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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
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