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Hope in a box: how your church can help Romania's poorest children

It's 25 years since the Romanian revolution saw the fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Countless children were left scarred from the atrocities they experienced under his regime ...

PETER WOODING on one practical way you can help churches to meet the physical and spiritual needs of Romania’s poorest children

It's 25 years since the Romanian revolution saw the fall of communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. Countless children were left emotionally and mentally scarred from the atrocities they experienced under his regime.

While the nightmares that generation encountered are starting to fade, a quarter of a century on, Romania’s children are still facing the horrors of violence, poverty and neglect.

Despite what appears on the surface to be a developing EU country, families are bearing the brunt of extreme poverty. There’s high unemployment and subsequent alcohol and drug abuse, and children are being abandoned by their parents.

However, there is a tremendous spiritual hunger among this new generation in Romania.  Evangelical churches are seeing much growth and, with very little resources, are doing all they can to meet both the spiritual and practical needs of these desperately needy children and their families.

This December, churches throughout the country will be distributing gift-filled shoeboxes through Operation Christmas Child, a project run by Samaritan’s Purse.

Children who receive these shoeboxes will be invited to take part in The Greatest Journey, a 12-part discipleship programme developed by Samaritan’s Purse in partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Through this course they will learn more about who Jesus is, what it means to follow Him and share their faith with their friends and families.

One of the places where the shoeboxes will be distributed is Casa Rai, a children’s home just outside Peatra Neamt. It’s a home that gives a glimpse of heaven to those who have experienced the hell of abandonment, abuse and violence.

“We named this house ‘Casa Rai’ (‘Heaven’s Home’ in Romanian) because we wanted to make a parallel between the previous living conditions for many of the children living here, and what God has in store for them,” explains Mihai, the home’s director, better known as ‘Papa’ by the children under his care.

Some of the children went through harrowing ordeals before coming to Casa Rai. One girl witnessed her father murder her mother. She was locked in a room with her mother’s decomposing body for a week because her father threatened to kill her if she left.

Eventually neighbours heard her screams and police came and rescued her.

The girl came to Casa Rai at the age of 16, deeply traumatised. But after receiving the love and care of Mihai and his wife Tatiana, she’s been able to move forward with her life and is now married with children of her own.

She even comes to help at the home and has turned around the tragedy of her own life to care for children who’ve experienced similar traumas to hers.

Samaritan’s Purse UK’s head of communications, Brian Bennett, recently visited Romania. He personally witnessed the impact of working alongside local churches and several projects including the Casa Rai children’s home.

“It was wonderful to see how Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey have been embraced by the Romanian churches,” he says. “There’s a tremendous opportunity to reach out to this new generation who have a real spiritual hunger along with their families.”

Brian added: “We’re asking people in the UK to help us impact children like those we met at Casa Rai. By taking out a Direct Debit for just £4 a month, people in the UK will enable churches in countries like Romania to disciple one child per month, or 12 children a year, through The Greatest Journey.”

To find out more go to http://www.samaritans-purse.org.uk/the-greatest-journey

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