Children and Youth at Risk- CAR Edition
Webster’s Dictionary defines LONELY as being without company, being cut off from others and even attributes the feelings of bleakness or desolation to that state. Certainly the whole globe has encountered loneliness in new ways this past year, and it is especially pronounced in the lives of the children and youth that are cared for through MLI’s Back to School and Harmony ministries.
Our Romanian ministry partner, Missio Link International, works daily to combat a devastating cycle of broken families, poverty and hopelessness that entrap so many of the children found living in 6 small villages surrounding Timisoara, Romania. Through the Back to School ministry, Doru & Rodica Racovicean along with their team, have reached over 297 children through a local school. They have offered educational instruction, exposure to music and even been able to help meet the practical needs of providing basic food, hygiene items and school supplies. And perhaps most significantly, the Back to School ministry team have been living examples of the unconditional love and hope that Christ offers to us all.
Understandably, this work has been hampered by the mandatory shutting down of all schools during the pandemic. Can you imagine being 8 years old and discover that the one place where you felt safe and warm, where you could count on a daily meal, where adults treated you with compassion and respect, was suddenly closed and you were left to make your own way once again? But fueled by compassion and a desire to continue in their calling, Doru and his team have been creatively persevering to continue to serve those in need. On any given day, it might look like actual “roadside tutoring” in the place of “online learning”. It might look like volunteers gathering in a church parking lot to make food bundles to be distributed to the childrens’ homes. And it might look like countless hours on the road taking the Hope of the Gospel out to individual villages, embodied in a word of encouragement and a smile of genuine friendship. Doing anything to help these children know that they are not alone.
Several counties away, at the Buzias Educational Center, Doru and a team of volunteers also serve 240 youth between the ages of 14-22 who are incarcerated for crimes committed as minors. Many of the young offenders are themselves victims of exploitation and neglect, making poor choices with devastating consequences. Up until the enforced quarantine of this past year, through the ministry of Harmony, Doru and his team were allowed to enter through the prison gates to bring music, Biblical instruction and mentoring friendships to the youth living there. Lives have been redirected and forever changed by God’s grace and the work of Harmony. Even the government officials have applauded the decreased recidivism noted after Doru came to serve. Even now, though severely restricted by the prolonged quarantine, and by God’s ongoing grace, Doru has managed to continue to show up in the lives of those living in Buzias with presents at Christmas, weekly Bible verses to share and occasional snacks to help the young offenders know they are not forgotten in this time of crisis.
Erika, the Communications Specialist for MLI, speaks the truth plainly and beautifully. “Being a vulnerable at-risk child in Romania is incomparably more difficult since the pandemic started. However, we did not give up on them. We are still here, still providing, still looking for solutions, and it is a blessing to know we are not doing this alone- we could not do it alone- but together with you, dear friends, guided and protected by our Lord.”
Megan’s Story at Deborah House
I first connected with MLI at the age of 2, when my dad visited Romania. I grew up hearing stories, seeing pictures, and meeting Romanian friends when visiting–I was eager to visit this country my family loved. When I was 12, my dad took me for the first time. There were nervous tears leaving the States, but by the end of the trip there were tears because I did not want to leave! I fell in love with the culture, the ministry of MLI, and the beautiful girls of Deborah House (DH). I quickly felt like their sister, being close in age to many of the girls. When I returned home, I wanted to do something. I began selling hand-crafted items, sending all proceeds to DH, this continued until college. I have had the privilege of visiting a total of 5 times, always with a focus of spending time with the girls at DH. My most recent trip was 2017 when I lived there as their summer intern. I spent my days loving on the girls through sports, activities and teaching life skills. During that trip, I felt a deeper stirring to be involved in Romania. At that time, I was not sure where that call would lead. But in 2019, I was asked to join the MI Board of Directors. Though I am unable to have boots on the ground 24/7, I love being part of a Board who is invested in the long and short-term success of the ministry. In 2020, I prepared to lead my first team from my church, FBC Clinton. Due to COVID-19, our trip was postponed. My hope and prayer is that I will be able to bring a team this year, to share my love for DH and the many ministries of MLI with my home church.
CAR at a glance
CAR stands for MLI’s Children and Youth At Risk ministries that include:
- Back to School- helping marginalized children stay in school
- Harmony- Outreach to incarcerated & disadvantaged kids via teaching/music
- Deborah House: Residential program for abused girls providing rescue and healing
- Aspirations: Transition housing and support for young adults leaving DH
A Word from MI Knoxville
One of the most compelling hallmarks of the MLI ministries housed under “CAR” is their ingenious and shared focus of providing day-to-day, practical help coupled with a desire to foster deep and holistic healing for some of Romania’s most vulnerable children. From supporting devastated families and helping their children stay in school, to rescuing abused and traumatized girls and giving them safe haven and the tools to break free of their past, to gaining access to children who have been locked away in the judicial system and bringing them the Good News of the possibility of change, MLI has compassionately and strategically addressed needs and diligently worked to expand the Kingdom of God. Even now, in the setting of our global pandemic, the MLI team members are thinking and working creatively to keep the mission alive and are still changing the world one precious child at a time. What a beautiful picture of God’s unchanging plan of love and restoration for His people! Please join me in offering prayers and support for MLI’s work in Romania.