Early this year, we told you about our four-step plan to make a lasting impact on Romania by building an “orphan care culture.”
But before we can build something new, we have to shore up the foundation—literally. Back in 1998, our first project as an organization was constructing an orphanage building in Oradea, Romania. This building (called Hope House) was completed in 2000, and it’s been the headquarters of our Romanian ministry ever since. But that ministry looks different today than it did 15 years ago—and so does the building.
Hope House in the early days, full of kids!
In the early days, we had 16 children living at Hope House at any given time, while we worked to find them families. Today, we’re working on more children’s cases than ever before (36 as of this writing). But rather than living at Hope House itself, our children all live with their soon-to-be families. This arrangement became necessary due to changes in Romanian law, but it’s also an overall better environment for the children. Although Hope House was a beautiful and well-run children’s home, a loving family is always superior to an institution.
So what happened to the Hope House building? Well, it’s still in use as an office for our staff. But to be perfectly blunt, it’s seen better days. After years of hard wear as a home for abandoned children, Hope House is in dire need of both renovation and refurbishing as a real headquarters for our expanding ministry.
Hope House today is showing its wear and needs to be refurbished for a new purpose.
For years, we’ve been praying that God would supply the funds needed to renovate Hope House. A refurbished headquarters would allow us to hold counseling sessions on-site; host training workshops for parents (like the recent one featured here on our Facebook); and supply office space and equipment for additional staff as the ministry grows.
Recently, God answered our prayers in a clear and humbling way. On June 18, our board was scheduled to meet by phone conference to discuss the increasingly-urgent renovation need. Just as the meeting was set to begin, an unexpected text message came through to a board member’s phone from an anonymous donor, pledging a $35,000 matching gift for our annual July fundraiser. This generous donor promised to match every dollar we raise in regular giving during July, up to $35,000. If the entire goal is reached, the matching gift will be just the amount needed to fully fund the renovation. (Needless to say, our scheduled board meeting became a time of prayer and praise instead!)
This pledge means that our July Giving Challenge has added significance this year. Every dollar you give this July will serve a double purpose: first funding our regular work, and second securing a gift to renovate our ministry headquarters. You could think of it as a way to impact Romania both now (through the life of a child) and in the future (through the building from which we hope to launch an orphan care movement.)
But we’ll need some help to get there. In past years, our July goal has always been $20,000. We’ve occasionally overshot that goal by a little, but $35,000 is by far our highest July goal to date. This is a big goal, but we serve a big God—a God who sees the sparrows and certainly cares for the many Romanian children still waiting for families.
So if God is leading you to help this July, there are quite a few ways you could get involved:
1. Our “Summer Sales” effort is a fun way to get your family and community in on fundraising.
2. If you live in the greater DC area, our benefit concert on July 17 is another great opportunity.
3. Of course, the simplest way is just to give a donation of any amount. Remember, every gift this month will be doubled by a matching gift donor—and, we trust, multiplied even further by our gracious and mighty God. To Him be the glory!
Editor’s Note: In recent years, Americans have become increasingly aware of the heinous reality of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. What many do not know is that this important issue is often linked to the plight of orphaned and abandoned children, who are significantly more vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.
The following article was written by Caleb Loomis, a Government major at Patrick Henry College with a concentration in International Politics and Policy. Last summer, Caleb served as an intern at Romania Reborn. We’re grateful for the many hours he invested in our ministry, including researching the connection between child abandonment and human trafficking. For more in-depth reading, source documents are linked.
Romanian children are surfacing throughout Europe as beggars, thieves, and prostitutes. The Romanian mafia (and other international criminal groups) recruit these children from the streets and proceed to exploit them for maximum profit.
The Roma ethnic population—often referred to as “gypsies”—are among Romania’s most vulnerable. Living on the streets, Romani children are an easy target for criminal networks. Uncared for by their birth parents, these children are left to protect themselves.
In 2001 Romania suspended international adoption, eventually banning it in 2004. Romani children are adversely impacted, because most Romanian families will not consider adopting a child of Romani background. The Roma are subject to acute discrimination, although the majority of abandoned children are Romani.
Child abandonment is so common that 70,000 Romania children are growing up in an institution, rather than a home. The lucky ones are abandoned at hospitals, where they may be adopted as infants. Once institutionalized, their chances of finding a family quickly fade.
Corina Caba, founder of Hope House Family Center in Oradea, believes that there is no substitute for a functional family. Children need the love and safety of a home. Romanian youth who have been denied a family—whether due to bereavement or abandonment—deserve to have a home. Caba is passionate about finding a permanent, caring family for every displaced child within her influence.
When interviewed, Caba expressed her concern over the sale and purchase of children. Some parents “rent” their babies to the Romanian mafia. The infants are drugged into passivity and used by professional beggars to conjure greater sympathy and donations. Caba also purports that Romanian children are smuggled abroad to beg for money.
Caba concedes that she is overwhelmed. The task of finding a home for Romanian youth is more than social services can handle, let alone one non-governmental organization (NGO). She pleads for Christians everywhere to pray. If only two families from every Romanian church extended their home to a child, the Romanian orphan crisis would subside.
Most of these children are not technically orphans, however. They have parents. In order to be eligible for adoption, social workers must find all of a child’s living relatives, and all must express a desire to have no relationship with the child. In the case of an abandoned child, this is no simple task. Consequently, less than 3% of children in Romania’s care are eligible for adoption.
Once the children turn two years old, they are transferred to state residence where children are seldom adopted. At age 18, they graduate from state residences and are afforded no national assistance. Poorly equipped to enter a competitive workforce, graduates will be forced to take unusual risks to survive. They are ripe for criminal exploitation.
