However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24
i am home.
i am heart broken.
i am tired.
i am hurting.
i am so far away.
i am missing everyone.
i am dealing.
i am not sweaty.
i am blessed.
i am filled up.
i am thankful.
i am safe.
i am loved.
i am purposeful.
i will return.
i apologize for the lack of updates. as you can imagine i have had little to no free time at all and when i do i’m always finding things to do, children to go play with, someone to pray for. the days are getting hotter and my time is dwindling here in medgidia. the thought of leaving this city breaks my heart so i try to avoid thinking about it, and for now i am existing as though i live here because it feels that way. I find myself walking to church, riding the maxi taxi, and fumbling through my limited romanian library of words trying to buy something for the old woman on the street corner, remembering how bizarre it is that i am on the opposite side of the world of all of those that i love (minus my cherished little ones here of course.) while my friends sleep thousands of miles away, i dance with gypsy children and cry out to God, pray for healing for a deaf man, for someone to come adopt an abandoned baby, for strength to finish off the days strong. while my family wakes, i rest my tired body in a cozy apartment, preparing for what God has in store for me the next day.
I feel like i have been here for years, like i am existing in an alternate universe. it feels so right. the thought of dropping my life at home and living the rest of my days here is too easy. it’s the going home part that is hard. the trying to explain all that i’ve seen and done, all that i’ve felt and prayed. all that God has done here. words cannot express and photos cannot depict the brokenness in this city, this country. one has to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, smell the stench in tiny huts and sweat in small enclosed places where ten children dwell. where the mother has died and little ones cry out for her to return. where pairs of eyes are rushing rivers of tears and others are dried deserts, no longer able to cry. droughts.
i wish i would have taken the time to journal each and every day but when there was even 30 minutes of spare time my exhaustion took over and i could hardly make out the words to describe the spectrum of emotions pulsating through me. but here i am now, so here’s what today had in store for me in case any of you are wondering..sorry it’s so ridiculously long. i could write a book about a single day here.
woke up at 7-wanted to sleep until 9 but the thought of all those smiles directed at my immediate appearance outside is the one thing that gets me out of bed and excited each day. walked outside welcomed by 6 filthy, yet absolutely adorable girls all screaming my name. nobody here can say my name so i have resorted to introducing myself as “heda” because that’s the closest they can sound out. i also go by “blonda.” after managing to detangle myself from the intertwining of 12 arms and legs around me, they all eagerly follow across the street to the community center and wait outside until we are prepared to let them in for the program.
dale (dah-lay) cut her foot earlier this week, so everyday when she comes in, i clean up her wound and wrap it in hopes that it won’t get infected. its hard enough keeping a 4 year old’s foot clean, yet alone a 4 yr old who lives barefoot in the trash. its bittersweet as she looks up at me with her giant green eyes, laced with the longest eyelashes i have ever seen. I’m sure God made her extra cute because she needs extra loving. she lets out little peeps in pain but she doesn’t shed a single tear when i clean out tiny flecks of metal in her bloody gashed foot. she sits patiently and holds my hand, and although i cannot communicate to her through her language, we share a special moment and i know that she trusts me. i can tell she wants to rip her foot out of my grasp because of the pain from the antiseptic so i do my best to be gentle and quick. every single time i see her she comes up to me and points to her little foot and i know that she knows i will take care of her each time. it’s really special and i can’t quite put into words how it makes me feel but i cherish it.
after the program we went on a home visit (we have been doing several of these a day in different villages, bringing food, clothes, and most importantly, prayer.) this family in particular is in dire need and is living in miserable and disgusting situations, so i knew i had to prepare my heart for this visit. every home you enter is one sad story after another, a never ending tragedy; mental preparation and much prayer is necessary to make it through these visits.
upon walking into the 1 bedroom, muggy, fly-infested house, you see two half naked children sprawled out on what you can call a bed. layla, who looks the size of a 5 year old but is actually around 11-12, has cerebral palsy. her life has consisted of laying in this bed, basically rotting. you can count on 1 hand how many times she has left the house and i’m almost positive all of those times are recent due to Cindy’s help bringing her to the program now that she has a car. bedridden layla has twigs for limbs and about as much motor function as a 4 month old because of her deprivation of any physical activity. the mother thinks she is incapable of anything and just leaves her to the bed. a whole new level of abuse.
the boy looks to be about 3 when in reality he is 6. the mother abandoned him in the hospital for 3 years where he lay in a crib, helpless. like layla, though he was born normal and healthy, he is underdeveloped due to the lack of stimulation for the crucial development time of his childhood. Cindy somehow found out who he belonged to and the mother was forced to take him home.
layla immediately reaches out for my hand with her bony little fingers and i lay with her for a while, petting her fragile arms and smiling into her dazed but beautiful deep brown eyes. she takes my camera and looks into it, trying to figure out what it is. (i got a video of this so i will try posting it.) drool dribbles out of her mouth and onto my leg and i could care less, i love her too much! i fetch random things out of my bag for her to play with. some stimulation, anything helps. she waves my fan in the air. i wonder what is going on in her mind but in that moment all i can do is smile at her bewildered curiosity.
