Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Month of Travels: Recap of January

Thus says the LORD your Redeemer,
The Holy One of Israel:
I am the LORD your God,
Who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you by the way you should go.
(Psalm 48:17)

Heading to Suceava: January 3rd, 2010

Based on some of my American and Romanian friends descriptions of the “Hunger Train” (supposedly the worst train, connecting Oradea to Suceava), uncertain weather conditions and travel time involved (12+ hours); I made the decision to fly to Suceava with TAROM, Romania’s national airlines. Of course there are no direct flights to anywhere from Oradea, which meant flying south to Bucharest and then northeast to Suceava. However, the entire journey was scheduled to be only 3 hours. That was the plan. But due to technical difficulties, the plane was 30 minutes delayed, leaving me only 15 minutes to change planes in Bucharest. Yikes! After rushing to my gate and seeing check-in was closed, I panicked. I have no idea what came over me, but I just boldly looked the lady in the eye and made it quite clear I was getting on the plane tonight. And somehow she agreed to let me try. Pushing to the head of the line of security was quite the experience...but thanks to His favor, I succeeded. 3 ½ hrs seemed longer than traveling from Arizona to Romania, but thankfully I arrived safely.

Time in Suceava: January 4th- 15th 2010

I had been invited to come to Suceava and work directly under the county’s Child Protection due to the connections my good friend Vasile. Vasile is a kinetotherapist (equivalent to physical therapy) I had worked with in the past. He now lives in England, but contacted me in September to implore me to come to Suceava and Bucharest. He has an amazing story. He grew up in a large orphanage in Suceava county, yet is one of very few success stories. As such, he has a HUGE heart for the disabled and abandoned children here in Suceava.

I was placed at Blijdorp Day Center, a wonderful center designed by a group from Belgium, but completely run under the auspices of Suceava’s Child Protection. Blijdorp provides a school-like setting for ~ 40 disabled children and a work-shelter program for ~ 20 young adults. Adjacent to the center sits Emmanuel House, a home built for 18 severely impaired children and young adults who were previously institutionalized in a large orphanage with very poor conditions.

My time in Suceava was definitely my desert experience. I stayed in the center ~ alone from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. It was also my first time traveling to a place in Romania where I knew no one. The first few days were so lonely and quite creepy at night (staying in such a large building and hearing the security guard’s steps outside my door), but after I chose to see this as a blessing, things turned around rapidly. I had so much time to read my bible, focus on my studies on the parables of Jesus and work on memorizing the first chapter of Ephesians (my 2010 goal is to memorize the book of Ephesians). And to top it all off, I started to get to know some pretty amazing people who work at the center. Just needed to get my eyes off of me…
The 2 weeks were incredibly busy with evaluating children, working with staff, and providing 4 training sessions on sensory integration (3 for staff and 1 for parents). However, it was all worth it to see the “ah ha” moments as teachers, staff and parents all finally “got it”. I had several parents actually cry, saying they had never understood their child’s behaviors before. Another bonus for me was helping the parents and staff know how valuable each of their children are, and that they were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), perfect in Him, through Him and for Him. And yet another bonus: the center truly embraced my expertise, so much that they immediately began preparations for a “sensory room”. Just amazing!

staff training
parent training

having a "ball"

me, Madalina and Lorant (PT)

Thanks to the generosity of the center, I was treated one Saturday to a day of sightseeing. Bucovina (the region) is a beautiful and important part of Romania, famous for it’s painted monasteries, painted eggs (I’m a big collector) and the black pottery of Marginea.

Suceava is home of the largest "painted egg"

Sucevita painted monastery, me wirh Mihaela

Moldovita painted monastery, me wirh Daniela

Painted Monastery

Bucharest: January 16th- 31st, 2010

If Suceava was my desert experience, I would have to say my time working with FARA Charity was my living water experience. As some of you may recall, I came to Bucharest in June 2008 and really believed I was supposed to return here. However, due to some very sad and discouraging events which took place after I had returned to the U.S., I had pretty much made up my mind I did not want to come back here again. To my Bucharest represented too much pain, hurt, rejection…so it was easier to avoid this place than to deal with issues. But once again, Vasile insisted I was needed here. I was still even unsure as I boarded the train for my 7 hour journey from Suceava to Bucharest. Nothing made sense. What did I really have to offer? The director had called to tell me she needed help with their newest home, St Raphael’s, a home for 8 young adults rescued from horrific conditions in a special needs orphanage. As I recall, I made it abundantly clear that I was more specialized in working with younger children. But she so politely insisted, stating several of the young people were on the autism spectrum and that my sensory integration skills would be greatly needed.

