Romania, once known as ‘the bread basket of Europe’ is a land filled with great suffering and pain. The once fertile ground lies barren and dry; the fields are ‘Empty Fields’.
A legacy of control resulted in thousands of orphans, children desperate to survive, many dying from disease and exposure. Winter in Romania is severe with cruel consequences. Sister Monika Mahr, Director of Casa Grace, (another ministry of Emanuel Baptist Church) leads by example. Her tenderness, love and devotion captivated my heart, challenging me to go where I never would have dared. Broken lives forsaken and alone, bound to a life of hopeless despair. Abandoned babies unwanted and unloved. Orphaned teenagers searching for a place of shelter longing for a place to call ‘home’. Disabled children needing to feel secure in the arms of love, the giving of our heart, a few moments of our time to whisper ‘I Love You’ is all they ask.
Casa Grace offer three arms of outreach:
Ninety families (within a 60km radius) receive support for two years. The circumstances of each family is evaluated and after a personal assessment by Cornelia (Social Worker) a monthly food provision is available for thirty families, material and financial assistance is implemented where required and carefully monitored monthly. Personal counselling, social, educational and parenting courses and support groups are included in this service.
Vocational Training offer skills in tailoring or computing, specially designed for those with no formal qualifications, the unemployed, assuring them their hope of a better future is achievable.
Kingdom Kids works with Orphans and Disabled Children aiming to improve their quality of life, fulfil their affection and emotional needs. Sister Dora works with each child (thirty minute therapy class), helping them discover and recover their own specific psychological deficiencies. The staff of Casa Grace reaches out in love to those who are desperate in this land of outcasts and strangers, unloved, unwanted, lives stricken by poverty and illness.
Through my brokenness I have gained peace knowing that the best bread I can give is ‘The Bread of Life’. Passion and Compassion can weave my heart as to that of the widow of Zarephath. She gave to a stranger and from very little. But what provision, what blessing resulted in her obedience to God.
In you I rest, in You I found my hope, In you I trust, You never let me go
I place my life within your hands alone, Be still, my soul
Being ‘REAL’ in our relationship with others makes a difference!
James emphasises this by asking: ‘Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do’ (James 2: 18).
My prayer as I reach out and touch lives is that my faithfulness to the gospel may be visible. Some memories already lodged in my heart: The lorry finally arrived in the darkness of a torrential rain storm, a difficult task in ‘sorting’. A treasured friend keeps reminding me ‘Shirley, measure twice, cut once’. And so the following morning Monika and I went to Casa Grace to ensure all designated items had reached their destination. As I entered the building an elderly gentleman sat patiently waiting for the I T class to begin. I extended my hand in greeting, ‘Buna Dimineata’, (good morning) a smile filled his face and I was aware of a very special grace as he replied (in broken English) ‘my name is John’.
I was to learn John’s wife died from cancer twenty-three years ago leaving him to care for his daughter Dora who is now thirty. Dora has no coordination skills or control and requires twenty-four hour care – bathing, dressing, feeding. Their low income makes it impossible for John to purchase extras (vital items) diapers, creams to prevent nappy rash; these take priority over food, rent, utility bills. FOOD is a luxury.
John touched my heart. I wondered why an elderly gentleman was attending an I T course? I knew he had previously enrolled in the Sewing Class of Casa Grace and completed his six month training course. This was to enable him to sew for neighbours to obtain small amounts of money to buy food and the necessary requirements. He enrolled in I T to learn how to go ‘on line’ at Emanuel Baptist Church in Oradea (where he is a member) so that Dora could listen to the services as it is impossible for her to be taken on long journeys.
I longed to meet Dora and so arrangements were made for me to visit their home which is quite close to the University Campus. The memory of my afternoon with Dora will live in my heart. Dora knew I was coming and when she heard my footsteps shouted from the small room, ‘Dora is in here, Dora is in here’. ‘I know, I am coming’, I replied. Dora loves to talk about her books, crayons and just loves ‘hugs’, she is adorable.
God made a way where there was no way. Dada (as she affectionately calls him) had no means of taking Dora outside. Lorry 13 contained one wheelchair (donated by a gentleman in Limavady Baptist Church), this is ‘Amazing Grace’. John knows the secret of ‘a very special grace in times of trouble, a very special grace to see him through, a very special grace to heal his heartache’. I was the one who came away blessed that afternoon or as my husband asked last Sunday evening while preaching in Mierleu ‘Did I go out the way I came in?’ Methinks not!
