Much of World Vision's work involves meeting people's physical needs -- but what can also result is an emotional change.
When people aren't worried about where they'll get nutritious food, clean water, education, or healthcare, they're given freedom to dream about the future. On a trip to Romania, World Vision's Marilee Dunker saw this transformation firsthand.
Read on to find out how one family felt the courage to dream because of World Vision's work.
* * *
Some people just shine. It doesn’t matter where they live, how they dress, or how poor their circumstances. There is a light that comes from deep within that shines in their eyes and radiates in their smiles.
I have met them all over the world, in the most unlikely places, and my recent trip to Romania was no exception.
Nae Gheorghe Viorel was born at a time when Romania was struggling under the iron fist of communism. I asked one of our World Vision staff members what it was like to grow up under dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu’s oppressive regime.
“It was a time when it was dangerous to be different," he replied. "We all looked the same, wore the same clothes, ate the same food…even cut our hair the same. You didn’t dare complain, or you would be punished. And you didn’t dare dream or hope for more, because that hope would only be disappointed.”
This was the world that Viorel grew up in.
Then, in 1989, Ceaușescu was overthrown, and suddenly, people were free to hope and dream. For Viorel, this meant claiming his own land in the small village of Ninisori, marrying a local girl, and starting a family.
“My wife and I built our house with our bare hands,” he told me proudly. “We formed the bricks out of this very earth!”
I couldn’t help comparing the two-room structure, with its tin roof and glassless windows, to the mud brick houses I have seen in Africa. It’s hard to believe that a family in Romania would have so much in common with a family in Kenya or Zambia. Food for thought.
Today, Viorel and his wife, Stanca, live in their house with four of their five children. The three younger children are sponsored through World Vision, and they are the reason our staff brought me to the vine-covered cottage.
“If you had come a few months ago,” Viorel informs us as we walk under a canopy of flowering fruit trees toward the house, “you would not even be able see my house. The snow was more than two feet over the roof top last winter!” It is hard to believe on this warm summer day.
As we reach the house, Stanca comes out to greet us. With her is 16-year-old Cristian. A handsome boy with a shy smile and somber brown eyes, he reminds me of my grandson, Vinnie.
As we shake hands, I can’t help noticing the difference between his hand and his father’s. His father’s was hard and callused from working the land. Cristian’s is softer -- a hand used to hold a book or type on a computer.
We sit in the shade of the trees outside the house, and I attempt to talk with Cristian, who is quietly studying his hands.
“So, Cristian, do you like school? What class do you like best? Do you play sports with your friends?”
I have to lean forward to catch the muffled replies that fall softly to the ground between us. Finally, I ask, “Do you have a dream, Cristian? If you could do anything, what would you like to do?"
As the question is translated, Cristian lifts his head, really looking at me for the first time. “I want to be a veterinarian. I want to take good care of our animals and help my village.”
Before I can respond, his father speaks up, his broad, weathered face beaming with pride.
“Viorel wants you to know,” says my World Vision translator, “that this is more than just a dream for his son. Cristian is already interning with a local vet who will help him continue his education after he graduates.” She sounds as proud as Viorel.
A look passes between father and son, and I must look away. The light of hope is nearly blinding.
The people I am privileged to meet face incredible challenges, but there is a dignity and strength that seems to radiate from deep within. They are people who have not only been given help -- they are people who have been given hope and who are determined to pass it on. They are people who shine!
Every one of them, whether young or old, has taught me something new about what it means to allow God to use us to be light in this world.
Marilee Pierce-Dunker is the daughter of World Vision founder Bob Pierce, author of "Man of Vision," World Vision senior advocate, and a keynote speaker for World Vision.
Visit World Vision's Speakers Bureau site to request Marilee or another World Vision Speaker to speak at your upcoming event.