Someone recently asked, “If you’ve had the same dream for 15 years, what are you still doing here?” If got me thinking, and so here I am, writing about what my heart yearns for, and how I hope to begin the process of “getting there.” Growing up, I was a pastor’s kid…expected to be nice to people, to love & care for those around me. I learned that well, but also took it to heart that it is a critical part of this whole “Christian walk” thing…to love others truly & deeply. I watched this love manifest itself through my parents, as they worked & prayed seemingly endless hours to bring my brother home from Romania. Though such a small country, the need was great and the frustrations overflowing. Children were left to die on carts, abandoned after birth by people who only wanted a child for a tax credit. Whatever the consequence, these babies were given no choice in the matter & abandoned to a desolate future. As I watched this scene unfold, knowing at six years old that my brother was just one of hundreds upon thousands of these, it struck me hard. When the outlook was grim, our family drew together, and pressed on, knowing that only a miracle of God could keep things going and bring hope to such a child. Through two long years, this hope & faith in an unseen God was something I learned to lean on. When my brother finally came to us, it was simply amazing. He was such a curious child, imaginative, loving and deeply sensitive toward others. There was so much behind his frail frame. To think that he could have easily gone without a future, to be left on that cart, and have not known the love of a family or hope of a future. I thought about this, and how many others were still there, untouched and uncared for. Forgotten. Many were saved, but many more were not. What happened to the few that lived through the isolated torture? I learned the answer. On one of the times my parents had driven through the pot-holed streets of a Romanian city, past the gray gated orphanages, they saw the answer. Through rain streaked windows, they noticed a girl, young and crying; begging to be let into the gate, in the confines of the orphanage. Asking about this scene, their driver explained that when the children reach a certain age, the orphanage no longer keeps them. They’re out on their own, given only what is on their back. No money, no skills, no food and no direction. Without a clue, most of these children are left the gutters for homes, and glue for sustenance. Over half are raped the first night out, and with boys anxious to prove themselves on the street, a gang gives much needed acceptance. If only they were given some place to go, taught how to live life, and encouraged to believe in a God that would bring hope & forgiveness. People could help them; teach young girls how to cook, how to take care of a house, how to sew and how to take care of themselves. It would be neat if the people to teach them could be Romanians; teaching the girls the customs of their heritage, showing them the love of Christ through simple care and respect. This became my vision. I decided that if no one else would do this, I would. And my dream expanded to include abandoned babies…before they get to the spot these young girls did. The girls would learn love, in loving & caring for babies also abandoned by their mothers and fathers.
Sometimes I think that this vision & passion was concocted through my own imaginings, yet most days I believe that the experiences thrown at me as a child, and the things that I was exposed to, were put there for a reason bigger than my mind could ever come up with on its own. Why would a child at such a young age care so much, and be impacted so much without fully understanding the scope of the issue? Why would a dream and passion last with a person for fifteen years, unless God was somehow putting those yearnings inside their heart? Throughout the past seven years, I’ve been blessed to travel to Romania four times, seeing miracles, meeting missionaries, being loved on by orphans and talking with women who used to live on the same streets we were walking on. Seeing both transformation & regression of these women and the children they bore, emboldened me to just keep going back. Not always knowing the purpose of why I went, but trusting that God would use me where He knew it was necessary. One of these experiences came through a lady named Gina. She was the mother of three boys. The youngest was still a baby, and had been the target of many health problems since birth. One evening, Gina started to spoon feed the baby, but when the feverish baby wouldn’t take the food, Gina got angry and dumped the bowl of oatmeal all over the child and started screaming at the child that he could die and she wouldn’t care. The child started crying so hard I thought he would stop breathing. His temperature increased, and it looked dangerous. Because of his previous & ongoing health conditions, we urged Gina to take him into the clinic to be checked. She refused, replying that she wanted him to die and that she never wanted to see him again. She would allow him to die before she would take him to the doctor. After much pleading and stubbornness on the missionary’s part, Gina angrily agreed to go with us to the clinic. In the back seat, Gina stared angrily out the window while she held the babe tightly to her, keeping him quiet. Once we got Gina inside the clinic, myself and two of the missionaries sat in the waiting room, praying fervently that the child would be okay and that Gina would gain a sense of compassion for him. After a few hours of waiting, Gina emerged, obviously softened to the baby’s situation. She was armed with medicine and a quiet demeanor. Things didn’t turn around completely, but just seeing the broad spectrum of emotions, intentions and conviction in those few hours really showed me how this work can be done. That night, I had no plans to go to the clinic, to be in prayer for so long, but I was just trying to be open. It taught me so much of how God uses us, if we are only open to what might happen around us.
So much has happened during those short excursions that every time I leave, I long to turn around immediately and return. God feels so real to me there, not just because of the location, but I believe because of the heart of the people. They teach me such simplicity, a plainness that is hard to comprehend in a society like ours. There, it is just love. Christ is simple. He’s not some grand scheme, a huge manufactured lifestyle, or a fad, He just is. Meeting the people with a bag of groceries & a listening ear will speak to them. Taking time to read with them, or teach that child how to read for their self is too practical we might think, but it’s not. So many times people have counted them as un-teachable, or not worth the effort. Simply showing them that they matter….to you and more importantly to God, does more than millions and millions of well-intentioned dollars could ever do. Being allowed to be there with them, does cost money, it’s true, but the act of loving costs nothing.