Welcome to the second half of 2021!
It is extraordinary the pace at which time passes. Whilst I still wish we were a little more progressed on the road out of ‘Covid Restrictions’ I confess to reflecting on the first half of 2021 and feeling, richly blessed. Despite not being able to meet in the conventional ways we enjoyed pre-pandemic, we have certainly found within Smiles, delightful ways to maintain our relationships and information on all that is happening in Romania, as for sure, there is so much to keep up to date on.
Virtual Meetings have become part and parcel of life for most of us as a result of Covid. Smiles has embraced these virtual meetings through Zoom and I have found them to be important, powerful and refreshing to engage with so many people on a variety of topics but with the combining thread of Ministry through Smiles, linking all the meetings of which there have been many.
Most important have been the monthly Prayer Gatherings that were started in October 2020 and have continued each month with the last one on June 28th. These get togethers are so important to share more details than we often can publicly, about the work and the people – with up to the minute details, from Romania, which are prayed for immediately, but also taken away for continued prayer in the days and weeks to come. I’ve missed two such Prayer Gatherings since October. The first one while I had COVID! And the most recent one on June 28th, as I was travelling back to Romania from 17 days in England – with a flight due to land in Cluj, at just about the time our Prayer Gathering was starting. But Adi, Luke and Anna took great care of things in my absence.
The next Prayer Gathering is scheduled for Monday, July 26th. If you haven’t attended a meeting yet, let me know and I’ll be delighted to add you to the list of invites when the Zoom ID is sent out.
As you know, we also had 3 weeks of Virtual Mission Trips by Zoom – one week in each of March, April and May. They were wonderfully successful, and I am still so thankful to those who took part and I hope you still count the time as a real blessing and rich experience. The trips by Zoom were a lot of work to put together, but I’m already looking forward to the next series which I’m thinking might be in the new year. We don’t have Mission Trips in Romania during January or February – but maybe we have now found a way we can still experience the joy and impact of a Mission trip – albeit Virtually!
You may ask ‘Why so far away?’ Well, I’ve a strong feeling we will be having our more traditional ‘Hand’s-On’ Trips from October, maybe earlier – so January sounds a good time to plan something special on our next Virtual Mission Trip. Let me know if you would be interested in more details when available for our Virtual Mission Trip 2022! I’ll be pleased to update you personally on the options.
We also had two Open Houses which were really special and exciting for me. I enjoyed meeting so many people, during our January Open House and again this past month. An informal time of updates and announcements from myself and other key personnel provides an interesting opportunity for the Smiles Family to learn more about the top issues of the day on the Smiles Agenda.
I’m thinking the next Open House could be Saturday September 18th and for sure there will be some very special announcements. Make a note and more details will be available nearer the time.
I was also pleased to hold our International Trustees Meeting on June 15th which is always an important occasion, but more special this past 15 months, as a full International Gathering as been possible by switching to Virtual, rather than ‘in person’. The Trustees are very important to the organisation, as they Protect the Vision, Support the Leadership and Ensure we Comply with Legal aspects of a Charitable/Tax Exempt entity. The Trustees also serve as a sounding board for the ideas I propose and help to broaden the base of support for the charity in UK and America.
Their time and experience is so valuable, yet they give it voluntarily which makes them particularly special in all aspects. I was delighted at the Trustees meeting on June 15th to extend the Board to include Dante Rutstrom in America and Ian Steenson to the UK Board of Trustees.
One issue the Board of Trustees are all firmly committed to, is seeing Hand’s-On Mission Trips return to Romania in the very near future. We are encouraged after such a long uncertain wait, that it appears July will be a significant point of lifting many of the remaining restrictions around the pandemic. Romania has already lifted quarantine rules for those visiting who have had both vaccinations. We are praying United Kingdom will follow much of Europe to allow those who have travelled abroad, to return home without quarantine if fully vaccinated. America State Department has already lowered the ‘Travel Risk’ of Romania, from Level 4 ‘Do Not Travel’ to level 3 which allows travel subject to conditions such as negative PCR test and both vaccinations to avoid quarantine.
So – everything is moving in the right direction ‘finally’!
We are currently anticipating this will mean, Trips already scheduled for August onwards, could potentially take place, if the rules and conditions are met. For those who haven’t made plans for a trip, I believe it is very reasonable to do so now from October 9th for one week or two. Then of course our special trips for December are open to book from 4th – 18th one week or two also.
I anticipate great excitement and enthusiasm for the return to Mission Trips, so if you want to be sure of your place in October or December, contact Dawn at the office or e-mail email@example.com
We are very excited to be making Mission Trips Plans again, and we look forward to welcoming you to Cihei in the next few months or in 2022. Everything is open for booking, NOW!
In preparation for teams returning to our Mission Centre in Cihei or to the Dezna Outreach Centre, Smiles has been investing during the quieter Covid months. Major improvements are being made at the Mission Centre with double insulation for the entire building, keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. In addition, we have installed Solar Heating at both the Mission Centre and Dezna Outreach Centre to contribute to Climate Efforts and reduce our Electricity costs. You will notice the difference, so come back soon!
If you are on the October 9th Mission Trip, you may well be seeing the arrival of the first Container to Cihei for nearly 2 years! During the pandemic, it wasn’t possible to fill and ship our usual annual Container, but now Europe has opened up, we are working hard to collect all the urgent supplies needed to fill the Container at which point, McBurney’s Transport of Ballymena will kindly drive it out to us, free of charge. That’s an enormously generous gesture, so we want to make sure the offer is totally worthwhile, by ensuring the Container is FULL.
The WISHLIST is here, and we ask you to collect and donate as able, contacting the Smiles office with what you have or contacting direct our Development Ambassadors in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland who will each be able to coordinate collections and deliveries to get everything to the Container in September, for loading and preparing it for the journey to Romania.
Thank you for what you can do to make this long-awaited Container the best delivery we’ve had in 2 years!
Everyone here in Romania is anxious to receive the Container. Maria, Adi, Simona, Ligia, Ioana and many more are desperate to receive supplies to provide some breathing space for their budgets, that have been under pressure these past 2 years having to provide everything that was needed from monthly budget allowances.
Maria updates issues in her report but for sure the Container will be vitally important for the Tileagd Nursery, After-School, EHU and Cihei needs. Be sure to take a read.
Luke is preparing for another exciting Zoom, this time on July 10th exclusively for YOUTH! Check out Luke’s report this month for updates and specific information on the Zoom Youth Event. If you are not ‘youth’ be sure to encourage some one aged 15-21 to contact Luke and sign-up for an exciting event, designed especially for them.
My sincere thanks to those who supported the Dezna Camps Fund last month to enable young people who otherwise couldn’t afford, to experience that ‘mountain top’ time close to God. Just today (June 30th) we had an enquiry of 25-35 young people who want to come to Dezna in July. Your support makes it possible, so please continue to support and pray for Dezna Camps at Casa Torch.
As the Romanian Schools are out for Summer – so the opportunity begins for COP’s (VBS and HBC) programmes through various Villages sharing the Gospel in a contemporary and exciting way. These events in addition to Camps will make for a busy summer, but after the year we have all endured, many kids are ready for something different. With your help and support, we can be ready to share Jesus – so thank you for continuing to support our efforts through the Outreach Pillar.
There will be plenty to share next month, so don’t miss our Updates month by month.
Thank you for your wonderful support of Smiles. God is doing great things. We are thankful for Him and the opportunity to serve Him day by day. Until next time, stay safe and well and we pray God richly blesses you in all you do.
CEO & Founder of The Smiles Foundation