Tag Archive | ministry

Ministering at the (City Name Removed), Romania Special Needs Orphanage

(This is a blog that was originally posted in July of 2016 and I was asked to remove it. Since I am no longer affiliated with the church that mission trip was organized through and since I have removed all specific names from this blog and my mission trip blog, that was allowed to remain, I hope I can share my writing at this point. I felt led to repost this blog and yes, it’s gut wrenching, but I feel like it needs to be part of my story because it deeply affected me. To make matters worse, there was a baby girl I fell in love with from this orphanage and I later learned that she passed away. I don’t think I can put into words how hard that was to learn, as I would have taken her home with me had I been allowed to. I wish I could show her to you; she was beautiful and I feel like she just needed love. I know she’s with Jesus now and that brings comfort, but it’s hard when you wanted to do more to help and we’re not allowed to and then to hear something terrible happened. Maybe I’ll have to pull my journal entries from this trip and after receiving the news and share more about this. Until then, let me start with the original (edited) blog from July 2016. I am not sharing this on Facebook, as I don’t want to encourage anyone to ask me to take it down again. Maybe here, my writing and my feelings can live in obscurity for those who will benefit from my experience.)

I like to think I’m a pretty tough person emotionally, but Wednesday night, I cried for hours and just couldn’t stop, after experiencing a place so horrible I’m afraid I will always be haunted by the images of the children. As part of our mission trip to Romania, we are serving at the (City Name Removed) Special Needs Orphanage, a place where children with various diseases and disabilities are sentenced to live after being outcast from society. Maybe that’s a harsh way to put it, but that’s what it feels like.

Well-meaning people have tried to help me come to terms with all that I saw. While some do have valid points, I cannot simply un-see or become desensitized to the horrible conditions these children live in. I am thankful that other people care enough to try and help me get past this hurdle, but I do not believe I will get used to the way things are, accept that this is all the children know, or simply be grateful that we are so much more fortunate in the United States.

The best advice I was given is to look at how orphanage conditions have improved over the past 25 years, and especially more recently, now that (Organization Name Removed) has been ministering to these children. I was encouraged to look into what orphanages were like previously, and see they have come a long way.

Not being a history scholar, I had to spend some time researching orphanages in Romania. I was shocked to learn that communist leader Ceausescu, who came into power in 1966, sought to form a society of worker bees. He made abortion and birth control illegal and required all mothers to give birth to at least five babies to form his army of laborers. Women were monitored for signs of pregnancy and there were punishments imposed if they didn’t deliver their babies. There were taxes on childless couples. This was governmental control that invaded into the reproductive rights of families. I cannot imagine living under this type of regime.

The reality of the population increase that resulted from this is that families were not able to support themselves, were forced to abandon their children, and place them in state-run orphanages. They were encouraged to believe that the state could do a better job raising their children than they could at home. Unfortunately, that mindset is still prevalent today in certain Romanian people groups.

Orphanage populations grew; orphanage funding decreased; conditions in the orphanages deteriorated. When Ceausescu was removed from power in 1989, the orphanage system was in shambles. From https://www.theguardian.com/news/2014/dec/10/-sp-ceausescus-children:

<em>”Electricity and heat were often intermittent, there were not enough staff, there was not enough food. Physical needs were assessed, emotional needs were ignored. Doctors and professionals were denied access to foreign periodicals and research, nurses were woefully undertrained (many orphans contracted HIV because hypodermic needles were seldom sterilised) and developmental delays were routinely diagnosed as mental disability. Institutional abuse flourished unchecked. While some caretakers did their best, others stole food from the orphanage kitchens and drugged their charges into docility.</em>

<em>When the revolution was over, the world’s press discovered Ceaușescu’s archipelago of orphanages and the appalling images went around the world: disabled children with bone-stick limbs tied to their beds, cross-eyed toddlers who couldn’t walk, malnourished babies left unattended in cribs with metal bars, little corpses stacked in basements.”</em>

Romania’s little secret was exposed to the rest of the world and that prompted reform. Open adoptions were possible for some time, but that ability was revoked in 2001/2005 due to corruption and greed. The situation has improved, and orphanages have been abolished for “normal” children. Babies are now placed in foster homes, a much better alternative that orphanages, although still far from perfect. However, reform in the special needs orphanages has been much slower.

My perception of the Special Needs Orphanage (extraneous detail removed) at (City Name Removed) is that it has improved from the conditions previously described for Romanian orphanages. It appears clean and decently maintained. It is warm, but not too hot in the summer, and it appears there are adequate furnaces for the winter. It seems that the children are on a time-based schedule for feeding, bathing, clothing changes, and diaper changes. I don’t know what the frequency is, and it’s not a need-based schedule, but these needs are being somewhat met. There are ~6 staff members (a nurse, a cook, and a few caretakers) per shift to care for the ~40 kids in residence. I understand there is one physiotherapist that works the facility. From what I can tell, the employees are loving people doing the best they can with the number of personnel, conditions, and regulations they are given.

However, it’s far from ideal.

