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Northstar Gallery

Russia, Romania & Moldova

October 1999

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REPORT ON VISITS TO ORPHANAGES AND HOSPITALS

 

Introduction

Recently, I was asked to participate in a visit to orphanages and psychiatric hospitals in the former Soviet Union. The purpose of the visit was to provide humanitarian aid and technical assistance to these institutions. I was also asked to do photography and video production that would be used for advocacy, public education and fund raising. I was given complete freedom to photograph in all the institutions visited. It is my hope that these images will be helpful in creating better lives for the people we met. The people working in these orphanages and hospitals are hungry for contact and support form the West particularly from the United States. The institutions we visited are at a developmental stage that approximates our institutional system thirty years ago.  As part of this visit I was asked to share our experience and expertise in the development of a human service system as well as helping with the visioning of relevant future endeavors. I was also interested in exploring the presence and origin of charitable motives. In particular, how do such motives emerge from within societies that were not permitted to engage in traditional charitable activities under Communism. During "Communist Times" all social needs were the domain of the State and voluntary charitable activities were perceived as a threat to the role of the State. The more comprehensive the role of government, the less of a role there is for voluntary charitable endeavors. With the collapse of the State there are now overwhelming social needs in the former Soviet Union. We met many extraordinary people who are now engaging in remarkable political, service, grassroots, community organization and charitable activity. In the process of meeting these remarkable people, I interviewed many of them about their personal motives and values that form the foundation of their work. In these reports I have tried to report these motives as accurately as possible, for such deep motives seem to define an essential reality in Eastern Europe today. With the fall of Communism these societies lost their moral foundation and have attempted to adopt Capitalism without an ethical framework essential to the successful conduct of business and government. It appears to me, that as part of the long term recovery of these societies they must find a moral base to replace the philosophical and ethical structure previously provided by Communism. It is possible that the emergence and expression of charitable motives is a core activity in the creation of this ethical base essential for the successful emergence of the new societies of Eastern Europe.

 

Report #1 from St. Petersburg, Russia

October 31, 1999

Saint Petersburg is a very beautiful city. We visited an orphanage run by a Christian, nonprofit, human service organization from Finland called Logos. They are working with children living in the underground of St. Petersburg. They think there are between 10,000 and 30,000 children living in the subways, heating tunnels and sewers of St. Petersburg. There are a multitude of reasons the children have ended up on the streets: some are from abusive families, some families simply cannot afford to feed them, some send them out for prostitution, and some families sell their flats for money to buy drugs or alcohol causing the whole family to be homeless. Logos, which is funded with Finnish charitable support at about $110,000 a year, works with the children in the streets as well as providing a residential program to twelve children. We had the opportunity to meet the children and they seem to be doing very well. Logos was a very impressive organization. If I should visit Logos again, I was invited to go out with their caseworkers to meet and photograph the street children they work with.

Irena Jacobchouk served as our host in St. Petersburg. She, her husband Alex, a medical doctor and surgeon, their friend Constantine also a doctor and Michael have created an organization that will provide a summer camp experience for children. This is a very impressive group of dedicated people. Alex is also a third generation pastor and has recently founded a new church in St. Petersburg. As Christians they had very difficult and frightening experiences during "Communist times."

SAINT PETERSBURG PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL #3

The next day we were invited to visit St. Petersburg Psychiatric Hospital #3. This hospital is one of seven psychiatric hospitals run by the city of St. Petersburg, population of five million. #3 is acute care and serves 2,300 people at any one time and about 20,000 people in one year. It has a staff complement of 1,800 of which 240 are doctors and 670 are nurses. It operates on a medical model very similar to what existed in the US in the 1970s. The building design and layout is similar to our institutions. They allowed me to photograph both the institution and the people living in the hospital.

Hosp02 sm.jpg (6929 bytes)We spent quite a bit of time on the adolescent units for both boys and girls. I seemed to have created quite a commotion interacting with the children. I think the medical staff at times was uncomfortable with the interaction, since professional distance and objectivity seemed to be important values. The people really enjoyed meeting us and a surprising number of the children spoke English. They showed us the pharmacy which was a singleHosp13 sm.jpg (7129 bytes) cabinet with almost no supplies. The staff was very professional and competent and seemed to be very dedicated and caring. I think they are doing a remarkable job for the conditions and scarce resources under which they must operate. Several of the doctors are very interested in visiting the United States. One patient smiled, pointed around and, in perfect English, said "Cookoo's Nest - Ken Kessy".

