Sunday, October 14, 2012

The 3 G's

Fun at the park in Bucuresti!

We got in trouble for doing this...but of course I was the only one who knew!  The guards of the park scolded us...didn't we know these are only for children?  They must not know Scott too well :)

Bouncing on the trampling in the park.  The boys loved did their Tati.  The man who ran this loved talking to us.  This reminds me of the street boys I used to work with in Romania...especially Marian; he loved jumping on these tramps!

Our trip to Romania can only be described using the 3 G's:  Gorgeous, Great, and Goodness.  We began our trip on June 3rd and returned home on June 26th.  It was a trip I will treasure always and hope that our boys will remember in their hearts even if they cannot recall actually being there as they grow older. 

Meeting Mariana and Alina's beautiful children!
Gorgeous:  Romania is a beautiful country; it has the graceful rolling hills of farmland with wild Poppies growing along the roadside.  It never fails to amaze me how hard people work all over the world.  Driving through Romania we would see people out in the fields hoeing the land by hand, cutting the hay with sickles, and piling it high onto wagons with picthforks!  Towards the end of our trip we were able to see the seas of yellow sunflower fields in bloom.  In Romania, especially in Bucuresti, the parks were spectacular with the many different flowers in bloom and the fountains flowing.  Then towards the end of our trip we took some time and went to the mountains of Romania.  It was a sight to see from a distance and then as we drove through them.  This was the first time our boys had ever been to the mountains.  We went to a town called Sinaia, where we took the "telecabina" up to the top.  We weren't made for hiking this trip (mostly do to a very pregnant me), but we walked a bit and experienced the fresh cool mountain air.  The day was wonderful; sunny with fluffy clouds that made a shadow on the surrounding mountains as they slowly passed by and in the distance we could see sheep grazing.  Then we made our way to another mountain town, Brasov.  Lovely place with cobblestone streets, winding alleys, quaint restaurants, and a great center with a fountain.  The fountain was a source of fun for our boys who soaked themselves and their father!  The last place we visited on our little "plimbare" in the mountains was Sighisoara.  This is a Medieval town that was established by Germans.  We actually stayed in the wall of the city.  The little "pensiune" where we stayed was gorgeous in that it was well kept and the host was wonderful.  Here we experienced Elder berry juice for the first time.  Made with the elder berry flower, honey, sugar, lemon, and bubbly water; it is so refreshing!  The breakfast was all local cheeses, yogurts, salami (even made from bear), and vegetables.  The city was beautiful; everywhere you turned it seemed like you were going down (or up) some new and interesting road with all the narrow cobblestone streets and brightly painted houses with splendid courtyards filled with flowers.  However, running down the cobblestone road is not recommended.  Juwan learned this the hard way and ended up with a bloody swollen lip.  I just thank God he didn't loose a tooth as well! I should also mention that Sighisoara is also the birth place of Vlad Tepes, a well respected and famous Romanian ruler.  He is also known as Vlad the Impaler or Count Dracula.  Yes, he is the one the myth of Dracula the vampire is based on.  The boys really enjoyed the Medieval weapons museum and of course the ice cream.  On our way back to Rosiori de Vede after our trip to the mountains we took what Scott thought was the "shortest" way back.  It was not the shortest, but it was most definitely the most beautiful route!  We went through many quaint villages with all the brightly colored homes lined one next to the other.  The countless herds of cattle on the rolling green hillside were gorgeous.  However, I have to admit that at one point I thought for sure we were on the wrong path.  The road was bumpy and could barely be called even a country road.  We stopped to ask a couple of shepherds once if we were heading the right direction.  They assured us we were, but the roads did not improve for quite some time.  We did arrive safely back at our friends' (Sanda and Mariana) apartment!  The boys were troopers through it all and stopping to have some ice cream seemed to help.  Gorgeous...Romania is a country that is spectacular.  It is not perfect in it's beauty, but what country is?  If I have shaped in your mind's eye a country that is beautiful at every turn, then you would be disappointed to see the real thing; however, as with all places there is always a negative side.  Yet, what sticks out in my mind is the beautiful; I pray that when I look at anything I will remember the beautiful that is there rather than the ugliness. 

Samuel with Berki from Peris orphanage
Great:  Such a generic word at times, but great is one word that describes our trip perfectly!  It was great for many reasons, but one is how great God is for allowing my family and I to see all the people I dearly love once again.  I know I will not be able to remember every experience we had on this trip, but I will remember those I was blessed to see again and those we met for the very first time.  Friends with whom I worked, friends who have now come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior, kids we knew from past trips (who are now grown, some married with children of their own), and new friends who are following Christ! 
We started off in Bucuresti where we were able to stay in Heart to Heart's team house.  This place is used as a hub for all H2H's activities.  Teams come there and stay, kids from the orphanages come for camps, swimming, and end of the year Bible study parties, and it is also used for "mommy and me" activities.  I was glad to see one of my best friends Jen, even if it was hit and miss.  She and Jenny live and do much of the work that goes into hosting teams.  It was great to have her finally meet all my boys and the boys loved these two gals.  During the next couple of days I was able to see Alina and Mariana, two young women from Rosiori de Vede who attended a Bible study out of my apartment at the time.  It was great to meet their new little ones; Alina has a little girl named Ruthie and Mariana has a little boy named Emanuel.  Our boys enjoyed playing with them.

