|November 2006 Newsletter|
The Road Less Traveled
When we discovered a few boxes of candles among a truckload of donations we received, it was for the first time in a long time that we were uncertain as to what we should do with them. We put them in the warehouse, and all but forgot about them when while loading a few boxes of clothing for distribution, we happened upon them again. I felt we should bring them along, although at the time I did not know why. In my mind I thought I would ask some of the pastors if they knew anyone that didn't have electricity, and was in need of candles, and thereby make a little more room in the warehouse.
The first pastor we would meet that day was pastor Ghiocel, and as we were mapping out the homes we would visit after distributing the food we had brought to his church members, homes of people who were either unable to leave their home, or who lived too far away from the church, pastor Ghiocel tapped his chin with a pen and said, 'there is one other sister, her name is Elena but her home cannot be reached very easily. When Virginia was alive, she used to pay a horse drawn cart to take her to Elena's home, it's the only way of getting in.'
We had also brought a four wheel drive vehicle with us that day, one of the rugged all terrain sort, and we assured him it would be no problem getting to Elena's home, no matter how bad the roads were. Needless to say, what followed was a clear lesson in the perils of being overly confident, as the car that never saw an obstacle it couldn't cross, got stuck in the mud and would not budge.
I have traveled many roads, and have seen, or at least thought I had seen, the worst there was, but nothing could prepare me for standing in two feet of mud, waiting for a man with horses to pull us out. It took awhile, but we finally got the car unstuck, and after leaving it by the side of the road we decided to walk the muddy road to Elena's house. Before we left the car, the conversation had somehow steered to Elena's material situation, when pastor Ghiocel said, 'they wouldn't even install electricity for this poor woman, she's so far off the beaten path.'
That's when I realized the reason I felt impressed to bring the candles along, and with a smile on my face I said, 'I guess she can use some candles then.'
'Candles would be a blessing for her,' pastor Ghiocel said, and I quickly produced the four boxes of candles I had placed underneath the seat.
By the time we reached Elena's home, everyone was splattered with mud, and as much as we would try no one could distinguish the color of anyone else's shoes. As we approached a rickety green fence, an elderly woman stepped out of a barely standing home, smiling and waving, saying "praise Jesus, He told me you were coming, I ran out of food yesterday, and I started to pray, and the Lord said 'be at peace My servants will come."
Elena is in her early seventies, has been a Christian for fifty years, and a widow for forty. She has no children, all her immediate family has passed, and as she so aptly put it, has no one but Jesus to care for her. One could not help but rejoice with Elena, as she began to thank the Lord, standing there on her front step. As we stepped inside, we noticed the mud floor, and the concave roof that seemed dangerously fragile, an old wooden table, which held a large print Bible, one chair, and nothing else. Yet, absent of even the most basic of material possessions, the smile never left Elena's face, and her lips never stopped thanking God.
We left what we had brought, including the candles, had a prayer and said goodbye to Elena. As we walked back through the mud to our car, in the distance we could see Elena standing in front of her home, waving and smiling. 'I have never been to visit this woman, and see her not smile', pastor Ghiocel said, 'she truly has the joy of the Lord, and lives the blessedness of possessing nothing.'
After discussing it with the staff, we decided replacing Elena's roof is a top priority, and we ask you keep Elena, as well as this need in your prayers.
Michael Boldea Sr.
A Growing Work
As God continues to bless, we continue to be a blessing. The goal of this ministry has always been a simple one, and as God continues to provide, we are able to bless more and more individuals. In recent months our outreach to the poor has grown to such an extent that we have had to rely on local pastors more than ever before. It would be impossible to go door to door and pass out the food packages anymore, since in the month of September alone, we passed out over two thousand food parcels throughout our region of Romania.
We have found that no one knows who the poor in a community are better than pastors, and every pastor we have called, asking if they would like to help was more than happy to lend a hand, and be of service in the work of God.
Although we still go to individual homes, those that are in the country, or far from civilization, a large part of our outreach now centers around churches who gather their poor, their widows, and their large families in the church on an appointed day, and we come with a truckload of packages and hand them out. The pastor is responsible for telling us the number of impoverished members in his congregation, and as wisdom would dictate we always bring a dozen or so extra.
This means of food distribution has been allot less taxing on our minimal staff, but also a great means of outreach for the individual communities. Almost every village we go to, a group gathers, and as is human nature they begin to murmur, accusing us of only helping the Christians in the community, and that is when we show them the love of Christ, with no strings attached, and also give them a food package. Their reaction to this act of kindness is always one of befuddled surprise, and the first question we are asked is 'what do I have to do for this?'
When our answer is 'you don't have to do anything for it', it surprises them even more. On a weekly basis we get calls from the pastors of the churches we visit and bless, with reports that new faces are showing up in church, some are bringing their entire families.
'I know its no surprise', pastor Ghiocel told us, 'but the new people that show up to church on Sunday, are the people that were accusing you of only helping Christians a few days ago.'
Often times, simply showing the love of Christ to a nonbeliever, does more to plant a seed, and makes them see the difference in a child of God, than ten sermons put together.
As God continues to bless, we will continue to be faithful in what He gives, and use it to do as the word of God instructs, namely care for the widow, the orphan, the poor and the forsaken, those who cannot help themselves, but cry out for help nonetheless.
Hand of Help Staff
Blessing Plopenii Mici
The village of Plopenii Mici is very similar to the weathered and windswept sign that stands at the outskirts of the community, informing all who would venture so far off the beaten path, that they have indeed arrived. There are no overtures of greeting, no monuments welcoming visitors to the community as can be found in so many Romanian towns, but simply the rusty sing that announces, 'you are here.'