 

We left St. Petersburg by train for Chisinau Moldova. The train ride was to be two nights and one day, however as we were crossing the border into Ukraine we were required to exit the train because we did not have the proper documentation. It appears that the United States passed more stringent legislation last week requiring Ukrainian Citizens to have transit Visas in the US so they decided they would do the same. There were about 15 custom officials involved with us and it appeared to be a big deal. They treated us very well and apologized saying they were just following orders from headquarters. We had to sign statements explaining the situation and affirming that we were treated well. Eger, our Moldovan agent and translator, did a great job in representing us and it was finally determined that we would be allowed to get on the next train back to St. Petersburg. However, we would then be allowed to exit at the next station and get a van that would transport us across Ukraine to Moldova. We did this and the van ride was an all night 14 hour trip. At about 2:00 A.M. we encountered an overturned truck and ended up transporting three young women to the hospital. One of these women appeared to be seriously injured and we hope she is OK. We ended up having to approach three border stations before reaching agreement with the border officials on how to enter Moldova. In Moldova this week we will be visiting several orphanages as well as several government leaders including a member of Moldova's Parliament. In Moldova I am staying with Eger's family in a very nice home Eger's Father built. Moldova is a very beautiful country that looks much like Pennsylvania.

 

Report #2 form Chisinau, Moldova

November 2, 1999

Yesterday our visit was to the Studium also known as the University of Moldova. This is a private nonprofit organization founded about seven years ago. Cross-Links provides some support to the Studium. The Director and Founder, Yuri Galla, explained he has always been very interested in children and was concerned about the education situation for his own children so he and one other person started the Studium seven years ago. The Studium now has almost five thousand students from first grade through college. Yuri said that it would not have been possible to do this during "Communist times" because the government did everything for the people. The current situation in the public government education system is pretty serious. Teachers are paid very little and, in the current economic crisis, they frequently do not receive their salary from the government. Under the Soviet Union, Moldova received coal, gas and oil from the Soviet Union in exchange for its wine production. This has stopped and Moldova has no coal, gas or oil production of its own and this winter the Government does not have money to purchase heating resources from the outside. The public schools will be shut down during part of the winter because of the inability to heat them. This shortage will be an issue of survival for the people living in the rural areas. The Studium is private pay and charges about $20.00 per month per student. All of its students study English and computer science. We were invited to attend a Halloween presentation as part of the cultural program. The students of the College presented Halloween skits and entertainment. It had a strong "Gothic" flavor and the students were very creative and talented. Most of the material was presented in excellent English. These students might be very good candidates for employment in the US. I had an opportunity to briefly speak to the students and they sang happy birthday in English. From appearance, dress and behavior, it would have been impossible to tell the difference between these students and students in the US.

We then visited the home of Lucia Gaurilidsa. Lucia has adopted two beautiful children with disabilities to keep them from going to Government institutions. She has committed herself to helping families keep their children at home. As a result she has started a day care and therapy center in her apartment. She, her husband and her two children sleep on the floor in a small area not taken up by the center. The Center provides education, therapy and activities for the children. She has formed an association that now has 130 families as members. About one half of the families are single mothers without husbands since many of the marriages broke up. As a result the mothers must work, and if they are to keep their children out of a government institution, day care is essential. Lucia noted that if children don’t get exercise for their muscles, they die before they are five years old. In Moldova there is no therapy, no special schools, no kindergarten or other special programs.

The Center is one year old and serves six children. An additional six children are served in their homes. Lucia gets $3.00 a month per child from the government as well as a grant from UNICEF and support from Cross-Links. The children are learning how to walk, dress and feed themselves. She reports every child is showing remarkable progress. Lucia has written many letters to government officials asking that they change legislation. She would like to lucia01.jpg (5367 bytes) expand services to include more in-home support and more effective physical and speech therapy. She  would also like to work with a center in the US that has a full range of services. She has access to email and is studying English. She would also like to work with families so that they do not break up and can keep their children at home. Lucia says the organization is not an official Christian Organization however her faith led her to this work through her own children. Lucia says she wants to bring hope to parents because they have lost hope and she wants to teach the children about God.

If there are angels on earth Lucia may be one.

