Tuesday April 23, 2019

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

We didn’t have a shift at the hospital this morning, but both Jeff and I were scheduled this afternoon. We tried to get school done before we left and managed to do that with Lucia. David had a rough go of Math today, but he finally came around, just in time for us to leave for our shift. Anjali claimed to be working on her Math as we were leaving, but failed to finish it and her Science. On top of the frustrations with the lack of determination with school, the kids were asked to clean up the kitchen while we were gone, but as I walked in the door after the shift I walked into a messy kitchen that needed to be cleaned before I was able to start dinner.

Our shift at the hospital was wonderful, though we were surprised to see that one of the children that had been there for a month was no longer there. We had been praying that God would find a home for him and according to the limited conversation I was able to have with the nurses, they were able to find a placement for him. We are hoping our understanding of the nurses explanation was correct because that would be an answer to our prayers. God knew this little boy needed a home and He provided what was “acceptable and perfect”.

This scripture follows yesterday scripture perfectly. Paul’s letter to the Romans is reminding us to open our minds so we can “discern what is the will of God” and, in my opinion, this will allow us to live out our belief that “… God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2). When we give our lives to God and allow Him to work on our behalf, we will experience a life without fear. We will still have ups and downs, trials and tribulations, joys and concerns, etc., but with God as our foundation the outcome of each situation will always be His will, which means it will be “good and acceptable and perfect”.

Friday March 8, 2019

John 4:19-20 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.\

I worked at the hospital again today and I must say today was a bit more difficult. The reality of the situation was more apparent and hit me a little stronger. We handed out diapers for the weekend to the nurses for the children that would otherwise not have them, 12 diapers for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I don’t know why this was so difficult for me, since that was the same amount we had been given out during the week, but for some reason the reality of 12 diaper changes over a 3 day period was just a bit more difficult to swallow. The reality of the situation was both heartbreaking, but also gratifying because it is very apparent that without FFR doing the work they are doing, these children would be getting far worse care. I don’t blame the staff of the hospital because from what I can tell, there are just too many children left there for the nursing staff to provide the care the parents should be doing and since the hospital does not provide diapers or clothing to these children that are just dropped off, FFR plays a very important role in making sure they receive some very basic care. Now to compound this issue even further, there are definitely parents who do not wish to abandon their children either, though there are these situations too. There are most certainly parents who are just unable to stay at the hospital with their children for varying reasons (they need to work, they have other children at home that need them, etc.). The situation is so convoluted and therefore blame is not the answer. I am so grateful that God has placed us here to work with these children and to provide them the love that their families are either unable or unwilling too. I know that these next few months will be hard emotionally, but I would not trade it for anything in the world. These children deserve to be loved and that is why we are here; the hard part is going to be when we have to leave, but I know that God is working hard here and that He is making sure these children are cared for at the most basic level.

On a totally different note, it was such a beautiful day. It was 60 F outside with the sun shining brightly and I just loved walking outside with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. As I walked to the hospital this morning I couldn’t help but wonder why I was getting so many people turning to stare at me. I didn’t think I stood out that much! But come to find out Romanians tend to wear jackets, coats, and hats until it gets much warmer (70-80 F) and so I was getting weird looks from people because of my attire (or lack thereof). I thought this was hysterical because there is no way you would catch me wearing a jacket or sweatshirt and hat when it is 60 F and sunny outside, I’d melt!

Jeff was home with the kids today trying to get some school work done and while Lucia did a great job today, by the time I got home Jeff was so discouraged. The older two kids are so against us teaching them or just doing the work in general that it really makes this process almost miserable. It is so hard to see our children not putting any effort and energy into their education. I knew that homeschooling them for this year would be difficult, but I really didn’t think that our kids would jeopardize their education just to prove the point that they didn’t want us to teach them. The rest of the afternoon was quite trying for both of us because we listened again to the kids apologize for their behavior and again promise to do better, but in the end nothing changes. Both Jeff and I are at a loss for how to handle this because in the end, we can’t force them to do the work. We can assign it, teach it, and ask (even tell) them to complete it, but in the end it is up to them whether or not they follow through and learn. I can see where this is headed too…Anjali’s only concern about this trip is that she will fall behind in her education. So we met with her teachers and the principal to make sure that we were going to teach what she would be learning back at school. Her educators all told us (and her) that this year would not put her behind in any way, but rather she would gain so much more than her peers because of the experiences she will have. Unfortunately, she seems to sabotaging her experience and her education just to prove a point. I can already hear her yelling at us because she is behind in school or not where she wants to be and it is all because of this trip. She is failing to see that both Jeff and I are trying our very best to give them the best possible education, but they are just refusing to work with us. David is a bit different, he just doesn’t want to do the work. I will say that Lucia is the only one who has taken her education with us seriously and it shows. She has completed her Kindergarten curriculum and is already half-way through the 1st grade curriculum. I understand that she has the advantage of never going to school and then having to make this transition, but I just really thought Anjali and David would be up for the challenge and for trying something new. I know that in the end they will be just fine, it just is disheartening that they are throwing away an opportunity to learn just because it is their parents teaching them.

