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Even though Christmas is 6 months away, Project Christmas Joy 2012 planning has begun and is in full swing!

Project Christmas Joy 2012

Project Christmas Joy 2012!

For now, with the Lord leading, we are planning to ship a 40ft shipping container filled with non-perishable foods, warm clothes, toys, diapers, medical supplies, musical instruments, Christmas gifts and so much more to arrive in time for Christmas!  We will also be sending a team of individuals to Romania the first week of December to help unload the shipping container, hosts Christmas parties for the various ministries (Gypsy Village, Orphan Mentoring Project and Foster Care Project) and do ministry there as well.

The first interest meeting was held on June 24th at Calvary Chapel St Petersburg.  We’re looking for those interested in joining the “Going” and the “Home” teams.  There will also be an interest meeting held at Suncoast Cathedral this Sunday, July 8th seeking the same.  We’re looking for folks who want to help sort, collect, fundraise and deliver these much needed items to Pathway to Joy in Oradea, Romania.  If you’re interested in volunteering the effort, please email pcj.questions@gmail.com for more information.  You can also visit our web page dedicated to the project here: http://www.pathwaytojoy.org/project-christmas-joy-2012.htm

If you’re looking for a way to support Pathway to Joy – Project Christmas Joy,  please visit our Amazon Wish List.  After witnessing the joy that hundreds of children and adults experienced last year, you simply can not underestimate the importance of a toy, a warm outfit or food. Everything counts!  No one item is too small of a donation!

In looking back on Project Christmas Joy – Romania 2011 the main theme I see repeated over and over is “faith building”.  Regularly we were faced with multitudes of seemingly “impossible” moments and tasks (250 quilts, hats and scarves, gifts, how to get them there, shipping container, cost, tons of stuff to sort, boxes needed, never enough hands to help or enough time, more cost, only a few people can go, 4 Romanian parties to plan, ministry, crafts, missing gifts, sponsors needed, fatigue and exhaustion setting in…more cost), but EVERY SINGLE TIME, God overwhelmed us with His goodness and His faithfulness supplying everything needed down to the smallest of details!

Prayer is key

Prayer was key to the success of Project Christmas Joy 2011

Seeing the JOY on everyone’s faces from the orphans to the staff and realizing the eternal impact it had on everyone involved…none of us would ever forget this opportunity to be used by God to show His love to those who have so very little and need to know they are not forgotten.

As we begin the process of starting up Project Christmas Joy – Romania 2012 we would ask you to prayerfully consider how you can be involved.  Whether you are part of the home team that prays, buys a gift, donates items, sorts and assist in any way OR you help by donating funds to help with the cost of the shipping container, the parties, and the myriad of expenses involved in a project of this size OR you are part of the going team; your help and sacrifice remind me of what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40  The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Please take a few minutes to read some of these thank you’s written by the children and staff in Romania after last year’s project.  They are so sweet and you will get to see what your gifts of love, time, and money meant to each of them.

Click here to view the thank you booklet

God Bless!!

Kimberly Wasserman – Development Coordinator/Pathway to Joy

For more info: kim@pathwaytojoy.org – 727-641-8189

Psalm 33:21
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

The next four days would be packed full with shopping for decorations, sorting, and bagging up gifts, decorating, arts and crafts, skits, music, food, fun, and JOY….Christmas JOY!!!!

The first party was planned for the Gypsy village of Sabolcui where the poorest of children and families live in Oradea Romania. Most families live in small one room homes with dirt floors and no bathrooms.  The winters are hard and food is scarce.

We had shopped the day before for food, there is no space in the village for us to throw a party with a sit down meal so we were making food packages for each family.  We loaded up these packages and all the gifts, crafts, and everything needed for the skits and music…Man were we loaded down!  The scene pulling into the village as kids and adults come from everywhere…faces beaming with anticipation.  It makes me tear up as I write this…They were beyond excited!  This is a picture of the younger ones watching as gifts were unloaded.