We then went on to the Central Clinic Moldova. Irena Poppov gave us a tour. The Clinic is a nonprofit Christian Medical and Dental Center with six doctors and seven nurses. It is the only alternative to the government medical system. In the government system we understand that people must pay for all of their medicine and supplies prior to being admitted. If they do not have money for this, there is no alternative. In addition, it is common for doctors to require payment under the table prior to administering care. The payment to the doctor for a surgical procedure might be as high as $200.00. The Clinic is free and does not engage in these practices. The Clinic is in a very beautiful and functional building that Eger's father built. The Clinic is supported financially by a Dutch organization, however that funding will end in one year. The total cost of operation of the clinic is $7,000.00 per month. The doctors are earning about $50.00 per month. Cross-Links is working to provide support to the doctors of an additional $100 per month, per doctor and $50.00 for the nurses.

This evening I received my first "Russian Kiss". It was from Michael Yetsenko who is the Pastor in a fairly new but very poor church in Chrisineu. We visited with Michael and his family, his wife Nadaja, his son Igor age 12, his son Eugene age 8, his son Deema age 4 and his daughter Irena age 14 in their home. Michael has had Leukemia for two years. Michael says the doctors told him he would only live a few months but he has lived now for two years. Michael does not have access to medical treatment and is using folk medicine for his illness. Michael's church of 58 members has a strong ministry to people who are blind. Michael says that God has used his illness to allow him to better understand the needs of the disabled members of his congregation. Also, as a result of this experience, his congregation has deepened its commitment to disabled people and is beginning to minister to 400 elderly people who live in an institution and are getting very little care. Irena is studying English for two years at the Studium and speaks English very well. Igor and Eugene played horns for us. Michael says his Leukemia is getting worse. (I am sad to report that Michael passed away December 24th 1991. He will be missed by his family and the many people who loved him)

 

Report #3 from Chisinau, Moldova

November 03, 1999

 

Today we had the opportunity to visit a large government orphanage for 300 children who are mentally retarded. We received a wonderful reception, people are so very hungry for contact from the United States as well as any help they might get. They were very pleased to allow me to photograph the children as well as the orphanage.

This orphanage will have heat this winter because a German organization provided them with an efficient heating system. Cross-Links has been providing support for this school for many years and Janice has seen remarkable improvements since 1994 when a Dutch organization become involved. I found this orphanage to be surprisingly similar to our state schools in the US.

The children, from infants to teenagers were reasonably well cared for, especially considering the resources available. The children were very sociable and welcoming to us. They presented themselves exceptionally well and were very interested in the photo book I have been carrying of people with disabilities in America.

One of the areas we visited was for young children about the age of three to five. Many of them knew some English and they were very engaging.

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One little boy without hands and with severely deformed legs and feet was a great personality with a beautiful spirit. We will remember him for a long time.

 

 

dwf01.jpg (10022 bytes)Another little boy, probably age five, introduced us to the other children. He had an incredible interest in my camera, intuitively knowing exactly the right buttons to push. I think he has a gifted intelligence.

In the afternoon we were able to visit The Government Psychiatric Hospital #2 in Curchi, Moldova. The hospital is in a 250 year old Monastery and serves about 600 people. The Director is Valeri Rotaru and he was very concerned that the Russian Orthodox Church wants the Monastery back from the government. In addition the government support is very inadequate. The Hospital has 500 employees including 25 doctors and 250 nurses and operates on a $200,000 annual budget and the director receives a monthly salary of $50.00. This hospital, unlike the one in St. Petersburg, treats people with chronic illness.

Our time was very limited, however we were able to visit several wards. The buildings were of course very old and there were only sleeping rooms. Mr. Rotaru said that he has not received any money for the building repairs in many years. Each of these rooms had about thirty to fifty cots wall to wall. One room had about 35 young men in their late teens to early twenties just sitting on the cots. Mr. Rotaru, identified them as being from the Army. I was permitted to photograph in the hospital, Mr. Rotaur said maybe it would help change things. Mr. Rotaur said that the hospital is essential to the economy of the town and if it would close it would be a catastrophe for the village. He said the government is not interested in improving things. Only one member of Parliament has any interest in this area. He also was very hungry for contact and help from the West, however he does not have a computer or email. Cross-Links has been providing help to them for several years. Our host during the day was Emil Nahaba a young minister from a local church. Emil set up the visits at the orphanage and at the hospital. He has been developing a ministry providing a summer camp for young people in Chisinau. The camp has operated one year and they had 110 children attend, including 10 children with disabilities from the orphanage. Emil has a wonderful relationship with many of the boys at the orphanage. His pastor teaches at the Seminary in Kursk Russia, with which I am involved. Emil is very committed and welcomes any help he can get in this ministry. He is hoping to be able to purchase a permanent camp.

