Among children who have grown up in Moldova’s orphanages, there is a grim reality behind every beautiful face, as Jeff Pittman discovered on his mission trip this summer with Rolling Hills Community Church. With orphanages being shut down across the country, many kids are being placed back in homes where life is raw and unpredictable. For Jeff, Making Justice Personal is all about a girl named Luida. Here is his story in his own words….

I had the honor to serve on my second mission trip to Moldova the week of July 4-11, 2013 with JMI & Rolling Hills.  During my first trip I met and began sponsoring an 8 year old little girl named Luida who was displaced from her family into the Balti shelter and orphanage system due to her family’s inability to care for her.  She hasn’t seen her father since she was 3, and her mother is essentially unfit, though she still has certain visitation rights.  Sponsoring her is a joy, and she is an amazing little girl.  

Over the past year in Moldova the orphanage we typically served closed, resulting in a new place of service for our mission team closer to Chisinau.  However,  JMI allowed for the use of their outstanding local resources  to get me and two other sponsors to the city of Balti for visits with our sponsored children.  I was especially excited to see Luida as her 10th birthday was only a few days away.  This turned out to be a day I won’t ever forget as I was exposed to the conditions of Luida’s daily life that God guided us to see.  Rarely do we see or completely grasp the full set of family and environmental conditions that land a child into the care of orphanages and shelters and ultimately the JMI program for sponsorship.  

After a 2 hour drive from Chisinau to the Balti shelter we learned that Luida was not there and that her mother had come to take her home under visitation rights currently afforded to her.  With little to go on except a last known neighbor’s address and phone number, we (Vlad Magdaliuc and I) drove about two miles off the beaten path (literally) landing us at the top of a hill, impassible by car.  

Continuing on foot and passing shanty after shanty we finally got to the top where we saw a leaning earth and wood home with no windows and a missing wall, surrounded by 3-4 foot tall weeds.  Approaching that home, we were quickly met by 5-6 gypsy children who Vlad was able to ask where we might find Luida. They pointed to another earth and wood shack we had ignored 
thinking there surely would not be anyone living there.  Turning my head to where they were pointing, I saw Luida standing beside what we now know to be her house and heard her call out my name.  We found her!  
As I held back my shock at her conditions, I
could also see shame in her eyes.  She was home alone with a 13 year old brother that I didn’t know she had.  Her mother had gone to gather and sell wild peaches by the side of the road.
Our next adventure was to find Luida’s mother. We found her at a local bus station in Balti selling peaches and received permission to take Luida out for the day for her birthday:  a full day of pizza, ice cream, shopping, smiles, catching up on my life, her life, and simple fun.  I hope it’s a day she won’t ever forget.  I know I won’t!

JMI’s local staff and mission teams are the only advocates these children have from whom they can receive love, clothing and supplies, education and a chance to flourish…ultimately a chance out and to not repeat this cycle, or end up trafficked to escape.  THIS is why we do what we do…

Lastly brothers and sisters… Sponsor a child.  Invest in their future.  They may be coming from similar conditions and Luida’s story is all too common…however we were shown this harsh reality for a reason.  I believe that reason is to tell her story and educate our friends, neighbors and families about this place and these children.  

In Christ,

Jeff Pittman

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