Lubbock native spends summer loving orphans in Romania

Despite lots of tears and struggles, Jodi Henderson wouldn't hesitate to repeat her summer experience.

"It was the hardest and most heartbreaking summer, but it was the best," she said. "I'd go back in a heartbeat if God provided the way."

A senior at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Henderson spent two months this summer in Targu Mures, Romania on a mission trip through Buckner Orphan Care International. One of five 10-person teams sent to Romania, she was a member of a team that worked in Romanian orphanages.

Henderson said the daily routine was simple: teach God's love, then show it. The team would spend the mornings teaching Vacation Bible School in a special needs orphanage for children ages 4-8. In the afternoons, they would visit infant orphanages and "love on babies."

"These babies weren't being picked up all day long. The little ones have stiff backs and the older ones are developmentally delayed," she said. "The number of orphans in Romania has doubled and the ratio of caregivers to babies is 11 to 1. They spend the entire time just feeding and changing diapers. There's really no time to love on the babies."

Henderson said it wasn't uncommon for orphan babies to either get attached easily to the visiting missionaries or not at all. Many have also instinctively developed the "orphan rock" in which they comfort themselves by rocking alone.

Crowded orphanages are also not uncommon in Romania, Henderson said. The country closed itself to international adoption last year to work on improving their system. Since most families live in poverty, the chances for Romanians adopting additional children are slim. A foster program is getting underway in an attempt to alleviate the crowded conditions.

While in Romania, the teams did not do outright evangelism as much as they just showed God's love on a hands-on level. By teaching the children basic Bible stories, verses and songs, Henderson said the group laid a foundation for others to present the gospel down the road. Since none of the team spoke Romanian, the group depended on interpreters but also found that in some instances it wasn't necessary.

"God just took over the language barrier and showed us there's no barrier he can't break down," she said. "The kids there are so hungry for love and that's what we were giving them. They were easy to love and they seemed to come a long way during the summer."

Henderson said she first learned of the mission opportunity from her mother Karen, who traveled to Romania for a week last year with First Baptist Church in Lubbock. After her daughter sat in on a meeting about upcoming trips, she said she felt God calling her to go as well.

The Lubbock native admits she had no idea what to expect, but had seen television documentaries about the country. The reality of the orphan situation hit her hard.

"I had to depend on God to get me through the days. I was so heartbroken for the kids that I'd be sick at my stomach. I realized my love wasn't enough for them," she said. "You realize you have too many clothes, too much to eat and, if it's possible, too many people to love you. You just want to share everything with them."

Henderson said she found peace and comfort in several Bible passages during her time in Romania. Specifically, she mentioned Mark 10:14, in which Jesus said, "Let the little children come unto me," and First Corinthians 3:7, which states, "Neither he who plants or waters is anything, only God, who makes things grow."