I love Romania. Really I do. Would go again in a heart beat. But there's one area I DON'T love.
Gara de Nord- the north train station is a colossal structure that connects Romania's extensive passenger railroad lines with the underground subway. It's not in the best area of town (is any train station in a good area of town?) The station itself is very clean and modern on the inside. It used to be a hotbed for panhandlers and thieves. Now there are armed police at every entrance. But outside is a different story. Lots of kids hanging around. Then you notice the glue.. the first time I saw a kid huffing I came close to throwing up. It makes me queasy 4 years later.
And it's not just in Bucharest. All over Eastern Europe, homeless people wander the street, eeking out an existence, and try to get by the best they can. Some are abandoned children, some are drug users, many are just regular folk who had a job, lost it, and eventually lost everything.
Some people resort to begging. Others retreat into extensive sewer systems to survive during the cold winters.
The BEST solution is prevention. That's where the Family sponsorship program works best- keep families intact and give them a hands up out of a bad situation into a promising future
But what about those who are already on the streets?
Mission Without Borders partners with local churches in several Eastern European cities to help those who have "fallen through the cracks". By working with partners like local Salvation Army branches, churches, and community centers, the homeless are provided a hot meal, a listening ear, a place for counsel and prayer. In a word- HOPE.
"The StreetMercy meals program provides a social environment for me to improve my emotional and mental health. The fresh food gives me nutritional value and spiritual health," shared Nicolae, a beneficiary.
You can learn more about Street Mercy and the work that Mission Without Borders is doing for the poorest of the poor in Eastern Europe here (Street Mercy in Bulgaria) and here ( a news report highlighting MWB in Bosnia).
Everyone can do something!
This isn't intended to make anyone feel guilty or overwhelmed. No one can solve every social problem. But everyone can do something this season. Volunteer at a local shelter, donate to local food banks, pray for and with homeless people. Give what you can, where you can. My local supermarket has an angel tree program where you donate and (through donated foods) one family is given a complete Christmas dinner (turkey, ham, pies, side dishes, the works!). You can also help send a food parcel to needy families with Operation Christmas Love!
And if you are able, remember the poor, homeless, and elderly who are so dependent on others, especially during the cold winter months.