Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October Update

October has been a month full of adventures and new experiences including leading the children's teachings in both villages (Calatele and Sacuieu), traveling to Cluj each Monday to work with Ciprian, experiencing autumn, winter and autum again (all in less than a week) and this past week traveling back to Oradea to help out at the rehab center and children's hospital. I would need pages to write everything I want to; however, I also don't want any of you to fall asleep so I will try to give you the Reader's Digest Version :)

Church Plants in Sacuieu and Calatele

At the beginning of the month, we were holding the children's ministries outside and the adult bible studies in some of the gypsies homes. However, with the unpredictable weather, including snow on October 14th, we are praying for a home to be open even for the children. In Sacuieu, we meet at an elderly couple's home (Baba Lucretia and her husband Florea). They both love the Lord and have graciously opened their home for Nicu to use; however, because of the tribal-like culture, some of the people in the village won't come to their home. Please pray that they would feel such a need to hear God's word that they would put aside these issues. The great news is some new people have been attending services, including a man named Danut. He came to church a few weeks ago for the first time, confessed that he was a believer but had not been walking with the Lord but desired to have a renewed walk. The men all prayed over him, it was so beautiful. I am also continuing todo some therapy with Iasmina (the litte girl in the picture above). She has now willingly comes to me for her "exercises". So sweet!

The situation in Calatele has been more challenging, but at the same time also more rewarding. Feri, Danut (a different Danut) and Mircea continue to come to all the meetings/bible studies and we have had a great number of children attending. Some of the women have also started coming, including Mircea and Feri's wives. I am currently teaching them the creation story to the children. I am learning the importance of oral traditions as most of the children can not read, but are eager to hear and learn more of God and His love for them. For the past few years Nicu and Silvana have held the studies/services at Baba Maria's. Sadly, Baba Maria informed us we are no longer welcome to meet at her home as she has some problems with Feri. There has been a lot of spiritual warfare occuring and she is again involved curses and witchcraft. The good news is we are now meeting in Feri's home and he is open to the children coming. The sad news is Baba Maria has forbidden he grandchildren from coming. This is especially hard for Lamaie and Marcela. I went to visit Lamaie and to sing some songs with her. She clung to me so tightly and the sadness in her eyes was almost too much for me to bear. I was heartbroken. Please pray for these children and also for Baba Maria. I promised Lamaie I would continue to come visit her, pray that the seeds planted will grow deep, even if she can not come to the services.
Getting to the villages has also been a challenge. Soon after I wrote my last update, the Hagiu's car completely broke down and could no longer be fixed. Feri graciously picked us up whenever he could, but sometimes we had to wait an an "auto stop" to hitch rides. Lots of adventures! But praise God, the Hagiu's were able to get a car this past Saturday. Thank you to everyone who prayed and financially sacrificed for the car. I will post pictures of the car once I am back in Sancraiu.

Mondays in Cluj

Every Monday I leave Sancraiu around 6:45 a.m., travel to Huedin and then take a train to Cluj-Napoca where I work with my friend Ciprian. He is working in a special needs kindergarten with children between the ages of 3-9. He is doing a wonderful job, but wants the best for the children. I absolutely love watching him implement new ideas we discuss. Last week he told me if another kinetotherapist were to watch him work they wouldn't say it's therapy but he doesn't care because he is seeing not only progress, but also how much happier the children are! Last week I brought some adaptive equipment for Andrei, a 7 year old with cerebral palsy. Thanks to Jacinda, my co-worker at St Joe's, I was able to bring over some scrap material to make him some hand splints. We also began working on teaching him to assist with feeding. He is loving his adapted spoon! A few of the children have autism, so I am enjoying putting my SI (sensory integration) skills to use. Cipri hangs out with me until I catch my train at 6:00 pm which has given us time to discuss the kiddos. We have also had some in-depth conversations regarding creation which has been very exciting!


October 22-28th found me back in Oradea working with Dora and some of the kinetotherapist's at the rehab center as well as spending 2 days at the children's hospital with Kathy's workers (Dorina, Rodica and Vera). Dora has a new child she is seeing with Down's Syndrome, Ema. She is a sweet 1 year old but is not yet crawling or sitting. However, by the end of the week, she was taylor sitting for a few minutes at a time! I was also asked to see another child with some of the other therapists. He was quite challenging to work with; however, I was happy to help brainstorm with the therapists and his mother. Thankfully I still had a few supplies here, so I was able to give them a therapy brush and a few toys.

Returning to the children's hospital was definitely the highlight of my time in Oradea! As I entered the "genetic unit", I was warmly greeted by Dorina, Rodica and Mia. It was great to see the progress Evelina has made since she had her surgery for the cleft lip. She is now waiting to have the second surgery for her palate. But she babbles and smiles! Soledad is as beautiful as ever and is also babbling and smiling. Rodica has done a wonderful job maintaining her range of motion (which is limited due to her diagnosis, arthrogryposis). Levente is no longer tolerating sitting up in his little cradle rocker, but he loved being played with in his crib. I also met a new child to the unit, Rebeca. She is a precious little one with spina bifida and hydrocephaly. She has had 2 operations; but sadly neither was successful. She enjoyed being rocked and held almost as much as I loved holding her!

I also spent part of each day with Vera, Kathy's worker on the premature unit. Seeing those tiny babies still breaks my heart. Abandonment remains such an issue here. There were 8 little abandoned ones that Vera is working with. One of the little boys is very ill, just skin and bones. He also has some deformities so I worked with Vera on providing some gentle stretching and positioning. I was also able to leave some preemie pacifiers thanks to St Joe's!

