May I first wish you a very Happy New Year and pray God’s richest blessings on you and your loved ones throughout the coming year.
I am so excited that 2021 is here. Not only because the past, most challenging year has gone, but because we face a new beginning with new hopes and opportunities in the coming days. I’m not one for ‘resolutions’ but I am one for ‘dedication and commitment’. As I will reach the grand age of 65 this year, I am dedicated and committed to doing all I can, while I can, to fulfill the Call God placed on my heart to minister to those in need, and serve to the best of my ability, the organisation God has provided for me to operate through – The Smiles Foundation.It is now over 30 years since I first visited Romania and yet I am still excited and energised to be leading the charge in discovering and uncovering what God would have us do in the next decade! 10 years is a long time, and we all know a lot can change in such a time period. None of us know what the future holds, but what I do know, is that should I be granted the next 10 years by my Heavenly Father, I will be well ‘past my best’ in being able to continue doing what I have been privileged and thankful to do since God called me into full-time Christian Ministry some 45 years ago. What a journey it has been! Many have asked if I would write a book about it, but I haven’t time, as there is so much to do on the ground, amongst the people, that I prefer to be engaged with and that is what has inspired me in considering the Smiles Strategic Review since September 2019.
Despite the challenges and uncertainties of the past year, I have moved on as intended with the Review and I am excited to share it with you here and assure you the entire team within Smiles is ready to implement the decisions, with immediate effect.
At my age, I have also had to consider that dreaded term ‘retirement’. Equally, the realisation that we don’t know how long we have available to do that which we love, I have felt an increasing need to prepare for the future of Smiles, with or possibly without me! The Strategic Review, is designed to not only focus on Smiles activities for the next decade, but also the management and leadership of it, should I be unable to continue for whatever reason at any time. So, as you can imagine, it has been a heart-searching challenge which I am pleased to have completed and remain excited about the plans and direction we are setting out today. I sincerely pray you will be equally excited with the plans and remain committed to partnering with us to work through the next stage of development.
One of the fundamental areas I wanted to strengthen was management and leadership. Over the years, I have endeavoured to prepare Romanian individuals, dedicated and committed to God’s Call through Smiles, to learn and be prepared for stepping up to the demands and responsibilities required to lead the Smiles work in Romania. This will enable more direct management in Romania and less from someone, however experienced and able, to travel between Romania and the United Kingdom or America.
I thank God for the Executive Management team of Maria, Adi and Simona who are ready for stepping up and want to continue learning as much as possible in the coming years. I am also thankful for an excellent middle-management structure with people like Ligia at TAL, Carmen at ECO and experienced Social Assistants in Smiles such as Mioara, Ioana and Diana.
Of course, experienced and highly qualified team members such as Dr Diana and Dr Timothy also add a level of management expertise that is great for us to rely on in such important areas as Medicine and Elderly Care.
After 20 years of operation, it is inevitable for the Smiles Tree, with its branches reaching out in so many areas, to require a ‘prune’ and serious thought has been given to what Smiles really needs to be focused on for the decade ahead, given the ministry achieved over the past three decades.
The fundamental decision here is to shift emphasis from Social or Educational projects where priorities were often dictated by the State to comply with Authorisations we had secured to run such projects, to Ministry based objectives as we focus on those we help, to know the Gospel Truth and have hope for their Eternal Home.
This would not ignore the practical needs of the people but would be considered within the context of our ultimate Purpose and Calling within the Smiles Foundation. Matthew 25: 31-46 is my inspirational and life-directing passage of scripture and is unquestionably at the heart of the Smiles ministry.
To achieve these renewed focuses on our purpose, we have restructured the format of Smiles and how it operates in Romania. The Smiles Clubs we have used for many years have gone. The new structure we will operate under are the 4 Pillars of Smiles. These Pillars are designed for more Ministry, through:
Created for more impact as Smiles continues sharing
Love, Hope and Faith to Romania.
The MISSIONS Pillar will have Maria focused as Director, in addition to her overall responsibility as Director of Operations in Romania.
The Missions Pillar will include the following activities:
Mission through visitors – Mission Teams
Luke Wathen will become Mission Centre Manager in 2021
Mission through Education
Tileagd Nursery and After-School / Church Club programs
Mission through Emergency Housing
Helping families in need with accommodation
Mission through Medical Assistance
Helping families in need with health and medical needs
Mission through sharing Joy
Christmas and special programmes through the year.
The OUTREACH Pillar will have Adi focused as Director, in addition to his overall responsibilities as Assistant Director to Smiles.
The Outreach Pillar will include the following activities:
Church Development and Pastoral Care
COP’s and Children/Youth work in Gepiu, Rapa and Tileagd
incorporating support for Families, Homeless, Elderly Lunches and more
Camps and Events at Dezna Outreach Centre
Outreach through special Events, whether local, regional or national
The RESIDENTIAL Pillar will have a Management team made up from the Facilities personnel who will report to the Executive Management team, given the size and responsibilities of our Residential Homes which are still growing.
