Hilton Team visit Romania: some reflections (2)

Casa Name Board

MiaAnd here’s Mia Medrea, who is responsible for the Casa. She is a wonderful woman, and everyone I met speaks well of her.  Here commitment to the project – or rather, to the children and young people helped by the project – is immense.  During our week there, she went to the station at 2am to meet a group who were arriving from Bucharest; Liam tells me Mia is often up at 5am to go to the market to buy food; she personally deals with all the admin associated with the Casa, and the camps which run there throughout spring and summer, each led and financed by a group from the UK. There are always challenges – with the fabric of the buildings, with relationships, with enlisting suitably-skilled volunteers, with money: Liam told me that  the two water tanks and their housing, essential for a steady supply and for obtaining a fire certificate cost £80k.  Mia is loving, but it is a tough love, and sometimes she has hard decisions to make.

She was driving someone to the airport when she had a tyre blow-out. She managed to stop the car safely, but didn’t have the necessary spanner to change the wheel; she phoned a friend, who came – but also didn’t have the right tool.  He took the travellers on to the airport, while Mia awaited another friend’s help.  ‘And do you know, John,’ she said looking at me with a smile. ‘I just said to myself “It’s time to rest; time to be still and at peace.”’ And she sat there is the car by the side of the road reflecting on God’s love.

I went to Romania this year because I was so inspired by what Susie and Fiona had told me about the love they experienced at Casa Harului – and they were right.  The whole site is an expression of love; love is expressed in the myriad of daily interactions at the camp. But it is not a sentimental love.  Mia expresses love in the context of struggle, of difficulties and problem, and the personal pain of losing her husband Bene just two years ago.

And this is an encouragement to us. Casa Harului is not a magic place of perfect love. Rather it’s a place where despite the challenges, love is not crushed, love triumphs.  If we make love our goal, not in a special summer project, but the goal for all of our living, the God of love will be active within us and we will each inhabit a Casa Harului.

‘Can I have a jug for the milk, please,’  I asked Mia at Jonathan’s request.

Mia took a plastic container of Lapte out of the fridge.

‘No, no, we have milk. It was a jug I was looking for.’

‘British ways!!’ Mia exclaimed with a fierce smile.

It was clear that the milk bottle would have to suffice.

We arrived in the Casa at 7am after a 21 hour journey, in faint sunlight and swirls of chilling mist. We headed up the slope towards the chalets where we were staying. The whole site seemed desolate. ‘There doesn’t seem to be any love here,’ I muttered morosely to myself.

I was wrong.


John on walk 1And here’s a still from the excellent camp video which Fiona Waite shot.

Here I am, last Friday morning, when the whole camp had a spontaneous walk down to ‘the cross’ – a stone cross at the point where the track up to the Casa meets a local road. I enquired about the cross – was it a ‘wayside shrine’ such as I’d seen in some of the surrounding villages?  But Ana, whom I asked, thought it marked the boundary of the nearby village of Vermaga, and had been placed there to protect the community by warding off evil.

Later in the walk, I had a camper on either side of me, people in their early twenties, I judged. On my left, Gabriella, who clung to my arm with that demonstration of affection which arises so spontaneously in people with Down’s syndrome. On my right, Gabriel, who had a few words in English. He and I tried to understand one another. He told me about his friends in Toronto, and showed me a photo of them.

He then began pointing vigorously upwards.

‘Friend,’ he said. I looked perplexed.

Then he pointed at the glazed, clay crucifix hanging round his neck, before raising his finger skywards once more.

‘You mean, Jesus is your friend?’ I said.

‘Friend!’ he said, satisfied that the message had crossed the language barrier.

And it is not so much in a wayside cross, a gesture, or a crucifix that our protection lies but in the friendship with Jesus which those things symbolise.

(John Dempster)

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