Wednesday March 6, 2019

Psalm 4:1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

God has definitely had His hand in this journey, from changing dates to meeting people who point us in a direction we never imagined. I am so grateful for His intervention because without Him none of this would be possible. Our time here is a perfect example. We were not supposed to be here until May/June 2019, but we found out that they needed us sooner and everything worked out beautifully, just the way it was supposed to. They have many different needs which all of us as a family can help accomplish and it is so wonderful to know that we have the opportunity to make an impact on this community and the work this organization is doing here.

Jeff and I decided that I would take the first few shifts at the hospital this week and then he would start next week, so today was my first day. I was a bit overwhelmed by the need Firm Foundation Romania (FFR) is filling. They are working really hard to provide for children in the hospital and to be resource to the hospital staff. My role at the hospital will be to change diapers, hold and love on the babies, and to deliver diapers to all the children in the hospital without a parent there. Here in Romania when children get sick and have to be hospitalized the parents are expected to stay with them and provide the necessary clothes and diapers, as well as continue to care for the basic needs of the child (holding, feeding, diapers, etc). The hospital staff are unable to provide for the emotional connections these babies need because their primary focus is getting them healthy and there is not enough time in the day to be nurse and parent. The problem is that there are many parents who are unable/unwilling to stay to continue caring for their child, so they take them to the hospital when they are sick and then they leave. As a result hese children have no diaper supply, no clothes, and no attention. That is where FFR and its volunteers come in. FFR provides diapers and clothing for all the children whose parents don’t or can’t provide them and the volunteers are there to change diapers, feed them, and hold, snuggle, and love them. So that is just what I got to do today.

However, I will tell you that I never imagined the heartbreak I would feel hearing these children wailing as I put them back in their crib to go to the next room. They just wanted to be loved and held and while I wanted to stay, there were more children who needed the same thing. It was such a dichotomy of emotions. On one hand it was so wonderful to love and snuggles these adorable children, but on the other hand, having to spread the love over 15-20 children was just heartbreaking because I can only hold one at a time. This morning was very rewarding and I am so grateful that we are here to help.

The volunteer supervisor I have been working with today met with me after the shift to discuss the possible options to get the kids involved. I can’t believe all the options available to them. To start with they will be working on creating baby bundles, which is like a gift bag filled with clothing items for the child, and it is given to parents who stay with their child is in the hospital. They are also needing help to sort donations that have come in over the last several months in preparation for another truck load of donations to be delivered next month. So we have a lot of work to do and I am so happy that we were willing to listen and go where God needed us, not just where we wanted to be. We allowed God’s plan to lead us.

A big downside for Anjali is that she really wanted to work directly with the babies at the hospital, but all visitors to the hospital need to be at least 14 years old, so that is out of the question for her. And while she was sad about this, she understood and was glad to be able to help the babies in another way; I am so proud of her. I hope that when she sees the office and the work that needs to be done, she will understand that when we are volunteering and helping others we need to be focused on what they need, not what we want to do.

Jeff stayed home teaching the kids today and they did pretty well, especially since we have not had formal school over the last month. The kids had been getting hands-on and interactive lessons while working with the turtles and helping to lead tours at the sanctuary. Now that we are back to the grind with school work, I am hoping that the kids will get back into a rhythm and routine with getting their work done. It may also help that the family that lives below are expats from the states and they have been homeschooling their children from the beginning. Their children are usually done with their school work by 12 or 2 pm because, as they said themselves, they want to get their school work done as soon as possible so they can be done for the day as early as possible. I am hoping our kids will take a lesson from them, get their work done quick and don’t screw around so you will have the rest of the day to play.

Monday December 17, 2018

Matthew 5:42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

Homeschooling was much more peaceful for Jeff and I, but the kids got very little work done. I am counting this as a great teaching moment; they were left to make their own choices today about school, we gave them their assignments and kept them on track with the time, but they were responsible to do the work and ask for help when they needed it. Today, they chose to relax and just sit around doing not much of anything. Later in the afternoon, Jeff and I had a talk with them and shared that if they didn’t want to do school, we would spend the day tomorrow helping to clean up the mission (now that Clifton was back he was able to share with us what he wanted us to do). This wasn’t a threat, but rather another option for them. They can’t just sit around and do nothing, so they have to make a choice: go to school and learn or get some work done around the mission.

I think this was a productive conversation and they seemed to actually internalize some of it. We are going to try school again tomorrow, but instead of study time at 4:30 we are going to work as a family on cleaning up the part of the mission Clifton requested. This will be a project that we will work on over the next week or so and I am so excited to get the kids doing some actual work here. We believe that their work here is mostly to play and engage with the kids, which they have all done beautifully! I think for a while I might have lost sight of that.

Jeff has been working with Lachlan at the school helping with choir rehearsal for the concert on Saturday while I have been busy with decorations in the dining hall and wrapping gifts. I have been bouncing back and forth between helping on the mission and teaching the kids. Jeff and I seem to have a nice system worked out by switching the teaching role throughout the day–it keeps the kids guessing and it gives them a new person teaching them.

