A group of 5 people involved in a local charity helping two orphanages in the Vrancea area of Romania decided to start a new, Christian group, called Lifeline Romania. That was Roger and Marvyn Amos, Keith and Julie Smith, and Lilian Kemp. Two people from Sawbridgeworth and three from Clayhall, in llford.

Later on, we met and merged with Chesterfords Aid for Children, forming a new group called Lifeline Romania with Chesterfords Aid.

So what has happened in 25 years? Quite a lot!

For the first few years, we had no choice of accommodation whilst in Romania.

We all stayed at the girls orphanage in Panciu, a large and often chilly place with over a hundred girls of school age.

We took goods twice a year for the orphanage in Panciu and the various Baptist churches in the district.
There were several, and most were small.

♦ 1995 we were introduced to Dorel, a doctor in a very poor village in the next county, and his wife Irina. Irina's sister lived in Sawbridgeworth and that is how we made the connection. Dorel had thousands of patients scattered over several villages; his surgery was in the central village of Poiana. It was basic in the extreme, without plumbing of any sort, and his medical equipment was unsafe. The electric steriliser was small and live the moment it was plugged in. The baby scales were dirty and could not be cleaned due to poor design. The sphygmomanometer was broken. We replaced all these things, and gave him more. We supplied hundreds of disposable needles and a sharps box; he had not seen one before. We bought some antibiotics from a medical wholesaler; antibiotics were almost unobtainable in Romania at that time. He said it was like Christmas, but better.

Dorel introduced us to some of his patients. One of the first was lonela, 20 years old and the second of a family of about 6 children, lonela had never walked or talked but she had a good memory. When we visited her again 5 months later she remembered us immediately. She spent most of her time lying in a bed indoors, or in the summer, a bin outdoors. We supplied a wheelchair and her brother Viorel proudly pushed her around the village in it. We later gave her a white plastic sun-bed for the summer.

Dorel's wife acted as an unpaid social worker. She knew most families, especially the poorest, and took us to meet them. It was an eye-opener.

Ten- year-old Cristina was thrilled with her first doll. She was the middle child of nine. None of the children had ever been to school; they didn't possess any shoes and weren't allowed in school without them. We soon provided shoes and sorted that out! Cristina now has several children of her own.

 

♦ 1996 we were introduced to the new orphanage in Marasesti.

It was an experimental orphanage, to find out whether boys and girls could live together under the same roof. Until then, they had to live in different towns..

 

♦ 1998 we had an unusual item of luggage in the hold of the plane. The day before we were due to fly we had a phone call from Romania. The lorry had broken down in Romania and parts for DAF lorries were unavailable in Romania. We had to go shopping in England on our last afternoon, then take the parts with us. The driver met us at the airport and lightened our load. He then returned to the scene of the breakdown and had some help repairing it. We saw God's provision; of all the places that Bill could have broken down, he broke down just 50 yards from the only Truck Repair School in the country. Eager students were soon all over it, pleased to have a genuine repair and on a foreign lorry too! They learned something that day.

♦ 1999 we met and merged with another charity, Chesterfords Aid for Children. We had been asking God to supply a bigger warehouse for our work, and they had a much bigger place - and a van! They had been asking God to lead them to a new area of work. They had previously worked in Ukraine and Croatia, but these projects had come to an end. We were pleased to have Dave and Stuart with us in Romania.

1999 was also the year that orphanage children were hungry. The budget had been reduced, and the number of children increased. We were asked to help, and took about 400kg. of food. Two years later the import of food was banned.

♦ 2000 was a busy year. We met Beatrice, ten years old, in Poiana. Her mum had not wanted a baby and planned to have an (illegal) abortion. The night before the planned termination God spoke to Mum in a dream, and told her to keep the baby. Beatrice was born, and was healthy for 6 years, but then went to hospital with hepatitis. Whilst there, the doctors discovered she had leukaemia; treatment was expensive and her parents could not afford it. Mum had initiative, and wrote to the daughter of the former king of Romania and asked for help. Beatrice became one of 16 children receiving cancer care at the expense of this princess. Having hepatitis saved her life; without it the leukaemia would not have been discovered until too late. The first Sunday after leaving hospital, Beatrice told her parents, "I'm going to church". She went alone, but later the whole family started to attend the church.

One day in 2000 we went to the local bank to exchange English pounds for Romanian lei. We came back with all our pounds intact. The bank didn't have any money.

Also in 2000 we had to say goodbye to Keith. He had not been well on the April trip to Romania, and could not go in October.

The children could not remember his name, but they asked "Where is the nice man that always gives us sweets?"

When we returned from that trip we learned that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and he died in December.

♦ 2001 was the year of foot-and-mouth disease in England. It delayed our spring trip, and people in Romania could not understand why. They had never heard of foot-and-mouth disease.

For many years we had been asking God to provide a building where we could distribute our goods to local people. We wanted this to be in Marasesti, and a few years earlier we were in the park in the centre of town, surveying all the derelict shops. We asked God to provide one of these, if He wanted us to do His work in this town. In 2002 we were given the chance to rent one. It was dirty, derelict, and lacked electricity and plumbing. We didn't hesitate, we accepted it.