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.

"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)