Aug
2008

27
Happy Birthday Tom!
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Friday, August 22, 2008
by Angie Simon

Happy Birthday Tom! Today the team celebrated Tom’s 57th birthday by taking a tour of the Kremlin. What an amazing opportunity to walk around the grounds that date back to the 1100′s. Inside the Kremlin majestic buildings, cathedrals, towers and beautiful gardens lined the streets. Long government buildings were even the length of a football field and every church had multiple domes covered in gold. We toured many of the churches and cathedrals inside. All of them were so magnificent inside with frescos that dated back to the 1300′s. Since the domes were the highest part in the cathedral, every one had a picture of Christ. Some may had saints towards the top of the ceiling, but God was always the highest.

After the tour, we walked around Red Square again and Scott, Mani and Tom took a catnap in the park waiting on the girls. Dwayne and Tom took photos together with their Inca Cola shirts from Peru. There were guys walking around dressed like Stalin and Lenin that you could have your photo taken together.

Next, we visited the famous Moscow walking street called Arbat. It was freshly painted in bright colors unlike the Soviet Days and it was fun to see some American icons like Hard Rock, Starbucks and Baskin Robbins. Since Robyn held a snake yesterday, Angie got a chance to hold a monkey! The street was filled with all kinds of artists like painters and musicians. Some of our team purchased winter scene water color paintings from the actual artists on the street.

In the evening we celebrated Tom’s birthday at a nice little haunt that Tom used to visit some time ago. It was a perfect place to sit and relax before we went back to see Red Square at night. We had some great American munchies and celebrated with some Tiramisu. Tom was surprised with a Harley Davidson shirt from DJ, Scott and Vicki.

After night fell we returned to Red Square to see just how magnificent and glorious it was with all the buildings in lights. St. Basil was so incredible to see at night. We took lots of pictures and headed back on the journey home to the hotel.

On the way back, Tom got a call that his brother-in-law, Leo Skogen had finally lost his battle with cancer. Leo was greatly loved by all and was a faithful, generous supporter of Hope 4 Kids especially in the early years. If it wasn’t for Leo’s faithful support through all those years, Hope 4 Kids may not have made it. If Leo only knew how big our ministry has gotten and the impact we are making in Africa, it would put a smile on his face. Leo, thank you for all your love & support. You will be greatly missed.

 

Aug
2008

23
Exploring The Great City of Moscow Today
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Thursday, August 21, 2008
by Angie Simon

This morning we got an early start off to Moscow. Since we had such an early start, we had most of the day to explore the city of Mockba. We immediately took an extensive city tour where we got an opportunity to visit Red Square, St. Basil, beautiful churches, KGB buildings and gorgeous gates around the city. Red Square was more magnificent than we could have ever imagined. It was majestic and filled with lots parks, trees and flowers. Getting an opportunity to experience Red Square while reflecting on the great history was awe inspiring. We also saw Lenin’s tomb and the Museum of History. Ironically, we walked into Red Square through a mall that used to be the largest mall in the world that had a glass roof. The building itself was one of the oldest, most ornate yet it was filled with the most beautiful stores the world has to offer. Tom pointed out important buildings and hotels where he used to smuggle Bibles or had secret meetings in the city. We also stopped on our tour to visit the largest Orthodox church in Moscow. The church was just as beautiful as any other church around the world. The entire church was filled with ornate frescos painted over five centuries ago.
Robyn capitalized on getting over one of her fears today: SNAKES! Their was an individual that had a python in Red Square and Robyn held it! She put it on her neck and it slithered all around! When we started on this trip, Robyn was jumpy when a fake snake jumped out of a box and now she was holding a python! Way to go Robyn!

 

Aug
2008

22
Team Visits Children’s Hospital & The Hermitage
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008
by Angie Simon

We had another great day today! The team had a special opportunity to visit an old children’s hospital in St. Petersburg in the morning. This is another place Hope 4 Kids has been visiting for years. The lovely director came out to greet us and to take us to visit the children. We gathered together in a large room with about twenty kids. They were shy and a little withdrawn. The team visited each child and passed out Beanie babies an finger puppets we got from Peru. After a while, the kids were smiling and started to warm up to us. Then, Heather comes out in this furry animal mask and the kids went crazy! They were screaming laughing and Heather was on her hands and knees crawling around like an animal! The kids were trying to pretend to shoot her and Heather would croak right there on the floor. The kids were laughing so loudly with joy we were afraid that we were going to upset the staff! It was so wonderful to see them laughing and forgetting why they were in the hospital.

After that, we toured the hospital, visiting all the children in the different rooms. Many were there from accident induced injuires. They had on many different casts. Even the teenagers were so happy to see us and enjoyed practicing their English and reciving a Beanie Baby.

