March 2012 prayer letter
March 7, 2012
God is doing new things in my life. With the Lord’s leading, I will serve at the Casa Ray Orphanage in Romania for a year, June 21, 2012 – about June 30, 2013. I started going there with Lancaster Evangelical Free Church in Lititz a few years ago, fell in love with the culture, and thought about how I could help there more.
The things I am hoping to help with are the cleaning, cooking, laundry, encouraging the kids in their chores and homework, tutor, teach sign language to worship songs, and wherever else needed. The orphanage as a whole is a great growing environment for the kids who otherwise wouldn’t have it. In addition to orphans, it houses children whose parent(s) are incarcerated or otherwise unfit to care for them. Tatiana and Mihai Gavril, the couple in charge of the homestead, run a tight ship and provide structure and a loving Christian environment for the kids to grow up in. ‘Mama Tatiana’ as she is lovingly called, has plants, flowers, and a garden for the orphanage, displaying her desire to see things flourish. Tata (father) Mihai busses the kids to the churches where he speaks on Sundays. He is involved in the eldership of the Evangelical churches in their area and shares responsibility of giving messages at four different churches.
The orphanage houses 21 kids right now, which is close to full capacity. Like any big family, other adults need to be involved in the kids’ lives, practically and also as spiritual mentors. Five of Tatiana and Mihai’s six adult children live locally and are involved in the daily care of the kids and the running of the orphanage. It is great to see Matei’s efforts, one of the younger sons, as choir director and spiritual mentor for the kids with his skills in the guitar and piano. He leads them in practicing so they can sing at the churches they visit from time to time. His wife Madalina has also been an encouragement to the kids in her own interactions with them. I am thrilled Mama and Tata have accepted me to come right along with them to help in the care at the orphanage. I pray the Lord will use me daily in all of my interactions and acts of service. I pray He will guide me in conversation with the kids, talking through what they’re struggling with and in seeking the Lord, and in the relationships with the adults as we support one another. It will not be a hard-pressed time of service, I am anticipating, because the orphanage is Christian-run. The older kids speak some English, as they learn it in school, and some adults have an understanding of English, but I am sure I will learn my share of the Romanian language, as I already have in my visits there.
For those of you who responded to the last prayer letter I sent out about the two-week Romania trip and following Eastern Mennonite Mission program, I will use discretion with those funds. It did not seem God’s will at that time to join EMM because things weren’t coming together. I am discovering God had a different plan and as I follow his will, I will enjoy peace and joy as I anticipate life in the orphanage. I’ll use those funds towards this year-long service in the Romanian orphanage and give a small amount to EMM for the Lord to use in their programs as well.
* The relationships formed will be God-honoring and strengthening to each other
*The Lord will guide all my preparations leading up to June 21, including getting a visa and how to pack for a year
*This time of service to be fully led by the Lord, and that I honor him as I continue to deepen my relationship with him
*Pray Ephesians 6:10 and following, that I remember my Armor of the Lord
*Pray Philippians 4:6-7, to refrain from anxious thoughts
As always, blessings and peace to you as you continue to work out your Christian walk. The Lord truly is faithful to his sheep who follow his voice!
“Religion God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
September 2013 Prayer letter & trip summary
As I adjust to culture shock in America and get used to living here, I am comforted by rereading my journals and remembering the times I had with the children. I will tell you about the time spent with the American team from Lancaster Evangelical Free Church, PA for Vacation Bible School in June of this summer and a recap of the year I spent serving the 24 kids in the Casa Ray Orphanage in Romania.
Our lessons for the two-week VBS with the American team focused on the basics of Christianity. We spent time thinking about themes of: the battle belongs to the Lord, no worries because God has my plan, I will serve others, and how much do I trust God? At the end of the two weeks, the kids put on a series of skits acting out the different themes of the VBS. Every other evening, we had devotions where some team members shared testimonies and got a bit more personal with the kids.
Our team from Lancaster had a good variety to offer the kids: Doug Scarlett shared his testimony of growing up in an orphanage and the kids really absorbed his words. He encouraged them to take their chores with a grain of salt, because the lessons they are learning will go on to make them good hardworking adults. The men on the team had a meeting with the older boys, and the ladies had a special talk with the older girls too. This was something special that doesn’t always get attention, but we are glad we spent time on important subjects this summer. We were grateful to Anne Heisey and Kirsten Moses who had good ideas for crafts during the free time, including one that grew grass “hair” out of a soil stuffed stocking! There were also a number of organized games throughout the week planned by translators Lucian Avadanei and Andrei Brasoveanu and they made teamwork fun!
Throughout the year at Casa Ray, I got to know each of the twenty-four kids well and learned how I could encourage them. I learned a lot from interacting with the staff and speaking with them on how to respond to the kids’ temperaments. It was a year of growth and challenge for me, by being in a different culture and learning the people and activities. I did a lot of learning how to listen to God’s voice and discovered I process spiritual things best when I journal through them. I filled 5 journals through the year! My tasks at Casa Ray included helping with homework in afternoons during the school year and assisting with crafts at night, some cleaning and laundry, and being an encouragement whenever I could. I also led Bible studies with the little kids about once a week with a translator (with 10-12 kids). We spent a lot of time learning about good leaders from Israel’s history. It was a joy to lead them in scripture memorization and seeing them use that at church. We also learned the Ten Commandments together. After my Romanian improved, I was able to translate some Bible songs to sing with them. Having these regular meetings with the little kids was a good way to get to know them through the year and we had good prayer times together.
