The Lamp of Life

‘You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven’. (Matthew 5: 14 – 16).

January, the beginning of a new year.  What lies ahead?  These opening words from Jesus have vigorously stirred my thoughts, why?  There are those whose life is much darker than mine and it hurts so much each month as I shut myself away in my study to ‘try’, yes, I say ‘try’, to place my heart on paper. Operative words such as light, hidden, shine, impact my heart telling me the lamp of my life must shine.  As I chat with my colleagues throughout Romania, one thing is clear, we do choose where and when to shine the Lamp of our Life. It must shine when needed; perhaps it will be required in the unpleasant areas of life, places the ‘nobodies’ of life call home.    The Lamp of our life must shine into hopeless circumstances.   Abraham Lincoln said during the Civil War: ‘I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.  My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day’.  A still and silent darkness fills the air in villages where ‘lost lives’ struggle, where young girls face the fear of unwanted pregnancies.  I have known, I have seen indescribable pain, suffering and loss, yet how poorly the world measures loss.  Cruel consequences wound deeply, leaving ugly scars of reality.  Yet, there are those who suffer in silence, behind a closed door.   I recall one occasion, entering the home of an elderly gentleman. As I knelt beside him on the unkept floor, he clasped my hand tightly and smiled; for one moment in time, he was a ‘someone’ not a mere ‘nobody’.   I was not in a preferred surrounding, indeed one rather different, yet it was one of the most humbling and life changing experiences ever known.  As I left, he lifted the one and only egg gracing his empty cupboard, offering it to me as a ‘thank you’.  There are no words?   ‘Let your light so shine before men …’  As I pondered these verses it spoke to me of my personal responsibility, my character rather than my works.  Mum used to sing ‘Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the wave……’  I can hear her say ‘Shirley, always be sure your lamp is trimmed and burning’.My reply: ‘Mum, really’.  Methinks my reply would be somewhat different today.

Twenty-one days into the year 2021, the lives of seven children have changed forever. The mountains are rough and steep, not for the faint hearted and certainly not for children.  It is a journey of unending pain and tragedy which will affect their formative years. There are no beautiful trees or towering cedars in the small village, home to Vasile (4), Valentina (6), Remus (8), Sorin (10), Gabriela (11), Mariana (13) and Marian (16) Their Mum, Mariana (38) has undergone surgery resulting in many complications.  She is in urgent need of blood transfusions if she is to survive.  The villagers have placed an urgent request on a web page for blood supplies. We really do not know the impact of such pain, we have all we need and more. Tell Romania have supported this family with food, hygiene, household items, clothes and backpacks since the death of their father, after battling cancer.  Their village home burned to the ground; now their one and only priceless possession, Mum, is very sick.  How can I enter into the thoughts of these precious darlings, my heart breaks as I think of them wandering through the village?  Are they hungry, are they cold?  Who will care?    Amy Carmichael wrote: ‘There is nothing so kindling as to see the soul of a man or woman follow right over the edge of the usual into the untracked land – for love of Him, sheer love of Him.’ The words of Jesus speak to me when he said, ‘Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain’ (Matt 5: 41).

Sister Toma accompanied by one of her daughters has taken her little boy Alex to Tirgu Mures.  Alex has been in a coma for four years following a car accident; his body, muscles are wasting away.  Although exhausted and fearful, Sister Toma maintains her constant trust in the Lord for the future days.  The long journey was difficult for Alex, his temperature remains at an alarming level, he needs our prayers.

Single fathers, single mothers, without home, possessions, food, forced to live in the original Orphanage now a State Social Centre for outcasts, families at risk, where sadly cooking is not permitted.   Two examples of families there are registered on our two-year Casa Grace Feeding Programme: 

A father with a young daughter (6).  The little girl is very sick, the father must remain at home to care for her.  Without an income or salary, there are no resources for rental accommodation, food, clothing, so they are forced to live in the State Social Centre. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a now familiar famine to many lives.  Unemployment, food shortage, price Increases … the famine in these lives is real and many go hungry.  I thank the Lord for enabling Tell Romania to feed the hungry, care for the dying.  Our well will never run dry while the Spirit of the Living God continues to flow through His children, offering ‘just a cup of water’ from his plentiful supply.

