A Life of Service to Romanians

"It was the day Cristi distributed biscuits, a day like many others outside the city of Botosani in northeastern Romania.

     The night before we joined Cristi on his regular mission to the most needy families in the area, he told us what brought him to his commitment, to this outreach among the hungry and poor. His path to the side of Jesus was neither straight nor without doubt, but there was always that feeling, that trust deeply born when he was a teenager, that his life would be a life of service.

     Cristi manages the Kidstown-supported Ioana Home, with 20 resident children, in Botosani. This is the city where Cristi grew up through turbulent times, through political revolution and through the revelation that brought him to his commitment. Like many other Romanians — currently 1,300 per day — he could have left Romania for economic opportunities in Western Europe. But a voice told him to stay, and in Botosani he has become an entrepreneur for Jesus.

     Cristi receives donations from friends in Holland as well as from Kidstown supporters. These Dutch contributions come in the form of food, clothing and household goods that are given to the poor in the outlying areas or else placed for sale on the shelves of the Mic Si Mare second-hand store in Botosani.

      Items in the store sell from 25 cents up to the equivalent of a few dollars and include clothing, household goods, knickknacks, toys and other items. Most profits go to salaries of the store workers, and items also find their way to the helpless and needy.

     Children from the Ioana Home help load Cristi’s van with the donated biscuits, dozens upon dozens of packages of surplus biscuits from Holland. We drive from the city — the second-most poverty stricken city in Romania — and we head for the surrounding villages where hardship and need prevail like the dry cornstalks waving in the autumn breeze.

     We visit a home where four unsupervised children sit on a bed of dirty blankets watching cartoons on a long-used television. Piles of garbage cover the floors of two small rooms. A pig roots outside the front door. One child, an infant, is without clothes or a diaper. He is lovingly held by the oldest boy, perhaps six years old.

     We visit a former military barracks where families each rent one room, where each room is lit by a single low-wattage bulb hanging from a wire. Children gather around us, for biscuits and for the company of visitors and the games we will play.

      In darkness lit only by a rising moon we visit a home without electricity where five children wait, dressed in layers of soft and soiled clothing. They seem surprised to see us and they accept our gifts and Cristi’s biscuits with curiosity. If not by the light of our cellphones, they will be able to see these gifts when daylight comes.

The mother, Cristi tells us, has never had a shower.

     We meet dozens of people, from the woman with a severe toothache and no available remedy to the children who wait, smiling, in front of the home with boards where windows once stood. Down dirt roads where horse-drawn wagons outnumber cars, we watch as Cristi fulfills the mission he has been given — the mission he also shares with the children at the Ioana Home.

    Such is the lesson he teaches to these 20 abandoned and at-risk children. To serve others and serve God. To share whatever blessings you have been given. To know that life takes work, and that grace will light the way."

 

-Written by C.R. Roberts after his most recent trip to visit some of the Kidstown supported homes in Romania. Cristi is one of our valued home leaders there.


Meet Evelin from Romania

Evelin was born in Romania in 2007 without a father and to a mother who was very ill, as well as schizophrenic. Evelin did not receive the care that all young children ought to have, and that only increased when her mother abandoned her. We are not sure of all of the details, but when Evelin was around two to three years old, she lived within an old storage space with an old man. He had numerous dogs and no running water, electricity, or heating.

Thankfully, social services got involved and began the search for a safe environment for Evelin. They were able to contact one of the homes that Kidstown supports, and she went to live with them at age 4.

Evelin is now 8 years old, and has already developed into an amazing young girl. She has been very successful with her school, and becomes very determined to do her very best at everything she does. Her personality has been given the chance to shine out, and she has shown herself to be very caring and sweet. She gets along with all of the children at her home, even though she is the youngest there.

We are so glad that Evelin was able to find love and care, despite her past. She is a wonderful story of redemption and rescue, and we are honored to be a part of her story.


News Article - Romania Kids

About a month ago one of our teams spent a week in Romania - learning about the country and culture, visiting several Kidstown-supported orphanages, and sadly, witnessing some of the environments out of which our orphans have come.

Accompanying this team was a reporter from the Tacoma News Tribune, who subsequently penned a story for your reading.

Thanks to each of you for your love for orphans, and for your support of Kidstown.


The Unsung Heroes

Orphan ministry takes special people with a special calling. People who are willing to give up the "normal" life and live the "outward-focused" life that we spoke of a couple of days ago. It takes people who are willing to fight in the trenches for the long haul, enduring stresses, fears, uncertainties, loneliness, and far too often, little-to-no recognition or honor for the work they have done among these children.

