We have had a full summer, followed by a full autumn. Thank you all for praying for our camp. We were able to bring 43 children from our Centers in Galati and Tudor Vladimirescu to the mountains for a week. In the midst of a lot of fun, activities and exhaustion, it is surprising when young boys put down the basketball and say, “When you were talking just now, I felt something burning in my chest.” And you go on to explain how to say “yes” to their walk with God. And then they pick the ball back up and return to the game.
After camp, I traveled to England where I participated in a consultation on child theology and presented a bit from our experience. While there, we also held a pitch & put golf fundraiser, and I spoke for the Sunday service at Holy Trinity Parish Church.
Then I spent a few weeks in the US with family in Omaha and with grandparents in Colorado. Although the time was short, I was grateful to connect with friends from Lifegate, All Nations and Winterset Community Church.
On my way back to Europe, I spent a few more days in England at a meeting for organizations affiliated with the New Friars. It was good to be around friends with similar experiences, similar approaches to mission and similar challenges. Word Made Flesh has much to learn from these partner organizations.
Upon returning to Romania, I picked up a “servant team” of one and a student for our semester abroad program. They will be with us for the autumn – learning about Romania culture and language, developing relationships, serving with us, and growing through the studies and spiritual practices that we share with them.
Just before the school year began, we said goodbye to Anca and Eugen. They have served with us for many years and did fantastic work. And they are good friends. Because of financial constraints in paying for child care, they had to move to Vienna. They leave a huge hole and great sadness. In the midst, we are faithful to see God working in their lives as they went through a stressful move. We are also thankful to see how God brought two others to serve with us, Monica and Adelina, who bring different gifts and vision to our community.
In September, we were grateful to have our friends Will and Catalina an
d then Katy Daniels with us; we organized a fundraiser around a half-marathon that Bogdan and I ran; and we received five new children into our daily activities.
As of September 12th, the children are back to school. Last week as I was walking past one of the poorest courtyards the neighborhood, a little 9-year-old girl popped out the gate and asked, “David, when can we come and work for school supplies?” I could not contain my delight. For years, we have been working against a mentality of hand-outs and creating dependency. Now, children in real need of help to get school uniforms, rucksacks, books and supplies know that they will receive these in exchange for their work. Together we will spend an afternoon picking up garbage in the neighborhood and hopefully making this place a little bit more beautiful.
At the end of September, we hosted a great team from Lifegate, who shared life with us for 10 days and gave us enormous help with our EarthShip greenhouse extension. During this time, Vali was given the greenlight for radiotherapy on her thyroid. We continue to pray that there is healing and no more need for surgery or radiotherapy.
We continue to try to recruit retirees to volunteer with us. Through this project we were honored to meet Princess Margareta of Romania.
At the moment we have friends from the UK here to help us with the greenhouse extension. In the coming month, we hope to finalize the authorizations needed to build a kitchen extension on the Day Center in the village and the staircase extension on the guest house. We look forward to the arrival of two new staff from the States: Mikayla Greenwell and Harper Swords. Please pray for them as they seek people to support them as they answer this call to mission and as they accommodate to life in Galati.
We are organizing a consultation on Christian living in urban contexts. Please pray that it is well planned, that people are open and participate, and that new avenues are forged for engaging the city. Following this consultation, I have been invited to do a presentation for the leadership teams of Pentecostal churches in our region of the country on the church’s involvement in society. In the coming weeks, I will also be facilitating annual reviews and tactical plans for a church team and for a software company.
david and lenutsa
It’s time for me to give you and update on our lives in Romania. We had a wonderful celebration at Cati and Cristi’s wedding. It is an honor to be part of their lives.
Directly after the wedding, we had a retreat with our communities from Romania and Moldova. Our friend Danut Manastireanu, who recently retired after many years of service with World Vision, agreed to lead our morning meditations on the theme of soul friendship. It was a challenging and encouraging time together.
