Monday, May 16, 2011

Discipling Nations in the Classroom

After a long time of praying and thinking about how to further my education I decided to apply to become a teacher here in Romania. Through a very long process of gathering the right papers and documents I was accepted into a certificate program that will enable me to teach English to 1st through 10th graders here in Romania. My goal was to get some experience in the Romanian educational system, get some training in teaching, and to obtain some recognized accreditation for teaching here in Romania (which will be helpful for working with the children here).

For the practical phase of this course I have been doing classroom observations in one of the high schools here in Constanta and it has been a very good experience! I was disappointed not to be observing a primary school classroom but spending time at the high school has been so inspiring! I was so impressed by the ability and knowledge of many of the students and the values of the teacher who is mentoring me. I was reminded that high school is such an important time in a young person's life. They can be influenced for good or bad and there is such an opportunity to make a difference in their lives during this time. And good teachers have such a special opportunity to do this.

But the situation for schools and teachers in Romania is not an easy one. There is very little money available and if you are a teacher you are not making very much at all. So many struggle to make ends meet but still they are there day after day investing in young lives! I admire you teachers so much! Today I was with a friend of mine, Andreea, who is a teacher in a small city about an hour and a half from Constanta. Most of the students are coming from poorer families and the school doesn't seem to have very much in the way of resources either. They seem to have a good team of teachers, but still the challenges are there. Many of the students are not motivated to learn and I can see that they are in need of discipline, role models, and someone to listen to them and believe in them.

My friend is pouring out all that she can every day to share hope with these young people and to do whatever she can to motivate them to learn. They need more than just English but lessons about how to live. This is what we call "discipling nations". This is what Jesus commanded his disciples to do when he left the earth to go back to the Father. He said, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and to teaching them to do everything I have comanded." Jesus taught us how to live and the world so desperately needs to know. My friend loves the Lord and she loves her students. Every day she is doing her best to teach them what Jesus taught her and I am so impressed! But she is fighting an up hill battle and I want to ask you to pray for her, and for other teachers who are giving so much to the young people of Romania. They need our support and encouragement and wisdom from God. Many people long to see the educational system changed here in Romania and I am praying that God's people will be a part of this.

We can also pray for this next generation that is growing up with all kinds of negative influences. Pray that each one of us will be a support and model for the young people around us and that they will be raised up to make a difference in this world! May they come to know their Father God, through Jesus, and His purpose for their lives and then really live life as it was meant to be: Loving God and their neighbors as themselves. This will change society. This will change a nation!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A chance for life- A story about Ramona and her baby

Today was an incredible day. One that I never would have expected. Over 8 years ago when I was visiting Constanta for the first time and working with street children, I met a girl named Ramona. She came regularly to the soup kitchen ministry that YWAM organized weekly and she was a sweet little girl. The next time I visited Romania in 2004 I got to know Ramona and her sister better and learned more about the challenges they faced in their families and that dangers that surrounded them everyday at home and on the street. They were coming to YWAM's Day Center regularly but it was clear that they needed more care and a safe place to live. So the dream was born for a Girls Shelter that would offer these sweet girls a home and stability.

Unfortunately before the Girls Shelter was available, Ramona and her sister stopped coming to the Day Center and also left their home. For years they survived on and off the street and in abandoned buildings and centers for street children. Our street ministry continued to meet them on the street and kept up the relationships until they started coming to a Bible Study for the homeless. For a few more years Ramona was invested in, as a special group of young people who wanted to know God and see some changes in their lives.

About 4 months ago we found out that Ramona and her sister were both pregnant. Immediately we started working on their legal papers and got them to the doctor for a check up. There was a lot of excitement at first and then the girls stopped showing up for appointments. While I was in the States for the holidays I found out that Ramona had given birth at 7 and 1/2 months. Our YWAM staff went to visit her in the hospital and then I heard nothing more about her or the baby. Had she kept the baby or had she abandoned her?

