It’s hard to believe we have reached December. The year is almost over, and for me it feels like 2019 has just flown by. In many ways it has been a truly incredible year with some of the most exciting achievements in recent times. Certainly, Dezna Outreach Centre was one such exciting project to have finished and got the Official Opening done and dusted. Now we are planning for a great year in 2020 for the Camps, Retreats and Conferences we trust to see scheduled there during the coming year.
I’ve also just finished travelling around much of the UK with Smiles Forums in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. I so enjoyed each and every one of them. It has been fantastic to see so many faithful supporters and dear friends in each location and I was humbled by the positive response I received, everywhere I went, to the work of God through Smiles in Romania.
A Foundation operating for over 20 years will inevitably see a lot of changes as even beyond staff and operational factors, the basic needs in Romania are very different today to that we were faced with 20 years ago. So often, organisations, even the church, is reluctant to change and just keeps on doing ‘what it’s always done’ without recognising what it did so sincerely 20 years ago is not necessarily what is needed today.
The only issue that doesn’t change for sure, is the need to share the Gospel with everyone, but again – although the message doesn’t change, the mode of delivery sometimes needs to change and that is an aspect I have been considering, with the Trustees and senior Staff for much of this year.
As you will know, the motivation behind the entire Smiles Ministry has always been the Call to share the Gospel of Christ as Lord & Saviour to a hurting world. Many are hurting in Romania, so it has never been difficult to find those hurting people. The challenge, as it is for many, is to find the best way of sharing the Gospel to those hurting people. I am excited by many of the great plans and challenges we are taking forward for the year ahead.
It’s important to learn as we go! Even for me, after 43 years in full-time Christian Ministry, I must constantly assess what we are doing, how we do it and are the results proving to be effective within the strategy. This requires a willingness to adjust, change and try new things on a constant basis and as with most things in ministry, People make the difference and I have found it increasingly important during these past 2 years to take extra effort in fine-tuning our Team to be the best available for the task we face. I confess to being extremely happy with what we currently have and God-Willing the appointments I am about to make this month. Interviews have been taking place for the past couple of months for two crucially important appointments. Firstly, a manager for our Field Project based out of Cihei and secondly, a manager for our Residential Centres in Oradea and Salonta.
Week commencing December 2nd I’ll be meeting with the final short listed candidates for these key positions and I hope to be announcing new members of the Smiles Team next time I write. Please pray with us that the right people will know in their hearts God’s Call on them to Smiles – and from all the candidates we have met, the Lord will lead us to offer the position to the right person for the two important roles.
Part of that important willingness to review and change as required, no matter how difficult it can sometimes be, has led us to ‘put on hold’ the plans to build the Residential Facility in Dezna. We learnt a lot from building the Outreach Centre and some of the important lessons were concerning staff availability, both in Construction and Operational needs for a professional facility in the rural setting of Dezna.
We often struggled to find the staff to do the job, especially when we could not be present all the time to manage the progress. Maria and myself, and indeed many of the Smiles staff, spent a lot of time in Dezna to help get the job done. Our Construction Manager, Ioan Has, had to virtually live there for 9 months to get the job finished and a lot more than was planned had to be done by himself, on his own, as people capable of the job just couldn’t be found and trusted locally.
As a result of these lessons learnt, we have decided trying to build a Residential Facility in Dezna could create considerably more challenges than we want and would involve a disproportionate amount of time travelling the 4-hour round trip several times a week during construction. Placing the plans on hold for the time being, allows us to consider alternatives, and the more I have considered the options, the more I feel a great deal more excited with the possibilities! We have therefore decided to take a few months to consider alternatives and the current line of thought is truly exciting.
So, rather than develop the land in Dezna for Residential, we would instead extend the outdoor play area for the Camps. This was particularly appreciated by Adi and Ioana who believe the potential for Camp Outreach in Dezna is extremely high, especially if we can find the right balance of outdoor activities. So, we are considering doing just that.
But I wanted a major project to focus on for the next few years and realise such a major project might well be the last I personally oversee in the development of Smiles Romania. As I explained in more detail on the recent Smiles Forums, we are praying over thoughts and plans to develop a major new Project based in Cihei – our Smiles HQ in Romania.
The new concept is based around a Major Community Project with Ministry at the Heart of our plans, through a Cradle to Grave package of services including for Phase One – Child Care, Young Mothers Support, Nursery, Youth Clubs and Alternative Worship Services for the entire family. Phase Two would move to Residential Care for the Elderly and Disabled with an eye on the fact that our Management Contract with the State for ECO, expires in 2024.
So, Phase One would begin construction by late 20/21 and operational within a year. Phase Two would begin construction by spring 2022 and be completed for operation within 2 years. By then, I will be close to 68 years old and perhaps time for me to consider retirement (again) and hand the day to day baton onto someone else!
Please pray with us as we consider these very important issues over the coming weeks and months.
