2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

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A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Why we do what we do-a Thank you letter

I had asked the children to write thank you letter to their sponsors.  One girl in the 8th grade wrote this:

Dear Melissa,

Merry Christmas

I thank you and your sponsors.  The present which you gave me makes me happy.  First, I thank God for you.  you were sent by Him in life.

This gift which you gave me shows me a reason to believe in God because it shows me that I’m not alone.  We are forever and together with God.  You changed my Christmas because my parents can’t give me such a beautiful and wonderful gift.  We should be happy at Christmas because Jesus was sent for us.  I like when I see that I was heard by God.  I thank you a lot for it and for all you do for me.

I love you. A kiss for you. A hug for you.

I thank everybody who comes for us every Sunday: Ana, Dinu, Diakonia, and American Sponsors.

Love, Alexandra

Christmas Play in Stroiesti

Our Christmas play was a little different this year, we had a Birthday party for Jesus! We had songs, poems, cake and GIFTS (of the Spirit)!   Our friends from Diakonia came.  Pastor Tibi taught a great lesson on Christmas.  He always seems to know the exact length to speak so the kids don’t get too restless.  The choir sang beautifully and encouraged everyone to join in on the last song. Since it was a birthday party, some of our kids came up with the idea of making cakes and cookies and serving them to our guest.  I love how they are thinking about others and not just about themselves.  It is amazing to see how God is changing their hearts.

We estimate that there were about 200 or so people including parents and children. It got really hot, but everyone had patience and enjoyed the program.  This is the only time during the year, when many of the kids hear the Word.  They come for the Christmas boxes, but the real gift they get is the Word of God!

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Christmas Gift in Stroiesti

With 170 or so Christmas boxes and tons of kids we braved the annual Christmas party.  We had tickets for the children when they arrived.  Each ticket representing a box.  We ran out of tickets and I made the announcement.  Some kids left, some stayed. After we gave all the boxes to the kids with tickets, there were boxes left.  Not sure if the teens who made the tickets made mistakes or what, but I think God just multiplied the boxes to the exact number we needed.  There were 3 boxes left over and I gave them to the lady who unlocks school for us and makes the fire.  She was able to give them to her grandchildren who live in another village.

Thank you to everyone who made a box of Christmas cheer in Jesus’ name for the children in the village!

Enjoy the smiles!!!

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Seven School Christmas Plays

Did anyone see more than seven  school Christmas plays this year?  Here’s a cute pic from each one:

Second Grade (2 classes)

Second Grade (2 classes)

Third grade (class B)

Third grade (class B)

Kindergarten-Big Group (5-6 years old)

Kindergarten-Big Group (5-6 years old)

Kindergarten-Little Group (3-4 year olds)

Kindergarten-Little Group (3-4 year olds)

Kindergarten-Middle Group (4-5 year olds)

Kindergarten-Middle Group (4-5 year olds)

First grade and Third Grade (Class A).  The heart says "Love is Everything"

First grade and Third Grade (Class A). The heart says “Love is Everything”

Grade Zero (6-7 year olds)-Like Kindergarten, but not.  They did a Nativity Play.

Grade Zero (6-7 year olds)-Like Kindergarten, but not. They did a Nativity Play.

The second day of Christmas plays was  all about Kindergarten.  I brought Matt with me to see Santa.  Ya, Matt wanted NOTHING to do with Santa and cried and hid his face when he saw him. We couldn’t even get close enough to take a picture. Even after Santa gave him a police car (which he broke as soon as he got home and is now smoking when we turn on the lights-thanks cheap flea market toys), Matt still didn’t want anything to do with him. But once Santa was gone, Matt ate cookies and played nicely with the other children.  During all the programs, I couldn’t help but wonder what it’s going to be like when Matt and his sister are in their Christmas plays all dressed up in Traditional Romanian costumes. But I’ll wait, I’m enjoying toddler years now!

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Christmas Shoe Box Sponsors

I just wanted to share with you all some of the groups that made Christmas shoe boxes for the children in Stroiesti and the orphanage.  These are not the only groups who made boxes for us here in eastern Romania ( but they are the only ones that sent

me pictures 🙂 )  Did your group collect games for the orphanage or

make Christmas boxes?  Send me a picture and I’ll post it.

