At a Romanian orphanage, a local pastor and his family adopted a little boy named Andrei*. Like many children in the orphanage, Andrei had disabilities at birth. This boy, now seven years old, was likely to have been bed-ridden and nonverbal for all of his life. Against all odds, this Romanian, Christian couple looked at him and saw the value that came from his creation in God’s image.
Unfortunately, this is not the norm when it comes the Romanian perception of the disabled. According to the pastor's wife, in their own church, there was
an attitude of scorn and even mockery towards their adoption of Andrei. These negative reactions escalated outside of church walls.
As a result of orthodox and communist influences in Romania's past, it is still widely believed that children with disabilities are either curses resulting from sin or non-contributors in a society that relies on the contributions of its members. Because of this, most of Romania’s orphanages are filled with children who were born disabled.
GEM interns with the Ten2 Project experienced this cultural perspective while they served in Romania this summer. Gigi Anderson worked alongside many children with mental and physical disabilities in a Romanian orphanage, witnessing firsthand the struggles of such an environment, many of them not receiving the level of help that they needed. One of the children would throw himself into uncontrollable outbursts. The team was desperate to get through to him with the love of Jesus, but with the outbursts it seemed impossible.
“One day when he was not responding to us at all, the thought came into my head to sing,” Gigi recalled. “As I sang, a smile broke out on his face and he went from screaming and knocking his head on the wall to relaxing and showing the biggest smile. It looked like everything just flooded back into him, he was a little boy again….and he was joyful.”
It was an answer to prayer.
Gigi and her team worked with another child with cerebral palsy. Throughout the summer, they watched him grow stronger until he could nearly walk without assistance. Another child started out not being able to support any weight on his hips, but with their help he was able to crawl on his own!
“It was so humbling because we got to be witnesses in this whole process and we knew that the Lord had His hand in it,” Gigi said. “And, even though we were leaving, He was not done with these kids. We knew that the Lord was in those situations and we couldn’t doubt His goodness.”
Through the intentional efforts and continued openness of the Romanian pastor and his wife, people within their church are beginning to soften their hearts and understand the beautiful creation that these children are. As their attitudes change, they hope they will also change the dynamic of the society and culture around them. The pastor’s wife desires that people see the gospel message reflected in the adoption of children with disabilities, just as we have been adopted into the loving arms of our Father.
Because of his second chance, Andrei is now adventurous, imaginative, talkative and active with the help of a walker. This family poured into him in ways that drastically changed his life forever.
Would you join us in prayer for this family who opened their home to Andrei just as our Father opened His Kingdom to us? Pray for a radical shift in Eastern European culture so that every individual is seen as a valued child of God, made in His image.
*Name changed for security reasons