For three weeks during May, I led a Discovery Team of 8 students and 2 student leaders from George Fox University. We spent a week in Moldova, two weeks in Galati and a few days seeing the capital and the mountains. It was a great group that invested a lot in our communities, and hopefully we invested in their lives as well.
We are just hosted a team of 6 friends from Kingsway Fellowship in Liverpool. They made some headway on our EarthShip greenhouse, led some discussions for parents of the kids, and organized some activities for the kids.
We have also begun to prepare for summer camp. This is our 15th year of organizing camps under the auspices of WMF Romania. So, that is something to celebrate. We are hoping to bring 50 children this year. This is the highlight of the year for the kids. Pray that all 50 will be able to attend. Pray for the funding to cover the costs ($150/per child for 7 days). Pray that God will use this week away to touch the lives of the children.
Vali, our program director who has served with us for the past 17 years, is undergoing radiotherapy after just having her thyroid removed. Pray for a successful treatment in July and for complete healing and no side effects.
Sadly, two of our educators, Anca and Eugen, made a difficult decision to migrate to Austria to live near Anca’s family. This is a significant loss to our community. Please pray for them during this transition and pray that God would raise up new staff to serve with us.
This summer I will participate in two consultations. The first is on Child Theology at which I will co-lead a working group on theology and activism. The second is with communities similar to Word Made Flesh at which we will continue to support and learn from one another. I will also spend a few weeks in the US in August. Please pray for good connections and fruitful discussions at the consultations and for opportunities to share about our work while in the US.
Betty, a mother of one of our first-grade girls recently came to us for help. She as another son, age 2, who was not legally claimed by his father. The father is involved in criminal activities. When the violence in the home was too much, she ran away with the children and moved in with her mother, brothers and sisters. They pay rent to the city for what they call social housing. All together there are 21 people living in the two rooms.
Although Betty ran away, her ex-partner continued to have her and the kids stalked. On one occasion, he grabbed her on the street, forced her into a car by knife point, and took her to his home. He gave death threats. Betty was able to escape and went to the police. The police seem to know the man and to be influenced by him. Instead of giving a restraining order to the man, they gave Betty a fine for speaking ill of him. Upon hearing this, our social worker helped her to go to the police and the courthouse in order to contest the fine and to get a restraining order. Thankfully, the court agreed. We continue to pray for stability, peace, healing and justice for Betty and her family.
We appreciate your partnering with us and prayers for us,
david and lenutsa
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As we approach the celebration of Passover and Resurrection and see signs of life, let me update you on springtime in Romania.
Since mid-January I have been facilitating our first semester abroad program. We have 2 students studying Romanian, challenges in a post-communist countries, Christian approaches to poverty, spirituality in missional community, and their practicum focus. While it has meant that I give a significant amount of time to the program, we have enjoyed seeing them learn, grow and contribute to the life of our community. I also took them to Hungary, Serbia and Moldova in order to have points of comparison with other post-communist countries. In Serbia I was grateful to visit our friends Kiki and Cveta and to see their church plant of a Lifegate campus.
Along with the study abroad program, I have been facilitating an internship for a new Word Made Flesh staff, Shelbye Renfro, who plans on starting a WMF community in Rwanda this autumn. It has been inspiring to see her steps in faith toward the calling that God has on her life. Currently, we also have a volunteer with us for two months from Scotland. We enjoy the diversity brought by the various folk from different parts of the world.
Since Christmas time, we have had a number of our staff battling serious illnesses. This was aggravated by some serious flu strands going through the city. Please pray for the health of our staff and of the children, for healthy rhythms of life, and for sustenance and energy from God.
Over the past five years, I have been leading annual evaluations and monthly planning sessions with our communities in Romania, Moldova and Sierra Leone. I’ve also been asked to facilitate these sessions with other organizations, companies and churches. So, I decided to get some training and will soon be qualified as a personal coach with Best Year Yet. I hope in the future to participate in training for team coaching as well in order to offer better tools and practices.