After we passed out a few hundred Beanie Babies we gathered all together outside in the playground area, where the director of the hospital just thanked us with the warmest sentiments. She was so grateful that we came to see the children and that she is so grateful we continue to come year after year. The children are not forgotten. She had a finger puppet on her finger while she was speaking to us. She said, “Now, I will always greet the children like this.” and she waived her little finger with the pupet on it. She continued, “It will always remind me of you.”

After the children’s hospital, we toured their church and went on to see one of the most famous churches in all of Russia, The Church of the Spilled Blood. It was so magnificent and amazing in every way. The team took lots of photos, soaked in the beautiful architecture and was off to the Winter Palace to the Hermitage, one of the most famous museums in the world.

Tom believes the Hermitage has one of the best art collections in the world because during the Soviet Block, art collections were acquired from Czars from all over when they were taken over by force. The Hermitage building is inside the Winter Palace and the building itself is unbelievable. It looks like the Russian version of Versailles. The team had the opportunity to view priceless works of art for nearly three hours. Some of our favorites were The Prodigal Son by Rembrant and La Madonna by Leonardo da Vinci.

 

Aug
2008

20
Visiting the Special Needs Orphanage & Summer Palace
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Tuesday, August 19th, 2008
by Angie Simon

Wow! What an amazing day! We started off the day learning about the history of Hope 4 Kids International where we got started smuggling Bibles into the Soviet Union in 1973. After learning about the history and the rich culture of Russia, our team had the opportunity to visit a special needs orphanage in St.Petersburg. We all agreed that this was a very special place. There were around forty kids outside to greet us in all different ages. The team had just as much fun as the kids playing with bubbles, punching balls and passing out Beanie Babies. We played on the playground with equipment that was donated by Hope 4 Kids years ago. All the kids were so loving and happy to see us. They never wanted us to set them down! No matter what the age of the child, they were all excited to receive a Beanie Baby!

After the orphanage we were off to the Summer Palace where Peter the Great lived. The grounds were truly magnificent with all of the gold-leafed statues, exotic fountains and beautiful landscaping. The Summer Palace faces the Gulf of Finland that runs into the Baltic Sea. Sharon, Pat and Angie all took off their shoes and got into the Baltic!

Urban legend has it that Peter the Great had magic (secret) rocks planted inside walkways that when a guest stepped on the magic rock, it would spray them with water. Some of us who will remain nameless decided to take one for the team and go thru the fountians to give everyone a good laugh.

Before we left, we did a little shopping then headed to an amazing Russian restaurant that looked like a Russian version of Rain Forest Cafe! What an amazing day!

 


Team Arrives in St. Petersburg Today
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Monday, August 18, 2008
by Angie Simon

This morning our team left for St. Petersburg, Russia today! Although it was not the most direct route, our team loved connecting through Rome! We walked across Italian soil and got our stamp thru customs. =) Our team enjoyed a couple hours in the airport shopping and sipping on Italian cappuccinos. Before we knew it, it was time to get on the plane for a another four hour flight.

By the time we landed it was 5:30PM and Misha and our van was here to pick us up and take us to our hotel. Misha is an old friend of Tom’s that he has known for over 8 years. Misha is or favorite translator in Russia. he is so joyful and full of life- always laughing!

The city is so historical and so beautiful. We immediately left our hotel and went walking down the street into the city. It was late in the evening yet still light outside. We enjoyed walking down the main street drag in St. Petersburg called Nevsky Prospect. Where was the first place we went? Pizza Hut for dinner of course!

 

Aug
2008

19
Team Leaves Back to Budapest Today
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Sunday, August 17, 2008
By Angie Simon

Today, most of our team left for Budapest early this morning. Elizabeth, Ramona and Bonnie stayed in Romania for a couple of days. They went back to Adi’s church in the morning and Gabby took them on a city tour of Oradea in the afternoon. The team arrived in Budapest early afternoon which gave us an opportunity to do some shopping. Tom took some on a city tour of Buda and Pestch. Buda is the old city that sits high on the hill that connects with Petsch down below by five bridges including the famous Chain Bridge.

The bridge was closed to cars in preparation for the big holiday honoring Hungary’s last king. Musicians and vendors lined the bridge offering crafts, food and drinks to passersby. We walked up to the old city of Buda and up and around to the castle to get an amazing 360 degree view of the city. Overlooking the Danube River you could a great view of the Parliament Building. By late afternoon, our dogs were barking! Although it was nice to get up and move around since we were in the van traveling in the morning, our feet hurt and we had to find a quicker way back to the hotel so we took a cable car down from Buda to the Chain Bridge.

