After the trip last November, I personally couldn’t wait to go back to Rebricea to see the kids and the Strois again. The break from trips this winter allowed us to reorganise some of Bethesda’s projects and plan new ones for 2019. In any case, we stayed in contact with and received regular updates from our family in Rebricea through the internet, which has been very useful, thanks to God. Also, Mihaela and Patricia had the opportunity to visit us at the conference ‘Reflection’ in Bologna. In just two weeks, we were able to go (myself, Max and Luca) to Romania twice. During one of the quick trips (1-3 March) we had the privilege of having Giuseppe Longo with us. Giuseppe spent a good part of his life serving the Lord full-time with his family (his wife Anna and their children Emmanuele, Desirée and Davide), first in central Italy and then in Africa for six intense years. His experience and talent were a great help and encouragement to both our Romanian brothers and sisters and to us. His perspective was very important and it helped us understand how serious the situation is and what the material and spiritual needs are of this impoverished land.
“My experience in Romania was very positive and stimulating. Stepping into this land for the first time was almost like being in Africa (where I lived for six years), the only real difference is the colour of their skin. I never would have thought that after just a two hour flight from Italy, I would find myself in such a situation. What I found in Romania was great poverty and most of all, children with bad family situations and being victims of abuse. Problems with alcohol and promiscuity are rampant. I was a guest at the farm run by Bethesda – love your neighbour in Rebricea, where the dear Stroi family live and foster six siblings. The oldest is 13 years old and the youngest is almost 3. I was very moved by the love the Strois have poured on these children; after all that they went through and suffered from their biological parents, whose parental rights have been taken away by the Romanian government. They lived in terrible health conditions without food; in addition, they were treated badly and neglected by their alcoholic parents. What shocked me the most was that the youngest child (Patricia) was so underweight when she went into foster care that she had difficulty standing. The environment that these children are living in now is peaceful, and they receive the care and attention that they had never received before. The children welcomed me with much love and big smiles. God’s work can clearly be seen among them. Every day they actively participate in reading the word of God with the Strois as a family. It was nice to meet many other children in the area that come to the Saturday kids’ club at the farm. When it was time for singing, their smiles and enthusiasm were infectious; even though unfortunately, some of their faces showed sadness and suffering. It really hurt me to hear that many of them are forced to do hard work in the woods to earn some money to give their parents. I will carry the memories of these children with their stories in my heart and ask the Lord to provide for their basic needs and their spiritual ones, especially for the six siblings. I thank God for the opportunity that he gave me to spend some time with them. I hope and pray that I can go back this year in June for the summer camp and spend more joyful moments together in the presence of the Lord.” Giuseppe Longo
Although short, our trips to Rebricea were full of things to do. Saturday we went to a store in Vaslui to get bunk beds for our two young women (Luiza and Lorena) and for our young men (Luigi and Denis). Since they came to the farm (more than a year ago), they’ve slept in temporary beds that they often had to share. The kids have been growing quickly and it was time to do something. Thanks to God, we acquired the funds to buy two nice wooden bunk beds that the kids themselves helped to assemble. Their joy was great. For Ionela, we brought a smaller bed for her from Italy; she was so happy to have a bed all for herself that she laughed and continued to jump for joy. As usual, Saturday we organised the Saturday kids’ club for our kids and those from the village. At 12:30 the room was crowded with many kids. Now the oldest ones are 14-15 years old and we think that soon it would be a good idea to have two different meetings (children and teens). Again this time they ate the greatly anticipated pizza and after, we sang songs, had skits and times of prayer. The presence of Giuseppe, a great guitar player and very well-prepared to work with the kids, was invaluable. For one of the meetings, we told the story of the paralytic from Bethesda (where the name of our association comes from) and the kids recreated it by acting it out and with drawings. To motivate them, the best were awarded small prizes. We made the most of our moments of sharing with our 6 kids. We continued to have short lessons in the evenings, giving examples of how to apply the teachings received as Christians and deepening their knowledge of God. We continue to pay particular attention to the oldest brother; now that he’s a teenager, it’s necessary to correct his behaviour differently. However, the consequences of his difficult past are still somewhat present in his behaviour. We’re faithful, however, that God will be at work in this boy. It’ll be our job to pray for him and try to encourage him to change.
On the Sundays there we visited the church in Negrești and the one in Pădureni, where, with the help of Giuseppe, we cheered the hearts with many songs, both inmItalian and Romanian (that by now we’re learning and know well). Giuseppe was entrusted with the preaching and the topic was, in Negrești, that Jesus is number one over everything, Colossians 1:13-20 and in Pădureni, that it’s important to live among brothers and sisters and to be united, Psalm 133. On this trip we found yet again how precious it is working with these people, especially the kids. Some of them need everything, especially affection and a word of hope. We don’t want to stop praying for them, and are asking the Lord to not let us become tired of working in this vast area of Romania Moldova. Going home is always a little sad, mostly seeing the faces of the sad kids saying goodbye. But we know in our heart that these trips, even if they’re brief and sometimes exhausting, bring great moments of joy to their grey lives and to us the understanding that we’ve obeyed the great commandment: love thy neighbour as thyself.