Romania Mission Trips
Part of our Purpose Statement is to “Love One Another”, to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
To do this we provide opportunities for young people to serve others. This includes the mission trips we have in Romania with Cry in the Dark. For these trips we link with Cry in the Dark, a charity who has been working with young people in the Bacau region with life limiting and life threatening illnesses since 1998. Cry in the Dark organise the flights, food and itinerary for the week we are in Romania.
Romanian Mission Trip - August 2017
2017 was the seventh time revival have had a mission trip to Romania in 12 years. Here is an account of our trip in 2017, including some reflections from some of the young people.
It was a cool August morning when we piled into a couple of minibuses at 6:00am to get to Luton airport from Woodbridge. However, jackets that people were wearing in England soon came off when we arrived. Bucharest was in the high 30oC as Romania came to the end of a heat wave. We piled into another couple of small minibuses and travelled for five hours north to our home for the next week, Casa Albert in Luncarni near Bacau.
The next morning we got ready for our first activity supporting the work of Cry in the Dark; their weekly Saturday morning visit to Negustorolui. This is a Roma Gypsy settlement up a steep dirt track and in the middle of a wooded area. The people there have very little money or possessions, houses are simple wooden frames with mud walls and no running water. Water has to be collected from the one well in the village. Poorly dressed children share the same playing area as grassing horses.
In the summer months when Cry in the Dark have volunteers out with them they have a short kids club. They sing Christian songs, play some games and give a short talk. Beth, who works for Cry in the Dark, is able to tell the children what is happening. Our team supported Beth by joining in with the songs and actions, helping with the game, which today was to eat a doughnut on a piece of string without using your hands, and encouraged the children to listen to the story. There is then a time when we were able to play games with the children, maybe try and do some craft or, if you had long hair, to have your hair platted by one of the children. It was great to see the children with such happy faces even though they do not have much.
We headed back to Casa Albert for lunch and then went to visit the young people at Casa Lumina. Casa Lumina (House of Light) was Cry in the Dark’s first programme in Romania and is a home for life for 22 young people with physical and learning disabilities that the state could no longer care for in the late 1990s. Elisha tells of her experience that Saturday afternoon: -
Casa Lumina was initially quite intimidating to me as I have never had any experience with anything like it and knew that it was so important to so many people. When we first arrived I was immediately put at ease by one of the adults running up to me and grabbing my hand and she didn’t let go for about 20 minutes. I think what I was nervous about was that (as stupid as it sounds now) they wouldn't want to spend time with us but as everyone got to know each other it was soon apparent this wasn’t the case. We spent most of the time dancing, - rocking backwards and forwards at different speeds - singing, - making loud noises - and painting nails to varying degrees of success but no matter how badly we painted they were still very appreciative. It was really great to see so many people get stuck in as soon as we got there and not act self-conscious or worried about what they looked like because I think we realised that actually how we looked meant nothing because if they didn’t care why should we.
My personal experience of Casa Lumina was finished with one of the shyer ladies that hadn’t really engaged throughout the day coming up to me, putting her arms around me, hugging, and just staying there for a while which was an absolute answer to prayer, just that confirmation that we were accepted and were meant to be there.
Abi also tells of her experience at Casa Lumina: -
Casa Lumina is Cry in the Dark’s first. The people it homes are the ones that broke Steve Cooper’s heart 18 years ago and whose original conditions continue to break those of the volunteers. However, the atmosphere is far from sombre. Despite its occupants originally having been shunned by the government, Casa Lumina carries an air of vitality, hope and love.
When we visited Casa Lumina we spent most of the time playing and dancing with the young adults. A lot of time was also spent just holding their hand, having our nails repainted with nail varnish as well as doing some craft activities with them. Whatever interaction we made with those inside Casa Lumina, it was clear that we were always welcomed and appreciated.