These "unsung heroes" to whom I refer are the orphanage leaders - a breed of people all their own. They are the ones who not only sympathize with these little ones that are suffering, but are willing to do something about it. And I'm not referring to giving a child a piece of bread and calling it good, I'm referring to taking these kids into their homes - kids with lice and scabbies, kids with emotional and spiritual baggage, kids which society at-large would rather turn a blind eye to - and giving them love, care, structure, godly modelling, and so much more.

These orphanage leaders are the true visionaries: people who are able to see beyond the filth and matted hair to the gleaming potential of what could become of these kids given sufficient love (and, of course, with God in the mix)!

These are the unsung heroes. And our Kidstown family is privileged to partner with many such heroes in India, in Nepal, and in Romania.

We all believe in orphan ministry. We all want to see these kids helped, given hope and the Gospel, and that they fulfill their God-crafted destinies. But this can't happen without the orphanage leaders. They are the critical link. And so, they need our prayer support.

May I challenge each of our readers: will you commit to praying on a regular basis for our 50 orphanage leaders? That God will sustain them, encourage them, provide for all their needs, refuel their zeal and passion each day, and help them to stay in the fight for the long-haul?

Thanks for your belief in, commitment to, and prayers for our orphanage leaders.


A Day of Extreme Contrasts

Our morning began as usual for our Romania team with a bountiful breakfast at the hotel. I am amazed with the fruit and fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese. We fill ourselves to the point of satisfied fullness.

Soon we are on the road to visit some villages where many of the children in one of our Kidstown homes have come from. We drive through fields of dried up sun flowers and abandoned factories from the communist era. As we turn off the main road towards a small village the laughter in the van quiets as we approach a compound of five small homes within a broken-down fenced area.

We get out of the van as a number children run out and are curious with our presence. We step over the mud as best as possible to avoid our shoes getting covered in mud. The group is quiet as they are not sure if these are homes or small barns for animals. We are proudly invited in to their homes. We greet the families that we meet and tell the how beautiful their children are and we observe the dirt floors and indescribable filth. It is a cold fall day out with no flies or bugs outside, but inside the walls and bedding as well as the one small loaf of bread are covered with flies. They obviously breed inside the home.

We shake our heads at each other in disbelief. How can anyone live like this? But this is a home. We walk into 3 or 4 others just the same. We are trying not to track mud into the home and we realize that the barefoot children and the family do not seem to care as it seem that the floors are just dried mud.
We are not in Africa where we might expect this experience. We are in Eastern Europe only 15 kilometers from the city of Timisoara which has become after the fall of communism, a typical metro European city with trendy fashion and malls with, yes, a Starbucks.

We leave to go buy some food for this family, come back, and hand them maybe months’ worth of food in two bags per family.

As we head back to the city our plan is to stop and have lunch at Casa Otniel, a Kidstown sponsored orphanage. We drive in the gate of a large colorful home and are again greeted by children. This time the feeling is different. We see hope and not despair, we find yards to play in with flowers and fruit trees. The children proudly take us upstairs to show us their rooms and want to pose for pictures of their home. The children serve us an amazing lunch and tell us of their plans for their futures. They want to be teachers or do social work with those that are in need. The children sing to us and as the time there ends we play in the yard with these happy normal-seeming children.

Then as we leave we comment that these children were living in the conditions we experienced that morning. These children were rescued. They have a future.

Thanks for your interest, prayers, and support of these kids and this ministry.

Chuck Valley
VP-Romania/Regional Advocate
Kidstown International


Praying for our Kids

Dear Kidstown Friends,

We have the opportunity not only to help our orphans in practical ways, but also to
pray for them. God can do far more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and
He beckons us to engage on our knees for the sake of these little ones that He
created, loves, and has such great plans for. A few key requests to pass along
today:

1. Pray for our orphans' physical, mental, and emotional development and health.
Especially during the summer season it can be very hot and, in India and Nepal, very
wet due to the monsoon rains.

2. Pray that each child will discover Jesus in a real and personal way, that they
will grow in their faith, and that they will move forward in accordance with God's
plan for their lives.

3. Pray for the orphanage leaders: that God will give them strength and
encouragement, that He will provide for all their needs, that He will give them
wisdom and love, and that He will sustain their zeal and passion for this ministry
that He has entrusted to them.

4. Pray for our orphanages in India and Nepal, some of which are beginning to feel
heightened levels of negative pressure, from the surrounding society, due to their
Christian faith. This is due in part to a right-wing Hindu movement that is
currently underway.

5. In a special way, please pray for one of our orphans which has been hospitalized
due to unknown severe abdominal pain and vomiting. Pray that God will give the
doctors wisdom, and that He will bring this young lady back to full health soon.

