The end of the first term: how did our kids do?

Winter 2018-19 at Rebricea

Winter is in full force in Rebricea. As opposed to last winter, the farm has not been spared this one from a large snowfall, even if the temperature has not been as low, going down to only -15 ° C. During the winter months, we cannot help but think about those who live in remote villages, far from others where they are isolated for days within the four walls of their mud houses under a tin roof with little to cover themselves with and even less to eat. Those who suffer most in these conditions are the many children; not to mention that they cannot even go to school regularly.

For the children on the farm, these memories are fading. In the warmth of the farm that has every convenience, they are more and more aware of the grace they have received. To be taken away from the poverty and the effect it had on their young lives, is a reason to be thankful daily. Their understanding is touching, especially in their prayers to God for ‘the poor children in Pădureni’, the village that they come from. Among these children are probably friends that they once played with; maybe the only happy memories that they have amongst their many sad ones.
To see the progress the children have made encourages us greatly. They are getting better every day and helping the Stroi’s with daily jobs on the farm. When it is freezing outside, they can watch cartoons projected onto the wall of the living room. When it stops snowing and it is sunny, they can have fun sledding on the slopes around the farm, with inevitable falls on the soft snow.

 

Like all children of their age, how things are going at school is the litmus test to understand where they are in making up for lost time and what the difficulties and problems are that they have to face. 
Luigi is very busy and he is working towards passing grades at school. Of course there are still many gaps but what is most rewarding for us is to see his desire, his commitment and his effort in behaving well (both at home and school). Unfortunately, again he has had problems with peers at school but this time it was not his fault. The discrimination towards Luigi (and even his siblings) and the bullying phenomenon continues. We have taken a very clear stance towards those who are not adequately watching over these children and we will continue to fight for their protection and assimilation with others.
Luiza stands out in her understanding of English…perhaps thanks to the visits of foreign volunteers to the farm. She still needs to improve in some subjects but she is clearly passing.
Lorena is our little studious one. With not much effort, (she is the slyest) she is successful. Her grades are very good in all subjects. We are very proud of her. Denis is choosey in what he likes to study: but incredibly, he loves math! He likes reading a little less but he’s a good boy that has a good future as a student..not only for his acrobatic abilities!

Loving the carbonara

A few words about Ionela (Bitta) and Patricia. Obviously their job is the easiest because they just need to play, draw, build with Lego and grow up! Patricia recently came to Italy with Mihaela to represent Bethesda at a missionary conference in Bologna. She is a sweet child who likes to sing, count (in Romanian and English) and she likes to talk a lot! Ionela is our little character. She is always sweet and, with her little voice, is a character wherever she goes. Her teachers are still trying to figure out her slowness in understanding and in completing work in general. She is even a slow eater! They think that maybe she had a problem during birth or that she did not receive enough food or sufficient care during her first few years of life or worse yet, when her mother was pregnant with her. We are sure that God will intervene in her life and help her to make up everything. If it is necessary, we will provide care with specialists. During the trip in Italy in January, Mihaela bought parmesan cheese in order to make carbonara pasta for the children: their favorite dish! For all of our followers, we made a calendar where it in possible to see the children’s birthdays, in addition to seeing their smiling faces. You may download it for free by clicking on the picture, hang it up in your home and pray for these children!              

Bethesda at Reflection, Bologna

Missionary conference “Reflection-in-Action”, 18 to 20 January 2019, Bologna

We had the pleasure of being invited to the missionary conference organised by Reflection and held at the premises of the Chiesa Nuova Vita and the Hotel Best Western Tower in the town of Emiliana.

