On March 7, four women from Spring, Tomball, and The Woodlands traveled to Romania to volunteer with RCE, a ministry for abandoned and special needs orphans. The following is the journal one of those women kept along the way.
Jana Muntsinger is the wife of Pastor Dave Muntsinger of Spring Cypress Presbyterian Church, and the president of McClure/Muntsinger Public Relations. She has a B.A. in Journalism and Marketing. Her previous experience includes Director of Public Information for the American Cancer Society and Director of Publicity for Word Publishing. We are very honored to share her story here with you:
March 7, 2015
It was a completely uneventful flight from IAH to London. I think every seat was taken on the very full flight. As we were slowly pulling out of the gate in Houston the most glorious sunset was off the right hand side of the plane. Was God simply showing His glory for us? He’s got this. Not us.
We nearly missed our flight to Budapest in Germany. But luckily, Jill met Maria from Budapest, who had been up all night traveling from New York City. Her English was patchy but her heart was kind. She shepherded us to the right gate. Bravely, Jill rode the escalator and we were the last five on the train to the plane.
I woke up on the quick flight in a deep sleepy fog. Looking out the right side of the plane, Budapest looked a bit like flat dusty Lubbock!
All our luggage made it, but we couldn’t get credit cards to work for the luggage cart. Customs was non-existent so we dragged the bags to Lazlo, the strongest Hungarian ever. He was expecting two Germans, but got four Texans!
After settling into our hotel, we headed out to see Budapest via a walking tour and water cruise. Budapest was amazingly lovely at night!
March 8, 2015
The night was long with a broken sleep apnea machine (who knew someone so tiny could make such loud, loud noises!) but sleeping in a bit was glorious.
We headed out, braving the public bus system. The weather was perfect – crisp cool sunshine with not a cloud in the sky! We wandered through the historic Old Town, eventually exploring Buda Castle. The walk along the mountainside gully was beautiful. Jill thought it looked like Pennsylvania.
We explored the castle ground and the presidential house. Eventually we left the amazing grounds to go inside the Hungary History Museum.
The castle was incredible with a unique chapel, dungeon, and tower. It’s amazing how much you have to see when your country is so old. From there, I desperately needed lunch, so we had a traditional Hungarian meal (goulash anyone?!). We came back to the lovely apartment to get a couple more layers before the sun went down.
Three of us went to see the second largest Parliament building in the world. Impressive architecture. We strolled by a couple of eateries and the US Embassy (Hi, Ronald Reagan!). Dinner, and finally another stroll of Budapest at night. Back to the hotel for our early morning pick up for Arad, Romania!
March 9, 2015
Couldn’t get to sleep. Excited? Nervous? Probably.
Woke up early and went back to the metro to buy fresh pastries. If I only knew what food was in store food-wise in Arad, I would have said no, no, no!
We met a former RCE orphan, Cristi, who works for Romanian Christian Services and is now married with a baby daughter. He was our chauffeur, tour guide, and border crossing envoy. He could not have been any more gracious. He arrived at 8 AM (leaving Arad at 5 AM) so he could get across the border and to us with no problem. He packed the tiniest compact car with all of our HUGE luggage. I’m not sure how he did it. I tried to stay awake but I slept like a baby, lulled to sleep by the wide-open Hungary landscape.
We finally arrived in Arad, Romania. Seeing the RCE “compound” for this first time was exciting, and sobering. It is a communist era building in a communist era town.
The RCE staff is beyond humble and gracious. Loved finally meeting the kids in Darius and Amy’s Houses. To explain, Sunshine School is the name of the RCE school that educates special needs kids – both orphans and children in families from Arad.
Darius House is a former Romanian government run house for special needs orphans. Several years ago, RCE was approached by the government to take over running the schools, using government money, but using RCE’s very Christian ideals. Now, 22 kids live in the two Darius houses, and have the love of Jesus from RCE staff and a quality education at the Sunshine School.
Amy’s House is a group home for special needs young adults to have a chance to live more independently, yet with 24-hour supervision. Right now there are three boys living there with a one-week-on one-week-off Christian educator who lives with the boys.
All of these houses are within walking distance of Sunshine School, the two story “cornerstone” of RCE and its efforts to educate the special needs children of Arad.
The sun was shining on Sunshine School as the Darius and Amy kids came outside to sing songs about God for us. Their joy is contagious. The joy of the staff is amazing.
We toured Amy’s House. I had to laugh at the young man who proudly showed us his collection of catalogs. Even Avon! The boys loved all the attention. I appreciated how all the children and staff stopped everything for us, and Jane Thompson, the US Ambassador to Romania’s wife. Jane is not only a trained special educator, but a lovely Christian woman who has worked with NGOs all around the world as a “trailing spouse.”
Highlight of the day was going to Florin’s house; a boy with a wide smile as big as his wheelchair. RCE helped the adopting family get into a new home. Before then, his mother used to carry him up four flights of stairs daily.
Seeing his beaming smile, talking about his love for his family, drinking tea with his mother. His new mom had heard about Florin from her son’s girlfriend. She had been abandoned and rescued from a Romanian institution by RCE. As she grew up, she was adopted by a local family and returned to RCE to volunteer with her friends who were not in a “forever family.” She eventually married this boy, but couldn’t quit talking about Florin who had stolen her heart at RCE.
