Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Transitions and New Beginnings: January-March 2015

“Remember not the former things,
 nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
 now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? 
I will make a way in the wilderness
 and rivers in the desert" Isaiah 43:18-19

"Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; 
Do not spare;
 Lengthen your cords,
 and strengthen your stakes"  
Isaiah 54:2
Two weeks have passed since I arrived back in Arizona, thus I decided it was time to write a much overdue update. The two verses I posted above were special verses God gave me last year when I was preparing to return to full time ministry in Romania. He continues to use these verses to remind me of His greater plan, His bigger dreams for me during this time of transitions and new beginnings. More about that later.  First I will try to give you a recap of the last few months.

Most of my time from January to mid-March was spent at Centru Don Orione. After the excitement of Christmas settled and the promise of the New Year blossomed, my focus began to shift from providing hands-on therapy and support, to pouring my energy into the staff I knew I would be leaving behind. Thankfully Don Orione Center is blessed with several staff members who are passionate about providing excellent care and have caught the vision for helping the children reach their best potential. 

Classroom Developments

As I mentioned in my December update, I was overwhelmingly blessed by a few friends in helping me acquire several iPads. In January, we began using the iPads in our 2 classrooms. It was so fun to watch the children make such rapid progress with learning colors, shapes, numbers and letters simply by adding in the technology piece.  Some of the higher functioning children are now learning to write their names! In addition, several of the non-verbal children started to show the ability to match, sort and complete cause and effect activities when using the iPads. The educators are excited with these changes and are motivated to continue using technology in their classrooms.

Ana loves Peek-a-Boo Barn!
Look at Liviu's finger isolation! He loves that he can do this game independently!
Alex is making great progress with writing~ This says "Thank You" in Romanian
Proud Lumi~ learning to write her name

The children are also making amazing progress with their social skills. The children in Nina's class are now able to participate in a seated, structured circle time. They love getting to make choices for singing preferred songs and are now able to wait and take turns. These are HUGE accomplishments for these children! Ramona is beginning to accept more interaction with other children, Ana is exploring new activities with less resistance and Ioana M is showing great gains in her motor skills.  In Roxana's class, the children learned about polite manners, requesting or refusing items and how to advocate for their needs. It has been such a JOY to watch these children develop their play skills.  They love playing games together, especially CandyLand! Luminita loves to play house, Liviu is happiest with his remote control cars and Laurentiu is all about construction toys and trains. 

Ramona exploring Old MacDonald book during circle time
Ana's smile says it all!
Ioana says "Look everyone~ I can do this puzzle all by myself!"
Group Play in Roxans's Class~ CandyLand!
Laurentiu loves building his train tracks
Mami Lumi
Liviu and one of his many remote control cars

The children in both classes get together on Fridays for a cooking activity. This has been so much fun! They have made sandwiches, fruit salad, homemade pizza and a special Romanian no-bake cookies. They are learning all about working together, sharing items and doing an activity from start to finish....which means getting to eat all the yummy food they make! 

Outings with the British School of Bucharest

The British School of Bucharest continues to bring student volunteers once a week to visit and play with the children.  However, in order to develop more meaningful relationships and help some of the higher functioning children have more experiences with the outside world, we began doing outings or as we would call them "field trips".  In February, the children were treated to a trip to the Natural History Museum. The children loved getting to explore this wonderful museum!

Birthday Celebrations!

January and February were filled with lots of birthday celebrations. Seeing each child's life celebrated was probably my favorite part of being at Don Orione this year. In January, we celebrated Alexandra's 11th birthday and Alexandru's 9th birthday. February was filled with 3 special celebrations: Ioana's 6th birthday,  Liviu's 9th birthday and Fluturas' 15th birthday. Unfortunately I wasn't there for Fluturas' birthday, so I don't have any pictures from his party. Liviu's birthday was extra special as we celebrated it with his twin sister as well as several of his family members. It was truly a special day!

La Multi Ani Alexandra!

Happy Birthday Alexandru!

La Multi Ani Ioana!

Happy 9th Birthday Crina and Liviu!

