Greetings to you all.
I realise it’s December, but I didn’t expect to wake up to this headline this morning: “Arctic blast brings wind chill of -20C (-4F) and snow to Britain with temperatures lower than Iceland” !!!
Having enjoyed some beautiful autumn weather this past month in America, including some lovely 80+F (25C) in Phoenix AZ and Jacksonville FL – it was quite a shock returning to Europe where winter has most certainly arrived. I normally need to prepare myself for returning to Romania and bracing the cold. This year, it looks like Romania is a few degrees warmer, so I look forward to arriving back in Cihei next week!
Rarely am I away from Romania for so long, but the trip to America and a UK Trustees Meeting meant pushing the dates to the limit, so I’ll return next week after 5 weeks away. Plenty will be awaiting my return!
But first, this past month. It has been an incredibly busy 30 days. I left Romania for England on October 31st and 2 days later traveled to Columbus OH. I enjoyed a lovely weekend at Madison Christian Church and I’m thankful to Pastor Paul Barnes who afforded me his pulpit for both Sunday morning services to share some challenging thoughts on the Smiles Ministry in Romania.From there I drove to Washington DC and agreed a Mission Trip for 25 students in July 2018. Then onto Virginia where I enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship and discussion on opportunities for the future through partnership in Missions. The idea is to bring together leaders from across America for a ‘Vision Trip’ to Smiles Romania in September ’18 to see what our Mission Trips offer. We hope those who visit will return home to encourage groups from their church and areas to come on their own Mission Trip in the future.
It was then wonderful to be back at my ‘home’ church in America – Colonial Heights Christian where I spent so many years as a base while establishing and developing Nia’s ministry. Much has changed over the past 20 years or so, but still many dear friends are there, and they faithfully came to hear my update presentation on Smiles which the Church still support through their monthly Missions Budget.Then a beautiful drive on a gloriously sunny day to Charlotte NC where I was delighted to meet with former trustee Scott Suskovic, chatting about past, current and future opportunities. Following other meetings in the area with key supporters, I headed towards Atlanta GA for a flight to our faithful territory of Baton Rouge LA.
It was great to spend time with so many great friends, especially Smiles Trustee, John Schwab. I had a busy time at First Presbyterian Church speaking in both Sunday morning Services and a Sunday School Class presentation giving Smiles updates. Then I drove towards Houston TX stopping in Eunice LA on route connecting with our friend Pastor Tom McManus who served in the UK for 20 years and now pastors a church in his home state of Louisiana. I had further opportunities to meet with key supporters which was a wonderful blessing and I thank them all for their support, in many cases for 20 years or more. I also greatly appreciated the generosity of so many who hosted me and shared the culinary wonders of their region. Mexican, Cajun, Texan BBQ, Oriental, Lebanese and many more. I certainly had missed the great food on offer in America these past couple of years. It was so good to be back!
Then another flight across to Phoenix AZ (my furthest point west) and a couple of very important days with Trustees and friends for over 20 years – Mark and Sheryl Jones. So good to catch up and marvel together at God’s Goodness and Provision over so many years.They also blessed me with a new lap-top computer which was such a surprise and so generous of them. When God gives you great friends, be thankful always. The precious gift of friends we should never take for granted.
As I was drawing to the close of my trip, I headed back East to Jacksonville FL and to my wonderful friends and hosts for the weekend – Jim & Donna Watts. I got to speak twice at Christ’s Church JAX where many support our work so wonderfully. I look forward to welcoming Jim & Donna and another team from Christ’s Church to Romania on a Mission Trip in 2018.
The US Visit was both exhausting and exhilarating. It was very encouraging to meet so many people, present so many presentations, receive such love and support from beginning to end. To experience such commitment and the assurance of continued partnership in the work we undertake together in Romania.
Many would say to me ‘I don’t know what would happen without you’ – but the fact is, nothing would happen without YOU. The work of the Smiles Foundation is a partnership between those on the field sharing God’s Love to those in need on the one hand, and those who faithfully support on the other hand through sponsorship, fund-raising and generous gifts day by day, week after week, for months and indeed years. It is partnerships God has brought together and the effectiveness of the team is amazing to see and most certainly brings a SMILE to all who are involved – In Romania as well as America and the United Kingdom.
My thanks to all the churches and supporters who made my visit to America such an outstanding success. Having made the visit to you this year, I truly pray I will see some of you in Romania in 2018 and that you will all continue supporting what we do for the people there.
It was astonishing that while I was touring the States, another team of 9, made up of both Brits and Romanians were touring the UK. That also went amazingly well and certainly the team enjoyed their visit very much indeed.
Several of this month’s reports feature news and aspects of the UK Tour, so be sure to take a good read of all they have shared. Maria (A Thankful Heart) ; Adi (Smiles UK Tour) ; Barbara (God’s Hands)
They also worked on this month’s ‘Thankful Hearts’ video which is well worth a look.
Georgi stayed in Romania holding the fort, but her report on the progress of our Residential Care Homes is inspiring to read. (Thanksgiving and Praise).
As I said earlier, I’ll be heading back to Cihei very soon to prepare for the Mission Trips this Christmas and all the celebrations this time of year brings within all our projects. The Mission Teams will be playing Santa this month with not just Food Parcels to our families, but Sack of Smiles to all the kids.
We need your help to buy enough supplies for the Sacks, so please support the SOS programme now so that we can buy the supplies and start delivering soon! Support Sack of Smiles.
We can also help you with some of your Christmas Shopping!
Smiles has a lovely 2018 Calendar for sale which makes a super little gift for a family member or friend.Just £5 ($8) each or 5 for £20 ($30) plus P&P.
We also have the new Thankful Hearts CD from the Romanian Staff (and a few of the earlier album ‘Home’). They are £10 ($15) each plus P&P and can be mailed to you in time for Christmas.
Order Calendars or CDs NOW by telephoning UK: 0113-276-5060 (9am-5pm) or USA: 423-239-9525 (6am-1pm EST) using Visa/Mastercard and we will get your order in the mail same day.
You can also call the same numbers to donate for SOS or to support any Smiles Projects this Christmas.
We need your support to make this Christmas special for the many we care for in Romania. Your end of year Gift, whether by phone or on-line through the website can make this a special time for Smiles as we prepare for another year of service ahead.
In closing I ask for your prayers in the coming weeks as I work with Management and Project staff with various restructuring plans for 2018 to make our Projects, some of which have been functioning for many years, current and relevant for the future needs of the people and to function within the limits of available resources. We want to be good stewards with the resources God entrusts us with which means we must always be looking to improve efficiency and effectiveness within the budgets available for everything we do.
We have some great plans for 2018 and beyond, but praying, planning and working through the process will be much more successful with you praying alongside us.
Thank you for being so faithful and sharing the vision of the Smiles Foundation day by day.
God bless you all and I pray you have a wonderful month ahead as we all celebrate the Saviour’s Birth – Emmanuel – God with us.