As you can imagine, we had a busy December. We spent a few nights caroling. The kids organized a pageant for their families. And we had an all night party on the 25th. I love the Christmas season because we witness so much joy on the faces of the kids, and though there is much darkness in their lives, we are reminded that God has sent a great light. God is with us, even the hardships. One week before Christmas the house of one of our first graders, Mirela, caught fire and the roof burned down. The makeshift chimney got too hot and burned the timber structure. Thankfully, it happened during the daytime, so no one was hurt. Although Mirela lost almost everything she had, she was glad that the cat survived. Mirela’s mother is deaf and also had recent health complications that necessitated an operation. But the family has been able to move into a room in a building where her father works as a night watchperson. In the midst of the pain and crisis, we have seen God’s presence and care, and we see the unbeatable joy in Mirela. That was Christmas for us.
During the most of the month of January, I was away from Galati. I spent two weeks with our community Sierra Leone. I hadn’t visited for three years, and I was greatly encouraged by all the growth. There were many new devoted and passionate staff and interns. The number of kids coming to the Center for Youth and the Good News Club had grown as well as the quality of their activities. Although the needs of the slum are overwhelming, the hope and joy of the people is inspiring. I was particularly encouraged by one of the children, who, when they were asked to recall the values of the Center (respectful, responsible, trustworthy and fun to be around), he said, we are to be quiet like butterflies. I knew he was referring to the self-control position that starts their time together, but I was moved by his imagery and the beautification of his life, actions and environment.
I was grateful that a good friend and chairperson of our Romania board, Adi Buhai, traveled with me. We were able to participate in a community retreat. There I led a couple devotionals on what we want to accomplish together, what is our place in community, and what is our identity in community. After the retreat, I did two days of training on cognitive development and life-skills. I was able to stay with Noah and his family, relationships that I cherish and from which I receive more than I could ever give. I really enjoyed our time there with old friends and new, and seeing how the Spirit is faithfully working among those who need the Father most.
On the way back fro m Sierra Leone, I stayed a few days in England, where I connected with good friends in London and Wolverhampton. Although I got bit by a flu bug there, I was able to share at Lakeside Church on the purpose of the Kingdom of God.
After I returned from England, Lenutsa and I took a few days of vacation to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. We visited Sibiu and Sighisoara, western cities in Romania that I had never really visited before.
The first week of February, I became “Servant Team Coordinator.” It had been over 10 years since I served in this role – though I’ve led many internships in the meantime. We have two members, one from the US and one from Canada. They will be with us for 2 months and in Moldova for 2 months. We’re glad to have them and excited about what God will do in and through their lives.
Towards the end of last year, I was asked to help organize a conference call with representatives from each Word Made Flesh field of ministry. We call these meetings the “Covenant Council.” The idea is that every local community has an equal voice at the table in giving direction to our global community and developing our partnerships. We kicked the Covenant Council off in November with the hope of meeting every six weeks. While we’re still working through technical glitches, we’ve started to create some momentum. Because there are so many participants, we try to keep the meeting focused. The agenda for our last meeting was put together by Mauricio Meneses, the representative of WMF Bolivia. Each community representative shared some of the major events they experienced in their communities in 2012 and how they plan to face the challenges of 2013. Bo White, the acting director in the US, also gave an update on the transition process of the office and the US executive directors.
I continue to give some time each month to organizing and facilitating tactical plans. I am doing this with our community in Moldova, in Romania and with a partner organization in Romania. Although it’s a bit of work, I’m encouraged to see how each organization is developing, building trust and responsibility, and focusing on their priorities.
Ever since we established Word Made Flesh Romania, we have increased the percentage of our budget that is covered through support from Galati. Part of this support has come through the funds allocated through the local government to meet social needs. Although the amount we received was always a fraction of what the government allocated to its own programs or to the Orthodox Church’s programs, we were happy to be supported by the local citizenry and accountable to them. Sadly, the new administration has stopped all funding of non-governmental organizations. We have spent a lot of time and energy trying to have a dialog with the government, but we haven’t made any progress. We refuse to give up and we refuse to lose hope. Presently, this means 14% hole in our budget. So, we pray.
In February, the walls in the home of one of our older youth started to fall down. We found a family with whom to stay for a few nights. Over the last few weeks, he’s stayed in our community home, but this is only a temporary measure. We are looking for a family that can help him mature. He needs to learn how to live in a family, how to talk at the dinner table, how to cook, how to keep house, etc. Although the crisis has driven him out of his house, we are praying that this will be a possibility for helpful change in his life.
The Saturday Kids’ Club continues to grow. We consistently have over 30 kids. Our prayer is that we can have an impact on many kids in the neighborhood, even if they aren’t enrolled in the daily activities of the Community Center. The children are learning the Bible, playing games, doing art, singing songs and, recently, learning how to drum. We are hoping to invite the kids from the club to our summer camp.
Please keep us in your prayers. We hope to be instruments of God’s peace and presence. We want to be faithful in all that God’s put before us. We ask for God’s favor in the lives of the vulnerable kids, especially in the face of opposition. We pray that the Father will make himself known, that all we’re in contact with will follow him, and that our neighborhood and city will be changed. Please pray with us.
Yours in Christ,
david and lenutsa