Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Yes, we are still alive!

Hi friends and family,

A quick apology that our blog hasn't been updated in a while. We have had a ball at camp - but haven't had much access to email. Last week we took the Livada Group Homes kids to camp - it was amazing! Since we spent the last few weeks with these children it was extra sweet to see them play, learn and grow even more at camp. I can't wait to fill you in on more details and pictures.

This weekend we spent time helping out the staffwith errands and such. Jeff and I got a chance to sneak off to one of the "resort" pools for some R&R for a couple of hours. It certainly wasn't the Ritz, but it was a mild step up from the public pool. Beyond the green merky water in the "lazy river" it was very nice! They even had beach chairs! Sunday we spent time with the intern staff and drove a few hours to Brasov - Dracula's town. We took a cable car up to the middle of the mountain and then hiked to the top to see the huge cross memorial dedicated to their WWI soldiers. It was beautiful, cool, and well worth the hike and long lines. As we stood on the mountain top overlooking the countryside and towns - I don't know how anyone could think there wasn't a magnificent creator God. It was stunning!

Yesterday our team arrived with everyone, but a few bags short. We were so thankful that everyone got their passports in time - Praise the Lord! We started our week of camp with some of the teenagers from the group homes in Sincrai and from the Ludus orphanage. We have had a great first two days and we head to the actual camp-site tomorrow morning. We camp officially began on Monday the kids were so excited they mght have just exploded with joy and anticipation of the fun to be had. You can tell they have been looking forward to this week all year. As we head to camp tomorrow please pray that it cools off a bit (110 degrees now) and that we have enough water to not just drink, but to play water games to keep everyone cool. We are thankful for the sunny weather - but we love to not get heat stroke in the meantime!! We can't wait to see how the Lord will move in these kids lives. Many have heard about Jesus and what He did for all of us - now we hope that they can see some of His grace in us and it to mean something - someting that will stick and play an integral roll in their walk to know the Lord. Thank you for partnering with us as our prayer warriors - these kids are so blessed because of you!

More coming soon!
In Him,
Jeff & Jen

Monday, July 16, 2007

Our weekend

This weekend was filled with some R&R, a birthday party for one of the girls in Casa Rebecca, a Romanian wedding and a cookout. Friday was Jophia's 14th birthday. The Casa mom's baked a beautiful cake and we all gathered together to sing to her and she opened presents - much the same traditional we celebrate in America. On Saturday she was invited to come over and bring 4 friends from the group homes. So, with 2 guys and 2 gals from teh other homes they rode over to Kelly's home in a taxi and we watched Armageddon. Kelly baked homemade chocolate chip cookies and they toasted her birthday with a coca-cola with ice cubes - a big treat here! Jeff, Kelly and I got the privilege of being the chaperones.

Earlier that morning one of the graduate orphans from the Mentor Apt program married an
other Romanian girl he met after graduation. It is tradition here to go with your family to the Government office to have the civil ceremony. That is when you are officially married. Then, if the couple chooses, they many have a religious cereony to follow with a reception. The bride wears white and it is also tradition to walk from the local goverment office, located in the Center, to the fortress around the corner to take pictures. It is also a tradition to take pictures with all of the flowers friends and family have brought you for the ceremony. If you have a car or a longer way to walk, the families and friends of the bride and groom with drive in a caravan and honk there horns the entire way. All day Saturday and Sunday you can hear the multitude of the honking of horns! It was a special day for Livada to see one of their own commit to breaking the horrible cycle of abandonment and marry his love.

That evening we gathered together to hear the stories from the camp team from Northern Ireland and eat our traditional cookout food - hot dogs! We ended our evening with prayer, singing praises to our King in Heaven, and lots and lots of funny stories from the week. It is so incredible to see how the Lord works not only in his children's lives, but in the lives of those who come to minister, and most of all serve. Many of the team came to know a deeper faith in the Lord and were excited to go home and share this with their families, schools, and community. It reminds me of how Jesus reached so many different people with all levels of faith through the telling of His parables - he knew that the simplest way to communicate and to demonstrate His father's love was through the art of telling stories. Our father made it simple and clear, to love the Lord and to share His love - and when you trust in Him - you have the greatest treasure - to spend eternity with Him in heaven. So oftern we complicate the story. It is clear. It is simple. And prasie be to Him that it was so apparent to the team this week so that they could in turn share it with our kids.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sports Camp, Part I

The 'Big Kids' and the 'Younger Kids' posing in front of our Bible verse Banner.

