When I was first taken to their home a few months ago, my first thought was that I had somehow been transported about 70 years back in time and 1400 miles west of Bucharest. The site looked just like what I’d picture a 1940s city in France would have looked like after a thorough shelling by enemy artillery. Bricks, trash, and wood littering the ground, dead electrical wires hanging out of old plaster walls, the charred remains from the fire used to cook breakfast… it all seemed like a scene from the movie “Saving Private Ryan“.
A few months ago, Vasilica introduced us to the handful of families who have been calling this abandoned construction site their home. They’ve been there for months and as long as the crumbling walls offer some protection from the elements and the owner doesn’t completely raze the place, they’re likely to stay here. Besides the three women we met, there are 10 to 15 kids living here, most of whom don’t go to school; only a few of whom know how to read. The families survive by begging and washing car windows at the nearby intersection (just one tram stop away from Romania’s biggest mall, Afi Palace, by the way). During the day, the children come to her house where she reads to them from the children’s Bible we were able to purchase her. As much as I’d like to think they come to hear the truth of the Word, I know most come to her simply to be loved. But I suppose that’s really no different from any of us.
I’d like to call this afternoon ministry, and really it was ministry, but I probably have to call it play. Yes, when we visited the kids today, we shared the gospel with them. Yes, we prayed with them. Yes, we fed them. (That’s Carmen to the left, by the way. She’s seven years, nine months old.) But I think they most felt the love of Jesus when we brought out a ball and just started playing with them. What better way to show you believe they’re valuable and worth your time than to simply do what they love to do?
I wish I had more photos of the group–they all love getting their picture taken, especially Andrei (to the right) when he can manage to sit still long enough–but my battery died after only three shots. These are such beautiful children, and I love getting to minister to them at this young age. As they grow older, the difficulties of being poor and Gypsy in Romania will harden many of their hearts towards God, towards life, and towards people. But for now, while there’s still a tenderness to them, we have the awesome privilege of planting seeds in the soil of their hearts. One day, we pray, those seeds will grow into a harvest.