After the tour was time for some school shopping! Mani’s first day of high school is the day after we return from Eastern Europe so we took him to the main square to get some clothes for his first week of high school. We sat at an outdoor café in front of a store eagerly waiting to see Mani’s school purchases. We came back with a new pair of jeans and a cool leather jacket! After finishing our tour on the walking street we decompressed at the hotel until 7PM for another meal at Fatal! It was great day and we all retired early because we have to wake up at 4AM for our flight tomorrow to St. Petersburg. Goodnight! =)

 

Aug
2008

17
Cheresig Children Receive Packs of Food Today
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Saturday, August 16, 2008
by Angie Simon

What a great day! The team returned to Cheresig for our final day in the Gypsy villages. By the time we arrived in the morning all the kids were already at the church, wound up and ready to go! We decided that we would play games first to get the kids a little tired! We created the extra long jump rump for the kids, played with bubbles along with a bunch of games from Oriental Trading company. Some of the boys played soccer and the girls learned how to play jacks. The bubbles were a big hit! They all enjoyed learning how to play with the bubbles.

It was a special day for Ramona because today she got to visit with her sponsored child Amelia. Yesterday, Ramona was not feeling well and decided to stay back and rest. So today she really enjoyed spending the entire day with her.

In the afternoon we fed the kids sandwiches, juice and peaches that Elizabeth and Patrick went and purchased from the store while Tom, Dwayne & Scott moved bricks from the other villages.
Dorell scoffed at the boys that they would not be able to finish moving the bricks by the time he returned but they did and even had time to go swimming in the river!

After lunch, the team helped the kids decorate white tshirts for them. All of the kids wanted their name along with hearts, balloons and flowers on their t-shirts. They all had them on by the end of the day! next, we passed out the bags of food, hats and scarves for all of the kids in the village. Each bag had juice, oil, sugar, flour, cookies, cereal, pate & pasta. Sandie had people from her church knit some hats for us to give out. The kids were so excited to see which hat they got. Some were funny and we all laughed as they tried them on especially on this hot day. I know the kids will really love them in December!

It was getting late in the afternoon and many parents arrived at the church on bicycles to help their kids home with their two bags of food. As we were getting ready to leave, a wedding party arrived and marched down the street playing all kinds of weird instruments in a procession honoring the bride and the groom. A Gypsy wedding was under way! They marched right in front of the church.

For dinner, Cornell treated us to another amazing dinner like he did last year. The restaurant was located in the countryside close to Hungary. By the time we arrived, a thunderstorm was well underway and most of us got wet, but we didn’t seem to care. George & Alina, Adi & Florie and their friends from Texas were also there to meet us. We had a wonderful dinner eating and fellowshipping together. Mani, Tom and DJ even tried Breaded Cow Brains! YUCK!

Tomorrow, we leave early in the morning for Budapest where we will get an opportunity to spend the afternoon in the city before we leave for Russia the following day.

 

Aug
2008

16
Team Visits Cheresig Today
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Friday, August 15, 2008
by Angie Simon

Today we visited a very special Gypsy village named Cheresig (pronounced Cara-SEEG) that many of us love dearly. The village is located about 30 minutes outside of Oradea and the Pastor of Bistritia pentecostal Church is named Dorell. If you followed us last year on our trip, Dorell lost his eye after he had an eye injury working in Spain. he got a piece of steel in his eye and after it was successfully removed, the doctors missed an eyelash and it got severly infected and he eventually lost his eye. We were all delighted when we saw how much much was completed on his church. It is beautiful and freshly painted a relaxing blue color. The kids were so happy to see us and they all greeted us at the gate. They were laughing, smiling and anxious to meet everyone of us. It was so fun to see all the kids from last year and to see how much they have grown. All of the kids were so clean, kind and happy compared to many of the kids from Lazareni.

Tom and Dorell had a very important meeting before our arrival in Cheresig that determined our response to his village. Dorell is under a tremendous amount of stress from several different factors and it all came to head when he met with Tom. Dorell has been left with an incredible amount of debt for two village churches that he has been working in. several missionaries from the states wanted to help Dorell respond to the construction of these two other village churches and left Dorell with the bills. Dorell has taken on alot of personal debt in addition to help feed his family and is even feels forced to sell his car.

Dorell informed us that the families in Cheresig are starving. They have no money for food and felt that people just came to take photos. Tom immediately herd his cry for help and felt led to respond by providing food for all the families in Cheresig which totaled nearly 35 homes. Hope 4 Kids supplied Dorell with enough money to purchase the food and when we arrived the food was already there ready to be sorted. Each family received oil, two bags of rice, two different kinds of pasta, sugar, cereal, cookies, pate, juice amoungst other things. The teams separated the food into bags to be distributed later after lunch.

