On a visit to Romania in 1990, just after the fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, We saw thousands of children "warehoused" in Romania's orphanage system. The children we saw, lived in conditions not fit to keep animals in, as Romania is very poor.
They were malnourished, dirty, diseased, unloved and unwanted. I began by adopting one child, my son Andrew. Then, in a sense, we began adopting them all, by beginning a program to send vital life-saving supplies on a regular basis.
Over the years, we have helped thousands of children with regular truckloads of food, medicines and other vital supplies, fuel to heat the orphanages and sending medical professionals and providing vehicles for transportation of children and orphanage staff. The ministry also sends thousands of special gift packages to the children every Christmas.
In 1995, the ministry's relief efforts were extended to Romania's neighbor, Moldova. We "adopted" yet another orphanage in the town of Hincesti. The year before we arrived, thirty children froze to death in their cribs during the brutally cold Moldovan winter and sixteen more had already perished that year.
A forlorn little blue sign was the only indication that anyone lived in this desolate part of Moldova. We turned our vehicle down the seemingly endless muddy road and found a ramshackle orphanage in the tiny village of Cupcui.
We met the children and knew God had sent us into their tragic world... A World where freezing or starving to death were constant fears. The roof leaked in torrents. “When it rains outside for a day, it rains inside for a week,” they said. Black mold covered the walls. No heat, no hot water. Their drinking water was tainted—the children were drinking poison. These kids were in desperate trouble.
Since God sent us to orphanages, their world has completely changed. For the first time in their lives, they know what hope is. The orphanage in the village of Cupcui has been completely rebuilt; Hebron’s Hope, our Mission House nearby allows us to provide spiritual help and guidance to the kids.
We continue to provide assistance to other orphanages as well. In Straseni, home to Moldova's largest orphanage, we replaced 391 broken, rotted-out windows, yet again staving off the dangers of sub-zero temperatures in the children's bedrooms.
While the work in Moldova's orphanages remains vital, one fateful day, we came face to face with the horrors awaiting thousands of young girls when they are forced to leave their orphanages at age 16.
Which brings us to Stella...
Stella was a beautiful young girl who was partially paralyzed and one of the orphans in an orphanage in Moldova. She worked hard at the orphanage and helped us learn about Moldova and the best way to help the orphanages.
On one of our trips to Moladova, Stella was no longer there. We looked for her, but didn't find her until it was too late. At 16, the kids have to leave the orphanages. Sex traffickers promise the kids a new life, but instead they are abused up to 40 times a day until they die.
They disappear into that dark world, a good portion into other countries as sex slaves and are abused until they die horrible deaths. It is a multi-billion dollar market and Moldova has been called The Engine of Sex Trafficking as Moldova is so poor and has so many orphanages. Officials tip off sex traffickers, when a young girl is forced to leave an orphanage.
Stella's heartbreaking story and the wider tragedy of what happens to so many vulnerable young girls when they are thrust on to the streets of Moldova, led us to mount an all-out rescue effort.
Today that ministry is known as Stella's House, in honor of that beautiful young girl who should never have faced such an awful fate.
Stella’s House in the Moldovan capital provides refuge for teenage girls forced to leave the orphanage at age 16— these girls would otherwise face a dangerous life on the streets, prey for sex traffickers and other criminals. Construction of Stella's House No. 2 was completed on August 2008 and we are working on Stella's House No. 3 as the funds are available.
There are so many young girls thrust into a frightening world, they innocently will go with anyone who is nice to them and makes them promises of a good future. We get as many as we can.
We let them stay as long as they want and need to as we give them a foundation on which to build. They are so loving and caring, they are as much a blessing to us as we are to them.
I have been ministering for almost forty years, but what I am about to share with you has moved me as much as anything I have ever experienced.
On a Thursday, half a year ago, a pastor came from Crestview, Florida to visit me. I had never met Mark English, but I knew the first time we met that it was a divine appointment.
We sat in my office and wept together for the needs of the young girls at Stella’s House in Moldova that God has put in our care.
