(Originally sent as a letter Ken Shultz's network of friends in 1998)
If you did not receive Chapter One of this story (Christmas of 1997) you need a little background. If you would like to have the full story, let us know. We’ll be glad to send you a copy.
Monica Beres came to the U. S. in 1993 at the age of 10. She had cerebral palsy and had never been able to walk. After surgery—which was successful--she was placed with Candi’s family for adoption. She could not be adopted – we learned -- because she had a family in Romania wondering what had happened to their daughter. In 1997 I took her home. Last year, I went back to Romania to see how things were going.
It is amazing what God can do through the influence of a child. The things I am writing about all took place because Monica came into our lives.
After I got back from taking Monica home, we began to get letters from her family—written in Romanian, of course. A Romanian student at Baylor University, Ioan Stir, agreed to translate them for us. Ioan is near completion of his Ph.D. in theology—preparation to teach in a Bible Institute in his home country. After translating our first letter, he asked how I had come to know the Beres family. I told him Monica’s story.
By the time we had another letter for him to translate, I had begun to think about going back to check on Monica. As you may remember, taking her home had been traumatic for all of us. For Monica it was hard because she had not lived at home since she was about three. She did not know what to expect. When we got there, the members of her family were almost complete strangers to her and spoke a language she did not know. The social worker saw her only three months later and concluded that Monica would not be able to adjust. I wanted to see if I could help.
When I mentioned my plan to Ioan, he asked if I would visit his village too. His home church did not have a pastor at the time, and his father was trying to hold things together. The church had also started construction on a new building. He thought a visit from me would encourage both his father and the church. We took that request as confirmation that I should go.
The churches in our last pastorate responded with prayers and support. One of them even voted to start a sister church relationship with Ioan’s church, the Baptist Church in Ciceu Poieni, Romania. The churches and other friends, many of them members of churches I had served earlier, helped with travel expenses, gave money for Bibles, baby clothes and formula to take with me, as well as contributing funds to help with that new church building.
Holt, International, the organization that helped me get Monica home, had arranged housing for me in the home of Mr. & Mrs. Boeru, a couple who often provide housing—cheaper than a hotel—for families coming to Romania to adopt children. Both are attorneys.
Mr. Boeru is a government prosecutor. Mrs. Boeru – Mariana - is in private practice, working with international adoptions. When I told her what brought me to Romania, she told me Holt had consulted her about Monica’s case, so my story was familiar to her. The Boerus, who happen to be Catholics, were enthused about our plan to continue working in Romania and offered their help.
The next day, Mariana had a visit from her godson and introduced him to me. Remembering that I had Bibles, she asked if she might have one to give him. Of course I gave her one. In fact, I left her ten Bibles in case she thought of friends who might want one. When I came back a week later, she told me that his wife had called to thank her for the Bible and said he keeps it by his bed and reads it each day.
Holt’s social worker assigned to Monica was to go with me to see her, so my first visit was to Holt’s office.
We had sent Bibles for many of the staff after my first trip. One of them, Iuliana asked if I had another study Bible like the one we had sent her. She wanted it for her best friend—a Catholic Seminary student. I had exactly one of them with me—one I had intended to keep for myself. I gave it to her. During the whole trip no one else asked for one of those Bibles. The Lord must have had me take that one for Iuliana’s friend.
Holt has shelters for unwed mothers and also have recruited foster families to take care of orphans and abandoned children. They were excited when we unpacked the baby clothes I had brought with me--nearly 50 complete outfits--and gave them money to buy infant formula. I was also able to leave Bibles for the unwed mothers in the shelter.
Then we went to visit Monica. A driver and his wife met us at the airport and took us to her home. His wife, a nurse, gave me some insight into the medical needs in Romania. We knew that in ten years of medical care Monica had received almost no help. I understood why, when she told me that they are so short of staff that one nurse might be assigned as many as 100 patients to care for. That explains a lot.
The Beres family had no idea that Ramona and I were coming, so when we arrived, the whole family was already in bed asleep. It took a little pounding and yelling to get Mrs. Beres to the gate. When she saw who it was, she began hugging and kissing me, said over and over, “O Bunico! O Bunico!”-- Which means, “O Grandpa! O Grandpa!”