This week we got to lead a sports camp for the Livada group homes kids from Casa Ana, Casa Nadia and Casa Rebecca. We picked our theme verse for the week from Ephesians ~ "Finally, be strong in the Lord's mighty power" ~ Eph. 6:10. We put out a challenge to the kids to learn it both in Romanian and in English. Although they some looked at us like we were crazy, they have been diligent at learning it and perfecting their English. It has been fun for Jeff and I to take on the challenge too - the kids have had a real kick out of listening to us speak some more difficult Romanian words, at least we think so! The sign in the background was designed by our good friend from church, Amber Lee. The kids thought it was pretty cool!

Each day we kick off camp with training our minds as well as our bodies. We start by going over the verse and then Coach Jeff helps us with warm-ups and drills. He taught us a chant he uses with his kids at school each time we change stretches. Everything goes smoothly until we come to the jumping jacks. These kids had no idea what they were and it was quite hilarious to see them try it before we went over it step-by-step. If I had only known what a disaster it was going to be - I would have filmed it! All of the Americans and Romanian adult just about fell down laughing. By Wednesday they had it down... for the most part. Then Coach teaches us drills for th sport f the day and we finish off our time with the game. In the morning we are with the younger kids and in the afternoon we switch. Our goal for the last hour was to reward them with a trip to the swimming pool, caled "The Weekend" if weather permits. Believe it our not, it had been wuite rainy and cold here, even in the middle of July!

Monday we started off the week with Basketball. We were able to take the kids to a basketball court across town to go over how to dribble, shoot and pass. They love basketball and the bigger kids enojoyed learning how to spruce up their game.

Tuesday we attempted to teach Volleyball. With the little ones we slowly practi
ced serving the ball and bumping the ball with actual volleyballs. After many complaints of the pain, we ended our practice with a game using this huge yellow inflatable ball - they had a blast. All was well and fun until one little one went for a logn shot and ran into our make-shift net and torn it down. Since it was a hot day, we decided to pack it up and head to the pool! Going to public pool in any European city is a site to see, especially here. As you can imagine, the more shocking to the Western culture, the more common it is! It is amazing to us how much these kids are exposed to, not just in living in the orphanages, but by what society deems exceptable. Such different cultures!

Sports Camp, Part II

Wednesday was American Football Day - Coach Jeff's favorite! It was pouring rain, so we took practice inside at one of the school gyms that we rented for the day. It was a perfect place for them to learn something new. They could hear, we could chance down the flying balls, and they didn't worry about tripping over the grass while doing something completely new. They were so pumped to learn how to actually place this game called 'football Americana.' The little ones were ful of energy and were hysterical to watch as they learned to tag with the ball, throw (and not kick - quite a challenge for them), and even learn a bit about offense and defense positions. The big kids were much more into learning more about how the game was played and perfecting their touchdown throw. We were grateful to have the Briely family come join us to help demonstrate how to throw and catch. If it weren't for them, the kids might have had a jaded picture of how football works if it were left to me to show them! Coach Jeff was in his element and wore a smile so big you couldn't wipe it from his face. It was neat to see the kids step out of their comfort zones, especially those who think of themselves as a jock, and perservere to get it right.

Thursday was another rainy day so we decided to take them to see a movie in town - a fun treat for all of them. We went to see the movie, 'Meet the Robinsons.' We didn't know much about it, but it was a perfect story for them to see. The story line centers around a little boy raised in an orphanage determined to find his mom. Through his creativity and skills at inventing all kinds of things, he finds that his faimly, although not traditional, was perfect in the end just as it was. It certainly opened up many doors for conversations to be had with these kids. Some laughed, some cried, some got lost in the translations, but I think it touched them all in some small way - and how it did relate to their stories - despite the one-eyed monster octopus, robots, and futuristic cars! That evening after the movie Jeff and I took Krisztina out to dinner. She is a 12 year old who I've know since she was 6. It had her at camp several years ago when she still lived at Ludus with her sisters. Now she lives at Casa Rebecca and a young, athletic, sassy, funny little girl. We laughed, played and just talked at dinner. It is such a special treat to send some one on one time with them. It isn't often that they get to do things apart from their siblings and feel extra-special for a day! I am so thankful we could do this for her.

