Monday, March 28, 2011

I Love Romania

This morning I read a Facebook post from our Red Page ministry coordinator Shelby Felton that brought back so many memories. Here is what she said, “Fervent knocking at door. Open door, man speaks, I don't understand. Man ‘barges’ in and takes seat at kitchen table. (ok?) Quick call to friend to translate. Turns out he's the mailman and has an envelope I need to sign for. Oh, ok. Proof of identity given, paper signed. I open door, expect man to walk out ... but wait ... he gives me a hug, double cheek kiss, and a smile and nod.”

Man I love Romania. One of the things I loved the most was their pride in relationships. All too often we as Americans get in such a hurry with our daily activities that we miss the opportunity to truly build relationships with people. Not in Romania. When our landlord would come get the rent he would come in and have a glass of water and visit. When we would purchase insurance for our car the salesman would come in our apartment, visit, drink a coke, and then do the paperwork.

People often ask me what drew us to Romania; after all I have worked in a number of countries. It obviously has to be the people. The people of Romania make what we do easy. The extra hours, long nights, stress and strain of raising financial support, all come easy when I think of the gratitude from my Romanian friends. That is the root of my passion. That is why we are so determined to build this basketball court in Susani.

Realizing the value of relationships in Romania, Red Page has committed to build a basketball court behind the House of Joy that will serve as a recruiting tool for children and their families. Starting May 13, a team from Texas and Arkansas will begin building this full length basketball court. The compilation will be Saturday, May 21, with a morning basketball camp followed by the very first Susani Invitational Youth Basketball Tournament.

House of Joy founder Ovidiu Petric describes the value of this court best: “Hundreds of children will be able to gather and play on our basketball court. They will be practicing sports while they learn the scriptures. The House of Joy will be a place for Sports and Scriptures! They can learn them together. Many kids will start running for Jesus because of this awesome opportunity they will find in Susani. We will organize sports camps to improve their skills, both with the Bible and the sport. We will also work to organize competitions with the public schools in our area right on this basketball court. Our hope is to model these competitions after the Upward Basketball programs in America. Kids will come from all 31 villages in our ministry area to learn the skills of basketball, and other sports as well. These sports will give us an audience with the children and their parents so that we can share about Jesus. In addition, we will have concerts, revivals, and festivals on our court. What a perfect place to interact with the children and youth. Everybody loves sports and these sports will allow us to form firm foundations that will lead to ending poverty in our villages.”

We know this court could not be built before we do the prep work on the grounds. In the same way we realize our ministry cannot serve 2,500 families without a little prep work. This court will allow us to build relationships, establish an identity, gain valuable trust, and recruit families to come from all 31 villages we serve to hear the gospel of Christ while having a little fun.

This week marks the final full week of our campaign to raise the $10,000 necessary to do the following:

  • Construction of a full length basketball court - $6,000
  • 100 new uniforms and basketball shoes - $2,000
  • Sporting equipment and Evangelical tools - $1,000
  • Event hosting - $1,000

As of today we have approximately $2,000 of our $10,000 goal raised. We are forever grateful to those that have made donations and pledges to assist in this great cause. As we near the finish line we ask that you consider how you might assist us in finishing strong. Aspire to new heights. Jon

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Technology Today

Saturday I found myself in my office sitting in front of my computer watching the Men’s NCAA tournament while watching the NASCAR Nationwide race on the T.V. and a horse race on my I-Pad. Occasionally I would flip the channel to the Women’s NCAA tournament. I also had Twitter open so I could keep track of the race and games from a different perspective. I don’t think this is what they had in mind when they labeled it “March Madness” but it was a little mad!

A few hours later I was able to watch the following video from my good friend Ovidiu on the grounds of the House of Joy as he requested prayers and support for the building of a basketball court in Susani.

video

Isn’t technology amazing? I can be half way across the world in Romania and never miss a call, text, or email with my smart phone. I can read my Bible on my iPad. I even read an article a few months ago about an app on the iPhone that will keep track of your sins so you can be better prepared to repent. However, in a world filled with technology there are still simple things that can have a lasting impact; things like a basketball court in the middle of a poverty stricken village.

