Difference Makers

Jessen

Jessen

By Randy Jessen –

Change and revolution filled the air as the world was being reshaped in 1989. Old ways were coming to a close as the fresh wind of freedom began to move across our globe. The Soviet Union was being transformed, the Berlin Wall was pounded into submission, and the Communist governments of Eastern Europe were folding under the weight of a spirit of liberation.

As the winds of change began to move, they began to ripple the curtains of secrecy that had fallen over the people of Romania. Suddenly western television cameras were transmitting scenes that no one could believe.  There were images of starving people standing in long cold lines with the look of absolute poverty in their eyes. Worst of all, there were thousands of children who were being housed in conditions that could not be described by words. Without the lens of a camera, no one would believe the reality that had been hidden from the Romanian people themselves.

Our adopted daughter Ana was born into that world of western Romania during that year of revolution and revelation. It was the start of a cold, hungry and isolated childhood that soon would be dramatically impacted by the virus that causes AIDS. By September of 1994 her life expectancy was marked at less than six months. But miracles do happen and today she is 25 years old living under the crystal blue skies of Colorado.

The powerful video images of Romanian children changed our family forever. The television and news reports were burned into our hearts. God used those burning hearts to provide stateside adoptive parents for four children within our own extended family and countless others who were adopted by friends and acquaintances.

Person after person felt the same pain and wanted to do something to help. That desire ultimately took root in the form of a local church mission team that traveled to western Romania in the summer of 1995. A surgeon, nurse, speech therapist, heavy equipment operator, pastor, two teachers, three college students, and four other adventurous spirits got on a plane and headed for Bucharest, Romania.

The team spent two nights living directly with Romanian families in Bucharest before catching the early morning train for the city of Arad on the western border. The train trip gave the team a chance to see the countryside, experience the red roofed villages, and view the Carpathian Mountains in a close up and personal way.

Our arrival in Arad was blessed by an outpouring of people who were more than willing to assist with our luggage that was weighed down with medical supplies. We later learned that our new friends were members of the Speranta Baptist Church. The congregation was famous as the location where Billy Graham preached during his 1985 evangelistic tour of Eastern Europe before the fall of Communism.

One of our first stops was the orphanage on Tudor Vladimirescu Street, where our daughter Ana had lived as a toddler. The team stood on the street and looked at the building while they heard the story of the children who were still secluded inside. We did not have permission to enter so we walked the ten blocks to a historic white two-story building known by the street name of Vicentiu Babes.

Vicentiu Babes was the largest infant and early toddler orphanage in the county system. We obtained permission to speak to the director by providing cigarettes for the guard at the gate. We entered the director’s office through a large door that was tucked and pleated like the front seat of a four door Ford. Behind the door we met Dr. Oros, who was graciously willing to show us around.

Global Hope was launched in 1995 when a surgeon, nurse, speech therapist, heavy equipment operator, pastor, two teachers, three college students, and four other adventurous spirits got on a plane and headed for Bucharest, Romania.

Global Hope was launched in 1995 when a surgeon, nurse, speech therapist, heavy equipment operator, pastor, two teachers, three college students, and four other adventurous spirits got on a plane and headed for Bucharest, Romania.

We gathered the team, entered the first room, and instantly discovered that we were overwhelmed with the number of small white iron cribs that housed about 25 children in a room. It only allowed for walking space between the tiny cribs. I will never forget the faces of our team members when they lifted children, held them close, and covered their eyes to hide the tears. The children were all about two years old but they were still the size and weight of infants. The layers of bundling blankets could not hide the tiny bodies that were struggling to find nutrition.

The next room housed 24 infants who were likewise bundled and lined up in neat white rows.  As our team stepped into the room, we could hardly imagine the sound of silence that greeted our arrival. Not a single child moved, no one cried, no eye moved with the shifting of the light. The children had learned early that a cry does not get a response. It is best to simply lie still and wait.

Our team gathered in the hallway of the Maranatha Baptist Church where we were spending the night. At first, no one could speak. The experiences of the day had been almost overwhelming. There was too much to process. Everyone simply sat of the floor in silence. I remember the first words that were spoken. Someone said, “We can do something about this.” Everyone nodded in agreement as the conversation gained momentum and a plan. Those six simple words “We can do something about this” gave birth to a mission ministry that would ultimately touch the world.

Within a few months the ministry of Global Hope was launched. It started small with a driving vision of making a difference for the young children we met at Vicentiu Babes. We created the appropriated corporate structure and got IRS approval as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit mission agency. One by one people became captured by the vision.

The first step was to develop a trusted relationship with the leadership of the orphanage system. That relationship developed and then took bloom when we signed a formal contract with the Director of Vicentiu Babes to hire and pay for six additional employees who would work under her supervision. We believe it was the first formal partnership between a Christian mission agency and a branch of the Romanian government structure. Our goal was to put as many hands as possible on those infants as they were in the early stages of development.

Ultimately, Global Hope was able to purchase a small family home that could be remodeled to become a Christian group home. The first four children (Gabi, Teo, Mircea, and Flavius) arrived at the House of Hope when they were all about four years old. Today, they are beautiful young adults who are beginning to make their way in the world.

Other children arrived and entered into the House of Hope family until the home was full and stretched to the limits. As the number of children grew, the Global Hope team responded by designing and building a second group home called Ana’s House. Ten additional children would become a part of the Ana’s House family.

A Christian foster care system was established as the Global Hope leadership began to see that the group home process would not meet the needs for a real family for all the children. Today, Global Hope oversees a series of Christian foster homes where children have the experience of living with a mother and father who have their very best in mind.

The Global Hope team in Romania celebrated last year with our first family member graduation from university and our first wedding. Beautiful things are happening for children who once had no hope.

The Lord opened a new door for the Global Hope team over the last few years. We were able to develop strong partnerships with other organizations that were working in the same area and serving toward common goals of reaching children who are orphaned, abandoned, or at risk. One of those relationships ultimately created a connection for Global Hope in Nairobi, Kenya. Those conversations became fertile ground for a Global Hope relationship with a group of children who have dominantly been impacted by HIV/AIDS in their family.

At this point, the ministry in Nairobi actually deals with far more children than we currently impact in Romania. The needs of children throughout the African continent are enormous. Thankfully we have a great team onsite to care for these children and give them a fresh spirit of home.

No one was expecting to expand into a third country, but God created another set of relationships with pastors in India who were working hard to save children from poverty and abandonment. Once again, a new set of partnerships began to thrive and today Global Hope is instrumental in the operation of two children’s homes

Today, Global Hope has extensive ministry in Romania, Kenya, and India as the Global Hope Board of Directors continues to be committed to providing hope through Christian families for children who live on the edge.

People often ask how long a child can stay under the care of a Global Hope home or foster care system. The answer is always the same. We simply ask how long will your children stay in your home? And will your children ever stop being a part of your family? Family is forever and the Global Hope commitment has proven that to be true time and time again.

No one knew that a fledgling group of people sitting on the floor of the Maranatha Church in Arad Romania would dream a world class mission agency into life, but it happened. That initial spark of a dream was fanned into flame by the power of the Holy Spirit. The flame was ignited and lives have been changed ever since that first day.

Randy Jessen is co-founder of Global Hope (www.globalhope.org) and senior pastor of Parker United Methodist Church in Parker, Colorado. 

Comments

  1. What a blessing your team was and continues to be! So much need in this World. You made a huge difference. Thank you all.

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