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Romania 2016 – Day 5

Our final day in Botosani ends as fast as it begins. We distribute any leftover supplies and medication in preparation for the long road home. With only half day on shift we are free to celebrate another successful mission. The team is welcome to a traditional feast at the hospital church by their head priests. The room is abundantly adorned with artifacts of olde time Romania. There the priests bake bread as they have for hundreds of years in a handmade clay oven. The priest reminds us that the traditional meal of polenta would not exist without the colonization of America and the crop perfected by the Native Americans.




The rest of the volunteers head to a nearby orphanage called Deb’s House. We see the renovations that volunteers, Chaz and Tony, have been working on and the 10 children who live here were eager to talk about their holidays and give us a tour of their home. They take pride in their surroundings and have close knit lives. After working long hours the last four days, letting loose with close friends is blissful freedom.




In such festive ambience, the sun has suddenly hidden from us. After working so closely with each other over the last four days, this moment of painful departure has come. The scene is one of profound compassion and powerful embrace. Leaving our Romanian counterparts, the bus has a reflective atmosphere as the impact of this mission sets in. All told we worked across eight facilities doing everything from laying down hardwood floor, to regular check-ups, to delivering new lives. The tallies come up to 29 surgeries at the children’s hospital, many more at the adult orthopedics and more than 700 clinic checkups. We’ve extended our hand to the women’s clinic and will be working closely with them next year.




As a first timer, the mission ended for me far too soon. As soon as I felt myself getting into the routine of our daily tasks, our time had come. Through my travels I’ve often felt like a stranger outside my home country. This being my longest journey in a non-English-speaking country (unless you consider Australian strine its own dialect), I was fully expecting to feel like a foreigner, just another tourist passing through. I could not have been farther from the truth. From the moment I landed I felt the warmth of the olde Romanian spirit. The people are eager to share their culture with those who open themselves to it. The deep rooted community atmosphere is something most places in the US and Australia have yet to develop to the same degree, but in this land of Romans, of old Greece, of Dacia, they have had centuries to perfect it. The philosophy is contagious and many of us regret having to desert the European lifestyle so soon. Our days here were spent simply, and perhaps that is what drove us so close in such a brief time. I realize I haven’t touched a computer or seen a TV on in 6 days. Here people spend their free time mingling on the promenade swapping stories for hours.


On my way from one journey to another I know what stories I will tell. I will tell Karina Maria’s story; I will share the story of Dr. Mark Hechler, only days away from the departing to another Medical Missions Foundation trip in Uganda; but above all I will share the tale of an often overlooked nation of resilience, rugged hardship and unrelenting compassion.




The amazing photos from the Romania Mission are provided by Vlad Catana. You can follow his work at www.facebook.com/VladCatanaPh


Click on an image for larger gallery view.