Trainings, Transitions and New Beginnings

After months of planning,  I finally was able to do a training in the beautiful city of Brasov. The director of Copii de Cristal, a non-profit organization that serves 80+ children, youth and young adults with various disabilities, had contacted me after I presented at the international conference in Baia Mare back in October. Due to timing issues, we had to schedule the training for the end of January.  Over 25 psychologists, educators and parents attended the 2 day training. I loved the enthusiasm and the hunger for not only knowledge, but practical application, that the attendees showed.  I was also blessed to stay with Andra, one of the psychologist's, and her family.  Interestingly (and by God's great providence), Andra attended one of the very first trainings I ever did back in 2009, so it was great to see her and reconnect after all these years. They have already asked me to return next year and I really am looking forward to partnering with this amazing group of therapists!

Brasov Training

Over the past few months, God has been revealing more and more to me regarding His heart for parents of children with disabilities, as well as how He desires to use me in this area. This may seem kind of strange to read. Of course I know God wants me to reach out, support, encourage and love these parents.  Over the years of being a school-based and clinic-based therapist here in the U.S.,  I always loved connecting with the parents of children I served. Many have become lifelong, cherished friends. But somehow, during all my years in Romania, I have focused so intensely on abandoned and/or orphaned children, that it became hard for me to see the needs and the people God was placing in front of me. 
Over the past 5-6 years, I have done trainings throughout the country,  but this was always secondary to my work in orphanages.

The Sunday before I left for Brasov, I was challenged by a church study to consider what it means to live a sacrificial life. As I spent the next several days pondering this question, I journaled A LOT! I began asking God to show me areas where I was being "close fisted" instead of "open handed".  I began asking Him to show me where I was asserting my will over His Will. This led me to a place where I had to acknowledge and accept that I was holding on too tightly to MY work at Don Orione. You see, I was quite content being there. I loved my kids. I loved the people. But God was showing me that He has an even BIGGER DREAM for me. One that will be shifting my focus from direct care to providing more consultation, training and support to not only therapists, but more importantly to parents. 

In this same time,  I also traveled back to Oradea to meet with my dear friend, Ioana Corompaki, as well as her staff at Pyramid Learning Center (PLC).  PLC is a clinic that provides therapy for children with autism and other disabilities. During my week there, I was able to meet with several parents and provide consultation on sensory processing issues. It has been such an honor to come alongside PLC this year. Through a series of confirmations, God has shown me that my "home base" for this next period of time will be back in Oradea. This really is like coming "home" as Oradea has been my Romanian home for most of the past 16 years.  I am beyond blessed with not only friends there, but by many who consider me family.  

So what's next?  I will be returning to full time ministry in Romania in June (yes,  just over 2 months from now) in order to apply for my 5 year Religious Visa.  My current Visa expires in July, so I need to back in Romania by June to apply for my new Visa. Thanks be to God,  a wonderful church in Oradea has agreed to petition to the Ministry of Cults on my behalf! I am thankful for this as it will give me more spiritual accountability.  In regards to ministry, I will be providing consultation to the PLC staff and helping with program development. However,  I will also focus on seeking more opportunities to partner with existing day centers and clinics throughout Romania in order to provide more parent/staff trainings and support.  I will share more details in the near future. He is indeed stretching me as He shows me a new vision for Romania!

In the next month I will be able to share more about ministry partnerships and financial needs, but for now I would just ask you to pray to God for ways that you can be involved. If you have been a monthly donor and want to continue giving during this time that I am at home, thank you! If you want more information on how you can financially contribute, please contact me and I will share more details. If you have been a sponsor of a child at Don Orione, I will also be sending you information on how you can continue to be involved in the lives of the children there. 

Other prayer requests
  • For the children and staff at Don Orione, to continue the vision which was started
  • For me to have peace with leaving Don Orione, especially the children. I also would ask for prayers for clarity on how to stay connected as it is a 12-14 hour train ride from Oradea
  • Logistics in moving my stuff from Bucharest to Oradea
  • Unity/Shared vision with the PLC team
  • Partnership opportunities
  • Language learning, to be more diligent
  • Sweet time of refreshing and fellowship with my family and friends while I am here in the U.S.

With a Thankful Heart,


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