by Jeff Simmons
Pastor, Rolling Hills Community Church
It was our last night in Moldova. After an amazing week of running two camps for precious orphaned and vulnerable children in the village of Carpineni, we gathered at the Grace House for a wonderful dinner with our Transitional Living kids in the capital city of Chisinau. The Grace House was our first purchase in Moldova through Justice & Mercy International about seven years ago. It is a big three-story house that is home to 14 girls who had to leave the orphanage at the age of 15 or 16 and now have three years to live here, go to “high school” and grow in Christ. It is a special place of life-change, and you can feel God’s presence here.
Sava came up to share his story in front of a living room full of close to 100 people – all 25 Americans from our church at Rolling Hills, about 45 boys and girls from our Transitional program (Grace House and Boys 2 Leaders homes) and Independent Living and Graduate programs (Living in JMI apartments and attending college or University), and our JMI Moldovan Staff Team of 20 incredible servants of Christ.
Sava is 19 years old and has been in our Transitional Living home for three years. He slowly walked up, sat down in a chair and faced the rest of us. His back was to the front door, and we all sat on the floor waiting to hear his story. He rubbed his hands together nervously trying to find the place to begin. And, then he spoke.
Sava said his first memory was being 3 years-old when his mom dropped him off at the orphanage. He was scared and alone. His mom said she would come back to see him, but she never did. Other kids would have family members show up every now and then, but no one ever showed up for him. He said he remembers being a bad kid. He refused to study or do any school work. When a teacher would call on him, he would never know the answer. The teachers in the orphanage would hit him often. On one occasion he remembers being in front of the class, the teacher asked him a question, and when he didn’t know it, the teacher slammed his head into the blackboard.
One day, when he was about 10 years-old, a social worker told him that he had a brother – he never knew he had a brother. She said his brother was in an orphanage in the north, and he would like to come see Sava. He was so excited to hear this. He kept waiting, but his brother didn’t show up. Until about a year later. He was sitting in class and looking out the window when he saw the same social worker drive up. He noticed there was a younger guy in the car, and he thought, “This must be my brother.” He got up and ran out to meet him. And, sure enough, it was his brother – Tudor.
As they talked that day, Tudor told him that he had two other brothers, and maybe they could all meet one day. Then, before Tudor left, he told him that he believed in him and that he should do well in school. “That was the day,” Sava shared, “that I started to study and try harder in school.”
Another year went by, and the social worker called the orphanage to talk to Sava. He went to the orphanage director’s office to pick up the call. The social worker said to him over the phone, “Sava, if you could say anything to your mother, what would it be?” Sava said, “I was so excited. I thought I was finally going to see my mom again.” He told the social worker that he didn’t know what he would say. She asked him again, “Sava, if you could say anything to your mother, what would it be?” He thought and finally said, “Mom, I’m sorry. I have missed you. I want to see you.” After that, the social worker said, “Well, Sava, your mother died, and I am coming tomorrow to pick you up, so you can go to the funeral and say your last words to her.” Sava said, “I just stood there and cried.”
The next day, the social worker came with Tudor in the car and they went to his mom’s funeral. While there, Tudor kept telling Sava about this program he was in called “Boys 2 Leaders” through Justice & Mercy International. He told him about living in this house in Chisinau with a lot of other guys and about meeting Jesus. He told him what a difference this program was making in his life and that maybe, one day, Sava could be a part of it but he would have to do well in school. “The more he talked,” Sava said, “the more I wanted to be a part of it.”
Sava said that he went back to the orphanage and became one of the best students. He worked hard and tried to be friends with everyone. His teachers couldn’t believe the turnaround in his life. When it came time to graduate, he applied for the Boys 2 Leaders program and was accepted. Again, he said he cried, but this time because he was so excited.
Sava moved into the Boys 2 Leaders house. By this time Tudor was now in the Independent Living part of the Boys 2 Leaders program, but he was at the house often looking out for Sava. Tudor also introduced Sava to Becky, his American sponsor through JMI. Becky would talk to Tudor and help him with clothes, food and decisions in life. After meeting Becky, Sava said, “I asked her if she would be my mom as well.” And, she said yes.
Through tears, Sava said, “I don’t know where I would be in life, or if I would even be alive, without JMI. God has come into my heart and has given me people like Becky, the Jones family and Igor to help me.” He said “I want to thank God, and I want to thank my brother for saving me.”
As only God can do, at this time, Tudor (who had been helping to translate at an orphanage) walked in through the front door and stood behind Sava. By this time, we were all crying. We were hearing and seeing life-change. God gave us a front row seat to see salvation and redemption come.
That week Sava served alongside of us as we led two Camps in the village of Carpineni. He led worship and translated for us in Bible Study as we shared the Good News of Christ with precious children just like him. He prayed for life-change to come to the hundreds of children like it had come to him. God gave us a front row seat to see and hear the birth of a spiritual leader.
I will forever be grateful for that night in the Grace House. To see God’s hand on this young man, and his brother standing behind him along with all of us surrounding him will forever be etched in my mind. I am so confident that Sava will do great things for the Kingdom. I thank my God for His church at Rolling Hills praying, giving and going to this country of Moldova for 15 years and for starting Justice & Mercy International to share God’s love with orphan kids like Sava. These seeds of the Gospel being planted in hearts through the years are growing into strong spiritual leaders. This is how God changes an orphan, a country and a lot of Americans along the way. Praise God for the hope we have in Christ and for the lives that He truly transforms for His glory. Thank you, God, for Sava and for the many like him who now have a “hope and a future.” And, thank you for praying, giving and going. God is using you to make a difference in so many precious orphan children, but especially Sava.
Justice & Mercy International is about to open a new house in Moldova for boys like Sava. All 14 young men in the new house will need partial or full sponsorship and we will also have new girls moving into our Grace House program in both Balti and Chisinau. Will you help make justice personal by sponsoring one of these amazing young men or women today? Please contact Rachel Trammell here.