Bread and Living

baguette-1144979_1280Upon my arrival the next morning to the place where I left my friend and her two children, I saw distraught faces and spats of blood everywhere on the white walls. What happened? I thought. Soon the story unfolded of the miserable night of torment between this destitute family and their invaders – mosquitoes!

Everywhere I looked, life was hard. This reality was to become more personal to me through my new friend, a woman my age, named Clementia.

Such Good Bread

One of the things that most foreigners love about Romania is their good crusty bread. What we would pay $3.-4. a loaf for in the United States would cost about thirty cents there, and it was baked fresh each morning.

Early on, during my stay with the children, we walked past a store in our village and they said, “Naan-cee, bune piane aici”, meaning there’s good bread here. At first glance, I wasn’t sure by the looks of the building if it was a government welfar20171107_122514 (2)e-type bread store or if the public could purchase there, but the children reassured me that their aunts and uncles bought bread there, so I went in. Inside, the plaster was cracked; missing pieces had fallen to the floor and had been swept up in a haphazard way, but the bread was so good!  I soon learned not to look so much at the structure housing the product, but to follow suit of the locals and simply enjoy what was available. I also learned to take my own bag along to the store to place the bread in, as one usually wasn’t provided. People simply slung the loaf under their arm and headed off. My habit of making a weekly trip to the grocery store in the U.S. didn’t work well here. I found myself going daily for fresh bread. With five of us to feed, bread was one of our beloved staples; and Uncle Costica provided eggs for us from his farm.

After several months of living with our children’s relatives, Dale returned from the U.S. and secured a house for the children and me. It was an upper flat on Aleea Strand across from a large park. The place was very nice by Romanian standards. It did have a refrigerator; however, it was an apartment sized under-the-counter type, so space was limited and the freezer was constantly icing up. While I had many adjustments to make to this type of living, the children enjoyed it in many ways. They felt it was like playing house and they made an adventure out of every day. I suppose this helped me to view it in that way too. I would wake up each day and pray, “Okay, Lord whatever you have for me today, help me at every turn.” Life was so different for me here, yet God helped me see His Hand in it all.

Some History

 We lived in the village of Itcani, which was a short bus ride from the major city of Suceava.  Located in the northeast region of Romania and bordered by Moldova and Ukraine, Itcani has many beautiful sights.  This region formerly known as Moldovia was home to Stephen the Great, ruler and protector of this area from 1457 to 1504. Now, living in post-communist Romania, and while enjoying its beauty, I slowly came to realize why its emotional landscape appeared as it did­­—gloomy.

I learned that in 1966, the communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, issued Decree 770 attempting to create a large nation of people for himself. He was Ceaucesceuselfishly motivated and used abortion in a different way than we in the West would. We implemented it as a means to decrease the population of undesirable children; he restricted it — not for godly reasons but rather to increase the population. He forbade abortion for all women unless they were over forty years old, or were already caring for four children. He banned all forms of contraception, completely. Ceausescu was looking to create a new nation of people, not unlike Adolph Hitler. By 1969, the country had a million babies more than the previous average. It was said that thousands of kindergartens were built overnight. Farmlands were confiscated and used collectively as farms for the government. People were warehoused into cities, living all together in huge concrete apartment buildings. Then, at the close of 1989, Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena, were assassinated by their own people on Christmas Day. This revolution brought Romania into a period of rebuilding as a free nation. But this was now a nation with poverty, and so many children (more than 100,000) were unwanted or born to families that simply did not have the means to care for them. The question then was, “What do we do with all of these orphaned children?”

I now understand much more of Romania’s history which explains the poor living conditions and the large number of orphaned children. (For further information, go to Isador Ruckel‘s article with video links or the History Channel’s Ceausescu’s Kids.)

There seemed to be sadness everywhere I looked in Romania. Most often it was my English that gave me away as being an American; even if I did not speak, the absence of lines in my face, soft uncracked hands, and optimistic spirit indicated that I was a foreigner. Many of the women my age looked 10 to 15 years older than me, simply because of the hard life they lived. My new friend, Clementia, was one of them.


One day, early in my stay, we went to the bank and saw a boy that looked familiar to me because of his crossed eyes; it was Silvu. He and his sister, Andrea, had been living at the Hand of Help Orphanage when we were visiting there the previous year. They were now living with their mother, Clementia, and life for them was difficult.  Because Silvu recognized our children, he came over to greet us. Silvu was an unforgettable boy.

