Monday, December 14, 2009

Thank you for smiling...

About a month ago, I was on my way to the hospital to visit the children and make balloons for the little patients with Danci. He told me to meet at 10, but I was early, so instead of taking the tram I decided to walk thru the park instead and that way I wouldn't have to wait at the lobby for that extra half-hour.
On the way there, I noticed a line of shabby looking people waiting in front of a gate that went down a few steps to what I could see was a kitchen. I figured this was a homeless kitchen run by some kind of organization and I wrote down the info so I would google it at home.
I found out it's called the Magyar-Maltai and it's sort of like Caritas here in Hungary. A few days later, I met Danci in town and I made him come down with me to ask if they could use an extra pair of hands every now and then. The people working there were happily surprised to hear that I wanted to help. They told me they are open every working day from 6 to 12 in the morning and that if I didn't mind waking early I could come and help them butter bread and serve the tea.
Ever since, I've been going there once a week, usually on Tuesdays and I serve the tea and help clean up.
I don't do much, I sometimes can't make out what people are telling me and have to get someone else to repeat the question that was asked. I smile, say good morning, serve the tea, fill the bottles and if I understand at all what they tell me, I nod and perhaps answer in my poor Hungarian.
One day as I was serving tea, I was thinking to myself that perhaps it was silly of me to come at all--there was nothing I could offer these people. And believe, some of them are in real need--they have no homes, no hot meals, no place to go, no money to support their families, and all I was doing was serving tea. My friend Eden always says that if she had all the money in the world, she would build houses for the homeless and provide places for them to get ahead in life. But unfortunately we don't and what we do give away seems so insignificant compared to the need.
Those were my thoughts that morning as I filled cups when an older man, looking very raggedy and slovenly took his cup and said "Thank you for smiling..." Here he was, without a house, probably cold and hungry and he was thanking me for smiling.
And I realized that even if we don't have all them money in the world, and we cannot build houses and hospitals, every act of love that we do, counts. Believe it or not, even a smile!

Nell and I--Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


For those of you who don't know what I have been up to ever since I came back from Romania this summer, I will get you updated:
-On October I came back from a one-month seminar/camp for young volunteers held in Timisoara, Romania
-I moved out from Erd. Now I live in Budapest (close to Savoya Park, on the XIth distict) with a family with 4 children.
-I go to the Janos Korhaz with Danci pretty much every two weeks, on Friday.
-Once a week (usually on Tuesdays)I go help out the Magyar-Maltai Szeretetszolgalat kitchen for homeless, right on Moszkva Ter.
-With a friend we go to the Orthopedic Clinic, by Karolina Utca, to visit the children's ward once a week, on Thursday around 6pm.

These are just some of the projects I am personally involved with. I will try to post photos, as soon as I can get a camera.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support!! God bless you!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A simple life

This story always made me laugh...

An American buisnessman was at the pier of a small Mexican coastal village whena small boat with just one fisherman docked. In the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “Only a little while”
The American then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish.
The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife Maria. Then I stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

“I am a Harvard MBA,” the American scoffed, “I could help you. You should spend more time fishing. With the proceeds you could buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to middleman you would sell directly to the processor eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you would run your expanding enterprise.”

The fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”

“Fifteen or twenty years.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with you r grandchildren, take siestas with your wife Maria, and stroll to the village in the evening where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”—Author unknown

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Yesterday was the birthday of one of my dearest friend. His name is Joe and he is a volunteer in Tanzania, along with his wife and baby son. Because it was his birthday, I thought a lot about him--the way he made me smile, the moments we shared together, all the happiness he brought along. I've been blessed with his friendship.

I read this quote recently: "A friend--the one who comes in when the whole World has gone out" and it got me thinking of the many wonderful friends I have.
Each one, unique in their own way, have brought sunshine into my life, and helped me face the storms that threatened to blow away my courage, my faith, my dreams.
Some friends have been around for a long time, others I've met recently, but all of them are treasured and I am so thankful for them all. For believing in me, for lending an undestanding hand in difficult situations, for holding me when I broke down in tears, for creating magic in my life.
I don't know much about life and how things are supposed to be--all I know is I am here today thanks to the support of many incredible people I am proud to call friends.
And I love each of you! Thanks for your friendship! Happy Birthday Joe Crosby in Africa!!!