The story of Jesus’ birth is told through skit and they learn how gifts were brought to Jesus, but that Jesus himself was the greatest gift ever given and why.  Then songs are sung and oh can they sing…they even had a gift for us.  They learned a favorite Christmas song in English to sing to us…it was precious!  Finally, the moment they had waited for arrives where each child’s name is called out and one by one they come forward to get their wrapped gifts and return to their homes.  We split up and were able to go individually to their homes and bring the food and watch the children open their gifts.  It was so sweet to see them open gifts that were bought just for them with their own picture on the box…this had never happened before! One by one they would carefully open gifts of toys, hats, scarves, quilts, clothes…it was a Christmas they would not forget…God had sent these special gifts to them from people they did not know, God did love them!

Each child received a handmade quilt, hat and scarf.

Each child received a handmade quilt, hat and scarf.

Food for the Gypsy Village

Food for the Gypsy Village

The next day came early and this day our focus would be the Foster Care Program and its families.  We were able to use a beautiful facility in town where we could have a great party.  The food was arranged, the tree decorated with the ornaments each child made, and the skit was performed with such a precious time of prayer that followed

One of the highlights for sure was hearing from these kids who were in safe and loving families each child quoted poems and sang songs for us and their foster parents “beamed” proudly.  Then one father stood and spoke to us thanking us for caring for the forgotten and making Christmas Joy a reality for them.  He then prayed a blessing on us and that we would use our voices to tell others too about the need for more sponsors to be able to continue bringing orphans into loving homes.

On Friday, was the orphan party…this party is super special.  It was very exciting to come in early and decorate the 7 foot tree with the ornaments and paper chain garland “THEY” made just a few days earlier…it was SO beautiful!!!  Then we decorated each table and the room to make it festive and bright.  We set up the stage for the play and the music we would have.  The food and drinks were prepared and soon the kids started to arrive.

Some of the older ones were solemn and stoic at first…they’ve spent most of their lives in institutions and have been hurt and let down so many times…they don’t trust easily.  The little ones (and there were WAY too many of them) came in with smiling faces, eyes beaming seeing the tree and all the décor. As the party began to flow, the smiles came more freely and laughter was everywhere.  A highlight for me was seeing them all really enjoy the meal and the dessert…they don’t get delicious food like this often and they really loved it.

But the coolest words I heard that night was at the end when a 14 year old orphan (who had been orphaned since 3 yrs. old) came running up with an incredible smile and tears in his eyes after just opening his gifts.  He gave me the biggest hug saying, “I know I asked for these things, but I never really believed I would get them”…he’s eyes full of real JOY and a faith that had been renewed…It was priceless!!

Three children parties down, now just one remained…the staff party.  This was the party I personally had looked forward to the most.  I know that sounds crazy to some of you when you see the kids.  But, God had been preparing my heart all year with such a deep love and affection for the staff who serve the needy with little in return.  Knowing that we get to come for a couple of days and create lots of excitement and parties, but they work with these kids in sometimes difficult conditions and travel dangerous roads, trying to pick up the pieces of broken lives and help them to find hope in Jesus.  Most of our staff make very little, yet they work as unto the Lord getting by the best they can because they love their calling and it really shows!

So, when Saturday morning arrived, as weary as our team was getting by this point, we had a renewed spirit of Joy as we cleaned, decorated, and prepared for the staff party…we could hardly wait to bless and serve them.   These were our new best friends…they were so precious to us in every way.  We had witnessed their beautiful hearts as they served us and the kids…Now it was their turn to be loved on.

Because we stayed at the House of Joy (the brand new orphan home) it was the perfect place to host this party.  Intimate and familiar, none of us wanted to be anywhere else!  The fireplace was burning and laughter filled the home as we ate a great meal together.  After dinner we began to play games of schrades and then we were led in Christmas carols by the ladies from our children’s hospital program…those girls can sing like angels!

