A Note from Dearing Garner, Executive Director Emeritus
I have been traveling to Romania since the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu, the country’s last Communist leader, in 1989. My dear friends, Teo and Dina Suciu, urged me to go, and I have never regretted it. In those years, the need was staggering – a shortage of basic essentials like milk and bread, children living with AIDS, neglected orphans, devastated church facilities, and a nation ravaged by an oppressive dictator. Romania has made giant steps toward rebuilding, but the vestiges of communism and corruption linger. Poverty still plagues remote villages and the marginalized Gypsy population, and the country continues to have some of the highest child poverty rates in the developed world. This December, CERI will return to Romania to reach out to youth trapped in difficult circumstances with the good news of God’s love, and provide tangible care in the form of new winter boots and socks. We will travel to rural areas in the north of Romania and to Ferentari, a Roma (Gypsy) slum in Bucharest, to be visible instruments of Christ’s love and provision. One particular day three years ago I remember well. It was late in the afternoon when the CERI shoe delivery truck pulled into Borascu and volunteers set up our third shoe distribution at a school for young children. This is where I met Vasile – a cute kid about 10 years old. When I took off his shoes and socks, I was overwhelmed at how dirty his feet were. Vasile did not seem to mind that he had not washed his feet for days, or maybe he was due his weekly bath the next day. I am always touched by kids like Vasile, who was resilient but sometimes embarrassed by his plight in life. We shared a moment in time together that Vasile may have forgotten, but I will not. He is imprinted into my psyche such that I can recall him instantly. My life is changed, and my thought process is ever-influenced by him, and many other youth through the years, on countless shoe missions. CERI will leave for Romania on Friday, December 2 and return home on December 10. All of our distribution points will be in Gypsy communities that have the greatest need. We will give away more than 4,500 pairs of new winter boots and socks and share the love of God with each child.