I don’t know about you, but for me this New Year has started with a bang! January has been an incredibly busy time, for which I was based in the United Kingdom for most of it, although I’m back in Romania now!!
With the way my 2020 schedule was shaping up, I decided to stay in the UK after Christmas and use the time for numerous meetings I wanted to arrange up and down the country. It all proved a wonderfully encouraging time with many great meetings with lots of plans and possibilities for the year ahead. Now I am back in Romania for what will be a very demanding 5+ weeks before I head to America in March. So, I thank those who took time to meet this past month and pray together we can move forward this wonderful Work of God we call the Smiles Foundation.
The month started with some super news of special End of Year gifts being received, which is always so humbling but also very practical in providing immediate options for planning through the year. Not only some generous personal gifts from great supporters in America and the United Kingdom, but we also received a humbling gift from a dear lady who had died in 2019 but remembered Smiles in her Will, which will indeed ensure many more Smiles are made in the years ahead. The Foundation is honoured to have such gifts received each and every year, which confirms how special many people think our work is, but it also places extra responsibility upon us to ensure we fulfil all the expectations people have – whether those people are still with us or not, we will always honour their wishes expressed through their support.
To help with people interested in ‘Leaving a Smile in their Will’ we have produced a simple leaflet to help. Do take a read and consider your support. Thank you.
We were also thrilled to have been selected ‘Charity of the Year’ for support by Great Ayton Methodist Church in the North East of England. After many fantastic fund-raising events through-out 2019, we were presented £7,000 ($9,100) on January 12th which also helped to get the new year off to a great start.
On a similar theme, I was greatly moved this past week to read a Facebook post from a friend I’ve known for probably 30 years and who visited Romania way back in the early days of 2002. He wrote:
Twenty years ago, Jenn and I decided to donate all my retirement money to this charity. We knew we weren’t going to have children, so investing in these children, and others, seemed spiritually wiser than investing in our own future. It truly was an inspired decision. The work of “practical faith” via Smiles in Romania has been a thing to behold. “I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told,” says God in Habakkuk. We believed it then, and acted on that faith, and I still believe it today. It’s a faith based on evidence, not some blind leap of lunacy. Blessings on Kevin Hoy for his faithfulness to the vision God gave him after a “chance” meeting with a Roma (gypsy) boy in Oradea.
I was so humbled to read this after all these years and I was reminded once again, God’s Call upon us is permanent. We can’t pick and choose what we do or when, how long for etc. God’s Call is final. Until He says it is time to move on, we must remain faithful to His Call and He will always remain faithful to His Children. What a wonderfully comforting position to be in.
Praise be to God!
Maria has also been reflecting on past years and recounts many memories and blessings these past 10 years. Be sure to check Maria’s report and enjoy the time of reflection.
Back in Romania it has been a busy month, especially for our new team members who started January 6th and have been getting to grips with all the new aspects of their working life. We have also created a new ‘Thankful Hearts’ focus, moving away from our monthly features of those in
Residential Care, to those with a thankful heart from many of our projects.
So, this month, we are pleased to feature a more ‘home based’ Thankful Heart from several of our key staff, including two of the new members – so this may be an important introduction for you. Enjoy – and do let us know any questions you have for any of the team members featured.
As several of the team referenced, your visits through Mission Trips are crucially important both for our staff, but even more so for our beneficiaries who love to see people who care, spending time to help and encourage them through Mission Trip activities.
On February 6th, we have the first of 4 students from ETSU (East Tennessee State University) beginning Under-Grad and Post-Grad studies for up to 10 weeks in Romania with Smiles. This is a first of its kind for Smiles and follows a successful visit by two professors from ETSU last summer. We are thrilled to have the students joining us with more to follow, as well as a Study Abroad group coming from ETSU in the summer.
During a 2-day meeting in Leeds with Dawn and Luke this past week, it was thrilling to have several important Mission Trips confirmed, both with teams from America and UK and several individuals deciding to join trips that are scheduled during the year.
Luke and I also met with Peter Ball, a lecturer from Royal Horticultural Society and we’re delighted Peter has committed to start a Gardening Project in Gepiu this summer. He would like to have 4 additional members to his team who are simply Garden & Growing novices who will be willing to assist Peter and his colleague Richard during a Mission Trip from August 29th – September 5th, 2020. If you love gardening and are willing to help, please contact the Smiles office for the Gardening Mission Trip to Gepiu.
A lot of interest has been received for other Special Mission Trips, especially the Construction Trip (May 2nd – 9th) the Family Week (August 1st – 8th) and the Ladies Week (October 10th – 17th). One family of 3 generations have enquired about a Family Week in Dezna, while a Camp is operational! We’ve agreed it can work and will be super for Grandparents and Grandkids together. So, if you fancy Dezna Outreach Centre for your Family Week, or of course the main trip in Cihei, just give us a call and we’ll explain all the possibilities.
Don’t forget my encouragement last month for those making Mission Trip confirmations by March 31st. You will get the trips at the same price as 2019. Some have taken advantage of the offer and benefitting from cheaper flights by booking early. There is still time to plan and get it confirmed so be sure to contact us if you need any support in making your booking.
DEZNA will be a very busy place this summer with Camps running several weeks throughout the school vacations. Smiles will have many children wanting to attend Camp but limited on finance to pay the cost, so I am asking you to consider this summer a ‘BBQ for Dezna’.
Yes, I would like as many supporters as possible to arrange a BBQ in your garden or local community with the aim of raising as much money as possible to sponsor Dezna Camps. It costs £90 / $ 120 a week for a young person to attend Dezna and if they can’t afford it, we want to say ‘Come Anyway’ someone has made it possible! So, for more information on organising a BBQ for Dezna, contact us or get scheduling your BBQ and create excitement for kids in Romania to share a mountain top experience in Dezna and hear of the incredible love God has for each and every one of them. If you don’t fancy the BBQ but want to support ‘Kids to Dezna’ – send or call with your donation quoting ‘Dezna Camps’ to enable more kids to go.
Don’t forget February is Smiles Day month and designed to encourage special fund-raising to add a little extra to our income in the traditionally more difficult months at the beginning of the year. Let me know what you are doing so we can support in person or in prayer for your event.
Let me also mention again for your diary, Smiles Prayer Day is on May 3rd, this year. An important opportunity to spend a little extra time bringing the needs and opportunities of Smiles before our Lord. Personally, small groups and your Church – please consider engaging all possibilities with a focused prayer time on May 3rd.
There is a lot to be excited about as the New Year unfolds and more plans are made for the months ahead. I won’t share them all right now, but I’ll have more news and praises to share next month.
Sincere blessings to you all for your love and support through prayer, giving and going.
Chief Executive to The Smiles Foundation