How wonderful it is for me to say, Greetings to you from Romania, where I am thrilled to have returned on July 9th. After so many cancelled flights, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get back here, but I am truly delighted that all was cleared for my return 3 weeks ago. And what a 3-weeks it has been! I knew after such a long time away there was a lot awaiting my attention, but I didn’t anticipate just how busy life would be, especially as we continue to have no Mission teams so far this year.
But, for me, when so many things are buzzing in my head, all feeling they need urgent attention, the first thing I do is, make a list’! An Agenda, if you will, and on my first Agenda were 34 items requiring attention. Thankfully, some could be resolved with a short meeting and brief discussion. Unfortunately, some were far more complicated, requiring considerable discussion, thinking, prayer and consultations. Quite a number of the issues are still in that process and so I am very thankful I have time here in Romania to work through each subject. I am able to give the necessary amount of time for discussion with Romanian Staff, consultation with Smiles Trustees, time to pray and wait on the Lord – then without rushing, come to decisions in a peaceful and confident manner – that we can move forward on the Path God has prepared before us.
In many ways, this period in Smiles we are seeing two major issues merging into one. The first being coping with the COVID crisis and managing how we come through it, with the implications clear to see here in Romania, it is generally accepted by many charities and mission organisations that it could take years to recover from the COVID impact. My personal view for Smiles is we should expect at least 2021 to be a catch up year and pray that by 2022, we are well on the way to full recovery.
The second issue is the timing of what was scheduled to be a ‘Strategic Review’ of the entire ‘Operational Aspects’ of Smiles in Romania, but also in the United Kingdom and America. Every 5-10 years I tend to have such a review and I had planned to do so this year for the decade ahead. Of course, when I started the review in September last year with the executive management in Romania, we did not expect the set-backs caused by COVID. In some ways, people are viewing 2020 as a ‘lost year’ but I tend to see it as a great ‘opportunity’!
I therefore think it is fair to say, that both I and the Trustees of Smiles are now challenged with how we pretty much at the same time, steer a path through COVID and beyond at the same time as preparing for the next 10 years of optimum ministry through the Smiles Foundation.
I would ask you to pray with us over the coming weeks and months for God’s guidance in these important issues. In a rather strange way, not having the demands of Mission Teams at the moment, rather helps me in the challenge of looking hard at the strategic processes required for long term future planning.
So, my objective, if God grants me the years to complete the strategic review and implement the decisions, will be to see an even stronger Mission Organisation called Smiles Romania, than the one I have been privileged to lead since 1997.
We need your prayers and your continued support to see this happen, but I am very excited with the initial plans contained within my Strategic review that the Trustees will start considering next Monday. Please pray for them and all the activities in Romania for the continued peace of God to be in all that happens, and every decision made.
Naturally, not everything will be the same in the future as it was in the past. Situations must move on and for sure, life here in Romania, and the entire country, has changed and moved significantly from when I first visited in 1990. But the need for the Ministry, Smiles brings to various areas of work, is as strong today as it has ever been and I truly pray, we will come through COVID as well as the reviews, the plans and the changes with the Lord’s Heart and Voice clearly guiding in everything we do. I sincerely thank you for your prayers to this end.
As I mentioned, we still have received no Mission teams this year due to travel restrictions imposed or quarantine rules that make a short Mission Trip very complicated if not impossible. We watch the news daily for positive announcements that might ease the situation, but currently it seems the options are less hopeful, and we face more weeks of no trips and less clarity on when they might be possible.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everything here has stopped. Far from it as I’ve have seen for myself these past 3 weeks. There is an enormous amount to do, even more than we realised, because we have had no teams to help with the long list of tasks to be undertaken.
Back in March, many projects were forced to close, and many remain closed. School, Nursery, children’s work at Gepiu, Rapa and COPs’ as well as Dezna to name the major projects that have been closed due to COVID restrictions.
Field work has continued to operate through out, albeit in a different way. Not being able to go into homes, but delivering Food, Clothes and Medicine has been gratefully received by those we support. This has included the communities at Tileagd and Rapa and many families throughout Bihor County. A team were able to visit Corbesti just last week, taking a host of supplies and while there, Adi was able to record this month’s Thankful Heart Video.
Please take a look and enjoy another wonderful recording of people who really appreciate your support through Smiles. Thank you for continuing to help the Field project function week by week.
Luke also made it back to Romania soon after me and he has been really busy since arriving back in Cihei.
Within a few days of arriving, Luke hosted his first Smiles Coffee Morning by Zoom and it was wonderful to once again see so many friends from UK and even America sharing coffee and stories together. We had a wonderful Silent Auction for a superb Smiles Cake that raised £250 ($325) and was donated by the highest bidder to Tileagd Assisted Living for Staff and Residents to enjoy. And they certainly did enjoy!!
