I am delighted to wish you a very Happy New Year, trusting you had a good Christmas with the Peace and Presence of Christ felt wherever you were and whatever you were doing.
Time doesn’t stop does it, so already it’s appropriate to say ‘Welcome to 2018’.
Quite extraordinary that another year begins when it really doesn’t seem that long ago we were doing the same for 2017. I truly believe the pace of life is getting faster and faster and sometimes it is hard to keep up and I can’t help but sometimes ask ‘what is so important that causes life to be so frantic?’
On a human level we would probably all like to slow down and take life a little easier, but as I reflect on this thought, I believe as Christians, we can’t ‘take life easier’ as there is a lot to do and many to reach with the message of the Gospel, and as each day passes, we get closer to our Saviour’s return – so there is an increasing urgency to ‘get on with the job’!
I am anticipating a very busy and challenging 2018. Of course we are well familiar with busyness and challenges, so not too much new in that regard, but 2018 will bring new challenges as well as some of the constant issues faced year on year. Being as the full web update and regular reports will start again on February 1st, I thought I would take this opportunity of writing a New Year message to share some of the thoughts and discussions I am currently having with Trustees and the Executive Management in Romania. I trust this will give you a little more insight to my thinking and enable you to pray more informed over the coming weeks and months.
The New Year is starting off busier than expected as I cut short my Christmas/New Year break to head to Vienna (Austria) on January 2nd to meet up with Simona and Maria for meetings with a couple of Glasshouse businesses in Vienna who are experts in Bulb Growing.
This is an area we have already expanded significantly having started with 40,000 bulbs in 2015, increasing to 140,000 in 2016. In 2017 we built additional temperature controlled dark rooms to grow bulbs and have now increased our numbers to 300,000 which will be ready by March. If all is successful, we plan to hit half a million bulbs by 2018/19. The season for bulbs starts with buying them in September to have Sale of Flowering Bulbs by March the following year. So during the first week of January we will be meeting, discussing and learning from experienced growers who also have some equipment for sale that we might be interested to buy.
A second meeting in Vienna will be with a grower for Cut Flowers, a market we are assessing the potential for us to get involved with over the next couple of years.
You may wonder why so much emphasis on the Glasshouse business?
All these issues are very important for Smiles as we look to increase the ‘in-country’ support raised by our business SMINRO. 2017 is expected to finish with close on 48% of our total operating budget in Romania being raised in Romania, with the biggest slice of the total £700,000 ($910,000) coming from our business activities through the Smiles 100% owned business of SMINRO.
I want to see that contribution of income continue to grow – even to the point that perhaps by 2019 we will look to build another Glasshouse, doubling our capacity to 10,000 sq metres (108,000 sq ft). This requires significant investment but I am thankful to have people who believe in the potential of our business income to support the mission work for many years to come.
With an annual operating budget for Smiles around £1.5million ($2million) it is imperative for us, if we want to continue supporting the projects we have, to raise as much support as possible within Romania and the business activities of SMINRO is a major contributor indeed.
The pressure and challenge of raising donations of £800,000 ($1million) each year from our traditionally supporting territories of the United Kingdom and America suggests to me the importance of continuing to think of raising more of the operating budget each year within Romania.
After 20 years of raising the entire budget from UK & America, it has been encouraging to see over the past 7 years how funds have been possible to raise within Romania. A further significant contribution is raised each month from our Residential Facilities and also for the past 4 years, a very helpful contribution has been given from the State towards the School & Nursery in Tileagd.
My conclusion is that for the future, projects capable of raising part of their budget needs in Romania should be encouraged to do so, and other projects unable to raise support in Romania must operate within the budgets that can be raised from the UK & America. Furthermore, any new project planned for development within Smiles must have the capability of generating some of its required income from within Romania. The rest of its budget must be supported from the UK & America within a reasonable period of the project beginning.
I know many of our supporters truly love the projects we operate in Romania and will want to see us continue the great work for years to come. We are certainly committed to this and want to also continue to explore new opportunities as they arise albeit with the new philosophy of joint income for operating – support from UK & America plus income from within Romania.
So the plans for 2018 needing your prayers are as follows:
1. Pray for the expansion plan for the Glasshouse which has all been put in place during 2017. We hope to see great success through 2018 with increased sales and profit. All the objectives are being carefully monitored and our success will be the key factor to future expansion which we have a detailed plan for over the next couple of years.
2. Pray for the legal paperwork currently being prepared for the partnership between the Smiles Foundation and Dezna Torch RO to enable Smiles to lead the work on the project in Dezna that started many years ago but has never managed to be completed and function as hoped. With God’s provision and blessing we will be able to direct the work needed in Dezna and we pray teams will come out to help us with the practical work. A Fund-Raising strategy will be launched to raise at least £100,000 ($130,000) this year to enable the construction work to start in the spring as weather improves. Please join us for this exciting new project.
3. Pray for the Fire Upgrades needed at JFL in Salonta and TAL in Tileagd. We only have 3 months to get the upgrades completed and to be re-inspected. We anticipate the cost will be around £10,000 ($13,000) with work needing to start as early as January 8th. Please pray the support will be forthcoming and all the upgrades will be completed as required and our Authorisations will be issued before the deadline of March 31st.
4. Once the Fire Upgrades are complete, please pray for the completion of the Tileagd Assisted Living Lounge. We were not able to finish the job as part of the original renovation for TAL, but would like to see it done this year – hopefully with Mission Trip support during the spring and summer. We anticipate £5-10,000 ($6,500-$13,000) is needed to renovate, decorate and furnish what will be a beautiful lounge for the residents of TAL.
So as you see, a busy and challenging year is ahead. We already have exciting plans for 2019 and 2020. I was humbled and excited to have the Board of Trustees recently endorse my plan and proposals for the next 5 years and I assure you we have some dynamic ideas for the future, right through to 2022. But that is a little way down the road and all will be revealed as we progress step by step.
Meanwhile, we need to focus and prepare for 2018. I have given you an outline here of our objectives and I will share with you month by month how we are progressing with the plan and what our on-going needs are.
I pray you will remain in partnership with us. Remain committed to sharing in the support we need through regular gifts and fund-raising activities. I pray you will continue to come out to Romania on Mission Trips to see the work first hand, get involved with hands-on ministry, then having charged your enthusiasm for what we do – return home to engage others in supporting our much needed projects to ensure they all continue to function in serving the needs in Romania and sharing the Gospel message of Love, Hope and Faith.
Thank you for your interest and support of the Smiles Foundation ministry in Romania.
I pray you have a blessed New Year and that we will all share our part in the great ministry God has called us to at home and around the world. I pray Romania will be an important part of your international ministry support. Please feel free to write me any time to ask more about the plans and progress we are engaged with and whilst I will always want to share the good news we have, I will also share with you our real needs and the opportunities you have being a part of all we do for the Romanian people.
God Bless you all in 2018.
Chief Executive to
The Smiles Foundation