But for the Grace of God

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I don’t know if you have ever questioned the blessings of your life or even found yourself echoing the words of the 16th century evangelist John Bradford when he said, “there but for the grace of God goes I.” In many of the situations I find myself witnessing, I do wonder at times about the life circumstances that caused people to find themselves in their difficult positions. It is heartbreaking at times to see the struggle of life, especially in the younger faces, but it causes me to consider ways our organization might be able to lift people up from their struggle to a helpful place of recovery.

Ionut found himself alone after his grandmother died.  He had been helping care for her, and in return she was providing a place for him to stay.  It was one small room but it gave him shelter. I am not sure how the story exactly shifted, but at the age of 20, his grandmother was dead and he was alone. Ionut is lonely and as anyone would do, he sought companionship. He found it in young Tabita who was only 15, and as their relationship grew she found herself pregnant and giving birth to Edward.

I had not seen Ionut for a long time when he asked me for a ride one afternoon. That is when he began to share with me his story.  He was on the way to the city hall to register Edward and he needed about $5 to process his birth certificate. I gladly gave it to him.  He then asked me for $25 to buy a small wood burning stove for his home because it had no heat.  I gladly helped him with that request, and made plans to go and visit in the coming days.

When I arrived for the visit two days later, I was shocked that his home was actually a converted wood shed. It was clean.  The small room was very warm from the heat of the newly purchased stove. The premature infant, Edward, needed medicine, and I then found out the family had no food. I immediately responded by providing food for the family and the money needed for the medicine.  Ionut had a job but he would not be paid for 30 days.  He was going to work and keeping his energy up by drinking coffee. I was amazed at his tenacity to work through this situation.

I just returned from visiting Ionut and his family again. The warmth of the wood shed and the presence of food had become an invitation for a rat invasion.  Not only that, as I stood there I could hear the mice in the walls.  I honestly don’t know how they sleep at night in those conditions. That led to his next request. He asked me for $1,000 to build a one room home from cement and brick to help keep the rodents out and to provide a warmer and less damp atmosphere for his family. I made the commitment to make that happen. He called a few days later.  The mayor gave him a small plot of land to build.  He needed $400 for the initial materials to begin.  He had found used bricks and wood to begin the construction. He is building it with the help of a friend.

A young man was alone, desiring nothing more than what we all desire.  He simply wanted to love and be loved.  His choices were not the best.  His life situation is not the best. But I do believe that our lives intersected that day in order that I might respond to his needs in a graceful way. I’ve prayed with the family. I’ve prayed and asked God’s blessing and protection over Little Edward. And I remind myself as I take this journey with them, “there but for the grace of God goes I”

Andy Baker
Executive Director

When are you coming back?

 

img_6888-copyThis past December, I was reminded of how a small investment can pay big dividends. No, I’m not talking about picking right stocks or starting a new business. On a December evening in a Roma village in western Romania, we met a girl who had just been a picture on our refrigerator.

Having experienced Roma village life in Romania for the past few years, we became convinced that sponsoring a child would be one small way we might make a difference. We observed over the years that when a church started in a village, there was a noticeable difference in the welfare of the community. Children seemed to benefit the most. Parents were more likely to encourage school attendance and participation. The overall community climate seemed more accepting and trusting. This could not have happened without a long-term faithful investment from our ministry partners in Romania and trusting relationships between Remember the Children and those partners. So, we decided to sponsor a child and were matched with nine-year-old Nadia (not her real name).

As we neared the village late that afternoon, we were anxious to know how she might respond. Did she understand that we were her sponsors? How would that first meeting go? Would we recognize her?

When we got out of the van into the gathering crowd of curious adults and excited children, we tried to find her in the chaos. One of our ministry partners helped us locate her. She was not hesitant at all. In fact, the entire time we were in the village, she stuck next to us, sometimes even holding our hands. The first thing Nadia wanted to do was to take us to her home and have us meet her mother. So, with our translator in tow, we walked down the muddy street to the home. It was a simple two-room structure, but clean and warm. Nadia’s mother was so excited that we came to visit their home.

