Written By: Emil Toader (President of Missio International - Romania)
In 2020, Ends of the Earth Cycling hosted our 9th annual, Key West Bike Ride for the youth of Romania, through our partners, Missio International. Five days before the tour, we were forced to "postpone" the event due to Covid-19. But God was still at work! Through the [now postponed] KWBR, God still provided funds via the 66 participants that signed up for a tour. This is one story of how they changed the world through joining an Ends Cycling tour.
Through their Children-At-Risk programs, Missio International currently serves over 750 marginalized children annually, meeting the spiritual and material needs of the neediest of all - the at risk children and youth.
Between June 29 and July 11 2020, 26 children, of which 20 underage girls from Deborah House (DH), victims of child abuse and human trafficking, together with 6 adults (DH staff and volunteers) - and 12 attendees (DH staff and volunteers), enjoyed two weeks of camp at Alpinis.
[Located in the Transylvanian Alps, Alpinis is a camp/wilderness and conference center used for Christian outreach, spiritual guidance, mentoring, and leadership development.]
The two weeks in the mountains were a healing time for everyone because due to the state of emergency, the girls from Deborah House could not leave the center for three months, and DH staff was quarantined together with them, some of them staying away from their families to protect the girls.
The strict lockdown imposed by the government aimed to protect the girls from Deborah House, taking into account the pandemic.
But how could we explain to girls who come from severe abuse circumstances or who even used to be held captive, that this is for their own good to not leave the house, or even go for a short walk? How could we help them avoid the return of nightmares when any connection to anything that had begun to mean life after abuse, has moved behind a screen? Their new reality became virtual and for some of them, “virtual” had been a part of their abuse.
During the two weeks, every day, through time of prayer and worship, indoor and outdoor activities, creative workshops and competitions, our girls met the Lord in the mountains. With a progressive evolution, the activities helped the girls see themselves through the eyes of Jesus. They were encouraged to count their blessings daily, they learned how to create "stones of remembrance" for each moment when God was with them, and to see that even through the trials they went through, He was there and brought them out.
Human trafficking for sexual exploitation has increased by 30% in Romania during the pandemic, and most of the victims are in middle school. This is one of the reasons why we also designed activities to help our girls increase their self-esteem. We included interactive workshops of human trafficking prevention, they had the opportunity to learn and identify human trafficking recruitment methods so that they can protect themselves from potential abusive situations.
Hiking as well as the activities in the adventure park (Arka Park), with routes of different degrees of difficulty, zip lines and ropes courses, helped the girls trust themselves and the strength God gave them, so that they would know they are not alone. They are part of a family where they are protected and helped to move forward, because they are loved and precious.
The two weeks of camp in the mountains, in the presence of God, after three months of isolation and fear, brought us closer to Him and to each other. We returned home with our remembrance stones, with which we will build an altar in the Prayer Garden of each Deborah House. And we also returned with the desire to pray more for resources to complete the new building in Alpinis, so that all at risk children with whom the Missio Link International Foundation works, could be able to spend a similar wonderful time there, just like our girls did, and to encounter God like they had.
THESE ARE TESTIMONIES FROM THE GIRLS WHO ATTENDED
Adina D., 10 years old
Thank you for the camp and for hiking. I loved the activities and visiting Sibiu. Arka Park is a lot of fun. This is the second time I come to Alpinis. I feel good here and this year was very fun.
Sonia B., 15 years old
I am thankful for the Alpinis location and for the delicious food here. Thank you for thinking about us. I am very happy we came here, to this peaceful place. These mountains make me feel relaxed, and full of gratitude and kindness!
Lavinia D., 17 years old
I liked the activities, the games, the food, the fresh air and the mountains. I felt great at sunrise. I also liked the campfire and the fact that we sang, played and ate s’mores. And in the end, the most beautiful moment was when we lit the lanterns.
Gabriela B. - Social worker at Casa Debora [House], 49 years old
This is my second time at Alpinis. That place makes me think of heaven because in nature is where I see God the most. I liked the mornings when I enjoyed coffee on the terrace with wooden tables. I even liked the rainy days. Because the windows are very large, you could see the clouds like a fog, descending into the valleys. I liked the hike, the trip to Sibiu and the visit to Arka Park. These were two wonderful weeks! Thank God for this opportunity to be in this place, with my wonderful colleagues and our wonderful girls and young ladies.