No doubt technology could do a world of good and we have a number of plans that involve technology. But this simple basketball court has the ability to capture the attention of 2,500 families in a 30 mile radius. That attention can lead to lives impacted for the Kingdom. This court can provide a platform for programs, messages, and assistance that truly could end poverty in rural Romania.

Would you consider making a donation today? Every dollar counts. We can’t do it without you. Aspire to new heights.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Madness

This week marks the unofficial beginning of March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament) with the “First Four” play in games taking place this Tuesday and Wednesday followed by the first round on Thursday. I’d venture a guess that almost all basketball enthusiasts will find a way to be near a computer or television starting Thursday. After all, that is when the most exciting games take place in my opinion. I know I personally planned my travel schedule this week so that I can “work from home” Thursday and Friday! I even remember one semester while in grad school watching the games on a television at our feet while taking a distance education class! Maybe that is why they call it March “madness!”

This week also marks something special for Red Page. For the next three weeks we are going to make a concerted effort to raise $6,000 for the first basketball court in Susani. Starting May 13, a team from Texas and Arkansas will begin building a full court basketball court. The compilation will be Saturday, May 21, with a morning basketball camp followed by the very first Susani Invitational Youth Basketball Tournament! One might truly wonder the value of something like a basketball court. After all, aren’t there more pressing needs? Yes. Yes the needs are great. Yes poverty is overwhelming. Yes we need to focus on education. Yes we need to focus on completing the House of Joy. But, no this is a priority. If we are going to reach the families we must have a way to draw them to the ministry. January 23, 2010, I posted a blog titled “Run for Jesus” in which Ovidiu shared the value of competitive sports in Romania. Here is a short summary:

“During my visit to America I was extremely impressed how many people went to a high school football game in Texas. What a unique sport system in America where everybody has something to gain; values, morals, competitive drive, and sportsmanship. Everybody is a winner.”


“In Romania there are some sports that are popular, but people in general are not practicing sports as they do in the United States. In May we will build a basketball court on the House of Joy property. Hundreds of children will be able to use it and play on it. They will be practicing sports while they learn the scriptures. The House of Joy will be a place for Sports and Scriptures! They can learn them together. Many kids will start running for Jesus because of this awesome opportunity they will find in Susani. We will organize sports camps to improve their skills, both with the Bible and the sport. We will also work to organize competitions with the public schools in our area right on this basketball court. Our hope is to model these competitions after the Upward Basketball programs in America. Kids will come from all 31 villages in our ministry area to learn the skills of basketball, and other sports as well. These sports will give us an audience with the children and their parents so that we can share about Jesus. In addition, we will have concerts, revivals, and festivals on our court. What a perfect place to interact with the children and youth. Everybody loves sports.”

As you can see, the value of a basketball court goes well beyond 26 meters by 14 meters. A basketball court is much more than concrete, asphalt, two baskets and nets. A basketball court in Susani is a place for 2,500 families to spend a Saturday evening together. A basketball court is a place to learn about teamwork, competition, morals, values, life skills, and Jesus. This simple little court is a place to gain the trust and attention of hundreds of families living in rural Rumania in desperate need of a Savior and a little hope. According to UNICEF, “There was an estimated 2.17 million poor persons in Romania in 2009 with rural poverty double that of urban poverty.” The UNDP Human Development report estimated that “38 per cent of rural people were living in poverty.” UNICEF adds that “Some 75% of poor children live in rural areas, where the poverty risk is three times higher than for children living in urban areas. Children from poor and rural areas are more likely than other children to be abandoned, institutionalized, to drop out of school, and later to be found on the streets. Weaknesses in preventive and integrated community-based services, combined with poor family care practices and changing social norms and values have lead to these manifestations.” Inadequate social services, reflected in the poor condition of rural health centers, long distances to schools and poor sanitation facilities, also contribute to rural poverty. Estimates show that only 1 out of 4 village students will graduate high school. Now is the time to reach these children. Now is the time to impact these families. A simple little basketball court will give Red Page and the House of Joy the opportunity to learn more about these families in an effort to develop needs-based programs while gaining their trust and confidence.