Over £1,000 ($1,300) was raised at the Coffee Morning and is designated to Dezna Winter Challenge.
Again, we were desperate for Mission teams this summer to help with painting rooms at JFL. Having opened in 2013, the facility was in need of a ‘refresh’. Mission teams would have got it done in a few weeks. But, so as not to disappoint the residents and team in Salonta – Luke took on the challenge of painting the JFL Rooms! Now they love him even more than before!!
Luke has also been out on Field Visits and plans to help with that each week in the absence of Mission Teams.
Our churches also opened for the first time in 4 months on July 19th. Tileagd and Rapa churches enjoyed their first ‘socially-distanced’ services and were very happy to be enjoying fellowship once again, albeit a little different to normal. Pastor Vasile has been continuing to meet the House Group in Mierlau during Lockdown and is thrilled that 4 people there have requested Believers Baptism. So, on August 2nd at 3pm – we will have a small service of celebration which I know so many of you would like to have attended. Ramona, mother to Denis, has been supported by Smiles for many years, through Family Care, at the Container Village and more recently for a couple of years now, at Mierlau Emergency Housing Unit.
On Sunday, she will express her love for God and obedience to His Call through the Waters of Baptism. What a wonderful day it will be and reminds me of the great old Baptismal Song “Oh Happy Day, Oh Happy Day – when Jesus washed my sins away.” I’m not sure if that will be on the Hymn Sheet for Sunday, but I’ll be singing it in my heart when I see the four people make their confession of faith. Please pray for them and thank you for enabling Smiles to minister to these people, helping to impact their eternal life through Jesus.
I am also pleased to report that on June 6th at the Smiles Open House, I launched a challenge to raise £11,000 ($14,300) to renew the Heating System in Dezna Outreach Centre and I’m so thankful this money has now been raised. We placed the special order for the Boilers and supplies and all has now been delivered. Ioan Has, our construction manager, is heading off to Dezna to start the work. He wishes he had some Mission Team help, but at the moment he needs to go alone, so the job will just take a little longer. But sure enough, due to your generous faithfulness – Dezna will be ‘Winter Ready’ by October 1st, this year.
We are also looking to install Solar Panels for heating the water next summer from the power of the Sun! There is plenty of it here as we expect to enjoy another 32C (90F) sunshine today. We need £2,400 ($3,120) for the Solar Panels which Ioan will do after the Heating system. Any support for the Solar Panels can be sent through to Smiles and designated accordingly. Thank you.
Even during these challenging times, Smiles supporters never cease to amaze me at their generosity for sure, but also the ingenuity on how to raise funds when the conventional methods used for years are not so easy.
Long term supporters Liz Houstoun and Jean Barclay are two such gems.
Liz has been making Face Masks which are very topical right now, but also in great demand, especially attractive ones with some colour and design. Liz has raised over £200 ($260) so far, which is wonderful for Smiles. I’m sure if you want a trendy Face Mask, we can take orders through the Smiles Office!
Then Jean tells me she turned 70 this year. You’d never know it! But she thinks it might be a good idea to use the occasion to fundraise. Jean plans walking 70 miles in 7 days for Smiles. She hopes to start in early August and I invite you to join her or at least support her through the JustGiving page. Do it now!
It must be something about the Scottish! Great people and fantastic supporters for Smiles. Thank you
In closing, one further challenge to share. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the ability to plan the Container that normally comes from Northern Ireland and was scheduled in September/October – cannot currently be planned. This would normally have on board urgent supplies for our projects to use over the coming year.
Urgent Supplies such as: Disinfectants, Laundry Washing Powder & Liquid, Shower Gel, Shampoo, Bin Liners, Hygiene Wipes and Toilet Rolls. Our remaining supplies are dangerously low and I am having to contemplate some Bulk Buying here in Romania. The cost is well above our anticipated Budget.
This was shared on both the Open House and Smiles Coffee Morning and some kind folk have sent money towards us buying urgent supplies. That made me think that others might like to do the same. On initial calculations, I anticipate needing to spend £ 6,000 ($ 7,500) within the next month, so another special appeal that I know you will pray about helping with.
To send your special support for Urgent Supplies
I think I have run out of time again in sharing the insights to the joys and challenges of leading the work we call Smiles Romania. I encourage you to not miss reading Maria’s page this month or our Prayer & Praise section and don’t forget to look at the Thankful Heart video from Corbesti.
With my grateful thanks for your continued support.
The Smiles Foundation