Upon meeting his mother, Clementia, I immediately saw the pain in her eyes. Here she was — forty years old, yet looking very old with the strain of life heavy upon her. Amazingly, she was bilingual. She began to tell me her story. After listening to her, I told her that I deeply cared and wanted to be of help, somehow, and promised that I would come to see her later that week.

We met up, again, a few days later and she invited me to her apartment. Clementia was desperately in need of a job, but could not find one. She had spent nearly all she had to get the necessary surgery for Silvu’s eyes. Thankfully, Silvu’s situation was much improved, but in order to get the money needed for his surgery, she had to sell the house they had inherited from her parents. Now they were renting a borrowed apartment for $60.00 per month. She said they were desperate; they didn’t have the money to pay the rent, and she thought they might be put out on the street very soon.  They already had turned over all their furniture to the bank. They had prayed that morning before going to the bank, that God would help them — and miraculously, God had caused them to run into us.

I was able to give her some money, but she needed a job and other necessities. Clementia, well aware of the religious-social climate between us said to me, “I’m sorry, I am Orthodox”, as she received the money I gave her. Realizing that we were not Orthodox, she felt a need to apologize for receiving from us. As repentants —  those who believe in baptism after a person receives Christ as their Savior — there was an unwritten religious wall between us, which was well known in Romania. I told her not to worry, that God cared for her, the same as He does for all of us and that she simply needed to trust in Him for her future.

Clementia had prepared a wonderful little lunch for us, and as we talked about her situation, I began to share with her the Good News of gaining a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father through the sacrifice that Jesus Christ had made for her. She cried a lot. I told her that God will hear her prayers if she comes to Him through the blood of Christ himself. I further explained the Old Covenant requiring priests as mediators compared to the direct access believers now have under the New Covenant through Jesus Christ.

We continued, discussing what it meant to be born again, from the book of John, Chapter 3, and the wonder and privilege provided through Jesus to have our sins forgiven and to enter into a living relationship with Him! She fervently desired this, and so we prayed for her to repent of trusting in men instead of God, and to have her sins forgiven directly by Jesus Christ. When we finished talking she was overjoyed, her face shown as if she was a wealthy princess of a King.  She said, “You are my sister now!” “Yes, that’s right, we are a part of the same family…” I replied. Clementia and I continued our friendship during much of my time there.

When, finally, she did lose her borrowed apartment, our children’s uncle, Costica, allowed them to live in a house he had built that was not fully finished. They were simply glad to have a roof over their heads at night.

The day after they moved into Costica’s house, I went to visit them. Upon arrival, I saw blood spats all over the walls! Wondering what had happened, Clementia began to excitedly apologize. She said the mosquitoes were biting them all night and they had gotten little sleep, remaining awake most of the night killing the blood-sucking pests. I told her we’d go to the fabric store and buy some underskirt netting to thumbtack to the windows. And so we did.

It was a hot muggy day. Upon our return, she began to wash the walls and thumbtacked the fabric to the window frames. I knew about this process first-hand as I had to do the same thing to the place the children and I were living in. If we were ever going to open the windows at night to get some cool air in, we needed some sort of screen to keep the bugs out.

Clementia and I spent some months together visiting and meeting up to see each other at church. Her life grew busy trying to find work each day and mine was busy in my own way of simply learning how to live in this land, halfway around the world, awaiting the day when we could all go home to America.

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

Continue to read next chapter…

Romania! Here we come

Our First trip to Romania January 11, 1999

The excitement was building as Dale and I prepared for our trip to Romania. Which items to take along for the children at the orphanage was the topic of discussion for weeks. We were told by Gene, our friend heading up the trip, that they can use just about anything. He did mention a few particulars the orphanage director asked us to bring, but other than that we were pretty much on our own. This was our first trip of this sort where we’d actually stay with the one hundred children at Hand of Help Orphanage. Our church had supported the orphanage for some time and we had a general idea of what they needed, we just had difficulty figuring out what was worth taking in a suitcase versus buying once we got there. Our friend wasn’t given to minute details, he just knew that once we got there everything would work out fine! As they say to just about everything in Romania, “No problem”. Well, that phrase took on a whole new meaning to us once the plane landed at Otopeni Airport in Bucharest.

