We began the day at the Leaganul Orphanage, where there are approximately 30 severely disabled children who are waiting to be placed in group homes. This orphanage has housed as many as 600 orphans at a time. However, at the beginning of this year, the Romanian government decided that they needed to take care of all the orphaned and abandoned and disabled children in a different way, so they are now building group homes with approximately 10 to 20 children placed in each home, which will be staffed by 2 workers at each shift. By the end of June, the last of these children will have been placed in group homes, and the large institutional orphanages will be disbanded. At that point, this facility will become an outreach for pregnant girls and young women with babies who have nowhere else to turn. The hope is that by providing training and assistance to them, it will help prevent the desperate act of abandoning their children, because they will now have other options.
Spending time with the children in this orphanage tugged at our heart strings. Some were so excited to see us, and they couldn’t wait to be picked up or played with. Others were so disabled, we weren’t even sure they knew we were there. Dawn Hoffman had done physical therapy and stimulation with some of these children as she spent a year in full-time mission here in Romania, and it was inspiring to listen to her stories of how far some of these children had come. What fun to watch the kids squeal with delight as Joe and Cody blew bubbles for them! We weren’t able to take photos in the orphanages, but we will store up these memories in our hearts.
It was hard to say ‘Ciao’ to the children when it was time to head over to the hospital, but we also knew we had a full day of work ahead of us, so we gladly got on the mini-bus to head over to the Spitalul Clinic de Copii. Randy & Debbie, who are full-time missionaries from Florida, had purchased equipment and supplies so that we could paint, put up wallboards and hang wallpaper borders in the pediatric cancer ward of this hospital. We met Carrie, a young woman from California who has been in Romania for 2 years, and is now a foster mom for a 2-year old boy who is dying of cancer. Carrie will be at the hospital for the next 5 days so that her little boy can receive his chemotherapy treatments. She was thrilled to have Americans to talk with, and we were deeply inspired by her servant heart.
We spent the rest of the day in the clinic working at our tasks, but there was also time for the teens in our group to go hold babies and to give out beanie babies to the children. While we were there, a 15-year old girl had come to drop off her 5-week old baby, and we were once again heart-broken by the plight of a young teenage mother in such desperate circumstances that she would abandon her tiny baby.
After our workday was done, we headed to one of the gypsy villages where Pastor Teo’s ministry is helping to build a church. It was so fun to be in the village, watching the horse-drawn carriages hauling families and hay and manure and miscellaneous things, and seeing the simple life of the people out in the country.
We were all delighted by the great things we experienced today, and can hardly wait to wake up tomorrow to see what else God has in store.
Last evening, we enjoyed the breathtaking sites of Budapest as we walked through the Pest area of the city. After a delicious Hungarian dinner, we walked to the Danube River so we could see the luminated Chain Bridge, the Royal Palace, the Parliament building and the impressive monuments at the top of Gellert Hill. We enjoyed delicious ice cream cones along the waterfront, and had hilarious moments trying to find our way on the metro.
Today, our bus ride from Budapest, Hungary to Oradea, Romania was a lovely journey through the countryside of Hungary. Oradea is just over the border in Romania, so soon after we went through passport control and had our passports stamped as we exited Hungary, and stamped again as we entered Romania, we arrived at our hotel. The Romanian translator who will lead our team is Adi, and in this short time together, we already feel like he’s a part of our family.
Pastor Teo met our team at the hotel, and he and Tom and Dawn worked diligently on our schedule for our next few days of ministry in Oradea.
We can hardly wait to get started tomorrow at the orphanages and hospitals.
My name is Michelle Halonen, and I’ll be sending you the regular updates of our Eastern Europe mission team. My husband, Joe, and I have travelled with Tom to a number of countries, and we are excited to be part of this Eastern Europe mission team.
The weary travellers have arrived safely in Hungary after almost 24 hours of flights and lay-overs. All the luggage and ministry bags arrived as well, and we are ready for a good night’s sleep before our day on the bus to Oradea, Romania, tomorrow.
Tonight, we’ll take the metro to the Vaci area of Budapest where we’ll eat supper at a traditional Hungarian restaurant, and walk a bit in the city to help relieve some of the jet lag.
We are looking forward to getting to know each other as a team, and watching to see how God is going to use this group to share His love. Your prayers will be so important over these next couple of weeks as we anticipate exciting opportunities.
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