Now the time had come to hand out the gifts.  Karen Bucur, the director of PTJM had given the staff the opportunity to share with us any needs or wishes they had months earlier.  Now they sat like well-behaved children waiting for their names to be called.  Maria, a loving worker in our hospital program (who also grew up as an orphan), was sitting there and when I walked over to her and asked her to come with me because I had something outside for her she jumped up and squealed with delight!  All the way outside she did this jumping up and down as a typical 4 year old would do…she is in her 30’s.  My eyes were so full of tears I could barely capture a picture of her receiving her very own bike…a yellow beach cruser with flowers all over it and a pretty basket!  Her utter JOY was the most beautiful gift I received that day…I’ll never forget it.

Over and over all night we heard from the staff how they had never had a Christmas like this one.  How they had such a hard time sending personal request when Karen had asked them to, feeling awkward and embarrassed to ask for their dreams.  They told how they never really believed they would receive these items and were moved by what God had done for them.  Karen told me NEVER had any other team ever come and blessed their staff in such personal and special ways…loving on them and not just the kids.  This was God’s heart…this was HIS Plan.  He wanted them to know how high, how wide, how deep and how long was His love for them (Eph 3:16-20).

Pathway to Joy Staff

Pathway to Joy Staff



Welcome to Romania

Welcome to Romania



St. Petersburg, FL Team Arrive in Budapest, Hungary!

St. Petersburg, FL Team Arrive in Budapest, Hungary (airport)!

The excitement of being greeted by Mircea, a familiar face, when we landed was just the beginning. Because nothing up to that point could have compared to the thrill of pulling up to the House of Joy Orphan Home and seeing the container sitting there. A very sweet surprise was waiting for us with some of the Romanian staff there to help us unload and settle in. The staff had prepared a delicious home cooked meal after the long journey. It felt like we had come home.


The guys bringing in a donated piano into The House of Joy

A "PACKED" House of Joy full of donated items!

A "PACKED" House of Joy full of donated items!

Anthony, Dan and Mircea assembling a donated bike

Anthony, Dan and Mircea assembling a donated bike

The weather called for rain and though we prayed hard it would not hamper the huge job of unloading the container, it came right in the middle of our first work day. At first we were a bit panicked, but we quickly formed a human chain of our team and the Romanian team and the two became one team just like that! It was so cool to see the bond that was being formed from the very beginning and this was just one example of what God would do this week.

Diane unpacking and sorting donated quilts

Diane unpacking and sorting donated quilts

All week we ate together, prayed together, we worked a lot and we even played together. The unity was incredible as we did it all without any conflict, just lots of smiles, laughter, and teamwork.

Madeline, Mircea and Bruce purchasing food to bring to the Gypsy Village

Madeline, Mircea and Bruce purchasing food to bring to the Gypsy Village

Kim and Michael bringing in food to sort into family sized packets to bring to the Gypsy Village

Kim and Michael bringing in food to sort into family sized packets to bring to the Gypsy Village

The house became a warehouse/home combination that buzzed with activity day and night. In every room there were boxes and gifts from floor to ceiling. Even the back yard and out building was jam packed too. There was so much food thanks to Florica and Sindy that a literal army was fed 3 meals a day and then some…and it was not just any old grub…it was sooooooooo DELICIOUS!

This is Florica!  The beautiful woman who donated her time to take care of the teams working

This is Florica! The beautiful woman who donated her time to take care of the teams working

Sindy, Florica, Anthony, Cathy and Madeline enjoying freshly made donuts! Thank you Florica!

Sindy, Florica, Anthony, Cathy and Madeline enjoying freshly made donuts! Thank you Florica!