Does your group or church want to get involved in making Christmas extra special for the kids in Stroiesti or Dorohoi orphanage next  year?  Contact me and we’ll get you all set up!

Quest Home Schooling Group, Wilmington, NC

Quest Home Schooling Group, Wilmington, NC

OAH, Raleigh, NC (4th year in a row!)

OAH, Raleigh, NC (4th year in a row!)

 Dr. Melcher & Staff, Raleigh, NC

Dr. Melcher & Staff, Raleigh, NC

Gulfhaven Mennonite Church, Gulfport, Mississippi!

Gulfhaven Mennonite Church, Gulfport, Mississippi!

Y-Guys from the YMCA in Wilmington, NC

Y-Guys from the YMCA in Wilmington, NC

Small group at Port City Church, Wilmington, NC.

Small group at Port City Church, Wilmington, NC.

Neighborly Christmas

Ever since the Christmas shoe boxes arrived last week, I have felt a burden for our old neighbors.  There were four kids who lived next door to us when we lived in the studio apartment before moving to the house.  The area we lived in was all low income housing provided by the city. Our neighbors were the perfect stereotype, and not in a good way.  Every year, I made sure we gave them Christmas boxes.  But for the past week, I just couldn’t get them out of my mind.

I took clothes from the latest shipment and filled a box for 4 year old twin boys, an 8 year old girl, and a 10 year old boy.  I was able to put some shoes in for the boys.  I found some coats for the older two to try on, as well.  I had run out of empty shoeboxes, so I took some of the extra goodies and put them in bags, then rolled them in the blankets made by COTC family camp during the summer.  Bogdan filled a grocery bag with apples, walnuts, and applesauce.  He also threw in some chocolate bars.

We headed out.  We didn’t know if they stilled lived there. We hadn’t heard from them in a year.  We knew they had a massive debt to the city to the point were the super wanted us to pay off some of their debt.

We arrived and the apartment was dark, but Bogdan went and knocked on the door.  The four children were sitting in the dark.  Their electric still hadn’t been turned back on in over  a year. They had just one flashlight and a laser pointer. The apartment reeked of cigarette smoke and there was a puppy running around.  Their father was at the bar down the street.  Their mom was in Italy working. The oldest boy ran down the street to get his father.  I brought in the bag of apples and walnuts.  The 4 year old twins went crazy.  They were so excited.  It was such a treat for them. They took out the apple sauce and squealed with joy–over applesauce! Bogdan brought in the box of clothes. There were 2 coats that fit great on the older two.  There were lots of warm clothes for the twins as well.  The shoes fit.

I gave the blankets to the kids and they un-rolled them.  They were so excited to get a gift and the candy.

The father arrived.  He was happy and embarrassed to see us.  His wife apparently left him and wasn’t sending any money to help the kids. He was unable to find any work.  We don’t know the details or if what he said was true, but we were only thinking of the kids.

My heart broke for these kids. But I felt honored that we could make them laugh and smile for a bit.  I’m glad God put this burden on me.  (And I’m glad I listened!)  If there are any Christmas boxes left after our program, I want to bring them to the kids on Christmas day. If ever there were kids who needed an extra Christmas box, these are them.  I’m writing this story down, not to tell you what we did, but to remind you that when God puts a burden on you, please listen.  You don’t know who’s life you are affecting.

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Christmas Play for Stroiesti

We had 45, yes 45 children and teens, plus two mom join us at church on Sunday.  They got to see the same great play that the college students did the day before for the children at the orphanage.  The Stroiesti gang loved it.  For many it was the first time they went to a non-Orthodox church.  For some it was their first time seeing a play (in the village, in the school they have to buy tickets and they don’t have the disposable income for this).  For some, it was their first time in the city doing something fun like not going to the doctor!

For the most part, the kids were really well behaved and even sat still during the sermon! They sang along with the Christmas carols and laughed along with the play.  Afterwards, they took pictures with the stars of the show and snacked on cookies!  Including special Christmas tree shaped cookies Bogdan found for them and candy canes sent by my (amazing) mom.

Afterwards, we loaded the kids up on the bus with a sugar high and sent them back to their parents.  It was a great time. And we had 45 kids in church!!!!!

