There’s a place called Dumbrava. Its location is but a spec on a map, somewhere down a bunch of windy, countryside dirt roads in Bihor, Romania.
Dumbrava is made up of a few buildings, eight to be exact. These buildings are home to 200 or so people. One specific home has caught my attention and wrecked my heart a bit over the last three years.
This particular home is filled with loud words, foul smells and warm smiles. It is chaotic at best and frightening at worst as you walk through the front door.
Nobody important lives in this home, nobody with a good job or a fancy car or nice clothes. Instead, the people living here accept the shameful identity of a “nobody”. In fact, some of them don’t even have a name to call their own.
Can you imagine, for even a moment, not having a name or knowing when you were born? Could you fathom not being known to even one person in the whole world?
Of course you can’t. And I can’t, either. Because we are somebodys. We have a name and a birthday and probably even a job and a car and nice clothes. Not to mention, we are known by many.
This building that I am describing is made of concrete and painted bright yellow. There are approximate 40 mentally ill Romanian men and women who call this yellow building home and who would have otherwise been left to live and die on the streets and in prisons. This yellow building embodies God’s call for justice and rescue.
Psalm 82:3-4 says, “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”
This special home is filled with people who are very, very sick. It is filled with people who crave food and acceptance and who need clothes and love. This home provides dignity and care to people who would never experience those things anywhere else.
As I stepped into their home last week, I held hands with people who have been forgotten, abused, and considered worthless. I argued with God a bit, “Surely someone must know his name. Someone must know her birthday or her story. Surely these people are not completely forgotten…”
And then I was reminded of His words:
“Oh Lord, you have examined my heart and you know everything about me.” Psalm 139:1
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.” Jeremiah 1:5
I was reminded that they are known, even if only by God Himself.
The sounds and smells and images of Dumbrava are overwhelming in the moment, but they also continue to haunt me, some, even now. I have faces of men and women hidden deep in my heart. Faces of people who have been rescued. Faces of people who are being cared for and loved when rejection had been the only thing they knew. Their cries of anguish and shouts of joy can still be heard when I let my mind wander.
Most of the people there may not have the ability to even understand the realities of this life, but I’m convinced that they understand love. That somehow, in a way that they can’t even express, they know that they have been rescued. They know that they are being cared for. They know that they are known. And they know that they are loved.
Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part, but I’ll believe it anyway. Mostly because I trust these words:
“The LORD doesn’t see things the way that you see them. People judge by outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Why is it that we, so often, let what someone has become more important than who someone is?
I’m thankful this morning for a few things:
I’m thankful for a man named Viorel Pasca. He obeyed when God spoke to him about caring for two people in his spare bedroom. His obedience has turned into these homes, rescuing hundreds of people over the years. He came to God with a few fish and a few loaves of bread, and God created a heavenly feast.
I’m thankful for the few gypsy workers who are employed in these homes. They are doing work that nobody sees. And if somebody did see what they do day in and day out, I’m confident that they’d run the other way.
I’m thankful for experiences that wreck my heart because sometimes, it takes a wrecked heart to see God’s heart.
Finally, I’m so thankful that God sees people differently than we do. He sees value and purpose in every person in that home. He knows each name, each birthday, and each story, even if no one else does. And He loves them. Not for what they have to offer, but for who they are: holy, dearly loved and pleasing in His sight (Colossians 3:12).
Lisa Eggert is the Kids Pastor at West End Assembly of God in Richmond, VA, and has overseen their kids ministry department since August of 2008. Prior to being on staff at WEAG, she served as a Chi Alpha campus missionary for 3 years. Lisa has a desire to disciple others and to share her passion for loving the world. Lisa is a credentialed minister with the Assemblies of God, received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado, and an MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University. She loves all things India, grilling, game nights, camping, music, warm drinks, traveling, good conversations and loud laughter.