The Bethesda stand at the expo

The purpose of the conference was expressed well in the video released a few months earlier by the Reflection team: a clear evangelistic message and call to action, in other words a call to mission. It was a real pleasure to be able to share this same call with the many ministries, associations and Christian missions present at the event. It was also great, and so encouraging, to see so many young people with a heart for the spread of the gospel of hope and salvation to all people. Music was obviously a big part of the event. Several talented musicians from the Christian music scene performed during the times of praise and worship. Then a similar number of national and international pastors clearly and effectively expressed the meaning of the call to serve that every born-again Christian should have during the times of preaching. Bethesda was also there with its staff, strengthened by the presence of Mihaela Stroi and little Patricia, who’d come directly from Romania for the event. Both are testimony of the work that God is doing in that land, not so far from our rich corner of Western Europe. We set up our stand at the Reflection expo, where the conference guests could view the audio-visual materials we’ve put together, which summarise well the situation of those living in a land so close to Italy but at the same time so far from our levels of comfort and wealth. During the mission presentation session, we also showed the new Bethesda video presentation. (I take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers involved in its production: Simona Portigliotti, Marco Robbiani, Andrea Abbatista and Caterina Inglesi.) The film really touched the hearts of those present, who, clearly moved, offered us encouragement and prayers, asked to work with us, and wanted to join us on the trips we regularly go on to Romania-Moldova. We’re really encouraged by these two days spent with so many special people, with whom we plan to stay in close contact. Working for the same God and sharing the same struggles makes us even stronger in communion. We can’t wait to be involved in initiaves like this again, so that we can share our experiences with others working in the Lord’s vineyard and have our spirits refreshed once again. God bless the Reflection staff. New Bethesda video

From the pen of the kids

Some thoughts after the first year at the farm

During our trip in November, we asked Luigi, Luiza, Lorena and Denis to write a story: my first year at the farm.  We asked them to write about their impressions of their daily lives these months in their new home, and what particularly struck them. Needless to say, they were once again very sweet in what they wrote. Happy reading! Note that the text in italics was added by me, and the translation was done by Diana Bordan, whom we warmly thank. Thanks also go to Crina Stroi for sending the stories, and for interpreting the kids’ handwriting. Thanks also to Renée for the English translation.

Luigi

My name is Luigi, I’m 13 years old and I was born on 3 September. I’ve been here for a year (it’ll be a year in March). This year I’ve really done a lot of things, but most of all I liked it when we went to the seaside. I made new friends there and saw so many interesting things. In the mountains (during the Bethesda summer camp), I saw my old friends from Negrea (Pădureni), we had fun together, we played, we went on the zip wire and we studied the Bible. And even if it rained everything was great!

 

Luiza

My name is Luiza and I’m 11 years old. I enjoyed everything here this year at the farm. I made new friends and met many people from Italy. This year I went to the seaside with lots of children, to the “dolphinarium” (water park) and out on the sea on the ferry. I also went on the summer camp in the mountains with many children from Rates (Rebricea) and Pădureni together with the brothers from Italy. For my birthday I was with my family (the Strois), Luca and Max, and I ate cake and got a game as a present. This was my first year at the farm.

Lorena

My name is Lorena and I’m 10 years old. I enjoyed everything here this year at the farm. I went to the seaside and to the mountains with my parents (Nicu and Mihaela) and other children. At the summer camp in the mountains, I played many games and also went on the zip wire. This year I went to the dentist several times and the problems with my teeth have been fixed. For my birthday, I got two cakes and celebrated together with my (new) family. This was my first year at the farm.

 

Denis

Hi, my name is Denis and I’m 8 years old, I was born on 11 February and I’ve done many things in the year that I’ve been here. I played a lot of football with mum and dad (Nicu and Mihaela), and played in the snow with my brother and sisters and dad (Nicu). While dad (Nicu) was clearing the snow, my brother and sisters and I made a snowman.  

Thanks and best wishes from Bethesda!

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 1 Timothy 1:15

Luca: Bethesda president

God’s mercy is immense, and free. God sent his son into this world of sin to save sinners. We’re all sinners, nobody excepted, but we’ve been made right with God just like Paul by the grace of God that overflows in faith and love.
This is the real Christmas, this is the gospel.