I continue to be thankful for all the prayers and encouragement I have received, I know this is what sustains me.

Joyfully His,

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A little bit about Sacuieu and Calatele...

During this first week, I have been traveling to Sacuieu and Calatele with Nicu and Silvana, primarily beginning to establish relationships with the children and adults. It has been a joy to see some of the adults and children with whom I met 2 years ago. When I entered Sacuieu last Sunday, one of the first people I saw was Zorca and her mother Marioara. Zorca’s face lit up when she saw me as did mine! It has also been encouraging to see many lives changed in Calatele, especially Fery, Danut, Mircea and Baba Maria. They are all attending church faithfully and have truly impacted their homes. In Sacuieu, only a handful of adults have been coming to Nicu’s teachings; however, the children there are eager to hear bible stories from Silvana and to sing worship songs with Nicu. One great note of encouragement that I have seen in Sacuieu is Marioara’s decision to not “sell” her oldest daughter Mirela for marriage. Instead, she chose to give Mirela in marriage and trust God to provide for her and her family. This is completely opposite to gypsy mentality; however, God has not only blessed Marioara, but also Mirela’s relationship with her new husband. In a society where selling your 12 or 13 year old daughter into marriage is the “norm”, this is truly a testimony of living out your faith.

I have also started to help with children’s worship and hopefully soon (as my Romanian improves), I will be able to help Silvana more with children’s ministry. Church services are held on Sunday and Wednesday in Sacuieu and on Tuesday and Friday in Calatele. Neither village has a church building, thus we have been meeting outside. As winter approaches, this will become more difficult. A few families have graciously opened up their homes for use; however, because of tribal-like family dynamics, not all will attend if it is held at someone’s home. Please pray for us to have a place to meet on neutral territory. Please also pray that if God would have Nicu buy land and build a church in either or both villages, that he would make that clear and that He would provide the means. I also ask that you would pray for Nicu and Silvana for a new car. I am so thankful for the contribution my church has made, but please don’t stop praying! Their current car is literally falling apart, with Nicu making repairs nearly every day. If you are interested in assisting toward a car financially, please email me and I will give you more information.

As for using my therapy skills, Claudia, the little girl with cerebral palsy, is now living in another village. However, on my first night in Sacuieu, a woman named Tudorita came to Silvana in pain, reporting she was hit in the shoulder by a horse. I was able to evaluate her movement and pain to see if anything seemed broken. I am now working with her each time we go, providing range of motion and gentle stretching. She has been very appreciative and has been open to us praying for her. Last time we were there, they brought a 3 year old little girl (Iasmina) to me, asking me to look at her left foot as she has problems walking. Iasmina has very minimal ankle movement, so I will start working with her too. In addition, starting tomorrow (October 5th), I will be traveling each Monday to work with Ciprian in Cluj (a city about 1 ½ hrs from here). He is working at a special needs kindergarten and has asked me to work with him once a week.

Because a few people have asked me for my address here, I am enclosing it. Of course I would love to receive letters or cards, but you can also write letters of encouragement to Nicu and Silvana or to their children Leon (age 10) and Naomi (age 12). I know they would love it!

Nicu and Silvana Hagiu (Dawn Hoffman)
Sat Sancraiu NR 83
JUD Cluj
COD 407515

Tanti Maria’s

Yesterday I awoke to find Maria chasing a pig around the yard…today I opened the door to find 3 turkeys gobbling away! I’m definitely not in Phoenix anymore!

While staying here in Sancraiu I am living with Maria, a neighbor of Nicu and Silvana’s. It is typical to call an older person “Tanti”, sort of a form of endearment. Maria is a kind, hard-working widow who primarily lives off her land. She raises pigs, turkeys and chickens for food, plus milks her cow 2 times a day and also finds time to tend to her garden.

Tanti Maria lives in traditional village home. As you walk up the steps and enter the home, there are 3 rooms. My room is a nice size, with 2 couches that both turn into beds, a table with 4 chairs and a “soba” (wood-burning heater). The only down-side is living out of my suitcases as she doesn’t have any closets. But yesterday I bought a few baskets and am feeling much more organized. The kitchen and bathroom are detached, which means I have to go down the stairs and outside. I am also adjusting to not having hot water and limited showers (I shower at Nicu and Silvana’s on the days they heat water). However, compared with all the blessings I have received, these are only small sacrifices!

Please pray that I will be a blessing to Tanti Maria and that she would clearly see traces of Christ in my life.


I am now settling into my “home-base” for the next several months. Sancraiu is a lovely little village about 2 hours from Oradea. Nicu thinks there are about 1000 families, but only 80 are ethnically Romanian. The majority are Hungarian as this area belonged to Hungary until the end of WWI. So my limited Hungarian is coming in useful, especially when greeting neighbors and reading signs.

Sancraiu is a quiet place, with 2 little markets (about the size of a Circle K) and a lot of “pensuines” (a type of rustic bed and breakfast). Since it is now autumn, many of the people are harvesting their plums, apples, corn and potatoes for winter. It is as common to see people with horse and wagons as it is to see people in cars. Somehow these 2 very diverse ways of life come together symbiotically. I have been taking long walks each day, becoming acquainted with the village. Each day I am amazed by His beauty through simplicity, especially as I get to experience the changing of seasons. For certain, nature cries out there is a Creator! Please pray for the people of Sancraiu, there are very few believers here.