When I got back to Romania at the beginning of the year we went to Ramona and she told us that she had left the baby at the hospital. The place she was staying it was not terrible but she didn't want to bring the baby there, with so many people staying there and coming in a out. They didn't have a kitchen or indoor plumbing. It was just a room of an abandoned building they had cleaned up and made into a home. In a way I could understand Ramona. But how could she just leave her baby?

We went to hospital to visit the baby and on our third visit we made it in to see her. The baby girl was precious, but so alone. She needed her mother. We tried to think of families that might want to adopt her, or solutions through foster parents, and we prayed. Then the most wonderful door opened. A family was willing to take Ramona and her baby on and help them get on their feet. When I heard about this, I have to admit, I was doubtful. Would Ramona even be open for this?

When we shared with Ramona the possibility of her having a place to staff with her baby she was so excited! I was shocked! (In a good way ;) ) So we had a meeting with the family and Ramona and her boyfriend, the father of the baby. They were all so pleased with the situation. Ramona would have a chance for a new life and her little baby would no longer be stuck, alone in the hospital.

Finally, today I went to hospital first to find out what was the process for a mother to declare her baby and take her home. I was sent to the social worker in charge of abandoned babies and I started to get a little nervous. What if they wouldn't let her pick up the baby??? Trust, Leah, trust. After talking with the social worker, I knew what we had to do. We returned to the hospital a couple hours later with a very excited mother and father.

The social worker was waiting for us and gave us the go ahead. We headed to the room where the baby was and then began the one of the greatest moments of my time here in Romania. Ramona was so excited to see the baby. It had been two months since she gave birth and she had forgotten what the baby looked like. Both her and the father were all smiles at the sight of their precious baby. And it seemed to me that the baby knew exactly who these two people were. I just can't express the incredible feeling that I had, just seeing this baby, once abandoned, back in the arms of her parents. And the joy that was on Ramona's face was overwhelming. Mother and daughter were together again. It was just the way it should be.

My base leader said I was flying after our time in the hospital. And it was true. I had always wanted to adopt and everything about taking in a child without a family, touches my heart so much. But today, seeing this sweet baby girl back with her mother, who was so overjoyed to have her back, was a brand new feeling. It was redemption! Lives being given back and a chance for a new future. It was amazing...

And now comes the hard part. Ramona is now with the family and is already having a hard time. The house is beautiful. She has everything she needs. But everything she knows is not there and she wants to go back. So I ask you to pray. To pray for her to have the strength to stay and be the mother that she is called to be. Pray that the family will have the wisdom to know how to help her adjust. And pray that both mother and baby will adjust into this brand new life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

YWAM Romania National Conference

In September our base hosted YWAM Romania’s National Conference. I now have a whole new appreciation for those who organize conferences and events! J But it was really wonderful to serve YWAM Romania staff and to have these days together here in Constanta. We had a special time of sharing and saying goodbye to our very dear friend and National leader Beatrice Simion who died in August two weeks after a terrible car accident. It was a really emotional time but so good to share it together with so many who were impacted by her life.

The conference speaker was a man from Germany who encouraged us to embrace the “Jesus anointing” of Isaiah 61 and to continue to reach out to the broken and needy that Jesus loves so much and longs to restore. It was a great and very needed message to hear! We also had a time of prayer for new ministry initiatives. I was really encouraged to receive prayer for Kids Club and whatever God has in mind for the future with kids ministry.

These national event are always such a blessing and bring such a sense of family as we seek the Lord together. In October we will have a special prayer meeting to seek God for a national vision for YWAM Romania. I can't wait to see how God moves as He unites His people more and more...

