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
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
I want to thank you for praying for us, especially during my whirlwind trip through the US last month. Traveling through six states, I was able to meet with many organizations, speak in undergraduate and graduate classes, and share at a number of churches. In the 17 years that I have been serving in Romania, I have never taken a trip like this before. As a community, we see that we need to develop some new partnerships in order to continue and expand Christian ministry among the vulnerable. I was really encouraged by people’s response. If you know of others that you think would be interested in connecting with us, please let us know.
I returned to Galati to find our Community Center full of kids. This summer we saw a few of our youth graduate from high school. One was also baptized and is planning to continue with her studies at the university. This was the first group that started with us when they were 6 years old or from the first grade. They successfully made it through 12 grades of school with the support of our community. While we celebrated their hard-fought victories, we also asked ourselves, “What helped them succeed where many others didn’t?” What we saw, for example, was that they had an “alternative” group of friends that they had at the Center, they began coming to the Center at a young age and in the first years of school, they had worked through behavioral, developmental and familial impediments, they had cooperative, if not supportive, parents, and they were involved in a local church at an early age. So, we are trying to build on these lessons learned. We are trying to take new children in when they are in their first years of school. We are structuring them in groups of 10 and receiving them at the same time so that they can form friendships. We focus on behavioral development rather than homework. We are making the monthly parent meeting mandatory. And we are trying to facilitate their integration in a local church, even when they are young. Currently, we have about 50 children participating in the Community Center on a daily basis and 10 at the Day Center – more than ever before in our community’s history. We have more than 30 parents or caregivers participating in the monthly parent meeting – more than ever before. Our prayer is that many kids will have their lives transformed and that the transformation will be lasting and contagious.
As some of you may know, Galati is situated in one of the poorest parts of the country in one of the poorest countries in Europe. We are building relationships with children at risk of under-nutrition, neglected by their parents or legal guardians, at risk of turning to begging and living on the streets, at risk of never enrolling or of dropping out of school. We are also developing friendships with the children’s parents who suffer from a lack of education, generational dependence, alcoholism, racism, unemployment and forced migration. This year we have made the audacious goal of visiting all of the vulnerable families in the neighborhood to build relationships and to assess their level of vulnerability. Up to now, we have made it to 70 families in the neighborhood. Our prayer is that in every relationship we can sow seeds of hope for a different and better future.
Some of you have asked about our practical needs as our activities have expanded. Here are a few:
If you would like to make a year-end donation, please let me know.
david and lenuta
In all of our activities, we serve among 60+ kids per week. We serve with the assumption that God is always doing something before we know it. So, we are sensitive to the children and to God’s action in them, trying to avoid any form of manipulation. A few weeks ago during our Saturday kids’ club, Oana told the children about the life of David. She explained David’s failure in committing adultery with Bathsheba and how he killed her husband Uriah. Then, after David repented, God forgave and restored David. At that moment, one of the 11 year old boys said, “Who? Who forgave David?” Oana repeated that God did. The boy gasped with unbelief. Why would God forgive a man who did such bad things? At first, I was struck by the boy’s shock. He has seen some bad things in his young life, but has not lived in a context of grace. And then I was struck by own reaction. I am so accustomed to Bible stories that I am guilty of domesticating God and failing to see how scandalous God’s grace is. Recently, I read the words of Eugene Peterson: “It is hard to see grace because our whole culture is going in the other direction, saying that if you’re smart enough and get the right kind of help, you can solve all your problems.” The Spirit of God in this young boy awakened me anew to the uncommon, hidden and dangerous grace of God.
I write this update from Lepșa, a village in the Vrancea Mountains, where we hold our annual retreat and summer camp. This week we are meditating on our vision statement: serving Jesus among the most vulnerable. Every morning we have a time of worship and a devotional, followed by 2 hours of solitude. Then we gather to share what God has impressed on us. During our afternoons and evenings, we play games, sleep, celebrate and review some aspects about our ministry like our organizational structure, what we communicate about our ministry, and the five love languages. This year we also celebrated Paul Rase’s 10 years of service with us. It is a joy to have this annual rhythm of withdrawing together to seek God, to enjoy one another, and to be rejuvenated in the midst of nature.
The retreat has been timely after a busy spring. After 13 years, I again became a Servant Team Coordinator. We had a team of two, which spent two months in Romania followed by two months in Moldova. While they were with me, they helped with the games, art and kids’ club, and we read a number of good books: Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, How God Became King, The Open Secret, along with other articles. We really enjoyed having a Servant Team again and are praying for someone to be our Short-term Programs Coordinator, so that we can have them more consistently.
