What do you want to be when you grow up?
Ask any kid around you and you might get answers fueled by imagination and hope. I queried my grandkids and co-workers’ kids the other day and got some innovative aspirations: “a professional baseball player, an animal scientist” and one kid replied, ”the President, a farmer, a vet AND a famous painter”. We all likely had our own wish list as kids. It seems like such a natural thing to hope and dream of what life will be like when we grow up. But for so many of the children served by Missio Link International, poverty, dysfunctional families and damaged communities have left them unable to enter into this kind of anticipation. Their futures would be bleak if it were not for the outpouring of God’s love through the hands and hearts of the staff and volunteers of Missio Link International (MLI). Read on in this edition of The LINK to catch a glimpse of the incredible stories of kids (and adults!) growing up and being transformed by MLI’s Children at Risk ministries.
MLI’s rich history of helping children started back in the early 90’s in the wake of political upheaval and inadequate social services, when thousands of abandoned or displaced children were put in state-run orphanages. One such orphanage was Recas (pronounced Ray-cosh), located not far from Timisoara. By God’s grace, MLI’s Doru Racoviceanu gained the approval and trust of the authorities who gave him, along with his wife Rodica, access to the children to bring them extra food, to sing with them, to hug them, and even to cut their hair! For many of the children, this was their first exposure to hearing about a loving God who knew them and cared
for them personally.
Fast forward 30 years and you’ll see that MLI continues to be involved in bringing hope and change to children’s lives in that place. Recas orphanage has since transitioned into a public school and the current administration heartily embraces the ongoing work of MLI’s Back to School ministry at Recas School, providing encouragement and resources to help the students remain in school and gain a life-changing education.
This past December, Bethel Baptist Church in Timisoara hosted an evening of celebration to honor the work of Doru & Rodica, and to give thanks to God! In attendance were the current principal of Recas School, friends and family of MLI and many of the children who were at Recas Orphanage over 30 years ago.
“I am very thankful for all you’ve done for Recaș Orphanage children over the last 32 years.
I am one of those children that you found there in the early ‘90s. I can say that Doru and Rodica were godparents for all of us and today, we come here to say thank you!”
— Mile Novacovici
One of the first children from Recas Orphanage served by MLI. He now has a family, works for Timisoara City Transportation Co, and sings in the Timisoara Orthodox Cathedral Choir
When Lavinia was only 6 weeks old, she and her 2 older siblings had to be removed from their parents’ care. She spent the next 12 years in a foster home where she was well cared for, blossoming as she studied the piano and painting. Meanwhile, her birth parents went on to have 5 other children. Eventually, Lavinia was sent back for short visits on holidays or summer vacation in the hopes that she could build relationships with her “new” brothers and sisters. However, after a visit in the summer of 2014, Lavinia became unrecognizable. The bright and creative little girl suddenly became aggressive, uncooperative and refused to go to school. It became clear that something had happened to her during the visit but she refused to talk about it. In September of that year, Child Protective Services deemed that Lavinia needed the specialized help that only MLI could provide, and Lavinia was transferred to MLI’s Deborah House.
Those early days at Deborah House were difficult for everyone. In the words of Lorena Rusovan, MLI’s executive director, “Even though the decision was in her best interest, separating her from her siblings was painful for Lavinia. This was a second trauma that she tried to hide, and it led to depression and anger. The hours of her therapy were filled with silence and sometimes tears. Her therapist at Deborah House could only try to imagine her struggles and pray. Although Lavinia was physically present at the activities of the house, she did not get involved in anything she had previously enjoyed, and she withdrew as soon as the activity was over.”
Sometimes change comes slowly, and from unexpected places, as it did for Lavinia. Even when 2 more of her siblings were brought to Deborah House, Lavinia persisted in her self-imposed isolation. But through the next two years of patient love and acceptance from her house parents, gentle and insightful counseling from her therapist and an unexpected but trustworthy friendship with Christina, one of the houseparents’ own daughters, Lavinia’s heart and personality began to open, allowing her to safely enter into family life at Deborah House and embrace the healing and transformation that Christ had been crafting all along.
These days you can find Lavinia and Christina studying hard in preparation for their high school graduations this summer. You’ll also find Lavinia absorbed in her training as a manicurist, her plan to help provide for herself as she pursues her dream of becoming a physiotherapist. She is looking forward to moving to the Aspirations apartment this summer, but revels in her current role as one of the “oldest” girls at Deborah House, protecting the younger girls and encouraging them in their own stories of growth and change.
