A Passionate team doing God’s work
The Bethesda Foundation in Galati was born as a legal entity in 1995. Our team had been working for years with the street children at this time but the new Government had passed new laws that we had to have a legal organization for our activities. In the first years after the 1989 revolution, two of Romania’s main social wounds, were overcrowded unfunded orphanages and street children. Besides the overloaded orphanages that the communism left behind now the funding for the state orphanages had stopped. Unemployment was at an all time high, due to the fact that the country had lost it’s industry. Many of the young people died in the revolution and left their children orphans, and on the streets. The images of those children went around the world and were glued to the minds of people as synonymous with Romania. Beyond the pictures, however, they represented a true and cruel reality.
The focus of the activities of Bethesda Foundation Galati, in the early years, was on the children and young people that were forced to leave the state orphanages and the new orphans and children forced out of their homes due to poverty.
We were focused to meet their immediate needs, starting with food, emergency medical needs, clothing and footwear. After covering some of these needs, we realized more importantly these children had a more significant need of acceptance, love, affection, guidance and safety.
We knew that the chance for their destiny to change not just to improve their day to day situation, they needed to be removed from the street or sewer environment. They needed a home, education, leadership, and slowly preparing them to return to society and to be self-sufficient adults.
We started this process in 1996, with the help of a UK foundation, by purchasing 2.4 acres of land on the Beltway Road in Galati. It took a year to get the permits to start build a residential center for boys. Working side by side with a group of street boys we started the construction. Their enthusiasm was palpable and contagious, the dream of having a home could become reality. In December 1998, in middle of a heavy winter, we moved 11 street boys in a partially completed building. We could not postpone their move, their life on the streets were dire. Within a year of opening our doors we had up to 30 children live in our home.
The need was overwhelming, and, in the fall of 1999, we started the construction of our Day Center to provide a place of refuge for more street children. Our vision was to give the children we could not house permanently at least a place during the day where they could clean up get a warm meal some cloth and encouragement and prayers. Unfortunately, we had no more space in our residential center. In December 2000 in the presence of the mayor of our town, we opened the doors to the Bethesda Galati Day Center. Ironically the area where the Day Center is located is called “The last Dollar”, the place was located in a valley that looked like a hole in the ground. But it took the last dollar we had. Looking back at this the location was very appropriate to our situation. Our finances were coming in only by Gods mercy and always when we were at our last dollar.
The need for a girl’s shelter was inevitable and in the late 2000 we rented an apartment to house 4 girls in desperate situation. By the end or 2000 we had 7 girls living with us. We knew we could not sustain paying the rent for this apartment. We purchased a dilapidated building across the alley from the Day Center in the valley of “The last Dollar”. We started from the beginning the arduous (tedious) process of getting engineering plans, permits, notices, approvals, authorizations. But in 2003 a happy group of 10 giggly girls entered their new home.
All along since 1999, we nurtured the concept of a self-sufficient community for the 2.4 acres where the boys lived. Some of the boys were young adults and they needed confidence, life skills and responsibility. We wanted to have a working farm / ranch to produce and be sustainable for our boys. This was a new thing even for us. We, as the managing team had to grow and learn new trades. From how to work the fields, how to raise livestock, growing fruit trees, doing social work, counseling and so many more things every day. We prayed for wisdom and God provided. It was difficult times to pioneer social change, to enter and overcome some area of stubborn mentality, condemnatory and judgmental attitudes and lots of bureaucracy and red tape.
With the limited finances we could not afford a lot. The 2.4 acres had to be developed from scratch, the lot was full of boulders. There was no power, no water, no telephone, even the street was unpaved. But we made it work for us. When we purchased the lot in the valley of The last Dollar, the property was used to throw neighborhood rubbish on. The street was full of mud holes and barely any amenities. The years flew by and, as we look back on those over 20 years of work, we are not sorry for any sacrifice we made and every step we see God’s hand at work. Because this is not just projects carried to completion. Behind the hard construction work, the gruel of bureaucracy and permit work the worry of finances and the heart-break of suffering children, every day there were transformed lives and destinies changed: children and young people with a whole new vision and future. And only a changed life will be worth all this effort. But there have been hundreds of lives that Bethesda has touched.
