***Originally sent as an email newsletter on August 2, 2022
Hello Friends, Thank you very much for your prayers for my trip to Brasov in May! God provided wonderful ministry connection opportunities and answered prayers while I was there. Before I share about what God did in Romania, I have to share a story about how God provided on my way there! At the time, COVID tests were required to enter Germany, even on a short layover. So, prior to my flight, I took a PCR test and was still waiting to receive the results when I arrived at the airport. Since they wouldn't let me check in until I had my results, I sat down and prayed like crazy for 2 hours, in addition to contacting friends and my missions coordinator to ask them to pray and calling the lab to try to get my results expedited. Although my stress level was high, I also had the sense that God would provide at the last minutes when, 15 minutes before I needed to check in, my missions coordinator emailed again suggesting that I use one of the COVID tests that I had brought in my suitcase. I frantically checked with the representatives at United Airlines, who said that that test would be accepted. I then worked on taking the test with an online proctor as quickly as I could, all while the internet was going in and out. The United representatives were kind enough to check me in as soon as we knew that I could use the self-test and were cheering me on as I raced to finish the testing process. As soon as I finished, they took my bag and rushed me off to security. After running a few yards though, I heard my name called and saw the agent running towards me with my boarding pass and, shortly behind him, the other agent with my baggage claim tickets. Haha! As I ran through the airport, I prayed that God would empower me to run beyond my natural ability in order to make it to my gate in time and, sure enough, I made it to the gate with only 4 minutes to spare! Glory to God, He got me on that flight just in time!!!
The morning after I arrived, I met with Pastor Sorin, who pastors a Baptist church in Brasov, and Pastor Otto, who ministers to people with disabilities living in a poor Roma (Gypsy) village in the nearby town of Sacele. After our encouraging meeting, I followed Pastor Otto to Sacele to meet the physiotherapists who volunteer with the ministry and to visit the warehouse where they clean, fix, and distribute wheelchairs and other special needs equipment.
I also had the chance to visit a small hotel in Sacele that was turned into a Ukrainian refugee center by its Christian owners. There, I met Mark, a 5 year old boy with Autism, and his mother, Oksana. Over several subsequent visits, I evaluated his motor skills and sensory processing and provided suggestions for his mother, with the assistance of Ina, another refugee who translated for us. It was such a blessing to know that God had sent me to help them when Oksana shared that, shortly before I came, she was becoming more and more concerned about Mark's behaviors and prayed that God would send help!
On one of my last days visiting the refugee center, a lady came up to me with a young girl in her arms. Although the girl appeared to be an infant, I found out later that she is 2 years old and has a genetic disorder. The lady, Marina, told me that Salome, her niece, received massage therapy when they were in Ukraine and, consequentially, was beginning to sit up on her own. Since arriving in Romania however, she had regressed. Since I am an infant massage instructor, I offered to teach them how to massage Salome themselves. It was a wonderful, God-given opportunity to help and, the next day, I taught Marina the massage sequences and other therapeutic activities to do with Salome. *Please see a video clip of Marina massaging Salome at the end of this post. **Also, If you are interested in supporting those who are physically and spiritually caring for Ukrainian refugees, especially refugees with disabilities, please consider giving to Pastor Otto's ministry. You can find out more about his ministry to refugees here and how to give here.
When I was living in Brasov in 2019, I learned about a group of international women who bring in volunteers from all over the world to hold babies in the hospital and who provide after-school educational and Bible programs for children in a nearby Roma (Gypsy) village through their organization, Firm Foundations Romania (FFR). Although I wasn't able to meet them in 2019, I did get in contact with them when I was back in the States and we met for the first time in person on this vision trip. During our meeting, I described the work that I do and how it helps children with learning, sensory, motor, and emotional challenges and can help children who have come from hard places, including those left alone in the hospital. They were intrigued and enjoyed learning about how the brain and body work together in development. After our meeting, I was also given a small tour of the hospital and met some of their sweet international volunteers.
A few days later, I joined the president and vice president of FFR and one of their guests to visit the Roma village of Budila. We toured their new educational center, which is in process of being built out of shipping containers, visited the current classrooms, and drove through the village. It was such a blessing to see those shining faces learning and growing and to hear them sing of Jesus' love for them.
I left feeling inspired and as though this was the kind of work that I wanted to do, caring for and sharing Jesus with children from hard places amongst a group of people who love Jesus, want to see the children thrive, and know that we serve a big God 'who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.' (Ephesians 3:20, ESV) The next week, I met up again with the FFR leadership to discuss potential ministry partnership and was encouraged that they saw the benefit of adding Occupational Therapy to their ministry and wanted to support what I feel God calling me to do in Romania.
After the meeting, we joined two other FFR volunteers, and I taught the group about the benefits of infant massage and how to do the massage sequences so that they can massage the babies that they minister to in the hospital.
Shortly after I arrived back in the States, FFR's president, Sarah, reached out to check in about where I felt God leading and, a week or so later, the leadership team and I sat down again to talk over Zoom. At that time, we confirmed the leading of the Lord for me to work with FFR and that I will plan on moving to Brasov in January 2023!
In addition to working with and sharing the Gospel with the children in their programs, they are giving me the flexibility when I arrive to search out and follow God's leading to minister to abandoned children as well. In future emails, I will plan on sharing more details about my initial plans for ministry, which, of course, will shift and change along the way. I am very excited to broaden my scope of ministry to care for and share the Gospel with children who come from the hard places of the Roma villages, for the opportunity to learn from and minister with the FFR ladies for the advancement of God's Kingdom, and for the chance to follow God's leading with regard to caring for abandoned children! I'm so grateful for God's provision!
Praise God for a fruitful vision trip and that He has provided an opportunity to partner with Firm Foundations Romania! He has been so faithful to guide me. Praise God for the opportunity to minister to a couple children and families from Ukraine and for the connection with Pastor Otto's ministry during the trip. I am also very encouraged to be connected with Pastor Sorin and his church! Prayer requests:
Grace to get done all of the tasks required for moving
Wisdom as I develop the new ministry program at Firm Foundations Romania
Open hearts to hear and receive the Gospel
Opportunities and God's leading to minister to abandoned children
Open doors to visit the children with disabilities in the institution again
Housing in Brasov
One-time and monthly financial supporters
Grace to become fluent in Romanian