A mother of three young children, two girls aged ten and six, one son of four years old.  They too are forced to live in the State Social Centre.  The mother is unable to work as she must care for her children.  The father has spent all the income on alcohol and his gambling habit.  He is unemployed and therefore unable to pay child support.  During 2019 a fourth child was born, sadly the little one died, aged four months.

Fathers, Mothers, Elderly, the Young come with faltering steps reaching out of the depths of their helplessness. They have no one; they have no place to run; they are imprisoned within the walls of the circumstances of life.  They are the ‘nobodies’ of this world; they come to Casa out of utter desperation, knowing they will not be turned away.  They feel accepted but more importantly, they know we care.  Thank you for caring, thank you for shining your light before men.

The Vocational Training Room continues to grow from strength to strength with many on our waiting list.  My dear friend Berta wrote, sharing with me regarding a young lady who was one of our students.  A young single mother who after the witness and gospel outreach shared during our Coffee Break decided to keep her baby.  She made a special visit to Dana and Berta introducing her new baby boy.  Ladies come from far and near villages. The State is impressed by the modules set and achieved – we serve a God of excellence.

An email from Sisters Neli and Mari received just now is worth sharing: Sister Shirley, thank you very much, because of your support we can help these families and accept new ones. Thank you for the money for food specifically and for your prayers for these families. Thank you to all your friends who are involved in this ministry. Please pray specifically for them in order to be saved and to know God personally. Please pray for them to be protected from evil and not to have power over them.  May God bless you and reward you for your love with which you love these people. Thank you from our hearts. We miss you. We miss your smile.

It takes courage for a fifteen-year-old Roma girl who has been blown by fierce winds and battered by the cruel seas of life, as her mother left the family home and she never knew her father.  Ana-Maria cares for her brothers but is still a child herself.  Ana-Maria came to Iochebed where it was confirmed (after tests), she was pregnant. In her distress she considered adoption.  On December 3rd, she gave birth to a baby boy; once she saw those amazing dark eyes, she could not part with him.  This week she came to the centre sobbing and pleading for help.  The baby in her arms was frozen, the Romanian snow is deep and icy cold.  From your donations we were able to purchase wood, food, pampers and hygiene products for the baby. Ana-Maria has learned the important from the really important through the wise counselling of Gabi and the team from Iochebed.  Her precious gift of life makes her mornings a brighter day.

Aura (23) is married with a six-month-old baby girl; she came in shock at the unexpected news she is pregnant again.  We thank the Lord she is willing to keep the baby but needs strength and our support in this decision.

Alexandra (18) who has a eight month old baby boy, is pregnant again.  Alexandra is a young teenager filled with fear; she has miscarried on two previous occasions.  A sickly young girl who due to required medications, will need strength to go full term in her pregnancy to enable her to give birth to a healthy baby.

The snows in Suceava are fierce and deep. Often children walk miles in search of food, firewood. Gabi has informed me many children have no shoes, especially little ones from four to seven years of age. One pair of shoes will change ten frozen little toes into ten cosy little toes.  Will you fund one pair of shoes?

Even in the midst of my packed schedule, at times there comes a moment of calm.  In the midst of such a day, a surprise telephone call from my adopted son, Andrei, warmed my troubled heart.  It was good to hear his voice as he shared the ongoing ministry in Sofronia where he has the responsibility of three village churches.  My heart is thankful as I monitor his progress but more importantly, his passion.  I watched Andrei mature during his five years in Emanuel University. Together with his wife Ligia, this young couple are trying to bring springs of water into dry lands, dry and barren lands where they need the gospel.  I want to be involved in reaching these precious people who live without identity.  One family has torn at my heart strings:  Irina is the mother of Alex (17) a very introverted, shy boy who is trying to ‘survive’ in the midst of turmoil.  His mother has mental disabilities and lives with a man (without the all-important identity papers) who does not work and is abusive in temperament, continually fighting with his drinking companions.  Alex is forced to live in these conditions and I am burdened to help him.  My precious Ligia is taking Irina to a Psychiatrist, having duly completing all the documents required, to show love and to show ‘someone cares enough to show it’. Sofronia has been heavy on my heart and I feel compelled by love to share this great need with you.  The shoeboxes from Monkstown B.C. were such a blessing and an inroad to many homes closed to the gospel.  Please remember Irina and Alex; all children need to be loved; will you love Alex?  Will you show him you care?