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Christmas Play with Kids from the Orphanage

I love it when different ministry project overlap!  Our church is involved with a mentoring project for College students.  Those college students put on a show with a play, Christmas carols and a quiz for the children and teens at the orphanage.  It was wonderful.  Over 100 of the kids and teens came (there were a few who were participating in an arts competition in another city).  Families from the city also came to the show.

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Children were invited to share some Christmas poems or songs at the beginning of the program and after the show, they got to have their pictures taken with the actors.  The college students shared the real meaning of Christmas with the children.  It’s not about gifts, cakes, or carols, it is about God’s Son coming to Earth to save us.  It was a special time for the children.

After the show was over, Bogdan was treated to a wonderful rendition of “Happy Birthday” in Romanian of course.  Then we called each apartment (the kids at the orphanage stay in apartments instead of one large building) and Bogdan gave them each a chocolate bar for his birthday.  Because of the wonderful generosity of so many, my amazing mom was able yet again this year, to collect games and puzzles for each apartment.  Many of the kids don’t know how to play or how to play well with others.  By giving them puzzles and board games, they are able to learn some new skills and interact with their apartment brothers and sisters.  Plus, they get to be kids and PLAY!  The kids were so excited to see what they got.  Each girl apartment also received a canvas with a cross stitching project on it–I can’t wait to see these completed and on the walls.  The larger puzzles will most likely be built and glued and hung on the walls adding extra cheer to the apartments.  Each apartment received hot chocolate mix and popcorn (some grown in our garden) to complete family game night this winter.

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There is one little boy who is blind in one apartment.  He was sitting behind me during the show.  I was talking to him and he asked me if they would get presents.  I told him there would be a surprise.  “What surprise?”  “well, it wouldn’t be  a surprise if I told you.”  He was so happy to be able to come up to the stage and get a big box of legos.  His apartment brothers take good care of him and promised to help him to learn how to play with the legos.

Thank you to the college students and church members who went out of their way to make the show a huge success for the kids and teens. Thank you to everyone who donated puzzles and games to the kids.  You made the start of the Christmas season extra special for the children and teens at the orphanage.

 

 

 

Christmas Boxes Have Arrived

We received 25 boxes yesterday with 223 Christmas boxes inside, plus games and puzzles for the orphanage and clothes. Thank you everyone who made and sent Christmas shoe boxes for the kids here.  In just over 2 hours, Bogdan and I were able to open the big boxes and sort the Christmas boxes into 4 catagories: Stroiesti, Dorohoi orphanage, Diakonia Church, and general. We also received a ton of puzzles and games for each of the 17 apartment at the orphanage.  We’re even more excited to be able to deliver those apartment gifts on Saturday to the kids!  (God is so good when He allowed the boxes to arrive so early and now we don’t have to make an extra trip pass out the apartment gifts.)

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Thank you to whoever sent the baby toys.  Matt was having lots of melt downs with all the boxes here–he fortunately wasn’t able to open any.  When I found the box of baby toys, Matt relaxed and played with them in the middle of the room.  He loves tractors and there was a little people tractor included.  The baby toys will be passed on, well, except for the tractor–you try taking that away from Matt–but were a God send when the boxes arrived.

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The work is not done.  Now, I have to make a list of the kids in Stroiesti and Diakonia and find and label boxes for them.  We’ll also have enough boxes to pass out to our “guest”–other children from the village–at our Christmas Play on December 21st.  We’ll be able to help pass out Christmas boxes to the kids at the orphanage on December 23rd.  The kids from Diakonia will get their boxes at the last rehearsal for their Christmas play that will be performed on December 25th.  We even received enough “extras” to make more packages to pass out.  What a blessing!!!!

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Matt got into helping us too.

Matt got into helping us too.

Poor Baby Girl will have to wait even longer to get her room in order, it's turned into Christmas Box Workshop!

Poor Baby Girl will have to wait even longer to get her room in order, it’s turned into Christmas Box Workshop!

What's more fun than dancing on all the boxes? No boxes where damaged during the dance!

What’s more fun than dancing on all the boxes? No boxes where damaged during the dance!

Please pray that all the children will see the love of Christ in the boxes and not just the gifts.  Pray that they all hear the true message of Christmas in each of the Christmas plays. Please for us as we prepare for Christmas and get all the boxes organized so that they can find the perfect recipient.  Please pray that God will glorified in all of events going on for Christmas!!