One of the things that we love about our little church in England (which is big by British terms---150 members) is that it really has a heart for missions. When we came seven years ago there was a full-time missionary from the church in Brazil (now in Peru, 20+ years in the field), a couple in the church that with his two brothers have a ministry to Asia and he has taken couples to Laos with him, an evangelist in the church that works in prisons and schools both in the UK and in Poland (predominantly but also other Easter bloc countries) and a gentleman who co-founded a ministry to Romania. [A side note--we now also have a 20something year old in Thailand for his second year, a 20something in Texas working on the production team of a mission group, an eighteen year old in Texas working in schools and churches, a young man that just went to his first church as a youth pastor and three young people at Bible college training for vocational ministry.] German was immediately drawn to what was happening in Romania. Since that was a place that I had considered when we spoke of adoption as an option to grow a family (pre-Jewel), I was also intrigued. So out of our interest, support followed and then to us it seemed the only natural step was to go. So we did four years ago when I was pregnant with Flower. We promised we would return, and this was our promised trip.
Where we go is in the mountains of Transylvania. It is absolutely a gorgeous place!
The largest church that Pastor S leads (he pastors five churches) has a Christian Centre attached that has a kitchen and dining hall on one level and bedrooms on the upper level. That was home for two weeks.
The needs in Romania are immense. Becoming a part of the EU has tied the value of their money to the Euro. Prices have gone up accordingly. BUT, salaries have not. They were already living in a level of poverty, and now it is even harder. The rural people have it somewhat easier in that they are able to grow most of their food, have animals for food, etc. They have no purchasing money, but they are able to survive. Petrol prices were not that different than the rest of Europe, which is mind-boggling. But things that seem so basic to us are truly luxuries to them. (An example of this...I asked what we could bring the pastor's sons, something that they would like from England. The request came back that what they needed was shoes because good shoes could not be found second-hand. We were happy to help with that. I was able to get name-brand shoes at a good price to take to them. The same shoes (one pair) would cost, new, in Romania an equivalent to 1 1/2 months salary! For shoes! That is ridiculous pricing compared to what is affordable. More than once we stopped at a mall to eat at a food court or use public toilets and I NEVER saw anyone purchasing anything in the shops---and most had signs of 75% off sales.)
The countries infrastructure is poor to non-existent. The road system is atrocious. The three hundred mile trip from Budapest, Hungary (where we flew into) to Hateg took ten hours! And it really is a catch-22. Romania loses out on industry opportunities to Hungary and other surrounding areas because of the infrastructure. But it is difficult to improve infrastructure without industry income. Where roads have been "improved" work begins and when the company runs out of money they just stop. Makes travel an adventure in itself!
The main purpose of this trip was to see the progress of the Children's Home that is being built and then to encourage the people of the churches. The home has been a dream for four years. It was hoped that it would be finished at this time, but rising prices of materials, a by-product of becoming part of European Community, falling value of money and the slowness of funds coming in has it delayed. The hope is to have it finished by next Spring and the first kids in it by September. It will utlimately house ten children and will be their home until they are adults and leave for their own jobs or family.
Here is how it looks right now. Don't be misled by how "finished" it may look. In Romania the concrete floors and walls are erected first. Then layout and plumbing is decided and the concrete must be cut through to put in plumbing and electrics. That is really the next step. Walking through you could not envision what was the bathrooms, kitchen or bedrooms because everything looks the same!
One area is mostly finished, with the exception of the stairs to get there, and that is the loft! As a recent addition, they decided to finish the loft space off into two apartment rooms so as the children grow into young adults they can have some space away from the others. German and Mr. K. (charity founder) used the rickety ladder by the wall in the above picture to climb up and check it out. It gives a good idea the standard of finish the rest of the home will have.
I'll stop for now, but I'll have more about the people and the churches in another post.