A bright, effervescent and beautiful young lady at our church recently went on her second mission trip. I’m so impressed with her because of her commitment to our faith, the role model she is for our youth and her dynamic personality. As if I wasn’t already impressed with her volunteerism of being a Sunday School teacher, youth group chaperone, dance instructor assistant and Greek dance troupe member—(all in a new city and parish to her) she also raised funds to go on her 2nd mission trip for OCF! (Orthodox Christian Fellowship). I’m always inspired when young adults stay involved in our church but in her case….she LEADS the way! Here is her fascinating story about her mission trip in Romania.
What inspired you to go on this mission trip?
One of my Orthodox friends went to Honduras for a mission trip our junior year. After that, I got interested. Senior year I went on a Real Break trip to Alaska and thought, “I want to go on another one!” I looked at different trips offered and which ones my friends were going on so I was able to go on another trip with the same people. Going to an orphanage stood out to me. One of my classes in college was on the Psychology of Trauma and we watched a documentary on Romanian orphanages, so that sparked my interest.
I knew Romania is heavily Orthodox but…I didn’t know Honduras had an Orthodox population!
Yes, they have Orthodox orphanages set up by priests.
What was the process for raising the money to go?
I gave a speech at my hometown church about the trip and we passed around collection trays. I told the priest that I would give a presentation afterward explaining what the trip was for and how it impacted me. I also sent letters to family members. The OCF website has a donation link. The trip and airfare from D.C. to Romania was included so I only needed to cover my flight from here to D.C. I paid the deposit and the rest was raised by donations.
What was the hardest thing about being there?
The hardest things…two things: Many of the kids were malnourished. Every meal was soup and bread for five days…but to realize that that is what the kids eat every day…they are not getting the nutrients they need to grow. They looked a lot younger than they really are which caught us off guard. We’d ask them how old they were and when they told us, we thought they were joking. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things. The kids became very attached to us. They’d put their arms around us during the services.
Can they come up with an inexpensive protein to include in the orphans’ meals?
We were there during Lent so, possibly when it’s not Lent, there might be meat in their meals.
How long can they live in the orphanage?
They have kids that stay their even past age eighteen. (They help them find jobs, etc.)The orphanage started after the communist regime because people couldn’t afford their children. Some of the orphans have siblings and family members who they stay in communication with.
Who funds this orphanage?
So we should continue to support OCF so that the funds will reach these programs.
Yes. I want to do so much to help. There are schools they can go to, also. The kids were so sweet and it was so hard to say good-bye. The kids kept asking us when we’ll be back, why do we have to leave, etc… I had to explain to them that we have to get back to work. The hard part is how do you explain to the kids, “I have to go back to my family; when they might not have a family.”
And they’ve already been abandoned…
That’s why they attach to us so much because they don’t have a primary caregiver or parents to be there.
The documentary I saw in the 80’s showed their deformities and deficiencies and how they’d rock themselves in their cribs.
That was in the documentary we watched in my class, as well. They didn’t get enough attention and they’d stay in their cribs way longer than they should’ve. Since noone was rocking them, they’d rock themselves and they couldn’t walk until they were older.
Tell us about Romania. Did you meet the Bishop of Kluge?
We stayed at a hotel where he stays at–it wasn’t specifically his apartment. We were in Bucharest for two days and we met up with the OCF equivalent. We visited churches and talked about what it’s like to be an Orthodox Christian. The churches were absolutely beautiful. They were on every corner! I followed our leader around the city. Bucharest reminded me a lot of Athens.
What was your favorite thing about Romania?
What’s the food like?
When we ate the hotel food in Bucharest, we had stuffed peppers, rice dishes, etc. At the orphanage, we had soup and bread but when we were in Bucharest we had appetizers, main course, and dessert.
What work do you do at the orphanage? What do you do?
Hanging out with the kids, showing them love, playing frisbee….and also we took down an entire fence and organized their library. All of their books are donated so we organized them, set aside inappropriate books, sorted, etc. We don’t know Romanian so it was hard to decipher that. Priests helped us with that.
If you could influence anyone who is reading this article to go on a mission trip, what would you tell them?
I was impacted by my Alaska trip but this mission trip impacted me even more because the kids were so inspiring. They showed us so much love and it really put things in perspective. I look at the things I go through each day and it’s nothing compared to what they go through, yet, they’re so positive about everything.
Photos provided by Kerri.
Kerri’s blog about her trip:
Orthodox Christian Fellowship website. Please consider donating. Donation tab in menu.
Kerri made this video of her experience: