“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31
I grew up going to Heritage Bible Church with my family. As a young child, I attended Sunday School and Pioneer Girl’s Club (I think this is what it was called). In Sunday School, I remember hearing about and praying for Dorothy Kopper, missionary from Zaire. I really had no clue who she was, at the time, but that she represented our church and we supported her. Later, in Jr. High, I participated in AWANA with Jerry Koop and Paul Giesbrecht and had wonderful Sunday School teachers, Juanita Nord and Orvil and Eloa Kroeker, who taught me the importance of having a real relationship with my Lord and Savior. In high school, I was involved in youth group, going on every trip possible, attending Bible Studies, and being a student leader. Probably the one thing that impacted my life the most and where I am today is the fact that I participated four year on mission’s trips to Mexico.
When it was time for me to go to college, I chose Fresno Pacific University, however, God had other plans. God sent me to Tabor College, where I learned how to be an independent, God-fearing woman. It was my desire to participate in some kind of missions trip during my college years, however, I never did for some reason or another. Up until this point I never in a million years imagined that I would be a missionary, serving the Lord in another country. It was always my plan and HOPE that I would be a teacher. God led me in the direction to be a 3rd grade teacher for seven and a half years at Heritage Christian Schools. While this fulfilled my desire of being a teacher, I felt like there was more I could be doing to bring the love and HOPE of Jesus Christ to others in the world.
During the time I was teaching at Heritage, I was also helping out with the youth group at HBC. I enjoyed working with the students; leading Bible studies, helping organize events and trips, and most of all being a mentor to the young women in our church. So how did this lead me being a missionary in Romania?
I had a friend that went to Romania during the summer of 2000. She had spent two weeks working with a team at a camp with orphan kids. When she came home from Romania and showed me her pictures and told her stories, I just knew that this was something that I wanted to do. That year, I ended up at Urbana with one of the high school girls and one of the college girls. I knew that I wanted to come to Romania, but wanted to come for a longer period of time. At Urbana, I met my friend Jen Schroeder with whom I had gone to college. I knew that she worked in Romania with an organization, but wanted to find out more information. This is when I first met Jim and Jodi Sorrels, founders of Heart to Heart International Ministries. They told me all about what they do in Romania and that they lead teams there every summer for about five weeks. Like I said, I wanted to come for a longer time because I had my whole summer free from teaching and I felt that I could make a bigger difference and build relationships to last a lifetime.
When I arrived home from Urbana 2000, I sent off my application to Heart to Heart and by February was accepted and signed up to go to Romania during the summer of 2001. I quickly raised the money needed for the trip and was amazed at the amount of support HBC gave me in the form of prayer, finances, and supplies.
That summer (2001), I traveled to Romania for the first time. I came to Romania not knowing anyone and to tell you the truth I was a little bit scared. I met up with five other people at LAX and we traveled together. A few of these people became some of my very good friends. Heart to Heart placed me on a team with two other American girls, one Heart to Heart staff member, and a couple of translators. We were sent to an orphanage in the southern part of Romania in a little village named Diosti. Jodi tells me that when they took us to the orphanage, I looked so scared, like I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into. Besides going to Mexico, I had never done anything like this before in my life. However, despite my fears, I had the time of my life. I lived at the orphanage, ate my meals with the kids, took very few showers and spent every waking moment with these kids that had become so precious to me. My team and I led a VBS type program, did Bible Studies with the older kids, and hung out with the kids; building relationships. The kids made such an impact on my life. When I came home from Romania, all I could think about was my precious little Bogdan who loved to give me hugs and beautiful Mirabela, the girl who stayed by my side the whole summer. I knew that I had truly left a part of my heart in Romania. God taught me so much about myself during the summer of 2001 and how much I needed to rely on Him through every circumstance.
During the fall of 2001, all I could think about were my kids in Romania and if I was ever going to see them again. In sharing with the high school kids at HBC about my experiences in Romania, some of the girls expressed the interest to possibly go with me. I just couldn’t get the kids off my mind. So, I made plans to return to Romania along with Laurel Delamater and Jessica Ahl the following summer.
Things were different the second time around. Our team was a very young team and our translators were guys. We lived in a little house behind the orphanage that didn’t really have running water and we were not allowed to eat our meals with the kids. We walked about two kilometers each way to a ladies house for our meals. It was during this summer that a special needs orphanage from Craiova (about 30 minutes from Diosti) brought their kids for vacation in the countryside to Diosti. This was probably the first time I had really had to deal with special needs kids. It was very challenging but rewarding at the same time.
Leaving Romania in 2002, I knew that I would be back for the summer of 2003. There was just no way that I could abandon the kids that I had come to love and the country that had made such a huge impact on my life. When I arrived home, my mind was already planning what I wanted to do next. As I shared with Joe Brown, we discussed the possibilities of taking a group of high-school students and the rest was history. Four students, Darla Rea, and I made plans to go to Romania for the summer of 2003. We joined up with another smaller high school team led by Mark Saber. Together, Mark and I led this team.
For me, returning summer after summer was becoming a bit of a habit and I knew that God was pushing me to do something bigger. So, I began to pray about what God wanted me to do next. I was at a crossroads in my life and was ready for something new if that was what God had for me. And so it was to be. God showed me through a sermon about Jonah that I was to go to Nineveh (Romania) to spread the word of God to the hurting and HOPELESS orphans of Romania.
My decision to up and move to Romania came over Labor Day weekend 2003. I wrote an email to Jodi Sorrels who said, “Well it’s about time”; she obviously had known something that I didn’t. I told my parents, who weren’t too happy about the decision, but I pacified them with the fact that it was only a two-year commitment. Then I had to make the biggest decision of all. When do I leave? I had two choices: Right after Christmas or at the end of the school year. I knew that it would be better to be in Romania after Christmas because I could start language and then be ready to help lead teams by summer time, but was that fair to my students? I spoke with the administration and they were okay with me leaving half way through the year. And so the process began of raising money and preparing to leave.
In four short months, I sold my house, car, and the rest of my “stuff”, put a few things in storage and had all my money raised. By Christmas time, I had things all squared away and was ready to go. January 8, 2004 I embarked on the journey of my life and I haven’t looked back since. Yes, there have been hard times but God promises that He is there to always take care of us during those times. Heritage Bible Church has taken very good care of me and I am so thankful for a loving, faithful church.
God is truly an amazing God because when we choose to follow him, He blesses us with more than we can ever imagine. He is a faithful God that gives us the desires of our hearts. Psalm 37 is one of my favorites where it says, “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”
I have lived in Romania now for six years and God has shown himself to me over and over again. Many people ask me, “How much longer, Jenny?” My only response is that I am waiting on the Lord to make known His perfect plans for me.