Romania Remembered – story of a volunteer
In June of 2012, Pastor Lars Hornberg, came to my church in Petaluma, California, with a small team from Oradea, Romania. He shared about his ministry to Romanian orphans that he and his late wife, Linda, had founded in 1992. He encouraged us to take a short term missions trip to Caminul Felix (translates: Happy Family) to see firsthand the ministry we had been supporting the past 20 years, Several of us indicated an interest in doing this.
The following month my personal journey into a season of change began. I had been a widow for nearly two years after thirty-seven years of marriage. I sold my home in Petaluma where I had lived for thirty-nine years and relocated to Sacramento, California.
I found a new church in Sacramento right away, Real Life Church of Natomas. I became active in their ministry to the homeless, Church on the Streets (COTS).
I continued to keep in touch with my former church, Adobe Christian Church, where I had been a member for close to thirty years. I decided if God would make a way for me, I was going on this missions trip to Romania with them. I made the $100 non-refundable deposit as an act of faith that I could do this.
With the proceeds from the sale of my house in Petaluma, I purchased a two- bedroom condominium in Carmichael, California. However, after buying a new car, and subsequently remodeling my kitchen, I ran out of money. I didn’t see how I could possibly pay the necessary $1,800 for the 10 day missions trip. In February, 2013, God came through in a HUGE way, and the money from my 401k (whose existence I was completely unaware of) not only covered the trip, but a debt of $10k that I was able to pay in full!
On Sunday, June 16, 2013, Father’s Day, our team of 18 was presented to the church for prayer. (The team consisted of 13 adults, 2 teens-one of whom was my granddaughter, Lilli Danner, and 3 children, ages 11 and 6.)
We arrived at Caminul Felix and were ushered into The Noble House, the hotel on the grounds of Caminul Felix that houses visiting teams. Our room was beautiful, with bamboo floors, comfortable single beds, and a private bathroom. By the time we got to sleep, it was after 3 am. We calculated we had traveled for thirty-three hours by car, plane, train, boat, and bus, to reach our destination.
I had set my alarm for 6:30 am for a private time of devotions. I had the dining room all to myself for about an hour before Pastor Hornberg came in around 7:30 am. We had a good conversation before the other team members began drifting into the dining room in search of food. We had our choice of cereal, eggs, fresh fruit, yogurt, ham, toast, coffee and juice for breakfast. The food was delicious. I went for my walk around the complex with my weights after breakfast. When I got back, my team had already left for a tour of the prosthetic clinic, so I was sorry I missed that experience.
It turned out I didn’t need to exercise on the days we did construction. Hauling 15 lb. buckets of water for the two cement mixers was plenty of exercise for me. Actually, my job as “water girl” was pretty cushy. Since it got hot in the morning after 8 am, I didn’t mind at all when the water sloshed on my jeans and shoes! It was also my responsibility to keep the water barrel full and clean the cement off the tools and wheelbarrows when we were done. I hosed off the mud on my shoes while waiting for the barrel to fill up.
My granddaughter, Lilli, and our other teenager, Jolene Kooken, were real workhorses, shoveling dirt and gravel in the cement mixer for hours. I was so proud of them.
We did get to mingle with the families at dinnertime. Each home had house parents for 12-14 children. The parents dedicate their lives to these children just as they would to their biological children. It was so impressive to see children who had either been orphaned or abandoned, physically or sexually abused, interacting with each other as normal, outgoing children in any family would. Their reputation at Caminul Felix is so good that the State run orphanages refer children to them because they know they will have a future if they go to Caminul Felix.
Caminul Felix is self-sustaining with some 200 milking cows, as well as corn and sunflower seeds. The surplus milk is sold to distribution centers in Oradea. The complex also has a gift shop called Sunflower Designs. The vocational training at Sunflower Designs consists of design, sewing, jewelry, and retail sales. All the ladies on our team each spent a lot of time shopping and purchasing the great gifts at Sunflower Designs.
There is a mechanic shop on the grounds to maintain the buses, autos, and vans on the property. Most of the buildings at Caminul Felix were constructed by sponsoring church groups, but several humanitarian organizations also contributed time, money, and personnel. Habitat For Humanity and Rotary Club were represented as well,
A group from Habitat For Humanity worked at Caminul Felix while our team was there. There was also a group of young people from William Jessup University in Sacramento, California. I spoke with several of them and found it remarkable that we were from the same city, but our paths hadn’t crossed until we were in Romania!
A youth group from Sweden led the worship in the evenings. Their leader, Gustav Jacobson, was not only a gifted musician, but truly sensitive to the Spirit of God.
On our second day in Romania, we visited a former State run orphanage recently taken over by a Christian charity. It was heartbreaking to see the conditions at this orphanage and the children seemed so different than the ones we observed at Caminul Felix. The Pastor who ran this orphanage was obviously overwhelmed by the hopelessness surrounding him. We did get to pray with him before we left.
We had an additional opportunity to minister to some local gypsies. All my pre-conceived ideas of romantic gypsy life fueled by Hollywood went out the window when we got to their camp. I had visions of women in headscarves with hoop earrings, peasant blouses and colorful flowing skirts. The men would look dashing with their bloused shirts, jodpurs (for grooming the Arabian horses of course.) When we arrived at the camp to distribute bags of food, the children were running around naked. Their shelter consisted of a tarp thrown over some branches, and mattresses on the dirt floor. The women wore short skirts and tank tops, while the men were shirtless and in jeans. One of the families on our team had brought a suitcase full of beanie babies for the children. When Seth handed a bag to one of the gypsies thinking he would give them to the children, the gypsy ran off with the bag and disappearered! After that, we handed out the toys to the children ourselves. It was very disheartening to see their actual lifestyle.
Looking back on our time in Romania, I am so glad I decided to trust God to make the provision for this trip. This journey of faith was amazing, and the spirit of unity we shared as a team was wonderful. I have been in contact with Pastor Lars Hornberg on Facebook since returning to California. I told him that we would be his ambassadors in the United States telling everyone about this inspiring ministry to the orphans of Romania. There are several more Caminul Felix villages in Thailand and South Africa. As a result of this missions trip, I have learned to bloom where I’m planted, and to see God’s hand in my life whether I am in Sacramento or Romania.
God is doing amazing things here in Sacramento too, giving me opportunities to pray with total strangers, and even introduce them to Christ.
It took going to Romania to give me the confidence to do this. At a recent COTS event, I offered a visitor some cold water, and said, ‘This water will quench your thirst, but Jesus wants you to have the living water that is only found in him!’ I have NEVER spoken so boldly before, but we had prayed for Holy Spirit boldness just that morning. God certainly answered that prayer!! Thank you so much for your encouragement.