After introductions, we went back into the street to the village chief’s home where those of us who sponsored children gave Christmas gifts to our children. Everything we gave was small in comparison to what a nine-year old in the US might receive. In fact, the practical nature of some of the gifts would probably not be welcome!

As soon as we could, Nadia wanted to go back to her home and show her gifts to her mother and brothers. Of all the things we enclosed in the gift box, they seemed most interested in our family picture and the letter I had written. Nadia immediately wanted it translated and listened intently as our translator read it to her. Such small things made an impression on her and us. When we went out for the larger distributions of Christmas boxes, Nadia stayed right with us the entire time, right up to the moment we had to get back on the van for our next stop. Her last words to us were, “when are you coming back?”

I am not telling this story because of anything great we did. In fact, it was a small investment. We did see the results of it, however. Nadia has school supplies and a backpack for school. She now has a warm coat. Our funds are being used to help make life a little better for Nadia and give a little hope that her future could be brighter.

Meeting Nadia and seeing how she is progressing was the highlight of our trip. She isn’t just a picture on the refrigerator now. She is a sweet little girl who has potential. Just a few dollars a month helped make that happen.  Remember the Children works directly with our local ministry partners to make sure the sponsored children get the resources they need and the connection to spiritual influence that makes the most difference.

 

Would you consider investing in someone like Nadia? Just a little investment pays big dividends.

 

Dr. Roger Clark is president of the board of Remember the Children. He and his wife, Wanda, have been to Romania with Remember the Children for the past nine years.

10 Things We are Thankful For

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Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope that your day is filled with family memories, laughter, good food, and moments to reflect on all the blessings in your life! This is a great season of ministry at Remember the Children. Today I want to take a moment and share our list of 10 Things We Thankful For!

  1. We are thankful for the House of Hope and the loving family environment they provide for the children!
  2. We are thankful for the interest generated at ICOM (International Conference on Missions) this last weekend for GlobalGen. 17 college students signed up to join us for an internship!
  3. We are thankful for 42 people going to serve with us this December!
  4. We are thankful for 200+ child sponsors! You all are making a huge difference!!
  5. We are thankful for the gifts and letters we are able to take to the children from their sponsors. Thank you for investing in their lives in such a powerful way!
  6. We are thankful for our Strategic Partners working on the front lines in Romania and loving their communities. God is moving!
  7. We are thankful for our staff here at Remember the Children and the ability to add to it this year. It is a blessing to be in a season of growth!
  8. We are thankful for the lives being changed in Romania. We are seeing stories of redemption and healing sweep across the country.
  9. We are thankful for the last 20 years of ministry!
  10. We are thankful for YOU! Thank you for joining us and partnering with us to love the people of Romania. It really would not be the same without you apart of our team!

Take some time to share what you are thankful for with the people around you today. Feel free to share it with us as well on social media and use the hashtag: #rtcWeekofThanks 🙂

Thank you for your partnership and prayers.

Written By: Grace Hansen, Director of Communications 

Mobilized to LOVE

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The time has finally come! We are here. The booth is beginning to take shape, as we prepare our hearts and minds for the 2016 International Conference on Mission (ICOM)! Year after year, thousands of people gather to learn, grow, inspire, and motivate each other to love our world more deeply. I always get emotional when I first walk through the doors of ICOM and see hundreds of booths that represent thousands of people…from different cultures, languages, and backgrounds…all choosing to LOVE their world.

They. Choose. To. Love.

I am always encouraged and inspired, as I stroll through the exhibit hall and see how people use their skills and passions to bring food, clothes, water, education, and freedom to the poor and oppressed around the world. I am always reminded that no matter how hard life gets or how overwhelming the pain and heartache around the world can feel, our God is MOVING. He cares about each tear that is shed. He hears the cries of the lonely. He has not forgotten us. ICOM shows me that God is mobilizing His people to love this world in mighty ways and I am beyond blessed to see Remember the Children fit into that plan. We are able to see people experience the hope and love of God as He breathes life into their homes and communities. We get to watch people like you choose to love children who are often forgotten and abandoned.