The time is now for Red Page and the House of Joy to alter the course of history for thousands of Romanians living in rural poverty. This court is the logical entry point into the hearts and homes of these families. There are three ways you can join our team. First, you can pray for this ministry and the success of the basketball court. Second, you can financially support the building of the basketball court. Construction will cost approximately $6,000. Third, you can financially support Red Page sports programs. Your support will help purchase athletic gear, jerseys, shoes, and educational curriculum.

Our goal is to raise $10,000 by the time the Men’s (April 4) and Women’s (April 5) National Champion is named. Your gift will go a long way in helping us reach our goal. You can mail your donation to: Red Page Ministries, P.O. Box 53653, Lubbock, Texas, 79453 or make a donation online at www.redpageministries.org.

Red Page is a 501 (c)(3) and all gifts are tax deductable. Red Page Ministries focuses on grassroots mission-focused ministry as it works to transform Romania from the inside-out, one rural community at a time. The mission of Red Page is to break the cycle of poverty in rural Romania by empowering poor communities to self-reliance through social welfare, education, and rural development. For additional information you can email us at contact@redpageministries.org.

Aspire to New Heights!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Poverty: A matter of perspective

“We don’t have to have lots of money, possessions, or financial security to be rich.” – John Avant

Do you believe this statement? How do you define rich? Thousands? Millions? Billions? How about: No debt? Limos? Jets? Multiple houses? How about just a house? Or a car? Maybe three meals a day. Maybe just one! How about clean drinking water? Sanitation? An education? Clothes on your back? How about a smile! Or, even better, a Savior!!!!

Rich is just a matter of perspective.

The question is; “Whatever you have, are you willing to give it up?” 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” I’m pretty sure Jesus was not materially rich (at least not how we view it). However, he gave us his most valuable possession; his life. John Avant believes that, “One of the best evidences that we really believe in God is how we invest our money.

How do you invest yours?

“Oh the joys of those who are kind to the poor” Psalm 41a

According to Wikipedia.com “Poverty is the lack of basic human needs, such as clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter, because of the inability to afford them.” We founded Red Page Ministries out of our love for Romania and our desire to see her people restored to the place God intended. Our vision: to end poverty in rural Romania, one village at a time. The International Fund for Agricultural Development, a specialized agency of the United Nations has found that, “Poverty has a firm grip on Romania’s rural areas, where almost half (44 per cent) of the population lives. In 2003 the UNDP Human Development report estimated that 38 per cent of rural people were living in poverty, compared with 14 per cent of people in urban areas. Rural people are particularly vulnerable to the hardships brought by the painful economic and social transition after the collapse of communism. Low agricultural productivity is one of the main causes of poverty in rural Romania. And in rural areas there are limited opportunities for formal employment opportunities, partly because of minimum wage regulations, high payroll taxes and the rigid labor code. Inadequate social services, reflected in the poor condition of rural health centers, long distances to schools and poor sanitation facilities, also contribute to rural poverty.”

If that is not reason enough to get involved then I challenge you to think about the children. According to UNICEF, “There was an estimated 2.17 million poor persons in Romania in 2009 with rural poverty double that of urban poverty. The international crisis and the expected increase of food and energy prices have drastically affected Romania’s children. Some 75% of poor children live in rural areas, where the poverty risk is three times higher than for children living in urban areas. Children from poor and rural areas are more likely than other children to be abandoned, institutionalized, to drop out of school, and later to be found on the streets. There is a large percentage of rural children left behind by parents migrating to other countries in search of better job opportunities. Weaknesses in preventive and integrated community-based services, combined with poor family care practices and changing social norms and values have lead to these manifestations.”

Poverty is everywhere; that I do not deny. It’s across the street, down the road, and across the ocean. Finding it is not the problem. Responding to it is! In his thought provoking, action challenging book Radical, David Platt challenges, “Anyone wanting to proclaim the glory of Christ to the end of the earth must consider not only how to declare the gospel verbally but also how to demonstrate the gospel visibly.” Time to do some demonstrating. Aspire to new heights!