I want to end this year and start the new one by thanking God for his forbearance. God is good!
Many of you will know how Bethesda is operating in Romania, how God is using hopeless servants like us to bring the gospel and a tiny bit of material relief to some men, women and children in conditions of extreme poverty, and it’s time to say THANK YOU!
I want to thank God for all those who have supported us, for all those who have travelled with us, for all those who have prayed for us. God bless you greatly brothers and sisters!
I want to thank all the members of Bethesda who are so committed to the mission, dedicating their time, their money, their other gifts, and their holidays so that the mission can go on. We ask for prayer and support, because it’s easy to get discouraged. For some of us, life is changing: I (Luca) have moved to Barcelona, Orazio and Federica are expecting another baby, Giacomo has changed jobs, Claudio is increasingly busy and for all of us, without exception, there are different trials and the inevitable attacks of the enemy.
A special thanks to Orazio and Giacomo for their tireless work for the cause. God bless you brothers, you’re a massive encouragement! I also want to thank the churches that help and support us. Without your generosity, your welcome, the beautiful moments spent together, the prayers and continuous encouragement, everything would be much more difficult if not impossible.
I particularly want to thank the main protagonists of all the work, Nicu, Mihaela, Crina and Cristina, the Stroi family that takes care of the farm and the kids and all the evangelical activities that take place at the farm. God bless you!
I want to thank the kids who come on the summer camps and to Ora Felice… God bless you! 
Finally I want to thank the kids that God brought to us at the farm, Luigi, Luiza, Lorena, Denis, Ionela and Patricia. It’s wonderful to see your interest in the Bible and the gospel, your commitment to learning verses and to school. You’ve changed a lot in a year, God is at work in mighty ways in your lives. May he protect and bless you.

A hug in Christ to all.

The president

Luca Macchiaiolo

A very special birthday!

On the way to the farm

It was only one year ago, 21 December 2017, when news from Romania had us extremely worried. To protect their safety, Luiza and Lorena had been assigned urgently to the Strois, and had already been on the farm for a few hours. But the fate of the other siblings was still uncertain. The institutions, the bureaucratic processes, our lack of experience and the race against time to rescue them from their misery were all things that put our faith to the test.
But God is good and finally that long-awaited message arrived. Receiving that photo of five of the six siblings (Luigi would arrive in March), packed into the car on their way to our farm, brought us to our knees thanking God for his mercy and for making us part of this immense joy.

Just after arriving at the farm

Seeing them all sitting on that sofa a few hours later, with their modest clothes and messy hair and visibly hungry, made that day one of the most beautiful since we founded our association.

Today, after a year, it is abundantly clear how much their lives have changed.
This has been possible thanks to all those who have prayed, visited, encouraged and donated for these kids.

The siblings one year later

Above all thanks to the Strois for their immense work, God will reward you! We ask God to let us spend many more years with them, and that he would continue to do amazing works.
God bless you Luigi, Luiza, Lorena, Denis, Ionela and Patricia!

The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

Psalm 126:3

Our Six siblings

Six siblings were living in a desperate situation in a village in the Romanian countryside, abused by their parents, without education, forced to work, deprived of food and the most basic care. A few months ago, God placed them in our path and after a thousand ups and downs, we managed to bring them to live at the farm that we run together with the Stroi family in Rebricea, and to obtain custody of them from the local authorities. The Strois welcomed them like their own children, giving them a warm bed, regular meals, clean clothes, an education at school and lots of affection. Above all, they care for their spiritual lives, helping them on their walk with God, praying together and discovering the joy of the gospel. There are now some beautiful smiles on their faces! The cost of supporting these kids is high, and for this we also need your help: every single cent or penny donated will be spent on their needs, and promptly reported. Find out how you can contribute!

Further needs

  • Wood By the end of January 2019, we need to buy another 15 pallets of firewood (€100 each). The extremely cold winters require a large use of energy to heat the farm buildings where the Stroi family and the children live.
  • New bedroom The children are growing and six in two bedrooms is too many, as indicated by Romanian Child Protection. We therefore need to create a new bedroom (a third) on the farm. The estimated cost is for the job is €200.
  • Bunk beds and desks We need to buy 3 bunk beds in order to make the best use of the space in the bedrooms, leaving room for desks. The estimated cost is about €300.
  • School supplies School provides what it can, but the children also need school supplies to use at home. They need maps, dictionaries, thesauruses, educational games and other school supplies. The estimated annual expense is about €100.
  • ‘Happy hour’ for children The children’s ‘happy hour’ is very important for the growth of the six children and it is a time of meeting and playing with their friends from town. During this time, not only do we speak about the Bible, but we offer a piece of pizza, a drink and dessert. We would like to be able to have the ‘happy hour’ at least once a month. The monthly expense is about €80.
  • Farm maintenance The farm, like all things made, needs maintenance, care and improvements. These are the projects we have in mind that we are trying to accomplish.
    • building a wall of reinforcement on an embankment
    • put insulation on the house to save energy
    • install solar panels for hot water
    • renovate an area for guests to stay in
    • dig a water well in order to be self-sufficient

If it is on your heart to donate to one of more of these projects, please indicate for which one of the items above written in bold.

