A team of 31 people from Shankill Parish recently returned from Alesd, Romania after spending 12 days working alongside their partner church, a Hungarian Reformed church led by Pastor Istvan Denes.
The link with the church began in 2009 when the first team of young people went to serve in their church and adjoining orphanage and it has gone form strength to strength with teams returning every year since 2011. Five Shankill Parish vestry members also visited in April of this year and there are plans to bring Pastor Istvan and some committee members to Shankill in the autumn.
Pastor Istvan’s first visit to Shankill was in November 2012 and his most recent renovation project at this church is to convert an old building into a community centre, a project inspired by seeing the Jethro Centre on his trip to Lurgan.
The team that visited this summer undertook several projects in an attempt to bless their local church and community:
Two kids clubs ran for two and a half hours each morning for children aged between three and nine and 10 to 17 where they learnt about the Bible and enjoyed games and crafts. There were attended by both the orphanage children and the local village children.
English lessons took place in the afternoons and were split into four different groups - beginner, intermediate, advanced and adult. The ability to speak English is a valued skill in Romania as they believe it helps them with job opportunities and the team were glad to be able to assist in this way.
Practical work was carried out by the team in conjunction with local tradesmen on the renovation project of their new community centre. The team engaged in various fundraising efforts prior to going to Romania and were delighted to be able to leave the church a gift of £5,000 towards the work of their renovation project.
Two small groups of team members spent the afternoons with a translator visiting homes of the housebound or elderly bringing food parcels, singing songs and praying for them.
The team were blessed to have three drummers there who led three sessions of Drum Academy which the children really enjoyed.
The last main project was a clothes sale. For the last three months parishioners from Shankill Parish have been donating good quality second hand clothes to be sent to Romania. 34 boxes of clothes and shoes were sent out before the team arrived and they helped to sell them when they were there, not only providing the locals with quality clothing at a low price but also providing income for the church.
During the two clothes sales £900 was raised, when put in perspective this is the equivalent of a newly qualified Romanian teacher’s salary for four and a half months.
The team also spent time helping at the orphanage, attended local church services and hosted a celebration evening at their church for the local community with refreshments and fifteens (with ingredients brought from Lurgan).
The time spent in Romania was a truly worthwhile and rewarding experience for all involved.
While it may be easy to see how Shankill Parish has been able to help the church in Alesd with financial and practical support, the truth is that the church in Alesd has blessed Shankill Parish immeasurably.
Their sense of community, heart for the poor, desire to help those in need and remarkable faith has been an inspiration to each person who has spent time with them over the last six years. A total of 84 team members have been privileged to serve in their church, learn from them and be inspired by them to put life into perspective and care for those in need.
Both churches look forward to the future and the continued growth of their partnership.