*Originally sent as an email newsletter on December 1, 2022
Hello Friends, I pray that you are doing well and are reminded regularly of God's faithfulness! As I prepare to move to Romania, I want to share with you more about what it is like in a Romanian orphanage for children with disabilities. This is hard. Even after almost 3 years, this is still hard to write about, hard to look through the pictures. I intended to write this as a blog post 3 years ago, but it all felt too raw to share at the time. Now, as heartbreaking as it is, I feel that it is important to write about and for their stories to be told. Walking into a state-run institution on the floor where the children with disabilities live brings a flood of sensations. The smells hit you right away and come from a mixture of cleaning supplies and the slop that they spoon- or bottle-feed the children at every meal. The Romanian belief that 'curent' (free-flowing air from an open window) will cause sickness means that the windows are never opened, leaving the rooms and hallways with a hot, stale feeling. Eerily, the hallways are silent despite the rooms being filled with children. Early on, they learned that they couldn't count on their cries being responded to so now only the new children cry. Tile floors and stark white walls in the hallways lead to room after room, each with beds, strollers, or cribs, a rug, and a closet, where 4 or more children lay, sit, or walk around all day, staring at the walls or the ceilings or getting into trouble. A few of the children have a stuffed animal in the bed with them but they typically show no interest in it. The occasional Disney character or butterfly decoration hangs on the wall but, otherwise, the only wall hangings are a picture and name plate with basic information about each child hung over his or her bed, placed there by visiting organization. Upon walking into a room, you may be greeted by big, beaming smiles from the children who are aware that someone is there to visit them. Likely though, you are holding back tears through your returned smiles. Bone thin, the children who have been bedridden for years on end are hard to look at. From a lifetime of laying in the same position, their spines are often twisted and their hands and feet mangled from not having anything to hold or being correctly positioned, which likely causes them great pain. Since they are not fed hard foods that require chewing and their teeth are not well cared for, many of the children's teeth are decaying. They are put in whatever clothing is available, whether or not it is of the right gender or fit, and both boys and girls have short, buzzed haircuts. Most of the children stare blankly and show little to no awareness or interest in the people coming to visit them and some appear angry. Neglect and mistreatment do terrible things to a developing child, especially those with disabilities, and I have no doubt that were these children to have had the care and experiences that they needed, that most, if not all of them, would be in completely different situations physically, cognitively, behaviorally and socially. Many of them have developed autistic-like behaviors and have failed to grow physically during their institutionalization. It is rare to see a staff member in the rooms, and the children are mostly left alone. However, at scheduled times, the staff goes through their rounds, changing diapers (regardless of their ability or age, all children are kept in diapers), feeding them, or moving them to another room while their rooms are cleaned. Most of the staff quickly storm into the room, not giving the children eye contact, speaking harshly to them while doing their duties, and leaving as quickly as they can. Honestly, this institution feels more like a warehouse where children, made in the image of God, are treated as sub-human and given minimal care until they die or are passed on to a similar institution. It is absolutely heartbreaking. Regardless of this neglect and mistreatment though, a handful of the children have light in their eyes and appear to have hope and joy. It makes me wonder if they know Christ, who is the only one who can bring joy and hope in the middle of such devastating circumstances. My prayer is that all of the children there will come to know the joy and love of relationship with Christ and that they will understand and accept the Gospel to the best of their abilities.
The photos above were not taken at the orphanage. ***Please do not share or distribute these photos.
One to two times per week, when I was living in Romania, a social worker from an outside organization and I would pray for emotional strength then visit the children, singing songs for them, playing with them, and providing massage. My best-laid plans of providing Occupational Therapy for them were laid aside when I realized that what they really needed was something much more foundational, someone to show care for them and Jesus' love and the Gospel, to be touched, and, ideally, a Christian family. My hopes about sharing developmental tips with orphanage staff were also soon put aside as I saw that the staff's standards for good child care were to simply keep the rooms clean and the children fed and changed. As long as the standard was better than it was in the Communist days, most of them did not seem to feel as though anything more was needed for these children. Now, as I look forward to returning to Romania, although I won't initially be able to put these children in loving Christian homes and may not be able to make a difference right away in the staff's standard for good child care, I can, by God's grace, show them the love of Christ by singing to and sharing with them about Jesus and His Gospel, providing massage, playing with them, and treating them as they are, precious children made in the image of God, with care and affection. Will you please pray with me that God will give me the emotional and spiritual strength to visit, wisdom to know how He would like for me to care for these children, and an open door to visit when I return?
So that tickets can be purchased and final arrangements be made, I am praying for 85% of my monthly support to be committed to 1-2 months prior to moving, while still continuing to prepare to move at the end of January. To cover living and ministry expenses, I have a monthly budget of around $3,000, of which $1,170 is committed to currently. Praise God, all of the initial costs are now covered!
The link above leads to a form where intended donations can be shared and a link for giving can be found.
for the open doors that He has provided for me to minister with Firm Foundations Romania and that they are willing and eager to host this mission of using Occupational Therapy to share the Gospel and help bring transformation.
for the opportunity to attend and get involved at Providenta Church!!
for sending a new monthly supporter and for providing all of the initial costs!
that my wonderful church here in Colorado has agreed to be my sending church! I am very thankful for their leadership and covering as God sends me to Brasov!!
New monthly supporters to reach 85% funded
Grace and wisdom to complete the tasks and projects required before moving
Open hearts to hear and receive the Gospel in Romania
Opportunities and God's leading to minister to abandoned/orphaned children
Open doors to visit the children with disabilities in the institution again
Housing in Brasov
Grace to become fluent in Romanian
Thank you very much! Your support, prayers, and encouragement mean the world to me. If you have any questions or would like to meet in person or over Zoom to learn more about this mission, please reach out as I'd love to arrange a time to get together. You can find previous newsletters on my blog page at www.toromaniawithlove.org/blog, and please make sure to check out my updated website for additional information: www.toromaniawithlove.org!