The dawn of hope

Hope itself is like a star — not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity,
and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon

From the study window I could see the crisp copper leaves blowing everywhere, a day of howling wind and driving rain.  My dutiful husband was trying to ‘contain’ this amazing ‘flight’ into one corner of our garden.  I made my way outside to assist and was struck by the crunching sensation beneath my feet.   One friendly leaf touched my face on its journey in the wind as if to say ‘catch me if you can’.  I immediately thought how often I overlook the simple, ordinary, everyday things of life.   Nature; Sight; Hearing; Feeling; Laughing; Touching; Taste; Love.  The Dawn of Hope?   Every field needs seed; the secret behind the survival of a delicate snowdrop; The timid little robin red breast or the determined magpie. My moment of quietness was quickly interrupted with news that the city of ‘ORADEA’ has now been placed on ‘RED’ alert.  Covid-19 numbers reaching an ‘all time high’; 3% of people infected in other surrounding cities and counties.  Hungary is closed; Hospitals have reached maximum intake with seriously ill patients being transferred to Timisoara, Arad and Cluj.  Food restrictions result in price increases; factory closures; unemployment; universities, colleges, schools closed; funeral restrictions; curfews; the inadequacy of resources.   I think of those who sit alone, hungry, the elderly walking the empty streets in fear, queuing for food in order to survive. If I am not careful, I will allow circumstances, events, people, feelings even pain to impact my life. But then my beloved friends in Casa Grace and Emanuel Hospice are suffering, a small number of staff in isolation, with remaining staff continuing to serve to the point of exhaustion.  I can hear the tiredness when I speak with Monika and Estera and it hurts.  These are times of testing but more importantly, trusting.  Psalm 33: 20 ‘Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield’.  When the Lord makes us aware of a need, he is offering us the opportunity to be a blessing by becoming ‘involved’.  May we embrace any assignment and pour in the oil of blessing.  

I have been trying to write my ‘blog’ for four days, this morning (day five) I decided (6am) to gather my thoughts.  I thought of the week past and the words of pain that entered my heart.  I remembered the words found in Neh. 1: 4 ‘When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and …….’ Tears have flowed, I am now ready to share my heart.

Isaiah’s commission from the Lord was to ‘Go and tell’.  ‘And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’  Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me’. (Isa. 6: 8.)  Covid-19 has brought change throughout the world; it happened quickly, forcing challenging times upon everyone.  Regardless of circumstances, disappointments, trials, we have the assurance that Jesus is our source of hope and in these days of struggle and uncertainty we are privileged to fix our eyes on him.  My lifestyle has changed but my vision remains unchanged. I am compelled, drawn by cords of love.  At present, my vision is costing me the high price of loving from afar. Challenges, obstacles, adversity are hitting hard but this vision is carefully invested, the best is yet to come.

Sobs with flowing tears from Lulian, (15), thirty-nine weeks pregnant.  The birth of her baby will be performed by Caesarean section; her baby appears to have many malformations, with doctors fearful for the survival of this precious life. 

Maria, (28), is a single mother. She separated from her partner as he suffers from drug addiction. After the separation she discovered she was pregnant with his child. In her panic, she wanted to place the baby for adoption but was directed to contact Iochebed Counselling Centre.  During this particular period, Suceava was a locked city owing to the pandemic. Gabi made many telephone consultations praying with Maria, supporting and offering advice.  Her mother died when she was very young, she is financially unstable, caring for an elderly, ailing father.  Matei was born on 19th October and she has decided to keep her baby and writes: ‘Thank you for not judging me in wanting to give my baby away, this was the hardest period in my life.   I look at my son and see he is unique and I could never give him up.  Thank you for your financial support, baby clothes and pampers.  Thank you, Thank you for everything’. 

Corina, (20), is a single mother with two children.  She is going through great hardship and deep poverty since her husband abandoned the family.   We have supplied clothes, shoes, food and dried milk, praying the Lord will replace the pain, insults, distress and suffering with a deep sense of his peace.