While Elizabeth worked with Ionella in the Sponsorship Department, team members got an opportunity to play with the kids outside. We had bubbles, soccer balls and other games. Robyn sponsored a new little girl that couldn’t be more precious. The team really started to feel a connection with these kids.

We walked the entire length of Cheresig and team members delivered the food to all the individual families. We double-checked to make sure all the families received our groceries and even ran back to the church to assemble a few more bags. It was the hottest day so far on this trip. The sun was scorching and many were drained from the sun. It was so fun to see the kids filled with so much pride as they showed off their homes and introduced us to their families. We took lots of photos and even some kids that were entering into the program. The feeling was mutual that this was our best day yet. God really showed us His love for us as we worked in this village today. God’s timing could not have been more perfect for us to intersect their needs on this trip. Handing out food and establishing relationships with these villagers was really the foundation of the rest of the work we will be doing for the beautiful village of Cheresig.

 

Aug
2008

15
Hope 4 Kids Meets With Assistant Director of Beclean Orphanage
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Thursday, August 14, 2008
by Angie Simon

Today, the team returned to Beclean Orphanage to visit with the Assistant Director of the orphanage to obtain updates about our kids who are & have been in our Unifund Program. Bonnie, Elizabeth, Angie Adi, and Alex all met with Maria to discuss the progress of the kids and to determine the success and opportunities of the Unifund program. The information we received from the meeting was so valuable and we all left feeling that it was a very positive meeting.

This year is a very important year for Unifund because so many of the kids are leaving the house (for the first time) and living on their own. Most of them are looking for jobs in order to support themselves. it is a very difficult and scary time for these kids because their safety net is gone. They will no longer be able to return back to house and this house is all they have ever known. our hearts are for these kids to not only receive an education but to develop adequate social skills for them to feel confident to get a good job in their field and to make an impact in their own developing nation of Romania. We have discussed transition houses, workshops, seminars, hired social workers in an effort to help these kids integrate into normal society.

The rest of the team got an opportunity to visit with the rest of the kids while we finished in our meeting. they learned of their own personal stories and challenges growing up as a Romanian orphan. It was especially difficult for Tom to say goodbye to these kids because he has been so instrumental in their lives over the years. He has watched them all grow up since they were young. Now, they will face new challenges as they learn to live on their own. We hope as an organization, Hope 4 Kids International will be able to help these kids that are so dear to us make a smooth transition back into society.

 

Aug
2008

14
Visiting our Unifunds Students in Beclean
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008
by Angie Simon

This morning we started with Tom sharing about our Unifund students that we sponsor through our our organization. our Unifund students are Romanian college students that have lived in the Beclean orphanage between 14-18 yrs of their life. Most were abandoned at birth and some were abandoned when they were toddlers. They all grew up together in the largest orphanage in Europe, a house that had 600 kids. Our Unifund program was initially set up by Margo Peterson and her mother Bonnie Dirks in an effort to raise support for their college education. This program gives these orphans an opportunity to obtain a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s Degree while they learn to socialize back into society in hopes of pouring back into Romania. They can go to the university, trade school or seminary free of charge as long as they are keeping their grades up. We just entered several of these kids into our sponsorship program. (If you would like more information regarding our Unifund program sponsorship program, please email sponsor@h4ki.org.)

We traveled nearly seven hours to Beclean from Oradea today. The Unifund students greeted us with open arms and it was so wonderful to see them again. They were laughing and singing and really appreciated that we were there to see them. Some of them have jobs now and had to make special arrangements to get there to see us. Tom introduced them to the rest of the team and we all walked together down to a restaurant where we could all fellowship together.

Bonnie was delighted to finally meet the students that she and her family has had such a passion. As we all walked together, they shared stories about their lives and their plans for the future. Angie took interviews with the students while Elizabeth took photos and registered them into the program. One of our success stories from the Unifund program is about Alex Chitoi. he has already received his Master’s Degree and is involved with social work. Alex did an interview with us last year and it was so great to see him again! He really helped us get some good information on the students while providing other essential facts about our students and their stories. Bonnie and Sandi also got some great information while speaking to some students over dinner and we finished of the evening with some ice cream! We are staying in Bistritia tonight and tomorrow we will head back to see the Unifund kids before we head back to Oradea.

 
 
About

Hope 4 Kids International is 501c3 faith-based non-profit committed to help children around the world that are suffering from extreme poverty through Dignity, Health, Joy & Love.

www.hope4kidsinternational.org

Contact
General Inquiries : info@hope4kidsinternational.org