Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fall Update (September-November)

"He has made everything beautiful in its own timeAlso, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of his labor-it is the gift of God. I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. Goes does it that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been, and God requires and account of what is past. " Ecclesiastes 3:11-15

Today is Romania's National Holiday, which means businesses are closed and I finally have a day off to get caught up on emails and write this long overdue blog. Fall has come to a quiet end here in Oradea. The trees are now barren and the brilliant colored leaves have been raked away. The days are becoming shorter and Christmas decorations now adorn the streets, shops and most homes. The changing of seasons from fall to winter brings a time of self reflection and a deeper longing for Jesus. And he gently reminds me all is made beautiful in His time. Join me as I reflect upon the beauty of the last three months.


September was a busy month as most of our children from PLC started gradinta (preschool).  With the changes in scheduling, I began providing consultation 2 days a week in a special needs preschool and also started working with a few children individually.  It has been a joy to watch the children progress and also have the opportunity to begin forming relationships with several of the parents.

The other big news was that I finally settled into my own apartment! I signed a 6 month lease on a 2 bedroom (650 square feet) apartment. So, visitors are welcome anytime! I am thankful for a quiet place to rest, space to entertain guests, having a real bed to fall into each night, being able to cook my own meals, and for having internet connection. 

Casa dulce casa (home sweet home)


My October started in Baia Mare, a city 4 1/2 hours from Oradea, in the heart of Maramures.  The month began with participating in Autism Baia Mare's 2-day National/International Conference 2015 "Accept me as I am".  It was a huge honor to be asked to return again this year as a speaker and also a presenter for their one-day workshop. I had great fun educating therapists from all over Romania on practical strategies to promote self regulation skills in children with autism. We were a rather varied group of presenters and only 2 of us were "internationals", but we had the best camaraderie and such fun together. 

After the 2 day conference, we (the presenters) were treated to a day of sightseeing, visiting some of the most beautiful places in Maramures.  Maramures is widely regarded as Romania's most traditional area. Our stops included Sapanta (The Merry Cemetery), The Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance (Sighet Prison), and we ended our day visiting the magnificent Barsana Monastery. It was a beautiful-ugly-sobering kind of day. It was beautiful to see the lovely places, but the visit the memorial in Sighet was hard. To read the stories of people like Richard Wurmbrand (the founder of Voice of the Martyrs), but to stand in the place where those horrific events occurred was something quite sobering. It gave me a much deeper appreciation for those who stood up against communism.

The next morning, all the other presenters left for their homes and I began my week of consultation in  Autism Baia Mare's clinics in both Baia Mare and Sighet. This is my third year collaborating with this center. It is such a nice treat to go somewhere where I have established relationships with most of the staff and know several of the children. The staff at Autism Baia Mare was eager to implement their newly learned strategies on self regulation as well as to learn how to use iPads more therapeutically.

One of the biggest highlights of my time in Baia Mare was spending time with Andreea, one of the center's office coordinators. as we drove from Baia Mare to Sighet.  The nearly 2 hour journey afforded us lots of quality time in the car. Andreea asked me if I remembered the first time I visited their center. She reminded me of a passage in scripture I had shared with the group (Psalm 139). She went on to tell me how this impacted the way she looked at children with special needs and that she now she wants to share this hope with the parents. Amazing! Such a beautiful thing to see words spoken 3 years ago are making a difference. Not really surprising though. Just like the Bible says "for as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Learning about Self Regulation

After arriving home from Baia Mare, I returned to PLC and also began seeing a few more children in their homes. A week later, I received a call from my good friend, Ciprian. He is now working at a center in Cluj, a city 3 hours from Oradea. He called to ask me to help write a small grant which would enable his work to purchase much needed therapy equipment, and would also allow for us to have collaboration. Unfortunately, we didn't get the grant, but I am praying about going to Cluj 2-3 days/month to help in his center anyway. While I was in Cluj, I also did a reassessment on a little boy I saw last year. One hour turned into nearly 4 hours as I quickly realized how much his mom was hurting. She has not come to acceptance with his diagnosis of autism and has little emotional support. Her husband left the marriage due to their son's disability. My heart aches as this seems to be such a familiar story.  This again reminds me why I am here: to show His love to the broken.

Beautiful Cluj

The next Sunday I was privileged to attend the church dedication of my Romanian nephew, David Ionatan, and also celebrate his big brother Iosua's 7th Birthday. Their mommy, Ramona and their auntie Adela, have been like sisters to me since 1999. All of the children call me "Tusa" (Aunt) Dawn. So thankful for family in Romania! 


