This article was originally published in the May 2016 edition of ITMI Monthly.
The images were forever branded into her memory. Elderly women, abandoned by their children in icy, un-heated homes. Soiled sheets and meager blankets, their only defense against a bitter winter.
Bedsores and other ailments unattended to.
Limp legs and arms, frail with age and hunger.
Disorganized medications and expired half-finished bottles of pills telling of weeks of missed medication. There is a clear need for someone to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
Daria’s compassionate nurse’s heart was inspired to action.
These conditions are not uncommon for the elderly in Romania. With little social or moral value on the care of the elderly, they are often left to their own care.
After losing a spouse, half a household’s pensioned income is swept away. But the burden of keeping a household functioning - heat, electricity and rent - remains the same.
Many can’t afford to keep the heat on. Others can’t care for themselves and have no one who will.
The further away from the cities you go, the more rustic and “old world” things are. Life there is tough, especially for the elderly.
Retirement in Eastern Europe is something many fear, not think of as “golden.”
Life is hard here. Especially for the elderly.
Some, swimming in a culture from which the Communists attempted to scrub all the good Jesus’ life and ministry brought into the world, might view the care of the elderly as an unnecessary burden.
ITMI’s Viorel and Daria Pop do not.
The Pops, disabled and aging themselves, have carried the load to fund, manage and care for 6 elderly Romanian widows. They “adopted” the ladies into their family.
Tangibles such as food, heat and care are supplied. The intangible needs of dignity, community and significance are provided, also.
Daria Pop with Ileana, one of the ladies "adopted" into their family.
The couple could fill a list with reasons to focus on caring for themselves. They both face the limitations of physical disabilities. They aren’t “well-off”; they are an ordinary family in a struggling post-Communist economy.
The particular six women living with them at Bethesda Home - Lia, Ani, Moni, Ileana, Elaine and Florita - currently face significant physical challenges.
Four of them cannot walk, and one is bedridden. Another is blind and deaf, unable even to chew solid food. One is on oxygen for respiratory failure.
They all rely heavily on a staff of 6 nurses who take shifts 2 at a time.
The few homes where the elderly can receive care in rural Arad, Romania, are unaffordable to some. One of the widows at Bethesda Home has a pension too small for any other home.
They are also hotbeds of abuse, disrespect and filth.
There are many more in dire need, so the Pops were slowly constructing a new building to come between a few more widows and their deplorable conditions.
A large percentage of the costs for Bethesda Home have been carried by one donor for the past few years. Last month, the Pops received word that this support would be coming to an end.
They may have to sell the expansion property and building just to cover expenses. They won’t be able to get what they paid for it, and that would be a tragic loss. The proceeds from that sale would only carry them for a year or two.
Not to worry, though! We know from scripture that the widowed are close to His heart. This vacancy in the Pops partner list is an opportunity for God to move on their behalf.
It’s an opportunity for Him to bless more of His people as they join Him in His work!
Two-thousand years ago, a tradesman from Galilee lit up the world with his revolutionary life-valuing ideas.
Then He died a sacrificial death, liberating the world held helpless in the ironclad vice of sin and death. To seal the deal, He endowed His once-powerless followers with His own Spirit, who empowered them to embody His teaching.
This beautiful community the Pops have created is a breath-taking demonstration of what Jesus did for His people.
While we were helpless, He valued us. While we were without a family, He adopted us. While we had nothing to offer Him, He saved us.
Since Jesus defeated sin and death on the cross, the compassionate work of easing the effects of sin and death on those, like these Romanian widows, at the end of their lives is an extension of Jesus’ work at Calvary.
As ITMI’s Charl van Wyk said in last month’s issue,
“Helping each other grow the Lord’s Kingdom on earth is one of our primary responsibilities and taking the Gospel to the sick is a phenomenal opportunity.”
Want to help Viorel and Daria care for Romanian widows? Would you like to unofficially adopt one of these dear ladies?
If you’d like to take this phenomenal opportunity, we’ll be glad to put you in touch!
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.