*i can’t seem to get the video to upload so here is a still.
before leaving i anoint layla, the boy, and the mom and say a special prayer over them. i really do believe that layla will be able to walk one day. I wish i could stay and do activities with her and give her what she needs. no child, let alone a child in her condition should be living in a place like that. and just to think of how many other children in the world are suffering like that, and in even worse conditions, shatters my heart. if i get too deep into thought about it depression begins to cloud my mind and i have to remember to lift my burdens to God, and remind myself that He is in control. they are in His hands. i turn my emotions into prayers.
next stop, “spital”
way too often, gypsy mothers will flee the hospital, leaving their babies behind in the matter of minutes. i have been praying for the past 27 days that i would be able to do this; it has been on my heart for the past 2 years. i longed to hold these abandoned babies. without enough human interaction, babies will simply die. all i wanted was to bring what little affection i could to these precious children. the hospitals in romania are a whole new level of corrupt; where bribes are expected and nurses refuse to let you in for no reason at all. Cindy hasn’t been able to visit the babies in over a year. i knew if it was God’s will, they would let us in.
praise God! we got in. already sweating in the enclosed, 90 degree tiny room, we were forced to put on capes which served no purpose at all considering we weren’t even allowed to touch the babies. but i was thankful that we at least got in. the nurse informed us that there were 12 babies earlier this month but now they were down to only two; people had come to adopt the others. of the two boys left, one was 2 months, the other 6. the 2 month old had someone coming to adopt him within the next few days, so that left only the 6 month old, who looked hardly 3 months. it was one of the hardest restraints of my life, not picking him up and giving him all of the love that he deserved and so desperately required.
all i wanted was to wrap him into my arms and lift him out of his caged life. but instead i was forced to simply smile back at him as he stared at me, hands in the air longing for touch. i played a few games of peek a boo and got him smiling eye to eye. that’s when the emotions hit. how could someone just run away, leaving a child to a scheduled crib life. diaper changes and bottle feeds every so often, maybe a tickle here or there from a nurse who’s feeling a little happy. half of a year, imprisoned. who would take this child, and would that life really be better? or would he be left to a gypsy lifestyle, digging in the trash all day, maybe getting beaten at night. i forced myself to stop this train of worrisome thoughts and simply spend the few moments i had left doing what i could for this child. finally, the nurse decided i could touch him, but just “no hugging.”
finger grabbing, wide-eyed smiles
toe squeezing, more smiles.
my heart is breaking.
that’s the most affection he’s had all day and its from a stranger.
only 5 minutes remained so i prayed over the babies. that God would find them capable parents, that they would come to know Him at a young age, and that they would grow up to be healthy and live long fulfilling lives. all i can do is have faith that these little ones are in God’s hands. and I know they are, I just never want to leave them. but i had to, and now they are only a few minutes in my collection of memories. a few of the most impacting moments of this trip. trying to contain the tears building up inside me proved to be impossible the more i processed what i had just seen. Sure i cry a lot, but i really do believe that God gave me His vision and my heart truly breaks for what breaks His. compassion is my gift, my curse.
when i got back to the apartment i gathered things to bring to the trash. i can’t stand being inside when there is even a smidge of daylight left, knowing that all my children are out there and that i will soon be in no contact with them. i have been really trying to take advantage of every hour here despite my exhaustion or how incredibly hot is is outside because i want no regrets. i would hate to be home in california wishing i went out and played with my girls because i know that just the sight of me brings them more joy than anything else they will do that day, except maybe finding a treasure in the trash. and that is what i am here for. to bring the joy of the Lord to every person i possibly can. i am here to serve others not myself. and i need to be in constant reminder of that. it’s getting easier the longer i have been here and it feels more natural now that i have grown to desire it. God is stretching me, and i am limber and ready for the next marathon.
as soon as i walked outside i heard cars screeching and honking and madness on the corner. there was a little accident. my first thought was that i hoped none of the kids were hit, but i didn’t see any so i continued my walk to the trash. being american basically puts you in the spotlight here. every single person i walk by stares at me and id like to think that its because the light of God is shining through me but i’m pretty sure it’s just because i’m an american, and its a dead give away. people stare in disgust when i embrace the filthy children sprinting towards me. they pull on me and lurch onto my back and it hurts and i might get lice but i don’t care because i want people to see that i love them. we are called to love. one day this persecution will end.
i teach the kids how to macarena and other fun little dances and its probably the most fun i could ever have in the midst of trash. for that moment i am in my own world, pouring out all of the love and joy i have been filled up with onto all of these beautiful children and being so blessed by them. that is the best part of trips like this, you go to bless people but in the end you are blessed far more than you could ever imagine.
i manage to get them all in a circle and we play Raţă Raţă Gâscă (duck duck goose.) i also got them to say a little prayer with me (by little, i mean little. all i know how to say in romanian is dear jesus, thank you. ) but they get the idea that we need to be thankful and that is what we are trying to teach them. the fact that they will sit in a circle and sit still for 2 minutes is already an improvement. (these kids don’t go to school and have no discipline whatsoever)
suddenly i seen kuzu and dale running over, screaming and crying and i hear them all saying “machina machina!” i realized that kuzu got hit by the car. she was crying and holding her arm up to me and it had some road burn but as far as i could tell it wasn’t broken. sadly that’s all i could really do before she was ushered off into the gardina by some adult, possibly her parent but who really knows. only in medigida does a kid get hit by a car and it goes unnoticed and untreated. thats just the way it goes with the gypsies. nobody cares, and frankly they are asking to get hit running around like wild animals in the street.
the scary thing about the gypsy kids is that one second they are all smiling and laughing and loving you and the next they are all crying and screaming, gone mad and you can’t understand a word they are saying. i decided it was best to leave to before things got out of control and headed in for the night ready to pass out.
2am: awoken by bloody murder screams, shaking walls, and pounding. what the frick is going on! so this is what cindy was talking about. her neighbors are literally insane and have crazy fights all the time i guess. i honestly thought someone was being murdered. i hid under my sheets like a child and prayed that it would stop. all i wanted was to sleep after this crazy day. for a minute i was young again listening to my parents screaming at each other, scared. well this was 100 times worse and i am 10 years older. finally quiet sets in and i drift off to sleep. thank you jesus. prayers answered.