Monday, 20 April 2009

the audacity of hope?

Our good friend and fellow Scot, Tom Kennedy called round this evening for a wee chat and he showed me something on the Internet that moved me to tears. If you haven't already seen the very ordinary Scottish woman from the wee village of Blackburn an hour away from our city of Glasgow now's your chance. Susan is 47 and it's been her life long dream to be a singer ... she didn't have a chance but she dared to hope! Go on ... click on the link and prepare to be moved. Thank you Susan!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Easter at the Secret Garden

Easter in Orthodox Christian countries such as Romania was a week after the western Easter this year. It varies from year to year - it can be as much as five weeks later and only occasionally coincides. The Romanian word for Easter is Pasti (pronounced Pasht) and is more strongly linked to the Jewish Passover than in the West, the same word being used for both. It is a beautiful time with some lovely and interesting traditions. Our favourite part of Easter is the "Inviere" (Resurrection) service on the Saturday night. At around 23.30 everyone gathers at the Orthodox church and waits with candles in their hands for the priest to come out of the church. When the priest appears everyone lights their candles from him and then from each other and proceeds around the church following the priest and his entourage. After three times around the church the priest then goes to the door of the church and sings the words of the Gospel about Mary and the other Mary going to the tomb of Jesus and finding it empty. This is interspersed with the congregation singing a short refrain which goes something like this "Christ has risen from the dead, with (his) death trampling on death, and to those in the graves he has given life" and at the end of the "Inviere" a pure white spotless lamb is brought into the church (thankfully not to be sacrificied!)

Another of the traditions which we love and always keep is the painting and decorating of eggs. Eggs are hard boiled and then dyed a variety of colours, the most important being red or painted with beautiful designs.

At the Secret Garden we spent the whole of Good Friday (or Great Friday as it's called in Romanian) painting eggs, followed by watching the "Jesus" film.
As children arrived with their mums we presented them all with hard boiled eggs and felt tip pens and wax crayons and explained to them that we were having an egg painting competition.
The expression of the faces of some of the mums was comical ...
"not us, we can't do that!" they said ... "Oh yes you can!" we
replied, "but women like us don't do things like that" they argued ..."Why not?" we asked, and as they thought about it, they realised that there was actually no reason why not so they picked up eggs and pens and got stuck in! As you can see from the photos, they thoroughly enjoyed themselves!

It was a somewhat chaotic day in some ways as not only did we have a whole room full of people all busily painting eggs but we
had others coming and going.
Some came hoping for Easter food parcels, but we'd only been able to put together 30 this year as we had no money. We would have liked to be able to give to all the families who come to the day centre, even those who only call in occasionally but we just couldn't.
... and finally, as each child left they recieved a goodie bag and the mums a bag of groceries - not a lot, but a small help for them at this time of celebration.

Monday, 13 April 2009

you get knocked down ... you get up again!

Wee Amalia was so determined to ride the "trotineta". It's not easy when you've only just turned two and you don't know how to balance yet! She was so determined to ride it and so pleased with herself when she managed to gain her balance ...

what a great picture! Mum and dad stand proudly by, watching their daughter's achievment.

Look at me, look at me ... I can do it! I can do ...

Then comes the wobble ... can she hold on?

no ... yes ... no ... and she's off! Daniela looks on sympathetically, she's had her share of falls too.

Our wee Amalia is a tough wee thing, not to be deterred by anything so minor as banging her head on a wall.
"did you bump your head?" say daddy, "come on, it's nothing, try again ..."

All that effort finally paid off ... just look at her now! Isn't she great? Imagine this darling wee girl is one of several who live on the streets with their parents, sleeping wherever they find a derelict building or making a hut alongside some hot pipes in the winter. hard to get your head round it, isn't it?

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Mary and Joseph

Maria and Iosif (Mary and Joseph) are two very ordinary pensioners who have lived hard lives, through the years of communism and the latter years of the Ceausescu regime when there were ration books and food queues. They pop in to see us from time to time and when we first heard their names we joked with them, as no doubt many have done over the years. Maria and Iosif are such a sweet couple, struggling along on their far too small pensions but not complaining and not asking for anything. Maria told us sadly but without bitterness that two of her four children died and the remaining two moved abroad, trying to make a better life for themselves and their children. Their combined pensions bring in just over £100 per month - not really enough to live on but like so many of the people we know they scrimp and save and do the best they can to make ends meet.

Prices here are at the same level as the rest of Europe and in many cases higher for basic necessities but salaries and pensions in general remain pitifully small. We saw a report about milk production in Europe on the Euronews channel which stated that Romania is the second most expensive country in all of Europe for milk. Tea, coffee, breakfast cereals, rice, cheese and many other basic food products as well as utilities such as gas are all more expensive here and if you worked out prices compared to salaries then literally everything you can find in the shops is more expensive here than in the UK or elsewhere.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

homeless families

These children live with their parents on the streets and they're not the only ones. We have several families who visit regularly with their children. It is always hard to see the little ones and realise that they don't have much of a future to look forward to. Of course our hope is that one day we will be able to help families such as these off the streets, but at the moment that remains a dream. A father called in today who has lived at one of Arad's homeless night shelters for more than two years. He used to live there with his children but has now placed them in a small children's home so that they at least can have a chance of a better life.
Obviously our dream for all our young (and less young) people is that one day they will leave the streets, but for the long term homeless that sadly often remains just a dream.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Looking for wives!

The boys asked me to post this photo of them and say that they are looking for wives ... of course they were only joking (I think). What a bunch of likely lads eh? These lovely young men all live on the streets and get by as best as they can. They are regulars at the Secret Garden, taking showers daily and keeping themselves clean and tidy. We hate it when people talk about "the homeless" as though they are somehow less human - they're not at all, they are simply hurting people who are loved by God and deserving of our love too. In among the hardship of their daily lives, it always amazes us that they manage to retain such a sense of fun. We who are so privileged by comparison have something to learn from them, don't we?