Due to its geographical position between the East and the West, Romania acts as a gateway to Europe. The European Commission purports that Romanian children are smuggled into Italy, Spain, and Germany—where they are forced by their handlers to steal, beg, and prostitute themselves.
The US identifies Romania as a major supplier of forced labor in the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report. The report not only highlights Romania’s failure to assist exploited children, but notes a distressing trend: “The prevalence of children in the victim population increased from 319 [in 2011] to 370 in 2012.” The report also includes this chilling finding: “Traffickers who recruit and exploit Romanian citizens are overwhelmingly Romanian themselves, typically seeking victims from the same ethnic group or within their own families.” (Emphasis added.)
The U.S. Embassy in Romania notes similar trends. Officials report that criminal groups have become increasingly sophisticated. Law enforcement is encountering new patterns, as Romanian children are being moved in greater numbers to more locations.
Since Romania’s admission to the EU in 2007, smuggling minors internationally has become easier. Border regulations have been reduced, making the illicit transport of human cargo possible. Bribery and the use of fake ID’s at the border is not uncommon or unsuccessful. Moreover, specialized law enforcement has all but vanished. As of 2009, the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons was defunded. Consequently, Romania’s children are being exploited in growing numbers.
David Batstone, co-founder of Not for Sale (an international anti-slavery group), reported to CNN that: “By and large, local police turn a blind eye to these crimes and social services for the victims are practically nonexistent.” While Romania officially prohibits the transportation of individuals for purposes of forced labor (Law No. 678/2001), it has poorly enforced this standard.
Aftercare programs, designed to re-integrate victims into society, are also underfunded. No government grants are allocated to NGOs. Privately-funded NGOs are still able to effectively serve victim populations, however. Not for Sale runs an extensive rehabilitation program without government grants. Similarly, Hope House is able to shelter abandoned children—while trying to place them in a permanent family—because of magnanimous donors through the U.S. nonprofit Romania Reborn. But NGOs like Not for Sale and Hope House are the anomaly.
Batstone concludes, “Whenever the poor and vulnerable do not have access to legal justice, they will be exploited.” Until Romania expedites its adoption laws and facilitates strong aftercare programs, Romanian youth will be exposed to unnecessary risks.
Click here to help a child escape abandonment and find a forever family!
On Friday, January 31st, Christian musicians Jenny & Tyler will play a benefit show for us in Purcellville, VA. Here’s why you should buy tickets right now for this show:
1. It helps abandoned kids.
Your ticket purchase will help our ministry save kids from abandonment and place them where they belong: in families. Watch our Romanian director tell one child’s story below. Don’t you want to help write more stories like this?
2. It’s affordable.
Seriously, $12 for a concert ticket (and even less for your kids) is a great deal. Most big-name Christian concerts will cost you around $50 a head. This will be smaller, yes . . . but isn’t that good? You can sit closer.
3. It’s freezing outside.
And we know you’ve got cabin fever after two weeks of this:
4. It’s local.
It’s in Purcellville, people! No driving on the toll road, no crazy commuter traffic . . . just a hop, skip, and a jump to good old Purcellville, home to Patrick Henry College and Nichol’s Hardware Store.
5. Mac Powell of Third Day likes Jenny and Tyler. You will too!
Here’s Mac lending his back-up vocals to one of their songs:
6. Take your kids out and grow their faith.
An outing to a Christian concert? You could spend your family time much worse.
7. Not a bad place to bring your non-Christian friends, either.
Buy them a ticket. Let them hear about Jesus in a low-pressure environment with some quality music in their ears, a good friend at their side, and a cup of coffee in their hands.
8. Married couples who sing together are adorable.
I rest my case:
9. That’s a mandolin.
And mandolin music is real music. Maybe this should have been reason #1.
10. These kids will thank you.
And remember: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.” – Jesus
So what are you waiting for?
We could quantify 2013 in terms of numbers. But numbers only sketch the bare outline of what God did this year.
For “Damon” (pictured), 2013 is the year the whole world changed. It’s the year he left behind a legacy of brokenness and rejection, entering a forever family who loves him to the moon and back. His life and future will be forever different because of what God did (through you, our supporters) this year.
As we look toward the New Year, we have a dual sense of heaviness and hope.
Our hearts are heavy for the seven children, all under age two, whom we’ve been working to place all December without success. Many of these children are currently living in an inadequate emergency shelter. Our hearts are heavy for the 7-year-old boy who approached Corina when she last visited this shelter, asking, “Can you help me find a family too?”
But despite all this, we’re hopeful. We have hope when we remember Damon and hundreds of others who, like him, have found families. We have hope when we remember our work with a small coalition of Christian NGOs, whose efforts to spark an “orphan care revival” in the Romanian church made good progress this year. We’re especially hopeful as we look forward to the first-of-its-kind Christian orphan care conference in Romania, scheduled to take place this fall.
Most of all, we have hope in the character of our sovereign and loving God, who “sets the lonely in families.”
We wish you a very happy New Year. We look forward to all God will do in Romania (through you?) in 2014.
- Jayme Metzgar, RR President
On November 3, Christians around the world will stand for the orphan. Through prayer, sermons, and events, God’s call to care for the orphan will be heard by thousands. No matter where you are, you can join us through prayer. Download our list of specific prayer requests by clicking the link below.
Romania Reborn Orphan Sunday Prayer List (PDF format)
You can also learn more about the needs of orphans around the world by visiting the Christian Alliance for Orphans website.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
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