Today. May you rest in the knowledge that God does not forget your pain, but He listens to you and is FOR you. Know that He is moving in this world to bring new hope and life. And may you feel empowered to love those in your life…be the hope they need today!

Written By: Grace Hansen, Director of Communications

Open to Respond

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When I was offered the opportunity to travel to Romania in the mid-1990’s to participate in a short term mission trip, I never imagined that experience would have such a profound impact on my life. Honestly, my desire during that time was to visit a post-communist country and to experience life in its culture of recovery.  I did not go with an open mind and a heart of compassion anticipating that something unimaginable would happen.

But as I walked into that experience, my life would be transformed forever as I witnessed children in living conditions that were entirely unacceptable. In my life I had seen poverty but now I was coming face to face with a level of suffering that I never imagined I would ever be exposed.

The words of Jesus echoed in my mind after one particular encounter as recorded in John 14:18; “I will not leave you as orphans.”  I remember vividly the day I held a boy who was dying, and it was paralyzing to know that there was nothing I could do. The worker even screamed at me to put him down because “I was giving him hope.” But in those few moments in time that my eyes locked with his; it was if he was asking me, “where have you been?” I put him down and I walked out of the room and outside of the building.  The smell and the scene were so horrible that a friend who was with me walked out and immediately vomited.

I realize now that the time for me was a moment to respond. It was time for me to say that I want my life to count for the sake of these children. Children are to be loved, nurtured, and raised to know that they are valued.  To witness children being brought into this world without any care for their development, much less any care that they are valued children of God was difficult for me to see.

This Sunday is “Orphan Sunday.” Over the last twenty years, I have had the privilege of helping countless orphans through the ministry of Remember the Children. In 2004 my wife and I responded with an even greater commitment by adopting our two girls out of a remote orphanage in Siberia, Russia. All of this life change came to me simply because I was open to going and serving.

Is your heart open to responding to God’s call to care for those the world tends to forget?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (James 1:27)

As we approach orphan Sunday maybe you could sponsor a child to give him/her an opportunity for a better life.  Maybe God is calling you to open your home to increase your family by taking in an orphan that needs the opportunity for a family with a mom and dad. James not only challenges us in 1:27 to care for those the world tends to forget, he even goes so far to state that our faith/religion is pure and faultless when we see others as God sees them. I invite you to invest in the life of a child that needs you. I promise, your life will never be the same… and quite honestly, neither will the child’s. The invitation is there, “change your world… one child at a time!”

Written by: Andy Baker, Executive Director

Something Greater

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There are times in our lives, when confronted with particularly emotional events, we tend to respond in ways that might not be typical.  I know on my first visit to Romania twenty years ago, I was confronted with children in situations that were deplorable.  My response was deep sorrow and tears of grief because there was nothing more in that moment I could offer. But it also stirred something within me. I had this need to respond. We do have choices in our responses in this life. We can choose to ignore and repress those things that challenge us, or we can choose to dive in over our heads simply trusting God for something greater. That is how I have felt most of the time in regards to the ministry of Remember the Children.  At times I feel like I am in over my head, but I know deep down that by trusting God, He will provide a way where I might see the situation as impossible.

I still find myself at times standing in the midst of something that challenges my emotions deeply. Last year as we were delivering the Boxes of Hope to a certain place, (I choose not to disclose the location), I was dumbfounded as the entire staff of this institution appeared to be inebriated. The people who had been entrusted to provide care for the children were quite honestly incapable of doing so, and not only that, the director of this place stood before us and addressed the young people with some of the most devaluing speech I have ever heard. As he got to the end of his presentation, I found the words to switch things up, and as I spoke I used the Christmas story, the coming of Christ to this world, to express to these children that they were loved and valued.

It is into this world that I continue to go and continue to the best of my abilities to bring a message of hope through our actions of love to a world that desperately needs to hear it. It is into this world that we have helped birth House of Hope, planted churches, and instilled into the lives of local leaders a message of hope that we challenge them regularly to share with the people to which God has entrusted them.

