CANFORD MAGNA CHURCHES - MISSION TO ROMANIA
In the few weeks since I last wrote, I and three others have been to Reghin to meet the co-founders and staff members of the Phoneo Foundation. Firstly we’d like to say a big thank you for your prayers as the whole four days ran so smoothly and we all returned safe and well - thoroughly convinced that the right decision had been made when we elected to partner Phoneo in the future.
Reghin is a small city [35000 pop] with attractive gardens in the centre and a wide miscellany of shops [not a multiple in sight!] and just a few minutes walk from where we were staying.
We had left home at 4am and arrived just after lunch to be met by Ilja with whom I’d had many email “conversations” over the past year and only briefly spoken to once on the phone. She didn’t disappoint! Then it was 45 minute journey from the airport at Targu Mures but shortly before reaching Reghin we called in at the temporary Selah school building at Petelea which is next door to Casa Ana, where small groups of children from the nearby Roma community can meet together in a safe atmosphere. Immediately we realized how special the Phoneo staff are and how very much they are loved by the children. As you will have read previously, a new school is to be built on this same site and we now pray that planning approval will soon be given so that a start can hopefully be made in June/July. That evening after a very nice meal - 99lei [£16-50] for five of us!], it was early to bed in our 4* accommodation – rather different to the mice-infested old hospital at Chiselet back in 2007!
We were given the next morning off and so explored the city-centre, compared medicine prices there with UK prices and generally relaxed. After having a Shaorma [very large, very tasty “wrap” – impossible to eat without making quite a mess!] we were picked up and went with Ilja and pastor’s wife Pauline, back to Petelea to visit the very large Roma community there. Housing conditions ranged from [outwardly] quite nice to extremely poor but we met some really lovely families. We asked how Phoneo decide which families they should help and it appears that over a two year period most were visited to assess their particular situation and needs. Many of those we met are now Christians who attend the Iozua [Joshua] evangelical church in the city centre – more later.
We then drove to the Blue House on the other side of the city which is a shelter for women who’ve been victims of abuse, and their families.
Next, after going through several villages, we reached Batos where we met a family in real need. They had had to move out of one home, their next had collapsed around them and were now in one small room. They owned land, had planning permission for a new house but no money to build as the husband had been ill for a couple of years and unable to work. After praying, we felt we should help and this week heard that they have indeed now laid the foundations and so beat the deadline which otherwise would have meant losing everything.
After an early night it was up for a leisurely breakfast and off to Iozua church at 10-30am. Housed in a “hall of culture” there were 150 or so adults and 50 children, nearly all Roma - and what a service! Many of the worship songs were familiar and the service was led by pastor Ronald who spoke in English but was immediately translated into Romanian – very impressive. His talk was both powerful and passionate, followed with a very appropriate blessing and dismissal at the end. Afterwards, together with Ronald, Pauline and Ilja, we went to a restaurant in a more mountainous area some 40km NE of Reghin where, over a late lunch we discussed several issues and were able to reach very satisfactory conclusions on each. When we arrived back in Reghin there was no need for more food and “after putting the world to rights” we retired shortly after 10pm.
Up early next morning and we walked to the Phoneo HQ to meet several other staff members before being taken to Apalina, another very large Roma community on the edge of the city. Here we saw the purpose built 2-year-old centre which is used by children [much like that at Petelea] and by women’s groups. Over a 9-year period and mainly through these women, Phoneo have helped to make many improvements in the Romanian section of this community. There was a good atmosphere with many people chatting together in the main street where the local authority has even laid tarmac – an encouraging sign – no mud and several ladies were busy scrubbing their carpets in the sunshine! We then visited some of the families and it was a particular joy to meet one who are now living in a small, cosy house we helped to build last year.
Back to the city centre for lunch after which we returned to Petelea where it had been intended we would help entertain some children in a small unofficial school building where the children normally come and go freely – to learn a little and to socialise. Sadly, it had been vandalised overnight and was unusable but the Phoneo leaders immediate reaction was one of forgiveness, to make repairs asap and a determination that those responsible will see the light through their witness. So instead, we walked around this very poor part of the community – some of the very worst we’ve seen anywhere in Romania! To make any significant improvements to their living conditions seems an impossible dream at present but if only they could get rid of the large waste tip which overhangs the site? We returned to Reghin with heavy hearts before going to a Phoneo house group in the evening.
What an evening! Very noisy [keyboard, 2 mikes and large speaker] along with 25, mainly Roma adults and several children – all in one room! We were told there were 3 “mafia” present who’d come to learn about Jesus. It was truly amazing – these people have so much passion for our Lord and the presence of the HS was very evident. After refreshments, we wound our way back home for an early night before setting off at 3-15am for our early flight home form Cluj Napoca. Amen!
If you’d like to know more about Phoneo and our partnership with them – please do ask.
Now, what else:
· We have now agreed with Phoneo not to send a team to work with them in May but Richard Naish will be leading a 7-person team in June [13-20] and their flights have been booked. They will either be completing a new house in one of the communities or commencing work on the new Selah school site
· Eight of our people are now going to help with the Summer School at Little John’s House from 15-22 August. Flights have been booked but costs have risen a great deal this year so is there anyone would like to help subsidise these mainly young people?. Do please prayerfully consider this knowing that any donations will be very much appreciated.
· Two further teams will be going to Phoneo from 6-13 September and 25 Sept-2 Oct. Both these teams are nearly full but if you know anyone who’d like to go, please do get in touch.
Tickets are still available for our Annual Quiz which takes place at St Barnabas church at 7pm on Saturday 18 April. The ticket price includes a ploughman’s supper and all profits will be used to help purchase building materials for Phoneo projects. Tickets are available from either church office or contact me. NB. The Lantern office will be closed all next week.
With every blessing and a very Happy Easter
John Clift [01202 884043] 2 April 2015