We arrived in Bucharest early Tuesday morning. After a short nap and a much needed shower I was ready to go.
Jim, Bill and I were met at the hotel by Wilmington native Sarah Smith and Anna, native of Bucharest. The ride, as in most foreign cities, is half the fun. Neither Bill, Jim or I are small men, but we quickly folded up and climbed into the rear seat of a small Ford sedan. I’d say it’s Europe’s equivalent to the Taurus. Seat belts weren’t really a concern. We were far too cozy to budge once the doors were closed.
From the moment we pulled out of the parking lot we knew we were in for an adventure. Immediately a flood of Romanian and hand waving commenced. I don’t know which impressed me more, Sarah’s mastery of the language or her mad-crazy driving skills. Last week I thought traffic in Chisinau was insane. It pales in comparison to Bucharest. Think NYC with no traffic lights. While I’m sure both cities have traffic laws, it seems most are mere suggestions. The first car through a given intersection emerges victorious. Doesn’t matter if you’re in the right or not. The car just outside your window is trying to do the same thing you are.
Our first stop, lunch! A nice traditional Romanian restaurant in the heart of town. Our favorite item on the English menu, “Pork Ribs beaten and tormented on the grill.” I was pleasantly surprised to see my new friend Sarah, so connected to Anna. They both bubbled back and forth in a mix of Romanian and English. As I’m almost old enough to be her father, I must admit I was a bit concerned to hear that a young lady from my neck of the woods was living all alone in such a foreign place.
On our walk toward the car, Sarah mentioned that we were headed to buy diapers. Seemed like a pretty normal thing to do, just odd hearing those words from a couple of bubbly, attractive, single twenty-something’s. We walked through what felt much like a Kmart, grabbed arms-full of pampers and then hit the road to what would be the highlight of my day, the Abandoned Baby Hospital.
After a twenty minute, very passionate game of bumper cars, we climbed the stairs to the fourth floor. Moments later we emerged in hallway, quickly put on over shirts and off to work Sarah and Anna went. Before I knew it I was grabbing babies from cribs, playing with feet, squeezing cheeks, stealing ears and walking around the building with itty bitty little ones in arm. Sarah and Anna went straight to work changing diapers, bathing, kissing and loving on almost two dozen infants. One little munchkin I picked up looked and felt just like a delicate newborn. Maybe six pounds at best, this tiny little bit is actually three months old. She was found on a street, malnourished and barely alive.
Anna, Sarah and volunteers from the US spend time assisting the state workers by loving on the babies as much as possible. They provide clothes, toys, cribs, wipes, and so much more. In fact, as I made mention of the bright yellow cribs, Sarah quickly assured me that they came by way of the generosity of Christ Community Church in Wilmington. You might wonder what these replaced. My western mind pictured 1950-60’s era cold, metal framed “institutional” cribs. In actuality, that would have been great compared to reality. When Sarah first visited this orphanage she found only cribs made of chicken wire. Now, four years later, there is an obvious level of respect between she and the staff.
Without the help Anchor of Hope brings, these babies would only be changed twice a day, bathed as deemed necessary and played with and touched only as mandated.
I’m both challenged and encouraged to see such a heart-felt ministry lived out by one of our own, a Carolina girl. What compassion. What dedication and love one must have to identify a need, sacrifice personal gain and move across the world to put hands and feet to a call of God.
Sarah, you go girl!