My friend Serena shares the same passion with me. I have grown to admire this young lady for her zeal to not only serve God with her life to the deepest depths of her ability, but to use her youthful years to continue to be trained, and to use her talents to continue to share a message of hope. Honestly, I see her as one who has given her life to share with the children of Romania that they are valued, that there is something more, that their lives can have meaning and purpose through an encounter with Jesus.

I have had the privilege of helping Serena use her voice to accomplish something greater for these children in Romania.  She said to me a little over two years ago:

“Andy, I don’t have much money, but I have a voice.”

This has led to the production of the musical EP’s, Giant Heart and Riptide. The songs all come from Serena’s heart and she sings with great passion and emotion.

We just finished up a two week tour of eleven states in fourteen days.  We did our best.  We told the story and we invited people to respond. They did generously. But there is still more work to do. I invite you to join Serena and me on this journey. You can make a difference as well.

Is God calling you to something greater?

Is there a simple talent you have that might be used to expand the Kingdom of God to this hurting world? Let your life be a light. May we model the reply of Isaiah in chapter six, verse eight, when he responds, “here I am, send me.”

Copies of Giant Heart and Riptide are available through our office. $11 for one or $19 for two, shipping included. 

Written by: Andy Baker, Executive Director

Family

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My family is a blessing to me. They support my efforts to lead the ministry of Remember the Children in ways I never imagined. We have loved our times serving together. We have made deep and life-lasting friendships in Romania, and it has truly become our second home. But my wife and girls sacrifice a lot with my continual absence from their lives, and that doesn’t go unnoticed by me.  I love how supportive they are of my time away doing whatever needs to be done to advance the work we are doing in Romania.

We have come to a milestone in the ministry life of Remember the Children, and that is celebrating 20 years since my first adventure into the country of Romania. At that time, I never knew how deeply it would impact my life, nor did I ever dream that a ministry like Remember the Children would evolve. I have been amazed at the numbers when I look back.  Hundreds of people have travelled with me to serve in Romania. Thousands of children’s lives have been transformed through these efforts. We have also had the privilege to help in the start and assist in the development of 12 churches. We are presently helping in the development of the Houses of Hope for orphans. But the staggering number to me is the millions of dollars that our friends and supporters have given through Remember the Children to bless the lives of those we serve. I’m grateful for the many people who have believed in my simple vision of bringing faith, hope, and love to those that have been forgotten.

But this summer was extra special after all the years of doing this, because my sister Carolyn and her husband Steve joined me and Gerri for a week of serving and encouraging our partners in Romania. We had the privilege to meet with all of them, pray with them, share meals together, share in times of laughter and good conversation, and Steve even preached for one of our partners in an evening service. If you hang around me long enough, one of my personality traits is to not really talk about what I do. I don’t know how to explain it, but deep down I just believe that I am doing what God purposed me to do with my life. It is an awesome privilege to do it, and it is a great gift to have a family that supports it.  However, I was humbled to listen to my Romanian colleagues share with Carolyn and Steve the importance of the ministry of Remember the Children.  There is something that I hear differently when the ministry is being shared to others by those that work alongside of me.  It was overwhelming to listen to them, but I was grateful that my family got to hear how significant Remember the Children has been with those with whom I share my life.

I don’t know about the future but right now I’m forever thankful for the last twenty years, and hopeful for greater things in the next twenty.

Andy Baker
Executive Director

Pray Bold. Act Bold.

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“Break my heart for what breaks Yours.”

I have prayed this prayer many times, but I have been challenged to live by the motto Pray Bold. Act Bold. This stems from a story I read once:

There were two farmers in a land that was cursed by a horrible drought. Each farmer knew that if rain did not come soon, they would be unable to provide for their families and possibly not make it through the winter months. Both farmers were Christians, so they decided to call out to God for help. The first farmer sat in his study, day after day…night after night, fervently praying. He prayed standing up, he prayed from his knees. He fasted for many days, hoping that God would hear his prayers. The second farmer also prayed fervently. He dedicated large amounts of his day to asking God to provide for his family and bring the rain. He then would go out into his fields every afternoon and work to prepare the ground for the rain he trusted would come. He worked the dry, hard soil, so that it would be more receptive to the water. He even planted some of the seeds he had, so that as soon as the rain came they would begin to grow. Looking at these two farmers, which trusted God would provide more?

