2009 Gifts of Hope Team to Romania
The team members arrived late Saturday and were naturally tired after their long journey but were in great spirits. Sunday was packing day at Fundatia Heart of Hope’s Transition Home for Young Women. We organized and packed gifts for over 1,400 children and staff in the placement centers and arranged food items for 225 poor families.
Today was the first day of distribution. The day started with the team providing diapers for two handicapped facilities and a box of chocolates with a Christmas CD for staff.
After lunch, the team visited two more placement centers with children ranging in ages 4 to 18. This team is so special because these volunteers have come to visit before in these exact same placement centers. Many of the children recognized the team members and were so excited to receive love and much needed attention.
- Even though we were unable to wrap the gifts with paper and bows, even a simple bag does the job. Each child was able to receive various sweets, a new pair of socks, mittens and an age-appropriate Christian book.
- Every child also received a Gift of Hope sweatshirt. In each place we visit we see the sweatshirts from years past. Today the two children pictured at left were wearing sweatshirts from last year and the year before. They were excited to have their picture taken with team member, Nicole Bernhardt.
- This special team has three generations of Bernhardts! We love hosting a team diverse in age. Each child has a need to relate to either a friend figure, a father figure, a mother figure or a grandmother or grandfather figure.
- I think little boys are the same the world over! All the little boys were excited to receive their Hot Wheels or Matchbox Cars and take them out of their gift bags to compare and race each other! Childhood laughter and joy could be seen and heard today in institutions that don’t often have cause for celebration.
- While the gifts brought joy one of the most treasured gifts was of course all of the hugs and love shown today. Team members made sure to freely give of themselves and provided compassion and dignity to children that many have abandoned or forgotten.
It was Village Food Distribution day. The team visited 4 rural villages where Heart of Hope has weekly children’s Bible Clubs and distributed food staples and gifts. The Gift of Hope food distribution allows us to actively demonstrate the love of Christ to families in great need. Pictures fail to capture the appreciation of these open hearts.
- One of the pictures above include a sampling of the items that each person receives in the distribution line: kilos of rice, sugar, polenta, white beans, pasta, cooking oil, margarine, tea, bread, cookies, jelly-roll, bananas, gloves and mittens, socks, hats and a Christian devotional. A list is made of every family in the village – whether their child comes to club or not – and a member from each family comes through the distribution line to receive a Christmas devotional book, food staples, new warm clothing and sweets.
- Georgene Bernhardt is seen above with an elderly man who came through the line wearing a Gift of Hope Sweatshirt from many years ago. His worn face and demeanor told a story of a difficult life. His soft and sincere “thank you’s” as he went through the line touched each team member.
As people come through the line the compassionate Gift of Hope team members wish each person “Creciun Fericite” – Merry Christmas in Romanian! Through-out the distribution line, one can hear from the beneficiaries sincere voices of ‘thank you so much’, ‘thank you for remembering us’, ‘may God Bless you’, ‘May God give you good health’, ‘Merry Christmas to you too’!
- At age 78 Leonard Bernhardt could be retired comfortably in an easy chair in his lovely Beaverton, OR home. But if you think you’ll find him there…then you don’t know Leonard! Besides volunteering each year with us in Romania, Leonard travels regularly to volunteer in Vietnam and Mongolia. The majority of the beneficiaries today were younger then Leonard – with a few close to his age – but none close to his energy and vibrance! Leonard was the new socks, gloves, mittens and sugar distributor today! His legacy of volunteering was seen today as his son, daughter in-law and grandchildren were just down the distribution line from him.
Our last stop today was in a small village called Mindra. Heart of Hope has a Village Bible Club that averages around 40 children per week. Today there were 47 children at Club. The Gift of Hope Team distributed the famous Ziplock Christmas package to cheers of delight. The children provided the team with a wonderful gift: they sang “Jesus loves me” in Romanian and in English, letting their lights shine brightly! It was a wonderful way to end a long but fruitful day of ministering to 220 poor families and 47 of the cutest children on the planet!
