This was our day in Orhei...
We started our day by sharing with other team members how we had seen God move and work in their lives this week. What a great way to start our day - encouraging each other. After the hour drive to Orhei, we prepared for a "Birthday Party." Now I know it might seem a bit cheesy to say we ended our week with a birthday party for the kids, but let me tell you more. We hung banners, posters, put on some kids music and got ready for more than 250 kids to join us for our party. We had to have two parties to get everyone in the auditorium - or sala festiva. :) Such a happy name - it was screaming for a party. This is the room we built the beds in - a room the teacher's said is never used. That was really sad, but we brought this room back to life this morning.
As the children filed in, we gave them bananas and cookies. Some could open and eat their "birthday presents." Some had to have help from teachers or friends. I've never seen such helpful people than the kids that live at Casa de Copii - kids wheeling their friends around, leading them into the room, even carrying friends out of their wheelchairs and helping them find a place to sit. Our team helped, too and soon bananas were squishing and flying and smiles were growing and growing. It was amazing.
Lauren then shared with the kids why we had come to build beds - not just to provide new beds, but to share with them how much we love them, their local church right down the road "Good News" Baptist Church loves them, and how much God loves them more than they could ever imagine - although I know some of the have a better grasp on this than I do.
Then I shared with the kids why we were having a birthday party - that since we were headed back to America, we wouldn't get to be with them on each of their birthdays and we wanted to celebrate with them. They looked confused. I explained that God had created each of them and that each one of them was special, thus each of their birthdays was special. Their eyes brightened. Imagine this birthday party with hundreds of handicapped boys who may have never had anyone celebrate them or the day they were born - the day God brought them into this world. It was beautiful. We sang Happy Birthday in English, then our translators sang in Romanian. Teachers throughout the morning continuously thanked us for the beds and for our work, as did the kids and young me that call this place home.
After this, we delivered yogurt to the boys who were immobile - the hundred or so kids who are confined to their beds or bed-wheelchairs. This pretty much terrified me. But Sam really wanted to see a little boy he connected with this week, Lilian, who was 5 years old and probably only weighed 25 pounds. He has a beautiful smile and lights up when you ask his name and he barely mumbles out "liyan." Every bite of yogurt Sam fed him made the little buddy beam with joy. Then it was time for a sad good-bye and on to bring more yogurt to kids. As team members filed off to different rooms, it was down to Sam and me again with Anton, our translator. We were being led to a place called "Isolator."
It was a dark hallway with white doors that reminded me of a concentration camp. When we got to the first room, we could see a couple of boys peeking out of their beds. A nurse called us in and we began to feed the boys. I didn't think we would actually be the ones feeding them... I was so nervous! We asked them their names, but they couldn't speak. The nurse spoke for them. She told us she didn't know their ages but that they were paralyzed. She pulled the sheet down to expose their shriveled legs curled underneath them, which made them quite uncomfortable. But I faced my fear head on and began to feed yogurt to this little boy. He could barely swallow so I let the yogurt fall off the spoon into his mouth. He ate every bite with as much of a grin as he could muster. The nurse asked to help sam to speed up the obviously difficult time for us, but he politely said "no" and continued spending time with his boy and feeding him his peach yogurt. On the way out, we asked if the boys were there for a short time or always there. The nurse told our translator that they were there because they would die soon. I wanted to be sad, and I really wanted to cry, but I was instead filled with hope for these children that would soon run into the arms of Jesus - coming to him as little children - literally - and receiving their new bodies in Heaven. No more pain. No tears. No trouble swallowing... Just eternity with their loving Father.
We prayed before we left this place, giving up these children to the Lord. A couple of the older boys joined us -- it was a great time praying with them. We cried and hugged them and knew we could not promise we'd see them again, but knew God would take care of them and be with them. And while we were only able to build half of the beds needed for these boys this week, thanks to the amazing volunteers from the church in Orhei, these boys will hopefully receive their beds sooner than we are able to return. They volunteered excitedly this morning to mobilize their church to build the rest of the beds needed as soon as possible.
Our afternoon was in sharp contrast to our week, as we visited the children at Chisinau's Internat #2. These are fully functioning children, dressed pretty well, smiling, playing, studying, waving. The lives of these children look drastically different because of the work of so many friends over the last few years. While the contrast was great, many who had never been to this orphanage made new friends quickly. When we first arrived, we were treated to one of the most amazing things I've seen in Moldova - listening to the orphanage band practice for their upcoming concert. :) The boys proudly played a song and it was fantastic. A little boy sang to the music, looking at his words then danced to the music. The director apologized for the music - it was their first time through. But it was amazing. They then played a Moldovan wedding fanfare, that their teacher wrote, and it was fantastic. I had a couple of tearful moments thinking about the amazingly gifted man that has given his life to teach music to these boys and the amazingly talented orphans sitting in this room. One of the boys pointed out the empty chair where Dennis, our newly adopted son, used to sit and play. I wanted so badly to take that chair home. I miss Dennis so much this week and while I've had an amazing experience, I miss Dennis and my wife, Emily, since I've experienced so much of this place with them.
I realized as we prayed tonight after dinner that all of my expectations were blown away this week. I did not expect to be moved, I did not expect to push myself to work harder, move beds faster, make "hospital corners" on beds for these boys (and to make my wife proud!), and to find myself loving these boys who couldn't make a sentence in romanian, more less english, just as much as my son and my friends in Chisinau. So I hugged kids in wheel chairs, took pictures with "little buddies" and loved this last day like never before.
I am reminded today just how much a bed can change the life of a child. Look at the pictures Hannah has taken on this trip and see the joy, the comfort and the peace these children have found in their new beds. When I sat on the bed with a boy who hadn't smiled all week I thought - this isn't going to work. He won't even look at me. I rubbed his arm and just sat with him. A teacher helped me take his shoes off and helped me help him lie down. When he put his head on his new pillow and slid under his covers, he smiled, turned his head, and was drifting off to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. Sweet sleep has arrived for these boys, many for the first time.
Thank you for praying for us. We are excited to be coming home to share with you all that we have experienced (although I'm sure you're thinking I couldn't have possibly left anything out!).
This trip could not have been possible without your prayers, our friends at Kairos who raised every dollar for the beds for these boys, and our church partners at Brentwood Baptist and "Good News" Baptist Church in Orhei.
May God bless each of you and show you a glimpse of who He is and what He is doing in this country today.
Noapte Buna, (Good Night) :)
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."