The one who not only prayed bold prayers, but accompanied those prayers with bold action, trusting in the goodness and provision of the Father.

I want to be like that second farmer. I want to pray bold prayers for the kingdom. Prayers that line myself up with the heart and passions of God. I also want to live a bold life, trusting in His guidance and provision. So, when I pray “break my heart for what breaks Yours,” how do I actively arrange myself to be broken by God…to fall in love with what HE loves?

I don’t think there is a closer place to God’s heart than when you are LOVING THE NATIONS (ours included). After all, THAT was His entire purpose in sending His Son to die on the cross…that all people of the world would know and love Him. Want your heart to ache for the same things Christ’s heart aches for? Love the nations. Learn about the peoples of the world. See their pain, poverty, and heartache as well as their beauty, joy, and victories. Fall in love with culture and language. Long to feed the hungry and fight for the freedom of those in sexual captivity. Hear the cry of the homeless and orphaned.

Respond. With. Love.

May we not only be people of bold prayers, but also bold action. May we hear God’s call to love the nations. This would be a GOOD thing.

Grace Hansen
Director of Operations

408 Days

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The love affair first began in the summer of 2013. What I expected to be a quick three week trip left an impact on my life that is unforgettable. This trip lead to me spending the last three summers  navigating down bumpy roads into dusty villages all in hopes of coming face to face with sweet, innocent, and caring eyes once more. Every summer until now. Is has been 408 days since my feet were covered in Romanian dirt. 408 days since my eyes have seen the rows of sunflowers lining the cities. 408 days since I’ve tasted Momma’s cooking and 408 days since I felt tiny hands gripping to my palm. It has been 408 days. Four Hundred and Eight. That may not seem like a long time to you, but it feels like an eternity to me. You see, before the trip is over, before I leave any village, the kiddos are always asking when I am coming back. They cling to your neck, and hold you tightly. They desperately plead for one more round of duck duck goose, one more song, one more chance to feel like a kid. Every time, I want to promise them the world. I want to promise them, that I will see them soon, that there will always be another round of duck duck goose, that there are many more songs we can sing. But I can’t. I can’t promise them another game of duck duck goose, or another sing-a-long to Father Abraham, because regardless of how great my intentions may be, life happens. Life happens, our plans get disrupted and then come June a beautiful young girl is waiting to chase you in circles and ends up disappointed. Disappointed because you too told her you were coming back.

At the end of last summer I had every hope that I would be back running, chasing, laughing, and singing come June. I had every hope that I would hold their sweet hands, and let them make a mess out of my hair as they practiced braiding. I had every hope that I would be next to them once more.  

I am beyond grateful I that I didn’t commit to seeing them this summer. Now don’t get me wrong, I have made my fair share of mistakes while partaking in international ministry, but the wise advice from our dear friend Andy Baker is a nugget of truth I will always carry. He told me to never promise the next time you will see them. He told me broken promises are detrimental when it comes to our long term ministry efforts with Remember the Children.

I didn’t commit to seeing them, but I committed to them in a different way. As I journeyed back home from my second trip, I wanted to do more. I wanted to commit to them every day. I knew there were a few ways I could go about doing this. I could up and move to Romania, (which I heavily considered) or I could financially support those who were already there. I contacted Andy and asked what I could do. We were on the phone when he mentioned that House of Hope had officially adopted a very special young girl (whose name is withheld for security) and asked if I would partner with Mihai and Dana financially. He told me for $35 a month she would live in an environment that provided 3 hearty meals on the table, and Gospel driven truth in her heart daily. She would have the opportunity to learn about Jesus, and sleep in a warm bed every night.

