Bogdan – Remembering the feelings of hope, happiness and wonder

10th September 2018

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‘What we do in life echoes in eternity…’  These strong words are from my favourite movie, Gladiator, and they’re words that I try to live my life by.

I was born and raised in Romania in a Christian family. I lived with my parents, sister and my grandparents. When we were children we didn’t realise the hardship my parents went through, but today they tell me it was difficult. Back then it was difficult for most families in Romania. However, my parents and grandparents were great role models for my sister and I.

In 2004 I was one of 366,460 children who received a shoebox in Romania. My class at school had prepared a Christmas show for all our parents. I was seven or eight and I was so excited! I remember before arriving at school there was a lot of busyness at my house as all the family were getting ready. Picture the scene; my parents were dancing around each other, rushing to iron our best shirts. It seemed like there were 18 kids to get ready but actually it was only my sister and I.  I remember asking daft questions; I asked my father, ‘How are we getting to the school show?’ He replied that we were going by aeroplane. That struck me as strange because my school was close to our home. Being young I didn’t understand sarcasm, so the only answer I could think to give was, ‘But dad we didn’t even buy the plane tickets.’

We eventually arrived at school, and because it was already dark, our classroom was lit up by candles, which flickered on our classroom walls, reaching into all the dark corners of the room and causing a wonderful atmosphere. In preparation, the children had decorated the classroom with Christmas decorations and light reflected beautifully. The smell in the room was really distinctive, a smell of pinewood, as a Christmas tree took a central place at the front of the classroom.

All the children got to the front of the classroom onto the stage and we sang songs, did readings, told jokes, and performed a play for the parents. After our programme had finished, our teacher explained that each child would receive a gift, and presented a large bundle of shoeboxes. We had no idea what to expect, although I remember looking at the pile and thinking: ‘I hope the big one is for me!’

We lined up in eager anticipation, and our teacher gave a shoebox to each child. Soon the room was full of excitement and noise as each child ran around with their mysterious shoebox. Some ran to their parents, others ran to the corners of the room and others ran outside. As the contents were lifted out of each box, so many treasures were revealed, and with each discovery there was so much joy and happiness, and warmth in all our hearts.

Inside my box there were lots of great gifts but it wasn’t the gifts that had the lasting impact on me, but rather the feelings that it caused within me. The things inside the shoebox can get old, dirty, worn out, broken or run out but the feelings that the shoebox caused within me would outlast them. I remember the hope, happiness, kindness and the sense of wonder I felt.

Wide smiles at an outreach event in Romania in 2017

Another exciting thing that happened that day, was that I received another gift, a small booklet called The Greatest Gift. This was really exciting to have a Christian book to take home and learn about Jesus. This really encouraged me and my walk with God.

As the years passed, my life changed in many ways I could never have dreamed or imagined. My family and I ended up moving to the UK. One day when I was in my new school in the UK we were asked to fill shoeboxes. When I came home and told my mum about this, she reminded me how my sister and I had received a shoebox back in Romania. She encouraged both my sister and I to set aside some money to fill a shoebox and we did. My Mum and Dad taught us some really important lessons, one of which is to set 10% aside from our money to give to others.  When I finished school I got a full time job and as I was taught I kept 10% of my salary to give to others. That first year I started my job I set a target of filling 50 shoeboxes. I managed to fill 47 shoeboxes with amazing gifts for the children. This meant that 47 children would be able to open these shoeboxes and with God’s grace this small gift would bring the joy and happiness and most importantly they would hear about the good news of Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. Each year as I fill shoeboxes full of toys, face cloths, toothbrushes, colouring pencils to name a few things, I know these will bring joy to the hands and hearts that receive the boxes. However my prayer is that, like me, they will remember the feelings and the impact God has had on them all through a simple shoebox.

Will you join me this year and make an impact in a child life’s and ultimately the Kingdom of God? I pray that my small input into OCC and sharing my story with you will fulfil my motto, ‘What we do in life will echo in eternity.’

Read more of our UK Shoebox Stories, and request a visiting speaker

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