed of a very tiny room within an apartment block of flats where four people live, eat, sleep… The grandmother works and takes care of her daughter and two young grandchildren as they have no home. The young mother has a mental disorder. Her husband was violent under the influence of alchohol and also gambled all their money; they were evicted from their home and live in extreme poverty.
Driving many miles the following day to Cefa where I met ‘V’ a tall young man (18) suffering from stage four Leukemia. We chatted with his family who consist of father, mother and three younger brothers. This Romanian Orthodox family are poor and appreciate so much the love and support given by those who have provided food through Give With Your Heart Appeal. Treatment, hospital admission all cost money, money they do not have.
Quite close to Emanuel University, we decided to make one last call before returning to campus. A young boy of four ran down the hall to meet me; he was talking and talking about his Daddy who would soon be coming to take him to play football. But Daddy will not be coming as Daddy died seven weeks ago with throat cancer, a young man of thirty four, a professional footballer. His young widow is working in Austria to try to support the family, leaving her young son in the care of his grandmother. There is no money to pay the rent. Again my heart sank; to lose your husband, home and leave your child behind … how quickly the scene of this life can change. As I spoke with the grandmother, I felt her pain; tears ran down her face, as she showed me photograph after photograph of her only son. Her face pale, her eyes red and swollen from crying, without hope. She has lost her son and is now losing her home – where is love? They too are an Orthodox family. I read the Word of God and prayed with her. Again before leaving she quietly asked ‘Please will you come again, I do not know where I will be living but please do come.’ I promised (I must keep my promise).
The prophet Isaiah extends an invitation ‘Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink, even if you have no money, come’. God has promised He will provide all we need, not one penny more, not one penny less, just what is needed. My obgligation to those who do not know the Lord is to TELL THEM. Tell them there is a Saviour who has forgiveness for our sins, whose word is rest, whose eyes of mercy will always watch over all our tomorrows.
This past week, I have seen the darkness and depression that surrounds so deeply that they feel no light will ever penetrate their dark tunnel of despair. I have seen, I have touched the very point of their pain, I must follow my heart. Give With Your Heart appeal has enabled Tell Romania to provide food and ‘To God Be The Glory.’ The need of hospital treatments, scans, medication, rent, a family of six without a washing machine… I pray the Lord will show His love in enabling that ‘little extra’ to be prayerfully used according to His will and direction. A washing machine in Romania will cost approximately one hundred and forty pounds.
I think of the abandoned baby unit where Casa Grace minister day by day; tiny babies who have never known love or been lulled into a bond of security. Two Rocking Chairs would be their ‘chair of hope’. I would love to sit in a rocking chair with my little Adam. May we learn the secret of discerning the burdens we are to ‘carry’ knowing that He will teach us what to do and what to leave for others.
Place your hand in mine as we pray for these needs
Shirley, 18 March, 2017