Her now mother-in-law knew Florin should be a part of their growing family. Ovi Martin, the head of RCE, says Florin daily tells him, “Thank you God for my mom and dad.” Even after 6 years, he can’t believe he has a “forever family.”
We ended the evening with a generous and delicious dinner at Ovi Martin’s home. All three of the beautiful Martin girls were there. Seeing their obvious affection for their parents was delightful.
Hearing about his oldest college age daughter’s plans for a long term mission trip this summer to Africa shows their family-wide commitment to the least of these.
March 10, 2015
I must be tired because I get a bit weepy thinking of Dave, Jack, Ford, and Kate at home in Texas. Loved “seeing” them tonight. Wifi and FaceTime is glorious technology!
Today was shocking to see the poverty and the broken and abused children. RCE does so much, but the need is so very great. I pray the Lord protects the broken, the vulnerable, the scared, the misunderstood.
Jesus you can. Jesus come.
Beautiful weather in Arad. Is this truly early March?!
We went and toured classrooms at Sunshine School. I am amazed how many teachers know English. Thankful for a literate, gracious staff willing to communicate to us. Visited multiple homes in the villages surrounding Arad. Loved time at the satellite school beyond the King of Romania’s summer home. Oh the contrast between his house and shacks in most of the small towns.
The mother of two adopted, special needs boys, and another young son of her, Donna Laura, was a delight, joy personified. It’s too far for her to bring the two boys to Sunshine School in Arad, so RCE started a remote school in her extra room, providing a teacher, school supplies, and educational support for her two boys and another special needs boy in the village.
I asked her how I could pray for her. She answered in her broken English – pray for good health, wisdom, and patience – all my own prayer requests and the prayer request from most moms. But she added, “Don’t pray for love for me, because I have more than enough love in my heart for my special boys.”
Stopped by for yet another dessert at a family with 12 kids; 10 of their own and two recently adopted abandoned children. One girl is progressing enough to go to public school. One boy is still educated at Sunshine School. The older children pulled out all of their instruments and sang with their daddy worship songs. The keyboard, two guitars, saxophone, and the most delightful young accordion player, all together worshiping God.
March 11, 2015
We had to hurry to Amy’s House to see the “Seed Project.” Not knowing exactly what that was, we
dashed in the drizzle to see that four of the older boys were decked out in hair nets, plastic gloves, and aprons. Each boy was in charge of measuring nuts or raisins into each plastic bag. Each one of these bags of snacks are “sold” for donations in businesses around Arad. This Seed provides a job and wage for these boys. They proudly showed us their work.
We had dinner at the very first family who adopted three abandoned girls. They call these families “Love Families.” Two of the three young women were there, serving us dinner and making a multi-layer cake with “WELCOME” spelled out carefully and lovingly in cream.
They are thriving and working in local industry. Highlight of the evening was hearing their bell-clear voices sing to the glory of God for us. Now the parents have adopted two more children, one young wheelchair-bound boy, and another young adult. Albert. Albert was rescued by RCE when he was 5.
His official paperwork from the government called him “irrecoverable.”
He has spent the majority of his life in Darius House, hoping and praying for adoption. Finally at 16, this couple invited him to their home. His older sister got him a job at a local company where she works. He is now saving his money, andhoping to buy his own house near his adopted family.
Is that “irrecoverable”?
March 13, 2015
We were up at 4AM to make a 6AM flight from Timisora to Bucharest. Mary Ann Bell, the founder of RCE, and Ovi Martin were both nervous. A meeting had been set with a high official in the Romanian government. It was good to see how God prepared the way and afforded Ovi and Mary Ann favor.
Although we didn’t get the answer we hoped for, we saw different options for changing future partnership between RCE and the Romanian government.
An influential friend of RCE arranged for a tour of the People’s Palace, the second largest government building (second only to the Pentagon). It has been called the most controversial building in Romania. Its size is mammoth. Meant to be the crowning achievement of communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu’s ambitious urban development plan, the People’s Palace, also known as Palace of Parliament, represents one of the most extravagant and expensive building projects in the history of mankind; certainly of the last century.
It is one of Romania’s biggest tourist attractions, despite popular disdain. Ovi Martin told us each town in Romania was required to send thousands of workers for three-month shifts to work on the construction of the building. Ceausescu never saw its completion or even used it. He was over-thrown and killed before it was finished. Many Romanians said it should be torn down.
Seeing several of the main rooms, we were struck how ostentatious and BIG everything was, but devoid of aesthetic beauty. It was if the architecture team said, “make it as big, expensive, and ornate as possible,” yet failed to see the actual design.
Our last evening in Bucharest was spent with Ovi’s cousin in a traditional Romania pub, dining on boiled and roasted pork. Lots of crusty bread and pate of course.
My flight was early the next morning – wake up call again around 4:30 am – and I could not help but reflect on such an amazing trip. How can we not respond to those with no hope and no community when we have such rich hope and relationships in Christ?