It was December 2013 when I first encountered the village of Santandrei in Romania. A common Roma gypsy community on the outskirts of the town it was there that I would discover what “being relational” could truly mean. I have always stressed the importance in child sponsorship as not being as much about the dollars but rather the hope that can be brought just by writing, communicating and showing that you care. We arrived in that village to bring coats and food bags to the community. It was everything you would expect from a village of “outsiders”. Luckily the chief of community, Nelu, was there to help keep things under control. My first impression of Nelu was that he was respected by the community and even if he wasn’t people listened to him. Danny is the local Romanian pastor who has been working in that village to bring the love of Jesus to the people. He is a light in a dark area. He told us that the local churches were fine with him bringing the gospel to the gypsies but they just didn’t “want those people in their churches”. That is the most vivid memory I have of that trip- those words broke my heart. Seriously what part of the gospel speaks of shutting a door?
I have been back to the village 5-6 times since that first village and have begun to see changes especially in Nelu. Often, he stood to the side watching unless he was needed to keep things organized. Over the years he has invited Andy and Danny into his home for coffee and to listen to their words. As a construction worker, he began to show pride in his home and creating upgrades that are certainly not typical in a Roma village. Danny makes weekly visits to the community to spread the word and deliver food bags, school supplies, and other items which sponsorship dollars help support.
It was within the past year that we heard Nelu had attended a revival and decided to accept Christ as his personal savior. Talk about a WIN! Here was the leader of the community deciding to make a decision that could be an example for everyone. He has changed his lifestyle and wants to make a difference in the village for Jesus. He has told Andy that he trusted Remember the Children and Danny because it was always “about the children”. This June he asked Andy over coffee why Andy had “never invited him to church?” Wow- that brought home a point and was quickly resolved. I was blessed to be in Romania on June 4th when Nelu got on the bus with us (and his daughter) and went to Impact Church. He worshipped and was welcomed. I noticed a difference this summer as he was very engaging with the team and hugged us as we were leaving. It just goes to show that taking the time to be intentional and relational can be life changing. Danny’s weekly visits, Andy’s coffee chats and Remember the Children’s ministry to the children made a difference. I have seen it firsthand and know that God has been glorified.
As a postscript Andy made sure that Nelu now has a Romanian Bible to read and study with. I can’t wait to return in December and see my “brother in Christ.”
Our ministry has existed for over twenty years to bring faith, hope and love to the forgotten ones in Romania. On April 1st we announced that we were beginning a “family home program” in Tanzania. It was not a joke or a prank. It was the gosh honest truth!
I am sure that people asked themselves “Why?” Why would a ministry that has dedicated itself since 1996 to Romania all of a sudden go to Africa? Specifically Tabora, Tanzania. Why not stay in Eastern Europe? Why not develop something nationally? If you are going to branch out there has to be someplace that would make a lot more sense. I must admit when Andy Baker (our Executive Director) told me that we may be venturing out to Tanzania those were my exact thoughts.
However I ask you now “Why not”? What makes more sense then to go to a nation where there are over two million orphans. Our calling has always been to reach out to the least of these. Andy was called twenty years ago to the plight of the orphans in Romania. We have partnered there and hopefully continue to make a difference in that country. Nothing has changed. However, when God speaks you know you must listen. Then you must do. The opportunity has been presented to us to again partner with Mircea Toca and work with a model that was successful in Romania. Take a community of ten family homes with a loving mother and father. Add ten orphaned children to that family and pour out God’s love into their lives. It is a proven model and makes a difference. Our goal is to establish those then homes in Tabora. Our first home is up and running. I invite you to partner with us. Become part of the “Why Not’s” and make a difference. Information about this is on our website and I encourage you to visit and get more details.
Several years ago my church did a study on “The Story”. This book takes the bible and places it in a historical/chronological order to tell God’s story. It takes the key points and characters and and outlines it from Creation to Revelation in a narrative form. What is God’s story? It is basically the plan he had to have a relationship with his creation. We were created to commune with God. He is our Lord and master but he wanted to be able to have a relationship with us and to dwell among us. That is amazing. That is how everything began and yet we managed to mess it up.
One of the things I learned was an interesting concept which is what this post is about. You see in the story there are two stories. The Upper Story and The Lower Story. The upper story is God’s story and plan. The lower story is our story. In the beginning these two stories would be one story running together in Eden. However, as I said we messed it up and the two stories diverged. However, they are still intertwined until the very end where they will join once again as one.
Let me give you an example of this through the life of Joseph. In his story, he is abused by his brothers, sold as a slave to gypsies traveling to Egypt, becomes a servant to Potiphar, falsely accused and thrown into jail, interprets dreams for the Pharaoh and becomes second in command and finally creates a conservation plan that saves both Egypt and Israel. Interesting story filled with ups and downs. I am sure many times Joseph was wondering what was going on and where his life was leading him. In God’s story, He has a plan. He is going to make Israel into a great nation. Israel would be his chosen people and a would redeem the world. They would be an example and the path to salvation. This is the overall Upper Story-God’s plan to bring us back to Him. The Israelites would need to survive a famine for this part of the story to continue. God put everything in motion through the Lower Story to keep things intact for the Upper Story. Do you see what he did there? The Upper story is written all the way through to the end. The Lower story interacts and intertwines with it to bring it to conclusion.