During my 7 hour train ride, with no one to talk to and a dead iPod, I had lots of time to just think and pray. As I was praying, I really asked God to search me and also to show me what it means to be fully surrendered and fully available. I thought these were concepts I had understood, but in those lonely hours on the train, He broke me, so gently and so beautifully. He showed me how I had been limiting Him and gave me a glimpse of what he had in store for me. Needless to say, I arrived in Bucharest with a changed heart and a much needed attitude adjustment. :)

Me and Mada, her ability to learn English is amazing!

Gabi and me, such a precious child of God

Me and sweet Ana

The girl who stole my heart~ Elena (Ela)

Ines with Marius and Mitica

Sanda, Cami, me, Ela and Cati

Group activity

Me and Ela playing dress up at IKEA

Ela posing in swing we bought

The young adults really love ball time!

I want so much to share with you all of my experiences at St Raphael’s Home, but it would take days and days to write, and yet, I am sure it would not be adequate. Simply stated, it was like finding “home”. I lived at the home, was with those precious young adults 24/7 for 2 weeks and did not want to leave! I truly bonded with each of them~ Elena, Gabi, Mada, Ana, Tudor, Mitica, Marius and Florin. I also bonded with all of the staff ~ so much that when it was time to leave, we all cried! I especially became close with the director, Ines (a former nun) and Ela (the psychologist). How quickly God knit our hearts together is something I can not explain, but nevertheless, I am praising Him for it. The workers truly love these kids and were so eager for any training I could give. The best part was seeing how receptive the staff was in immediately implementing programs. We were able to purchase a therapy ball and hammock swing while I was there. Each night the staff and kids eagerly looked forward to “ball time” as well as “English lessons”. Another highlight of my time there was going to sledding (using plastic bags) followed by taking the kids and staff to McDonald’s (a first for them!). To see how much progress each of them has made since leaving the orphanage last June is nothing short of miraculous. To me, they are my best understanding of how God can truly redeem a life.

outing to the park and McDonald's

Sledding with Sanda~ too fun!

""Trenulet" (train) sledding

Ela, me, Ines, Sanda and Ana~ right after Ines threw me in the snow!

Group photo ~ St Raphael's kids and staff

Group photo at the park~ pre-sledding

Restoration. Redemption. These are the best words to describe my time in Bucharest. Ariana and Lili, two of the incredible women I worked with at the orphanage in 2008 came to visit me at St Raphael’s. I had asked them to come and evaluate Gabi to see if she might benefit from a communication plan called PECS. They readily agreed! To me, this was my Peter moment. Remember in the Bible when Jesus restores Peter by taking him back to his point of denial, recreating the scene, so that he could be restored? That is kind of what it was like for me. Bringing my back to Bucharest was His plan, bringing Ariana and Lili to come work beside me for a day was His plan…His plan for restoration. His love for us is overwhelming!
Because Gabi responded so well to using PECS, I hired Lili and Ariana to come back and implement the entire program with her. They will also be helping to create visual schedules for all of the young adults, as well as providing staff training on the programs.

Lili and Gabi~ Gabi was such a quick learner!

Lili, me and Ariana

On one my weekends, I took a bus to Sinaia for some much needed rest. Sinaia is known primarily for Peles Castle, built by King Carol in the 1800s, as well as it's monastery. Despite being sick, it was a lovely weekend.

Peles Castle from a distance

At Peles Castle

Sinaia Monastery

Now as I write this I am in Oradea, leaving to return to Sancraiu tomorrow to spend 4 days with Nicu and Silvana. I am excited to visit my gypsy brothers and sisters in Calatele and Sacuieu, especially to meet Fery’s new daughter, Rebeka.

I pray you have been greatly encouraged by this letter and that you never lose sight of His love for you!

Joyfully His,



Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your faithful updates. In a small sort of way, it allows us to share in your journey and not only see the growth of your ministry, but the personal growth in you. Isn't it so amazing how God can take our willing heart to serve Him by ministering to others and we come away more blessed than those we serve or minister to!
Your pictures are certainly breath taking! Such sweet memories that you will take to Eternity with you! Thanks for sharing your life and ministry with us . . . we are enriched by it!
Love in Christ,
Pastor John and Becky

Rachel said...

I love you my friend! What an encouraging update, filled with story after story of how God is faithful and takes care of us and loves the children of Romania!!!

I am totally looking forward to our time together in Oradea. See you soon Dawn!!!