Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal for Romania

This week Susie and I were invited to a fund-raising/consciousness-raising dinner for Romanian Hope Springs International and I want to convey some what we experienced there. But where does one begin?

I am reminded of the story of the little boy on the beach trying to save the lives of sand dollars (or is is starfish?) that have been washed ashore and which will most definitely die if left there out of the water. The boy is picking them up one at a time, throwing them back into the sea. A man who sees what he’s trying to do comes walking by and questions why the boy is wasting his time when the whole beach is awash with critters doomed to die. The boy will make hardly a dent and what difference can it possibly make when there are so many?

The boy has paused to consider the man’s words, then throws the next one into the sea saying, “It made a difference for that one.”

I’m sure that was a scene from a movie, and the simplicity of last night’s dinner could have been a movie scene, too. Silviu and Tirzah Pop were the organizers of the event, a Romanian meal extraordinaire. We were not only introduced to Romanian cuisine, we also heard Silviu sing to us some songs of Romanian origin…. In Romanian, of course.

There was also a silent auction in which people were able to purchase art and pottery, donated through Silviu’s local arts connections.

That Tirzah, our veterinarian extraordinaire, would have married a man from Romania and gone on to start a ministry in a foreign land comes as no surprise when you know her family as we did when we first came to Duluth in 1986. Tirzah’s dad is a doctor who is active annually in a Christian medical outreach in Madagascar. The family has missions connections of many stripes. I remember being with Dr. Roach the day the Rwandan president’s plane was shot down years ago. He commented with heaviness of heart that this was a signal that very dark days were coming in that troubled country. The film Hotel Rwanda describes that horrorific massacre of Hutus by Tutsis that resulted in a million deaths and rivers of blood.

Romania, like many nations outside the periphery of our daily news, has more than its share of sorrows. Silviu, who has maintained strong attachments with his homeland and family siince coming to this country, felt a special burden for the people of the mountain villages in Northwestern Romania. Several years ago, when he sought to bring blankets to help people through the winters, his pastor encouraged him to “think bigger.” This ministry is a direct outgrowth of those prayers and bigger thinking.

What moved me last night was how simple and pure Silviu’s and Tirzah’s ambitions are with this ministry. It is about the needy, not about the Pops. It is about ordinary people making sacrifices to do whatever they can to help other people in extraordinarily difficult straights.

A primary focus is to reach the children. There are countless orphans due to bad medical and political decisions during the past quarter century. Young people with disabilities are neglected in Romania, hence the mission includes serving disabled children.

Jacques Ellul, in his book Hope in Time of Abandonment, noted that Martin Luther's emphasis on faith was the key word for his historical moment. But the key word in our time is hope. The modern world has seen devastation on a mass scale like never before. This ministry, Romanian Hope Springs International, is focused on bringing hope to a specific people in a time of great need.

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