IN SEPTEMBER, a group of local Church representatives including Pastor Billy Jones from Dunseverick Baptist Church and Rev. John Stanbridge from Ballycastle Presbyterian Church travelled to Bihor state in North Western Romania as part of the Christian charity, The Smiles Foundation outreach trip to bring smiles and hope to needy communities in the region.
The group visited Smiles Foundation supported and sponsored community outreach projects in towns and villages such as Salonta, Tileadg and Rapa where schools, residential care homes, houses and churches have been built.
Both Pastor Jones and Rev. Stanbridge along with the Smiles Team were involved in conducting services to the patients in the care facilities and taking a class for pre school children, their teacher while welcoming their efforts gave them sound advice to stick to our day jobs!
They also visited rural homes along with the Smiles Field outreach team delivering food, clothing and practical help as well as sharing the gospel message.
One Smiles Foundation project that had a local North Antrim influence was a farm project that Samuel Morrison and his late wife Barbara, from Liscolman have been involved in. As well as being a self -sustaining project that now sells its produce all over the country , it provides employment for a number of poor families.
Reflecting upon his time in Romania, Pastor Jones commented that his favourite moment was giving colouring pencils and a jotter to four primary school aged children in a rural dwelling, whilst the kids faces lit up and were all smiles, their mother cried and said it was the first pencils and book they had ever owned.
Pastor Jones said: “This was hard to fathom as Romania is an EU country but many parts of Bihor state are like rural Ireland 70 years ago. It just meant so much to the children and gave the team the opportunity to share the message of hope in Jesus with them.”
He added: “The village of Rapa has witnessed a transformation in recent years, where a new street of houses had been built by The Smiles Foundation and dignity brought to the lives of the inhabitants, when you saw the old homes, if that is what you could have called them, just behind the new main street, what a transformation from old to new, and that is reflected in the local Baptist Church were many people have been saved and baptised , bringing not only new homes to live in but new faith and hope in their hearts.”