Post Romania Blues

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 DSC_0164I’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.


DSC_0399Steve 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.

Daniel Pledger  – Micro Gap 2016

Steve’s Blog Spot

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 hDSC_0420 (2)ad 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

One to One at Casa Lumina

Megan enjoying pushing Monica on the Swing

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.

DSC_0455If 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.

Megan Cooper
Gapper Summer 2016

If you want to know more information about Micro Gap please get in touch here.

Catching up with a volunteer

Volunteers Trip Aug 5th – 12th 2016

Matthew 13 : 1-9 Parable of the Sower

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.

Terry Norrington – Tenterden.

Micro Gap 2016


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.

Jack (returning Gapper)

The Calm before the summary storm!

Hi everyone,

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

Last words of 2015

Well as we draw near to the end of another year it’s always good to reflect on the year gone by.
For the world we have seen many bad and terrible things and personally too we may have been touched by tragedy and grief, so as I reflect on the last year at CitD I’m trying to see the good, the joy, and the positive from the negative and celebrate what has been achieved over the past 12 months, so to start with I say thank you because we are still here 18 years later doing what we feel we are called to do and we must remember as a Christian based organisation to thank God for all we have and that includes you our supporters!
We have had many great experiences along the way, old friends have moved on or gone and we celebrate their lives remembering them with love and happiness but all this is tinged with sadness too!
Because of the work we do and the lives we touch there is very often sadness but there is also a joy and a happiness that comes when we reach out and touch lives that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or untouched.
For instance last year we saw our first summer holiday (Voliday) by the Black Sea with many of our young people going to the beach and into the sea for the first time. I know Beth was moved by this experience, on the first day we got there she took a moment to compose herself as the children and young people played in the waves and on the beach for the first time ever on their first evening there was an excitement and joy in the air…for one young man it was to be his only week by the sea! Unfortunately, Raymond died two weeks after this holiday but he died having had one of the best weeks of his life spent with his friends, some that will go on to have lives limited by their illness and some that may join Raymond in the coming years!
Yes it’s a roller coaster ministry or job but we continue to serve these children and their families because that is what we are called to do!

This year too we had a really successful Christmas shoebox campaign which I said I would write about on my blog but as it was so busy I never got time to do it.
Every year I say it and this year was no different. It is simply brilliant to see the joy and happiness that the shoeboxes bring from Casa Lumina to Poiana Negustorululi and every person in between its a real time of Christmas giving and made very special by the volunteers that come out each year and this year was just great. Thanks Guys.

Well next year many things are already planned. In February we have our first Ski Holiday the older guys on our hospice programme along with a member of staff and three brilliant volunteers, one of which Rob Mansell is travelling all the way from Canada to help teach the young people to ski! We also have Steve Higgs a local (Colchester) ex army ski instructor coming too plus Jack Davies one of our ex Micro Gappers making a swift return to help with the young people and now with all the young people sponsored it’s time to sharpen my own skiing skills as I spend some time here in Canada with my friends Rob, Ann and Luke Mansell Ward who share their home and hospitality with me over the next few weeks.

May I take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to you all for either volunteering, donating or sponsoring us on a regular basis because without this support we cannot continue to carry out our much needed and growing work with the children, young people and families that we as ministry reach out to in Jesus glorious name.
Happy and blessed New Year to you all.
Steve. CEO/ Founder Cry on the Dark.

Christmas Begins in Romania


Well here we are again winging our way to Romania Beth, Steve & Phil the dynamic trio!

If you’re anything like me your wondering where the year has gone, it seems like we just finished our summer mission team visits and boom the Christmas Shoebox trip is here! Not without a lot of hard work by our very own Beth Daisy Johnson who works tirelessly to get the boxes in, sorted and out again, ready for the truck to Romania. So flying out just seven days before the volunteers arrive may seem a long time but hey this is Romania remember and any thing can happen and normally does!

Already we have been told that the truck which was supposed to arrive today may not be at our project until Monday ouch! That hurts! Especially as over 1000 Christmas shoeboxes need to be unpacked and sorted into the various patient groups family members, and school groups, it’s a big job! But I know Beth Daisy is up to it she always is… Already she has offered to work through the night if she has to! And being the good CEO that I am offered to help her if needed…

But there is a kitchen to upgrade and a trustee board meeting to go to and the distribution of the family lists for Poiana Negustorului to be given out to each family, Plus the the grocery shopping ready for the volunteers, all that coupled with anything else that may come up whilst we are there! Oh and I nearly forgot the 1000 shoeboxes have to be unloaded when the truck finally comes!