We went inside then, where Monica was just waking up. Her mother told her “Look who’s here.” She had to put on her glasses. Then, when she recognized me she fairly shouted, “Grandpa” then she didn’t know what to say because she couldn’t think of the English words. That was a blessing because only 9 months earlier she had known no Romanian.
We visited for a while. Mrs. Beres quickly lit a fire in the other room – “my room” as I call it. But it wasn’t really MY room. I shared it with two laying hens – which explained some of the markings on my feather bed.
The next morning, Monica’s married brother and his family came while we were eating breakfast. He was laughing and said, “The whole village knows that “Bunico” has come to see Monica.”
We had a wonderful visit. Monica seems to be doing fine. Oh, I wish she would get more exercise; and I wish the school situation were better than it is, and there are other problems. But we are so pleased that she has fit back into her family so well. Not once did she ask to come home with me!
As we visited, I learned that her younger brother, Florin, had given away the study Bible we had sent—to the village priest! I asked what the priest had done with it, and was told that he uses it to teach religion in the public school. I was able to be there on a Sunday when they were having a service. That happens only once every three weeks.
About eight o’clock that morning I saw a man go by in his wagon and was told that he was on the way to the neighboring village to get the priest. Two hours later, sure enough, the wagon came by on the way to the church and, within minutes, the church bells were ringing, calling the faithful to worship. When we arrived, I sat alone on the men’s side—oh, there were other men there, but none of them knew me. They also did not speak English. My interpreter was a young lady, and would never have been permitted to sit on my side with me.
At the high point of the service, when the bread and wine are consecrated, I heard the priest pray for the Shultz family in Texas! As it turns out, Mrs. Beres had arranged with the priest that the Shultz family in Texas would be prayed for by name at that point in every service. After the service I was introduced to him. His first words were “Thank you for the Bible. I love the explications (notes) in it.” We had a picture taken together—for which he chose to put on his best robe.
Talking about that later, I was told that part of the reason the people were so affected by what we had done in bringing Monica home had to do with an article that had appeared in a Romanian Magazine in 1995. The reporter had written about the group of children, of which Monica was one, who were brought to the States in 1993. The reporter had interviewed Monica’s parents and had speculated that the children were possibly being used for medical experiments, and told them that Monica was probably dead.
Ramona told me later, “You have no idea what you did for these people’s idea of Americans by bringing her home.” She’s right. I don’t. But I am excited about the opportunities it has opened up for me.
Back in Bucharest for a few days, I was invited to dinner with Mihaela Tudor and her parents. Ioan had asked me to carry application forms to her in the hope that she could be admitted to Baylor’s graduate school. I did. She was. And now she is Mrs. Stir. We were honored last winter to sponsor her parents’ visit to this country for their wedding—and I was even asked to participate!
The following Friday I took a train to the city of Dej. There, friends of Ioan’s from university days, Corina and Nelu Pop were my hosts and interpreters. Imagine my surprise when I ended up speaking five times in four different churches over that weekend. As we were driving home from the last service, my hosts were saying they wished they had contacted some other churches. They were sure I could have spoken there if they had only thought to ask.
The most important place I spoke that weekend was at the Baptist church in Ciceu Poieni, Ioan’s home village. When we arrived, we went directly to the Stir home. The church had recently called a pastor and he was there with the Stir family to meet me. They knew only that I was a friend of Ioan’s. They had no idea that I had brought money for their new building. After we had visited for a while, I gave it to them.
They were almost overwhelmed. The pastor then told me that only that week they had hired someone to build the special windows for the building, but had no money to pay for them. The carpenter, a Christian, said he would start work anyway and pray for the money to come in. When I counted out the money our churches and friends had given, it was almost exactly the amount they needed for the windows.
I spoke twice in that church. Before I left after that final service, I knew that I would continue to be a Romanian Grandpa. Yes, we still keep in touch with Monica and her family—but our Romanian family has grown right before our very eyes.