Perhaps this is love after all, to bring so much sunshine into the other person’s life that the shadows vanish. There is no room for darkness in a place where the light shines brightly.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What Auschwitz taught me

I visited Auschwitz during my stay in Poland—Auschwitz was the largest of Nazi Gerrmany’s concentration and extermination camps during World War II.
Reading about it and actually going to see the place are two very different things. I knew what to expect—I watched movies, seen documentaries, and read countless books on the subject and yet that didn’t prepare me to the horrors of the place.
I visited the chambers, saw thru the windows the suitcases that were taken away from the prisoners and thrown in great piles. I went down to the basement of Block 11—also known as the Prison within the prison, and saw the standing cells, the starvation cells and the dark cells—one of which Father Kolbe gave his life to save another prisoner sentenced to death and died of starvation in August 14, 1941.
I walked the execution yard and ran my fingers through the wall where prisoners were lined up and shot. I went into the gas chambers and the showers.
I cried when I saw photos of the children, and when I heard the stories of the prisoners. Each story became my own, each person as part of my family. It’s difficult for me to understand the extent of human cruelty against its fellow man. Aren’t we all the same in the eyes of the Lord?
As I walked from building to building, and saw the brutality and horrible conditions of the place I couldn’t help thinking of those I love—my friends, my family, those I work with. I thought that I would never let another moment pass me by without letting them know how special they are—how much they are loved.
Auschwitz taught me that every life is important, that every person is unique and must be respected. Auschwitz taught me that in order to make the world a better place, we have to accept one another. Auschwitz taught me that love is all that matters—and we have to show it.

Daniella and I with the kids in Deva during our English Camp in July 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Delta Academy 2009, in Timisoara-Romania

The whole month of September I helped hosting and organizing a youth Camp, called the Delta Academy, for young volunteers from all over Western and Eastern Europe. We had kids from Russia, Poland, Hungary, Spain, UK, Italy, Germany and various other countries participating in a one-month training program on how to relate to people, better their managerial skills, take initiative in their line of work and well as putting them in contact with other people their age who wish to become volunteers for charitable organizations.
It was a unique and rewarding experience for both attendees and staff and I very happy that I got the opportunity to participate in the event.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The goldfish lesson

This summer I got to meet my best friend Paula, she lives in Germany and last time we met was more than two years ago, so we had a lot of catching up to do. I told Paula how I want to do more, be more and achieve more than the little I’ve been doing so far. She told me
“Did you ever hear the story of the gold fish?” and then she told me about it, and when I went home I looked it up. Here it is, written by Peter Story:

When I was a kid, I saw plenty of goldfish in the houses of my friends, and I remember wondering why so many people would want to keep such small, unexciting creatures as pets.
Then one day, when I was about ten years old, I went on a school filed trip to a botanical garden that had a pond stocked with fish. One especially large, brilliantly colored fish stood out to me.
“What kind of fish is that one?” I asked our guide
“That’s a goldfish,” she replied.
I was confused “Aren’t goldfish supposed to be small?” I asked
“Not at all,” she replied “Goldfish will grow even larger than these. It really just depends on the size of their environment.”

Isn’t it sad that we keep swimming in a little bowl, and stay small, when expanding our horizons will make us grow accordingly? Paula reminded me that I don’t have to be content with going around in circles when I could swim oceans. Thank you Paula for your encouragement!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Meet the kids in Deva

Here are some of the children from the Szent Ferenc Institution in Deva, Romania. All the children were wonderful but these are some of the kids we've known for years...

Mona 13 with Kris (one of us)

Szasza 12

Roli 14

Krisztian 15

Danci and Noemi 12

Réka 13

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Exit Festival 2009

Novi Sad hosts the Exit Festival every year. This was my first time to go there. A group of us, volunteers from neighboring countries went there to talk to young people and perform music.
Serbians are wonderful people, warm and cordial, and make you feel at home.
We passed out a pamphlet called "The color of love" and we had signs that said "Free Hugs" and talked to a lot of young people who are disillusioned with the way the world is going and want to make things better, and encouraged them to keep trying. Love always pays off.

