Sunday, June 28, 2015

Eyes to See

One of my biggest worries in pursuing my call to Romania, in going out and raising support, is that people won't understand what I'm trying to do. They won't have eyes to see the importance or the merit of missions, and most of all they won't see how much power they have in it. Let me explain.

I am not worried about people who are not Christians. People who are not openly Christian have, actually, supported me in my call to missions, and for this I am grateful. But it is the Christians I am worried about. With all that is happening in our country, as values shift, as some people embrace the cultural changes while others hunker down against them, God's work in other countries gets overlooked. We have so many things demanding our attention, why should we send people to volunteer thousands of miles away? I am afraid some Christians are not adopting the eyes God can give us to see things from his perspective. Missions become an after-thought, or, ironically, a luxury. Missions is becoming an elective course in the curriculum of Christianity.

What am I trying to do, anyway? Have an extended vacation for the rest of my life? I will admit, while travelling the world is appealing, that is not what I setting out to do. I have traveled, and I have enjoyed it, but I am not asking for support just so I can satisfy my wanderlust. While there are few places I'd like to see before I die (mainly London and NYC), I am called to one country and one country only.

Romania. What is it about this place? Well, truly, everything. The landscapes, the food, the culture, the language(s), but mainly, the people. No place is perfect, but you know, if you've read my first post, that I felt a connection to this place, to this people that left me yearning to go back. The only thing I was unsure, even insecure about was what, if anything, I would be able to contribute. 

I felt so useless at certain points in Romania, especially the second time I went. I was uncomfortably shy, fluent only in English, and struggled even with leading Bible study on the first trip. To my embarrassment to this day, one evening on the second trip I quarreled with another girl from my church because we both wanted to do the harder part of washing the dishes, rather than drying them. I just want to do something that made a difference. I was chagrined when the Hungarian missionary appeared and said, "Girls, don't fight." I was in a difficult place emotionally. Here I was, back in the place I had wanted to get back to, and I loved it, but I had nothing to offer. At least that was how I felt. 

What is to say I won't feel the same when I return?

Well.

I went to India. Now, this may seem like a big detour, like I got sidetracked or something along the way. But India was the perfect arrangement, from Jesus, for me at the perfect time. I shone. I did photography, one skill, and writing, one skill, and played with children, which, as it turns out, is another skill. Along with me being equipped by God in his timing, I was with people who helped me grow, encouraged me, and appreciated what I had to offer. I smiled bigger in my pictures in India that I have smiled in any other pictures, ever. Yet, I don't compare my experiences in India to Romania. 

Are you wondering why in the world don't I just go back to India, since it was so great?

Well.

One evening in India, I was sitting outside with everyone else, for evening prayer and worship. During a song, which I didn't know the words to (because they were in Oriya...), I just quietly sat and watched the sunset, a ribbon of pinks and yellows. Suddenly and unmistakably, out of nowhere, I heard a word from my God: Romania. Wouldn't you like to go back to Romania? I am calling you back. 

It was as simple as that. 

I had actually always intended to go back to Romania. A guy friend of mine, who is not a Christian (anymore) said that in going to India, I was following my  "highest excitement;" in other words, a good thing. In my eyes, I was just following where God was calling me to go.  But regardless of my knowledge, or my plan, or anything I assumed, God was working. God called me back, definitively, in a moment as tiny yet as valuable as a diamond. I didn't need to ask anyone else for their interpretation, or opinion. That was it. These moments are indeed as rare and precious as gems. I try not to take them for granted.

So to wrap this all up, what could my story mean to Christians in America? What, if anything, could my story change in their hearts to help them see that they are not just living in the United States of America, but in the world? In the world, but not of it. Yet are the gypsies in Romania not your neighbors? Are the child soldiers in Uganda not warmed by the same sun as you are? This post is not meant to create guilt, or pressure, or bad feelings. I just think, rather than live in our occasionally insular homes and churches, we need to have eyes to see our place on the planet. How much power does God have, and how much power does he impart to us! Maybe you do not see it as power. But take a moment to see all he has given you. What will you do with it?

If you feel called to give, please click here.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Real Lost Boys (and Girls)

Imagine a kid without parents and you might have flashbacks to Peter Pan and his gang. Kids who do what they want, when they want. They have a bunch of friends in the same situation, so they're never really lonely. They're ill-behaved, but what problems do they really have? They seem free and independent. Right?

Of course, we know that this is not true. Laying the Peter Pan analogy aside, we know the two most important people in a child's life are their mother and father. Take these two key people away, and a child is left destitute until they can find a suitable home life. Unfortunately, for thousands of Romanian children who are orphaned, this never happens. Children are left to live with other children in orphanages and apartments, supervised distantly, or perhaps not at all.

If knowledge is power, what better place to start in the fight to help these children than by starting with research? What exactly are the effects of being orphaned? What does it even mean to be orphaned? What are these children facing? Last of all, for now, how will Next Generation Outreach, the ministry I have started working for, make a difference?