Sorting an entire container full of hundreds of boxes and items into separate ministry groups (Foster Care, Orphan Mentoring, Sabolcui Village’s-Impact a Community, and the Children’s Hospital) and then into individual gifts for each child and staff member was a monumental task. But somehow every day the Lord allowed us to accomplish more than anyone ever thought possible. Daily, sometimes minute by minute, we sought His direction and wisdom as “the enemy” would try to bring chaos and confusion, all in an attempt to overwhelm us, but the Lord would move in and bring His peace, calm wisdom, and order…and supply everything that was needed. So instead, we were overwhelmed by His goodness, EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Now time for the real fun…party time!

After extremely busy weeks and weekends for months, the 40ft container is finally packed and on its way to Romania…Whew!    Now we have approximately 7 weeks to rest up before going….right?  Wrong.   We still had lots of preparations for the rest of the trip like the ministry outreach and craft portions, not to mention the Christmas parties we would be having.  But now that we had exhausted ourselves on the container we found that we were coming up empty on ideas and funds…”Lord, we need you still…please help us.”

Project Christmas Joy Comedy Show Ticket

Project Christmas Joy Comedy Show Ticket

Pray we did, but sometimes the answers don’t come the way you think and you may get more than you think you can handle.  The very next week the opportunity came our way to host a comedy concert to raise funds for the trip.  A friend from Calvary Chapel St Pete who happens to be a Christian comedian, Juanita Lolita (yes, that’s her REAL name) wanted to help us raise funds to purchase a van for House of Joy (a brand new orphan home in Romania).  Physically I didn’t feel like I could do one more thing, especially with lots still left to accomplish in the preparation for ministry…but God had opened a door, how could we not walk through it?  “Lord, give us strength.”  So, we began the task of putting together flyers, ads, creating tickets, posters,  scheduling things, getting donations for food, lining up people to help,  selling tickets every weekend, and so much more.  A Special thanks to Juanita Lolita and the Urban Gypsies (a local feel good band) and all who donated food, money, and their time so generously.  Because of their help we raised $4300 for the van and parties we would host. Praise be to God!!

I’m sure you’re not surprised by now, that the Lord also helped us prepare for ministry and crafts too in ways that seemed so random and half-baked to us, but in looking back it was HIS perfect plan for this very overworked team.

40ft Container Arriving in Romania!

40ft Container Arriving in Romania!

The following week was Thanksgiving, and then 2 days later we were to leave.  We had so much to be thankful for…truly thankful.  Just 6 days before we were to arrive in Romania the container FINALLY made it there…untouched, safe, and oh so beautiful!!!  Tears of JOY as we got confirmation the shipping container had arrived at House of Joy!!  So beautiful to see the reality of what God birthed in my heart years ago…that we would go and deliver Christmas to the orphans, but never did I dream THIS BIG! What a sweet dream come true.  Our team would go and unload and distribute these gifts of love FROM EACH OF YOU.   “Lord how do we thank you for all you’ve done and provided?  Your mercies and strength have been new every single day.  Praise the Lord who has done this great thing in our site, may we NEVER forget!

Romania team at Tampa International

Romania team at Tampa International

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

With the help of some good friends (who happen to be printers) and the support of two great churches, we began the job of spreading the word about Project Christmas Joy. We made videos, lots of flyers that listed the needs, and even wrote letters to share with everyone we knew as a team. Both Calvary Chapel and Suncoast Cathedral presented the project and soon things started to trickle in. It was slow at first, kind of like a train just getting going with little steam, but before we knew it things were pouring in and this train was chuggin’ along.

Boxed up donations!  Clothes, food, toys and more!

Boxed up donations! Clothes, food, toys and more!

The need to promote and fill the container came at the same time as the need for the funds to ship it to Romania. This kind of money would take time to raise, how would we have the time to focus on both? The Lord had it all covered! With one letter sent to a generous business man in Georgia the entire funds of $6000 were met! Praise the Lord!!! Now we could concentrate on the job at hand…filling the container.