Thanks for praying!


A Cave and a Bottlecap

Over the last two weeks I've had the opportunity to visit 16 orphanages in Nepal and Romania. The countries are different, the languages are different, the food is different. But ironically, many of the stories are the same.

The stories of kids coming out of situations of severe poverty, broken families, and abandonment. The stories of kids who are unwanted and unloved, and who have seen and experienced far more tragedy than anyone their age ever should.

Take for example, Gigi, Gabriela, and Ionut. They are happy kids, running around, playing, loving summer BBQs, and trying to capture the camera's shutter. These kids seem like normal kids, and to a degree they are. But it wasn't always so.

You see, not long ago these kids lived in a situation so miserable that it may be difficult to accept it as true. They lived with their mom and dad in a small village. Their parents were unemployed, save for occasional manual labor or scraping out a few Romanian Lei in whatever other ways were possible.

Their living conditions were anything but luxurious. For a time (try to wrap your head around this) they lived in a hand-dug hole in the side of a hill, with a sheet of plastic to cover the opening and to provide protection from the wind, rain, and cold.

Their nutrition was akin to their accommodations. So meager was the children's food intake that teachers at the local school took it upon themselves to gather food for the kids. One day, when the kids came to school, a teacher asked them what they ate the day prior. One child responded that his mom had milked the dog, and each of them had received a capful.

Not only was their economic, living, and nutritional situation abhorrent, but, adding injury to insult, their dad was an alcoholic. This was a habit which was surely exacerbated by the grinding poverty which was their daily existence.

But instead of directing his frustration in a healthy direction, such as working hard to support his family, he turned to the bottle, and to violent outbursts against his wife and small children.

One day he returned home, very drunk. Seeing his wife, two small children in her arms and one in tow, his rage trigger was pulled. Grabbing a wooden pole from the garden, he made for his wife with the intent of beating her with this his weapon of choice.

Recognizing the approaching threat, she fled to a neighbor's for refuge. He followed. In a brief altercation between the two, she was able to wrest the pole away from him and, with one well-placed blow to the head, killed him. And all the while the children watched.

From this hell the children were rescued, placed into the safety and care of a Christian orphanage which is committed to caring for children, to sharing the Gospel with them, and to helping them to be and become all that God has planned for them.

But this process takes time. Kids like Gigi, Gabriela, and Ionut are shell-shocked when they arrive. So bad was Gigi's trauma that he was unable to speak. But with patience, love, and persistence, Gigi's speech returned, and the three children began to come out of the shells into which they had so deeply withdrawn.

The road ahead may not be easy for them. How does a child (or an adult for that matter) process such things as they have experienced? But, with the dedication of the orphanage staff, mixed with God's mercy and grace, we believe that these kids' futures will be (and are!) bright.

How can you participate in this process of bringing life out of the destruction in these kids' lives?

1. You can pray. Your prayers will move the hand of Him on their behalf, bringing the hope and healing that they so desperately need.

2. You can reach out. A simple letter or postcard once or twice a year can make a deep and lasting impact on these young people, conveying a message that you care.

3. You can faithfully and generously support. By standing financially with our orphanages, you become an active participant in their three-fold mission of rescue, restore, and release.

4. You can participate for the first-time. If you have been reading and watching from the sidelines, maybe today is the day to step into the world of a kid like Gigi. Sponsorship is an easy and effective way to help. We have many kids that are waiting for a family like yours to to reach out and care for them. To meet some of our kids, please click on www.kidstown.org/children.

These are lives we are talking about. They are worth investing in. Thanks to each of you for doing just that.


The Chicken Challenge

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Northeast Romania is beautiful: gently rolling hills, lush forests, narrow tracts of corn, wheat, or berries, and small, picturesque villages tucked away here and there adjacent to the winding road.

It is in one of these little villages that our story unfolds. Stephan and his wife are from this area: born and raised. Stephan worked for years as a forest ranger for the area's forestry and wildlife department. Fox, wolves, deer, and even wild boar were part of his sphere. He and his wife led a simple but good life. They had three children, now grown and gone. They faithfully attended the local church, serving in various ways. They have the gift of hospitality, opening the doors of their home over the years to guests from around the world.

P1000920 They are now retired. But to them that doesn't mean endless games of golf and lounging in arm chairs. To them it means "re-gear" and "re-focus" and they are diligently endeavoring to serve the Lord in other ways such as reaching out to seniors in an old folks home,...and raising chickens for orphans.