Peris orphanage
Next we went about 2 hours south to Rosiori de Vede, where we spent most of our time.  This is the town I lived in for the last 2 1/2 years I was in Romania.  It was wonderful to stay here and spend time with Mariana and Sanda, two ladies who are very close to my heart and now very close to the hearts (and stomachs, more about that later) of my boys including Scott!  Both Sanda and Mariana work with H2H and are pouring out God's love to the young people in this town.  We happened to be in town for Florenta's wedding (another friend) and were able to help with the wedding preparations.  Carrie, Scott's mom, was such an awesome help; she didn't even know the bride but helped in cutting fruits and vegetables for the reception.  Even though everyone was tired and the day would begin bright and early, it was great spending time with my friends peeling oranges and kiwi for fruit shishcabobs.  Thanks to Raluca for showing me how to properly peel a Kiwi without mutilating it :)  I will not forget how much I laughed with Cornelia as she told us stories from her childhood in the orphanage that were both sad and funny.  Cornelia is so animated and a great blessed my heart more than she will ever know to sit side by side with her in the cramped little kitchen listening to her share a part of her life!
The wedding was great for many reasons, but mostly because I was able to see so many people that I haven't seen in a long time.  Mama Jana, my good friend Lenuta's mother, is just one of the many.  She was like a mother to me while I lived in Rosiori and she has been like a mother to so many others.  She is a woman with a heart that is so very giving and loving.  I am so thankful to have seen her and for her to have met my boys. 
Stefani with Samuel and I at Peris orphanage
During our time here we went with Sanda and Mariana to the apartments where they work with the children in the orphanage system.  We played English/Romanian BINGO, experienced a geography lesson, listened to a story book with the children at the "boy's" school orphanage, and attended a youth group meeting and participate in a carnival.  It is great to see how God is working in all these areas even when H2H staff cannot come straight out and teach the Bible they have found ways to teach these young people skills and incorporate God into the picture!  God is great!  Mariana and Sanda also took time out of their schedule to take us to visit the girls we know from the girl's orphanage in Alexandria.  We saw many of the girls we were really close to: the two Claudia's, Mirela, Roxana, and many others.  Spending time with them was wonderful and hard at the same time because I just wanted to scoop them all up and bring them home with us.  They are beautiful girls who have so much potential, yet many of them do not have the opportunities they deserve.  This orphanage is considered "special" needs; however this could simply mean they are slow learners.  There are many factors that are considered when placing a child in an orphanage and I do not want to pretend I have all the answers and those in charge do not.  However, it seems that many of them could flourish if in a different environment.  Also, due to the fact that they are in this orphanage, they will not have the opportunity to further their education and many of them will not have anywhere to go after they are forced to leave the orphanage.  This little side note does not seem to fit into my great category, but I choose to believe that God is great and prayer is powerful; so I will pray for these beautiful creations of God and trust that He has them in His hands. 
One day we went about 2 hours to a city called Craiova to meet up with some friends whom I met the very first summer I went to Romania.  We have been friends since then and it is awesome to see how God has continued to work and bless their lives.  Valentin and Ovidiu are two young men that grew up in the Diosti orphanage, which is a tiny village in Romania.  They now have families of their own and are involved in their local church.  Valetin is married to a lovely lady, Lavinia, and they are expecting their first child in August.  Ovidiu is also married and he and his wife will be having a baby in December.  Amazingly enough we were able to meet up with them and Rodica another friend who has a beautiful little girl, Brianna,  She is 3 years old just like Brennan.  The park was surrounded by trees with a little stream going through it.  The kids had ice cream, played at the play ground, and saw the animals that are kept there in a type of free zoo.  Great...what an awesome gift from God to have seen all these people again!

Goodness:  Yes, I know that goodness is actually a noun and not an adjective, but as I continue to write about our trip, the word or words, "God's goodness" keep coming to mind.  We experienced God's goodness in so many ways.  All of the gorgeous scenery and the greatness of seeing old friends and meeting new are in an of themselves God's goodness!  Yet, God continued to shower down His goodness in more than just these areas. 

