Hi, my name is Cristina (Ispas) Dumitrescu and, as a Romanian refugee in US for over 33 yrs., I have volunteered for many community ministries and medical charities. My journey started way back in the 1980’s when I learned that one of the greatest blessing being on American soil is that you learn to give, not just to receive. It is for the joy of knowing you made a difference to someone, be it even one single soul.
You see, that single soul once was myself. Not allowed to purchase my full airline ticket from Romania when I left, I arrived in Italy without a ticket for USA. It was then that someone paid for me the airfare of $250.00, the ticket to my freedom, to arrive in New York City.
I never knew or met that person but the lesson remained with me for the rest of my life. It was not just gratitude, but a lot more. God wanted me to learn early in my journey that is only by giving that will be given to us and it does not stop there. When we receive, it is only to further keep giving, as a stream that keeps flowing never to lack precious water to give to all as it flows through. But how I got to be a volunteer for GMI, you ask.
God gave me the privilege to be acquainted with “Retorno al Eden” supportive ministry to GMI a couple of years ago. As I visited with them and shared my desire to serve in the health ministry, they introduced me to the work GMI is doing all over the world.
This is how, after much prayer, I became a volunteer with “Bolivia Health Support” – a GMI supportive ministry in 2013-2014. It was a lot to learn how the ministry operates and was confused for most of the time until I arrived at the July, 2015 GMI- Retreat, in Cleburne, Texas. There I got to know the various ministries GMI is composed of and the many miracles God has done for each one of them to even exist. Most of all, I got to meet and talk with Uncle David, the founder himself.
I was humbled by the experience as I have watched written all over him:” self-sacrifice”. Don’t get me wrong, he was bold with those he needed to be bold and soft with those that needed healing. The strength came in the wisdom to know the difference. This was learning time for me.
After a short counseling session with Uncle David I got the real understanding for my ministry with GMI and that was to go to Bolivia and research for myself the real health needs of the Bolivian people, be it spiritual or physical.
Did not quite grasp it how I was going to do it, as it was already a miracle in itself that I was able to attend the retreat, let alone to have the funds and time-off from work to travel to Bolivia! But as I was praying and walking in the dew of the morning through the “Shady Lakes Ranch”, where the retreat was held, I first heard a bird singing with up and down tones, as clear as a bell into my ear:
“Do it, do it, do it…”
Well, I thought, this is not enough. That’s strange how I felt that this was only part of a sentence…
Then to my surprise, as I kept walking and praying to understand the message, another bird with a different thrill came close in the trees and start singing just as clear as the first one:
“On your knees, on your knees, on your knees…”
Now was very clear that everything I will have to do to know my direction in this ministry will be on my knees in prayer, led little by little just as a father takes his child by the hand and guides the child to safety. The doing was a journey of understanding.
Oh, how grateful and peaceful the moment I understood the journey of my ministry!
This was the real beginning to know what a volunteer is all about.
Got home to Washington State and needless to say, God provided all I needed to arrive to Bolivia in August, 2015. Arrived at the Red Advenir International TV and radio station and soon I felt like home, especially when Richard Carrera, the station’s manager, together with his wife, Katia and children waited for me to get out of the customs late into the night at the Viru Viru International airport. I was stationed to stay at the “channel” and met the rest of the missionaries there. Yes, they are the true missionaries- they left everything behind and came to serve God the best they knew how. Their hat was too big for my head- me, just a volunteer in owe of what God can do with a simple human life…
And there was Richard and Katia, sister Becky, Sarai and Federico, Jessie and Rindra, Franz, Herardo, Eliezer, Edwin, Oliver, Mirta and Miguel, Luis and his wife, Irma and Alejandro, Romina and Ruben, Sone and Derek, Helen and Steven, Heidi and Nancy, Pedro, Gualberto, Julie (and I am sure I forgot a few) who were there when I first arrived. God shone through each one of them His love and total peace in His guidance for their life. Soon I was on my way to the “Advenir Centro de Salud” with Sister Becky getting to know how it functions and hoping to get acquainted more with the health needs of Barrio Lindo community. Little by little I visited a few health facilities in Santa Cruz and found out how the health system works there. Most of the hospitals do not have a pharmacy nor do they have a Central Service for the orthopedic or operating room necessities. Health insurance is optional and so is the treatment one receives even when brought to the Emergency Department. The main outcome of one’s health care is mostly dictated by their finances or by their circle of influence. One thing that impressed me from the very beginning was the lack of health education and mainly simple hygiene. Together with Sister Becky and with her guidance I was starting to see the needs and how to approach it and she was setting the example in the first place. The dedication and self-sacrifice was once more seen as a theme underlining all that she was doing for both the campus missionaries as well as the outside community.
True team work was experienced in our little Red Advenir community when we all had to pull together to host a church wedding shortly after pastor David arrived from La Paz. What a blessing to see the unity and enthusiasm we all shared in this beautiful event.
In the second part of my volunteer journey of learning the needs and observing the interactions within the community, I was asked to have an active role in having a seminar for
the Barrio Lindo Advenir Centro de Salud. Was very glad God has given me this opportunity, as I could see the greatest need in prevention rather than just treatment of health disorders. Soon the subjects came naturally to mind as “Nutrition and Hygiene” being the main blocks of preventative medicine. Saray, our Advenir Centro de Salud manager, went to work immediately in putting together the community flyers. Mirta, the professional Physical Therapist on Red Advenir campus, worked intensely together with me to finalize the translation of the syllabus and the handout. Day before the presentation we were also able to put together 15 hygiene kits to give out at the end of the presentation. Everybody seemed to enjoy the blessing in having their part in making this happen. Prayed that the community would be receptive and share in the same blessing as we were. We arrived in time at the Health Center ready for whatever God would work that day for our little Barrio Lindo community. But was I in for a surprise…Just when we think we are ready, the enemy throws at us a little unknown. Nobody but one soul showed up in the last 15 minutes of the time allowed for the seminar. What went wrong, what could I have done better, is the community really in need for teaching or something else? All were legitimate questions with that kind of a response- it had to be as it was a first in my professional nursing carrier. One thing was clear to me- God has allowed this for a specific purpose. But what was the purpose? I could not see it right away. From here I went and accepted other invitations to further observe other needs that Bolivians struggle with such as single parenting, orphans, abandoned disabled elderly, mentally or physically disabled children and young adults, home bound poor disabled as well as acute surgical procedure needs and pharmaceutical treatment in the hospital. By the time I was ready to depart Bolivia, God made His purpose very clear to me. Each one of us is a life line to someone or something in this world. Before this trip I had a dream: a voice out of the Sanctuary commanded me;
“Don’t forget what you left and don’t leave what you have found” Little did I know what it really meant then. But I know now. Yes, God may not always answer our prayers the way we expect or we want. But He will always answer. He always does. The question is: am I ready to accept it? Yes, I am.