Pip Pattison of Radford assists Bluefield College mission project in Romania
Integrating faith and learning is a major part of the Bluefield College mission. That’s why this past spring a group of the college’s students used the gifts they have obtained from the art classroom to share their faith with Gypsy children in Romania.
For 10 days, March 1-10, students Erin Darnell, Melissa Hubert, Celia Jones, Pip Pattison, and Emily Sears served on mission at the Ruth School in Bucharest, Romania. Part of Project Ruth, a charitable organization designed to improve the lives of Roma (Gypsy) families, the Ruth School is committed to giving education to disadvantaged Roma children in order to help them reach their highest potential.
Joining the effort, the Bluefield College mission team set out to paint an 83-foot mural inside the Ruth School. Led by staff members Walter Shroyer, head of the Art Department, and registrar Amanda Parks, who studied art while a student at Bluefield College, the students also used the week to share the love of Christ with the Roma children.
“I had prayed for a long time that I could use the talents God has given me in a way that is good for others,” said Jones, a graphic communication and art major from Brookneal, Va. “I feel like this was an opportunity to do that.”
Hosted by Providenta Baptist Church and Bluefield College alumna Brittany Garton, who works with Project Ruth, the students worked on art projects with the Roma schoolchildren during the morning hours of their mission days and on the mural project during the afternoon hours.
“The children here crave words of encouragement and positive interactions,” said Sears, a teacher education major from Hinton, W.Va. “I know there are so many children in America who need the same thing, and seeing how grateful the students at the Ruth School are has inspired me to go back to student teaching with a huge smile and the habit of constantly praising and telling my students ‘bravo.’”
The mission team spent more than 200 hours painting the mural, which featured images of city and country life, including stars in the sky, trees, a schoolhouse, a downtown city street, a church and stained glass window, mountains, and a river.
“Everyone worked very hard on the mural,” said Shroyer. “They all knew why we were there: to paint something beautiful for the kids in the Ruth School. It was one of the best weeks of my life. It was so gratifying to see the immediate impact you can have on people who are less fortunate.”
Beyond the mural, the team led singing and games for chapel service at the school. They also played soccer with the Roma children and participated in youth group activities at a local church.
“I was really grateful we got the opportunity to speak at chapel, because it gave us a chance to say that we came there for a reason,” said Jones. “And, that reason was for the students to be inspired and to not give up on what God can do in their lives.”
Garton not only assisted the group in their mission but also cooked for them most nights.
“Brittany is a great example for Bluefield College,” said Shroyer. “She is really making a difference in people’s lives, and she has such a love and passion for it. Knowing she graduated from BC makes me proud of our students, and her success in Romania makes me see great hope for the future.”
The students spent the last two days touring Romania, including Castle Peles, Castle Braun, a fortified church in Prejmer, the Palace of Parliament, the Transylvanian countryside, and the Carpathian Mountains. But, in the end, what they remembered most about the trip were the “inspiring, strong, and beautiful people” of Romania.
“Our driver told us several times, ‘My country is poor, but we are rich because we have God,’” said Jones. “I can’t think of a better lesson to take away from this experience. This one week we spent covered in paint and surrounded by Roma children has been a richer experience than anything dollars, euros, or ron could buy. It’s my prayer that I helped the Ruth School just a little, because this people, this place, and this country has a place in my heart forever.”
– Submitted by Chris Shoemaker, Bluefield College
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