You have a particular interest in ministry to orphans. What motivates that?
The Lord used a CNN documentary called "Easy Prey" to plant a burden in my heart for Romania's abandoned children. Seeing the hopelessness in the eyes of the street children, I longed for them to know the hope and love of Christ. As I and my wife searched the Scriptures, God used His Word, prayer, and a survey trip to Romania to confirm and to amplify our desire to take the gospel to these children. Some specific passages the Lord used include Proverbs 31:8-9, which says,"Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy"; James 1:27 which says,"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and keep oneself unstained from the world"; and James 2:16 which says, "and [if] one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" God also used a study of Matthew in our hearts. The value that Jesus places on children and their nurture and training is astounding.
You visited a Christian ministry to street children in Romania on your last trip. What was that like?
We had the opportunity to visit one ministry to street kids in Timişoara (the county capital). Many of the kids there were suffering the effects of substance abuse. The younger kids still had some sparks of life left, but a look into the eyes of the older ones revealed only hopelessness.
An adult volunteer we talked to seemed disillusioned, believing that she was having no impact on the children's lives. The center was a Christian organization in name, but the gospel was not given while we were there, and the organization has no direct relationship with any church.
We were told that if a child is not rescued from the streets within his first two weeks of homelessness that he will not ever leave the streets. Many of the kids that we met had been on the street for years.
(The photo above is courtesy of the Children's Relief Network.)
How do children in Romania end up on the street?
There are two groups of children, both of which we refer to as street children. One group is made up of those who actually live on the street. They have run away from orphanages, group homes, or their own families. This group is more common in large cities like Timişoara. This first group is rare in the city we're planning to work in, Lugoj, which is a smaller city.
The second group, more common in Lugoj, is made up of those who have family members whom they live with. However, their families take very little responsibility for them, allowing the children to run the streets wild all day, never going to school. We hope to set up a ministry center for these street children in Lugoj. Our primary focus will be to give these children God's truth and message of salvation. We plan to have a fun Bible time every day, but we also want to show the kids true love by encouraging the kids to go to school and by helping them with their homework.
This picture is of a piece of land close to the church that we hope God will provide for the center. This center will also be available as a resource to the Romanian Christians who foster to adopt, a place to help them with their children.
Are you raising funds for this property? If so, how can people donate?
We are raising funds for the property and building. Donations can be made through Biblical Ministries Worldwide. People can visit the mission's support page. If they wish to donate specifically for this building, funds can be designated for the Louks' "building and improvements" project fund.
What kind of ministry do you plan to have with orphans?
We're planning for a two-fold ministry. Presently, the orphan institutions are wide-open for groups to bring the gospel to the orphans through Bible clubs/studies, discipleship/mentoring, and Christian camps. We are planning to help organize and train Romanian Christians to take the gospel into the orphanages using these venues.
The second part of our plan involves Romanian Christians as well. Unless the law changes, fostering is the only way that the abandoned babies in the baby hospitals will be given the opportunity to develop normally. As it is now, statistically, one in five of these babies will never adjust to society, even if adopted early.
We will be encouraging Romanian church members to consider the possibility of fostering, and especially encouraging them to foster in order to adopt. For the Romanian Christians who choose to minister in this way, we will provide training and follow-up to ensure the healthy integration of children into Christian homes.
What about starting a private group home?
Our desire is to avoid opening a group home, in favor of facilitating fostering and adoption instead. There are several reasons for this preference: it is better for the children; it avoids logically impaired government restrictions; and it will be easier to turn over to Romanian hands. As we visited the different private group homes, we kept asking ourselves and others how they could possibly be turned over to Romanian funding. We and those running them saw no way to accomplish this. Since our desire is to turn the ministry over to national hands completely, we are not inclined to start a group home.
However, we have discussed the possibility of encountering a state orphanage, similar to the one described in the first part of the interview, that is blatantly abusing the children entrusted to it. In such a situation, if there are not enough Christians in the church willing to foster, we might be willing to rethink this decision.
Is there anything you can do for the children who remain in orphanages?
The public orphanages and group homes in Romania are in desperate need of the gospel. The kids need to know that there is a Heavenly Father who loves them and who cares for them, and they need to see that love demonstrated to them. We believe that Bible Clubs and camps could help fulfill these needs. We intend to organize a Bible club church outreach. A weekly time in the institutions of fun activity and attention to God's Word will provide an opportunity for the kids to learn of Christ's love for them and to experience it through the love of Christians.
These clubs will probably be held in the early evening or on Saturdays, so that people from the church can be involved. So in addition to the ministry to the lost children, the Bible Clubs will serve as opportunities for the people in the church to learn to serve and to grow. Training and guidance will be provided with the intent of turning the ministry over to national hands. We also hope to eventually develop camps for the institutionalized children in the future.
It seems that the Gospel will be a big part of everything you do for orphans. Would that be accurate?
The gospel has everything to do with what we want to do with the orphans. The gospel motivates us to take action and the gospel is the only hope for these children. Many of the Romanians believe that there is no hope for these children, and seeing them, one might be tempted to believe it. But the gospel has the power to miraculously change their lives.
We plan to proclaim Christ to them in word and deed. James 1:27 and [esvbible reference="James 2:15-16" header="on" format="link"]2:15-16[/esvbible] make it clear that when we minister to someone, more than words are needed. We need to put the gospel in action. For through actions we verify the truth of our words. We believe that there are multiple biblical mandates to be reaching lost souls by giving truth and demonstrating love to the whole person.
The family we're joining has been praying for the Lord to send someone to assist them in teaching their people how to fulfill the Great Commission through ministry to the abandoned in Lugoj. They and we see the Lord bringing us together as an answer to prayer.
Our aim is to assist in church planting by helping Bereea to fulfill its responsibility to reach out to the fatherless in and around Lugoj. We want personally to reach out to the street children and orphans, and we want to train and equip the members of Bereea to do the same.
You've indicated that you don't think American money is the best long-term solution for Romanian orphans. How can U.S. churches minister to Romanian orphans in their affliction?
American money is not the best solution when it causes the Romanian churches to become dependent on that money to meet the needs of the Romanian orphans. To put the Romanian churches in a position of continual dependence on American funding is short-sighted. However, American churches can play a vital financial role by helping the Romanian churches to develop to the point where they are able to meet the needs of orphans independently. This might mean helping financially with building projects or training projects. We just want to avoid a continual dependence.
But the most important ministry that U.S. churches can have for these young people is the ministry of prayer. And while it is true that the financial difficulties abandoned children face are daunting, spiritual darkness holds a much greater potential for continued ruin in the lives of these afflicted ones than do the financial challenges.
And what about individual Christians (i.e., the people reading this interview)? Can they do anything that would make a difference?
In addition to prayer, there are several ways that individual Christians can help.
- Christians can come over and serve with Christians already laboring in Romania. We are looking for other couples or singles to join our team either short term or long term.
- Christians can give financially.
- Christians can tell others and spread the burden for prayer. Our personal ministry blog is http://thegospelinaction.com.
Thank you, Joshua, for taking the time to share your ministry burden with us.