Y’all for $35 a month I could keep this sweet toddler far far away from an orphanage and in the arms of love, kindness and grace. For $35 a month I could commit to this little girl, even when I am 6,295 miles away. For $35 a month I could put back the new shirt from Target, and let her pick up a backpack full of school supplies. For $35 a month her life will have a trajectory that looks different from the estimated 100,000+ orphans currently living in Romania. For just over $1 a day I get to make a difference in her life.

We can’t always make the 30+ hour trek to and from Romania, but if we are willing there are other ways to support these kids. If we are willing to step away from our comforts, the impact we can have is unmatched. Remember the Children will always need individuals to volunteer their time to physically be the hands and feet of Jesus, but they also need people who are willing to open their wallet, and make the choice to contribute to the work that is being done daily. I know I will be back there one day where I will chase these sweet kids in circles, and become the next best jungle gym. We will dance and sing, and color with chalk. But until then, I can find peace knowing that because of my financial contribution, a sweet toddler will sleep easy tonight.

If you are interested in learning more about child sponsorships, or other ways that you can partner with Remember the Children check out http://www.remember-the-children.org/sponsor-a-child/ and see what opportunity and child is waiting for you!

Xo,

Katrina Spencer
RtC Team Member
2013, 2014, 2015

Check out more of Katrina’s writing by visiting her BLOG!

For Freedom

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This week we celebrated the incredible freedom we enjoy in this country because of the sacrifice of generations of soldiers. It was a powerful week. Like most aspects of my life, the 4th of July did not go as expected because of the simple fact that I am a mother to a 6 month old. We had plans to spend the evening with friends. I looked forward to enjoying good food, great company, shared stories and laughter, board games, and of course…fireworks! The evening was one of fun for sure, but it didn’t look like the Norman Rockwell painting I had in my imagination. After an amazing dinner, my beautiful daughter decided she needed a little more focused attention on her. I took her into the other room in hopes to calm her, feed her, and help her fall asleep for the evening so that I could return to our friends. For whatever reason, she struggled that evening. She struggled through her food (she has reflex issues…the last lingering health struggles from being 2.5 months premature.) and fought sleep as hard as she could. I realized that the rest of my evening would be spent holding and singing to this precious child who needed me in that moment. I got something to drink, turned the Bethel Worship station on in Pandora, and settled down in a chair with Elizabeth. We listened to the fireworks outside and the music in the room with us. Instead of being frustrated that I couldn’t take part in the evening’s activities at that point, I realized it was a unique opportunity to both treasure my daughter and reflect on the beauty of our freedom.

My thoughts were drawn passed our national freedom…passed the sacrifice of our soldiers who lay down their lives daily on our behalf. I walked deeper and deeper in my mind through the concept of freedom. Finally, I ended up at the place where true freedom was born for us: the cross. Galatians 5:1 kept cycling through my thoughts, “It is for freedom we have been set free!”

We haven’t been given the gift of freedom so that we could sit comfortably in our homes, ignoring the outside world. Christ didn’t make the ultimate sacrifice in order for me to enjoy a life centered around me. It was FOR FREEDOM that I was set free. What does that mean?

It means that our freedom journey doesn’t stop with us.

It means that we are meant for something more.

It means that we were set free in order to be vessels of freedom for others.

Wow.

I was set free with a purpose! My chains were broken so that I could run through the prison, breaking the chains of others!

How do you want to continue the pages of your legacy of freedom? How do you want to give freedom to others? Do you struggle to come up with an answer to that question?

What if you invested in children! What if you chose to give hope and love to those who will grow up to be educators, politicians, moms and dads….the future world shapers. I firmly believe that the youth of this generation have the potential to be incredible world changers and kingdom workers. They have the capacity to change the trends of culture and society, to take the bible into every language and people group, to take on the challenges of world poverty and hunger…

We CAN make a difference! Check out www.remember-the-children.org today, and see how you can make this vision a reality.

Friends, it is for freedom that you have been set free.

Written By: Grace Hansen, Director of Operations