This past month, we were thankful that our friends Jan Savage and David Bamber came from England to visit us for the first time in Galati. They gathered lots of information to bring back to the UK, where they do advocacy for the children. Also, our friend Andrew has come out from England to help us install a ventilation system for our EarthShip aquaponics project. We have harvested some lettuce and onions from the greenhouse. We hope to do some significant extensions of the project in the coming months.
We have just finished visiting all of the evangelical churches in Galati. The kids from the Community Center sang. We had a short presentation about our activities and challenges. And we were sometimes invited to preach. Here is an example of a Sunday church service, if you are interested.
In the coming weeks, we will have lots of activities with the children for Easter and for spring break. Please pray for the presentations where I have been invited to speak in some high schools during their break from regular classes. Please pray for our Easter Sunday party with the families at the Community Center. We hope that they will come, celebrate and experience the invitation from God to resurrection life.
We are also preparing for a couple of teams. Some friends from the UK are coming to help us repair the swing set and to build some retaining walls in the garden. After that we will have a summer serve team from George Fox University. Please pray for each of our friends to have a good experience and to discover new parts of God’s heart for the world.
Likewise, we will continue to pray for you, for a wonderful Easter, and for signs of the New Creation to be evident in your life.
david and lenutsa
Every few years I try and compile some general statistics that give you an idea of the situation in Romania. I have compiled the following from various news reports, surveys, studies and government reports. I hope this provides you with a window through which you can understand a little bit of the context in which we serve, the challenges we face, and the reasons for doing what we do.
While there may be progress, development or improvement in some areas, I present here a perspective from the lower class and the most vulnerable. Our hope and prayer is that their situation will change than they will experience a better future.
Our vulnerable friends’ experience with the government is listening to the campaign promises and then waiting another four years to see them again.
Street protests against economic hardship, corruption and government authoritarianism in 2012 led to the collapse of the governing coalition. In addition, the government has gone through the turbulence of repeated attempts to impeach the president Traian Basescu. We will have a new president this year. Elections will be held in November. Only recently has the investment grade risen after years of political turbulence. Hopefully, a semblance of stability will continue even in the face of regional conflicts and the harsh rhetoric that has ensued.
Romania placed 69 out of 177 countries on the corruption index. The Romanian parliament voted to exempt themselves and several other government officials from anti-corruption laws, which refer to actions such as abuse of office, bribery, and conflicts of interest by public officials, the law would no longer apply to them. According to the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office (DNA), 28 members of Parliament have been convicted or are on trial for various corruption charges. In addition, 100 mayors and vice-mayors are being investigated for such crimes as awarding contracts to family and friends. In our daily experience, there are still frequent implicit requests for bribes by medical practitioners, government officials, police officers and teachers.
Romania is a strategic partner in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and it has provided significant contributions of troops, equipment, and other assistance in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Romania has agreed to host elements of the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach to European missile defense in the 2015 timeframe. The two countries signed a ballistic missile defense agreement in 2011 allowing the deployment of U.S. personnel, equipment, and anti-missile interceptors to Romania over the next five years. The United States and Romania also have adopted the bilateral Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century. The strength of NATO is now being tested in Romania and other countries on the alliance’s eastern border, as it faces the crisis in Ukraine.
Romania’s original target date for adopting the Euro was 2015, but the president stated that it was unfeasible. Romania’s GDP is between 50% and 55% lower than the Eurozone’s average. For the past few years, the government has continually overestimated economic outputs, resulting in budget deficits. But in the first quarter of 2013, Romania’s economy began to expand, although less than the government forecast. It grew by 3.5% in 2013 – due to a bumper harvest – with a predicted 4.2% growth in 2014.The country’s inflation rate in 2013 was 4.4%, Europe’s fastest, but is forecast to fall to 3.5% on average in 2014 as gradual government deregulation boosts energy prices. Currently, the country is authorizing and protesting policies concerning gold mining and land and water fracking. S&P recently upgraded Romania to investment grade after the economic crisis of 2008.
