Roberto Patrascoiu is National Director of Habitat for Humanity Romania. For more than 20 years, support from Habitat Ireland has been changing lives for the most vulnerable in Romania. Read Roberto's Advent reflection below:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD […] plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11
It is said that challenges are given to make you stronger. Yet, when you face the toughest challenges, it is sometimes hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whenever I think back at the greatest challenge I faced in Habitat, I always remember the story of the 36 Habitat families from Bacau County, in NE part of Romania. These hard working families had to wait for 3 years, before being able to move into their new homes. Although the project was finalized- (largest part of it being completed at Big Build 2017, in just five days) - the utilities works were constantly postponed by the local authorities from one year, to the other. With every Christmas passing, the promise of a new home and new life seemed to vanish.
But these families had hope! And with hope and tones of willpower they- together with Habitat Romania- convinced the local government to unlock significant funding to execute all the utilities works. In 2020, just weeks before the pandemic hit Romania, these families were able to move at their new home, starting a new life.
One of the partner families said to me few words that I will always remember: “Have you ever felt so much joy in your heart that it almost hurts?”
Another family said: “With the help of you -dear volunteers- we succeeded in not cutting the wings of our children”
I was particularly moved by the story of Elena and her son Darius (pictured right). They were living previously in very challenging conditions, in only one room, in a state facility. Darius has autism and because of his condition could not talk. I visited again Elena and Darius recently at their new home. With tears of joy, Elena told me about the phenomenal progress of her son. Little by little, Darius started to talk, since they moved at the new home. The speech therapist of Darius is astonished by this progress, and she believes that much of it is attributed to the fact that the son has now a new home and a safe environment to grow and develop.
For all these families, this Advent, a time of preparation and expectation for the hope and promise of Christmas has new meanings.
And for me personally, I must say. Not rarely, I find myself when having dinner with the family, smiling and thinking that over there, in a different part of the country, another family is finally gathered around the dining table in peace. And with hope for a better future.
God, give us always hope! With hope we can move mountains. Give us faith! With faith we can always have the right direction. And make us ever mindful of the miraculous power of Your love. So that we can love our neighbours as we love ourselves.