This spring we visited almost all of the evangelical churches in Galati and presented our activities. The children and some of our community members sang some songs. In a few churches, I spoke on Hagar and the vulnerable, Jonah and mission, and foot-washing and intimacy. (The picture on the left was drawn by one of our children as a spoke.)
In March, I led our community in Moldova through a few days of evaluation as they came up with their tactical plan for the coming year. A few weeks later, I returned to Moldova to participate in a conference on Evangelical Mission in an Orthodox Context, where I had the opportunity to present a case study. In April, I led our community in Romania through a tactical planning session. We decided that our major focus for the year is aligning ourselves with our newly formulated mission statement: a better future for vulnerable children through personal development and by partnerships of friends.
In April, we had two friends, Deb and Krystel, visit us from Lifegate Church in Omaha. Deb led us through teachings and discussions on StrengthsFinders, stress management, geneograms, teambuilding and counseling. Krystel talked to us about breaking generational sin. Both of them did personal counseling with our staff. The few days we had together was a rich investment in our community.
We also had some friends – Frank, John and David – visit us from England. They finished up some electrical work in the village Day Center, sanded and painted lockers, and installed a ventilation system in our bathroom. After 12 years, we have leaky pipes, broken faucets, rusty shower basins and rotten door frames and need to completely renovate the bathroom. Because the children that come to the Community Center have no hot water and many have no indoor water, this facility is a major support for them. Having the ventilation system finished is a big start. We need to raise about $2,500 to complete the renovation. Please consider helping us with this investment.
In April, I was invited to a consultation on urban mission in a western city in Romania called Cluj. The conversations revolved around the place of the church in the city and the way the church interacts with the city. This exercise forced everyone to think beyond the walls of their own churches and their own programs. Each was able to see their particular congregation in light of the city – its dynamism, its problems, and its needs.
For Labor Day, we went with the kids to a nearby forest and played games and BBQ-ed. The mother of one of our first-graders is deaf. So, she asked us if she could bring her mom with us. It was a joy to see this lady, who has suffered socially and physically over the years, to be loved and to enjoy herself with us. I was especially encouraged that our first-grader would desire her mom to spend the day with us.
As with past years, we had a feast for Easter, which took place on May 5th on the Orthodox Calendar. With the children, their families and our staff, we had about 60 people. After the singing and the meal, the kids took turns beating a piñata, which eventually gave up its candy.
Well, that brings you up to date with a busy few months. I will end this letter with another lesson that we learned from the children. Each day the kids have a time of prayer. One of the second-graders, after praying for her family and her day, said to God, “…and Father, take care of yourself too.” We have glimpses into the heart of the Father. We pray that we have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Yours in Christ,
david and lenut(s)a
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
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 10 years to get that many views.
I know that this post is late. I realized that I sent it out via email but forgot to post it here. This was from August:
We are in the middle of a hot summer – and I am fully enjoying it! If you know me, you know that I struggle with anything below freezing, so I try and soak up the heat to get me through the cold winter.
Our summer is also full of fun activities with the kids. During the school year, our activities revolve around the school schedules and their school work, but our major focus with the kids is not education but their personal formation. So, during the summer we are able to do more Bible studies and book studies, worship, therapeutic play, mentoring and discussions about skills they need for life. It’s a packed schedule, but it’s a lot of fun. We also have more time to play together: Settlers and Ticket-to-Ride, volleyball, and swimming. We were blessed to have some new friends, Nicholas and Autumn Morgenstern, do art and dance activities with the kids.
At the beginning of the summer, we received two first-grade girls into the Community Center. It is always a delight to see their excitement and the way that they experience things for the first time. We had wanted to receive another little first-grader as well, but the girl’s father decided to take her on a trip to France. For most kids that would be an exciting summer vacation, but for this little girl it most likely meant begging. Little beautiful girls are put on the street corners to ask strangers for money. And it can be quite lucrative. We are praying that this girl returns to Galati in time to start school. And we are hoping to receive her into our Community Center, where we can work to prevent child trafficking and forced begging.
In June, we had a team of 12 come from George Fox University. We spent a week in Moldova and two weeks in Romania. The team did a lot to help us clean the Center, move furniture, cut down trees, rebuild fences. Member of the team also shared their testimonies with our youth, which was impactful. Of course, the team also did lots of fun activities with the kids. We really were encouraged and supported by them during our weeks together.