Ana is now in Germany for two months; her four daughters are in the care of her sister.  Ana requires a financial deposit to complete the contract on her two-room shared property. Tell Romania forwarded finance to cover legal expenses and Gabi will continue to provide food and clothing for the children.  Sobs of weakness, cries for help penetrate my heart. Through your support we can give practically; through your prayers we believe that others will be brought to faith and a peace that will surpass all human understanding.  As we receive from your hand, we are enabled to give to others.

An unwelcome ‘Season of Waiting’ is the unwanted visitor for many in the land of Romania.   ‘RED ALERT’ has removed every anchor of hope they desperately cling to.  Winds of doubt and fear blow fiercely, robbing precious lives of security, expectations, possibilities – all replaced with an overwhelming sense of low self-esteem and hopelessness.  Roma people walking, travelling from villages to Oradea to beg for bread, searching garbage dumpsters, unaware, oblivious of the meaning of ‘infection’.  Those living on the hillsides are hungry and hunger knows no boundaries.  There are no sanitary or washing facilities, they wander the hillsides aimlessly.  The sight and sounds of the hungry are real, perhaps difficult to touch, to feel, to love.  In the words of our Lord: ‘If just a cup of water …’

The number of cases continue to rise in Emanuel Hospice. The situation is alarming as new patients continue to come, placing the team under enormous strain.  Over one hundred and thirty have died. Covid-19 is now infecting our terminally ill patients, resulting in the nursing staff forbidden to enter these homes until the fourteenth-day isolation period has passed.

The Toma Family continue to love and serve the Lord; they have known much tragedy, yet their faith remains unwavering and steadfast.  Their young son, Alex, was struck by a hit and run driver and remains in a permanent coma.  He has suffered pneumonia twice during the pandemic; doctors feared he would not recover.  Sister Toma is physically and emotionally exhausted as he requires twenty-four-hour care.  Larisa was full of joy after her week in the mountains with her sisters at the Emanuel Hospice Camp.  Suddenly a car mounted the pavement; Larisa spent many months in hospital undergoing many surgeries, resulting in a partial leg amputation.  Their focus is not on heartbreak or devastating loss; the Lord brings meaning to their heartache.

Bogdi is a precious young boy who spends 99% of his time at home, without opportunity to go outside.  He is vulnerable as his rare disease affects his lungs.  He is lovingly cared for by his mother, a very fragile young woman who is totally exhausted.  They are not a Christian family but open to listen to the message of the gospel.  At times, she begs us to pray with them, especially for her treasured little boy.  Hospice life is a life of committed service covering many areas.

Elizabeth (53) is a relatively new patient who suffers from Uterine cancer.  She suffers from panic attacks especially in the night and is unable to sleep as she is fearful of death.  At times her depth of despair is so real, she refuses to eat and her young daughter feeds her.

Ionut (22) suffering from Muscular Dystrophy, is permanently immobilised in bed. Ionut (John) inherited this disease from his mother, they live alone, totally isolated from the outside world with only dogs and cats for company.  Anca and Ionut grow weaker each day.

‘For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in’ (Matt. 25: 35).  A distraught father, walking the streets of Romania in search of food for his eleven children, came to Casa Grace.  ‘I hear this is a House of Grace. I have eleven children and my neighbour twelve. We are without food and our children are hungry’.  As I wrote on Tell Romania Facebook: Who is my family?  Who is my neighbour?  Am I my brother’s keeper?  This is love in action; without your support, the feeding programme could not continue.  We are a family, reaching out to touch lives bereft of hope.  His car was filled with food, clothing and hygiene products.  Thank You.

Florian and Lidia have two children a daughter (17) and a son (16).  They are a Christian family and live in a derelict communist flat; conditions are totally unacceptable.  Yet this is ‘Home’ and an upgrade from the cold streets of Romania.  Lidia has been suffering for the past ten years from renal insufficiency and requires dialysis. She is a very sick lady yet always manages a smile of welcome.   The doctors are limited in their treatment and she would require the opinion of a Renal Consultant.  

Thoughts are ever with the dying, hungry and those needing constant care even for basic necessities, emotionally dependent on human kindness.  The need within a prominent family in the Hungarian Baptist Church, Oradea. Is overwhelming.  The father recently buried his eighteen-year-old son at noon and his mother at 2 p m. His sister is fighting for her life in a Romanian hospital.  Psalm 73: ‘Whom have I in heaven but You?  And there is none upon earth that I desire beside you.  My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever’.  

