Fruits of the Spirit

I have had the privilege of going to Romania and meeting some of the elderly and frail that Elder Orphan Care and Viorel Pasca work with. These elderly have been abandoned and found to be homeless in the street. 
They come to Viorel broken and alone and they are introduced into different houses, in three separate villages, where community forms- with each other and with their caregivers.
It always amazes me that in the depth and despair of their stories - the light of Jesus is found and where that light is found - the fruits of the Spirit reign.
I have started a painting series, entitled, "The Fruits of The Spirit", and wish to document the stories and the faces of those that display the fruits, despite their circumstances, no matter how hard their stories are. These faces and smiles are an inspiration to me and to the beauty that lives with us, through Jesus Christ - our hope is in the Lord!  It is our responsibility to remember their stories

Joy

Fire of Joy- Lisa Albinus- 2014 
The first thing you notice when you meet “Grandpa” is not his meager belongings, nor the threadbare neck of his sweater, nor the fact that he is missing both of his legs. His captivating smile and the glimmer of mischief in his eye is sure to capture your attention and draw you to him, as surely as a moth is drawn to a glowing candle on a summer night. Come, join me, as Grandpa pats the space next to him on his mattress, and invites us into his heart, through the privilege of his story. Settle with me here, where life is a slower pace and the days run into each other, join me in Romania, in a little city that is not unlike many other country villages that pepper the hillsides. As we take our seat of honor next to him, we glance around the room. By all accounts, Grandpa is blessed beyond compare….we find him in one of the homes that Pastor Viorel Pasca operates, (and with whom Elder Orphan Care partners). We sit upon a warm bed, and out of the corner of our eye we can see a Bible that appears to hold a place of honor. Looking into his eyes, we are drawn to his clothes, and though there are unruly threads that poke out here and there, his clothes are clean and his smile is bright. 

Then it happens, as we listen to the translator, our eyes are afraid to take it in, afraid to linger….the two legs that are simply.not.there. Amputated above the knee. The translator snaps us back to the present and the tears that form in Grandpa’s eyes captivate our attention, we lean in for his story….. 

He starts his story with a tragic ending…. his son’s suicide. Odd, how we sometimes start a journey on the tail of a tragic goodbye. But this is where he chooses to open his heart, and we sit by amazed, that this man is willing to share his grief with us and trust us, with this little piece of his past. His vulnerability and transparency are instantly endearing, and something rises within us, a sense of protection, honor and love, for this man we will come to call “Grandpa”. Yet we have only begun unwrapping his story and the depths of grief that cascade from his heart. 

His story weaves through the death of his daughter, due to a septic complication, and the death of his wife, to cancer. The tears well in his eyes once again as he speaks of the night that cost him his legs. He found himself at his wife’s grave. He wanted to die, he wanted to leave the grief behind, through the despair and the tears, and he fell asleep on her grave, crying out for death to rescue him. Death did not take him. But, the cold would claim his legs. Frostbite and vascular complications would result in a double amputee. And that should be the end of the story….but, we serve a God that sees the homeless and offers hope to the hopeless. 

In Romania there is a saint who goes by the name of Pastor Viorel Pasca, who walks the gospel out into the streets, cities and villages outside of Oradea. God crossed two paths, Grandpa with Pastor Viorel and HOPE was kindled in a man who laid on a cold grave, wishing to die. Through Viorel and the help and love of strangers, Grandpa came into a growing, thriving, hungry relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ, and was made new. 

Sitting on the bed next to him, I choke out a question, “So much sadness, yet, I see joy in your eyes….how?” The translator doesn't have to translate. Somehow in the Kingdom of God salvation is spoken through the heart of believer to believer…as he taps on his chest….I know who lives there and I know the author of perfection and I know the one who offers hope and joy. For an instant, Grandpa and I share the same language. It’s the language of eternity, and our eyes dance together, because we know of a love that is far greater than anything we can hold here on earth. Grandpa speaks with anticipation of his baptism that is less than a month away. I see the vestiges of the grave clothes, the small haunted look in his eyes, over the times of great despair but I also see the fire of joy all over his face, character and smile. A fire that was lit and the world can never put out. Join me as we hug Grandpa tightly, on that bed, in a country village in Romania, and share in his joy.

 Patience - Lisa Albinus 2015
Come sit with me and let me tell you about my friend that lives in Romania.  Her spirit is quiet, and her demeanor is subdued.  She doesn't take up much of the room, but her beauty is evident through the hats and layers that she wears. Her eyes strike me right away, eyes that have seen and have known troubled times, eyes that are guarded.  If you look carefully, you will see the beauty in her face, the lines of her cheekbones and the little laugh lines around her eyes. These eyes have known happiness, as well as sadness.  I ask her if she woud share her story with me and she is eager to share- eager to let me in.  It humbles me and amazes me that she would be willing to trust me with her past, and the hurts and the wounds.  She opens her soul to  me and allows me access into her memories.  I am in awe and I am honored at the trust that she shows in trusting me with her heart.
She has one daughter, two sons and a husband.  Her husband and her son live with her, in the meager room, provided by Viorel. Her story opens with her husband loosing his job in a shoe factory.  He did not make the factory wide job cuts, which left them with no income, no work and no prospects. One day, she had her children at a park, when a friend ran over to her demanding her attention, gesturing wildly.  Her husband was dying and she needed to come quickly.  The Dr's were able to revive him, only to have him brush death once again.   On one occasion here son caught his father as he collapsed, catching his head and cradling it - lest it smash into the ground.

I believe her husband suffered something similiar to a stroke, as she explained to me that , "He couldn't think, he had to learn to think all over again." She worked with him and worked with patience to help him regain as much of his former self as he could.  With patience and diligence, she guarded her husband and cared for her son. She was able to get them into a government, nationalized housing- that did not last long. They were kicked out and she found herself on the street, with a husband that was disabled and a son that couldnt get his footing. 

I saw pictures of this little family on the day that they arrived on Viorel's doorstep.  Dirty, painstakingly thin, a hard edge to the eyes  - that the streets bring out and demand in order to survive. You can sense the pure animal instinct of survival in the steadfast glare that met the camera lens. That look is softened now, replaced with a protective glance that darts to her husband, every few seconds and the hovering stance of her son- watching out for his mother. The hard times bound them together, they found protection and security with each other. and it is still evident in their meager surroundings that offer safety.

I ask her what is good in your life- her eyes scan the room and her hand surveys the beds, and the walls.  She is warm, she is fed 3 times a day, they are safe. Her husband is alive. Her son helps bake bread for all of the mouths that have to be fed.  Scanning the room, she exclaims, "This is better than the streets."

I press in farther to her dreams and into her heart, "What do you miss?" She misses sewing and making things.  Her husband used to be a woodcutter - they were creative, making things of beauty to enhance and brighten the days. Her smile is one of patience, as she remembers the good things that her eyes have seen and the work that her hands have done.  

I just got back from a trip where I was reunited with my friend.  It is with much saddness that I continue her story.   In the time that elapsed between our visits, her husband passed away and her son went off to become a shepherd.  She is alone now, though she is in a room with three other women. In their room their is much yarn and many creative things.  Her hands have found ways to stay busy again, as she crotchets sweaters and pillows and blankets.  Once again, her focus is on the things that she makes, keeping the fire lit for her housemates and walking in the patience of her spirit that has served her well.


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