At first we looked at this huge, empty container and prayed that the Lord would fill it, then suddenly we saw truckloads of things piling up and we knew we needed somewhere to organize, sort, and box these items. We prayed and again the Lord provided every need as it was thought of…the building, the boxes, the labels, and the people who would do this enormous job. Interestingly, the job was always like a massive mountain in front of us, with never enough hands to help it seemed, but somehow the Lord would take what we had and bless it. We were exhausted, but seeing the Lord move day after day providing every need gave us the hope and energy we needed to press on.

Bikes, bikes and more bikes!

Bikes, bikes and more bikes!

From the start we had prayed that whatever the Lord wanted to go to Romania would come in and items not needed wouldn’t go…in other words filled to the brim with everything hoped and dreamed of, needed or wanted, and NO JUNK! We prayed for people to give of their best and for the most part that’s what came in. Over 20 shiny new bikes were bought and 30 like-new ones donated, 400+ new gifts wrapped in bright colored paper with each child’s picture on the top, all sorts of beautiful instruments, and every item requested from staff in Romania. When the days were closing in on the shipping day, it became like a giant puzzle, moving stuff in and out, in and out, over and over to make it all fit. Nothing was left that needed to go…the Lord and Anthony made sure of it!

Over 400 beautifully wrapped donated gifts were donated!

Over 400 beautifully wrapped donated gifts were donated!

The day came to lift the container by crane to the truck that would take it to the Port of Miami and send it to Romania. It was weighed and it had 20 tons of goods donated for the poor and needy, the orphans and those who serve them, God had taken the “impossible” task and turned our focus around so that we would see HIS FAITHFULNESS! Now we prayed it would arrive untouched and safe in Romania by the time we would get there in December. It was going to be a long trip by truck, boat, and train and it would pass through many hands, but this was God’s plan and He had proven He was able to see it through.

The shipping container beginning its 6000 mile journey

The shipping container beginning its 6000 mile journey

Just a handful of folks who helped...
Just a handful of folks who helped…
 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
– Ephesians 3:20-21

Backing up a bit, after deciding to lead the team to Romania in December, we set dates for the first and second interest meetings.  We began to pray that God Himself would put together the people He wanted for this team.  As the summer passed and both interest meetings came with only a small handful of people who could actually go, we began to wonder how such a small team would make an impact.  But the excitement of heading back to Romania, this time with gifts for Christmas fueled our determination. 
 
By now, we knew there were at least 250 quilts, hats and scarves being handmade with love and I had received word from Samaritan’s Purse that we could not collect boxes with personal gifts for the orphans that would be sent to Romania…so we would need a way to ship.  The idea of a shipping container was brought up and immediately I thought how would we do something that big with the small group and short time we would have?   This would be the beginning of God building our faith time and time again.   In His mercy, He only allowed us to see glimpses of the task ahead of us…or we would have said no way before we had a chance to see His hand move mightily on our behalf.
 
40ft Shipping Container

40ft Shipping Container

 
We had never done anything like this before and there were so many questions we had.  Like: “what size container do we need? They are 20 and 40 foot in length”…we were thinking the 20 foot size because how would we ever fill a 40 foot one?  And where would the money come from to get it here and then ship it?  This was around $10,000 and that didn’t even cover the cost of the parties we would host in Romania…4 of them complete with food, drinks, and decorations.  This was all on top of the regular team expenses which were not even raised yet…how would it be possible?  Oh if we would only have some faith!  The Lord continued to nudge us forward encouraging us to take one step of faith at a time.  So, first things first, let’s just get it here, then God will supply the rest…We prayed, and shared the need, and within 4 days we had the $3250 needed to purchase the container, hire a transport truck and a crane to unload it.  The Lord moved mountains both physically and in our hearts as we saw this giant container sitting there on the grounds of Suncoast Cathedral…we walked around it and in it and prayed thanking the Lord for bringing it and asked Him to do a miracle and fill it.  We needed a miracle, we had 5 weeks to fill it (and it was huge) and to raise the money needed to ship it to Romania in time.  We prayed a lot and there was peace that only the Lord could have brought…sweet peace.
 
Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  – Joshua 1:9