War in Ukraine leaves millions displaced
jessica in group photo

Journey Home to a Foreign Land

Jessica Colinger (17) prayed for several years for an opportunity to return to her home country of Moldova. She dreamed of telling the orphans there of the faith and hope she had God, and that He had a plan for their lives.

Year after year as Children’s Emergency Relief International’s (CERI) boot mission rolled around, Jessica prayed that her sister, Julyia (16), would go with her. “I just knew it was something we had to do together, so I waited for God’s perfect timing and for us both to be ready,” she said.

But her younger sister was hesitant. “I did not want to go back, because I knew it would be incredibly hard on me emotionally. But, after much prayer, I knew this was the year God wanted me to go,” said Julyia.

Jessica and Julyia were adopted from Moldova when they were six and five by Dr. JW Colinger and his wife Judy. Dr. Colinger traveled with CERI and its executive director, Dearing Garner, on an exploratory trip to Moldova more than a decade ago. The experience, he says, left an undeniable passion in his heart to help orphans in the struggling Eastern European country.

On his second trip to Moldova, Dr. Colinger met a little girl who immediately stole his heart. He later learned she was part of a sibling group with two sisters and a brother. It didn’t take long for the Colingers to make the decision to bring all four children home with them to Tennessee.

With three biological children of their own, Jason, Jennifer and Jared, now 35, 34 and 28, the Colingers added Joelle, Jacob, Jessica and Julyia, now 23, 18, 17 and 16, making their already large family of five into a family of nine!

With the support of a loving family and church home (Calvary Baptist Church in Erwin, TN), the children grew in their love of God who gave them a hope that they desired to carry back to the children left behind in Moldova.

The oldest of the adopted children, Joelle, was the first to venture home to Moldova when she and Dr. Colinger participated in a CERI mission trip in 2005. After seeing the impression the journey left on her oldest sister, Jessica eagerly waited for her chance.

Yet even with the support of their loving family, returning home to Moldova did not come easy for Jessica and Julyia. “It was amazing to be there to love on the children, but it was hard to see the reality of it too,” said Julyia. “I know that used to be me and I desire something better for these children.”

Despite the difficulty of the experience, Julyia and Jessica have every intention of returning to Moldova again. “It wasn’t easy, but CERI provided us with a great support network, praying with us through every emotion we experienced,” said Jessica.

Each winter for the past decade, volunteers like the Colingers have spent their holiday vacations in Eastern Europe with CERI, the overseas division of BCFS, distributing snow boots, thick socks, hats and scarves to orphans. The warm wear protects against painful frostbite that is common during the harsh winter months.

In addition to meeting the physical needs of the country’s children and destitute, CERI uses the trip to bring hope to an often-forgotten and sometimes mistreated population. At each facility, volunteers like Jessica and Julyia take turns sharing their personal stories and reasons for volunteering.

Since 1999, CERI has provided more than 90,000 new winter boots and socks to protect the region’s most vulnerable. The mission was first led by Kingwood First Baptist Church in Texas, and led by Garner when he served as pastor. Today, every orphan in Moldova and Transniestria has received a new pair of boots thanks to CERI and its faithful supporters.

CERI relies on the help of volunteers and generous contributors not only to protect these children from illness, but to also secure a future for them as they are released into the world at the young age of 15. To make a difference in the life of a child or young adult in Moldova, please consider becoming a sponsor.

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