Continue reading full chapter in My Book



girl-1897411__480Dale and I both have always had a heart for world missions and much of our visionary travels internationally up to this point had been through missions magazines, listening to guest missionaries in church and in our prayers.  So, after our adoption discussion with the social worker, we felt that making ourselves available to whatever kind of adoption God had in store for us was a good idea.

Continue reading full chapter: Domestic vs. International


Curious Faces…

At about 10:30 a.m. we woke up to curious children outside our door wanting to know who had arrived from America.  Upon waking and realizing where I was, the memories of the van ride, only a few hours previous, haunted me.  But I quickly got off my bed to get dressed and see who the little voices were on the other side of the door.  Dale was already dressed, actually, I think he slept in his clothes – he would do that quite often.  Not me, I needed the softness of pajamas to really relax and sleep.  The blankets on the beds were the old olive-green, itchy, army-type and even with a sheet folded over the top they were still not comfortable.  Wow, did I have a lot of adjusting to do!

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20/20 Was Here…

The room was dismal, not like an American nursery. Paint peeling from the walls was small in perspective; the smells and sounds of this place loomed large. Perhaps like someone who first steps into a full barn on a busy day, smells assaulting their delicate senses, only this was worse, it held children. I felt like I had stepped into a world of pain that most there had adapted to; what else could they do?

Back in 1990, there was news coverage about the awful state of affairs of institutionalized children in Romania. Communism had fallen in December of 1989 with the assassination of communist dictator Nikolai Ceausescu and his wife, Elena. It became known that Romania had an abundance of children because of Ceausescu’s Decree 770, established in 1966, and many families were struggling to feed themselves. With government orders to produce many children yet no corresponding free enterprise system giving families the ability to have their own business and work in a competitive environment, Ceausescu’s plan was destined for failure. As a result, the difficult and heartbreaking decision parents were forced to make was to place one or more of their children in a government orphanage so the rest could have enough to eat. Soon after the revolution (December 1989), benevolent organizations, individuals and Christian Ministries came forward and began working to provide safe and healthy environments for these children. Many foundations and private orphanages opened to help bring relief to the over 100,000 – 200,000 babies and children discovered in the government orphanages and institutions throughout the country.

The film crew from ABC’s 20/20 show did a multi-part series exposing

the awful conditions in several Romanian institutions for children. One of the places they filmed upon visiting was an institution in Siret. Many people were horrified and stirred with compassion to do something to help these children. A filmmaker from California, John Upton, was one of the people who took action and made a significant and positive difference in the lives of many of the children; he was able to find them adoptive families in the U.S. The adoption of Romanian children soared following Upton’s expose’.

Our Visit to Siret

As we approached the children’s institution in Siret, we had been told before entering the grounds that this was one of the places that the 20/20 news crew had visited and filmed. We figured that since communism fell in 1989, things would be much different by now, 10 years later. We parked outside the iron gates; as they opened we looked at a disheartening setting. Among other things, the dank and run down cement buildings had paint peeling, which was not uncommon to see in

Romania, but here where children were housed made it feel ominous and cruel. We saw a few young teens, moving about through the main roadway corridor inside the property. They were sullen, quiet.

Our interpreter apparently knew the person who allowed us in and guided us through the institution. We were not sure what was being said, we only knew the sights and smells we encountered that day will forever stay in our minds and hearts. How could someone explain these conditions? They were beyond what we imagined.

We were led to a larger building on the right that housed the older children, whose ages appeared to be from 8 to 18. These were the “unadoptable” — the children no one would have interest in. They were supposed to be “handicapped” in some way, either mentally or physically. Many were normal children with just a simple abnormality; crossed-eyes, a turned in foot, dullness from hunger, and any number of things that could have been easily fixed elsewhere, here, became their marker for the institution. Any normal

child placed there would soon become unstable in some way and then be given the diagnosis of “handicapped”. The walls were cold, dirty, damp concrete. Even the smell was dirty. The ceilings in this building were high, which eased the concentration of the smell a bit. The children housed there carried on as instructed, and as though we were not present; it was a very depressing sight. As we left that building to enter another, a girl who looked to be about 14 with one arm missing and matted hair, likely lice infested, came running over to us. She wanted a hug, and even though my natural-self wanted to recoil, I reached out and gave her a hug. She smiled and felt like she had a friend, even though I could not speak her language, and so she tagged along with us.