Another blessing that came from having the conference in Constanta was having our friends from the cafe ministry join us. I could see that God used the speaker's words to confirm what He is doing in many of their lives. I am so glad they were able to be blessed in this way through the conference. Keep praying for God to raise up His people from Romania to go to the lost! They are truly called to be a light to the nations!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Please pray :)

"Ask of God, not deliverance from your pains, but strength to bear resolutely, for the love of Him, all that he should please, and as long as He shall please. Such prayers, indeed, are a little hard to nature, but most acceptable to God, and sweet to those that love Him. Love sweetens pains; and when one loves God, one... suffers for His sake with joy and courage."

I'm sorry I can't remember where I read this quote but I had it written down on a piece of paper and I wanted to share it. Please pray for this family we know that is still living on the streets. The Child Protection has done nothing and the baby is now sick. The weather is getting colder and we need to continue to pray for action- either that the mother will take the room the has been offered to her or that the Child Protection will place the children in foster families. Please, please pray for action. And for protection for the kids. Its been such a long time waiting for something to happen. There has been good news and possibilities for the older girls but for the small ones we continue to pray. Thank you!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

I like it! See the beauty all around!

These days I am learning about faithfulness and perseverance. There have been a lot of situations going on in my life and in ministry that just haven't come to final resolution and I am having to learn to live in the tension of "waiting". But as I wait on the Lord, I am finding that there are so many wonderful things to enjoy, and as I choose daily to see the beauty all around me, in all of the routine or the uncertainty, my perspective starts to change and life becomes much more lovely. I am also challenged to accept and learn to "like" the things that are frustrating for me. And the miracle of it all is that its not just positive thinking because I know that I have a God who does indeed work all things together for good, and uses trials and hard things to produce good fruit in my heart and life. Even in the unknown, even in the waiting times, He is working out His plan. So I need to learn to trust Him and enjoy the ride :)
Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, James 1:2-4

Beautiful picture of the old Casino here in Constanta (Photo by Michelle Pritzl)

Our beautiful Black Sea (Photo by Michelle Pritzl)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

YWAM Conferences in Timisoara, Romania

This April our whole base traveled about 14 hours across the beautiful country of Romania to attend two YWAM conferences in the famous city of Timisoara.  Timisoara was the birth place of the revolution in 1989 that resulted in the fall of Communism here in Romania.  It is a beautiful city, rich with culture and history.  
The first conference we attended was a training week called EQUIP, organized and run by Youth With A Mission's University of the Nations.  The goal of the week was to equip YWAM staff with the skills and spiritual direction to continue to bear fruit in all our ministries across Central Europe.  During the week I attended two training seminars: one on how to run a dynamic Discipleship Training School, and one on ministering to Children at Risk.  Both were very helpful for me, especially the one on Children at Risk as I have had no formal training in this area and yet I have been working with Children at Risk for 4 1/2 years now!  Better late than never I guess ;)

The overarching theme of EQUIP was "digging wells" which symbolized our need to seek God for new ways to minister here in Central Europe.  Many ministries have been started and stopped in the region for all kinds of reasons and we spent the week thinking and praying over these things and listening to the Lord for new direction.  It was an inspiring week for me but it didn't stop there. After EQUIP we had our second conference to celebrate YWAM's 50th anniversary!
I absolutely love YWAM gatherings!  They are the kind of meetings that make you want to stay in YWAM and in missions. Being together with other missionaries from around the region you realize that you aren't alone.  We are just a small part of something amazing that God is doing in the world and when we come together to seek Him this is so much more evident.  For me these gatherings are also like one big family reunion!  I am so blessed to have gotten to know so many people working with YWAM in our region and it is so encouraging to be able to spend time together once a year at these events.  
During the 50th Anniversary we were able to look back on the past 50 years of YWAM history. Al Akimoff, one the very first YWAM missionaries, shared stories about the passion for Jesus that YWAMers first had.  They weren't afraid to smuggle Bibles into closed countries, they spent time in jails, they loved the lost so much that they were ready to leave everything to share the Gospel with them.  Al also shared where many of our YWAM traditions came from, like living in community and where "Love Feasts" began.  For me these stories were sooo inspiring and for all of us, I think they challenged our hearts to go back to our First Love, Jesus, and fan into flame our passion for Him and for the lost.  It was so good!

We also had some powerful times of worship and celebration, thanking the Lord for all He has done in our lives and in our mission for the past 50 years. This whole year is our Jubilee year! Let's celebrate!!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kids Club Praise!

Praise the Lord, oh my soul and all that is with in me praise His holy name! His greatness no one can fathom!

Kids Club last summer
This update is a testimony to God's faithfulness. I have been reaching out with YWAM teams in a poor neighborhood here in Constanta for about three years. We went there a few times every summer to share with the kids Bible stories, songs, games and crafts. It was clear that the Lord had given us an open door to reaching out to these kids that had few adults investing in them and even fewer Christians. When the Discipleship Training School started last summer I asked if I could invite some of the students to join me every week for Kids Club in this neighborhood. This was the first time we went regularly and I ended up being joined by 5-7 students every week! The students loved the kids so much and God used them to get Kid Club going in a wonderful way.

What to do next without a team???
After the DTS I wanted to continue the kids club but was a little concerned on who would be coming with me. All our wonderful students had gone home and I wasn't sure how to go on from there. I had a couple from YWAM Norway pray for me and they asked specifically that the Lord would provide two or three people with whom I could form a team and together we would be able to work together to reach out to this neighborhood. Well to be honest, I appreciated the prayer but didn't have too much expectation of how God would answer their prayers. All glory to God because He, in His faithfulness had something wonderful in mind!

God provides!!!
I can't remember but it could have been the next week that a couple from another YWAM base here in Romania came to our base to visit. They had been out of the country and were seeking God for what to do next. They have been trained by YWAM for kids ministry and worked with gyspy kids in Sighisoara for years. After their first visit to Kids Club they could see immediately what we were lacking and how we could improve the club and said that they would be willing to help me! Without any delay, the Lord has done exactly as we prayed, two more people to form a team with! They will be here for three months- enough time to lay a strong foundation for the ministry and for me to learn all I can from them. God is faithful!

Tony and Ionela
The couple's name is Tony and Ionela. They are a wonderful blessing to work with and to have as a new addition for our YWAM community. They are also helping with the other children's ministries at the base as well as serving practically in different areas! God is faithful! Not only are Tony and Ionela on the kids club team but we have also been joined by one of the DTS students who is from Constanta, George, and three other friends from Constanta, Irina, Ticu and Rebecca! The Lord provided even more than two or three but five! And others are willing to come and join us too from time to time!

A room to meet in
Another praise is that we have gone to the school where we hold Kids Club in the court yard and spoken with the director about using one of their rooms to meet in during the colder months. He was very open, saying that if it was for the kids then we had to do it! This Tuesday we will go to speak with him more and present an official request from YWAM. Pray for our meeting with him to go well and that we will indeed receive a room where we can hold the club. Since January we have continued to hold the club outside which has many challenges!

Connected with one of the teachers
I was also so excited when I found out that three of the kids that come to club are in the class of another Christian girl whom I know from Campus Crusade. Two of these children we have been praying for specifically because of their difficult behavior. It is no accident that our friend is their teacher and that we are reaching out to them at the same time. I believe that God is setting up something wonderful for their lives and I am so encouraged to see God's sovereign hand bringing it all together!

Pray with us!!!
Please join us in prayer for the lives of these little ones to be touched and changed. Pray that they will come to know Jesus and to become lights in their families. And pray for our team to know how to show Jesus to them through our words, actions and prayers.

Thanks so much for reading!!!
"All that is not the love of God has no meaning for me. I can truthfully say that I have no interest in anything but the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. If God wants it to, my life will be useful through my word and witness. If He wants it to, my life will bear fruit through my prayers and sacrifices. But the usefulness of my life is His concern, not mine. It would be indecent of me to worry about that."
- Dominique Voillaume
(From "The Signature of Jesus" by Brennan Manning)