This story appears in our Summer 2016 Tidings of Hope newsletter. For a free subscription, click here and fill out the form.
At a time when much of the world is crumbling, Alex Ilie is working to build something new: an orphan care movement in post-communist Romania. As the executive director of the Romania Without Orphans Alliance (RWO), Alex wants to see his homeland become “a country where kids are cared for in families, and where every single child spends as little time in the system as possible.”
Alex and his wife, Nati, know a little something about the importance of a family in the life of an abandoned child: they are the parents of four children adopted through our ministry. Alex and Nati adopted their older children, seven-year-old twins, in 2009. Their younger children joined the family two years later, at the ages of 3 and 4.
But it turned out that adopting four children was just the beginning of the Ilies’ orphan care journey. Before long, the couple found themselves recruiting other adoptive families within their church and home village. More than one of our our adoption stories came about because Alex or Nati made a phone call and found a family for a child in need.
In 2014, when it came time to for our newly-founded Romania Without Orphans board to plan its first conference, Alex Ilie’s name came up as a potential speaker. We knew that his biblical view of adoption, along with his personal experience as an adoptive parent, would be invaluable. What we didn’t know is how God would use that speaking engagement to direct Alex’s own life.
“I discovered that the need is much bigger than I could imagine,” Alex remembers of that first conference. “I remember speaking with [Romania Reborn’s] Christian Feavel about some of the things that RWO plans to do in Romania—I was speaking about helping offer support and training to caregivers.” But the RWO board had bigger plans in mind for Alex, and they soon asked him to consider the executive director position. “It was the most logical step for what God wants me to do with my life,” he recalls.
The Movement Grows
In March 2015, Alex began working for RWO full time. Today, the movement is gathering steam: expanding its outreach to families, picking up new partners and staff, and even beginning to forge a working relationship with the Romanian government.
In fact, one of the projects Alex is overseeing came about at the invitation of the child protection department in Bucharest. They’ve asked RWO to put together a publicity campaign called “Get to Know the Children Behind the Statistics,” to air on TV and in showings throughout Romania. The showings will be accompanied by panel discussions on adoption, facilitated by RWO. This is an excellent opportunity not only to promote adoption, but also to show the government that private charities can be good allies in helping children thrive.
RWO has also strengthened its lobbying efforts, working for reforms in the adoption and child welfare laws. Liviu Mihaileanu, an adoptive parent and NGO head based in Bucharest, recently joined the group as coordinator for lobbying and advocacy. While a new law made some needed changes this year,
RWO hopes to see even more movement in the future: streamlining the process to make children adoptable, allowing for private adoptions, and re-opening well-regulated international adoption.
The Church is Key
But Alex Ilie, and other movement leaders, don’t look to the government as the ultimate answer for abandoned children. Instead, they see the Christian church as central to an orphan care revival. Alex says he is working for a day when “Christians are known for being those who care for orphans, and adoption is so natural for them like prayer.”
To that end, RWO recently launched a project called “Romania 1:27,” named for the well-known verse on “true religion” in the book of James. The goal of Romania 1:27 is to challenge and equip local churches to care for the orphans in their communities. A pastor’s meeting this spring was a first step. “We spoke with hundreds of church leaders, and many of them reacted very well,” Alex says. “They confirmed that it is time for Romanian Christians to live the Gospel by adopting and caring for vulnerable children.” A more in-depth pastor’s conference is planned for this fall, should God provide the needed funds.
Another Gospel-centered aspect of RWO’s work is its trauma training for adoptive and foster parents. In a country with very few resources or support networks for caregivers, RWO is sending trained instructors to ten cities. There, they will put on “trauma training workshops” for parents, using curriculum developed by Christian therapists.
Alex says similar workshops have already been impacting people’s lives. “When I visit churches and speak, people come up to me and tell me, ‘Alex, we were praying about this, and RWO is God’s answer to our prayers. We decided to adopt a child.’ Or, ‘We adopted a few years ago, and we were so lonely in that, to the point that we even were not sure if it was the right thing to do. But now we have the confirmation we need.’
“So,” Alex concludes, “when I see people from different spheres of society answering our message, I see God’s hand starting a movement in Romania.”
A Picture of the Gospel
And for Alex Ilie, God is central to the work of Romania Without Orphans. He speaks powerfully about how his own experience as an adoptive parent deepened his understanding of the Gospel.
“I would say that adoption saved me and not the other way around,” he says. “I do not know how that sounds, but the first thing that comes to my mind is how much my life became richer, deeper in the Lord. How profoundly I undertood His love and the way He loves me. I think this is the reason that everything else is nothing.
“I would say it is about living the Gospel,” he concludes. “God adopted me, and I am doing what I am doing inspired by Him and through His power.”
This July, our matching gift fundraiser will benefit Romania Without Orphans, helping with projects like the video campaign, lobbying, pastor conference, and trauma training.