by Ashlyn Gittman (the Summer Intern)
My first impression of Oradea was: Ew. I am not a city girl at heart, or by experience. I grew up in the suburbs of South Florida and often vacation in places even less populated, like the mountains of Georgia or the Florida Keys during off-season. The noise, even as late at night as I arrived, the smells, the general grime that covered the world around me was all unfamiliar and abrasive. Nevertheless, I was so excited. The first Romanian I met was my new roommate Geta. The first thing she did was take one of my bags and offer me food. And I can’t think of a single host I had in Romania who wasn’t equally as hospitable. And the more I travelled and took hikes, I saw true beauty existed outside the city, in the mountains and valleys and farmlands and more than anywhere else, in the people.
Over the summer I got to work with a bunch of the ministries in Oradea and the surrounding areas and I was just blown away by the hearts of the ministers over there. Both the Romanians and American missionaries were so dedicated and passionate in their fields and had such great relationships with the people they were serving. The network of believers is doing such a good work, and it’s so needed. It was a beautiful thing to see.
The system in Romania seems set up in such a way that the children who are orphaned don’t have much of a chance from the get-go. While in the states, a child would not remain in a hospital after being abandoned, in Romania it happens all the time. Young girls have babies that they can’t care for or don’t want, so they simply walk out. The mothers don’t lose rights at that point unless they sign them away, so the babies can’t be adopted. They are kept in the hospital for two years under the care of nurses before they’re transferred to the orphanage. The lucky ones get moved to foster or group homes, but the rest have to live with no family structure and insufficient individualized attention. The percentage that actually succeed in school and enter good careers is heartbreakingly small. Many of them have children at a very young age and the cycle continues.
The ministry for which I was interning is for these young mothers-to-be who find themselves unable to care for the babies they’re expecting. The majority of young girls who grow up in the orphanage have no knowledge of how to care for a child, how to care for their bodies during pregnancy or even how to live independently by themselves or to hold a job. Soar provides these young women with a place to stay, all their physical needs, a family environment, support and training to be independent and responsible in the future.
Working with this ministry team/family and their very first girl was an incredible, unforgettable experience. Watching her learn the basics of prenatal care, childcare and relearning basic schooling, cooking and other practical life skills was a blessing and a privilege. Helping her rock the baby to sleep, making her up for mommy and baby photos, finding little ways to communicate even with the language barrier. All these memories will stay with me and I hope they stay with her as well. Though she unfortunately chose to leave with her child, I believe that the love, encouragement and truth of God’s word that she received impacted her and we’re all praying that she turns her life around.
I fell in love with the Romanian people this summer. I hope I can return someday soon and see how much the kids have grown, how lives have changed and what exciting things God has accomplished. I’m so grateful for this experience and encouraged by the ministries over there. I have such a better idea now of what it means to be a missionary in another country and it’s so different than I expected. It’s just a Christian life in another world. It’s a sacrifice and it’s a lifestyle of faith and courage. I was amazed by these people who heard the call of God and responded with their whole hearts. I’m so happy to have worked alongside them and experienced a bit of their lives. I will be praying for their ministries every day.
1 Corinthians 3:17 “For the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”