 

At the end of the day we met with students at the Studium again. The electric failed several times because there is not enough power. The Students are studying English. They said it is essential to know English, it is the most important language. They, like most of the other people we are meeting, dream of moving to America. The family I am living with has three outstanding sons, Eger, Oleg and Alex. All of their Uncles and Aunts have moved to the United States and their Grandparents will leave for America in December. Most people we meet have very little hope for the future. I am consistently meeting highly talented, bright, well educated, committed people living in a beautiful country in a system that is just not working.

 

Diedskyi Dom #3, Hincesti, Moldova

mol02 sm.jpg (10097 bytes)On Thursday we visited "Diedskyi Dom #3". This is a government institution in Hincesti, Moldova for children that are physically disabled but mentally normal. Diedskyi Dom #3 serves 180 children, age 6 to 21, who are ambulatory. Diedskyi Dom #3 can serve up to two hundredmol06 sm.jpg (8789 bytes) children and there is no waiting list. Only seven children do not have parents and about 30% have only one parent. After reaching age 21 the children go on to work in their professions. It is reported that the reasons the children need the institution is that their families are not able to provide the medicine and therapy the children need. The institution is state funded and there is no charge to the families.

The staffing is comprised of about 100 employees including: four doctors, eight nurses, a dentist and a speech doctor. Each child gets ten to fifteen days of therapy four times a year. All children receive a classroom based academic program.

The younger children stay in one area with about nine children to a bedroom. Each bedroom was very nicely decorated with curtains, was very pleasant, sunlit and was adjacent to their classroom. There are about fifteen children in a classroom. We observed very high quality instruction with the children being very attentive.

A German Baptist organization has provided a modern play area. Each young child had a doll. Cross-links has provided coal to heat the institution this winter as well as several new bathrooms. Bethel Church in Chisinau carried out the Cross-Links funded renovations.

The Institution is designed much like institutions in America; a campus setting with several large three-story buildings with the entire campus being surrounded by a gated fence. The therapy rooms were immaculate and with everything being a brilliant white including the starched linen and therapists in starched white uniforms with tall white hats. mol03 sm.jpg (10026 bytes)Like other institutions in Moldova we can assume that it is operating on very limited resources and that whatever the allocation, it is most likely subject to delayed payments. The overall impression on this rather short visit is that the children are loved and well cared for with an excellent academic program and an active therapy program. mol04 sm.jpg (9471 bytes)Within a cultural context and particularly within the current economic crisis, this seems to be an alternative to the villages where basic food, academic, medical and housing needs may not be consistently met. Janice Wenger, Cross-Links Director, has seen remarkable improvements in the institution over the six years Cross-Links has been providing aid to Diedskyi Dom #3. Like the other institutions, the doctors are probably receiving a salary of about $50.00 per month and the direct care employees about $7.00 per month.

I was granted complete freedom to photograph the children. These children were some of the most beautiful children I have every seen. mol07 sm.jpg (10032 bytes)They were very well dressed, radiant, appeared to be happy, well disciplined with beautiful hairdos. The staff reported that most children have cerebral palsy and it is reported that a few, seven, children have polio. I saw almost no visible evidence of disability however, I don’t have a clue as to what this observation means. One child, a very bright and engaging young boy of about 14 had one leg. He posed with Eger in the hope someone might help him get an artificial leg.


The US Department of State reports that "trafficking in women and girls is a very serious problem, especially to Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Israel. Moldova is a source country for women and girls. Women and girls reportedly are trafficked to Italy and Greece through Romania, Serbia-Montenegro, and Albania. There is no law prohibiting trafficking and it cannot be prosecuted under other statutes. The Government lacks legislation and the means to halt traffickers, who technically commit no crimes within the country. The large profits of the trafficking industry allow traffickers to exploit opportunities for the corruption of officials. Women and girls accept job offers in other countries, ostensibly as models, nannies, or housekeepers. Then traffickers take their passports, require them to " repay" a sizable sum, and force them into sexual bondage. The Ministry of Internal Affairs announced in December that it had uncovered a network trafficking children between Moldova and Uzbekistan. According to the Ministry, 18 children, most of them under 1 year of age, were sold in Tashkent during 1998 and 1999 and the average price for the children was between $2,000 and $3,000. The Ministry of National Security stopped a similar ring that was trafficking children between Moldova and Israel in 1995. Apart from a documentary shown on state television on the problem, the Government has taken few steps to prevent the trafficking of women. Several nongovernmental organizations made efforts, with foreign assistance, to combat the problem through information campaigns and job training for women."