Free Hugs for everyone

my sister Sue and her friend Juliet after a group hug

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fair-weather Christianity

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a 15 year old boy. He told me that he cannot believe God loves him and wants the best for him, because he asked God to do certain things for him and He didn't, so he feels he might as well stop believing in God. Of course, being older and having seen a lot more of the world, I was temped to laugh and tell him he is being overly dramatic. But he was serious and I didn't laugh at him, I told him "Being a Christian is not a business transaction, where you do something for God and he does something for you."
So what exactly is being a Christian? I suppose following the teachings of the Master, not for what we can get out of it--that would never work, it would be hypocritical and hard to keep up.
My young friend declared God didn't love him, because He didn't give him what he asked for. I told him "God could very well say the say thing about you. But He doesn't, because God is not a fair-weather friend." Quite on the contrary, it seems we only come to Him when we are in trouble, when we need things, when we want a miracle. How would we react to a friend that only came to us when he needed something from us? Yet God is there for us, in the good times and in the bad times and doesn't judge us, because of his great love for us.
If being a Christian means that I believe in God only when things go well, then I am afraid that type of faith won't last long, it won't change the world and we might as well give it up. Real Christianity is believing in the unseen, and holding on to something bigger than ourselves, especially during difficult times.
Real faith never quits! Let's not be fair-weathered Christians. If other great men and women of God managed to keep believing, even under the most difficult and trying circumstances, why can't we? After all, God IS love!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Happy lives

Last summer we took a trip to a village in the south of Hungary to perform in the local Cultural Center, with our puppet theatre and our clown act. In the evening we stayed in a building that was partly a day-care center. It was really hot and we didn’t have fans or air conditioniting. Jeannette, one of the teen girls was complaining about the heat and she said we would all die. Danci told her "we will all die someday” and I said "Yes, but some of us would have lead happier lives…”
I wasn’t trying to be profound or poetic, I just thought of bringing a little humor into the conversation. But I thought about it a lot ever since, how we all will be gone one day and all that matters, more than accomplishments and climbing the ladder of success, is to lead happy lives—by following our dreams, wherever they might lead us. If we all have a mission, and we do, then it’s our duty to find out what that mission is and find the road that will lead us to the destination that we were meant to reach. And of course, everyone has a different mission, but I think that love is meant to be present in everyone’s journey and love will be our binding link and help us to find the happiness we seek .

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Letter from Anita

Anita is 17. She lives in Spain, where I lived a few years ago. With her family she goes down to Sahara every year to visit the refugee camps and bring humanitarian aid. This is an excerpt of the letter she sent me

Every year it gets better. It´s so amazing! It makes you look forward to your next trip with excitement, knowing you will encounter many wonderful opportunities, open doors, miracles that the Lord does and so much more.
Sahara really is a magical place, and the people are even more so. I admire each and every one of them for their love, spirit of giving, endurance, positiveness, faith, and sacrifice.The people there are an incredible sample, to all who visit them. Everyone who arrives at the refugee camps just wants to go back; they need to go back. I think it is because they come in contact with something that you cannot find too easily: pure love. These people are blessed by God. You can feel it! Their spirit, the way the live and interact with each other. Sometimes you feel like you just cannot get enough of them. They carry so much peace. It is wonderful to be around them.
I feel very blessed to have met the people from the refugee camps in Sahara and to be able to go on these trips. Even though I would have loved to stay there longer, I am very thankful for the time that I spent there. I really enjoy doing clown shows for the children. Seeing them happy and laugh is a wonderful experience. Your heart goes out to them and you feel like doing more and giving more & more to them, because they really do deserve it. I am glad that we were able to do all the shows that we did. All the schools we went to really enjoyed it and asked us to come back next year.
Singing at the cultural program that was taking place in "February 27th Refugee Camp" was something unexpected and exciting for us, as well as performing with a Saharaui group, which made me feel closer to them. It was amazing how the Lord led us to sing on TV, five songs that touch touched people`s lives. Those five songs that were about love, freedom and happiness! It was incredible to see how each of those songs really applied to them. It was wonderful to see how the Lord really does have everything under control, even though sometimes we don’t see it that way.
Now I am here, back in Spain, and all I wish for is to go back--back to those people I am now in love with, or perhaps is God´s love through me. I will be patient and wait for next year, trusting and knowing that even though I left them for some time, God didn’t, and He never will. He loves them and will always provide for their needs and be by their side, whatever may happen. He will never turn His back on them and knowing that calms my spirit, knowing that, as hard as it may sound, He does love them even more than I do, and they are in the best care in the world.
So now, all I can do is pray for them and trust God, and wait for the day that I can return and live with them 3 weeks. All we can do now is continue to trust God, and to give love away so that He can in return refill us with His new and pure love, so that we can once again give it to His children that need it.
Viva Sahara libre!!!!