Theo was a young man incarcerated in the Juvenile Re-education Center in Buzias when he was befriended by MLI’s Harmony staff and volunteers, who help bring encouragement and the Good News about God’s love to the young offenders. Read in Theo’s own words how God met him during that difficult time.
“Although I was sentenced 12 months, I was released after 7 months and 5 days, a miracle for someone with my crime and conviction. I put all my faith in Jesus Christ and I was protected by Him throughout that difficult time. I must admit that all this experience made me get closer to God. Psalm 46 was the scripture that helped me keep my calm during all this time.” — Theo, previous inmate at Buzias
Once back home, both his pastor and his Harmony mentor continued to support Theo. Read what they have to say about Theo’s new life after he was released.
“After liberation, Theo returned to his hometown where he is attending church and is involved in village ministries. We are happy to see Theo`s grandmother attending our church services and we pray for her salvation. Theo started school and has very good grades. I have to admit that I’m very impressed by Theo and that after all he’s been through he chose to stay near God, and not turn away from Him. ” — Alin Gîrlea, pastor in Drobeta — Turnu Severin
“Serving the young offenders from Buziaș Re-education Center for Minors brings only advantages for eveyone. The young men have the chance to hear about Jesus, many of them for the first time. The mentors’ positive examples can encourage the young men in how to interact with the prison employees. And lastly, for us mentors, serving young offenders helps us stay close to God ourselves.
— Ștefan Moțec, attorney and Harmony mentor
A Word from MI Knoxville
Pulling together the theme and stories of this edition of the LINK was both exciting and surprising. I knew that I would be encouraged to discover the fresh stories of God at work in the lives of so many of the boys and girls that MLI serves in their Children at Risk ministries. What I did not expect was to be able to see so deeply into an individual life; like Mile’s, like Lavinia’s and like Theo’s. Revealed in each life was a stunning change of trajectory brought about by the deep and persistent love of God for all of His people. I am challenged and encouraged to know that lives are being transformed daily and that God’s Kingdom is being planted in the hearts and lives in this new generation of Romanians.
Thank you for sharing in this work with us.
Lauren Woodhull Clevenger Executive Team MI Knoxville
Q & A with MLI friends:
Rodica Racoviceanu: Children at Risk ministries
Vio & Adriana Crenicean: Houseparents at Deborah House 2
How long have you been involved with the work of MLI?
Rodica: Alongside my husband Doru, I started serving with children and youth in orphanages in the early ’90s. We went to the Recaș Orphanage, then to the Lugoj Girls’ Orphanage where we met 250 girls. Later, in 2004, we started to serve the young offenders from the Buzias Re-education Center for Minors.
How have you been changed by your work with MLI and the children you have served?
My life has been completely changed. To be able to teach the children about God, I had to study the scripture more and more. And our lives were changed by the many people that prayed for the children we worked with and for our own family, too..
How has your family been impacted by your work at MLI?
Since our girls were very young when we first considered working with MLI, we prayed to God and spoke to our parents. I remember my mother-in-law told me, “All we will do in the name of Jesus Christ in this world will last forever.” We saw from the beginning how God blessed our family. Because our girls loved music we involved them with our ministry, and they used to sing with the children. We wanted to show the children what a real family looks like. We were very surprised to hear from the caretakers that after we would leave the orphanage, the children would play a game they called “Racoviceanu Family” and they would pretend they were us as a way to keep us close.
How long have you been involved in the work of MLI?
We came to MLI in 2008, to serve as houseparents at Deborah House, almost 15 years ago.
How have you been changed because of your work with MLI and the children you
help care for?
Adriana: During all this time at Deborah House we must say that we had a lot of challenges. Sometimes we wondered why God brought us to Deborah House and why He didn’t seem to save us from those situations that made our faith falter.
Being Christians and always surrounded by God’s children, and having no experience as parents, (our daughter Christina was only 3 years old, Naomi was one, and Amalia wasn’t even born yet when we started) we always wondered what we can do for these teenagers at Deborah House with such a sad past. My faith began growing day by day, and finally I understood that Jesus can change people like the girls living at Deborah House even through us, who I considered “unimportant people”.
Vio: In all these years there were some situations we didn’t have an answer to or a solution. Prayer was the only weapon we had. I remember sometimes we were with the team and we said, “There is no solution but praying.” And after we pray, God brings us peace and then He brings us a resolution. All we have always had was prayer.
What's Coming Up....
- Children at Risk Prayer Journey: April 2023
- Blue Ridge Parkway Ride for Romanian Kids: May 2023
- Alpinis Leadership Center Celebration: June 2023
- First Baptist Church Clinton Mission Trip: June 2023
- Mount Bethel Church Atlanta Mission Trip: July 2023