We started the day with a cold breakfast of hardboiled eggs, meats, Nutella and fruit. I love team meals because we are all together, relaxed and getting ready for the day. Mornings are my jam. Skylar has learned to drink coffee and actually enjoy it on the trip. Jet-lag has not been kind to her and she’s learned that coffee and coke bring a welcomed caffeine alertness to the day.
Once breakfast was over, we finished getting ready and prayed together once again. The drive to the center was also relaxed as we piled into an English vehicle in a Romanian country that drives on the opposite side.
Today was the fulfillment of eight months of praying, working and pouring my guts out. From the minute we loaded up into the van to drive to the program I was in tears. I was so excited for this moment. We were going to walk the neighborhood to “collect the children” as Jessica the Belgium missionary said. We were going bring them to the program center that Jessica and Tase had created and do the curriculum that Global Encounters created.
Jessica called to the families and the children on the streets in her sing-song Romanian language. Romanian sounds SO MUCH like Italian and are pronounced in very similar ways and sounds. It’s almost a mix of Italian and Spanish. The kids came running from every home, every street corner and would appear out of nowhere to hold our hands, ask us for a photo and run around us to the center.
Animals were everywhere. Even if they weren’t alive. There were many dead baby animals all over this community. Along with children without clothes, underwear or shoes. We went to a family home to collect their children and four of them were completely naked. When we told them to put clothes on to come to the program they couldn’t even find any for them to wear. This is a completely different world than anything I have experienced before. In Ghana, the children were naked but not because they didn’t have anything to wear but because they chose to be that way. Diapers were a luxury, so many babies and toddlers were naked.
Back at the program center, Jessica sang songs to prepare the kids to be there. They were extremely receptive to her. We divided the kids up into groups and gave them bandanas so we knew what group they were in because of the colors. We grabbed the older kids and started teaching them about photography before turning them loose with point and shoot cameras to try a few skills that we showed them. They were infatuated with learning and shooting.
We had three different groups of games, stories and crafts that the younger kids rotated through. The older kids, 12 and over, stayed with us in the photography team. At each of the rotations the kids were sporadic and crazy and hard to keep engaged, more than I had ever seen before. They are not in school ever so they have never had an opportunity to learn to sit down and listen ever before.
We finished the program with a story skit to share the gospel with these kids. Which was hilarious! The kids high fives Tase as they walked out the gate and returned their bandanas. Pete, another missionary, Skylar and I walked a special needs little boy, Alex, back home. We chatted with his mother about what his needs are and what happened. I usually pick up languages pretty quick and this was the first conversation while I was here that I could understand. Alex was a twin and his sister died when they were born at six months. He survived but he was hemorrhaging in his brain which led to his special needs. His mother takes him to a special needs school about 20 minutes away everyday. The fact that she has a car, can drive and is willing to take him to school is mind blowing and wonderful in every way. There are 400 children in this community and only about 100 of them actually go to school. That’s why the Belgium missionaries built the school center right where they did.
We came back to where we are staying for lunch. We stopped at a grocery store for lunch supplies and that was an adventure. Of course, I grabbed Coke.
After lunch, I edited photos and prepped to go back to the second community program. We will visit two different communities this week to do different lessons each time. Hopefully, growing these kids in their knowledge of Jesus each time but also giving them practical things to use every day. But we did also find snails in the flower garden, which was pretty much the most amazing thing ever.
I requested to sit in the front seat of the car to take photos of the city. This is more upscale than the community that we were in this morning but the idea of being in a foreign country is still present.
Again, once we arrived at the next community, we collected children and brought them back to the program center. It was lots of happy shouting, massive hugs from the kids and Jessica and little feet plodding down the streets to the program center. The second community has had aid pour into it for about ten years to improve the standard of living for them. Now, fathers stay to raise their families, have jobs and homes, and their needs are met in most ways. They opened the school there to keep the community educated and that need is met by Jessica. It’s taken her about 18 months to establish a level of trust and love from these families. These people do not trust easily because they are considered the outcasts of society. It's racism in its purest form. They are shunned in the cities, from the Romanian people and are considered less than human. For an outsider to come into their community, show them love and listen to them intently shows the ultimate love. And that’s exactly what we are doing. For me personally, and I know its true of the team here too, I am able to look into every child’s eye and tell them that I love and respect them by just listening to them even if I don’t speak the language. And the response was unreal.
We did the same lessons as the morning with the kids in the second community and then returned back to where we are staying for dinner. Our hosts are amazing cooks and always have a fantastic meal waiting for us. Which makes it relaxing and wonderful. Tomorrow is the same communities with different lessons for us to teach. I am ready for it and truly can’t wait for the morning.