Rev. F.B. Meyer penned: ‘Oh, for grace to wait and watch with God’.  We all have felt the winds of change, the premature striking blows Covid-19 has brought to our ‘new’ world which is a world crumbling beneath us as never before. As Hamilton and I embrace the expansion and challenge of Tell Romania, we ask for grace to wait and watch with God for the year before us. This is my prayer for my colleagues who care for the terminally ill, feed the hungry, entering homes where Covid-19 is an unwelcome visitor.  I ask you to pray that the teams will turn grief into blessing, pain into balm.  They are overtired, exhausted, still they serve without complaint, without concern for their own safety.  Their foresight is their force!  

November and December in Emanuel Hospice are months of deep sadness.  The team serve in the midst of suffering, offering comfort and hope to many who are hurting.  This year, there are many young patients who are dying, leaving behind young children.

Ingrid (43) suffering from a brain tumour died, leaving behind a beautiful young daughter Mercedes, aged seventeen.

Alin, (37) suffering from a Melanoma, died, leaving behind a sweet little boy aged five, named Rares.

Lulia (41) died from Uterine Cancer.

Two young teenagers Andrei (17) and Diana (13) face life alone.  Their precious mum, Ramona, (45) suffering from breast cancer, died on Boxing Day after battling cancer for so long. The team struggled to keep Ramona alive as the children wanted one last Christmas with mum. 

Christian (44) suffering from advanced Pancreatic Cancer also died at Christmas, leaving behind a fifteen-year-old son.

At present another young mother is on the waiting list.  Her sixteen-year-old son is her main carer who faithfully and lovingly changes her dressings daily.

Children left without a Mum, Dad.  Who will care? Or will they be just another ‘Nobody’?  

Kevin has had a CT scan in Timisora.  His mother (Gabi) is waiting for a consultation with the oncologist regarding pending surgery. Gabi and Kevin are finding life without Robi very difficult.  Gabi is in deep sadness and Kevin is totally withdrawn. Robi and Kevin sang together; now Kevin misses those special days with his dad.

Little Lancu (9) diagnosed with Spastic Tetraparesis.  His elderly grandmother is exhausted taking care of him.  Pray for this dear lady as there is no family support at all.  Lancu requires twenty-four-hour care.

My dear Elizabeth will travel to Cluj for further investigations.  Her husband (John) is very weak and sensitive regarding Elizabeth’s cancer.  They are a very precious couple who love the Lord. 

2020 brought a personal realisation of the preciousness of life.   Yet, how quickly it can be taken. Things we treasure or thought mattered are only things.  We all want to be remembered, to leave a lasting impact that will touch and transform lives.  At times our love may be unseen; yet love is a priceless gift each one possesses.  Normally the word ‘inheritance’ is linked to personal possessions; but another word even more precious is the word, ‘legacy’.  My dear friend Ruth’s husband was promoted to Glory on 21 January, 2020.  A sudden and unexpected parting.  Michael was a quiet, unassuming gentleman with a contagious smile.  In his own quiet manner, he displayed a reverence for God’s Word which formed the pattern of his own personal walk with God.  In memory of a devoted husband and loving father, Ruth and her son Ryan have gifted the work of Tell Romania in recognition of Michael’s memory. He was skilled in technology and in his memory the gift will be used accordingly.

What legacy will we leave behind? Will we be remembered for a Servant’s Heart; Obedience; Faith; Love; Understanding; a Listening Ear; a Forgiving Spirit; a love that is sincere and real? 

‘Strengthen yourself in the Omnipotence of God. Do not say, ‘Is God able?”  Say, rather, “God is able.”’  (Andrew Murray)

Shirley, January 21, 2021

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