The average individual income is less than 350 Euros a month. In 2014, the minimum wage is being increased in two stages to RON 900, from the current RON 800 (USD$245). After several years of strong growth in the 2000s, Romania has been hit hard by the 2009 global recession and the Eurozone crisis, which have revealed systemic weaknesses in its economy.
Romania relied on a 20 billion-euro loan from the IMF between 2009 and 2011 to help it emerge from a two-year recession and withstand external shocks from the global financial crisis. As part of the loan agreement, the government cu public sector wages by 25% and raised the value-added tax from 19% to 24%.
The official unemployment rate is 7.2%. The lack of jobs is one of the primary drivers of people migrating out of the country. Still, there is an estimated 2.3 million Romanians working on the black market, more then a third of those legally employed.
In Galati, ArcelorMittal Sidex, the steel factory and largest employer, has not registered a profit since 2008 and has laid-off 19,000 workers in the past 11 years. So, the economic outlook for Galati is not great.
25 years have passed since the fall of communism and the restoration of property confiscated by the communist regime to their owners is still in process. Approximately 3 million hectares of arid land out of the 12 million has not been restituted, and almost 5 million of the hectares are split up in sections smaller than 1 hectare. This shows a lack of a united vision and efficient planning of agricultural land. So, although Romania has the capacity to feed 80 million people, it continues to import most of its food. The question remains: if the land was managed efficiently, who would cultivate it? The average yields are less than half of that of the EU. For its agricultural development, 300 million Euros are being loaned to Romania.
Absolute poverty declined from 35.9 percent in 2000 to 5.7 percent in 2008. Still, Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest state. Some 9.5 million people, or roughly half of the population, are receiving welfare, unemployment, housing and central heating aid, or other supplemental benefits on a monthly basis. That equates to a national expense of $3.2 billion a year.
One-fourth of young adults (ages 18 to 24 years old) live in relative poverty, the highest rate in the EU. 40% of this age group are at risk of social exclusion.(DPC report).Because of their lack of buying-power, youth are forced to live with their parents into adulthood, thus increasing the family size. About 45% of those with full-time jobs still live with their parents, compared with 38% in the EU.
Emigration and Migrant Orphans
Shortly after the 1989 so-called “revolution,” Ryszard Kapuściński said that the people abolished the dictator, not so that they could turn to the building of democracy, but so that they could open up the borders and leave. According to the latest census that was taken in 2011, Romania lost 2.68 million inhabitants in the last 10 years. The greatest loss of population in all of Romania was in Galati, which dropped 22.56% – from 298,589 in 2002 to 231,204 in 2011. It is now the 5th largest city in the country.
Romanians abroad are expected to send about USD 3.6 billion to their home country in 2013, making it the third largest volume of remittances to a developing country in the region (behind Poland and Russia), according to a recent World Bank report. The amount sent to Romania in 2013 is expected to be almost flat on 2012, and smaller than in 2011, when it reached USD 4.5 billion, as well as from 2010, when it stood at USD 4.9 billion.
Over the past year, there was much negative press in the UK as they removed travel restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians. Although they expected to be overwhelmed by the flood of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants, the total of 140,000 citizens from Romania and Bulgaria employed in Britain between January and March represented a decline of 4,000 when compared with the 144,000 in work in the last three months of 2013. Still, the stigma on Romania immigrants remains in many circles.
According to the Soros Foundation, Romania has about 350,000 children who are left without parents. The Romania Authority for Child Protection’s figure is much lower, stating that at least 82,000 children have at least one parent that has gone to work abroad. There have been reports of children as young as 12 killing themselves after their parents left. Some of these children also suffer from mental illnesses such as depression and often have trouble in school. Many drop out of school. Additionally, some may turn to crime and drugs to cope with their issues. Recently, new laws have been passed in Romania which will place fines up to 2,500 Euros for parents who do not leave children with appropriate guardians.
Children in Poverty
In the 1990s, Romania had over 6.6 million children. Today, due to a lower birth rate, there are 3.7 million children. As the birth rate falls, the life expectancy has increased, resulting in there being 1 child to every 2 adults in the 1990s to 1 child for every 4 adults today.