On Friday we ended our time with the kids favorite sport - futbol! We began our morning with the reminder of our challenge - knowing the memory verse in Romanian and English. The kids were awesome! They could recite it in both languages with enthusiasm and heart. When it came time for them to ask us - Jeff and I made up a word or two when attempting to claim the Lord's verse in Romanian. The kids got a good laugh and were thankful for our attempts. Then came time to play. As many of you know, Jeff and I have so little experience in the American game of soccer. My time in the 3rd grade Purple Power rec team didn't wuite make the cut as far as coaching experience. God knew our weakness and knew the kdis desire to play, so one of the educators, Sandal, volunteered to show them a bit more about how the game is really played. Evidently he travels all over playing in a major league. He is surely one fo the fastest people we've ever seen and he did a great job of showing the kids some soccer drills. We got a kick out of watching and learning from a pro.

After a short game, we had our awards ceremony. Each child proudly lined up and received a gold medal from Jeff and a cupcake from me. It was a hoot! You would have thought it was an Olympic Gold medal Ceremony. They were so excited to have the party and proud to recieve their prize. At the end, we told them we were going back to the Weekend Pool to celebrate. Thankfully the Lord held off the rain and gave us an hour of playtime. There is something nostalgic about a swimming pool - no matter the culture - all kids love to swim and play!

After a few hours of rain throughout the early afternoon, we had our final sports camp time with the "Big Kids." However, we took a vote and since they had not had an opportunity to go at all during the week due to the weather - we nixed our soccer game and headed straight to the Weekend. What cracked us up was that not 30 minutes into arriving, many jumped out of the pool and we just hung out together on the lounge chairs. We talked, played hand games, brushed hair, enjoyed the cupcakes - but few swam! They just couldn't wait to be there - it must be the nostaligia bit that seems so enticing. Again, the Lord was so kind and kept the rain away so that we could have that "grown up" time together. Teenagers love to just be - and that's what we did!

Sports camp was such a special time for Jeff and I. We were so thankful for all of the folks from Romania that helped us translate, get the ideas going, jumped in to play with the kids, and showed up with an enthusiasm that was contageous. We certainly couldn't have done it without them! Most of all, it brought such joy to the kids to challenge them and demonstrate in one more way that we care, that we pray for them, that learning God's word in every situation is important, and that most of all that we are there - just for them. I find it amusing to think of my worries about "not being sporty" and how little that had to do with any part of the week. Thankfully - they were not all like Sandal - and our loving father knew that! Jeff, with his skills for coaching and love of these kids, was a perfect match for this week. When I think of him coaching the mmory of him teaching jumping jacks adn the kids squealing with excitment and laughter at themselves will always linger in my mind. I am thankful to our Heavenly Father for providing such a sweet time!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Free Time

We have been blessed this summer with some time of rest. Kelly's home has been our B&B where between shifts at day camp, sports camp, or baby visits, we've had time to rest, catch our breath and of course email. This past weekend we went with a team from the States to Sigisoara, a nearby town with a medieval fortress at its center. The highlight is climbing the tower and then eating in the Dracula restaurant. Since we had hiked it the last time we were here, we strolled around the little cobbled stone fort and looked in the little gift shops and at the artist tables set up to display their fine works while we waited to eat our medieval lunch. Vlad (Dracula) and all kinds of figurines, stautes, paintings, t-shirts of him are very popular here.
After lunch we made our way to see Camp Vetsca. On our way we came across a hilarious site for Romania - a limo pasing the horse and buggie. This is one of those one in a million shots and a very rare site! After a drive through the beautiful countryside and through a small village, we came upon the camp. It is just beautiful! The hillside is green and a perfect spot for a camp for kids. The camp directors set up military tents for sleeping and Livada has had a few construction teams come in to build the kitchen and bathrooms. It is rough - but its camping! The kids are loving it - and we can't wait to be there.
Later that evening we enjoyed a cookout with the teams that were in town, the interns, and the staff. We ate hot dogs from the hot dog stands that were given to the Foundation and we gathered to sing, pray and share what God was showing us through our experiences. We was a nice time to worship the Lord together in the same language - English!! Sunday we went to church, ran a few errands, and came home for some R&R while Kelly caught up on her paperwork. It was lovely and perfect timing so we could get ready for sports camp! We have been lucky to catch two movies late after camp is over - Die Hard 4 and Oceans 13. They were great entertainment and fun to see Romanian's respond to the American movies. We get a new one each week or two and they show at select times throughout the day. So this is a bonus that they were actually two movies that are current and that none of us had seen. In the other nooks and crannies of our days we have gone to many grocery type stores, Costco type stores looking for odds and ends to help Kelly with the teams in town and camp needs. They are very clean, and a lot like our stores at home. But, they do have a few things that we don't often see - like full sheep in the meat section - including the eyes! The milk is bought in paper cartons from the non-refrigerated shelves - but that's the way they do it! They do have a lot of the same brands we have like Coke, Dove soap, and Dannon yougurt! Random. Sorry - no pictures allowed in the stores!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Baby Hospital Visits

