Monday, December 28, 2009

December Update

Dear Friends and Family~

Happy December! I pray that you all had a joy-filled and blessed Christmas and are still marveling at the goodness of our Father in sending His Beloved Son to this earth just so that we could have sweet fellowship with Him.

December was the beginning of my “nomadic wanderings” as I split time between living in Cluj and Sancraiu. In addition, I spent one week in Budapest, including a day trip to Vienna with my good friends Agi, Laszca and their 19 month old daughter Zsofia. The week of Christmas was spent in the villages of Sacuieu, Calatele and Sancraiu. My first village Christmas!

Experiencing Christmas in Europe


Because I stayed 3 nights/week in Cluj, I finally had time to explore the city. With the added bonus of being here in December, I got to experience Cluj at it’s finest: decorated for Christmas. Every piata (square) was beautifully decorated with a unique theme. All the streets, churches and buildings were lit, the sound of colinde (Christmas caroling) could be heard each night and the Christmas Market was bustling with merry people.

Staying in Cluj also afforded me more quality time working with Ciprian and the children at the gradinita (special needs kindergarten). Some of the kindergarten highlights include Timi dressing herself for the first time and Andrei feeding himself! These were 2 of my favorite “Christmas presents” this year.


Experiencing the Christmas Markets in Vienna was so special, especially because I finally got to see Agi, Laszca and my sweet Zsofia. Taking in all the sights, sounds and smells was definitely a treat for the senses. As we drove from Budapest to Vienna (3 hours), it also started to snow ~ the first snow of December! On a down note, my camera was stolen during my trip :
Happily. I do have a few pictures from Agi's camera!


My beloved city of Budapest is even more spectacular at Christmas! My dear friend Jenny Lotter, a fellow missionary to Romania, was flying home to the U.S. so we decided to head over to Budapest a few days before her flight and enjoy some quiet time. Well, I am not sure if quiet time was as much planned as forced. I ended up with bronchitis on my 1st day of our vacation and was prescribed rest and sleep by the doctor. However, Jenny and I were still able to wander around the Castle district and take in the beautiful Christmas Market at Vorosmarty Ter. Because I was in Budapest during Hanukkah, I also visited the synagogue and went to to see the lighting of the mennorah. After Jenny left, I continued to stay on in Budapest and visit former colleagues and friends. One of my former students, Viki, invited me to stay with her. We had a lovely time catching up. She is such an amazing young woman and I am so proud of all she has accomplished. On my last night, she prepared an early Christmas meal for me ~ the best turkey dinner I have ever tasted! Another great highlight from my time in Hungary was being able to attend church at Calvary Chapel Budapest. The church continues to grow and now has 3 services on Sunday mornings. It was nice to hear the message in English and also be able to take the Lord’s Supper.

Christmas in the Villages

Thanks to the generosity of people from my home church, we were able to purchase lots of sweet treats and oranges for the children in Calatele and Sacuieu. Before I left for Hungary, Nicu, Silvana and I spent a day in Cluj purchasing cookies, candies and chocolates. God gave us great favor with prices, so we were so amazed at all we could buy! We were thankful knowing that the children would receive something special for Christmas.

When I returned from Budapest, I received some incredible news from Nicu and Silvana: through the goodness of Prison Fellowship, we received Operation Christmas Shoeboxes for all of the children in Calatele and Sacuieu! God sure wanted to bless those kids in a BIG way this year!

Calatele: December 22nd

After loading Nicu’s and Fery’s cars until nothing more could fit, we headed to Calatele and delivered the Christmas gifts on the 22nd. The children were so surprised and excited! Many of them waited patiently in their homes, but some of the kids were too excited and just followed us from house to house. Watching the children open the boxes and bags was the best Christmas gift I could have asked for, and getting to tell each of them the reason for the gifts ~ because Jesus came to the earth for us~ was even sweeter. We were also blessed by Fery, his son Cutitaru, and Danut helping us to deliver the gifts. Seeing the spiritual growth in these men has been so encouraging.

Sacuieu: December 23rd

The next day Fery and Danut came to Sancraiu and helped pack the cars full again, this time to go to Sacuieu. As we entered the village, the children came running to the cars! Despite their excitement, they each waited until we arrived at their homes. As we pulled up to Marioara’s home, her 2 youngest daughters (Lisa and Garoafa) ran to hug me. As I looked back, I glimpsed Marioara standing at the door, unashamedly weeping with joy. One of my other favorite moments was handing the gifts to Calin, a boy about 12 yrs old. He was not only the most gracious in accepting his gifts (“really, they are all for me?”), but he was also the most happiest about everything he received, even the socks and toothpaste!

Christmas Eve services were held at Baba Lucretia and Mosu Florea’s home. We had a sweet time of fellowship, including sharing the Lord’s Supper. After church, we visited several of the gypsy’s homes. As we entered each home, we were invited to a meal~ sarmale, salata de Boeuf, snitel and cakes. The gypsies generosity towards us really spoke to me ~ they have so little, yet they joyfully share with us. After a peaceful Christmas day in Sancraiu, we headed to Calatele to visit with Mircea’s, Danut’s and Fery’s families. This perhaps was my favorite Christmas time. The hugs and smiles I received from children were bittersweet. I have fallen in love with these children, and yet this was my last time with them~ for now. The next 6 weeks I will be traveling all over Romania, providing trainings on development and sensory integration. However, God willing I will be able to return to the villages for a few days in February.

I continue to be thankful for each of you~ and I pray that as we begin 2010, we will be filled with His joy and peace!

