We serve an Amazing God! Today we begin the second quarter of 2021. It is incredible how the time passes so fast, especially when life is progressing well. Back in the middle of these challenging times, everything felt so slow, but as the situation improves, everything moves at such a faster pace, you start wishing it would slow down a tad!
The past month has been a demanding time but filled with a sense of progress and excitement. Personally, one of the most exciting months for at least a year and that is a great cause for joy, just as the arrival of Spring is for us all. Lamentations 3 comes to my mind:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning.
Within the Smiles Foundation we are constantly reminded, as we stay committed to God’s Call in our lives and the purpose of this Mission’s Work, He renews His Love and Compassion every morning.
After the year or so that we have all endured, it was reasonable to wonder, ‘When will it change?’ ‘When will there be positive things to consider again?’ March has certainly brought a sense of change and improvement and I see that getting into full swing as we enter April and move forward towards the summer.
As you know, the one aspect of Smiles we have sadly missed this past year, has been the Mission Trips. But even that took a step towards improvement during March. I nervously considered launching the notion of holding a Virtual Mission Trip and hoped we would go some way towards creating the enthusiasm and support that our Hands-On trips have done now for over 20 years.
I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results of our first Virtual Trip, held from March 22nd – 26th. We had 15 people sign up which amazingly had been the top number I wanted to ensure we didn’t lose the personal impact by having too many screens involved. We had exactly the right number and definitely the right people, to make our ‘first’ attempt tremendously successful and confirmed it as far from our last!
Of course, you might expect me to be a little over enthusiastic – but let me share with you some of the responses I have received within 24 hours or so of the Trip finishing:
“Well, I have just clicked off the Zoom call for the final night of the first Virtual Mission Trip, and wow what a week that was! I was not sure how it would compare with a real Mission Trip, but I did experience the same passion and roller-coaster ride of emotion as normal.”
Adrian, Northern Ireland
“Covid has certainly not dampened the enthusiasm of the Smiles staff who are as committed as ever which was very apparent from the wonderful presentations they provided throughout this truly inspiring and uplifting week of which I was privileged to be a part”
“We have thoroughly enjoyed these past 5 evenings on our virtual Mission Trip. It was informative and covered a great variety of projects. The fantastic video’s, fellowship and worship time really helped to make it feel like we were actually in Romania.”
Annette & Darren, England
“Wow, how to sum up a great first time ever virtual mission event?! I went in not knowing what to expect but knowing if anyone could figure out how to do a virtual mission it would be you and the team, and that proved true! It was so encouraging to see how you have continued to serve during the pandemic.”
Carol & Peter, America
“Thank you so much for organising the Virtual Mission Trip last week. We were blessed to take part in it, a great experience, which gave us the opportunity to catch up with the latest situations in each of the Smiles’ projects we visited, and meet up with friends old and new, and be reminded of memories of past Mission Trips and how God has blessed the work of Smiles despite many trials and tribulations over the years.”
Joan & John, England
“Thank you so much for organising the virtual mission trip. It gave great insight and update to all your activities, confirming all plans are deeply rooted and dependent on God’s leading.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for putting together such a wonderful mission experience for all of those who participated. It was such an amazing experience to spend a week with you and although we were not together in person, we were together virtually and spiritually.”
So – I think you will see and agree the impact was universally positive and greatly appreciated. So, are we just repeating it in April and May? NO – we will have new Videos produced for each Mission Trip and a different Team of Staff lined up each night to welcome you and share the experience with you and answer your questions on the projects they work with.
I trust you will seriously consider joining us April 23rd – 26th or May 24th – 28th. Further details are on the website : The Smiles Foundation » New for March, April & May 2021 – Virtual Mission Trips
Remember, space is limited so reserve your place soon. Until Hands-On trips are possible again, this is a great alternative for those who have been before, as well as those who want to see what Smiles in Romania does and how it operates. I hope to see you on one of our Virtual Mission Trips.
In addition to the preparation work and the week of presentations, we had many other exciting issues to deal with during March. Perhaps ‘top of the list’ was interviewing from the enquiries and applications received for new members to join our Outreach team. Adi and I met with several people and all were of great interest for various reasons. It was inevitably tough to choose who we should offer the positions to.
If they didn’t accept, how would we feel offering to those overlooked in the first selection? However, I recall specifically praying for God to decide and lay on our hearts who we should call. God brought full agreement between Adi, myself and Maria so we made our offers to the top three candidates and we are all so thankful, they all accepted! So we have 3 new colleagues joining the Outreach Team today, April 1st (and that’s no joke)!!
Adi is excited to be directing the Outreach Pillar and believes with the new team in place, we can really start gearing up all the work in our programmes for Church, Children, Communities and Camps. We will get down in earnest now to make plans and preparations and Adi will be reporting on progress for our May update. I’m sure he will also take that opportunity to introduce the new Team fully.
Everyone here in Romania is busy, very busy but I think they all prefer that (most of the time!) than most of last year when we were wondering ‘what to do’! Since Luke got back to Romania he has helped enormously on practical projects, in Dezna, at ECO and currently at EHU. He’s managed to find time to provide you a report so please take some time to read what he shares this month.
Equally, Maria is always busy, not least with two growing boys. But she always finds time to do so many things on a multitude of issues. Much of Maria’s work is over and above her responsibilities directing the new Missions Pillar, as she is still my personal assistant in all the legal and governance issues of Smiles Romania. However, she has also done a brief update on the projects covered by Missions, so please take a look as you have time.
I’m also delighted to have an update from Jim Dodd, our Ambassador in America. Our American friends should take a read and think who you could share the work of Smiles with to consider joining Jim on a Trip to Romania later in the year.
I’ve also had a busy month, which is set to continue as I not only continue work on the Virtual Mission Trips, the expanding team in Romania and the regular work of directing the Organisation – but I’ve started the initial stages of design and research for the possible build of Sunset House, our new Residential Facility being considered for Cihei, with possible opening in 2024. So far, I’ve done my draft design and had a couple of meetings with the potential architect, who has also visited our current 3 facilities to see what we have so far and how we operate.
As you can imagine, there is an enormous amount to consider and just as soon as I have stage one proposals ready in a presentable format, I will share the whole vision with you. I can guarantee you it will be a huge and exciting project – one that will bring immense Glory and Honour to God. It might be a few months before I have that ready to share, but I’m letting you know I am working on it, for your prayers and encouraging support.
We are also working on the new format Newsletter which will be printed and mailed to you by mid-April. I know so much is done these days on-line through websites and social media, but some of us still enjoy flicking through and reading a good old-fashioned news-sheet. As with so many new things in Smiles this year, the new style Newsletter is an 8-page publication full of great information, updates and pictures. If you don’t have it by end of month, give us a call or drop us a note, we’ll be sure to mail it to you by return.
And finally – please don’t forget the Smiles Prayer Day is scheduled for May 2nd this year. This is an important day when we ask supporters and their churches to provide a few extra minutes for a Smiles Update in Church or a Prayer meeting that week, to remember the work of Smiles before God. Prayer information will be on the website at The Smiles Foundation » Prayer & Praise and a special detail will be given at the April Prayer Gathering on April 26th. Thank you for your prayerful support.
I continue to be so thankful for your interest and support in Smiles and I look forward to seeing you soon, hopefully on one of the Smiles Virtual Mission Trips or the Hands-on option later in the year.
God bless you all.
Chief Executive to
The Smiles Foundation