Monday, January 27, 2014

Romania Mission Trip, Part 1

Late last August, we went on a short-term mission trip to Romania with a team from our church. We were hosted by Heart to Heart International Ministries (H2H) and got to work with them for a little more than a week, ministering to orphans and abandoned children. We met Jim, a co-founder of H2H, and Corny, one of the Romanian H2H staff members, at our church about a year before the trip. H2H is one of the ministries our church regularly supports, so they were visiting for our missions emphasis program. They encouraged us to come on a short-term trip, and we knew we had to go. We had talked for years about going on a ministry trip together, and we finally felt like God was clearly calling and enabling us to go to this place at this time. Our motivation for going was to participate in the work that God is doing in Romania and to share His love and His Word with the children there.

We flew into Bucharest, Romania, and the H2H staff took us to their team house, which served as our lodgings most of the time we were there. It was very nice and spacious.
Team house

The H2H staff briefly trained us and Jim took us on a tour in downtown Bucharest. He talked about the Romanian revolution, which helped us to better understand the orphan situation in Romania.

Arcul de Triumf (triumphal arch)
Piața Revoluției (Revolution Square), an important site of the Romanian Revolution of 1989

To summarize briefly, economic conditions deteriorated during the Communist rule in Romania. While the country is slowly recovering from this period, the effects of many years of repression still exist. Due to many years of control, many of the people still lack the knowledge and the will to better themselves. Thousands of Romanian children are currently living in state-operated orphanages, some are living on the streets, and many babies and children are relinquished to state care each day. Many of these children and youth are not taught basic skills to prepare for adulthood, and many physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are not being met. H2H reaches these children through several programs and through short-term ministry teams.

We went to a few orphanages several times throughout our stay and played, talked (through H2H staff, who served as translators), did Bible lessons (also translated), led games, and did craft projects with kids of varying ages. They also enjoyed making bracelets, coloring, getting piggy-back rides, and playing soccer. They were very energetic and wore us out!

Making paper flowers
The girl on the right styled my hair in a French braid
When we would go to an orphanage for the first time, the kids would get really excited and were eager to play and visit with us complete strangers! It was an indication to us that H2H has developed and maintains a good relationship with the orphanages and with the kids.

Ed enjoyed talking about spiritual things with this young man, with Rebecca (H2H staff member) translating
This boy also braided my hair. They really liked doing my hair!
Bible lesson for the younger ones, given by a couple of our teammates

We went to a baby hospital one afternoon. Smaller groups of three or four team members went there throughout the week. We cared for several babies by holding them, feeding them, and changing their diapers. While we were there, I overheard Corny say "Jesus loves you" to a baby in Romanian. It was really touching. (Sorry, we were told they didn't want us to take photos.)

Some of the people on our team, including us, went with some of the H2H staff to a town a couple hours' drive south of Bucharest for a couple of days. We got to visit with some more kids there, and we also got to lead a Bible study time during a youth group gathering. Ed taught them about when Paul and Barnabas disagreed and parted ways and how a seemingly bad situation turned out to be good, because God used it to expand the church. We had some good discussion with the teens about how they can apply what they learned, and some of them were asking questions about the Bible and spiritual things. This was definitely a highlight of the trip for us.
Making bracelets
Longest paper chain winner
We really enjoyed talking with her about the Bible at the youth group gathering.
It was cute watching him figure out how to blow up his balloon.
In the last photo, a couple of things were happening. While everyone was bouncing balloons around the room with paddles they had made and decorated, Mark (H2H staff member) was amazing the kids with science. He rubbed balloons on his hair and stuck them to the ceiling. Then they wanted to do it, too. This kept them entertained for a while!

There's more to share, so I'll do another post in a few days to wrap it up.

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