Today the team visited three placement centers. The first was a center for children with various learning disabilities. Romania has few schools where special education is integrated into the normal school. The children at this center are dear to Heart of Hope as they have benefited from Medical Teams International's dental teams, renovation teams and Gift of Hope teams and Heart of Hope provides a week of Bible camp to those that live in the center during the summer.
- Corrine Bernhardt holds a child on her lap during the Christmas devotional. At most placement centers, we set up in the cafeteria. As soon as the children are called in, they often rush to the team members wanting them to sit at their table or crawl right up on their lap. With 90 children at this center the team members were quickly beckoned to “sit at my table”…and immediately laps were filled!
Greetings from the 4th day of the Gift of Hope program!
Flexibility – a word often used regarding international ministry. Today it was not just a word but a requirement!
This morning we were scheduled for distribution at the largest placement center/special education school in our program. We were greeted by the director who was wearing a surgical mask! 16 children were in quarantine and about half of the children were missing from school due to the flu. There was no confirmation that it was H1N1 but as precautionary measures the team and school officials thought it best to leave the 130 gifts to be distributed when the majority of children were healthy. The team counted out gifts by class and left them in the care of each teacher. As I finished paperwork and came down the stairs of the institution, I glanced down a hallway to see boys peering out at me in their pajamas. It was disappointing, especially for the team, but we know the children will enjoy the gifts and be blessed when they are indeed able to receive them.
After a disappointing morning of not being able to distribute gifts directly to the children at the center smitten with the flu, the afternoon center provided the highlight of the week for me. We were all surprised to hear that the Christmas devotional book was in the Top 3 of cherished presents! I could not have heard better news! I looked around the room in the midst of all the excitement and found these adolescent and teenage boys looking through and reading the devotionasl! May HIS WORDS plant deep in their hearts and flourish!
It’s hard to believe this was the last day of Gift of Hope 2009 for Romania! The team began their day by shopping and preparing for a Christmas party that was hosted at the Home of Hope Transition Home for the young women that currently live there and also for 6 young women who have successfully transitioned to independent living.
After the shopping and the preparations had been made, the team made their first distribution of the day at a placement center for children with special education needs. This center houses 50 boys and girls who were thrilled to have visitors and receive Christmas gifts…their joyous faces said it all!
After finishing at the center, the team traveled to the village of Parau. It is a small village where Heart of Hope has a weekly Bible Club. The club meets in the most modest of homes. The homes have no indoor plumbing or heating. The simple wood burning stove serves as heat source and is used for cooking. This is an area which often needs help with food, clothing and medicines.
- You'll see in the pictures, Georgene Bernhardt who, in just 12 weeks after heart surgery is out distributing gifts to those in desperate need. Georgene’s commitment to the Gift of Hope is unmatched. In the past 12 years that Fundatia Heart of Hope has been Medical Teams International's partner, there has not been a Gift of Hope team that Georgene has not either provided gifts or come herself. MANY of the children recognize her the moment she walks through the door. They know that someone dear has traveled half way around the world to provide a Christmas gift just for them….even heart surgery didn’t stop her from being at every distribution this year!
- The team ended the week by providing a Christmas party for the young women at the Home of Hope Transition Home for Young Women. You will find in one of the pictures the team and 7 young women residents and 6 of the graduates. The team enjoyed visiting with and getting to know these extraordinary young women who have come from difficult circumstances and are now preparing for their futures.
If you wonder if there was anywhere in the world this week where the love of Christ was demonstrated, where suffering was eased and where hope and joy flourished, your 2009 Romania Gift of Hope team can provide you with hundreds of examples in the more than 1,800 children, staff, and families reached this week.
Thank you for partnering with us to bring hope and joy to those in need!
President, Fundatia Heart of Hope
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