We also spent the latter part of our week helping build a concrete path outside the house. Our work was all in aid of helping increase the access to the front door as well as providing an area for the young adults to ride around on their tricycles. Although unfortunately we were unable to see them using the path, I could not be surer that it will be used with the same joy that we witnessed when we helped there.
My experience at Casa Lumina has highlighted the importance of love and the power of compassion, characteristics we can all adopt to inspire our own missions.
On the Sunday morning we borrowed a couple of vehicles and travelled from Luncarni to Commanesti, where Casa Lumina is and where there is a Baptist Church next door. This church suffered during the Communist era but has supported Casa Lumina since the beginning. They have also been very welcoming to the teams that Revival have taken out there. Although it was difficult to understand what was going on as the service was in Romanian, naturally, some of the service was given in English for us and a number of people came to where we were sitting to translate the sermon for us. We all felt a wonderful sense of passion from the members for God and it was a privilege to join others in a different country worshipping the same God.
In the afternoon, we went with Cry in the Dark to visit Ungereni, a state run adult institute. This place has improved over the years and it is great to see what the staff are able to do on probably quite limited resources. Tim tells us of his time at Ungereni: -
During our Romania trip we went to a state run adult institute called "Ungereni" which I found very challenging. The interior of the building was similar to a hospital with one large stone corridor through the middle of rooms either side. We first walked in and went room to room giving out chocolate biscuits to everyone, the majority on their beds. They seemed to enjoy the biscuits and every now and then a cheeky resident would hide them from sight so as to get another one. The downstairs alone was difficult to see how little some of these people had in terms of possessions and things to do, but then we went up some stairs and the first thing that struck me was the noises the people were making, a mixture of happy noises (for the biscuits and new faces) and noises that they make in order to give themselves stimulus due to neglect of human contact and love. It was very overwhelming, however nice to have a chance to meet these people and brighten their day. After the biscuit run we collected downstairs in a foyer and danced and mucked about with some of them to some music. There was one man who was in stitches every time we pretended I was hitting a golf ball dramatically and watched it fly into the imaginary distance, his face was the definition of joy in those moments and it was a pleasure to witness and be a part of, as was the entirety of the Romania trip.
On the Monday and Tuesday the team were split into two. Half the team went to Casa Lumina for the building project that Abi has already mentioned and the other half accompanied some of the nurses and social workers with Casa Albert on their home visits. Tom tells us of his visits: -
Midway through the trip to Romania each group had the great opportunity of accompanying some of the nurses that work at Casa Albert (the day hospice) on some of the day visits that they do every week to some of the patients in more rural areas of the county.
In the morning we were each split up into two separate sub-teams and allocated a nurse to travel with and some equipment that we could use for mini activities with some of the patients. The first stop for my team and I was to visit the home of one of the older patients who was in his early twenties and had a form of muscular dystrophy.
Upon arrival we were immediately greeted with the welcoming and warm personality of the patient’s mother who quickly showed us the way to her son’s bedroom. When we got there we sat down and began to talk to him.
In this instance the language barrier no longer became a problem as he spoke fluent English and shared a similar sense of humour to the rest of the group and even challenged Kyle to a game of chess later that week (which Kyle later lost!).
Our next visit was a stark contrast to the previous visit as it was to a thirteen year old boy suffering from hydrocephalus which he’d had from birth. This meant that he had severe learning disabilities and was unable to talk or to move without the aid of someone else. Once we were in the house we sat next to him on the sofa because he was lying down. We began to interact with him by simply playing with him. This included blowing some bubbles that he could feel on his face and hands and letting him feel some balloons. We felt, that as a group, that this visit was especially tough as he was blind and unable to move himself out of the way of the flies that were landing on his face. However, despite this, we were able to witness, first hand, the brilliant relationship that the nurses had between the patients and their families coupled with the selfless work that Cry in the Dark does in Romania.
