I am thankful once again, to have the opportunity of sharing with you, news and updates from Smiles and our work in Romania, including news of Fundraisers to get involved with, updates from the Projects and a very Special Service planned for Smiles Annual Prayer Day on May 3rd.
The past couple of months have been quite extraordinary for us all, and I trust you have found strength in the knowledge – God is with us, He never leaves us, and will lead us through all difficulties. Few of us could have possibly imagined the challenges we would face in these days. The entire world has been dramatically changed in a comparatively short period of time. Yet, the changes are so significant, that the impact will be with us for considerably longer than the initial crisis of COVID-19.
As we reach May Day of 2020 – for many, some degree of normality is returning. Some parts of the world are lifting the tight restrictions imposed through lockdown. Romania has been told by President Iohannis that the ‘state of emergency’ in the country and its subsequent lockdown, will be eased from May 15th, 2020. However, for us all, the lifting of restrictions, however welcome – will not remove the pain and potential hardship this crisis has caused in just 3 short months.
During these days, spending so much time at home alone, has provided more time than normal for reading the word of God. One of the few very thankful aspects of the lockdown. So many scriptures have become a powerful comfort in the circumstances. One I want to share and remind you of today is found in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 4. In verse 18 we read: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
I prayed many times the crisis we were in would be extremely temporary and although, every day sometimes felt like a thousand years, in relation to eternity – the crisis has been and will be – very temporary. Praise God!
Those of you who follow Smiles activity closely will know these past weeks have been anything but slow and uneventful. But through it all – God has been at work in so many beautiful and powerful ways.
The stories I have shared, and the appeals made for your help, have been responded to, in astonishing ways with incredible levels of support received. We have received over £35,000 ($45,500) in additional gifts to help us through the crisis. We had additional Loans of £12,000 ($15,600) although already some of that loan money has been converted to Gift. We were also endeavouring to repay some loans made to Smiles in previous years, especially in relation to the Glasshouse development, but in the past week, nearly £7000 ($9,100) was converted to Gift, avoiding the necessity of planning for repayment.
An overall impact to Smiles of more than £50,000 ($65,000) of additional support this past month. I can only offer my heartfelt thanks for your kindness and commitment to the continuing work of Smiles. For sure at times of difficulty, you discover how much people truly appreciate this work.
When I reported concerns a month ago of cancelled Mission Trips and lost Glasshouse sales totaling over £65,000 ($84,500) – I could not see how the Lord would provide. But ‘faith’ is about that which is unseen, as we are reminded in Hebrews, chapter 11: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I did not need to see ‘how’ He would, I just needed to believe He could, and He did!
Some of the financial loss was averted by Mission Trips not cancelling, but re-booking. So, our April team from Indiana has re-booked for September 12th as has the May Construction Mission team, now scheduled for September 5th.
We have also had the opening of small Garden Nurseries in Romania and the Supermarkets began to take small quantities of flowers and bedding plants from April 20th. Maybe only 15% of the plants we expected to see sold in April – but we are thankful for something and hope to see the sales rise sharply in the coming weeks. I am also extremely thankful the staff have managed to keep the plants healthy for a few extra weeks in the Glasshouse, so they are all looking great for the coming sales.
So, this is all wonderful news and again, I reiterate my thanks to all concerned that have helped us through these difficult days. It’s not over yet, especially as we are still unsure when Mission Trips will be able to resume. Subject to levels of the restrictions being lifted, we would expect travel to Romania, whether directly or via Budapest (Hungary) could get going during the second half of May. Then we are watching travel details from UK Airports and of course America. Our next significant groups are scheduled for June, so we wait with some degree of concern how these teams will be affected.
Whilst I ask you to continue praying with us through these circumstances, I also trust as many as possible of those booked for Mission trips will still come once travel restrictions are lifted. We need you here in Romania and I know the staff teams in all our projects are desperate to have you come and encourage us all!
If you were not booked for a trip thus far, do you not feel you need to ‘get out’ and do something different … something significant after so long in lockdown. How wonderful you would find a Mission Trip, to enjoy fellowship with other Christians and above all – serve those who need your support and encouragement after these difficult days, weeks and months.
So, in anticipation and belief we will soon be able to travel again and with so many other events cancelled for this year that you might normally have been planning to attend – take courage and faith to book a Mission Trip now for anytime this year from June to December. Check what it is all about here: Mission Trip Experience details…
Also, with the Construction Trip now moved to September 5th, all other Mission Trip Specials are still planned. Why not join one? You will love it!
Mission Trip Specials details…
Many of our staff want to see you and thank you personally for your love and support during this time. A tremendous amount of support was provided to help our staff through the crisis and provide additional support for many of our beneficiaries who were really suffering in recent weeks.
The kids normally attending our school, nursery and after-school programmes loved getting their food delivered as a result of your support. Meda in Tileagd, Rodica in Cihei both spent hours cooking meals that were then delivered to the kids in Tileagd by Guiry and then Alexandra and Samuel in Rapa.
We hope our School and Nursery will begin getting back to normal from May 18th – but until then, we want to keep delivering food, so your help in covering the costs is greatly appreciated. To donate.
Also, since April 20th, Smiles has had a Cycle Challenge going on, specifically to help raise support for these extra deliveries of food for the kids and families in Smiles Projects. Thank you for your amazing support with over £4,981 ($6,475) already raised. Luke is the spearhead of this effort and whilst Dawn and I got caught up in the initial enthusiasm, I have completed my part and Dawn is over her fund-raising Target (though her chocolate challenge doesn’t stop until Luke gets to Romania!) so now we ask you to support Luke to see the 1,500 mile journey finished and his fund-raising target fully met.
Please encourage and support Luke now: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/luke-wathen1
We have another fantastic Fund-Raiser to launch today which will really help you to demonstrate your creative abilities. It’s the Smiles Song Competition!
We have a special page on the website to explain all about it and I hope you will get involved, whether on your own, as a family or a group of friends using ‘virtual’ recordings. Smiles Song Competition details…
As always, lots going on in the Smiles Foundation and particularly with our work in Romania. However, we have a very exciting ‘first’ coming up in a few days. To recognise our annual Prayer Day, which this year is Sunday, May 3rd – we have planned for the first time ever within Smiles – a virtual pre-recorded Worship Service – bringing together many of our Romanian staff and beneficiaries and presenting a Service of Worship that you can sign in for on Sunday.
Any time, from anywhere in the world. We will be launching the site on Sunday morning and hope many will take the opportunity, during the day, to join us in Worship as we celebrate God’s Goodness, evident in all we do, in His Name at this time.
I believe it will be a very special experience. So, don’t miss it, and be sure to share the opportunity with friends. The Service will remain on-line so you can go back to it and refer others to see it, at any time.
Enjoy the Service on Sunday and meanwhile, take a read of Maria’s report and all the other news featured on the Smiles Website.
God bless you and your family. Thank you for partnering with Smiles to make a difference in this world.
Stay Safe, Stay Home, Stay Close to Jesus!
Sincere blessings for all you do.
Chief Executive to The Smiles Foundation