Plopenii Mici is a village nestled between rolling hills, far removed from civilization, and in order to reach it, depending on the weather on that particular day, one must travel either muddy potholed roads, or brave the choking dust that swirls about making it impossible to go more than ten miles per hour. Within this community however, there is a precious group of believers, and harrowing as the drive may be, all the toil is forgotten when we finally reach our destination and see the smiling, expectant faces.
Due to the fact that they have no church of their own, the believers of Plopenii Mici travel six kilometers each Sunday, some by horse drawn cart, others on foot, to the neighboring village where they can fellowship with the brethren. As is the situation of most isolated villages, there are no jobs to speak of, and if there is too much rain, or not enough, their vegetable gardens, the only source of food, yield no harvest.
When we arrived the men of the community were already preparing for the winter, making what they jokingly called ecologically friendly fire feeders, a mixture of cow manure and hey.
As always they were exceedingly happy to see us, not because we had brought food and clothing, but because they wanted to fellowship. Before we could unload the truck, all the believers gathered together, sang a few songs, and asked pastor Mike to say a few words. The impromptu open-air service drew the attention of the neighboring homes, some who were not believers, and they stood and reverently listened to the Word of God.
Even with having to traverse the hard terrain to reach Plopenii Mici, it was one of the most rewarding and blessed days of ministry. It is human nature to shy away from more difficult tasks, when easier ones are readily available, but the lesson we learned that day, is that the greater the sacrifice, the greater the blessing and the reward that awaits us in heaven.
As long as the Father in heaven wills it, we will continue to fulfill our calling, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, be a father to the orphan, and a comfort to the widow. Our prayer is that just for an instant, you would feel the joy, gratitude, and thankfulness we experience on a daily basis from those we help, and in so doing rejoice together with them.
Hand of Help Staff
A Heavy Burden
Life hasn't always been a struggle for Gabriela Lungu, in fact her first thirty years on this earth were as normal as one could expect in a country such as Romania. After graduating High School, she met the man who would be her future husband, and after getting married they had two sons. Fifteen years ago however, Gabriela began to lose weight. At first she thought nothing of it, but as her weight continued to decrease, she decided it would be a good idea to go to a doctor, and see if perhaps there was something wrong with her. A week after her first visit to the doctor, she was given the news that would forever change her life. The doctors informed her that she has a rare condition, wherein her weight would continue to decrease to the point that she will have to be bedridden.
Their prognosis turned out to be true, and Gabriela has been bedridden for the better part of thirteen years, and currently weighs a little over sixty pounds, sixty-one pounds to be exact.
Her husband is the only breadwinner in the family, working as a mechanic making under $100 per month, and recently they just learned their youngest child Abel has a condition wherein his mobility will be limited, if not altogether incapacitated. As so many other families, the Lungu family needs our prayers and support. When we visited, the situation, and particularly her condition so moved us that we emptied out our pockets in her hallway, and handed her all the money we had with us.
As we spoke with Gabriela, and she told us of her life, and the hardships of her condition, the one remark she made that stayed with us long after we had departed was, 'I am not bitter as some may think, I am thankful to God for all things, and even though some may see me as I am, God sees me as I will be.'
The needs with which we are confronted on a daily basis continue to multiply, and as new changes are ready to be implemented in our nation, the number of those in need will continue to grow. Your prayers give us strength, and your compassion allows us to help those who have long been abandoned by everyone. Thank you.
Hand of Help Staff
Habakkuk 2:2-3, "Then the Lord answered me and said: 'Write this vision and make it plain on tablets that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry."
It has been one year since my mother's passing, and needless to say she is still missed. Perhaps nowhere was her absence felt more clearly than at our Hand of Help board of directors meeting, where we gathered together, and instantly realized the larger than life presence was no longer among us. It has been a trying time, but also a time for some who have thus far stood on the sidelines to step into their calling and take up the burden, put their hand to the plow and do the work of God.
As we gathered in fellowship and spoke the things that God had put on our hearts, we came to the undeniable conclusion that all that had been foretold by God is beginning to come to pass, it is no longer for a future time, but rather for this time. We are seeing the world inch ever closer to the precipice, every decision, every act of defiance, bringing us one step closer to the inevitable. In light of this knowledge, may we as faithful children be thankful to our heavenly Father for granting us the grace to know, that we would not wander about blindly as the world, ignorant and fearful of what is upon us. Stand under the shadow of His wing, stand on the unshakable foundation of His word, and though you will see with your eyes that which is about to unfold, it will not come near you. It is the promise of God for all those who walk in His will, and are obedient to His voice.
There has never been a more opportune time in the history of the world to seek the face of God, there has never been a more opportune time to draw ever closer, and seek a greater intimacy with Him. In order to discern the voice of the counterfeit shepherds, we must know the voice of the true shepherd, and in order to know the voice of the true shepherd we must have fellowship with Him not at odd intervals in our lives, not only when we need Him to solve a certain crisis, but on a daily basis, never absent of His embrace, His love and His promise.
No matter who we are, no matter the trials and tribulations that we have suffered this past year, we still have reason to be thankful to God, for He is a faithful and loving God who watches over us, and if seasons of hardship are allowed in our lives, they are for our maturing, our spiritual growth, that we may become that which He desires us to be.
May we receive all things from Him, with thankfulness and contentment, and may we rejoice in the knowledge that He stands with us, ever faithful to His own. May we walk in the light of His word, and live as servants who not only know the times in which they live, but have the wisdom to redeem the time that is still granted to them. My prayer today is for to God open our spiritual eyes that we may see the certainty we have in Him, in these uncertain times. May He who sees all things reward you for all you do in His name.
Proverbs 3:3-6, "Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."
With Love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.