Mariana and I in Rosiorii de Vede before Florenta's wedding
The beginning of our trip was a bit rough; Brennan was just getting over having the virus hand foot and mouth, Samuel had just started showing the symptoms a day before we left, and on the flight over Juwan started running a fever.  For those who do not know this virus comes with a fever and painful sores (blisters) on your fingers, toes, and or in your mouth.  So, our poor boys were pretty uncomfortable, but with all that said they did a really good job on the plane (all things considered).  God then gave us a wonderful place to stay where the boys and us could recuperate and get healthy before we started out on our journey.  The H2H team house where my good friend Jen lives with Jenny was the perfect place to be during this time.  These two gals were so patient with our fussy little Juwan and blessed us with yummy food! 

The generosity of orphans has always been something of wonder to me.  Every time I have ever worked with children from the orphanage I have seen many acts of generosity where I would have expected something else.  This time was no different.  At the Peris orphanage, the children were really excited to see our children.  The first time we went we only took Samuel and Brennan because Juwan was sick and stayed with Carrie.  Brennan in no time noticed a small teeter totter and wanted to play on it.  A little boy Gabi was very kind and played on that teeter totter with him the whole time, which was about an hour.  Now this may seem like nothing but you have to realize that Brennan could not make the other boy teeter up, instead Gabi had to push Brennan up and down using his own strength.  I kept asking Gabi if he was getting tired or if he wanted to stop, but he would say with a big smile, "no, he was o.k.!"  Now it happened on that day, that the children of Peris orphanage received their "bursa," which is like an allowance from the state (it's not very much).  Most kids buy sweets or a snack with this "allowance."  There was one boy, I wish I could remember his name, who wanted to buy Samuel something with his allowance.  I finally persuaded him not to because I knew that he didn't have very much.  Yet, before we left that day Samuel had ended up with some candy, gum, and both of them a little snack of Romanian bread; all of which had been given to them by the "kids" at Peris orphanage.  One little boy, Marian, had been playing with Samuel the whole time.  At one point before we left he waded out into the deep, uncut grass to find a ball that had been kicked out there accidentally.  He did this so that he and Samuel could play ball.  Then another little boy gave Samuel a notebook.  He had previously been showing me his drawings he had so wonderfully made; he chose to give this as a gift to Samuel.  Through all of these somewhat simple acts of kindness God revealed His goodness to me and my children.   
Cornelia and I
Raluca and Mariana
Lastly, God's goodness was revealed to me in an afternoon spent with my friend Cornelia.  The whole trip I had not had much time to spend with Cornelia because she was busy with H2H work in Bucuresti and we spent much of our time in Rosiori de Vede.  However, a couple of days before we left to go back to the states, I was able to spend some time with Cornelia in her element.  What I mean by that is I have never seen anyone work so well and with such love, as Cornelia does when she is working at the baby hospital.  She knows all of the babies, she manages to attend to each one even though she is the only one there, and she works well with the hospital staff.  She is in her element and God has blessed her with the skills to go and love these sweet babies.  God's goodness allowed me to spend time with a dear friend and also to see how He is using her to show His love to these little ones.  God's goodness...

Cornelia and Mama Jana
Looking back now on our trip that was over 4 months ago, it seems almost surreal that we were even there.  My heart sometimes longs to go back, to visit the girls at the orphanage one last time, to breath the fresh mountain air, to drink and savor the elder berry juice, to sit a little longer and talk with my friends, take it all in again and not forget even one small remember my boys in this new environment...
My prayer is that this trip will be with us long after we have forgotten all the details, but that the people and our experiences there will be forever imprinted on our hearts.

Florenta's Wedding
Lenuta Maid of Honor

Mariana and Estera at wedding

At the park in Rosiorii de Vede with Alexandru

Alexandria Orphanage
Paulica with Samuel
Roxana with Claudia (some very special young ladies!)
When Scott and I met Roxana she was just a little girl who Scott could toss up in the air; now she has grown into a beautiful young lady!
Mariana played with Juwan and he really liked her; it was so sweet!

Mirela, Scott and I call her our daughter. 

Beautiful they have grown since we last saw them!

Carnival day with the children from Rosiorii de Vede orphanage.

Samuel getting his face painted.

Juwan playing!
Samuel with Brianna at the park in Craiova.
Rodica with her sweet girl Brianna.
Ice cream face!
Big boys and little boys playing at the park!
Valentin and his lovely wife who was pregnant and due in August.
Ovidiu and I at the park; his wife was expecting.  Their baby is due in December.
Sanda our sweet Sanda and the boys making Papanasi!
At Sanda and Mariana's apartment in Rosiorii de Vede.
Look at those beautiful smiles!
Samuel with his buddy Sandel.
Me with my "girls" from Rosiorii de Vede.
On the plane ride home.


Sandica Moldoveanu said...

Am fost asa de binecuvantati sa va avem la noi acasa :)
Ma rog ca Dumnezeu sa mai pregateasca astfel de momente! Emily ai o familie deosebit de frumoasa, plina de energie si fun :)
Va iubesc si sunteti in inima mea

Gentle Mom said...

Wow! Beautiful pictures! So glad you all were able to share this experience with your boys. Thanks for sharing!