How does this relate to us? It is important to remember that every one of us has a story that is being written and that it relates to God’s story. We may feel lost, afraid, unwanted, unloved and not worthy. However, that is not true. God loves us and is using us to bring His story to fruition. This is something that I am trying to remember now on a daily basis. “How does my lower story relate to His Upper Story?” I may not understand it fully but as I meditate on it I can begin to bring my story more into line with His. Each day I need to pray that I am growing closer to what He wants with my life so that as I finish I can end being blessed and knowing that I have done what He wanted. That my story has contributed to His in the way He wanted.
Director of Operations and Sponsorship Engagement
Working with sponsorship engagement I believe in relational ministry. I believe that all aspects of our program should be relational. First and foremost, our goal when establishing new sponsorship programs should be first reaching out to the children, then to their families and then to the communities. When we reach out to a child and meet their basic needs they find hope and purpose.
Secondly when working with our Partners it is our desire to come along side of them and encourage. As Paul, would put it “they do the planting and we do the watering”. We are not there to tell them how to do the job but rather to work as partners ensuring that the Great Commission will be fulfilled.
Finally, with our sponsors we want to make sure that they are valued, they understand where their dollars are going and that those funds are being used for Kingdom work. The best part of my job is being able to connect sponsors to their children through letters, gifts are just a simple photograph.
Overall it is a great moment all the way around when I see that our pastors “really get it”. This fall and summer our partner in Santandrei, Danny, made sure that the children in both villages had school supplies and warm winter coats. He put the sponsorship dollars to good use.
Another great idea was created by our partner, David, in Ciumeghiu. To encourage participation in the after school program he offered a reward system for attendance, memorizing and being engaged. The children received a type of currency and then were able to go shopping. Instead of buying toys or candy they actually choose to get things lasting such as coats and shoes.
Both of these partners took their own time
to reach out and be relational to the children.
It is an investment that pays dividends!
Director of Operations & Sponsorship Engagement
National Day 2015
During a community outreach event the team was passing out bread and tea and dancing in the streets. There were two girls that approached me and began dancing with me. We spent the afternoon laughing, dancing, and taking pictures. After we returned from our trip we had a final debrief at Fork. We were told that some of the kids we had met were now available for sponsorship. As I flipped through the pictures I searched for a familiar face, and there she was. With those beautiful bright eyes. But something was different about those eyes since I had seen them last. They were sad and as I looked closer I noticed a black eye. Without a shadow of a doubt I knew I needed to sponsor her.
Fast forward to National Day 2016
I was filled with excitement to see my girl again. As we sat and talked with David he updated us on Madelina. He communicated that she was no longer consistently participating in the church or after school program. He had said he had seen her at the bar and had heard she was going to school in Oradea due to court order. Needless to say, it seemed she had a lot going on. I prayed I would get to see her and at least give her a hug. With 600 hotdogs, rolls, a bag full of cabbage, and some condiments we set off to the gypsy village with David, Geta and their team. As we walked closer children began to run toward us. All of sudden I saw her. I recognized those eyes. I touched her arm as she walked by. As she turned my eyes lit up and I exclaimed “hi!!”. She looked back and smiled. She grabbed my hand and we continued to walk to where we were setting up the hot dog feast. She asked if I remembered her and her friend Andria. I told her I did. Following the feast she came running back up to me hand in hand with Andria. Pointing to her and to me as if she was saying see her remember her? Again I said I did. Before it was time to leave I had Timotoi, a man from David’s church help me to invite them to the church on Sunday, as they were having a church service and we would be there. The girls nodded in agreement.
Well the day for the service came and I walked into the church anticipating seeing her face. There were children sitting in chairs on the stage. I scanned the room for those gorgeous bright eyes. But they were not there. She will come I told myself, they said they would, they will be here. But a little shadow of doubt sunk in as I remembered what David had disclosed. Maybe she went to the bar instead, maybe she wasn’t even in town, maybe she forgot as it had been a few days. So the team got settled into their seats and the service began. The worship team opened with some songs and the children sang along. Then Geta, Davids wife looked at me from the stage as she sang and motioned toward the back of the church. I turned around and there she was! There was my girl and she was looking for me, as I could see David pointing me out to her. She swiftly walked past everyone and down the aisle to where I was sitting. She practically fell into my lap as we hugged. “She came!” Said one of my team mates. And I was so overwhelmed with joy, tears poured down my face. She looked up at me confused and I did my best to smile and try to explain I was just so happy she came. She continued to hold me and rub my back to console me. Through the entire concert she held my hand or had her arm around me. We smiled back at each other and though there may have been a language barrier, there was no denying the bond we felt in that moment. Andria walked in a bit later. She smiled and waved from her seat.