Pastor English asked me when I could come and speak at his church. Because I spend so much time in Moldova these days, I’m very careful to use all my available weekends in America for ministry.
I can’t remember the last time I had a Sunday off, but in the amazing timing of God, I was able to go and preach in Crestview that very weekend. This also happened while we had some of the girls from Stella’s House here visiting, so I took three of them with me. They performed a special human video and I spoke.
At the end of the service while I stood greeting many of those who were there that morning, a family approached me and told me that they were visiting from Texas. They told me how moved they had been by what we were doing at Stella’s House.
The daughter, Kate, wore a wig, which as I learned later, was there because of the effects of chemotherapy. As we laughed and spoke, I had no idea that Kate would have such a profound effect on my life. I did not know Kate was dying... At just sixteen years old, Kate was battling a cancer that was eating through her spine.
We all went home and resumed the whirlwind of activities that fill our lives. Then, just before Christmas, Kate’s mom, Julie, called our office and told us just how sick Kate was. Julie also told us something that moved me to my core... Kate wanted to sell her car and give the money to help the kids in Moldova.
As you can imagine, I live in a blizzard of words; so many people saying so many things, making so many promises. But often, no matter how well intended, the words are often all that happen and not much comes from them. But not this phone call...
A dying girl with eternity coming towards her, could see so clearly and feel so deeply that she looked beyond her own suffering to give into the lives of girls she had never met.
Last week, they called again. Kate had lost her battle with cancer. At the end, she was paralyzed from her chest down and as her mom cared for her, she was left with no doubt that Kate’s burning passion was still for the kids of Moldova.
After Kate passed, they found a piece of paper which Kate called: “My itty bitty will.” She left instructions that not only her car, but her laptop, her Nintendo DS and a few other things be sold and the money given to help Stella’s House. Even at her Memorial Service, there were to be no flowers, only donations for Stella’s House.
As I thought about Kate, I remembered Stella. She died of at age nineteen. Both were so young. One died comfortless and alone... the other died of a disease that ravaged her, surrounded by tenderness and love. Yet these two girls, so many miles apart in distance and universes apart in experience, were somehow unified in the purposes of God in a church in Crestview, Florida.
Out of bitter sorrow and pain, life and hope are springing. Stella endured the tragedy that gave birth to Stella’s House and now Stella’s House 2 and hopefully 3, so that there would be no more young girls would have to go through what she did.
Kate, with a compassion that filled her last days, for the young girls in Moldova, is helping make sure the miracles continue.
In the years to come, who knows how many hundreds of young girls will be spared unspeakable horror because of Stella... and now because of Kate.
Kate’s last wish was to give everything of value she possessed to help save teenage girls in Moldova. It was her “widow’s mite,” literally all that she had. As her so-short life drew to a close, Kate spoke to her mom and wondered if she would ever be remembered.
I think I can safely say that as long as this Scotsman has breath left to tell her story, she will never be forgotten!
I spoke to Kate’s parents, and asked if I could tell you about her. In her memory, I want to take that “widow’s mite” of hers and change the lives of as many girls as we possibly can.
I believe God wants us to do two things: One is to dedicate every gift we receive in response to this letter to Kate’s memory.
On one of the walls at Stella’s House, Kate’s picture will soon be there. No one who gave so much love to these young girls should ever be forgotten by them or by any of us.
Secondly, with these special memorial gifts, I am going to purchase a new van for use at Stella’s House. We desperately need to replace both our vans. These vehicles are worked to death as we take the girls to church and school and so many other places and the staff use them to get the endless groceries and supplies that so many girls need.
Kate wanted to sell her car... Now she will make it possible for her Moldovan sisters to have a much-needed vehicle.
I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to ask every member of my staff to give a special gift in honor of Kate, and Chrissie and I will be doing the same. I pray you’ll join us.
We don't have to re-invent the wheel. There are plenty of missions already in place, crying for help... This one is an excellent one. A gentle reminder, we can all do something.
Have a great day...