Monika just called ‘Sister Shirley, I must tell you this before you leave, John was attending his I T class and told us every morning Dora ends her prayers by saying ‘Lord, thank you for my sweeties to-day’. A few minutes later she asks ‘Dada what time to-day for my sweetie?’. How can I ever be the same? Dora has reached and touched my heart.
Another day, another challenge!
A single Mum, (possibly early thirties) and two beautiful children with the darkest eyes I have ever seen. They reside in a rented bedsit, basically, one room only, the space so confined there is no room to play, but this is the only accommodation they can afford, it is warm, cosy and better than walking the cold, lonely streets of Romania. Yet as I talked to the children I detected a sadness in their quiet, childlike answers. Yes, a tiny room lacking the many comforts of this life yet filled to capacity and overflowing with love.
It is difficult to find work, suitable hours – these two little lambs are her life, no sacrifice, no price to high for she loves to the utmost. Her monthly income for the entire family is £173.00 = £39.93 per week for three people. How could she manage to send her children to school? Friends paid for the children to attend school but the utility bills – heat, light, water kept increasing resulting in large debts. Food again a luxury. A decision had to be made and so in January 2015 they came to Casa Grace – yes ‘The House of Grace’. After a personal assessment they received help in accordance with her social conditions. Receiving food, hygiene, used clothing and help with other needs as required. Their two years will soon end.
It is getting late and darkness falls suddenly in Romania, but I have one more visit: N0, not another story BUT reality. Another single Mum (thirty-one). Is it one, two or three children I see? Yes, three. The oldest a girl of ten and two brothers aged eight and six.
The family of four rent a tiny room within a large house with many rooms. The kitchen and bathroom facilities are shared by every family residing in this towering block. Sister X came from an extremely poor family being one of sixteen children. Her life was difficult and she decided to leave in the hope of finding security and became involved with different partners. Alcohol, lack of work, abuse, made it impossible for her to build a stable future. All three children have different fathers.
Longing for a better life than she had known, she did not want her children to grow up feeling unloved, unwanted and tried to keep her family together; but all her dreams, hopes, ambitions were in ashes, the future looked bleak and impossible. There was not enough food for one, two, certainly not five! No other choice could be made and although broken-hearted she had to send (as happened during the Communist years) her two oldest children (aged four and two) away from home to a Hungarian Orphanage many miles away where they lived permanently for SIX years only returning home at School holidays.
In June 2016, dysfunctional behavioural patterns became apparent in her two older children causing fears ‘what of the future?’ Distraught and in her distress Sister X decided to take her two children back home. All three children now attend the same school in Oradea. It is clear the six year separation deeply affected the children as they have fallen behind in their schooling. The youngest child devotes a lot of his ‘play time’ to help his older siblings with ‘homework’ (he was only a baby when his brother and sister were sent away from their home).
Their monthly income is very low, working from 6 am each morning cleaning stone stairs in different blocks of flats, carrying buckets of water up the steep staircases, her monthly salary is £175. Based on her salary and the State Allowance for the children, the total amount of income is £240 per month – for five people!
The price of love meant loss for a season, yet her gain is a greater love than she has ever known.
My final update from our six week Mission Trip. We leave Emanuel University at 4 am (your time) Friday morning. My writing has been from my heart, I have felt the pain, seen the need. wrestled with my emotions as I have mingled tears with smiles.
The wise may bring their learning, the rich may bring their wealth,
And some may bring their greatness, and some bring strength and health
We too would bring our treasures to offer to the King.
We have no wealth or learning, what shall we children bring?
What shall we children bring? Some may have wealth, fame, or perhaps for some our fortune can be carried between two fingers. Two fingers? Yes, all she had was ‘two mites’ yet she loved so much, she gave. We have One who loved so much He gave.
Why A Feeding Programme Appeal for 2017?
A remote village, there in the corner of a humble home, a little girl of twelve lay very sick. Her tiny frame, almost invisible, lovingly watched by her brother. This ewe lamb is unable to speak, eat, her weight loss excessive, I thought my heart would break in two. My own silence was deafening as I questioned, why was I hesitating, was duty not calling? How great was my love, my zeal for God? Would I give? Give my heart? What will be waiting on my return with next month’s food?
Cries of help from the starving, hungry and needy are knocking at our heart’s door; will you open? Will you give your heart to the homeless, the hurting? The dying?
Please help TELL ROMANIA to give a portion of bread to the Children of Romania.
David here: Shirley has an A4 poster that includes photos of those mentioned in the blog (used with permission from families and Casa Grace. It is not suitable to insert into this blog but is added as an attachment to view, download and perhaps use on your church noticeboard. Thank you.