Over half of Romanian children are at risk of poverty and/or social exclusion, and one third lives in persistent poverty. The rate is highest in families with many children or with a single parent. About one in 10 children live in homes with no working adult. The rate of material deprivation is 3 times higher than the EU.
Poverty exists even where parents are working. One in three children live in poverty even where parents are working. One in every five families that have working adults still lives in poverty, and this rate is rising.
About 12% of rural households have no income other than the state subsidy for children.  10% of these children go to bed hungry and 12% are missing school so that they can work.
Sex Workers/ Child Trafficking
Girls and boys left without their parents are extremely vulnerable to being trafficked. Romania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Romania has become a major transit for the sale of people into the European Union. Victims as young as 12 years old are trafficked into Romania from destinations as far-reaching as Honduras, Afghanistan, the Congo, and China. Once they reach Romania, many of these victims are assigned for passage beyond into Western Europe. While Romanian law officially prohibits all forms of human trafficking, the country’s strategic geographic location — a crossroads between East and West — makes it a source, transit and destination country for the people trade. The country’s 2007 admission into the European Union brought more relaxed border regulations and enhanced its attraction for international human traffickers.
According to the US State Department, Romanians represent a significant source of trafficking victims in Europe. Romanian men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, domestic service, hotels, and manufacturing, as well as forced begging and theft in European countries. Children likely represent at least one-third of Romanian trafficking victims. Traffickers recruiting and exploiting Romanian citizens were overwhelmingly Romanian themselves. Frequently, traffickers first exploited victims within Romania before transporting them abroad for forced prostitution or labor. The Romanian government reported increasing sophistication amongst Romanian criminal groups, including the transportation of victims to different countries in Europe in order to test law enforcement weaknesses in each. The Government of Romania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government reported the identification of 1,043 victims in 2011. The government made strong prosecution efforts during the reporting period: the number of anti-trafficking prosecutions pursued was amongst the highest in Europe (480 prosecutions with 276 convicted in 2011), and built on partnerships with governments in destination countries to increase accountability for trafficking offenders. The government also conducted creative anti-trafficking prevention efforts to sensitize the population to trafficking in persons. Nevertheless, services available to protect and assist trafficking victims were very weak. For a third consecutive year, the government provided no funding to anti-trafficking NGOs, imperiling civil society’s victim protection.
There are high numbers of Romanians caught in the commercial sex. Although the government proposed legislation to legalize prostitution, it was not passed. Still, sex is sold on street corners, truck stops and the many erotic message parlors throughout the country.
Orphans and Child Abandonment:
In 2001, Romania placed a moratorium on international adoptions, and officially banned the practice four years later, citing widespread corruption in adoption practices across borders. Romania has no formal national assistance program for orphans after they leave state institutions. Most must leave at age 18, when they become legal adults. Few of the country’s 75,000 orphans know how to managemoney, find an apartment, prepare food or search for a job. Many end up homeless and turn to crime, like prostitution, when they age out.
The number of children abandoned in maternity wards dropped from 5130 in 2003 to 1315 in 2010.28% of children abandoned are Roma. NGOs claimed that the official statistics underestimated the problem, and that many children living in state institutions were never officially recognized as abandoned. Poverty, child marriage and mobility are the primary causes of child abandonment. But most potential adoptive parents refuse to adopt Roma children.
According to the Ministry of Labor, Family, and Social Protection, there were 63,847 children in state care. Of them 39,212 were in professional foster care, 1,878 in alternative care (with guardian), and 22,757 in public or private residential care.
Although contraception is accessible and inexpensive, the abortion rate remains high, with 52.7 reported abortions for every 100 live births. Still, this rate is 7 times lower than the past two decades.
Children on the Streets
According to the Directorate for the Protection of Children, at the end of September there were 1400 homeless children nationwide. NGOs working with homeless children believed there were actually two or three times that number. Some estimate that as many as 2,000 children live in tunnels that run under the city. The collapse of communism, which negatively impacted the economy has forced children into poverty. As a result, these children resort to begging and stealing to survive. Romania is aiming to end its reputation for neglect of children and is hoping to close large orphanages. As a result, children are returning to violent homes or ending up on the streets.
