Life-giving words

written by Esther Hippel

During the ‘Love Moldova’ outreach, a team experienced transformation in a child’s heart:

As the team entered a poorly furnished apartment, they found three children with their mother, who quickly sent them to put on better clothes for the visitors. They recognised the children as having been at their programme the previous day, where the youngest, a four-year-old girl called Ariadna*, had caught their attention by her restlessness, being unable to concentrate or integrate with the other children and appearing to have some type of cognitive disability.

Now, her home situation helped provide them with an explanation for her behaviour: while preparing for this visit the team members had been told that the father was a heavy alcoholic and that the mother, too, often liked to drink.

Ariadna immediately started to inspect the food parcel the visitors had brought. Finding some washing powder and soap on top, she pressed them against her face to enjoy the fresh smell. After sitting like this for a while, she proceeded to examine the rest of the content. “Mum, Dad!“ she commented on most things she pulled out - basic products like flour or rice - and was excited when she also found a toy in there. “Ariadna!” she exclaimed, staking her claim to the toy.

Meanwhile the older of her two brothers, 13-year-old Andrian*, was sitting on the bed with a bandaged leg: he had badly cut himself with a scythe while working in the fields. Since there was a nurse among the visiting team, she had a look at the wound. While she was talking, Andrian caught a few English words he understood and commented on them. “You are a clever boy!” was the team member’s intuitive response - having no idea she had hit a crucial subject for the boy.

His eyes grew wide and he turned to his mother: “Did you hear? Everyone says I am stupid, but she called me clever!” he said almost unbelievingly. Sometime later during the visit - without any context - he was speaking to himself once more: “They said I am clever!” When the team decided to offer him a children's Bible, Andrian was overjoyed about the gift. He immediately started to read out loud - slowly, haltingly, but with determination.

It is possible he has a learning disability, but maybe it is only the lack of possibilities and support that prevents him from keeping up at school. “Now I have enough to read until school starts again,” he said excitedly. Very likely he possesses no other book - nothing to help him practice his reading skills, nothing to broaden his mind and develop his imagination. What his visitors could give to him did not seem like much: only a children's Bible, and one encouraging sentence - and yet the team saw these simple gifts held empowerment and potential for change.

The team was then privileged to see a first glimpse of this possible change at their next children's programme: while on the first day of their day camp Andrian had stood out because of his disruptive behaviour, making trouble or using swearwords, after the team's visit to his family he was a changed person.

They saw him listening very attentively, raising his hand at all the questions, eager to participate and to be helpful. A team member talked to him about what he would like to become and was surprised to find he had a specific job in mind and was also talking about getting further education. She encouraged him that this was possible, that there were many examples of people who made something of their lives despite coming from poor or difficult circumstances.

While children like Andrian often simply follow their parents' example of a destructive lifestyle, this boy started to dream and believe in something better. Nothing in his circumstances had changed during these few days, but there was a transformation more significant than circumstances: he had caught hope!

*last name omitted for security reasons