Dinner with General Crestianincov

In the evening we were invited to dinner in the home of General Crestianincov, Alexandre Vasil. General Vasil was commander of Soviet forces in Czechoslovakia and also commanded Soviet forces in charge of the Berlin Wall during the 1980s. Mr. Vasil is in his seventies and lives with his wife, son Alex and daughter-in-law Helen. Mr. Vasil is a refined gentleman with surprisingly gentle eyes. We were received with sincere hospitality and warmth. Mr. Vasil’s son Alex was a Surface to Air Missile Commander. We are the same age and we joked that while he was in the Soviet Army and I was a pilot in the US Airforce, my job was to disrupt his father’s command structure and his job was to shoot me down. We all knew what a dangerous time it was during the years of the Cold War when the Soviet Union and United states were enemies and how the nuclear strategy of both countries was based on MAD – or Mutually Assured Destruction with each county targeting over 50,000 nuclear warheads on each other. We talked about what this danger had meant to our families and how wonderful it was that we were now sitting as honored guests and friends at General Vasil’s family table. I told General Vasil that my father was a B-17 pilot in WW II and was shot down and was a prisoner of war in Germany for two years. General Vasil said that his father also served in WW II and taught him that America and Russia would always be allies. General Vasil offered a toast to my father "Honoring all warriors of the world wars that perished for the well being of others and that Russia and America, who fought as allies, would always be friends."

At the end of the meal General Vasil offered a second toast "May our countries always be friends and may the skies for our children and their children always be bright and may they only know peace and prosperity."

Later in the evening we met with Valerui Ghiletchi who is a member of Moldova's Parliament. Mr. Ghiletchi’s Chief of Staff is a graduate of Lancaster Bible School. We discussed the current economic crisis. Mr. Ghiletchi assured us that there would be arrangements for heating homes this winter. We discussed the needs of the elderly and disabled persons. Mr. Ghiletchi stated that the government did not have the resources to fund these services and was dependent on outside aid during the current crisis. I expressed my opinion that the Moldovan government was still responsible for the welfare of its vulnerable citizens during the transition and should not depend on outside organizations. Mr. Ghiletchi informed us that Moldova was going to privatize its electric production and distribution in January and they expect an American company to be the successful bidder. The Phone Company will be privatized in about six months. Mr. Ghiletchi will be visiting the United States in January and will be staying with Palmer Long, a mutual friend, in Liverpool. During this visit, he would like to meet with several US business and government leaders to discuss business development in Moldova. Over the long term Moldova has an excellent economic potential. It has a very bright, well educated, hard working people, with some of the most fertile ground in the world. Chrisinau, the capital, is a very modern, beautiful city with a rich history reaching back to1476.

We left Chisinau for Timisoara Romania to visit with the Heiseys who are beginning to work with Gypsy families in Romania where they are one of the most marginalized and despised segments of Romanian Society. It was so very interesting to observe the increasing westernization that emerged as we crossed Romania from East to West until reaching Timisoara which is a thoroughly western city.

 

THE UNDERGROUND

Report #4 from Bucharest Romania

October 19, 1999

We left Timisoura Monday morning for Bucharest 800 km away. In Bucharest we visited Sue and Ron Bates. The Bates are from Texas and are in their fifties and have lived in Bucharest for eight years. They arrived soon after the execution of Ceaucescu and his wife in 1989. It is now believed that Ceaucescu killed three million Romanians during his reign. At the time of his death he was building a Palace at a cost of two billion dollars.