Children living on the streets suffer from social exclusion, and life on the streets usually results in serious health problems, chronic undernutrition, lack of schooling, illiteracy (around 50%), sexual and physical abuse, drug abuse, discrimination, and a diminished access to social services.
Education and School Drop-out Rates
Child Protective Services states that 56,000 children are not enrolled in the school system. Others, however, estimate the number at 100,000 children between 6 and 16 years of age that have dropped out of school.
Children living in rural communities are at greater risk of abandoning school. Also, with the state raising the mandatory grade that all children need to complete to 10, the drop-out rate has risen.
Child Abuse and Child Labor
Child abuse and neglect continued to be serious problems, and public awareness remained poor. The media reported several severe cases of abuse or neglect in family homes, foster care, and child welfare institutions. For example, within a period of six months, child welfare services identified 5,665 cases of child abuse, of which 570 involved physical abuse; 716 emotional abuse; 292 sexual abuse; 63 work exploitation; 24 sexual exploitation; 40 exploitation to commit criminal offenses; and 3,960 neglect. Of the reported cases, 2,732 were boys and 2,933 were girls. Most cases of abuse occurred in the family.
The government has not established a mechanism to identify and treat abused and neglected children and their families.
Romania law criminalizes adults who force children to work. Still, there is a high incidence of child begging, and the government is struggling to find and prosecute companies or individuals that illegally employ minors for work. The punishment is 7 years in prison. In 2008, 1072 cases of child labor had been reported, from which only 125 had been confirmed. In 2010, the Authority for Child Protection stated that there were only 412 children exploited by work. Although this number, as with the others the I present here, is hard to nail down, Save the Children Centers received 2,405 children who were exploited by labor. An older report states that 70,000 children needed to work instead of going to school, of which only a third who work on the streets are literate.
According to Save the Children, 86% of children are scolded by their teachers when they make mistakes 33% are ridiculed and 7% are beaten by their teachers. 57% of children suffer from anxiety, withdrawal, insecurity and stress at school.
38% of parents admit to physically abusing their children and 63% of children confess being beaten by their parents, while most parents think that smacking and yanking their ears is appropriate.
According to the Authority for Child Protection, the rate of child abuse has increase by 7% from 11,232 in 2010 to 12,074 in 2012. This includes emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation through labor or crime.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continues to be a serious problem, according to NGOs and other sources. The government did not effectively address it. The law prohibits domestic violence and allows police intervention in such cases. Amendments to the domestic violence law adopted in March 2012 provide for the issuance of restraining orders upon the victim’s request and for the payment by the abuser of some expenses, such as medical and trial expenses, or the cost of the victim’s accommodation in a shelter. While the criminal code imposes stronger sanctions for violent offenses committed against family members than for similar offenses committed against others, the courts prosecuted very few cases of domestic abuse. Many cases were resolved before or during trial when alleged victims dropped their charges or reconciled with the alleged abusers. In cases with strong evidence of physical abuse, the court can prohibit the abusive spouse from returning home. The law also permits police to penalize spouses with fines of 100 lei to 3,000 lei ($26.70 to $893) for various abusive acts. During 2012, 1,857 persons reported being victims of domestic violence, and 440 persons were sent to trial for domestic violence.
Compared to other EU countries, Romania has a low rate of drug use. Still, the use of psychoactive substances by youth under 16 years of age doubled in just four years. Heroine is the most commonly used drug, followed by marijuana.
42% of the elderly are at risk of poverty, which means having an income 60% below the country’s national average.
670,000 elder people and children with healthcare problems receiving government assistance. This is a rise from 80,000 Romanians receiving social benefits in 1992. The increase is due to citizens’ heightened awareness of government benefits.
5.2 children per 1,000 are affected by the divorce of their parents. Where the divorce rate is declining in other European countries, it is rising in Romania. This is partially because marriage is still commonly practiced.
