When Florentina was born, she was a strong and healthy baby, a perfect little girl. But her mother’s only income came from begging, and she needed money. She took steel wires and tied her daughter’s fingers tight so they would not grow, crippling her in order to make her a better beggar. But after years of heroin addiction, abuse, rape, and life on the streets, she found a second chance at life when Victory Outreach opened its doors to her and her newborn son. Two years into living free and clean, and she fell back into drugs. Now, she’s back on the streets, addicted to heroin and haunted by her past, with little hope for the future. When I met her, all she wanted was to show us the people who had helped her and introduce us to her little boy. Despite her sad state, she is still a proud mama.
When Ioan was a boy, his mother gave birth at the hospital and then immediately left, never to return. He grew up in the orphanage then ran away when he was seven years old. After some months on the streets, the Romanian government (under Ceaucescu) sent vans throughout the city of Bucharest to clean up the homeless problem. Authorities grabbed stray children until the vans were filled to capacity and then drove them out to the villages in the mountains. There, they were abandoned and told never to return to Bucharest. Ioan walked for two days to get back to the only home he had ever known: the streets of the Romanian capital city. Years of addiction and life on the streets took their toll on Ioan, but he found a new beginning in Jesus and is now a growing member of Victory Outreach church, where I remember him as the smiling man who gave me a Coca Cola.
Working as a pastor, I get to meet a lot of people from all sorts of walks of life, and everyone has a story, a story usually marked by failure and loss as well as victory and celebration. No two stories are alike, and these stories make us who we are. Of all those I’ve heard, none have struck my heart quite like the stories of Florentina and Ioan.
Pray for them and for the work Victory Outreach is doing among the poorest of the poor, the outcasts and drug addicts most churches refuse to admit.