Our team of students and staff with Agapé UK headed to Romania for 10 days in April to serve the ostracised Roma-Gypsy community on the outskirts of Cluj-Napoca in Romania with our long-term partner Rise2Shine Ministries, led by Frank and his wife Rita. Caitlin shares about her experience and how it impacted her and the team:
“This kind of project was my first experience of tangibly serving on the ground with an established partner and it is safe to say it was an incredibly eye-opening experience. Our time was split between working on Rise2Shine’s campground for the teens and hosting kids’ programmes within the community at the Rise2Shine building.
Frank explained to us that from an early age, girls in the family hold a high level of responsibility for raising siblings as parents work, so most children attending our kids’ programmes would bring siblings, six-year-olds carrying toddlers and babies. Almost all the children arrived at sessions with matted hair and open wounds. When they’re hurt, they never cry. I think this broke my heart the most; the reality that crying (the innate human response to attract attention and care) brings no help. Sharing a few hours of singing, colouring and talking in broken Romanian/English to these children was profoundly impactful and emphasised the need for Rise2Shine’s ongoing work even more deeply.
The campground is a piece of land away from the community, on which Frank is building an accommodation space. The overall aim is to be a safe and loving space for these teens to grow in, to be cared for and encouraged where they may not experience that in their everyday lives.
We got to see Frank and Rita speak directly into this issue as we hosted a BBQ in the hills away from the community. They used the parable of the lost sheep from the Bible to describe how as the shepherd cares for the one lost sheep, they too care about each and every one of the teens. We then sat together and spoke affirmations over each other – a slightly uncomfortable experience for most of the teens but a beautiful one for us to be part of as they affirmed each other’s goodness and strengths, something they do not experience in their day to day lives, especially from adults.
Overall, the experience changed all of us and we were immensely proud of the support we were able to offer to Frank in those 10 days, especially in completing manual labour tasks Frank can’t do on his own.”
It’s a blessing to have Rise2Shine as a long-term partner. Everyone in the team expressed interest in returning to serve and so we look forward to continuing to send aid and teams in the future. Maybe you’ll join us next time?