All the Gentile’s together in Romania for the first time
Every time, shortly before leaving on a new trip, I get a lump in my throat at the idea of leaving my family here in Italy. As long as my children (Monica, 8 years old and Claudio, 4 years old) were younger, it was unlikely that I could take them with me, not so much because of any dangers, but because of the very busy schedule of activities that we have each time. Time is always very short, hours vary greatly and having children along is not ideal, for us or for them.
This time however, in agreement with Federica (my wife), we thought the time had come to let them have this “different” experience from their everyday life.
Among other things, until we arrived at our destination, they didn’t know where we were going, although they were still very excited about flying for the first time in their lives.
Having already experienced it with Federica gave us both courage and an even stronger sense of how much we want to become a “missionary” family for the Lord.
We hope that this short trip may have awakened in them, Monica and Claudio, not only the joy of taking a plane, but also a spark of love for others, which will certainly have a positive impact on their lives.
The usual nightly arrival and first stop
Unfortunately, Friday’s flights from Bergamo to Iași are anything but convenient. Departure at 10:30pm, arrival at 1:30am (Romanian time), getting the rental car and then another 45-50 minutes to the Chedes Agape Farm.
We go to bed at 3:30 AM. Thank goodness children sleep in any place and circumstance, we adults a little less so.
Saturday morning we wake up at 9:00, breakfast, greet the Stroi family and their children, then a quick, mandatory visit to the farm animals with Monica and Claudio. Then we leave for Sănduleni (Bacău) where, after 2 hours of travel and about 150 km, Leon and Dora Crismariu, two special people with a huge missionary heart for hospitality, welcome us. Leon and Dora, after more than twenty years in Italy, decided to go back to live in Romania, to help with the immense work of supporting and witnessing in the poor villages of the Bacău area.
Immediately thrown into harsh reality
Our first appointment with the support and testimony programs is in Mărcești. Only 4 km of dirt road were enough to catapult us into a surreal reality. We have already seen similar places, even my wife on her previous trips, but our children have not and they were a little surprised to learn that very large families live in those unstable mud and straw houses in clearly precarious conditions.
Upon arrival at our destination we saw a beautiful new structure set in the middle of a flat area (one of the few), solidly fixed to a concrete base. This is the “church” that our brothers from Onești managed to build, with the help of God, in this village which has a truly sad reality.
After about 14 years of travel and experiences, direct and indirect, I thought I had heard the worst, but this changed my mind: it can always be worse. Some stories made my blood run cold. These are almost always episodes involving women, children and unfortunately young girls, who, barely teenagers, find themselves pregnant at 15-17 years old with more than one child to look after.
To say that the village of Mărcești is truly abandoned is an understatement. The feeling I had, and confirmed by our brothers, is that the institutions here keep their distance, drastically worsening the already existing social and humanitarian disaster.
Everything is lacking. First of all, education is really poor, teaching about health and hygiene is absent, furthermore the most basic rules of society are missing, not to mention moral, ethical and modesty principles… Everyone thinks about their own survival sometimes to the detriment of others. A fight between the poor.
Once again it centers on the selfishness of the totalitarian governments of the past, and of the corrupt ones of the present, who probably hope for the self destruction of these people. Instead, the population is growing disproportionately, generating an ever greater need.
An incomprehensible paradox is that everyone, absolutely everyone, including children, has a smartphone and internet in their pocket… The priorities in life in 2023.
The power of the Gospel
But where the stories of horror and desperation abound, the seed of the gospel is sown and brings hope.
Cornel Pascu and his wife Dorothy have been working in these areas for years and their work has resulted in the birth of various evangelical communities precisely where there had been the same situation of desperation.
They work hard, preach hope, take care of the needs of families, feed children, educate them, showing them a love like they had never seen: the love that Jesus preached in the Gospel.
This same work in the village of Poduri, a few km away has borne much fruit. At least 60% of the village believed the gospel message, effectively transforming their lives, not only spiritually.
The results were seen in incredible solidarity and mutual love, in the growth of education (many could not read) in the abandonment of violence, promiscuity, vices, idleness. We are committed to improving the daily life of the village itself. The faithfulness of these people towards the love of the Lord is truly exemplary: the meetings are always well attended in any weather condition. One of the converts from this village (Alin) is now pastor of the church (under a large tent) in Poduri.
