Happy St. Patty's Day!
Honestly, I barely remembered it was St. Patrick's Day until one of the girls in our group shouted out "Happy St. Patrick's Day!" as we were sweeping and scrubbing the floors in the children's center today. And then on the way back to the hotel we saw the most beautiful double rainbow. It was vivid and bright and big and close and colorful and cheery. I was hoping that we'd reach the pot of gold at the end when we reached our hotel and that my luggage would be in the pot, but no...still no luggage.
Most of our group finally received their bags this morning, but my suitcase is still missing along with Traci's and Ashley's in our group. Beginning tonight I'll be wearing some clothes from other girls so that I don't start smelling! Thankfully we still have showers and all and at least had a change of clothes yesterday for church. It is frustrating, but during the day I don't even think about it much. I'm learning to live with less, and that's a wonderful thing to learn on a mission trip. Maybe it's my punishment for packing too many things...I'll surely learn my lesson from here on out.
Today we went to the center in Tinca for the first time. Tinca is one of the biggest gypsy villages around with a population of about 3,000 gypsies. Rachel and the other girls from Forget-Me-Not Ministries opened their center in January and now have 6 kids that they care for at the center. 3 of these kids stay there 24 hours from Monday-Friday, and 3 of them are taken back to their homes (reluctantly) each night. The girls at FMN take shifts sleeping at the center a few nights a week and sometimes even take the children home to their own apartments so they don't have to go back to their families.
Many of the kids in the center come from backgrounds where their families simply don't care about them at all. 2 of the 6 have grandmothers who care for them primarily and do show love for them, but most of these kids have been born to young girls around the age of 12. Typically in gypsy culture girls are expected to be married and begin having kids between the ages of 9 and 14. They are very uneducated and some don't even know how they get pregnant, which is why many of them keep having children that they don't want. This creates the obvious problem that exists in Romania.
And because these people, the gypsies, are considered "dogs" and "non-human" to Romanians, they are basically rejected. It is hard to believe that a culture could actually discredit another person's humanity, but this is very real, and it's why the gypsies live in their own villages that are separate from the rest of society. It is a beautiful thing here that in Salem, the Christian church we attended yesterday, there are gypsies in the church family that are welcomed there. Hopefully this begins a witness to the rest of the culture that might spread.
So you can understand the need for the FMN children's center. It's a place of safety, refuge, compassion, and love for kids who come from backgrounds of abuse, molestation, incest, and other tragic situations. It's similar with the ministry of Caminul Felix, the place where our "hotel" is. And so Rachel, Sarah, Erin, and other staff at FMN as well as the house parents at Caminul Felix certainly need plenty of prayer as they strive to meet the basic physical, emotional, mental, educational, and spiritual needs of these children.
Last week the center underwent some construction projects, which means that the kids were at home with their actual families all week. One little boy, a 4-year-old, walked a mile and a half THREE TIMES in the past week by himself to get to the center because he wanted to be there and not with his family. He very easily could have been hit by a car or hurt some other way, but he wanted to escape his reality and get to a place of refuge and love. Thankfully, he is okay, and tomorrow the girls are looking forward to picking up their 6 kids that they have been missing for the past week!
Today we swept, scrubbed, and mopped the floors that were covered with plaster and paint from the construction that happened last week. It was tough work, but we made more progress than I thought we would! We had to get the place ready for bringing the kids back tomorrow, and I think our group did a great job and worked really hard. We're excited to meet the kiddos tomorrow and paint some more rooms and serve FMN as much as we can!
So while 3 of us are still adjusting to life without our luggage, we're learning a few more important things. I'm realizing the things we take for granted in America like running water that is clean (despite what we think...), grocery stores that abound, freedom, life without prejudice, iPods and laptops and gadgets galore...we live with much more than we will ever need to actually survive. We think we need certain things, but it turns out life is much simpler, much less complicated, without all of the stuff that we shove into it. So while things would be much more convenient with my luggage here, I'm learning to give up control and I'm learning to be dependent on the people around me, and I'm learning to appreciate the difference between needs and wants.
I'm looking forward to whatever else God wants me/us to learn this week.
In our group time tonight we just talked about things we're learning or thinking about so far, and one of the guys said this: "When we got there today, all I could see in the backyard of the center was tons of children just running around and playing...even though it was empty, that's what I saw in my mind." And what a vision that is. Please pray that it will be the future for FMN Ministries that the backyard will be full of children and they will be fully supported and fully staffed enough to provide a safe, loving refuge for kids who can't find it elsewhere.
Until tomorrow...noapte buna! (goodnight!) Ciao!