Those with Disabilities and Mental Illnesses
EU funding of at least 24 million euros is propping up 50 residential institutions in Romania. Thousands of people with disabilities were being ‘warehoused’ in such institutions, segregated from society and subjected to inhumane conditions.
Today, the majority of children with disabilities (over 95%) do not live in state institutions. Still, the lack of school participation for children with disabilities is seven times higher than other children.
There have also been reports that some personnel in state institutions mistreated abandoned children with physical disabilities and subjected children in state orphanages to lengthy incarceration as punishment for misbehavior.
HIV/AIDS wrought devastation in Romania in the 1980s and 1990s. The victims were mostly small children infected in hospitals. Poor sterilization facilities and dubious medical practices, such as infected blood transfusions, were largely to blame. Those that did not die were often ostracized, and many were abandoned. Antiretroviral treatment is free and available to those who need it. Death rates have plummeted. In fact, Romania is now often cited as an example to other poor countries with major HIV/AIDS problems.
Yet a substantial number of Romanians with HIV still don’t know it. The generation infected in the 1980s and 1990s is now at reproductive age, and new cases are still appearing across the country, often years after infection. Health workers say sexual transmission is now the most common method.
According to official statistics, 11, 581 patients diagnosed with HIV and AIDS were registered as of December, with 741 new cases reported between January and December. Societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS occurred, and many persons with the disease dropped out of school due to stigmatization, discrimination, or disease. In December, on International HIV Day, the National Union of Organizations of Persons with HIV/AIDS launched a campaign to increase awareness of HIV infection.
Romania spends just 5 percent of its gross domestic product on health care, about half the percentage of GDP Western European countries spend. 30% of medical professionals, about 10,000 people, have migrated out of Romania in order to work for better pay in western countries.
Only those with employment or who pay for health insurance have access to doctors. Medical care is supposed to be free for children. However, the children are often sent to the pharmacies to buy the necessary medication. Bribes across Romania accounted for $1 million a day in 2005, according to a World Bank report; more recent estimates are not available.
Although the infant mortality rate decreased from 26.9 in 2990 to 9 deaths per 1000 in 2012, it is still high – the highest in the EU and twice as high as the EU average. Romania also continues to suffer from transmittable diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. Tuberculosis is six times higher than the EU average, with Romania representing 25% of all TB cases in Europe – 15% of which are children.
Eight percent of Romanian children live in absolute poverty, compared to 35 percent among Roma children. 40% of Romani children are undernourished. 75 percent of Roma children do not complete the 8th grade. Roma children are significantly behind in education compared to non-Roma. Romani children were effectively segregated from non-Romani students and subject to discriminatory treatment.
Discrimination against Roma continued to be a major problem. Romani groups complained that police brutality, including beatings, and harassment were routine. Both domestic and international media and observers widely reported societal discrimination against Roma. Major human rights problems included police and gendarme mistreatment and harassment of detainees and Roma, including the death of three Roma at the hands of police and gendarmes.
Observers estimated that there were between 1.8 and 2.5 million Roma in the country, constituting approximately 10 percent of the total population. However, the preliminary results of the most recent official census, taken in fall 2011, counted 619,000 Roma, or 3.2 percent of the population.
Stereotypes and discriminatory language regarding Roma were widespread. Journalists and several senior government officials made statements that were viewed as discriminatory by members of the Romani community; the CNCD fined some individuals as a result. Anti-Roma banners, chants, and songs, particularly at large televised sporting events, were prevalent and widespread.
Romani communities were largely excluded from administrative and legal systems. According to surveys in 2007 and 2008, the latest data available on this matter, between 1.9 and 6 percent of Roma lacked identity cards, compared to 1.5 percent of non-Roma. The lack of identity documents excluded Roma from participating in elections, receiving social benefits, accessing health insurance, securing property documents, and participating in the labor market. Roma were disproportionately unemployed or underemployed.