I apologize that some of this will be hard to read and I hope i don’t offend anyone by my observations, but it’s what I saw and it was very hard to see. When something like that happens, I feel like I have to do something about it. I tried to talk to a local Christian lady today about getting her church involved, and I am committed to loving these children to the best of my ability while I am here. But, I don’t know what else I can do – so I feel compelled to share what I saw and how I felt.

How often, exactly, are the children’s diapers changed? What happens if a child soils or wets his or her diaper or bed in between diaper changes? Apparently, they wait until the next regularly scheduled change and sit in their excrement. I have been in several rooms with children wearing dirty diapers and have not seen any intermediate checks in between official changes.

The walls of the (extraneous detail removed) orphanage are bare; there are no pictures or anything child-like to look at. There are no toys in most rooms; in fact, I’ve seen very few toys at all over the entire (extraneous detail removed) floor. The clothing doesn’t always fit the children, nor is it necessarily the right gender or “appropriate” (I saw a little girl wearing a t-shirt with inappropriate writing on it).

Here’s where it really starts to get brutal.

All of the children wear diapers, regardless of their age or physical limitation. Some children are fed through a feeding tube. The children who do not eat solid food tend to have disfigured teeth. The food I have seen children be served are bottles or a mush type substance that is spoon fed. I have not seen the feeding tubes get utilized, but I can see the lines connected to some children’s noses for that purpose. The children are extremely thin; you can feel many of their ribs without much trouble at all. Many of the kids look years younger than their biological age, as they are significantly smaller than you would expect for their age.

Most of the children never leave their beds, unless they are being placed in a stroller or brought to the bath stations. Even children who should be able to learn to walk are not given this right. As a result, many of the children have limbs essentially frozen in awkward positions; they cannot even stand up. Some of these issues are caused by their disabilities, but I do not believe that is a universal truth. Many of the children’s limb issues are exacerbated by (if not fully caused by) not using their muscles or bones, or in other words, laying in a bed all day.

Many of the children have severe disabilities, such as Downs syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, or a host of other neurological issues. Some children appear less severe in their condition, but seem to have the same physical consequences after years of residing in the orphanage. But, even in the midst of these horrible diseases, early intervention, therapy, and education would be a great way to help these children lead the best life possible. I feel like these important physical and emotional needs are being neglected at this orphanage.

After my first visit, I was horrified. More specifically, after my first encounter with one of the children, I was in shock, frozen, not knowing what to do, wanting to help, but completely clueless of what would be helpful. I wasn’t sure if I could move the children’s limbs, for fear of causing injury. I am not a physical, or occupational therapist; I wanted to help, but I had no idea how.

Finally, I decided that the power of touch was well, powerful, and the only chance I had at making a positive change. I stroked the children’s arms, touched their face and hair, held their hands, prayed for each one of them while touching them. I was able to make some of the children smile, but others just laid in the bed. Most did not make any sounds other than a laugh or a grunt. Other than the tiny babies, there is not much crying at the orphanage. There was one deaf and blind boy who repeatedly hit his head against the side of his bed. Other kids rocked and a couple did something similar to the head bashing. I could, and maybe will, write about some of the children (anonymously, of course), as I am journaling about my interactions to help me process what I witness.

It would have been so easy to not return to the (City Name Removed) Special Needs Orphanage after my first visit. I did not like what I saw, but I am a logical person, and the truth is, if I didn’t return to show love to these children, who would?

Today, I saw the same horrible things that break my heart, and while I am not desensitized, I am focused on my purpose. I am here to share God’s love with the unloved children of Romania. If there’s the slightest hope that any one child will be touched from my presence, then my time in the orphanage is worth it. I will volunteer at the orphanage six more times before I leave; I pray that I leave some lasting impact on at least one of the children.

I am so thankful to be volunteering with (Organization Name Removed) Romania. They have a long road ahead of them in improving the conditions at this orphanage, but based on the people running the ministry and their success in other segments of their ministry, and with God as the focus of their efforts, I know they will be successful.

Please join me in praying for these children and the work of (Organization Name Removed) Romania. (Extraneous Detail Removed).

Oppression, Control, and God – Ecclesiastes 4:1-8

Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business (Ecclesiastes 4:1-8 ESV).

Oppression is defined as a prolonged cruel or unjust exercise of power. It is a control tactic where people put their personal agendas ahead of what’s best for society as a whole. Oppressed groups can be because of race, sex, religious preference, or essentially any differing of opinion between people. It seems the more successful some people are in their efforts, the more oppression may actually be encouraged. You’re likely familiar with the expression of how it’s lonely at the top. This is because man’s attempts to be prosperous on his own could alienate the people who surround him. Man may view success as being “by any means necessary”. Without compassion and meaningful relationships, those who are oppressed and the successful who fight their way to the top may both find themselves alone.

Does this imply that pursuits of success should be avoided? No, but as Christians, we should stop working in our own strength and allow God to pick our battles for us, in society and in our toil. We should focus on God being the center of our life, and try not to become god to ourselves or others. We need to serve God completely for His glory, not our own personal gain.