The next building we went inside had several sections. In one area there were infants bundled up and lying in beds. It was dark and dirty; the smell was terrible. It reminded me of what it must be like to be in a sanitarium of disease. It felt like I was breathing in disease of every sort — tuberculosis, pneumonia, death. The dark heaviness of soul we felt while walking through this area was sobering. Dale and I would glance at each other with tears in our eyes; we wanted to move on. The next room, with the same awful air quality, contained children who appeared to be ages 2 through 8. They were tied into small chairs and were rocking in them. Some were banging their heads; others rocking, rocking, hitting again whatever was near. I was at a loss as to what to do, or think. I didn’t understand how this could exist. The worker saw our dismay and shock and then ushered us back out into the cold, crisp, fresh air; I breathed in deeply. I remember feeling like my lungs were filled with death and disease, and how good it felt to be outside breathing fresh air… and able to walk away.

If you have ever been to Romania you will recall that the village homes are built in the old-style; constructed of blocks made with manure and straw with a skim coat of plaster parging on the outside to keep the elements from dissolving the blocks. Because of this method, the homes have a distinct smell when they are heated with wood in the winter. The blocks of straw and manure create a smell that is common and people just get used to it. I came to know this smell quite well when I lived there the following year. The smell in this institution could have partially been caused by that, but I believe it was much more. Because they needed to keep the children warm, there was little ventilation and thus the poor air quality was overpowering; yet that was the least of their problems.

This was very difficult for us to understand; how could these conditions exist? We were weeping, feeling overwhelmed and needed to leave. As we drove back to drop off the person who had accompanied us there, we sat silently, feeling anguish over these circumstances. Little was said. Our guide could see our distress and offered some explanation about the post-communism era and financial struggles. I remember wondering how the caregivers could even work there and asked that of our guide? He said some of these women do it to serve the children. They have very little they can do other than care for them day-by-day.

My Return

Eighteen months after my first trip to the Siret Institution with my husband, Dale, I returned alone this time. It was the summer of 2000, on this occasion our four adoptive children accompanied me. I was involved with the Nathanial Church at that time and found that one Sunday per month this church visited the Siret institution, as did other churches, to provide a children’s service along with a meal for them and other needed items. I was anxious to go and see what had changed since my previous visit. Upon arriving there I found that it was still quite depressing and overwhelming, but I was comforted by the fact that this time I was going to be there as part of the solution. It was good to be able to help, in some small way — to bring light and joy to these poor children. The Pastor of the church, Johnny Miller, guided and instructed those of us new to this outreach on how to respond and what we were permitted to do. We only went into the large building housing the older children who had attended the church service. Judging from what I saw, I imagined that not much had changed in the other buildings either.

I had been living in Romania for about six months by then and had emotionally adapted somewhat to the desperate conditions there. It truly was impossible to help everyone. The churches were doing their best to help those in need, not only with food and necessities but teaching the basics of living without dependence upon the government – under which the people had been forced during communism. When a person comes to Christ, there also comes hope. Upon becoming part of God’s Family, the Church encourages people to move forward. It was always beautiful to see this change. The desire to work, and depend on God, removes the hopelessness and despair that drives so many to alcohol. So many broken families were a result of desperation among the people; many fathers left the country to find work in other parts of Europe. Some sent money back, others did for a while, and others were never seen again. Mothers with hungry children are abundant in Romania. Many of these women found the church to be their answer. Their children were loved and cared for, education and provision became a reality. Hope became something they could actually find. I was thankful that because of faithful and generous people, something was being done for those who put their trust in God.

This was good for me. I was able to obtain a small glimpse of what our Heavenly Father sees because of the results of sin. My heart became intertwined with His.

(Photo credit: Pixabay)


There are numerous reports on the internet about the conditions I’m referring to. This contains text (by Izadore Ruckel) along with video of 20/20 undercover footage

Ceausescu’s Forgotten Children

Growing up in a Romanian Orphanage


My Missionary Friends in Romania who are involved in the solution: Outstretched Hands (Brad & Nora Hayes) and Gateway to Hope (Reinhard & Darcey Neufeld).