The homeless beggar (50) found by the wayside dying from terminal cancer was offered a warm, comfortable room for his final days. He preferred the damp, freezing pavements of Romania all for the craving of a cigarette.  He died alone.  (July blog) This world is filled with uncertainty and people’s lives are shattered; we all need hope, regardless of status or circumstances.  These hurting people need to find the One true source of hope that will never fail!  Jesus.

My scheduled call with Monika was a breath of fresh air to me.  We are sisters, we are friends and there is a shared bond of love evident in our conversation.  We had our moments of sadness but one of joy as Monika told me of her visit with ‘Our Dora’ a few days ago.  Many of you have come to know and love Dora.  She is so special and endears herself with her humble and unassuming personality.  Monika had brought a banana box filled with gifts with special ‘trinkets’ chosen by Auntie Barbara. ‘BUT’ and I repeat ‘BUT’ wait for the response: ‘Sister Monika, it is always lovely to see you and I do like to see you but I would rather see Sister Shirley if you please.  She is my friend and if she cannot come to see me then I will go to see her.  She always sends me lots of nice things so I will ask my Dada’.  Monika turned to wipe a tear when Dora shouted from her little kitchen table (where she spends her day).  ‘Dada, can we travel to see Sister Shirley, my birthday was in March and I am only receiving the gifts now; she may have other gifts for me, please, can we travel?’  We did laugh together and if honest we cried together. You see, I do miss my home and I do wonder when I will see ‘My Dora’ knowing there are patients I will never see again.  I can only hope I have touched, felt and loved.

The centre where the Orphans, Disabled, Down Syndrome children come and Abandoned Babies live, has had to close as some staff tested positive for Covid-19.  Please pray for my friend Dora, Therapist from Casa Grace who works with ‘My Children’.  I call them my ‘Colourful Flowers’.  They remind me of the gentle winter Crocus; the proud Dahlia; the delicate Cyclamen or the thriving Begonia – these children are all different yet all survivors who have remained unscathed when disowned, unloved, rejected.  These are sad days in Romania; lives are wind swept; many have experienced sad farewells to those they love.  We are entering the season of Harvest. What am I sowing?  What am I planting?  Is what I sow growing?  Do the seeds I drop along the way reap for eternity?  May we sow to bring honour; may the harvest of our lives accumulate blessings for eternity.

The work of Emanuel University remains close to the heart of my beloved husband.  His desire is to equip young men for service and to strengthen the hands of the pastors throughout Romania.  ‘The Letters to Timothy and Titus’ have now been translated into Romanian, Hungarian and Russian. We are praying as to the way forward for print. ‘Glory in the Cross’ is also currently being translated into Romanian.  Hamilton’s desire is to gift each pastor, student with a personal copy of these books in their own native language. Emanuel University remains closed with the teaching given online. The Lord has also enabled us to provide the Atla Online Database on a one-year lease. This is crucial for the needs of facility and students who are working from home; important also to maintain Emanuel’s status as a University.  ‘Hallelujah, what a Saviour’ is a fifty-two-week study book due to be released prior to Christmas and the New Year, dv. In proof reading I not only found it inspiring, a personal challenge, moving me to express ‘Hallelujah, what a Saviour’ have I.

The Lord gifts each one individually to serve individually, yet, collectively we can serve as a mighty army. Let’s keep marching, let’s keep praying. I know many tears as I read of deep desolation. My sighs, though deep, have made me stronger. I find myself detached from ‘things’ that clutter.

Only a strong tree can withstand the storm; whatever your personal storm, remember: ‘He is still God’.  

YOU’RE STILL GOD

When all foundations have been shaken
When I’m left standing in the dark
And all I feel is my heart breaking
You still reign and You’re still God

And when it feels all hope has faded
The heavy questions hit so hard
And though my soul may feel forsaken
You still reign and You’re still God

Though I can’t see what’s before me
I know that I can trust Your heart
And this one truth will be my story
You still reign and You’re still God

I will declare that You are with me
Though voices whisper that You’re not
You’ll never leave me nor forsake me
Cause You still reign and You’re still God

Shirley, 31 October, 2020

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