The legal age of marriage is 18, although girls as young as 15 may legally marry in certain circumstances. Illegal child marriage was reportedly common within certain social groups, particularly the Roma. There were no public policies to prevent child marriages or government institutions that dealt with the problem.
 Some of the statistics are up to two years old as not all statistics are measured annually.
The Adevarul newspaper
 Eurostat 28
 Behr, Kiss the Hand that You Cannot Bite, xiii.
 Stracansky, Pavol, “Bringing Up a ‘Lost Generation'”.
 Eurostat 7
 xviii UE27
 Eurostat footnote 11
 Meghan Collins Sullivan, ‘Painful Lessons from Romania’s Decade-Old Adoption Ban’, Time, March 15, 2013.
You have all heard about the foolish man. He built his house on the sand. When the rains poured down and the floods came up, the house fell – and great was its fall (Matt. 7:27)! But what if we modified the story a bit?
First of all, ours is not known as a foolish man. In fact, he has a good reputation, power and wealth. This wealthy man built the faulty house but did not live in it. He lived in the house built on a rock, and he called the poorly constructed house “social housing” and rented it out to the desperately poor. Faced with the massive expense of feeding their children every day and paying for electricity and heat, the disadvantaged renters gave the builder what they had, which was always less than the monthly rent. So, the debt for rent ran up. Then the rains poured down. The waters infiltrated the brick walls, washing away its poor construction. The walls fell. The house was uninhabitable. The poor family moved their possessions out to the streets. Instead of moving the homeless family into other social housing, the wealthy man said that because of their debt, they do not qualify for social housing. Who, in this story, is the foolish person?
This was more or less the experience of one of the families with whom we are in relationship. The long, hard rains brought down their walls, and they – elderly and children – were evacuated by police wearing black masks. Their furniture and other belongings sit on the street side, covered in cellophane. The city council told them that because of their debt, they don’t qualify for other social housing.
This is one of the injustices that we are currently facing. Another is a situation of abuse. One of the girls involved in our Community Center activities has not been protected by her guardians, leaving her vulnerable to the abuse by other relatives. This is extremely difficult as we try to understand the problem, help to provide a safe environment, and try to involve the appropriate authorities.
Please pray for the injustices that we witness and engage. We need wisdom, courage and tact.
Although we are going through these trials, we have also experienced some great joys in the last month. We hosted a group made up of friends from Scotland and the Netherlands – relationships that we hope will grow and from which we’ll continue to learn. Our whole community also went on our annual week-long retreat, where we were able to set aside a lot of time for prayer, solitude and reflection and for games and time together. We were glad to have a long-term volunteer and two Servant Team members with us for the retreat. As they departed to the US after the retreat, we welcomed a summer intern and then a small 3-week Discovery Team from George Fox university, which will serve with us in Moldova and then in Romania.
Over the past few months, I’ve also helped facilitate annual evaluations and planning for another Christian non-profit organization in Galati and a soft-ware company run by a good friend of mine. Although this takes a lot of energy and work, I’m delighted to see the betterment of these organizations.
In the coming weeks, we hope to finish our Earth Ship greenhouse and set-up the aquaponics garden. We are also starting to prepare for our summer camp. Although we had our biggest number of kids at camp last year, we hope to bring even more kids this year! That means we are starting now to raise money for this special week away from the normality of life – all the bad and all the good – and experience a week of fun and safety and see a different vision for life. Camp costs $250 per child, so please help us by getting the word out. It really is an investment in a better future for these kids.
We also will be in the US at the end of the summer. As I did last autumn, I am going to try and initiate new partnerships for our community in Romania. If you want to help organize a meeting, presentation or event, please let me know.
Thank you for sustaining us with your encouragement and prayer!
yours in Christ,
david and lenutsa
Baschet (Basket) is how we refer to basketball in Romania. In the summer I run a little clinic to teach the kids the basics. Then we play…even when it’s so cold outside that I would rather not.
This picture, drawn on a cold day better spent indoors, is a depiction by one of our kids of our time at play: