Wow 20years of CITD who would have believed it? I certainly wouldn’t have! But when I look back I see so many wonderful times and moments good and bad, I am reminded that these things help form us and create in us the character that God wants us to be! He uses the highs, the lows and the in betweens to position us for what he has in store for us and the ministries he placed into our hands!
I remember when CitD first started people would ask well Steve what is your five year plan? Where do you see CitD five years from now? And to be honest I never did have a five year plan or a ten year plan or even a month long plan!!! We travelled and worked by faith we didn’t have cash flow charts we didn’t have projections of funding etc…
We looked at what we had and we used it. That being said we always tried to be good stewards of what God gave us. We still are, but as we grew and as God grew CitD these things such as cash flow projection came into play, governing bodies don’t take kindly to us reporting, “well we believe God had called us” or “we are stepping out in faith!” Doesn’t go down too well with the charity commission. God tells us to respect and honour our governments’ taxes etc… So we do and we do produce these things, every month in fact now days.
That doesn’t mean we have lost our faith or our vision, no not at all, it means we can make sensible decisions based on what we see and what we hope for and have faith in!
God has been faithful to the children and families that we have worked with for the last twenty years and although times can be hard he has always provided one way or another. He does what he does and we do what we need to do and the job gets done!
God uses believers and non-believers to love and care for his creation that’s you, me and whoever! I’ve met some beautiful people along the way Christian and non-Christian and those who just don’t know! All I know is that even last year over 150 volunteers came through our projects in Romania and God used them all to care, play, entertain, build, dig, mix, cycle, run, talk, preach, cry, laugh, pray and most of all love!
So as we start another year firmly holding on to Jesus and his shirt tails who knows what will happen, so please don’t ask me for a five year plan because my answer will be this –
CitD will continue to do what God calls us to do but most of all continue to love those created in God’s own image.
You, me, us, and them all, marginalised or not let’s just try and fill this world, Gods world with God love and you don’t have to be a Christian to do it!
Ooooooh controversial but hey that’s me!
So here’s to another great year with the glory going to God and our beautiful brilliant supporters’ thank you and may God bless you through all the coming year and beyond!
Well as we look towards Christmas and the New Year. I for one take time to reflect back on what has been an exciting but challenging year once again!
Firstly, I would like to thank all our faithful supporters old and new alike without such support we couldn’t do what we do out in Romania and with the handful of schools we work with in the UK.
I would also like to thank my board of trustees here in the U.K. for their support and patience over the last year.
As we move towards a new year we already see it’s challenges ahead but we have a God that already knows our needs and what we need but that shouldn’t stop us from asking just the same! This exercises our faith and trust in him that set us on the road in the first place.
I look at the world today and see a lot of suffering, waring, fractions and people dying, so to try and fill the world with a little hope, kindness and love is more important now then maybe ever before.
As human beings let’s pull together whether we are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh or have no faith at all.
Let the voice of unity cry out across the world and let’s see headlines of love, kindness and compassion ringing out!
We can all make a difference in the world that surrounds us and beyond that too. Sometimes it’s just a smile or maybe the offer to just lend a hand in a small way but that makes a difference.
18 years ago we started a small orphanage in North East Romania where our vision was to love and care for some of the most down trodden children of that time. Today the same children are now young adults and are still being loved and many have learned to love back.
Those of you that have visited Casa Lumina will know this from experience and what a wonderful place it is!
Our work now has grown through our NGO Asociatia Lumina and the Palliative care services we provide in the region.
We are a guiding light for paediatric palliative care and now we also have voice at a national level which is something wonderful and we could never have dreamt of it.
But this is Gods work and Gods hand wants to hold and love those children and their families through our work there and the wonderful staff we have at all our projects in Romania.
Let’s not forget the Brits too that still come out and volunteer in the summer through our schools work and mission trips for adults and young people.
Next year we have 10 Micro Gappers signed up to spend two months with us in Romania this is the most we have ever had, Beth Johnson and I are really looking forward to next summer and all that it brings.
So with that mention of Beth I would just like to say what a great women she has become, strong in her commitment to the cause and strong in her faith in God.
Tirelessly, working for the good of the projects and serving not just the volunteers but me too always with a smile and cup of tea in the mornings!
Not just that there is a whole list that I could write but let’s just say she’s a great PA and coordinator of volunteers!
Better stop there as I don’t want her getting too big for her boots lol!
As you may have seen we have launched a £2 a month appeal and if you don’t support financially at this time could you please think about it. We really need your support more than ever in the coming year. Would you consider helping us by committing to £2 a month?
It’s not even the cost of a cup of coffee at Costa or Starbucks!
Well that’s about it from me for this year.
May God bless you and your families not just this Christmas and New Year but throughout the year.
Remember love is the greatest power in the Universe. Use it to help change your world and the world of others near and far!
Happy and a blessed Christmas.
CEO/ Founder Cry in the Dark
President/Founder Asociatia Lumina.
My time in Romania as a Gapper with Cry in the Dark has come to an inevitable end and it is fair to say that since I’ve returned home I have found readjusting back to normality anything but easy. The two months spent away were so busy and productive that you find yourself falling into a bubble of what you believe a normal day should consist of. Wake up, build a path, visit a Roma gypsy community, run a kids club, host a disco at Casa Lumina, etc. The list goes on! I have found returning back from mission hard as you find that you have a lot of free time and a desire to continue helping people and sharing God’s love although the way in which you must go about it becomes very different. Being disconnected from the place in which I could carry out this work led to me feeling low and frustrated at times.
A volunteer (and all-round great guy) named Murray who was a member of the Comberton Baptist team, recently shared a story that helped inspire me. He told me of how when he was waiting for a plane ride home back to Scotland he got talking to a guy at an airport. They chatted and spent time with each other, and when it came to time to say goodbye Murray shared his faith with him. Wow.
Last Saturday I met up with some friends for a drink at the pub, once finished I went to McDonald’s to get some fuel for the journey home. I began walking down Colchester high street when I walked past a homeless guy asking for spare change and I ignored his plea for help and walked straight past him. A few steps later I felt an overpowering urge to turn around and share my McDonald’s with the man I had just past. I don’t know why I did because I love chicken nuggets and could have quite easily eaten the box of 20! However before I knew it I was having a chicken nugget picnic with this man on the corner of the street. We got talking and he told me about his life and how he had fallen into his current situation. I realised that he was a normal guy just like me who enjoyed watching football and fanaticising about cars we knew we could never afford. He did not deserve to be in his situation, as quite often we can be guilty of letting ourselves belief.
When I felt it was time to go, again I felt something inside of me, which I believe to be God telling me to share my faith. It seemed like a scary thing to do at the time but I said a quick prayer and was reminded about Murray’s story and realised that if I stepped out in faith God would not let me down. So I gave my new friend my band that I had been wearing which has on it the four points, something which the Comberton Baptist team introduced me to. God loves us, we have all sinned, Jesus died for me and I have to decide what to do next.
Steve in one of his lessons told us a story about a church that has a sign as you exit saying “you are now entering your mission field”. It reminded me that we all missionaries and that wherever we are is our mission field. I realise that just because I’m no longer in Romania. It does not mean that I cannot still have a positive impact on people’s lives.
Well it’s been an interesting summer which as I write draws to an end.
It’s not been without its challenges, its highs, its lows and everything else in between.
First of all I would like to thank Beth because none of this would be possible without her, or at least most of it!
Then comes this years Micro Gappers!
Megan Cooper, Katie Wilkinson, Hannah Foster, Chloe Price and Dan Pledger, along with returning gapper Jack!
All brilliant in there own way and all gifted in their own way too! It’s been a real blessing to work with these guys this year and if next years Gappers are half as good as them, then it will be just great.
As well as our gappers we have had 5 groups of volunteers over the course of the summer.
Two brilliant school groups from Manor CofE Academy in York joined us in June/July and as usual these young people worked so hard along with the teachers and the assistants that came to help.
The guys from Tenterden Kent, Zion Baptist Church Kent and our new friends from Comberton Baptist Church also came to work with us this summer, they were all different and all brilliant in their own ways and we loved introducing them to our work!
We had a few extra people who joined us during the summer and these included my son, Sean who has been coming to Romania since he was 7 years old! some returning gappers, Helen and her friend Natalie who flew over especially to photograph Rozi and Dani’s beautiful wedding, Thank you so much ladies, and last but not least was George Hendry who came with the Zion Baptist group but stayed on another couple of weeks a great guy to have around, very practical and I was able to let George take on some of the jobs I didn’t have time to do! Or that’s what I told him. lol! (The picture to the Left is of our brilliant Gapper team along with Steve and Beth and George our honorary summer gapper)
Well there was some interesting moments this year like trying to get your driving license back from the police after being nicked for speeding! Still if you break the law you pay the price.
Then just to keep life even more interesting, whilst we were building a small house I was threatened by a thirteen year old boy welding a 3 foot long axe! But that’s a story for another day!
We achieved a lot this summer thanks to the Gappers and all our friends that gave up a week or two to serve others which we love you for and whether you believe or not I know God loves it too! If you want to see photos of all the things we got up to this summer why not find us on Facebook and take a look!
Why not join us next summer? We would love to see you in Romania next year:)
Blessings, thanks and love
Monica is my one to one at Casa Lumina. We spent our first one to one together getting to know each other and I got to know what she loved and what she didn’t love so much. This was important because I wanted nothing more than to make her happy. I suppose I didn’t have any goals for my one to one, other than to build a positive relationship with Monica.
I quickly learnt that it wasn’t enough to rely on my own strength to form this relationship because to begin with Monica’s behaviour tested my patience, she often repeats the same phrase or action over and over again and she’s very very cheeky. It became clear to me that I needed to rely on God’s strength because with him anything is possible. Each week I spent with Monica I saw progress in our relationship. Monica loves balloons…I learnt this when she repeatedly stuffed the balloons I had brought with me down her pants! I started to just bring one and despite asking for more Monica quickly settled for one, I started to produce one at the end of each one to one we had together and she would repeatedly kiss me when she received it, the joy written on her face made me so so glad.
My favourite memory of Monica has to be when I was first allowed to take her to the park with the other young people, she was so well behaved and I was so proud of her. When we go to Casa Lumina with the volunteers I am so chuffed to be able to say to them that Monica is my one to one and I will really miss her when I leave Romania.
If you’re reading this and you know the story of Cry in the Dark then you will know that it began with compassion and that compassion is still at the heart of the charity today. What I have for Monica and for everyone else at Casa Lumina is compassion and by spending my summer in Romania I have had the opportunity to express my compassion, in many different ways, to those living at Casa Lumina.
The compassion I feel doesn’t end at Casa Lumina, it extends across the projects I have had the pleasure of being involved in through Cry in the Dark, this includes day centre at Casa Albert, working with those living in Poina Negustroloui and Ungereni. One of my highlights whilst being on the micro gap took place at Ungereni. I was sitting on the ground with a fairly elderly woman, she began to stroke my hair and repeatedly called it beautiful, when she stopped I did the same back to her and as I looked into her eyes she began to giggle and cry happy tears. We continued to spend time together giggling, singing and jiggling, this moment taught me that you don’t need to know anything about someone or speak the same language as someone to love them. It became known to me that in Romania those living in places such as Ungereni, particularly in the past, are seen as the lowest of the low in society. But as followers of Jesus these are the people we are called to love, as Jesus first loved us.
My prayer is that Cry in the Dark is able to continue to put compassion into action and that we can all show compassion wherever we are to whoever we may be with.
The Parable of the Sower is probably a Bible passage that is very familiar to a lot of us. There is a message within the story – indeed the whole idea of Jesus using parables was to spread the Kingdom of God to those who would listen AND hear. The message however can be taken in the context of where we are today and where we find ourselves.