What is Bethesda Today? At the base, today Bethesda is the same growing and learning team, with the same mission of nurturing young lives. Our 2.4 acres on the Beltway and the Day Center and girls’ home at The last Dollar, are ever-growing and entities of their own. Life here is never stagnant.
Romania entry into European Union brought new laws and new obstacles. Requirements and standards have changed dramatically and did not allow us to develop the self-sustaining project for our young men. New projects and ideas are entertained on how to use this land to its best potential to benefit the young people we serve.
Also, in 2008 came the financial crisis, which drastically affected our financial support. Many organizations like ours had to close their doors. Praise God we endured. We had to restrict our activities, cut down the numbers of our employees to a bare minimal, we gad to sell assets to cover expenses. But we kept the most important part of our existence: we kept Bethesda family together, our children were always safe. Even though the 2.4 acres on the Beltway is not a residential home for boys, it has developed into a multi-functional center. We house young couples now, our young boys with their families, a small worship center and our headquarters offices. The day center is thriving and continues to provide daily assistance to over 30 children from very poor family and at-risk youth. The girls home today has 9 young girls, three of them in higher education. Also, the foundation offers material support and counseling to over 20 families in need and helps them keep their children off the streets and in school.
The situation in Romania in general, but also in Galati in particular has changed a lot over the last 20 years. There is no more wide spread homelessness and children are not sleeping in the sewers. Our heart is full, and we hope that we have been a part in this change. Poverty is still present and acute in certain areas of the city and in certain categories of population.
The work in the social services will never be finished. We want to mention that, during those years of struggles, we had not only obstacles and closed doors. At each one of those trials, we met people with great hearts that encouraged us, supported us, and pushed us forward.
Summer 2019 News Letter
It is our joy to greet you again, as friends, to embrace you, as brothers in faith, to shake hands with you, as work partners. It is a grace to look back and see that we are partners in “long-distance running” with most of you.
These days, two minor things that happened in our courtyard, have led us to meditate on a certain reality of life, in general, and ours, as a team, in particular.
One day, a noise of alarmed birds caught our attention and, looking for the source, we found a babymagpie that could not fly yet, who left the nest too soon and tried to get back to the nest, while its parents were calling, making alert sounds to guide him and attract to them.
A few days later after this incident, we discovered a turtle dove nest while we were cutting the hedge. From the nest, flied two turtle doves. They were sufficiently developed and with enough feathers on the wings to fly. Alerted, the parents immediately came close to them and joined them in their first flight out of the nest.
These two incidents made us think of the tens and hundreds of children who, for a longer or shorter time, stayed in “Bethesda’s nest” and then left. Some rushed and went away without enough “feathers to the wings”, others went to the right moment. For some, it was harder, they stumbled, they got hurt; for those who left at the right time, it was easier to cope with their new independent life stage.
As “temporary” parents, we sought to equip them and teach them what they needed to know. Once they left the “nest”, they are in the Creator’s hand. Lord Jesus says that the Heavenly Father clothes the lilies in the field and feeds the birds, remembering us that we are more precious than they are, and that He is taking care of us (Matthew 6:26-30). Glory to Him!
A few months ago, one of the girls in the girls home Estera “flew from Bethesda’s nest”, after 12 years of staying at the Girls House. We didn’t want this; we think it was too soon, even if, as time length and biologically, she was mature, she was 18 years old. We have respected her desire and choice, we have entrusted her into the hand The Lord. Together with you, dear friends and partners, we will continue to accompany her with our love and prayers. We confess that it is sadness and trembling in our hearts because she is still fragile and vulnerable in many ways. But we pray and hope in the help and protection of the Heavenly Father.
Andreea and Andreea ( two girls leaving with us), assisted by the team from the Girls’ home and with the direct support of Estera Bulugu (in mathematics) and Ema Cires (our former secretary, in Romanian language), they are preparing for the final exam in secondary school and admission to high school. The last half of year was like a difficult marathon, the team worked very much with them in view of the accumulated knowledge and fills the gaps they had the last few years. There is great progress, hopes and the belief that God will honor their work and diligence. Pray for these two precious teenage girls, they are very anxious. The results of these exams will determine their further school and future profession, but not only that. A poor result may lead them to a high school with a very low educational standard where, not only the education would be the problem, but also the immorality of the classmates and the insecurity of the girls in a vicious environment