The Bates live in the ghettos of Bucharest and have been working with the street children of the city. There are thousands of children living in the underground heating tunnels and sewers of Bucharest. The "Street Children" are very reticent to enter any program. Many have been abandoned because their family could not feed them or were told if you leave we’ll have more food for the rest. Many are children raised in orphanages and set free at age eighteen, some lived in very abusive homes and some came from homeless families. What Ron and Sue have found themselves doing is taking in the babies of the "Street Children". Babies do not survive in the underground and the young parents, often living as husband and wife, love their children and want something better than the underground. The Bates now have twelve infants and children living with them. Some of the parents of the children visit daily. [See Through Flori’s Eyes]. I had the privilege to interview several young girls: Michaela, Gabi, Lalela, Cadria, Florina, Stefana, and Bianca about their lives, how they came to live in the underground and what their lives are like there.

 

Mihaela who is eighteen and is the mother of Leonard is expecting a second child. Mihaela invited me to visit her and her husband Laurentiu in the underground. Laurentiu is the leader of the clan of children that live in one particular area of Bucharest.

 

 

Bucharest under 05 5.0.jpg (5145 bytes)Later that evening Sue and Sue’s assistant Dorin took Janice and I to where Mihaela lives in an area behind McDonalds. Laurentiu met us, greeted us warmly and escorted us to a manhole cover that he removed and showed us how to descend a twelve-foot ladder into the underground.

 

Bucharest under 04 5.9.jpg (6086 bytes)Their home was an underground cubicle twelve feet long, eight feet wide and seven feet high. Mihaela and Laurentiu have lived here as husband and wife for five years. There home is part of the city’s steam heat distribution system and was warm, dry and neat as a pin. Scripture was written in chalk on the walls. Their home was lit by candlelight. I never felt more welcome in someone’s home. After visiting for a while, I noticed additional candles being lit in adjacent tunnels. These were the candles of other children, making a determination that, as an adult, I was not a threat to them.

Laurentiu took us to other manhole covers where we descended into the homes of other children living in small groupings of five to seven. All of the children wanted me to take family portraits and wanted to be photographed with me. All of the children use Aurolac as an inhalant. Aurolac is a paint thinner that is extremely addictive and destroys the brain, liver, kidneys and lungs.

The whole experience was so profound – beautiful, intelligent engaging children living in an underground society devoid of adult presence and love. The whole experience had a surreal, Peter Pan quality and was reminiscent of a time when we played "fort" in the backyard. William Goldings’ The Lord of the Flies is disturbingly descriptive of the lives of these dear children.

 

 

Through Flori’s Eyes

The following excerpt is written by Sue Bates, it offers a powerful insight into the personal meaning of the work they are doing in Bucharest.

"Flori is a four year old little gypsy girl who has been with us for about eight months. According to the Romanian government, officially she is "person non grata." Because she has no papers…they consider that she doesn’t exist. But through this little girl, I have learned more about the heart of God than all the theology books and sermons I have ever encountered.

I suppose she is four. Her mother (Fana – short for Stefana) doesn’t know when Flori was born – or even when she herself was born. Fana was thrown out of her home when she was eight years old… about twelve years ago, and has been living on the streets ever since. Her own mother didn’t want her.

Fana is totally illiterate -- not even able to write her own name. She has had two children since she had Flori…and left them abandoned in the hospital. Four days ago she had an abortion. She had promised us that she would not do this, and would give the child to us…but she didn’t.

For 3 years she kept Flori on the streets…living in subway entrances or city parks. It was freezing in the winter – and there are no homeless shelters in Bucharest…so it was either there or on the streets in the incredibly filthy underground canals. Both places are miserable and dangerous. In the daytime, and sometimes into the night, they were on the streets – begging for a meager living. Flori was used by her mother to beg.

When we first met Flori…we had taken some street kids to Macdonald’s. She and her mom were with them. Flori was so filthy, had lice, didn’t talk, was withdrawn and lifeless. Fana knew we had taken in Leonard and asked if we could let Flori live with us. Her reason was that she didn’t want Flori to be like her – she wanted Flori to go to school and learn to read and write. If you are living on the streets without a birth certificate and ID (Identification Card)…you cannot go to school. We are now trying to get these papers, but it is very difficult if they consider you don’t exist. So we don’t have legal custody of her yet.

When we first got Flori, she was petrified of baths. She had gotten very few in her life…and in freezing places. She lived a life of misery…sleeping outdoors in the cold, with filthy clothes full of lice and bugs, inadequate food – mostly bread and cokes, and forced to beg on the cruel streets. But, she immediately began changing and is now a normal, full-of-life happy little girl. But, when her mother leaves…she cries like her heart is breaking.

