With Christmas come and gone, I figured I ought to give a quick update on some of our holiday adventures here in Romania. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures, so you don’t get any.
For starters, nearly $600 in donations came in this year for buying Christmas gifts for poor families. (Way to go, 724! You guys rock!!!) We’re still a small work, so this more than covered all of our expenses this year! Besides bringing gifts (around 40 or 50) ourselves for families to whom we’ve been ministering, we were also able to give a donation to a church doing a similar work in another area of Bucharest. For everybody who gave to make this happen, thanks!
The week before Christmas, we took Mary and Becky with us to deliver presents to a couple families near Drumul Taberei to whom we’ve been ministering now for over a year. Vasilica, most of whose family is addicted to heroin and whose son just got back from the hospital, was overjoyed when we showed up with gifts for her grandson and two young children. Nearby, Viisoara and her children (six) live in an abandoned factory. They all loved the unexpected visit from “Mos Craciun,” and even sang us a Romanian Christmas carol… albeit nobody seemed to be able to remember the right words! On this trip, we were also joined by a couple refugees to whom we’ve been ministering; it was a really multicultural event: Romanians, Africans, Afghanis, Americans, and Gypsies!
Christmas Eve, we stopped in to visit the few Roma families still living in the Mihai Bravu neighborhood. Although many of those from our fellowship here have moved on to other places, a handful still remain. With our own move to new parts of the city and the beginning of the work near the universities, though, it had been a number of months since our last visit. It felt like seeing family again and, needless to say, everyone was thrilled. (On a side note, praise God, Iancu and Rita are doing much better, too. They’ve moved into a new home; it’s just one room but big enough for their family of five and much cleaner than their previous place. Best of all, Rita told us that Iancu has stopped being violent. Praise God for intervening here!)
Also on Christmas eve, we took a trip to one of my favorite places in Bucharest: Vacaresti. In the summer, I love to visit this “park” because it’s almost always empty (except for the squatters living in the south end). Here, I can finally get away from people, which, in a city of 2 million, is quite an undertaking! We don’t have any ongoing work with the families here in Vacaresti, but we have visited a few times to pray with and encourage them to follow after Jesus. Joined by Tene from Cameroon and Daniel from Romania, Jake and I embarked on our journey on Christmas Eve, laden with oranges, chocolate, winter hats, and toys.
We expected things to be pretty uneventful, just a quick stop in and a bunch of smiling kids opening their gifts, nothing too exceptional. But when we arrived we learned our timing was… divinely-orchestrated.
Little known to us, only hours before we arrived, Lilly, a nine-month old girl, was found dead by her father, having suffocated in their poorly-ventilated, wood-heated home. The authorities, fearing the safety of the remaining children in the community (around 20 or 30), responded quickly and in force. However, much like in America, social workers are not always appreciated by the families they try to serve, and so as authorities approached, the children fled en masse to relatives and friends scattered around Bucharest. Merry Christmas eve…
By the time we reached the ramshackle homes, the only ones remaining were a few stunned parents and Lilly’s grieving mother and father. I’m sure you can imagine how useless we felt carrying Christmas gifts for children who were no longer present, but when we are weak, God is strong
In the end, we offered what condolences we could, prayed with the parents, and shared a bit from the Bible, encouraging them to follow after Jesus and to trust in the compassion and goodness of God even in such difficult days. We left the gifts for when the children returned, which, the parents assured us, would probably be in a few days.
Please pray for all those families who received Christmas gifts as a part of this year’s outreach. Pray for God to use this small act of to draw the children and their families into relationship with him.