November began in Bucharest. I was asked last year if I would be willing to take part in a 2 week conference/symposium for child protection. Initially, my commitment was for a few days; however, due to several changes in the schedule, I ended up agreeing to stay for 11 of the 14 days. Unfortunately, the airport in Oradea was not open, thus I took a train from Oradea to Timisoara and then flew from Timisoara to Bucharest. It took over 7 hours, but it was still better than the 14 hour train ride!
The 2 week conference was hosted by Sector 6 Child Protection. The training team included myself and 2 other American occupational therapists, Beth Shaffer and Julie Miller. Our only communication up to the conference was via email, one Skype conference and a few phone conversations, but we had never met until the day before the conferences started. Yet, we immediately bonded and ended up having such a fun time. It was a wonderful feeling to be with other OTs and to be surrounded by people with a common vision. We were also able to connect with one of the Romanian occupational therapists  (Marinela Rata) who is now teaching at the University in Bacau. I am looking forward to collaborating with her in the future. 

During my first weekend in Bucharest, I was blessed to get to visit the children at Don Orione. It had been 8 months since I last saw these precious children! Oh what joy to hear the children shouting my name (Dawn Americanca) as well as the inexpressible comfort of having them wrap their arms around me and tell me how much they missed me. After a few hours, I was then given permission to take Liviu home to his grandmother's for the evening. What a special time we had playing with his siblings, cousins, and neighbors. This was the first time he has been home since his mother passed away. Thankfully I have developed a good relationship with his grandmother. She has such a kind heart, but is so burdened just caring for his 2 siblings. Please keep her in your prayers (Teodora).

Visiting Don Orione!

 Home with Liviu's Family

On my second weekend, Julie and I were invited to go away to the mountains with some of Sector 6's staff. We had a lovely day exploring Rasnov Fortress and Bran Castle before catching the train back to Bucharest. 

Since returning to Oradea 3 weeks ago (November 11th), my time has consisted of consulting at PLC, seeing more children in their homes, collaborating with Romanian OTs here in Oradea (Mirela and Lili), providing consultation at the children's neurological rehabilitation hospital in Baile 1 Mai (near Oradea), partnering with Emanuel Hospice (I am now seeing a 9 year old child with a brain tumor), and trying to balance all this with my Romanian lessons, seeing friends and doing all the day to day life activities we must do. In the end, my heart is full. I am content. 

Thanksgiving Day is always tough for me as it was my dad's favorite holiday. Plus when you grow up in a Jewish-Christian household, Thanksgiving becomes the one shared holiday. Of course I missed my family, but I was thankful to spend the day with a few fellow American friends and some great Romanians. After having a delicious traditional dinner (my first in Romania), I was blessed to attend the inauguration of the Zion Synagogue (it has been in ruins for years and the renovations were now completed). Such a special day. 

Last Sunday (November 29), my church held their annual event. This year's theme was "M-am Hotarat" which means "I have decided".  In addition to the outreach (more than 10,000 people attended), there were 31 people from my church who chose to be baptized. My good friend Marius' father and brother were among those baptized. It was an incredible night! I was so happy that my friends Dora, Anita and her husband accepted my invitation to come. 

The 29th was also the first day of Advent. I am doing a 4 week study for advent on John (Elizabeth/Zacharias), Joseph, Mary and Jesus. I love this time of preparation as it makes Christmas Day even more anticipated! This is the handmade advent wreath I purchased. Beautiful isn't it?

  • My apartment
  • Safe travels
  • Opportunities to connect with other therapists and organizations
  • Relationship-building with therapists, children and parents
  • Visitation to Don Orione and also special time with Liviu
  • Thanksgiving with friends
  • BBSO's Annual Event- for the baptisms and for the outreach
Prayer Requests:
  • Staying focused during the Christmas season
  • Preparing for my niece's visit (Khylie arrives in Budapest on the 17th)
  • Wisdom/discernment with trainings, scheduling
  • Ongoing prayer for relationship-building with PLC staff
  • Relationships with parents of the children, opportunities to share Christ's heart with them
  • My Romanian language lessons
  • To guard against homesickness during the holidays

I would love letters and cards! My address is:

Dawn Hoffman
Calea Aradului NR 39, BL A2, Ap 4
410223 Oradea

P.S. For those of you who would like to ponder a bit more on Ecclesiastes 3:11-15, I highly recommend reading Matthew Henry's Commentary. Good stuff!