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.
Posted in Bucharest
Tagged beggars, bucharest, bucuresti, cruelty, drug addicts, druggies, drugs, homeless, justice, life story, romania, testimonies, victory outreach
The other day, we were taking soup to the homeless when a man approached us. He told us, “Come with me. There is a family that is very poor. Many people visit them and give them clothes. You can even take pictures of them.” That really bothered me. Take pictures of them… like they’re monkeys in a zoo and not people, like all I cared to do was get my “feed the homeless” badge and then be on my way, like their value was about as much as the time it would take for a couple photos…
When we arrived, we found a house in shambles but all the kids decently-dressed and looking mostly well-fed. They gladly received hot soup and prayer, but the whole time I felt like they saw me as nothing more than a visitor taking pictures at the zoo. (We didn’t take any photos, just so you know. None of us remembered our cameras.)
Before moving to Bucharest, I lived in Spring Green, a fairly well-off small town and tourist location in south-west Wisconsin. Sure, the median income is lower here than in a big city, but so are the expenses. A few people had difficulty paying bills each month, and some families were ruined by alcohol, but most people had a place to live and a car even if they didn’t have a job. And there’s the town food pantry that helps out once every month for anyone in the area or outlying towns that might need it. (Of course, more than a few times I remember seeing a young, healthy family drive up in their recently-washed sports car to come get some “assistance.”)
I wrote earlier about “Children Underground,” a documentary from 2001 about some of the children living in the subways of Bucuresti. Although much has changed since 10 years ago, much has remained the same. Instead of living in the subway tunnels, though, they now live in an old, abandoned, underground heating system in the north of the city. Instead of mostly children, there are now families. But they’re still hooked on drugs, usually paint or heroine.
One of the characters who most stood out to me from the video was Macarena, a 16-year-old girl hooked on paint and struggling to survive. Watching her cry over her stolen paint and beg for food, I couldn’t help but feel compassion in my heart.
Well, our friend and co-worker Jason just called us with some crazy news: he ran into Macarena today! In a city of 2 million, it’s a crazy, cool, God thing to run into her. So, Jason ended up talking with her for quite a while about Jesus, bought her some medicine she needed, and invited her to church. She was very open.
Pray for Macarena and the tens of thousands who are hooked on drugs and wasting away here in Bucuresti. And for some more information about their life (at least from 10 years ago), check out the video.
I mentioned here about meeting Alexandru through a couple “random” events including a chance encounter with an Armenian man who happened to be in Bucureşti. Of everyone I’ve ever met, Alex is the most clearly gifted and called as an evangelist; he’s got a deep passion for the lost and especially for the drug addicts.
In recent weeks, we’ve been speaking with him about helping to reach some of the addicts with the love of Jesus. The statistics are nowhere near clear, but from what we’ve been learning, Bucureşti has around 20-30,000 men and women addicted to heroin. We were told that at one local clinic 3000 men come for help with addictions each day, and the best the doctors can do is prescribe other drugs. What these men need is Jesus.
Pray for God to give us wisdom in this and that he would close every door he doesn’t want us to walk through.
Posted in Bucharest
Tagged christmas, drugs, eastern orthodoxy, evangelism, gypsies, gypsy, letter, missionary, poverty, prayer, prayer letter, testimonies, vacaresti, vasilica
On December 1, I came across the story of a man whose life was transformed by Teen Challenge’s ministry in Bucuresti. Emmanuel ran away from home as a seven-year-old boy. On the streets, he made a home in the sewers and quickly became addicted to aurolac and then to heroine. His life was spiraling downward, and he figured it would only continue to get worse.
Seventeen years later, a miracle happened.
He met a girl, she got pregnant, and Emmanuel realized his life needed to change.
The last two weeks, we’ve been learning a lot about some of the more difficult situations in Bucuresti. Although we are continuing to develop relationships with college students and reach out to the universities, God has been putting the drug-addicts, the homeless, the prostitutes, the insane, the poor, the pimps on our hearts. Jesus went to lepers, so it only makes sense that he would lead us to the lepers of Bucuresti.
We learned a lot from Sorin and Ana about the sewer people. In the north of Bucuresti there is an old underground complex that used to heat the entire city. Now, the place is home to families who have lost their homes for one reason or another and have now moved underground. As we spoke with Sorin and Ana, we felt our hearts stirred to bring the gospel to these people. A few have brought them handouts, but who is bringing them Jesus?