We work in a small, insignificant country which is officially the poorest country in Europe. It has somehow fallen off the map of the world and its name is regularly air-brushed from newspaper and TV maps of the area – it is most usually pictured as an un-named country.
We work with a people group who are also totally insignificant in the eyes of this world. They are adults with disabilities who live or have lived in closed institutions in Moldova for most of their lives. Such places are cut off from society and life is marked by cruelty and neglect.
These men and women would not hear the Gospel unless someone takes it to them in their institutions.
Gheorghe is 53 years old. He has a mild learning disability and a speech impediment and slight physical disabilities. Ten years ago he came to live in one of the four houses the Lord has given us – Casa Matei. Before that, he always used to come to the services we held in the institution where he lived. He would usually arrive with his friend Vanya who used a wheelchair.
Vanya was born without legs and with cerebral palsy in his upper body and would be tipped out of his wheelchair by others several times each day. Gheorghe would scoop him up in his arms and put him back in the wheelchair.
They both listened carefully to the services. I do not remember Gheorghe smiling in those days – he had a wistful look but he was always pleased to see us. He was always very poorly dressed with a string tying his clothing together at the waist.
A life transformed
On the day when he moved to live in Casa Matei, he arrived carrying a dirty sack of clothing over his shoulder. We had to burn the contents subsequently because they were lice ridden. He had a shower and chose new clothing and ate good food that first day.
At the end of the day he was beaming. His life has been transformed on every level since then.
“All on my own”
Gheorghe is illiterate but over the last months we have taken down his story as he himself recalled it: “I was with my mother at home until I was five. My mother was thin and ill and she drank too much. I am very sorry that she left me at the institution. I would have liked to live at home. They took me away in a car to a big building. (The story continues when he became an adult).
“You couldn’t sleep through the night there as there were always people coming and going. One night I was fast asleep and somebody punched me in the face. I was really scared. I fell out of bed and there was blood coming from my nose and mouth.
I was all on my own and there was no-one to take care of me.
Many people died there – of illnesses, not of old age. So many of my friends there died. There weren’t many doctors.
People used to steal my food from off the plate. Often there was no light and it was very cold. I tried to help a lot of people there. I often had bad headaches. It smelt terrible there. The priest who visited taught me how to make the sign of the cross and to kiss the icons.
“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the dunghill – to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.” (1 Samuel 2:8)
“I will go to heaven”
Here (at Casa Matei) I love going to church and I love to pray. Now I understand that Jesus died for my sins and that when I die my body will go into the earth but my spirit will go to heaven.
I am absolutely sure now that when I die I will go to heaven. I wanted to get baptised last year and I’m not a bit sorry that I did!”
Inspired by this story? Maureen’s books ‘With God All Things Are Possible’ and ‘Celestial Fire’ on her work in Moldova and the spiritual awakening of Eastern Europe in the 1990s are available through UFM’s 10ofThose Partnership site.