About an hour-and-a-half from Stephan's home is the city of Botosani, a 75,000 strong community not far from the borders of Moldova and Ukraine. Tucked back on a side street is the Casa Ioana, a Christian orphanage led by Cristi and Alina, a wonderful, dedicated couple who are giving 100% effort to serve the 18 kids in their care, to love them, to educate them, to raise them up in the ways of the Lord, and to prepare them to be productive Romanian as well as Kingdom citizens.

Somewhere along the line Cristi met Stephan. Cristi had a need: kids that need nutritious food so that they can grow and develop normally. Stephan had a solution: he offered to raise chickens for the orphans, using his land, time, and experience to generate crops of healthy birds which, in turn, will bless the kids!

In Matthew 25:35-36 Jesus said, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Stephan is doing just this by using his time and talents to give orphans something to eat. And as noble and heart-warming as this is, the lesson here extends to each one of us as well. We are called to live life not only for ourselves. God calls us to reach out and help others. Exactly who, where, and how may vary, but the important thing is that each of us actively engages in sharing the love of Jesus with others in practical ways.

P1000905 Maybe this means sponsoring an orphan in India, or giving funds so that a chicken farm can be started at another orphanage here in Romania. Maybe it means coordinating with a group in your church and sending a care package to an orphanage in Nepal. Again, the important thing is to find a way to reach out, and then to do it!

This is part of our calling. Part of who we are. Sharing His love with others, just like Stephan is doing. The chicken challenge: are you up for it?


Orphan to Orphan

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Meet Vasile. He is one of our orphanage directors in Romania. Not only is he a committed Christian and father-figure to over a dozen orphans, he also has a unique story which I think you'll like to hear.

P1000833

You see, a long time ago Vasile and his three siblings lived a normal childhood. One day, however, their mom died due to cancel. Not long after their dad fell into a well and likewise perished, leaving four orphans behind.

Two of the kids went to live with relatives. Vasile and his older brother each went to live with a local pastor. Sounds OK, right? It would have been except that Vasile's pastor treated him as a servant instead of a son, even relegating him to live in a barn for the next four years!

At the end of this time, both Vasile and his brother were moved to a large
government orphanage to live. Vasile was 10 at this time. This orphanage housed 1,200 children, and although vastly inferior to the life he once knew with his mom and dad, was ironically superior to living in a barn.

The next four years were spent there at the orphanage. Having been given the gift of the Gospel before the death of their parents, Vasile and his brother endeavored to keep the flames of faith alive. They would sneak out of the orphanage each Sunday morning, escaping to the nearby church so they could worship. On their way back "home" after the service, they would stop by the roadside and say a prayer in anticipation of what awaited them when they returned.

Monday mornings at the orphanage often resulted in Vasile and his brother being singled out, ridiculed for their faith (remember that this was during the time of Communism in Romania), and finally being beaten by both orphans and orphanage staff. The hardest part of all, however, was that never a smile, never an encouraging word, were ever cast Vasile's way by the staff.

But they endured. And held to their faith. Vasile grew up, moved on with life, and started a family of his own. Then, in 1995, God brought an opportunity his way to which he could not say no: an orphanage of his own.

Things were coming full circle. God was giving Vasile a chance to pour into another generation of kids who, like him once upon a time, were suffering much. And so he embraced the opportunity. But instead of housing these kids in a barn, he gives them a clean, safe, and happy place to live. Instead of ridiculing them, he instead points them to Jesus and encourages them to follow Him. Instead of scowling at them, he draws them close, assuring them of his love for them.

Full circle. The pain and suffering Vasile experienced God used for good, and continues to.

When you think about our orphanages, think about the kids. But think also about those behind the kids. It's these extremely high quality people, like Vasile, that we have the honor of working alongside with! As you think of them, why not whisper a prayer on their behalf? That God would strengthen them, help them, sustain them, and enable them to carry on the important work He has given them to do. Many thanks!


Shaken and Unshakable

P1000468 We live in a world of uncertainties. Uncertain political situations. Uncertain economics. Uncertainties in the natural realm, such as the earthquakes in Nepal. Life is full of uncertainties. And yet, in the midst of all these, there is One who is certain.

P1000742 Yesterday, while sitting in a church in Western Romania, we witnessed two of our orphans declare publicly their commitment to follow Jesus by way of baptism. And as they did, they took a step in the direction of Him who is unshakable.

I think there is a lesson for all of us here: to realize that the world we live in is very unstable, very uncertain; yet the God we serve is very stable and very certain! Psalm 62:6 says, "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken."

P1000745 May we all be encouraged and challenged to, like our Romanian orphans, put our trust and faith in the One who will never fail us, never falter, never shift or shake. If He is our Center, our Foundation, our Fortress, then no matter what storm or trial comes our way we can say, along with David, "I shall not be shaken"!