Some of the year’s highlights include going to an evangelism in the city in April and telling nursery rhymes to the kids in the evenings. I had taken out an English book of nursery rhymes from the foreign language library and read it to the kids in our free time, translating the stories. One of the stories was “This Little Pig Went to Market” and they laughed hysterically. Can you picture me with their fingers saying, “Asta purcel a mers la piata…”? It was precious time in the evenings when we had some time bonding. I also am grateful for the basic way the gospel was presented at the youth evangelism in April. The speaker used a visual aid of a cup in explaining how God judges sin. He made a beautiful sinless world, but then sin entered the world (he broke the cup), so now we are the shattered pieces. Then, Jesus entered the world (he showed another beautiful cup that was whole) and took that sin upon himself (he broke that cup) so that we could be beautiful cups again (he showed another perfect cup). It impressed the young peoples’ hearts. The young girl I took from Casa Ray, Alexandra, was happy to be there and liked the symbolism. Pray she continues to receive the gospel in ways that are easy to understand. She has not made a decision for Christ, but is learning at her pace. We had two baptisms in May, Mihaela and Radu, both 19 and seniors, and they gave public professions of their faith.
It was easier to help at Casa Ray later in the year after my Romanian had improved. I was able to be a translator for the American team this past summer because of my understanding of conversational Romanian. Through the months, I heard some of the kids’ stories of where they had come from. I got to meet some family members of the kids and saw how illness had separated some of the kids from their parent(s), but love was still there. Some kids are from a one- parent household that isn’t a fit living condition, and some have no parents. The houseparents take the kids to visit family in the summer months to keep a connection, and let the kids decide if they want to continue the relationship when they’re older. I also found myself useful in getting to know the staff throughout the year and found ways to offer encouragement. I pray the Lord gives me more chances to practice that.
I am also grateful for having met fellow believers and experiencing the life of the Christian church in Romania. It was encouraging to see the Protestant churches alive and moving in the Spirit, and to hear the helpful discipleship that was being preached in the pulpits. If you read my May Prayer letter about Easter, you would have seen an example of the Christian churches I visited. Orthodox faith doesn’t so much make faith practical, but the Protestant churches are trying to help people understand that Jesus is relatable and can help you. I understood a good deal of the sermons during the second half of my stay and enjoyed conversations on faith with church members. I visited between four churches in the area throughout the year and got to know church members. I was very thankful for those people who made my time memorable and who helped along the way.
I am pleased to share that the Lord has blessed me with a sweetheart who has similar interests in the way of serving orphans. Lucian and I met in January when I joined the team from the Baptist church that serves in the state-run orphanage, “Elena Doamna,” on Saturdays for an Awana-type program. The team was looking for an extra member who would help plan activities for the kids, and I was looking for an outreach opportunity and a way to connect. I began working with them in the planning of lessons and songs, praying together, and getting to know these kids. Lucian and I got to know each other as we planned for these events, and discovered we have a lot in common. We both want to help orphans grow to understand the love of God and that they can have his help practically in their lives. Lucian grew up in an orphanage, so has a special understanding of what kids go through. We are looking forward to what responsibilities the Lord gives us in the future with serving orphans.
I am very thankful for how the Lord used me in orphan ministry in Romania and I feel led to go back on a longer term basis. I am learning about the many ministries that work in Romania. I will wait on the Lord for the one He will have me go with. There are many needs for programs, activities, and engaging in life with the kids from the orphanages (Jas 1:27). I will be going back next summer with the VBS team to Casa Ray with the Heiseys, and after that, follow the Lord’s plan for service. Please pray for discernment.
Felicia, the houseparents’ adult daughter, was in a car accident in June. She had surgery on her throat the beginning of Aug and had a recovery time. In Sept was able to return to her work at the hospital. Pray for continual healing and peace.
The children started school Sept 16! Pray for diligence in their work, an enthusiasm about learning, and perseverance for the slower learners. Pray for the tutor at Casa Ray Orphanage, Marieta, for patience and strength as she helps the kids daily get their homework done after school. I miss the regularity of school!
Future events: Nov- Isaac’s fundraisers, January- Grace UMC Romanian Benefit Dinner, Feb/Mar- Benefit concerts.
Maria P, who graduated high school and left Casa Ray 3 years ago, has now graduated nursing school and will start a job at a hospital. Praise the Lord for her good direction!
The slower pace of summer that allowed the kids to relax and recharge. Thank the Lord for friendships that were strengthened, camps they attended, and hobbies that were explored in the summer months. Pray they keep a sense of rest as they go about their duties.
Thank you all for your prayers and partnership in serving the kids in Romania!
Va iubesc! (Love you all)