The whole team with the gift that the center made us. It is a picture of the Word Made Flesh symbol with ‘WMF Romania’ underneath it. (Haley: back row, third from right.)

By Haley Bellows

After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the beginning of April, I was told that I would no longer be able to join my team of nine other students and two leaders on the June Serve trip to Romania and Moldova. After six weeks of very hard treatments of chemotherapy and radiation, God performed a miracle that I still have yet to fully grasp. Most of the cancer had disappeared, leaving me in remission. Even after the doctors cleared me to go I had much fear about my weakened immune system, but I could not be more thankful that I got this experience.

Our team paired up with Word Made Flesh, which is an organization that is called and committed to serve Jesus among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor. During our time with WMF, we were able to spend a lot of time connecting with both sets of staff, doing many work projects around both the centers, and spending much valuable time with the children and teens. Although coming into the trip many of the team members had a fear that the language barrier could be a difficulty, our team was pleasantly surprised at how easy it felt to make connections with everyone.

We spent our time with the kids making crafts, playing games, swimming in the Danube River, and even having a Romanian vs. American volleyball game against the teens. Our team also did many work projects that ranged from deep cleaning bathrooms and painting to building retaining walls and picking cherries. But something that I think made a huge difference in everything we were doing was our ability to have fun and always be laughing.

Doing crafts with the kids.

We took a tour of the Valley, the lower part of Galati that is poor and often forgotten, in the form of a prayer walk. I was in awe at what I was seeing. Houses with roofs caving in. Children with tired eyes. Stairs collapsing. Mothers hanging clothes on the line with sweat dripping down their faces. Families begging on the corner. That day we heard many stories from the children we were spending our time with. My heart was aching. But to see the huge smiles on their faces as we played Dutch Blitz and basketball with them and to hear their laughter as we butchered their language, you would never believe that those were the places they were coming from. There is so much joy that comes from their suffering; genuine beauty from ashes.

On our last day at the Valley Center in Romania we were gathered into a room with all the staff and kids. They wanted to take the time to thank us for our time there. Worship filled the room in beautiful Romanian language. Knowing that we were all praising the same God, our Heavenly Father who protects each one of us, brought tears to my eyes even without knowing the exact words they were singing. Between each song, the kids took turns thanking us for traveling such far distances just to be able to play with them every day. Their affirming words warmed all of our hearts. I don’t think we will ever be able to forget these children or the staff for the huge impact they had on our lives.

Ana (in gray) was translating for Marcela, a teen at the center, to me (in blue). She was thanking me for having the courage to share my story with the teens at the center.