A letter from Liz Searles in Romania
“Hurt people hurt people.”
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27, NIV).
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:17, NIV).
In Romania I serve as a PC(USA) mission co-worker called and commissioned to share the love of Jesus Christ with children of trauma and poverty—orphans in the state institutions of Tulcea County in Northeastern Romania near the border with Ukraine.
PC(USA)’s partner, NOROC—“New Opportunities for Romanian Orphaned Children”—is a hands-on group of over 50 Romanians who build relationships with orphaned, abandoned and at-risk children. NOROC’s purpose is first to help children of trauma heal and forgive, and then to ignite the hope and confidence that may lead to successful relationships in the future. Children of trauma are not condemned to repeat the cycles of poverty, abandonment, exploitation or abuse that deposited them on the steps of state institutions in the first place.
Work with children of trauma is incarnational ministry at its most demanding: “We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives” (2 Cor. 4:7a, Peterson translation, The Message). Small-group ministries, Bible study, holiday and birthday celebrations—these help nurture a sense of “family,” participation, and accountability. Summer camps, excursions, and other outings regularly help institutionalized kids experience a wider world that may extend their horizons of possibility.
Some smooth their own way and contribute to a sense of community: they nurture their own siblings, show love and care, make friends. Some withdraw and evoking a smile from them is a major victory. Others—the “hurt people who hurt people”—may etch ever deeper grooves of hurtful behavior. They may become institutional bullies or manipulators, or worse.
Outside of institutions, townspeople recognize institutionalized children and may seek to denigrate or exploit them. At the doctor’s office, school, or playground they may be treated with disdain or even disgust—“bad seed”—as if somehow their abandonment or abuse was deserved. Many too often have been called stupid, ugly, no good or doomed to failure. Some may have been told that a horrible event was their fault. “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).
Relating to adults who may be trusted not to hurt them or exploit their love may be a new experience, and that’s where NOROC’s transforming ministry comes in.
Will Bowen is most recently responsible for the quotable phrase “Hurt people hurt people.” Bowen goes on to urge us to compassion:
“Compassion is defined as a ‘keen awareness of the suffering of another coupled with a desire to see it relieved.’ People hurt others as a result of their own inner strife and pain. Avoid the reactive response of believing they are bad; they already think so and are acting that way. They aren't bad; they are damaged and they deserve compassion. Note that compassion is an internal process, an understanding of the painful and troubled road trod by another. It is not trying to change or fix that person.” (Will Bowen, Complaint Free Relationships: Transforming Your Life One Relationship at a Time)
As antidotes for distress or discouragement, NOROC programs and workers encourage what positive family relations offer: belonging, positive identity, and value. Each child may belong to a small group, each is greeted by name, each is offered new ways to express himself or herself. Whatever their family relations have been like in the past, each child is invited to accept full and valued membership in the Family of God.
NOROC’s grannies nurture infants and preschoolers six days a week and 51 weeks a year. Psychologists work toward wholeness for the broken and seek to restore hope and joy. Speech therapy and medical programs nurture health. Tutors work with children at risk. Off-site programs help children engage the wider world. Life skills programs prepare children of institutions for independent adult living.
A recent college-bound high school graduate said it best: “Without NOROC I had no hope of university.” NOROC! (That word means “God Bless!” in Romanian.)
Thank God that NOROC transforms lives and helps break cycles of poverty, violence and dependency. Thank God that NOROC’s grannies, tutors, psychologists, speech therapists, computer teachers, and other friends devote a part of their lives to this partnership (and sometimes feel ministered TO as well!).
Your prayers, your caring, your help spreading the word, and your financial support make NOROC’s healing work possible. We hope you will join our circle of support.
Each one who shares in NOROC’s ministries of critical presence and care helps address root causes of poverty, works to break cycles of violence and exploitation, and bears witness in deed and word to the unconditional and eternal love of Jesus Christ.
Of course you, yourselves, cannot be everywhere in the world. Thanks to the PC(USA)’s partnership, your prayers and your giving send embracing arms and willing feet to the baby hospitals and orphanages of Romania. In this way you are witnesses to the love and justice of Jesus Christ in Judea and in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
Keep bearing witness, and keep those prayers rising!
Liz in Tulcea, Romania
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In 2015-16 Liz will speak in synods, presbyteries, congregations, and small-group meetings in the U.S. Please write now to extend an invitation.
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, Romania, p. 287
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