Anita dressed in the traditional attire

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Counting blessings...

On the 10th this month I turned 29. I wrote a list of things I am thankful for.

-Having the Lord is the biggest blessing ever. Knowing He loves me, knowing he sees far ahead into the future and that nothing escapes his knowledge and that He is there for me, is more than enough.

-Being in Hungary—because I love it here. I am glad I live in a country where I like the people, the weather, the landscape, the food, the language, the traditions, and the mentality. It’s a privilege to be here!

-I am thankful for my family—their support, their prayers and their love.

-My life would be a desert instead of the garden it is if it wasn’t for my friends. I am eternally grateful for each and everyone of them.

-I am thankful that my life has been very interesting, that I traveled all around, that I have friends everywhere, that I speak three languages...I am thankful that my heart keeps young and bubbly and that inside I am 17 going on 16 :)

-I am thankful for the life I lead—for the kids that surround me, for the experiences I go thru’, and I am so grateful for the project in Deva—I love Hungary because of it! The children there changed my life!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mr. Brown

A few years ago, one of my good friends Paula and I watched a movie on our day off. It’s called "Mrs. Brown" and it’s about Queen Victoria and the relationship she had with her bodyguard after her husband, Albert, passed away. It wasn’t a blockbuster movie or anything, and although the acting was good and the story line sweet, I doubt many people have seen it.
Paula and I at the time lived with a family of 5 children, and both parents were full time counselors for our volunteer organization. It was sometimes a job without much excitement, just taking care of the kids, and making sure they did their homework, went to bed on time, brushed their teeth, and ate their veggies. I remember Paula always kept in mind that we were helping the parents to do their job, by taking care of the little menial tasks.
In the movie, Queen Victoria’s bodyguard, Mr. Brown, commits his life to serving the Queen and does it with passion.
We wanted to be like Mr. Brown and in our case our "Victoria” were the kids--we wanted to dedicate our time and energy into them and do it professionally.
Ever since that has been our motto, along with another girl who eventually took our place, when Paula got married and I went to help another family. That is pretty much the motto we want to live by, in any thing we do. If there’s anything that is our "Victoria” then we should be willing to be Mr. Brown. If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing all the way.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I met Zita in February—we were showing our project brochure to different companies and we went into the shop where she works, and that’s how we met.
We talked a little, and we explained the work we do, and the visits to the hospitals and summer camps for the orphans in Transylvania, and she was very interested in coming along.
We took her to the hospital in one of our visits and she loved it! She dressed up as a clown and talked to the children and helped me translate for the little ones.
Zita also will come with us this summer to the English Camp we are organizing. And we are very happy to have her come with us, because she has a good way with children and has a cheerful and sunny personality—and the best thing is that she is teaching me Hungarian.
Zita reminds me of what Mother Teresa wisely said “We don’t need to do big things, just little things with a lot of love”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Teaching to fish

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that goes “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat everyday”—in our line of work is very important to keep that principle in mind.
It’s all very nice and helpful to bring clothes, shoes, and food to the institutions we help, because there is a need and we have a way to meet that need. But that’s not all we do. By teaching children English, we give them the opportunity to expand their horizons—and yet that’s not the whole purpose of our ministry either.
Perhaps what we are really after, is to inspire the children to want more from life. To take the little they are given and build from that, to create a brighter future.
I have great hopes for some of this young people I’ve met in the different events we’ve organized. All they need is a little encouragement and someone to believe in them. Someone to teach them to fish. That’s what I am in Hungary for and doing the work I do, and I love it!

Children from a "Mother's Home" in Csepel, Budapest

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Looking at Stars

I met a guy recently who has great expectations and wants his life to mean something—he wants to change the world and make it a better place. But he told me that he looks around and gets discouraged, it seems the good one does goes to waste. Our society is such that people put great importance in getting things for themselves, and more and more people are losing the touch and all attempts to change the world are futile.
I understand and agree that it’s not easy to always be unselfish, caring, and giving, especially when such efforts are met with ungratefulness, misunderstanding and sometimes even rejection.
I heard a story when I was in my teen years that has always been an inspiration to me.