Joyfully His,


Sunday, November 29, 2009

November Update

"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children, and walk in love as Christ also has loved us and has given Himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma" Ephesians 6: 1-2

Dear family and friends,

Happy November's end! I pray you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. For me, November has been a month full of extra special thanksgivings. I have so much to share with you all and have decided to do it mostly through short stories/pictures. I hope this will give you a sneak peek into my life here in Romania.

In preparing for this update, I perused through my hundreds of pictures I have taken this month and tried to choose ones that would capture all that God is doing here in Cluj, Sancraiu/Calatele/Sacuieu as well as in Oradea. As you view these pictures, I ask that you would consider spending time praying for each of these precious lives.

A New Car!

In my last update I wrote about the Hagiu family's car situation. Getting to the gypsy villages during the month of October was quite the process (getting rides from Fery when/if his car was running, walking, name it!). But thanks to God's favor and generous support from my family and church family, as well as the Hagiu's supporting church (CC Treasure Valley), we were able to purchase a car. After weeks of praying and looking at cars, Nicu and Silvana found a 1995 Volkwagon Passat at a good price. We are so thankful that we can get to the villages of Calatele and Sacueiu consistently and safely. An added bonus is the size of the car. Because the car can hold 6 people, we are taking Fery, Mircea and Danut to our services in Sacuieu. Thank you to all who sacrificially gave.

Children's Ministry

Traian and Laura, Danut's children

It has been such a joy to serve alongside Silvana in reaching the gypsy children of Sacuieu and Calatele. During this past month I have been leading to worship and doing all the teachings in Romanian. My Romanian is pretty pathetic, but the children are so forgiving! In November we focused on Creation and the Fall. December is of course about God's promise fullfilled; our Savior's birth. In Calatele, we are holding children's worship in Fery and Verdeata's 1 room home. Last week that little room was packed with more than 30 children! We are so thankful for Fery's heart. He even stays with me during children's worship and prays with the children in their language (gypsy dialect).
The situation in Sacuieu continues to be challenging. We can only meet outside on the grass. Thankfully we haven't had any snow this month; however, it has still been cold and often rainy. Yet, amazingly the children still eagerly come. Please continue to pray that we would find a meeting place, specifically that someone would willingly open their home for us to use and that all children would be welcome. These children sure have captured my heart.
Another HUGE praise to share: my church at home did a bake sale a few weeks ago and raised enough money for me to make Christmas goody bags for all 250 kids! Each bag will contain some fruit, cookies, candies, chocolate and a bible verse/tract. This will be the only gift these kids receive so I am incredibly thankful to everyone who baked and also to everyone who bought all those yummy treats! Oh, another amazing praise: Baba Maria left for Spain so her grandchildren are all coming to worship again.

Lamaie and Adina, sisters in Calatele

Kids Worship in Calatele

Lisa and Soleda, Sacuieu

Silvana and me with Mircea's girls

Therapy Time: Special Needs Kindergarten

Each Monday I traveled by train from Huedin (the closest train station to Sancraiu) to Cluj. The train ride takes about an hour, so it is much like my daily commute back home without the hassle of being stuck in traffic. I continue to work alongside Ciprian, my Romanian PT friend. I have also begun to mentor Ramona, a PT grad student. Most of the children we see are quite involved, many with cerebral palsy or birth defects. Andrei has made excellent progress in his arm movement and towards learning to feed himself, Timi is learning how to dress herself, and Maria, Radu & Roni are accepting all kinds of new movement experiences. I love collaborating with Ciprian and am thankful to know that the investment I have made in him has~and will continue~to impact many children here in Romania.

Andrei, all smiles with his new splints

Radu, one determined little boy!

Timi and her art project

Andrei learning to feed himself

A Special Birthday

In the middle of November I traveled back to Oradea for a very special occasion: Denisa, the little girl I cared for in the orphanage as a infant, turned 7 years old. The party was a surprise for Denisa. When I arrived, I was shocked to see Lia, Denisa's former foster mother! We were the only guests. Lucia and Iuliu (Denisa's adoptive parents) wanted all the people who raised Denisa to be together~Amazing! Denisa was so happy to have her "3 mommies" together for the very first time. I continue to marvel at God's mercy and His perfect plan for her adoption; how He rescued a child without any hope and gave her such a beautiful life. I am so thankful for her life, for she was the impetus behind Abba's Kids. And to think He has done that for all of us who are His children~we are Abba's Kids!

"Mommy" Dawn and Denisa

The Birthday Girl

Denisa and her 3 "Moms" (with her brother Adam)

December is promising to be an adventurous month. I have been joking about my upcoming "nomadic lifestyle" for a few weeks now. I was planning to begin traveling to other cities at the beginning of January, focusing on providing 1-2 weeks of therapy inservices at each location. However, the woman I was renting from in Sancraiu informed me that her family would be coming for the month of December; hence I needed to move out. The Hagiu's and I searched for other accomodations in the village, but to no avail. Amazingly, I was less stressed than Nicu and Silvana! After much prayer and consultation with people here and at home, I decided to split my time the first 2 weeks of December in Cluj and Sancraiu. This will allow me extra time to work with the children (Monday-Wednesday) and still go to Calatele and Sacuieu with the Hagiu's. So let the train traveling adventures begin! I will then be traveling to Budapest (YAY!) for a few days before heading back to Sancraiu for the week of Christmas. Good thing I adjust well to living out of a suitcase :) In all honesty though, I would greatly appreciate prayers as I know my flexibility and adaptability will surely be tested.

Joyfully His,