The Sower, the Seed, and Starbucks

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Gabi is a success story!
Gabi is a success story!

The time in Romania is coming to a close. Seven of us have had the opportunity to see and experience amazing things: some encouraging, some heart-breaking, and some clear evidence of a God at work. It is our hope that we can convey a bit of this to you in our emails and Facebook posts so that you also can participate in the tremendous Kingdom activity we have witnessed over the course of the last few weeks.

Today I visited the Casa Otniel. Some of you sponsor a child here. Some of you
have personally visited this place. Over the last 15 years, the Casa Otniel has
been home to 36 kids, 20 which currently live here. Of the 16 which have moved on,
non are homeless. Most attend church. Some have moved to Western Europe to live
and work. A few come back from time to time to reconnect with their orphanage

One boy is named Gabi. He is now in his early 20's...maybe 22. He comes from a
broken family. He has a brother. 14 years ago, when he was only 9 or 10, he
somehow landed at the Casa Otniel. His brother, however, did not. Gabi was loved
and cared for by the Otniel leadership. He was sent to school. He was taught about
a God who loved him and had plans for him. Over the years, Gabi became a role model
for the younger kids. He successfully finished his education. Then, a few months
ago, Gabi left the nest. He and two other boys from the same orphanage banded
together and rented an apartment. Gabi secured his first full-time job
at...Starbucks! He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, and continues to go to church.
Sounds like a success story to me, and only half the book is written.

His brother, conversely, two years older and unfortunate enough to not have the Casa
Otniel living opportunity, fell on much harder times. He has cycled in and out of
prison over the last 14 years. His future isn't so bright.

Two brothers. Two roads. Two outcomes.

The leaders of the Casa Otniel, apart from the sovereign hand of God, are the key
players in this story. They are the ones who patiently tilled the soil of Gabi's
heart, carefully planting therein seeds of love, confidence, and worth, and
faithfully watered those seeds as he grew, questioned, and probably even rebelled.
Then, when harvest season came, the fruit of their labor was evidenced by the
emergence of a young man whose future is bright. A young man who God wants to grow,
bless, and develop, and to use to accomplish His purposes here in Romania.

Ever look at the photo of the orphan you are sponsoring and ask yourself, "is it
really worth it?" Let me assure you, God is using your dollars, your postcards, and
your prayers in the lives of the kids you have chosen. You, like the Casa Otniel
leaders, are sowing seeds into the lives of children. Keep at it! Just because you
don't see the results now doesn't mean you won't someday.

We can learn a lesson from the farmer: keep sowing, keep watering, keep praying, and
then trust God for a great harvest!

Breaking the Cycle

Our team was greeted this morning by a Pacific Northwest type of day: gray skies and a light, endless rain. This turned to snow. At least one inch of the white stuff came down on the picturesque mountain city of Brasov, in Southern Romania.

Known formerly as Kronstadt due to the large Saxon population which lived here prior to and shortly after WWII, Brasov architecture reflects its Germanic heritage. With surrounding forested hills, the famous Black Church, and the well-known Bran Castle (once belonging to Vlad Tepes, aka Dracula, thanks to Bram Stoker), Brasov is a sure stop on any tourist's agenda.

A short distance from Brasov, however, perched atop a small hill, is a village. In that village God is at work, using two people to bring change to a community. Our primary focus, of course, is kids and as such our reason for visiting this community was to reconnect with a small orphanage which we have partnered with for the better part of the last decade. 25 kids live here. Most are under the age of 10. Most are there because their parents either didn't want them or couldn't take care of them.

As we sat with the orphanage leaders, discussing various topics as we munched on schnitzel and potatoes, a story emerged...a brilliant story...a story which, if done well, has the potential of changing a destructive dynamic. A story that I hope will be replicated in many orphanages.

The story is called "The Dream of Kati's Doll". Boiling it down, this is a well-thought-through and concerted effort to teach kids about responsibility, family, and stick-to-it-tive-ness. The concept: little girls and boys from the orphanage are paired up (mom and dad). They are given a doll which they "adopt" as their own child. They make clothes for the doll. The "dad" makes a crib for the doll to sleep in. They pray with the doll and take it to church. They even take the doll on vacation. They work together to care for the doll, just like real parents should. After six months, Stage II of "Kati's Doll" is initiated: the kids are given a second doll. Now the first has a sibling. Psychologists are monitoring the kids to see how they are reacting and responding. This effort is due to run for at least one year.

Why is this such a brilliant idea and effort? Because it is breaking a cycle! You see, most of these kids are in an orphanage because their parents did not own up to their responsibility to be parents. They walked away from a precious gift God had entrusted to them, leaving their child to live and grow in an orphanage. That destructive model of abandonment that the kids in the orphanage know...and unless re-scripted, that is likely the model that they will follow when they grow up and have families of their own.

The "Kati's Doll" effort is trying to do just that: to re-write the hard drive in the emotional CPU of these orphan kids and to enter a different code, one which values family, togetherness, and responsibility, and which repulses at the thought of abandonment.

I sat there today and marvelled at this plan...and how God might (will!) use it to change the course of these kids' lives, to create future men and women who understand what it means to be responsible parents, and to deploy a future generation of Romanian young people who are dedicated to, and value, family.

Wow. Brilliance. God at work: through gifted and sensitive leaders, in young and tender lives, and for a better and stronger next-generation.

Want to help? Why not say a prayer, right now, that God will bless the seeds that are being planted in the lives of these kids, that these seeds will take root and grow, and yield an abundant harvest.

"Kati's Dream". Great idea, God!

Miracles Happen!

Eszter is the director of the Emmaus Home orphanage in Bogata, Romania. She tells an amazing story of family reunification. Five years ago, the parents of Istvan and Kinga Santa were alcoholics. The dad came to Eszter’s father-in-law and told him that he had no job, no place to live, and no future for his children. His solution was to kill the children, then kill his wife, then kill himself. He believed that then the problem would be over. Eszter’s father-in-law counseled the dad to take his kids to the Emmaus Home. The dad listened, and Kinga and Istvan lived in the home for 3 years. During this time the parents came to know Christ, quit drinking, the dad got a job, and now the family is reunited again! Istvan and Kinga are proud of their parents for quitting alcohol. Istvan is studying agronomy and in his spare time works with his dad. Kinga is studying English in a very prestigious school in Tirgu Mures. Miracles do happen!