What follows is an excerpt from my Prayer and Action Guide produced for my Social Justice and Human Rights class.

"The victims in this situation are the many orphans of Romania, numbering over 100,000 after the death of Ceausescu in 1989 (Human Rights Watch). The nature of the injury is emotional and psychological along with physical. More specifically, even today, orphans still fill orphanages, and the ill effects of institutionalization and abandonment of these children continue to appear (Sullivan 2014). For children given to orphanages at a very early age, such as in infancy, a lack of attachment and sensory deprivation in these early months of institutionalization can create various psychological problems for these children (Sullivan 2014). Children showed high rates of developmental delays, anxiety and affective symptoms, and physical delays in growth (Ellis 2004). 

"In addition, another effect of the Ceausescu regime was the high rate of HIV among the institutionalized population of orphans (Morrison 2004). The means or method of injury originated with Ceausescu’s banning abortions and all forms of contraception in an outrageous attempt to increase Romania’s population (Sanborne 1996, 122). Destitute parents place their children either temporarily or permanently in these institutions where severely limited staff could not offer treatment, therapy, or education to the children (Morrison 2004). Along with unsanitary and crowded conditions, the results were incredibly elevated rates of developmental disabilities, infectious diseases such as HIV, and high mortality rates (Morrison 2004).

"The legacy of this chaos is still present today, and is partly why so many Romanian children continue to be abandoned while adult survivors struggle to make a living and a life for themselves (Sullivan 2014). The perpetrator was, initially, Ceausescu. Now that he has been deceased since 1989, and the problem still continues, who is at fault currently can be a difficult question to answer. The government still appears to be somewhat responsible, specifically because the state slashed funding for foster parents, and children can only be adopted out of foster homes, not from orphanages or group homes directly (Sullivan 2014). The idea of putting the needs and rights of these children first—reuniting them with their biological families or obtaining other loving homes for them—would necessitate changing the social mentality of Romanians, another perpetrator (Sullivan 2014)."

To answer the final question, how will Next Generation Outreach create change for orphans? Specifically, NGO helps orphans who are around 18 years old, adults, who can no longer stay in orphanages any longer but who often do not have the resources to make it on their own. NGO assists them in gaining skills and finding jobs, so that they can begin supporting themselves. Moreover, Next Generation Outreach is a cooperative of Romanian youth in addition to the American missionaries, and everyone together provide emotional connection for one another, serving as the sort of family these young men and women still desperately need. It's not perfect, but as Next Generation Outreach grows, group homes will become a reality and more young people will find employment and that more elusive sense of well-being and love that comes from having a place where they belong. With Christ's blessing, this and more will be the future for Romania's youth. Please prayerfully consider how you can help. If supporting me, Katie, financially is right for you, thank you and please click the link here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

So Inclined

This journey began with the ending of another. Sitting in my family's office, sometime before my back surgery and before I started high school, I felt different. I had returned from less than eight days in Romania. Not very long, in the scheme of things, at least one would think. But I felt it. Reverse homesickness. I had been to a place that I connected to on so many levels. Yes, I had enjoyed the food, and it was exciting being in new place. The language was beautiful. I had sat through prayer meetings and sermons, all in Romanian, that transfixed me. More significantly, I observed the people. I soaked in everything around me. I shared my personal testimony in front of a congregation of at least 200. I was also grappling with a private tragedy, a deep betrayal of my trust. I wept in private, but just once. I was going through many things. And I came back to California with this essence, this alteration in my heart. Sitting alone in the office, I had a new sense of reality. I now felt a tie to a place to which I was a stranger. I decided to change that. I decided to no longer be that stranger.

In the many blog posts to follow, I hope to shine a light on this country, Romania, and this people. For now, though, I want to leave you with a poem I wrote which became the inspiration for the name of this blog. And, if you are so inclined, please continue following the ongoing story as I get ready to resume my journey to Romania with Next Generation Outreach. There is still much to tell.

Romanian Inclination

First train home, I’ve got to get on it.
Only I’m not on a train, not returning.
I am going to Bucharest, a place I’ve
longed to be in since I was fourteen.
I remember coming home from Arad
back then, sitting in the back room
a week before back surgery….
Letting time tick by while I felt
homesickness not for home but
for a foreign land. Sitting on
the plane, now, my stomach full
of lightning bugs and the headrest
strains my neck but—here I am. I hope
the Romania I fell in love with
in adolescence is close enough to
what it is now, that I am not a fool
to bank my future on a country as
amorphous as saltwater. Life is built
on hunches sometimes—at least
mine seems to be—and wasn’t it always
little hints that spoke truest? There is
a certainty I’ve carried since the
beginning that I won’t let go, not now.
I have a degree for this, I’m ready.
The engine roars to life, the plane
rolls down the runway. I think
this: First train home, I’ve got

to get on it. First train home.

(Italics from "First Train Home" by Imogen Heap)