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Journal Notes

 

July 1998

There is no logical explanation for the way I feel about Romania. It has to be God's thing. For some reason I only see the beauty and light of this little country and its people. Both of my trips to Romania have been in the spring when the wild flowers are blooming and the apple trees are in blossom. Both times I have spent most of my days with the children and staff who live at Walk in the Light's orphanages. From the first time I visited I have been in awe by the beauty of the land and touched by the innocence of the children and the gracious charm of the people.

From my point of view, a short term missionary trip is the best way to travel. There are no luxury hotels or sandy beaches or room service, but you really get to know the land and its people. There is a sense of adventure and the fulfillment of leaving a place a little better than you found it. And it renews your hope. To see the dramatic physical, emotional and spiritual healing of a child who has been rescued from the streets and to see the generosity and kindness of people whose monthly income equals a days wage in America, it makes you realize how strong the human spirit is. By the grace of God it is possible to experience a high quality of life without a lot of material comforts.

My first visit last year was more of a fact finding mission. I was the one being nurtured and blessed. I helped where ever I could, but I know I received much more than I gave. This year I was better prepared and brought a lot of things along to help me encourage and uplift the children and staff. This included the fixings for a special dinner and fabric and bedding to decorate some of the children's rooms. I had also planned in advance for a craft project I wanted to do with the children I brought extra money to purchase things that were needed and tucked a sack of candy into my bag. I made myself available where ever needed and as a result spent some quality time with the cooks and older kids in the kitchen peeling potatoes and baking birthday cakes. 

The children are happy and healthy and they are secure and safe. But as I surveyed the food storage areas I was deeply concerned. There was enough flour and pasta, rice and oil to last two or three months, but almost no canned goods. The daily meals consist mostly of homemade soups, potatoes or pasta with a little sausage added for flavor and fresh bread. The children had one cup of milk every morning with breakfast and chicken on Sunday and apples when they are in season. They love salads and bananas and pancakes and a corn meal mush called Mamaliga.

The vegetables for salads and bananas are expensive and not always available but both were purchased by team members and served to the children and staff while I visited. They will make it through the summer with vegetables purchased in town or grown in the new garden - but we must send a shipment of food before winter comes. We made the 8-hour drive to the airport in Bucharest on a Monday. Spring flowers were in full bloom and I enjoyed wonderful views while listening to the animated conversation of my Romanian companions.

A HELPING HAND

We arrived in  Bucharest after midnight and had a few hours to wait before our flights. Bucharest is quite beautiful and it was pleasant driving through the darkened city without having to fight traffic. As we headed out of downtown we noticed a small child sitting on the curb in the plain grassy area that divided the wide boulevard. She wore a sweater but sat crouched forward and shivering in the darkness. What appeared to be a bag of rags was lying on the ground next to her. Pastor Dan Coroama, who was driving our van, stopped next to her and asked her why she was out alone in the middle of the night.

She said she was 7 years old and her mother was dead and her father was in jail. She had been there a week. We gave her a bag with a loaf of bread and some biscuits in it and went to find help. We inquired at the police station but we were told this was not their jurisdiction. there's kids like that all over the place. There's nothing we can do about them!

We went back to the child and got out of the van to speak with her. By this time a light rain was falling. As I sat next to her on the curb I realized the bundle on the ground was a small sleeping child. It was her 4-year-old brother Florin. There were seven brothers and sisters all together. They were looked after by their grandmother who made them go out to the streets to beg. Florin slept so soundly he was barely breathing and I was afraid he was dead. I touched his small hand, which was crusty with mud and every cell in my body screamed at me to do something for these children. I took off the long sleeve denim shirt I was wearing as a jacket and slipped it around the little girl. It was a dumb, melodramatic thing to do, but I had to do something to comfort this child. She would not let us take her to shelter and was afraid to leave her spot. 

After several minutes another child and an old woman with a swollen stomach came out of the bushes about 50 yards away and walked toward us. The woman spoke briefly with my companions and picked up the sleeping boy. Our eyes met and I hope that she somehow saw compassion in my face, even though at that instant I was actually feeling indignation and contempt for a grandmother who could use children in this way But all I saw in her eyes was grief and hopelessness. If she was conniving and cruel and opportunistic, there was no glimmer of it in her dark eyes or weathered face. As they turned to go, the little girl moved to return my shirt, but I insisted she keep it wrapped around her and I slipped a wad of Lei (Romanian money) into the pocket.

I've been told not to give money to children who beg in the streets as it only encourages the practice and the children never get to keep the money, but I had to do something for this child. Perhaps this little bit of money would spare her from a beating for drawing so much attention. Maybe someone would give her a word of encouragement or smile at her that day. She walked away with the older child and they made a place for themselves in a grassy area on the other side of the street where it seemed they would spend the night. During the day it is easier to be hard and ignore the begging children. But it is nearly impossible for any decent human being to walk away from a little child sleeping in the streets on a rainy night

ORPHANED and ABANDONED

The Romanian government reports there are over 200,000 orphaned and abandoned children in Romania, but the actual number may be double that. Some of them are packed into state orphanages, but most still live in the streets. There are shelters that will take the younger ones overnight, but they have to go back out to the streets in the morning. Sometimes they can sneak into the train station. Sometimes they get to sleep in jail.  It is my hope that our future mission trips will include at least one day in Bucharest taking food and warm clothing to the homeless children.

I pray that God opens the way for us to provide homes for as many of these little ones as possible. These children are the innocent victims of the silent war of poverty. There has been no earthquake or typhoon to draw international attention to their plight. They stopped crying for help as infants because no one ever responded. A generation of broken hearts will continue to sleep in despair until we awaken them with the gentle and caring touch of hope. I pray that God will provide a way for us to reach them before they are lost forever.  

Erin Weyerich 

 

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