Saturday, September 26, 2009

It Takes a Family

A family has the unique ability to transform a life. Mariana Neagui believes this not because she's seen it happen, but because it has happened to her.

She was three when RCE intervened into her abusive situation and placed her in an adoptive family. Since her arrival in her "real family" (as she calls it), Mariana has experienced the love and affection every child needs to function and develop properly.

"My new parents -- they spoil me. And when they saw me for the first time, they just fell in love from the first second."

Mariana says the love she has experienced in her new family has resulted in her heart overflowing with love for children in need.

"I always want to work for children. I want to adopt a lot of children -- this is my plan. God put in my heart a big, big love."

And so she has returned to RCE to give back some of the love that was shown her. Now 18, Mariana has participated for the past two summers as an intern in the Darius Houses, caring for the children's developmental needs and helping with daily routines.

That's good enough in itself, right? RCE helps a child, and the child returns as an adult to help further the work of the ministry. But Mariana's work at RCE has also led to some of the most exciting news of the summer.

Two weeks before I left Romania, three-year-old Florinel left the Darius Houses to go home permanently with a family -- and all because of Mariana's influence. Florinel has cerebral palsy and will require several expensive surgeries and intensive therapy to walk on his own. Still, his new family has welcomed him and is prepared to sacrifice to meet his special needs.

Mariana said encouraging the Roxins to take Florinel home was simple.

“Take this baby home and just see how he really is,” she said. “[I told them] if you take a child home from an institution, you will see the difference in him.”

So the Roxins brought Florinel to their home for a weekend and "became in love with him." One weekend turned into several weekends, and eventually into permanent placement for Florinel. The Roxins came to visit several times a week while the paperwork was in process, and it was obvious how much Florinel looked forward to the visits.

For some children, being brought from an institution into a home for the first time can be radically life-changing. Kids that are normally unresponsive suddenly perk up and want to be involved in their surroundings. In Florinel's case, he was given an outlet for his already bubbling-over love for life.

Cipri, the Roxins biological son, commented enthusiastically after Florinel had been living at home for nearly three weeks.

"He is a blessing. He is in love with my father -- and we are all in love with him.”

One week after the placement was finalized and Florinel was home with his family, I went with the visiting American team and RCE’s psychologist to see him. As his father proudly walked him back and forth in their small apartment, Florinel was laughing so hard he was tearing up. As everyone in the room caught his laughter, we witnessed firsthand that a family is the proper place for a child.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Yellow House Greetings

I interrupted dinner in the yellow house to get the boys to say hi to you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Long-Expected Party

Five years ago, eight-year-old Otilia was taken from her home in the original Darius House to the U.S. to undergo a painful surgery and another complicated process -- international adoption.

For the eight original children, growing up in the Darius House wasn't bad -- they called each other brother and sister, and the level of care was second to none in Romania, particularly for children with special needs. The kids often had sleepovers at their caregivers house or went on special outings with their other siblings. In short, they had everything they could need or want, except for their own families.

Thankfully, every last one of the original children have been adopted. This Sunday I witnessed their first reunion in five years as Otilia made the trip back to Romania and entered the Darius House again -- this time as a teenager and with her new American family in tow. The house has changed, the children have changed -- like Otilia says: "everything is bound to change."

Ionica greets Otilia by kissing her on both cheeks --
for the fifth or sixth time in as many minutes.

This is not your typical family reunion. Otilia has forgotten most of her native language, so communication between siblings is difficult, but everyone understands as her brothers Ionica and Florin embrace her repeatedly, kissing her on each cheek. Everyone understands as Teo beams uncontrollably from his wheelchair at the head of the table. And everyone understands as Otilia offers up a prayer of thanksgiving before family dinner:

"Thank you for everyone who got adopted. Thank you for our families. Thank you for everything."

Otilia and her siblings approach what used to be their home --
this time accompanied by their families.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Picture Break!

Pictures from the Sunshine School.  Keep checking back for more!

Dani during playtime in his classroom.

Manu dancing with Tomita.

Florinel will have a family soon!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Return to Sofronea

OK, I'll say it -- she's a godsend. Her arrival last Sunday has made all the difference in the world.

Sylva is my translator, which means she bears the brunt of a cultural predisposition to verbosity. So thanks, Sylva.

Yesterday, I made the trek back to Sofronea with Sylva, translator extraordinaire, and Samsung, my new netbook. We visited two households and conducted three interviews -- first with Vasile and Angi, adopted into the same household, and then with Dana, whose family welcomed two abandoned sisters into their home.

Tomorrow is Independence Day. I'm going to go try to buy some fireworks.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


This weekend, Aubrey and I stayed with Angi, one of the first children placed by RCE more than ten years ago. She is now 20 and her wedding is in August! Angi grew up in Sofronea, a village near Arad.

Mimi and Carmen, husband-wife duo in the Social Department, are the driving force behind the adoptions RCE has arranged in Sofronea. Through their relationships at the Baptist church there, a total of eleven children have been placed or adopted into Christian families. It is so encouraging to sit in the Sunday morning service and look around at all the families worshiping God together in this place.

Yesterday, I interviewed Nicoleta Bogosel, another child adopted into a Sofronean family. Nico played the piano for an RCE event a few years ago in the U.S. and her mother teaches at the Sunshine School. Aubrey and I had the privilege of staying with them for a week at the beginning of June. Here is a picture of Nico holding Claudia, one of the children in the cottages. (Thanks to Sylva for the photo!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Official Beginnings!

Just arrived in Arad after intern training. We met each day of the three-day retreat to discuss Tim Keller's book "Ministries of Mercy." This is the largest intern class ever, which can be burdensome for the directors, but also helpful because it means more people are helping with the kids which keeps people fresh and avoids burnouts.

The retreat was at Leuca, a mountain getaway three hours by car from Arad. Shortly after our arrival, we trekked up the mountain visiting several waterfalls along the way. The hike was steep and difficult -- I was surprised to hear no complaints. Most Romanian interns brought a camera and spent a good twenty minutes stiking poses in front of the spectacular scenery. I guess some things are the same in every culture.

Aubrey and I will be working with the children Monday through Saturdays in the mornings, and Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 7 p.m. Each cottage houses up to ten children each, so between the three cottages you're interacting with up to 30 kids all day long.

My schedule will vary more now that Carmen and Mimi's daughter, Sylva, is back from Denmark. She will translate for me as I interview people key to the story of RCE in villages surrounding Arad.