This week has been a remarkable, eventful week, blended deliciously with hard work, fun, education, adventure (and misadventure) and time with God. Negustorului provides its challenges, particularly with baked hard ground to dig out, a lack of ballast for concreting, and heated debates with neighbours about the use of electricity. Contrasting this though is the immense pleasure gained in visiting the likes of Ungereni and Casa Albert where the residents and young people are so delighted to have us come and spend time with and entertain them. I’m writing the day after the microgappers and younger members of our group had erected a trampoline at Casa Lumina. Both the joy and gratitude of the young people we serve touched the hearts of everybody and where we are thinking that we are ministering to them, in reality are they ministering to us?
Prior to our trip it was requested that perhaps Steve could give some kind of time to go over the Cry in the Dark story. Last night was pencilled in to give the testimony of how God’s work is manifesting itself here in Romania through Steve Cooper and Cry in the Dark. However, on the way back from Casa Lumina , the “Wheels on the Bus Stopped Going Round and Round” when the bolts holding the rear, nearside wheel sheared, leaving the wheel dangling precariously under the wheel arch. Many prayers of thanks must be giving to God that the safety of the youngsters on board wasn’t jeopardised and also that the mini-bus grounded to a halt outside the house of a very compassionate and hospitable lady named Maria. She organised a mechanic to come and assess the wheel problem, ferried our gang into her house and fed them on freshly made popcorn whilst watching TV. All this while a shuttle service was organised to get them back to Casa Albert.
It would have been totally understandable if Steve had cancelled the Cry in the Dark story night – but he didn’t. Standing true to his word he presented the story. Whilst some of us have given talks to various groups about the history and the works of the charity, nobody delivers them with the passion and emotion that Steve does – after all, it is his witness.
The next couple of hours became very emotional, with many hands reaching for tissues to wipe over moistened eyes. Evidently people’s hearts went out to the youngsters at Casa Lumina when their stories’ of life (if you can call it life) at Dofteana unfolded. But for me the story of Albert, the inspiration behind Casa Albert cries out most.
Albert was a sower of seeds. No doubt he sowed on rocky and thorny ground. But with Steve he sowed on fertile ground. Steve has produced abundant fruits before, but his soil was tilled and prepared for a new harvest, a harvest that produced a hundred fold and more.
Are we prepared to be a sower? Are we fertile ground? Our soil may hold different nutrients that can potentially produce a higher or lower yield but we do nourish the same seed.
Being back in Romania is like either being in a dream that you don’t want to wake up from or like you’ve woken up from the dream that was the rest of your life. This combination of the very real and the very surreal is why Romania is a magical place to be.
It would be very easy to tell you about all the work we haven’t done. Between badminton tournaments, taskmaster games, the beach, the new Netflix show: Stranger Things and of course lovely, lovely sleep it’s a wonder we’ve done any work at all.
BUT WE HAVE!!!!!!! Fear not people who have generously donated to Cry in the Dark. The daycare centre has been such a blast. My personal highlight was swinging the happy cuddle monster, formally known as Smiley Alex, back an fro in the hammock. With a light lullaby of “In the Jungle” and the occasional tickle I think we could both do it all day.
Casa Lumina has probably always been my greatest challenge. I have good friends there. Marvellous Maria, Cool Cristina, Cardio Carmen, Lovely Lily and of course the King of the Ladies, Royal Radu. My problem has been that I have never really expanded past this group of people. However, my last trip to Casa Lumina showed me that I can’t just make new relationships in my own strength. I shall have to take out a love loan from God.
Negustorului was just…..well……negustorului. So many lovely kids come to our Tarps of Teaching and we sing, dance and learn about God with them. Of course, we lose them in the middle to the odd horse collapsing or local brawl but they keep on coming back. It’s all made possible by Beth’s careful planning and preparation and the translating of a wonderful man, Adrian Cretu.