On the Tuesday the young people swapped over, with those doing the building project at Casa Lumina on Monday visiting some of the Casa Albert patients and those who did the visits on Monday got involved in the building project. Simon explains the building work: -
In previous trips to Romania, the building project had been based at an individual house in a local village. Whereas this year we were privileged to be able to give something directly to the children/ young adults at Casa Lumina who we had all grown very close to over the course of a few visits. The overall aim of the project was to increase the width of the fifteen metre long path outside the residence by roughly two metres, in order to open up the opportunity for the residents to be able to ride their tricycles up and down; an activity that would no doubt give them an abundance of joy. Consequently, this goal and thought helped us persevere as we knew our efforts would be substantial to the lives of these people.
The first stage was digging. For this, we were armed with a variety of tools, including spades, pickaxes, shovels, wheel barrows, rakes and motivation from our much loved guide ‘Steve’. The second stage was cementing the hole we had just dug out- a valuable skill to have learnt and experienced. Notably, we were extremely fortunate that the building project commenced after the heat wave (of temperatures reaching 40 degrees!) had simmered down. Nonetheless, the work was very taxing, and there wasn’t a single team member who hadn’t discovered this. However, the overall spirit of the group remained high as we completed the task together, bonding as a team.
Personally, a few highlights of the days of building for me included: looking up to see the beaming faces of the residents at the windows then waving back, practicing some basic Romanian and teaching a little English with the young adults who were allowed to roam outside and join in on occasions, hopelessly attempting to pickaxe to the beat of Duffy’s Mercy for some ‘witty’ video, socialising over a paper plate of picnic food whilst hearing memorable stories of previous years, the list could go on...
Overall, this trip has shown me that through faith, you can share God’s love to anyone of any situation anywhere in the world. All this leaves me to say is an immeasurable thank you to those who selflessly donated to gift us with this life changing opportunity that will stay with us forever...THANKYOU!
On the Wednesday, half the team went back to Casa Lumina to finish off the path and the other half were due to help at the day Centre at Casa Albert. However, this had been cancelled due to a lot of the centre staff being on a training day and so the guys paid another visit to Negustorolui and Ungereni. At Negustorolui, Claire, one of the leaders, engaged many of the children and young people with a “Godly Play” story. This was a very moving experience for a lot of those watching and listening. Ungereni was also very moving for one or two of the team as they were able to spend a bit more time with some of the residents and learn a bit of their story.
Thursday also has a day centre at Casa Albert and so the whole team were involved with helping and playing with all those who came along. Some played chess with a couple of very clever young people who were also very good at English. Claire oversaw a game that involved having a stocking on your head with a ball in the other end with which you tried to knock over a number of bottles. Some played football outside or went on the trampoline. At each Day Centre there is a Chapel Time and when groups are staying at Casa Albert they are asked to lead this. As we had planned two Chapel Times we did one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In the morning we looked at the story of Zacchaeus and the fact that God loves us no matter what we have done. In the afternoon we looked at the story of Pentecost and the fact that God is always with us through His Spirit. Both stories had craft activities which were well received by the young people at the Day Centre.
And then our week was done. Friday morning we packed our bags and started the five hour trip back to Bucharest for our flight home. It was a privilege to be part of the work that Cry in the Dark are carrying out for less fortunate young people in Romania, to spend time with those young people and to add a little something to their lives through the building project. All the young people got stuck in with the things they had to do and the lovely hot weather and beautiful countryside made it a thoroughly enjoyable time.
Our thanks go to those who helped us in being able to go, whether it was through coming to the fundraising events and supporting us financially, praying for us or practically through driving us to the airport.
The people who went on the trip were:
Leaders: Andy Williams, Kyle Buxton and Rev Claire Ling
Young People: James Ling (returning from the 2015 trip), Tim Howard, Elisha Marsh, Simon Plummer, Abi Rose, Tom Wood, Miriam and Anna Davies, Keren and Lydia Bridgeman and Alex Mayhew
Please contact St John's Youth Pastor Andy Williams or the Church Office for more information about events & actvities run by Revival Youth.