At the end of the summer, we are organizing our 12th annual camp. It will be a week when we can get out of the city and spend a full seven days together. Besides the archery, hiking and horseback riding, the kids will have 3 full meals a day and their own beds to sleep in. It costs us about $200 per child for the week. If you are interested in contributing to camp, please let me know.
The last weekend of June, Lenutsa and I went to England – unfortunately, it wasn’t for the Olympics. Last October I finished up a MA course that I did through London School of Theology, and the graduation ceremony was held in June. It was a nice way to celebrate the achievement and to meet some of the other students and faculty. After the graduation, we visited some of our friends in Wolverhampton, where we spoke in some churches and small groups, and played in a golf fundraiser. As I hit a wapping 9 on the last hole (par 3), I was glad I could make everyone else feel better about their game. All in all, it was a jolly time.
We are now in the U.S., in Omaha for most of August. We had the privilege of meeting with friends at Winterset Community Church in Iowa. It was our first time there, and we were blessed by their welcome and worship. We will participate in the missions conference at Lifegate Church in Omaha. And we also hope to be with our friends at Emmanuel Fellowship before we depart. It is overwhelming and encouraging to be able to connect with those that have been praying for us and supporting us over the years and also to build new relationships that we pray will develop over the coming years.
As our ministry among the poor in Romania and our broader region of Africa and Europe continues to grow, we are looking for others to partner with us. Since I have been living and serving in Romania for more than 15 years, building new relationships with potential supporters has been a challenge. But this is essential if we are to continue to flourish. Please pray about partnering with us or in building partnerships for us.
I wanted to give you a brief update on how life is in Galati so that you can know specifically how to continually pray for us.
Spring is here and our lives and schedules are fuller as the weather warms. Sadly, the person we employed to coordinate the new Day Center in the village resigned, but we have seen God’s hand at work. Within days another person, who volunteered with us a few years back, expressed interest in coordinating the Center. Her name is Mariana and we are so thankful that she is now involved with us. She’s getting to know the kids and figuring out the role.
We celebrated Easter this year as we have in years past. The kids prepared a performance of songs and poems, Lenutsa explained the reason for the holiday, and then we had a big meal together with the kids and their families. Afterwards, the kids tried to break a Romanian version of a piñata. It was a struggle, but they eventually broke the candy out.
It was a huge blessing that our friends Frank and John came out from England to help us build a playground at the new Day Center in the village. We also had a group from New Hampshire that were with us for a few days and helped us plant grass both in Galati and in the village.
We also received David Clark, a pastor from Scotland, for a few days. He led us in some reflections and discussions on what it means to do ministry in, with and for the city. It really helped us to start thinking about our ministry and our community in a larger context. We are now thinking and praying about some different activities to better engage our urban context.
Last month our community in Galati took two full days to create a one-year tactical plan. It was a time that helped us evaluate the positives and the negatives from the past year and focus our energies for the year to come. Each month we will come together to analyze our implementation of the plan. Please pray that we would continue to seek God’s heart for the vulnerable in Galati and that we would have wisdom in prioritizing our activities.
After lots of preparation, we are getting ready to take our community on a retreat. This year it is a regional retreat, which means that some of our staff from Sierra Leone and from Moldova will be participating with us. Sadly, three of our Sierra Leonean and one of our Moldovan national staff did not receive visas and are unable to come. So, our time of building and rejuvenating community is also mixed with grieving the kingdoms of this world that divide and try and keep us divided. The theme of our retreat is Reconciliation. We do pray that God would do a work in us personally and communally and a work through us towards reconciling all of creation to God. Please do pray with us and for us.
I would ask you to especially pray for our teenagers. Most of them have been with us since they were very young. But, as with most teenagers, they are struggling with the major decisions that will give direction to their futures. And they face struggles much more difficult than I did. For example, one of our teens has an older brother who was never sent to school and never learned to read or write. As you can imagine, it is difficult for him to get a job. Yet, he comes back from Italy with a car (that he has to hire someone to drive) and money to buy an apartment. The way he gets money is through stealing or through pimping girls. Although our teens do not think that this is a “good” way to make money, they do see it as a viable job. This is the model that they see at home. And it is a spiritual battle to help them seek God and reject the things and the ways the world values.
I continue to write some reflections on my blog: davidchronic.com. In March, Lenutsa and I were in Assisi with the other Regional Coordinators and the US co-executive directors of WMF where we had a great time together and were able to walk in the same place where Francis and Clare started the mendicant movement. A number of the recent posts are about the Franciscan movement. I have attached a short reflection below.
Thank you for standing with us in prayer,
David and Lenutsa