Once upon a time… that’s how any story begins, and I would like my story to begin this way, but my life is not a fairy tale, and my story is so much deeper than any book or movie. The Republic of Moldova is a small country with great needs. Someone once said that “Moldova is a big village. If you want to find something out, simply ask anyone!”
I completed the Baptist Seminary in Bucharest, Romania, and although I was urged by colleagues and my parents to remain in Romania, I made a promise to God and myself to return home. I was guided by Habakkuk 3:17-18 and because I knew my country so well, I returned home. Today, I work for JMI and I am serving in a local church. However, I realize I still have a lot to learn about the people in my country. While I returned home to my Christian community who love the Lord, God also had plans to send me out into the harvest field, to minister to people with various material needs, but whose greatest need is for God and his love.
I joined the staff of Speranță și Caritate, Justice and Mercy International, in 2017. JMI has 4 unique programs that are designed to help vulnerable children wherever they live and to identify the most at-risk children for inclusion in our transitional living program. We are a team of imperfect people, with different gifts and personalities, who put their heart into giving their best, even when it’s difficult. I am most attracted to the moral principles of this organization that are built on Scripture.
When I first joined the staff, I shadowed those with more experience, who were already doing the work. It devastated me to see how those without Christ lived, especially when they faced troubles. I now work as a Sponsorship Coordinator, but I do a lot more than just translating letters. As a Sponsorship Coordinator, I am responsible for translating letters for about 150 children every month, but I also work personally with each child as I determine their needs. I take measurements for clothing and shoes and buy all these gifts, as well as supplies, and then deliver them to the children during the monthly sponsorship visits. I lead the monthly meetings and then return to the office to prepare invoices, reports and all the paperwork we complete on each child. This work has taught me to be more disciplined, responsible, transparent, detail-oriented, diligent, and a little better with accounting. Additionally, there are so many others working behind the scenes – JMI’s entire Moldovan staff, the US staff and all the sponsors around the world. But the greatest joy we have is to share the Gospel with these children, their parents, and families. Some do not listen, but others do. I personally know many others who were sponsored through our program, left the orphanages and participated in our Transitional Living and Independent Living programs. I know them because today I work alongside them as colleagues at JMI. Is all that we do worth doing? I think so, praise the Lord for this!
As I wrote earlier, we do not live in a fairytale. I will never forget the phone call I received from the social worker at Năvîrneț Village, as she said, “Lola Smirnov is no longer with us.” Lola was one of our sponsored children in Năvîrneț. In shock, I learned that Lola’s mother had called her father and told him that she didn’t love him anymore and that she would not return home after working abroad. In a rage, he intentionally set fire to the house with Lola inside, then he took his own life. Lola and her father had died, and the mother did not return home for the funeral, nor take responsibility for Lola’s siblings. I cannot explain how crushed I was emotionally and how my heart was broken by what happened to Lola.
When I visited Năvîrneț just a few weeks earlier, I never thought the picture I would take of Lola would be the last picture of her; the letter I would translate would be the last letter, or this would be the last time I would see Lola alive. Lola was a sweet 9-year old little girl, with big, beautiful eyes, an innocent smile and a dream of having a pony one day. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done was when I wrote to her sponsor. Walking through this situation affected me spiritually and emotionally, but I was comforted and supported by my colleagues – my Moldovan and US team. I am thankful to God that He has placed me among these people.
The ministry of JMI in Moldova is constantly changing – children grow and change, some leave, others are added and some even die. I have no guarantee of how long God will allow me to work with JMI because we are all in transit here on this earth. But I have learned to give everything I have each month when I visit children in the villages. Many times when I arrive they will surround me and some will say, “When I grow up, I will work like you!” I pray every child will hear about God from me and each one will choose a relationship with Him. After all, this may be the last time they hear.