Back at Casa Albert we were concreting away as usual and cleaning the pool out so it can be enjoyed by kids, orphans, volunteers and the director of Asociatia Lumina’s dog. God has spared no blessings on the team out here. There are 5 other absolutely wonderful gappers including the wonderful Megan Cooper (no nepotism involved) who has extended her stay to the full 2 months. The York Girls of course, Hannah, Chloe and Katie. One organises, one shovels ballast like a boss and one has become a very good friend to some of the more withdrawn children from daycare but all of them are absolutely lovely. Daniel, Daniel, my little pet spaniel, what a lad. I haven’t found a thing he can’t do yet. Furthermore, we have been joined by Davey, traveler extraordinaire, Abie, on her way to being fluent in Romanian and Sean Cooper, the man Steve never was (you know, tall, funny, cool, etc.). Of course, none of it would be the possible without the bedrock that is Beth and Steve, so grateful for them both.
Well it’s almost time for our CitD summer teams and activities to start out in Romania, just about two weeks to go!
So I’m off on holiday. Yes just for a week and then the full summer madness will begin!
Beth and I fly out to Romania on the 26th May and the next day our first of two school mission teams from Manor C of E academy York will arrive along with some old friends to lead them Lawrence Rab and Karen Forrester with Lawrence staying on for both groups spread over two weeks.
Both Beth and I love having the young people there and more often than not they behave better than some of our adult groups. Of course they work very hard and bring a lot of energy and fun to our projects but most of all continue to make a difference to the people and families who we serve through Cry in the Dark and our Romanian arm Asociatia Lumina.
Then starting on 17th of June our intrepid bike riders arrive – Pete Ling, Stan Harrison, Martin Lisle, Bernie Andrew aka the a Dark Destroyer and Dr Lucy Slocum as well as myself aka The Pale rider! We will be cycling 600 miles right across Romania to spread the word of our paediatric palliative and hospice care services.
At one point on the ride we will be climbing 2500 meters on the famous Transfagrasian road over the Carpathian mountains which took me around 3.5 hours on my mountain bike two years ago, so it will be interesting to see what happens this year! Especially as this year we are doing it on road bikes! Watch the blog and Facebook for updates. The ride this year is being sponsored by BCR Bank Romania the start of a long friendship we hope.
This year Beth and I return to the U.K. for a week on the 1st July returning to Romania on the 9th of July just in time for our Micro Gappers to arrive.
Chloe, Katie, Hannah, Daniel and a returning Gapper Jack!!!!!!!! No it’s true Jacks back.
But honestly, it’s a great blessing to us to have him back he is a good lad with a great heart for what we do. Megan Cooper will be also be joining us for the first month of the Gap. I’m hoping the Micro Gappers this year will write blogs too, so again watch out for their updates!
In August we have some individuals flying out Abi, Davey (both previous Micro Gappers) and my son Sean will be joining us for two weeks, personally I can’t wait for my son to join me it’s a highlight for me to have Sean working with me and the teams!
In August we have our mission teams which include a mixed group organised by our friend Terry Norrington seeing a few old friends returning and a couple new ones too!
We have a youth group from Comberton Baptist Church which we are looking forward to as this is a new group.
Also, this year we have a mixed youth & adults group from Zion Baptist Church.
So it’s all good!
Maybe we will get some of these guys to write blogs too? That’s if they have enough time of course.
We like to work our volunteers hard!! Well not too hard we try to leave time for a quick dip in our pool….did I say pool I meant fire reserve water tank lol!
At the end of August we are all going to a wedding as we have Rozi and Danys big day on the 27th of August. Rozi and Dani a couple on our community Hospice programme.
Dani & Rozi have a Prieten Sponsor who is turning into their very own wedding photographer – Helen Burt and her assistant are flying out to take the snaps of the special day completely free of charge! Thanks guys.
Already some of our brilliant friends and supporters have helped us to make this day truly wonderful for Rozi and Dany by donating on our special wedding gift page.
All proceeds will go towards the wedding to help these guys have their dream come true.
This is especially important as Rozi can often be very sick, so we wanted to help them both have their dream wedding this year as we don’t know what the future holds.
I’m sure that the pictures will be up on Facebook and you will actually be able to see their dream wedding day unfold!
If you think you would like to help make their dream come true please click here and share with your friends.
Well that’s about it, time to get back to some serious sun bathing before all this stuff begins.
I hope you all have a great summer whatever you choose to do. Maybe next year see you in Romania?
With blessings and thanks