Trip November 2018

Dinner table at the Stroi house!

It had been a long eight months since I last joined a trip, and I felt like God was pushing me to go again, to see what he’d been doing through Bethesda in that time, particularly in the lives of the six kids at the farm.
So I booked my annual leave and my flights, and was at Bergamo airport with Giacomo and Orazio a couple of weeks later. Orazio had managed to find hundreds of Bibles in Romanian and had filled a suitcase with as many as possible. However, when we got to the check-in desk it was far too heavy and it was all fun and games to squeeze the extras into our rucksacks. But the extra legroom seats we got given on the plane made up for the hassle and meant we got to Iasi feeling rested.

My second time, and a second snow experience. Winter had started in Rebricea, a couple of weeks before we arrived, so the fields were covered in snow already, and I was happy I’d brought my winter jacket. However, I knew that winter brought with it many challenges for the poorer people living in the villages, particularly when it came to getting around and keeping themselves and their families warm.
But it was warm at the farm when we arrived there, and we got a super warm welcome from the Strois and the kids too. We’d all been praying for them and thinking about them a lot, so it was great to be met with their hugs and smiles. The majority of our short stay at the farm was spent catching up with the kids, and catching up with Mihaela and Nicu about the kids.

There’s lots to thank God for, especially when you think that just one year ago they were still living in Pădureni, in the absolute misery that entailed. An amazing turnaround in their situation! And from my point of view, the change in both their appearance and behaviour in the eight months since I met them was incredible. Patri had gone from being a baby in Mihaela’s arms to a proper little girl that followed her everywhere, and the rest of the kids were a whole lot more difficult to throw in the air and swing round because of their extra weight!

The care they showed for each other, like Luiza brushing Ionela’s hair and Luigi tying Denis’s shoelaces before school, was lovely to see. As was their behaviour, at the dinner table for example (with spaghetti carbonara being their absolute favourite meal, and Ionela remaining THE SLOWEST eater), and the respect they generally showed to Mihaela and Nicu. It was encouraging to hear that they’re catching up at school too, with Lorena in particular a bright spark.

However, challenges remain. Behavioural problems are still an issue, particularly for Luigi and particularly at school, where he’s on his last chance. Some of the kids are also still struggling with some subjects at school. For example, although all of them were enthusiastic during my “English lessons” throughout our stay, it was clear when I helped Luigi with his English homework from school just how much he was struggling.
It was also clear from Giacomo and Orazio’s “interviews” with the kids that they haven’t forgotten their past, and that the bad memories are still close to the surface. We can only pray that God will heal them.

A big part of our stay was evening Bible studies with the kids. It was so encouraging to see them all (well, almost all – Patri was busy distracting the others) together around the dining room table poring over God’s word. The focus of Orazio’s studies this time was how the truths of the Bible should impact their daily lives. Although they’re enthusiastic and know a lot, we’re not sure that they’ve taken the truths to heart, so we’re hoping to make these Bible studies more regular by doing them via weekly video call, and obviously praying that God will be at work.

As well as catching up with the kids and the Strois, we also got involved with a couple of the regular Bethesda activities, “Ora Felice” on the Saturday and visit to the church in Pădureni on the Sunday. The highlights of Ora Felice included an incredibly loud rendition of the absolute anthem from the summer camp, “Domnul Ostirii”, which I definitely need to learn the actions and lyrics for, as well as a re-enactment of the amazing story of Gideon led by Giacomo, trumpets and all. And of course not forgetting the pizza!

I was mentally more prepared for our visit to the church in Pădureni my second time, and for the poverty and sense of sadness that we’d find there. However, Giacomo and Orazio were able to encourage the many kids and their mums with Bible passages on God’s closeness and might, both of which they need so badly. But equally they also encouraged us through their Bible verse reciting and their singing, and their fab smiles when they got given sweets!

We ended the trip by talking with Mihaela and Nicu about the future of Bethesda’s work. It was clear that they love the six kids and want the best for them, but that it’s been difficult and that they can’t see it becoming any easier. It’d be great if you could pray for them, for energy and wisdom in dealing with the kids and all the associated bureaucracy on top, and for us too, that we’d know how best to support them as well as the kids from Ora Felice and the community in Pădureni from here in Italy.

All that’s left for me to say is a big “thank you” for your prayers and support of the mission, you’re all part of this!

God bless, Renée