The ten dollar donation made by Lori Montgomery, a Southern Plains College freshman, did more than pay for a pair of boots for an orphan; it won her a once in a lifetime trip to the small Eastern European country of Moldova to provide the boots in person.
This month, Montgomery was part of a volunteer mission team along with eight other Texas college students who traveled to Moldova to work with Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), the overseas division of Baptist Child & Family Services. The students each represented their college’s Baptist Student Ministries.
Born and raised in Levelland Texas, Montgomery was determined to do her part to give back this Christmas season. Montgomery was involved in one of three FOCUS conferences, which take place every fall in Lubbock, Tyler and San Antonio. Through Baptist Student Ministries, she had the opportunity to learn about CERI.
“CERI had an interesting presentation on the mission trips they took to Moldova every Christmas and their goal to give shoes to the orphans. I felt I could donate my share to the children,” Montgomery said.
Known as “Operation Knit Together,” the Moldova boot drive is one of CERI’s annual mission trips. This year, volunteers from 6 different states, 34 churches and 9 Texas universities put boots on the feet of 12,478 Moldovan orphans. They handed out more than 23,000 pairs of socks and hundreds of donated knitted items such as hats, sweaters and scarves. This warm wear is essential to protecting children living in orphanages from frostbite during the harsh Eastern European winters.
Additionally, CERI holds summer camps for children in Moldova’s orphanages and is involved in numerous other ministry projects such as foster and kinship care, and a Transitional Living Program for young adults. The organization also has missions in several other countries including Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa.
“I didn’t know about CERI before the FOCUS conference. I read brochures and newsletters regularly now. It is a great organization with a staff that takes time out of their Christmas to make sure other people receive blessings,” Montgomery said.
“Lori was so excited to give; it didn’t even cross her mind that she might be going on the trip. Fortunately, her parents were extremely supportive,” said Brenda Sanders, who represents the FOCUS conferences. “It’s really neat that students donated to buy boots for orphans, not a free trip.”
CERI offers many opportunities for students and community members to get involved in the lives of orphans including sponsoring a child, going on mission trips, or donating funds toward buying new winter boots.
“I think CERI is one of the best kept secrets. I’m afraid people are unaware of the work that this organization is doing among those in greatest need like the orphans. Many are not familiar with countries like Moldova,” Sanders said.
Montgomery’s student mission team put new boots on approximately 400 orphans a day at three different orphanages.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see the volunteers sit down, remove the orphans’ old shoes and put a new pair of socks and boots on them,” Sanders said. “CERI does a great job of preparing students spiritually and casting a vision.”
“When I arrived in Moldova, I felt excitement and nervousness at the same time. I didn’t know what would happen,” Montgomery said. “People should research CERI and read all about them. It is a great cause. I am really thankful for the opportunity to personally deliver the shoes.”
One of the fondest memory Montgomery has is the moment when she removed the old socks and boots. The children may have walked into the room with frowns, but once they received their new socks and boots they could not have smiled more . Their faces beamed with joy and relief, she recalled.
“I feel more of the needs in other countries now. I am grateful that God chose me to go to Moldova,” Montgomery said. “I am excited and look forward to future mission trips.”
Despite cultural and language barriers, the Christian element is present in sharing the Gospel with the children of Moldova.