Cornel’s plan, with the support of Leon and the church of Onești, is that what was done in Poduri can also be replicated in Mărcești, pleasing the Lord.
We are convinced that the Lord will work, but there are many difficulties, one of which is the lack of funds and physical resources to carry out this work. There is a need for many workers, and we as Bethesda want to be, as much as possible, on the front line in helping these brothers.
The afternoon flew by with many moments of singing, sharing the Word, distribution of food, clothing and even some soft toys for the little children.
The crowd of children and mothers was very large and it was difficult to contain the crowd of people during the distribution. What amazed us was that during our program, all the children were singing at the top of their lungs to the Christian songs they were taught. Truly a touching moment.
What particularly touched us was the now “usual” meeting with mothers (very young) with more than one child in their arms. Among these, we met an 18-year-old mother who had given birth (10 days earlier) to her third child, after twins she had at 16. Her story affected us greatly and soon we will share it in order to ask for specific prayer and help.
Special guests in Onești church
Sunday morning everyone was ready for the worship in the church where Cornel is pastor. We liked the atmosphere with excellent music and lots of enthusiasm to give thanks. We Italians are always welcomed with warmth and affection. It feels like we are at home, many here speak Italian or English.
We had the opportunity to meet various members of this church and many visitors. We recognized several people we met the afternoon before in Mărcești, a sign of a church that has a strong missionary call. This encouraged us a lot and made us think about how often we are passive in our own church community and limit ourselves to just Sunday attendance.
Sunday continued by sharing a meal together with the Pascu, Cornel families and other guests and talking about the many projects that we want to carry out together, if God gives us His blessing.
Back at the Chedes Agape farm, pleasant visit and return home
It seems like a few hours have passed, but it’s already Monday and it’s time to go back to the farm, where lunch awaits us with the Stroi’s and only four of the children: Lorena, Denis, Ionela and Patri. Remember that Luiza and Luigi are in Brașov, where one is studying and the other is working.
In the afternoon we also had the opportunity to share some thoughts with the Stroi’s on wisdom and thinking about the future, looking straight ahead, through a passage from Proverbs 4.
Our children (Monica and Claudio) immediately felt at ease on the farm, and it should be this way. Despite the language barrier, within a few minutes of arriving they began to explore every corner, playing and going to see the animals that the Stroi’s raise: chickens, rabbits and a pig. A few weeks earlier, 6 puppies were born and were quickly covered in cuddles by our children. It was nice to see this easy bond between them, something that perhaps we adults should learn, at least the simplicity and lightheartedness of it.
On Monday evening we also met Abel and Mihaela Corogeanu and Denis and Lavinia Zlatan. Together we began to lay the foundations of what we would like to achieve in the place that the Lord has made available to us (the farm) to carry out all the spiritual help and projects of support that He wants us to.
Tuesday arrives almost too soon. Our children would like to stay here to run around carefree and play with the children on the farm, but it’s time to return, to resume our job as ambassadors of this important work that the Lord has put before us.
Before going to the airport we stop by to see the Iași Palace of Culture: a distinguished building that is almost 100 years old. It is incredible how this symbol, located in a modern and progressive city with universities, is just a few kilometers from poverty and almost total illiteracy.
This is the contradiction that is really hard to understand, even after years of traveling there. All it takes is a badly damaged road to separate a child from education and these are precisely the roads that we are called to travel as “missionaries”. Sometimes they are tortuous, sometimes muddy or snowy, sometimes with deep potholes or full of danger, but we will not tire of continuing, even if we only reach one family at a time.
We know that God will give us the strength and resources not to give up in the face of any obstacle. I want to see Italian children playing with Romanian children again, in a carefree manner and hoping for the same future of serenity and hope for all of them. A new generation full of willpower, solidarity and love
Claudio and Monica may remember this trip particularly for the farm, the animals, the plane, but at the same time Federica and I pray that God can instill in them love for those in need and extend a little helping hand, small in our eyes but great in the eyes of God.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God
God bless you,
Orazio and Federica Gentile
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