Of course, such a major project would put fund-raising back on the front-foot and after so many years of significant fund-raising for so many major projects, one could be excused for asking ‘is such a level of fund raising still possible?’ I never cease to be utterly amazed with the incredible support Smiles receives from our fund-raisers and donors. Just this past month we have received amazing support from some astonishing fund-raising events.
Lynda Thompson held a ‘coffee-morning’ at her Garden Nursery and raised £3,500 ($4,550) in the process!
Rosemary and Violet Hunter raised funds through growing a field of Sun-Flowers – donating £2,050 ($2,665) to Smiles.
Pop-Up Shops for Christmas have been established for Smiles in South Wales and Omagh Northern Ireland and considerable amounts of precious support is anticipated.
A Christmas Market in Chesterfield was once again a wonderful success as Carol Woodward, a supporter for 20-years raised £2,250 ($2,925).
I was also delighted to speak at Great Ayton Methodist Church in November. The Church adopted Smiles as their ‘Charity of the year’ and have so far raised over £6,000 ($7,800).
If I was in any doubt, which I really wasn’t, Smiles can raise whatever amount is needed to do God’s Work and respond to His Call.
So, if indeed God leads us confidently towards embarking on the Cihei Community Project – I know many will relish the excitement of raising the funds needed for such a Witness to the Community of a God who Loves them and has a Plan & Purpose for their lives.
We are now preparing for our Christmas Project SOS – (Sack of Smiles) and will again have Mission teams helping to make up the sacks and baskets for delivery during the Mission Trips of December 6th – 20th.
We received wonderful support during the recent Forum’s but I want this year to do a super large shop for SOS. We want to have the sacks filled with hygiene supplies such as toothbrush, toothpaste and soap, clothes such as Hat, Scarf and Gloves, plenty of snacks and sweets and of course a suitable toy. This may be the only gift the child will receive this Christmas and in blessing hundreds of children with a gift, we want to ensure we have the opportunity of sharing the most important message that Christmas is about the Gift God gave us, through the Birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Call the office to donate using a debit or credit Card. Go to the website to support through PayPal or mail your Gift to our office in the UK or America. Please try to get your gift to us by December 6th so we can plan accordingly when the shopping starts, and the Mission Team begin making up the Sacks for delivery. Thank you.
I reported last month of the serious problem of the Heating Boiler at the Tileagd Complex leaking severely and in need of replacement. Once again, I can report the Smiles Family responded to the call. More than £15,000 ($20,000) has already been provided and the New Boiler is in place. I am confident the final balance of the total bill will be covered imminently by our incredible family of supporters.Looking ahead, significant money has also been received from fund-raising adventures for two projects being planned for next year. One is to build a house (like a Duplex) to house two families who have been in our Homeless Project and subsequently housed in our Emergency Housing Unit. Now we plan to use the funds donated to build a permanent house for the families and trust people on Mission Trips in 2020 will be helping with the work!
Another fund-raiser has been focused on providing a Playground at our Rapa Community to provide fun and activities for the children of Rapa. Sufficient funds have now been raised and so we are making plans to start building in April/May 2020. We need more ‘hands-on’ folk to form the team that can make this dream a reality.
Many Mission Teams are available for 2020, including the focused Construction Week (May 2nd – 9th) but more people are needed to tackle the number of projects on the drawing board. Check out the Mission Trip Specials and contact us to reserve your place.
Mission Trip Special Weeks 2020
If you would like more information on any of our Mission Trips, contact us for practical help with every aspect needed for you, your family or team. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or
Telephone the office. (UK:0113-276-5060 / USA: 423-239-9525)
Whilst we are thankful for the tremendous fund-raising activity at this time and the results which are quite amazing – I want to also remind all supporters that we need to think about Smiles Focus Month coming up in February 2020. Each year we have a ‘Smiles Day’ which is officially February 1st next year, but fund-raising events can be on the actual weekend or any convenient time around February. This is with particular focus on the needs we face in the first couple months of each new year, when giving traditionally drops following the end of year generosity we kindly receive.
If you can plan a little something to raise some extra funds in February 2020, please do and keep us informed of your intentions and expectations. Anything we can do to help, be assured we will.
We have more updates this month from Maria (Stop.. Make Time!), Adi (Past and Present) and Luke (It’s the most wonderful time of the year) as well as another ‘Thankful Hearts’ Video from a beneficiary produced by Adi. This will be the last update from them all this year and probably the next will be February 2020. I will be posting a New Year Message around January 6th. So you have plenty of time to read and update yourself on all the news. And don’t forget to share with your friends who can sign up to receive the monthly news directly to their in-box. Sign up on our Homepage: https://www.thesmilesfoundation.org/
Thank you for helping to make this past month one of the most uplifting and encouraging months I’ve had in quite a long time. Smiles really is a most incredible family to be a part of.
Sincere blessings to you all.
Chief Executive to The Smiles Foundation