The activities will be:
JFL Salonta – Joint Facility of Love
ECO Oradea – Elderly Care Oradea
TAL Tileagd – Assisted Living Tileagd
Sunset House, Cihei being considered by 2024
CAH Care at Home
A potential new development to provide care for those in their own home.
Throughout all the activities grouped under the 4 Pillars, the focus and emphasis will simply be:
For the Glory of God, to share His Love, provide real Hope, discover Faith in Jesus Christ.
God Willing, I will be able to continue in my position for some time yet, mentoring and encouraging the leadership skills and experience to those who will steadily take over the reigns for Smiles in Romania.
In the United Kingdom and America, our continued development of Ambassadors will be crucially important to maintain the momentum of information, encouragement and support amongst the hundreds of people who partner with Smiles month by month.
Luke continues to love sharing the opportunities through Smiles by travelling for presentations and meetings through England, Scotland, and Wales. He will be busier in Romania from now on, as he takes several responsibilities from me concerning the Mission Centre and our visiting guests, and we are expecting a great return in 2021 following the limitations of last year.
We are delighted to have support from other Ambassadors on a part-time basis such as Annette and Rob in England, Jean in Scotland and Adrian in Northern Ireland. All have done a wonderful job over the years of flying the Smiles Flag in their regions and I pray they and more will join the efforts in the years ahead.
Over the years we have had a few people take on the role of Smiles Ambassador in America, but we’ve been without a focused person for a few years now. I am delighted to introduce officially today, Jim Dodd as our new Smiles Ambassador for America. His primary love is Missions and Jim wants to recruit and lead Teams to experience what God is doing through Smiles in Romania. Do take a full read of our Introduction to Jim on the new site.
All our Development Ambassadors are voluntary, and this is an amazing aspect of Smiles I am so proud of. In many organisations, these people would cost a great deal of money, all needing to be paid for from generously donated funds, which I prefer to be seen used on the ground, helping those in need, furthering the Ministry in Romania. It’s been a privilege for me to work as a volunteer for 17 years now, since I ‘retired’ from Christian Artist Management in 2003. Working as a volunteer certainly helps ensure you are ‘working for the right reasons’ and I know all our volunteers and supporters and involved with the Smiles Foundation to Share God’s Love, Hope and Faith to the people of Romania. That is why we have seen such Blessing from God over so many years.
As you might expect, with such a major review and significant changes within the operational structure of Smiles, I have also needed to study closely the impact on Budgets.
Significant sums are involved, with 2020 expected to total the biggest budget in the Smiles history: over £1,536,000 / $2,000,000
I am hopeful that, if support remains around at least the same level as 2020, all projects except Outreach will continue to operate well. Our expansion of the Outreach work and in particular the increase in staff for Church, Children and Community Outreach plus of course Dezna Camps will add a need for approximately £45,000 / $58,000 extra to the annual budget. Adi, as Director of Outreach, understands we must move cautiously into the new plans for the Outreach Work and appointing staff, planning for programmes and events, only when the Budget is being supported. This will require your sacrificial support as you ‘sow seed’ again into people and programmes with an Eternal consequence.
Please, at the start of this New Year, give Adi the support and assurance that he can move forward with all the exciting plans for Outreach by making a commitment to support the Outreach Pillar. Whether that be a one-time gift or a monthly commitment – as the resources are available, he’ll be ready to act.
Month by month, if not week by week, Adi and I will be reviewing the support and moving ahead with plans based on a responsible approach to balancing ‘Desire with Means’. Thank you for your partnership in this crucial area of the Smiles Ministry.
As you might have expected, my New Year message is a little longer this time than usual. But you will also understand there is a lot to share and I appreciate it will take some time to grasp all the changes. Do read through the Website pages to familiarise yourself with those changes. Anything you are unclear about and want further clarification on, please write to me or any of the Project Directors to ask your questions and share your support and encouragement.
You will also have opportunity to ask questions and to share your thoughts at the Smiles Open House planned for Saturday January 23rd on Zoom. If you would like to join us, please request the Zoom ID by emailing me and the details will be sent to you by January 22nd.
After the most difficult of difficult years in 2020 – I am thrilled that 2021 holds so much hope and excitement of better times.
I hope you are already planning to visit us in Romania during the year, if not, get in touch with Dawn or myself to make plans. There is so much to see and get involved with in Romania, we need all the help possible from Mission Teams and Hands-On folk who can come.
As I started, I will finish. Wishing you a very Happy New Year and trusting for God’s richest blessings on you and your loved ones throughout the coming year.
Thank you for being a part of the Smiles Family.
Chief Executive to
The Smiles Foundation