The story is told of how a young bride from the East who, during the pioneering days, followed her husband to an army camp on the edge of a desert in California. Living conditions were primitive at best. He had advised against her moving there, but she wanted to be with him.
The only housing they could find was a run-down shack near an Indian village. The heat was unbearable in the daytime, the wind blew constantly, spreading dust and sand on everything in the house. The days were long and boring because her only neighbors were the Indians, none of whom spoke English.
When her husband was ordered farther into the desert for two weeks, loneliness and the wretched living conditions got the best of her. She wrote to her mother that she was coming home—she just couldn’t take it any more. In a short time, she received a reply that included these two lines:
Two men looked out from prison bars,
One saw mud, the other saw stars.

She read the lines over and over and began to feel ashamed of herself. She finally decided to she would look for the stars.
In the days that followed, she set out to make friend with the Indians. She asked them to teach her weaving and pottery. At first, they were distant; but as soon as they sensed that her interest was genuine, they returned her friendship. She became fascinated with their culture, history—everything about them.
She began to study the desert as well; and soon it, too, changed from a desolate, forbidding place to a marvelous thing of beauty. She had her mother send her books and studied the vegetation in the desert—Later, she became such an expert that she wrote a book about it.
The desert didn’t change. The Indians didn’t change. Simply by changing her own attitude she had transformed a miserable experience into a highly rewarding one.

How easy it is to focus on the problems around it, on the lack of progress, on the impossibilities—and yet if we were to look for the stars in our sky, we will realize how vast the universe actually is.
I made a resolution in my life to always look for the stars—and the darker the night, the brighter they shine. The stars are out there, the mud too as far as I know, but let’s focus on the stars—it is after all the better alternative.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Love is a big EAR

Teenagers take up a great deal of my time. Children do as well, but because of the work I do, I am mostly surrounded by teens. It’s both a challenge and a blessing.
I've read couple of books reviews on how to talk to teens, and how to relate to them, and here are some notes I took from there:

To communicate your care for your teens remember that these things are needful: love, time and so important—love is a big ear! Learn to listen unconditionally.

Love, humility and prayer solve all problems

A sense of humor is one of the most essential additions to your bag when you’re around teenagers. It’s indispensable!

Work hard in getting to know your teens and liking them.

Praise and encouragemente are one of the most important parts of child training.

Whenever you think of teens, remember to pray for the. Praying is not the least you can do but the most.

More often than not, we adults don’t have the answers to the problems of the youth today—the world moves in a pace too fast for us to follow, and yet there’s one thing that works wonders for teens—unconditional love. When they know they belong and that they are important to someone. They will not expect you to always give them solutions but if you are willing to hear them out, they will thank you for it. Love is after all a big ear!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Deva Project

I’ve been in Hungary for two and and half years, and even since I moved here I’ve been involved in what we call “The Deva Project”. Deva is a city in Romania, near the border with Hungary (it used to be part of Hungary, what is usually referred to as Transylvania). A great percent of the population there speak Hungarian as well as Romanian, and that’s the reason why we first came in contact with the children there. The orphanages are run and under the care of Father Csaba, of the Franciscan order. He was the pioneer of both placing unprivileged children in families, and opening a school for the same children.
Most of the kids there have families, but are either too poor or they come from broken families and thus they are placed with other families who take care of them—some only for the school months and others all year round.
We have organized English Camps for two consecutive summers, and will host another one this year as well. We not only teach English to the kids who attend but also take them on hikes, play sports with them, sit around the fire in the evenings and play music, and encourage the children to try out new things and provide them with fun activities.
Personally this project is very close to my heart—I have made friends with many of the kids there and I am looking forward to seeing them again this summer.
Here are some of the photos of the children from the Summer English Camp as well as the trip we made there last December.

Matthew with Annamarie, one of the orphan girls

Alexandra, after finishing her English reading course

Drama class with the little ones

Playing a board game with the older kids

Stefan with two of the older boys who got winter boots

Friday, February 20, 2009

Clowns at the Hospital

Recently we began a new ministry in our center. We go to the children's ward at the Szent Janos Hospital and visit the children from room to room and make balloons for them. Here are some pictures...

Aaron dressed as a clown

Daniel handing out the balloon to a little boy

little girl with her balloons