Well that’s  our life for the next week or so and to be honest WE CAN’t WAIT.

I’m signing off for now and will try to update once the volunteers arrive on Thursday ready to deliver the beautiful shoeboxes that you guys have so lovingly provided for the children and young people that we reach out to in Jesus name. Being able to share his love at this time of year is so special, lets not forget who’s birthday it really will be on the 25th December! No matter what you believe, who you follow, if you have given a box this year I pray that the God I love will bless you and your families through your wonderful giving this Christmas!

Ps if you would still like to be able to give this Christmas you can through our Naked Christmas tree appeal.

Thank you guys a happy and peaceful Christmas to you all.


A Headteachers visit

I have just returned from a week staying at Casa Albert with our Cry in the Dark hosts Steve Cooper and Beth Johnson. It was a superb week and one which has undoubtedly had a profound impact on all of us.

We are a Catholic and Church of England 3-16 through school in Barnsley. Our Christian foundation guides and influences our actions and we try really hard to ensure that our pupils not only do well in their tests and exams but also develop into rounded and thoughtful citizens of the future. We enthusiastically run the Archbishop of York Young Leader’s award throughout the school and love their motto “Be the change you want to see”. The philosophy that instead of complaining about injustice you should try to do something about it, to be the change, is really important and we do all sorts of work for charities and other organisations with that in mind.

We found out about Cry in the Dark through the Archbishop’s Youth Trust and have organised two week long projects with them now. It wasn’t easy for me to join in this year. As headteacher my diary is very busy, but I decided that if I was encouraging everyone else to go out and Be the Change then I should be leading by example. I decided to go in May and had 5 months to ensure my diary could accommodate the week away. I am so glad I did.

Nothing can really prepare you for what you find in Romania. The first surprise is what a beautiful country it is. The landscape is very rural with plentiful rolling hills, forests and lakes. But you soon start noticing differences, there are hundreds of horse and carts on the roads full of picked crops, families travelling to town or men travelling to work. There are hundreds of wells too, most houses don’t have mains water and wells are their main source.

The visit was split between spending time with different groups of people and a building project. The groups we visited included Casa Lumina which houses the children (now young adults) Steve found in state run orphanages in 1998, the day care hospice centre at Casa Albert where young people are driven in to visit, trips out to see young people in their homes that can’t make it to the hospice, Ungereni which is a state run institution for physically and mentally disabled adults and Negustorului which is a village for the Roma community and where people live in real poverty. Each of these visits was special in its own right, we loved them all.

The young people of Casa Lumina were particularly special and we bonded with them very strongly, even preferring to go back there on our day off to see them again and throw an impromptu party. Great fun! Earlier in the week Steve had told us in much more detail about how and why he set up the project. He showed us a film of the state run orphanage where he found the children in 1998 and we could recognise the children in Casa Lumina. It suddenly became real for us. We weren’t watching a remote group from abroad any more we were watching the past lives of young people who we knew. Flori being poked with a stick, Maria left unattended wearing a dirty vest and nothing else. There wasn’t a dry eye let me tell you. In fact I cried loads of times during the week.

The building project was in Negustorului.  A family had been identified by Steve and Beth who needed a new drive to be built to enable their horse and cart to access their property and to allow them to walk outside their door without stepping in mud. The build required the area to be dug out then filled with concrete and took 4 days. The family were so grateful when we finished, they cried and thanked God and hugged and kissed us. It was so easy for us to do yet they were so grateful that we had done it.

So it was an incredible visit for us. To take young people to see how awful life can be for others in our own continent (only 3 hours away) and then to enable them the opportunity to do something concrete that can leave a lasting legacy is so powerful.

I hear talk sometimes that what young people need is national service to whip them into shape. I disagree. I think everyone at some time in their life should be sent out to a place like Bacau to serve the poor. It would change attitudes immeasurably and make us all more grateful for what we have.

I think the work Cry in the Dark do is amazing and I feel really privileged to have helped in a small way. If you are reading this and considering a visit of your own, do it! It has been the most amazing school visit I have ever been a part of and has had a profound effect me and the pupils we took with us.

Simon Barber
Head Teacher Holy Trinity School, Barnsley