As the children laugh and shout, sledging down a slope of hardened snow, their mother talks about the less enjoyable side of winter: the increased heating bills and the worry over money for food and firewood, as the family try and get by in below-freezing temperatures in a poorly insulated house.
Summertime eases the pressure on the family, with clothes drying quickly outdoors, berries, fruit, and vegetables easy to find and often pick for free, the house dry and warm, the days long and sunny, the work more plentiful. Winter is its opposite, with food becoming more expensive, the house growing damp and cold, the pressing need for heating always draining funds, work opportunities often drying up, and darkness setting in earlier.
At those times the family home feels less like a welcoming refuge and more a place of discomfort and desolation, a reminder of how precarious their lives are, as hunger and cold threaten to overwhelm them any moment.
Fortunately, the Neagu-Podu family are not left alone to try and survive winter without support. Enrolled on Mission Without Borders’ (MWB) family sponsorship programme, they receive regular material help, as well as emotional and spiritual support. Over the years, they have received clothes, shoes, household items, furniture, school supplies, toys, Christian literature, food and hygiene supplies. Whether winter or summer, the ongoing support makes their house a home, one where their children can grow up feeling safe and cared for.
Petronela said, “We are so fortunate to have Radu, the MWB family worker, who comes along and helps us in our need. Every month we’re given food, hygiene supplies and even clothes detergent which I’m very happy about, as I need to wash clothes every day. Buying food or any other essentials can become a great burden for us, especially in the winter when we need to spend about 500 USD or more on firewood alone to make sure we have enough for the whole cold season.
“As well as all the monthly packages, just before Christmas our children were overjoyed to receive Christmas presents from MWB. As parents, our hearts were overflowing to witness our children’s happiness, as we know too well that we couldn’t have provided them with presents like that on our own. We did manage to decorate the house a little and have some treats, but we could never have afforded such wonderful gifts.”
Like any parent, Petronela wants to offer her children the best she has, and she likes cooking their favourite meal, potato stew. About two years ago, the family’s stove broke down and MWB provided them with a new one.
Radu said, “They still talk about the stove almost every time we see them, and they’re so grateful for it.”
Over the years, Petronela and Horatiu have drifted away from God when they have questioned their faith amidst suffering, they have gone through, but they do believe that God exists and that he loves them. They are happy that their children in taking part in MWB’s Christian children’s activities and that they have had the privilege of going on summer camp, where they learned about God’s great love for them. And in the meantime, MWB is investing in the family’s wellbeing, modelling God’s love and care to them.
Radu said, “Petronela and Horatiu are doing their best with the little they have, and little by little, they’re making small changes to improve their lives. But like many, they come from a place of disadvantage and lack of opportunity, and it’s a daily battle for them to overcome their circumstances, both materially and spiritually.
“The family is open to the Word of God and I like visiting and talking to them and I’ll spend time playing with the children. I’m happy to be able to come along and help turn their attention back to God, hoping and praying that one day they’ll give their hearts to God and at the right time they will get to enjoy the beautiful mansions that Jesus has gone ahead to prepare for them.”
“I’m not sure what we would have done without Radu’s help,” Petronela said. “We wish all the MWB sponsors health, and we thank you for blessing us so much.”