Sharing God’s Love With Romania’s Children

Elisa moved to the small Romanian village of Călineşti when she got married and was keen to start investing in the local community. For three years Elisa tried, in vain, to start a children’s programme there, but the locals were reluctant to get involved.

Elisa refused to give up. Knowing many children were growing up neglected and lonely, she had a heart to show them God’s love and was sure it could make a world of difference. So together with volunteers from her old home community, Elisa decided to hold Christmas parties for the children in the village. They sang songs, shared the Good News of the Christmas story and the children received Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.

At one recent event, many of the children looked at their shoeboxes in disbelief – as if they were not sure whether they were allowed to keep all the treasures in their hands. It was a special moment for each of them.

“What happened here today is a miracle,” said Elisa.

When she first moved to the village she would never have dreamed of being able to hand over shoeboxes with cute cuddly toys, warm hats and high-quality school supplies. Elisa knows that shoebox packers put a lot of care into each gift, so that the children in the small Romanian village would know how much they are loved, and she is incredibly grateful for that.

When Elisa invited the girls and boys to the follow-up course “The Greatest Journey”, more children come than she expected. She loves sharing the stories of the Bible in child-friendly language and singing Christian songs with the children. It’s obvious to all, how much the children trust her and want to learn more about this God who wants to be by their side in all situations. Every Sunday an ever-growing crowd of children comes to the small village church for the course “The Greatest Journey”.

The Greatest Journey is a 12-week course designed to help children learn more about God’s greatest gift – His Son Jesus. At the end they receive a certificate and a New Testament in their language.

The importance of the programme to each child was reinforced when Elisa shared some more about the backgrounds of the children attending.

There are Adriana* and Mihai* who live with their grandmother. “They have many, many problems at home,” says Elisa with a sad voice. And she doesn’t just mean the unbelievable poverty in which the two children live, but also the beatings they get from their grandmother.

Elisa tells how much the two children have changed since they started coming along to the group. Both used to get into trouble a lot, particularly Mihai, but as they eagerly learn more about Jesus each week, their demeanour has completely changed.
“I love ‘The Greatest Journey’ and would do anything to come” says Mihai.

Margareta*, Sergiu* and Iulia* don’t have an easy life either as their parents have separated and they are now living with a new stepfather and his children.

*Names changed

Elisa tries her best to keep an eye on the children. When she saw some didn’t have any food for Christmas because their parents are unemployed, she cooked them a special Christmas dinner for the whole family. During the regular meetings in the church, she also tries to strengthen the children and show them what value they have in God’s eyes. She hopes that the shoeboxes will show the children that there is a love that cannot be compared to what they experience at home.

Margareta’s favourite gift was a brand new drawing pad – perhaps symbolic of God wanting to give each one of us a new life, a new blank page, through Jesus, and the picture that Jesus can paint in our lives is so much more colourful and beautiful than we could ever paint.

“I see big changes in the children” said Elisa.

She loves the girls and boys of her village as much as she loves her own children and it upsets her that some of them are growing up without the support they need. This motivates her all the more, to be there for these children and to give them a foundation on which they can build their lives.

Elisa desires that these children will find hope and protection in God and will be strengthened by His word and presence, and for many Operation Christmas Child can play an important part in that journey.

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Text: Sarah Tyllianakis / Photos: Jacie Smeltzer for Samaritan’s Purse

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