Choir Rehearsal

Uncle John captivating the kids with a story of some kind!

Saturday December 15, 2018

Luke 21:1-4 He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

Jeff taught music to our kids this morning while I did the laundry. I have been doing all of our laundry by hand in our shower. This takes about an hour or so in total, to wash, rinse, and then hang to dry. The spinner here on the mission works wonders to get the water out of the clothes, but it is currently broken so the clothes take a bit long to dry, usually about 2 days.

After breakfast walked over the school with Uncle John and Lachlan to watch the morning assembly. It was really neat to see how the kids start their school day each morning. The assembly includes prayers, lessons to be found in scripture, and today it included a new song and some physical training. This was really neat.

On the walk home, Lucia attached herself to Uncle John and Lachlan.

As I am sure you have figured out from my previous blog posts, homeschooling our children has been a bit challenging. Actually, it has been the only thing where we feel truly challenged. This journey, while there have been challenges along the way, both Jeff and I feel at peace with the challenges. We don’t find ourselves getting frustrated or irritated with anything other than the homeschooling. We had a realization today (actually Jeff did, but he shared it with me). We have allowed God to plan and led us on this journey of service and we have been at peace with everything, even in the midst of a challenge. Homeschooling, however, we have not let God led the way. We have continually planned this aspect ourselves and it has been a constant struggle, leaving us feeling exhausted, frustrated, and even angry. We have decided that this is where we have gone wrong; we didn’t let God lead the way.

So we are giving homeschooling over to God. Obviously our kids need schooling and education, and so we will continue to teach them. But we have noticed that we have not allowed God to do His work. From this moment forward, we are going to lift every school lesson and day up to God for his guidance. What get’s done, get’s done. Our kids are very good students and we believe that we have put the emphasis on the wrong aspect of their education, completing IXL assignments (this is like an on-line school that aligns with the Common Core Standards). There is going to be a lot more prayer and asking for God’s help and direction from us and the kids. There will be less pressure from us for the kids to complete a certain amount of schooling in a day. We need to encourage more conversation with them and them with each other.

We have been missing so much of where we are and losing sight of what we were called to do. Here we are on a Christian orphanage at the base of the Himalayas and we are sticking ourselves in a cafeteria to teach the children. This is not working and no one is winning with this system! I can already feel a huge stressor being lifted off of our shoulders and I am relieved.

At tea this morning Uncle Rick mentioned that he could use Jeff and I’s help with the roof of the Big Boy’s Hostel to which we were so happy to oblige. Katie was able to enlist our kids with setting up the Christmas tree in the Nursery Hostel while we worked on the roof.

This was a great opportunity for both of us to finally do some hard work here on the mission and it was wonderful. We helped move sheet metal from the ground to the roof and then into place on the roof while Uncle Rick and Sunny bolted them into place. We were able to get about 3/4 of the roof completed until we ran out of sheet metal. This was such a great experience and we both enjoyed it a lot. We are looking forward to helping finish off the roof on Monday.

Wednesday December 12, 2018

Numbers 23:19 God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

We had a very nice day today, though it was a bit colder than it has been. Rocky has been a lot to handle–he barks all day long. Jeff has been trying to walk him during the day, but he really just never stops and it is very trying to hear him bark nonstop. The kids had school today while Jeff hung up Christmas lights with Lachlan and Uncle John. They have a lot more to do, but what they got done looks great! I was teaching the kids all day today, which made for a long day. I really love teaching Lucia because she is engaged and desires to learn. But to be honest, David is pretty hit or miss, some times he is fun to teach and other time he fights us on everything. Unfortunately, more often than not, Anjali does not want us to teach her, so it is usually a battle with her. We did, however, get a bit of recognition from her today that she is behind and that she is very overwhelmed with how to get caught back up with everything. She is fully capable of not only getting caught up, but actually being ahead of schedule with her academics, she just needs to apply herself, which she is not currently doing. I really believe that she is looking at the forest and not seeing the trees, meaning she is seeing the big picture of how much she has to do and not able to see that if she takes each lesson one at a time, she would be done before she knows it. Hopefully she will learn this soon–we are trying to show her and tell her, but we don’t know anything and she knows everything. Ughhhh, pre-teens! As with everything, it will pass soon enough and we will be on to another challenge.

I just had to include this picture of Lucia waiting for breakfast to start. She has the perfect expression on her face and pretty much shows how the kids are feeling about getting up at 6:45 every day!

A really crappy thing happened though, I ended up catching whatever Anjali had yesterday. Shortly after our afternoon tea time I started to get real cold, so I headed up to our room and climbed into our bed to sleep. I proceeded to get colder and colder, so I was in there for the night, except for dinner. I don’t know if I have ever been so cold, and it wasn’t even that cold outside. I was definitely ill.

As Jeff and I were walking over to dinner we heard singing and music happening from over by Uncle Rick’s room where we eat dinner. When we got closer we found some carolers singing Hindi Christmas music. The kids were singing along and dancing. It was so neat to experience, I just wish I wasn’t feeling so crummy.

I shared some videos are my Instagram page @sarassimplelife if you want to experience a bit of this for yourself.