The concert ended and the church enjoyed a pizza party. Following the party, we hugged and rejoiced. I had the opportunity to give them both a small present. Included in that was a personalized letter full of encouragement, love, and compassion for them. As David translated the letters the girls eyes met mine. They smiled and I could tell these words spoke to their hearts.
It is hard to put into words the emotions we were all feeling in that moment. What I do know is the Spirit was present and we will forever be bonded.
Written by Megan Flynn
You walk into the village overwhelmed by the poverty and the living conditions. One room homes with a single bed that sleeps five. A fire pit for cooking and a child’s swimming pool to do laundry in. Food graciously placed out as an offering but with flies swarming around. You wonder are you really making a difference in this place? Can anyone make a difference?
I just returned from ten days in Romania meeting with several of the partners that we are working with. Our goal is to bring faith, hope and love to the children of Romania. All of our strategic partners work at spreading the gospel message through afterschool programs, vacation bible schools and discipleship programs. Monthly in the villages of Santandrei food bags are given out as a gesture of love. Simply the message is that we care. We are not asking anything in return except for chance to be there and to pour into their lives. By showing them the love that Christ first showed to us we begin to offer them hope in something better.
Allow me to share a visit with you. As a group we pulled into one of the poorer villages. The children are the first to come out to see what we are doing or perhaps bringing. They readily great us with hugs and hand holding. The parents stand off to one side just watching us. We gather the children around and begin to sing some simple songs. Our partner here, Danny, has visited many times so they are familiar with the songs and readily join in. They enjoy the movements and laugh at some of our clumsy attempts to dance. Next we tell a Bible Story and share a memory verse. The children are anxious to repeat the verse and receive a treat. Next we have them do a simple craft to reinforce the story and then end with some games. If you look past the poverty you could be in any neighborhood in the United States. These are children just looking to be loved and embraced. If you look into their eyes you can see that. All they really want to know is that someone cares for them. Simply by spending some time with them you begin to build a level of trust and hope. You begin to be an agent of change in their lives. This is what our partners are doing in Romania and why we are coming along side of them.
We recently opened a new sponsorship program in these villages. The picture above is Vanesa and she was our first sponsored child there. I had the privilege of presenting her a letter from her sponsor Melissa. All of the children gathered around as Danny read her the letter in Romanian. Slowly a smile crept onto her face and her eyes began to light up. She felt valued and you could see it in her eyes. A connection had been made and change was beginning. This is what our ministry is and it is making a difference in Romania.
Written by: Chuck Guth, Director of Child Sponsorship
SPONSOR A CHILD >
Visit Website >
This is a question I am often asked and it is one that you really need to discover on your own.
Sponsoring a child is not just a financial commitment but rather an investment in God’s Kingdom. We are called to look after the “least of these” and children are the most vulnerable. They are often left without hopes or dreams. Sponsorship is a means where we can change that.
Through sponsorship, you are coming along side of one of our strategic servant partners and offering assistance in providing social, economic and spiritual resources to help a child have a future. These children often feel that no one cares for them and by connecting them with a sponsor they begin to experience hope and self worth.
I have been a child sponsor for over twelve years. I was a good sponsor in sending in my commitment and writing letters. However, it was not until I actually met my first sponsored child that I saw the difference that I was making. When we met she took one look at my wife and myself and burst into tears. They were not sad tears but tears of joy. Every time I looked into her eyes that day I saw the love she had for us and for what we were doing in her life. Through this experience I saw the love that Jesus has for each of us and I knew we were making a difference.
My life had changed.
I am a believer in child sponsorship and I desire to bring that same joy that I have experienced to others through the sponsorship program of Remember the Children. The children in Romania are the future of the developing church. By engaging them first we then can begin to reach their families and finally the communities. That is our impact model. We currently have two sponsorship programs underway with a third in development. We are working in Satu Mare where we are partnering with House of Hope. Here 25 orphans are being cared for on a daily basis. One of my sponsored children lives there and I got to meet him one night. Besides all of the hugs, the one thing I remember the most was when I sat down to tie my shoes. He jumped in and tied them for me. He just kept looking me in the eyes and smiling as he did so. My heart melted at that moment. We are also partnering with a church in Chimeghiu that has an after school program for the children in that area. They are reaching out and being a light in a rather dark community. Over the past two years I am seeing the difference that the church is making and know that through the sponsorship program the children will begin to see the transformational love of Jesus. Shortly we hope to have the program in Santandrei, where we will be offering opportunities to the Roma/Gypsy children of two villages. Already, plans are developing to build a community center where we can begin to reach out to those families.
I encourage you to pray about making a difference in the life of a child. Find out for yourself if the program works and join with us. Our program is relational and it is not just about the dollars. It is about encouraging and offering hope to a child and it is my testimony that sponsorship does not just change one life but two. Would you be willing to make that investment and discovery?
Author: Chuck Guth, Director of Child Sponsorship