We didn’t want to sever her relationship with her mother, because no one can take a mother’s place…no matter how bad she is. We didn’t want to force Flori to become an orphan. We left our door open to Fana to come see Flori whenever she wanted to come. Sometimes, she will take Flori for a day or two…much to our disapproval. She takes her downtown to beg. Flori comes back in a terrible condition…with bug bites, exhausted, dirty, hungry, sleepy…and recently, with impetigo. We have begged her not to do this to her daughter…but we couldn’t stop her. We just had to trust God to take care of Flori while she was gone. But when her mother leaves…she screams and cries for her.

Flori ("little flower") is a gypsy child. Even though she is very beautiful and sweet, the kids tease her and call her a "crow"…meaning "black." The gypsies are outcasts in the Romanian society. But, Flori cares none about these prejudices…she is concerned about her mother.

Two days ago, Fana came here very sick….from the abortion. She had pain in her stomach and fever. We bought all the medicine the doctor prescribed for her infection. Flori sensed something unusual was wrong with her precious mother.

What I saw that day was a most beautiful picture of God’s love for us…his very own. Flori sat in her mother’s lap and showed the most tender affection and concern humanly possible. Her mom was very dirty, sick…very broken by Adam’s fall…but Flori hugged and kissed her unashamedly. She has many times sung to her mother, but that day she was so worried about her…she could only hold her and kiss the stained clothes that covered her breast. Flori with her big, beautiful black eyes, tenderly looked up into the face of her mother…and reached up to gently touch her on the cheek and give her a loving smile. Through Flori’s eyes, her mother is the most beautiful and important person in the world.

At that moment, I realized why God said that we must become like little children to enter into His kingdom. Because He is like Flori. He is like this little child…a child that loves unashamedly, unreservedly…that forgives…who is without prejudice. A God who loves without restraint…no matter how dirty and stained we are.

When Fana left, Flori screamed and howled and cried. No matter what her mother does Flori would never forsake her mother. She will never forget her. She will never give her up. We have a God like that…like this little four-year-old Romanian gypsy girl. We have a God so loving and kind. He is so thoroughly gracious and accepting of sinners no matter how unworthy…just like Flori is to her mother.

God, help me to be more like Flori. Help me to see people through Flori’s eyes…as most beautiful and precious in your sight. Let us see with grace and love from You, without reservation and prejudice – like this beautiful little girl sees.

Shalom from Romania, Sue and Ron"

People wishing to provide financial and prayer support to the work of Ron and Sue Bates in Bucharest may contact them by email at inasmuch@fx.ro

 

Report #5 from Kursk Russia

February 15, 2000

Today I had the opportunity to visit at the Cancer Hospital in Kursk Russia. The hospital has about a hundred beds. We were informed that the hospital has not received any supplies other than sterile water in about six months. There was no medication and very little other supplies and all of the beds were full. We were able to distribute a small amount of medication and some fruit for some of the patients. The experience was quite profound the visit, prayers and gifts were much appreciated.

 

Report #6 from Kursk Russia

February 16, 2000

This morning we traveled 200 KM to an orphanage for 130 children. The orphanage was located in buildings built before the revolution. The staff had not been paid in about six months. We took a truck load of food that was greatly appreciated. We offered gifts of fruit and bananas to the staff and they declined them saying the children needed them more. The children were well cared for and despite the difficult conditions it was remarkable what was being accomplished. We met with the physician who had been at the orphanage for many years, She was in tears talking about not being able to treat the children when they get sick because there is not medicine. The staff asked for help in getting dishes and glasses for the children. Cross Links is considering putting this Dom on their support list. The Grace Baptist Church in Kursk will help in the management of aid.

 

In Closing

In closing I wish to observe that the institutions we visited may not be representative of the full story and that within these countries vulnerable people particularly children are living in horrific conditions. See other links that are referenced below.

Financial support for these programs can be directed through Cross Links. 100% of the funds will reach the children because Cross Links does an outstanding job of accountability and tracking of the aid assuring that it is available to the children. Janice Wenger, Director of Cross Links may be reached at crosslinks@juno.com

If you are considering adoption and would like more information on the children featured in these photographs please contact northstar.gallery@verizon.net

 

Northstar Gallery

 

 

bd14868_.gif (419 bytes) Links to information on orphanages and the status of children in Eastern Europe

bd14868_.gif (419 bytes) A Collection of Quotations on Leadership and Service to others

 

 

Hermatage02 sm.jpg (9964 bytes)

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