I have written about this before, but I think it deserves a second mention. I’m generally pretty slow when it comes to realizing that God is trying to tell me something important!

As I’ve previously mentioned, I am an incredibly passionate person in everything that I do. I fully submerge myself in my hobbies, my church, friendships, and most importantly, my career. I want to give my absolute best effort to make a difference in everything I do. I don’t believe I do this selfishly or for the wrong reasons, but perhaps not everything I do is completely Christ-centered and it should be. There have been times that I have become discouraged or burnt out trying to make a positive difference and that may imply that I am working outside of God’s will for me at that moment.

My career tops the list where I experience this frustration! While sitting through “Death by Power Point” training today, everything clicked perfectly for me! I was reminded that I work for an organization that I am not going to change. There’s too much history; it’s too large; there are too many managers, too much politics… I’ve known this for a while, but it’s hard for me to accept. Let me say it again – There’s nothing I can do to significantly improve my employer! Trying too hard to “fix” my organization will only result in backlash towards me.

Should I find a new career, one that I can exercise more authority over? No, God led me to this position in an amazing way. There were so many bizarre “coincidences” and all of the timings related to my job change fell perfectly into place. I am completely at peace with everything, and God is carrying my through all of my work challenges. His hand is all over this!

Should I give less than my best effort at work? Absolutely not! My work is meaningful and deserves my total focus and commitment. It may not be perfect, but I am definitely making a contribution to society. I should give it my all for 40 hours per week (plus any mutually agreed upon overtime); but, I should not lose heart because I cannot “fix” my organization. I also feel that God is not leading me to be on the fast track to management within the organization. As long as I do my best in my current capacity, that is enough!

I should look to God for guidance as to where to focus my passion and endless energy. Some of His answers may be work related (especially regarding a colleague of mine whom God has placed in my life), but there is so much more to my life than my career.

I feel that God is leading me to become more involved in my family, my friends, my community, and with “strangers” through ministry. The time I am not working should be spent investing in the lives of others, especially my son. All of this should be done prayerfully and completely under God’s direction – because if He leads me somewhere, He will bring me through it. God has shown me time and time again that He is faithful. While I have come a long way in submitting to Him, I know there is more that I can surrender. I’m ready…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8).”

This year I resolve to….. (January 3, 2009)

Did you have a New Year’s resolution for this year?  If so, how’s it going?  If not, why don’t you like to make New Year’s resolutions?

On January 2nd, my son told me that his New Year’s resolution was to be nicer to the cat.  My immediate thought was that his resolution didn’t last very long.  In fact, according to a 2005 survey done by Welch Media, only 8% of Americans admit to keeping their resolutions1.  This is a very disheartening statistic that probably serves to discourage people from even setting goals for self-improvement.

It seems to me that a main reason people don’t keep their resolution is because of a lack of self-confidence during the tough times.  Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to cut back on sugar, hoping to improve your health and lose weight.  You start the year completely motivated – everything is going great, until temptation arises – and temptation will arise!  Then, it’s a constant struggle to maintain your focus, and eventually you give in and eat that piece of chocolate cake.  You might give up on your resolution immediately, or it might take several mistakes.  But, in the end, the negativity becomes overwhelming, and you end up feeling worse than before you made the resolution.  Next year, you think, 2010 will be the year that I finally succeed.  But, 2010 isn’t for another 11 months!

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions only because they’re limited to January and on the surface, they lack fellowship with God.  But, the ideas of self-evaluation and self-improvement are vital to becoming a more mature Christian.  So, this year, I encourage you to consider a Christ-centered resolution!  In doing so, please consider the following thoughts regarding resolutions.

-Resolutions are not limited to January.  Whenever you are not pleased with any aspect of your life, resolve to improve it.  If you’re not sure of what your weak parts are, or if you’re like me – which area to tackle first, pray about it.  Ask God to show you where you should focus your attention to become more pleasing to Him.  Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

-Manage your expectations – this is the key for maintaining your self-confidence.  Smaller, short-term goals work much better and offer more flexibility than major goals that will take the entire year to accomplish.  Keep praying about your progress, no matter how things are going.  Give God the glory for your successes, and ask for His help when you are struggling.  A prayer journal is a great way to keep track of how God is working in your life.  Isaiah 25:1 “O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.”

-Don’t get frustrated with setbacks that will occur.  Keep persevering towards your goal.  Do not let Satan fill your mind with doubt and negativity.  With God’s help, you can accomplish anything that is in accord with His will (this is important – your prayers for becoming a supermodel may never be answered).  1 Peter 5:8-9 “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.”

I pray that you are successful in whatever self-improvement projects you begin this year.  Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’.”  Keep praying, and stay focused on your goal.  Stay confident and know that God loves you and wants you to succeed!  Romans 8:31b “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

If one of your resolutions is to become a more involved in your Christian faith, I would invite you to participate in the Women’s Ministry at our church.  This newsletter will come out monthly, and will provide many opportunities for involvement!  Please contact the Women’s Ministry  if you have any questions, comments, or would like to help out with the newsletter or any other events.