The Baby Hospital trip - what an adventure! We took a taxi to the Maxi-Taxi station to ride the 49 km treck to the neighboring town of Ludus. Let's just say, a fast driver of a full public bus with no deoderant is a lovely way to start off the morning! But God was so good, a seat opened up about half way so that I could sit and the little Romanian woman sitting in front of me didn't mind me opening up the windows so that I didn't loose my breakfast. It's a small cultural custom that takes a while to get used to - they don't like the breeze or drafts for they fear it may cause an ear infection. The silver lining was that we made it safe and sound! We went to Ludus both Thursday and Friday to spend time with the little babies and the toddlers. There aren't any more baby homes in TM where we are staying - most have been sent to foster care homes or placed in the bigger orphange. The way around it is to add a wing to the back of the hospital to keep the little ones who have no where else to go.

The little ones
- what a joy they are! There were two rooms full of
cribs, one room contained 5 little ones and the other had one baby in there by himself - he was evidently "healthier" than the others so he got his own room. One of the interns brought all kinds of diapers and new clothes to change them into once we arrived and got settled. They wanted to be held so badly - and let out all kinds of squeals when we opened the door! One little one, Florin, loved bouncing and looking out the window. Jeff and I rotated using the front carrier to strap him in - he was delighted! One little one, five months old, had no name. We nicknamed him "Joe " and he stole my heart. We giggled, bathed, changed a few diapers, and on the last morning he fell asleep while I was rocking him - it was one of those moments you wish you could bottle up and keep forever. It was very hard to lay him down in his crib to move on to the next rooms, but I was thankful the Lord gave me that one sweet moment to sing about his loving father in his little ears and pray over him. Holding the babies came very easy to Jeff - but not changing those awefully smelly diapers! He decided it was best to entertain the others while we took care of that fun duty:)

The toddlers - down the hall were 5 children ages 15 months to four years. These are kids who have progressed to eating something other than liquid from a bottle. Not always was the food recognizable to us, but at least it filled their empty tummies. Jeff bonded instantly to a little boy names Sebi. He was a hilarious little guy, about 3.5 years old and bow-legged. He had the best laugh and loved to climb all over Jeff. By the end he nicknamed Jeff "papa" was very sad to see him go. Once again, after I tackle how to attach videos, you can see him with his new papa. I got to play with the others - several seemingly healthy, one with the onset of what appears to be autisim (Gabi), and another little guy (Olympio) who is at least 15 months and had absolutely no muscles in his arms or legs. He can sit up, but has no movement in his limbs. It was very sad when it came time to feed them - we were instructed to prop him up in the corner of his metal crib, swaddle him, and then spoon feed him his tastely mush or stew. Even though he had no mobility, his eyes were bigger than the sun and a smile as large as the Atlantic. He loved to giggle at the others and just grinned when we tickled his little feet. He was a very happy baby and ate more than you'd imagine.

The hopsital itself
- a team had come in previously and really took time to paint the walls, the ceilings and replace the floors
. It was bright and "cheerful" which helped remove you from focusing on the stinch, the cold beds and the dirty clothes. The kids were full of energy and very happy to see us coming. Some of the caregiviers were very responsive to the kids and tended to them often. This was a nice breath of fresh air to see in action. We played Christain music for them, read books, bounced the ball and just rocked them until they couldn't take it anymore. God is so gracious to even allow us to go in to visit them and we walked away thankful that teams from Livada go often, even daily to see them and care for them. Although I prayed God would supernaturally come in and swoop them right out of there right in that instant and place them in a loving family, I know that he is watching over them despite their environment. Jeff and I prayed that we would represent the love of Christ to them in some form or fashion - that we would be vessels to jump at every opportunity he gives us. It was a true joy to love, kiss, wrestle, and rock his little children!