Our Story - Gabi Illioi

One of God’s greatest gifts to mankind is the ability to dream.

Some children dream of becoming great people, strong and full of glory. Others dream of becoming teachers, engineers or famous actors. For some, dreams come true, while for others dreams crumble, transforming into simply a desire for survival.
When I was two years old, my father passed into eternity. I do not remember him, but according to my family, I did call him father. I do not remember the last time he caressed or kissed me, the last time he wrapped me in his warm and protective arms, the last time he spoke to me with sweet words, or the last time I was rebuked in love, but I certainly remember his absence in most stages of life. At parent-teacher meetings, I had only my mother to represent me. To me, she was both mother and father not only during school years, but for the rest of my life. When I had conflicts with other children, just like a normal child, I had the urge to threaten them that I would tell my father, but the lump in my throat stopped me from making such a statement. While for most children having a father was normal, for me it was no more than a sad dream. These were only a few circumstances in which I felt the painful absence of the man that I had the burning desire to call “father”.

I didn’t see it at a young age, but growing older I saw with certainty the promise that God made through scripture, saying, “I am a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.” (Psalm 68:5). Even though losing an earthly father caused me severe pain, the fulfillment of knowing that God is a Parent who will never leave me was much greater. Understanding what it meant to lose an earthly father and realizing my Heavenly Father’s involvement in my life, I began to dream that one day I would help people like me find the joy a supreme and eternal support offers.  Many years had to pass for this dream to begin to take shape.

God has the last word on creation.

In September 2010, I heard that a group of brothers from California were building a sanctuary for the church led by Pastor Medit Sanon in Jacmel, Haiti. Overwhelmed by the heartbreaking images of the January 2010 earthquake, which destroyed a country that was poor to begin with, I decided to join this wonderful project. In November 2010 I traveled for the first time to Haiti. I will never forget the experience of arriving in Port-au-Prince and the journey to Jacmel. It’s hard to describe the houses, the people, the smell, and the children who ran after our minibus over a mile just to get something from us.

Despite the fact that I checked the weather for the week we were to work in Jacmel, God, who has the last word on creation, had an entirely different plan. After one and a half days of working in good weather, Hurricane Tomas made its entry and put a stop to the activities undertaken with great devotion. The sky darkened and began a downpour that turned streets into rivers, the eaves of houses into showers and most tents into piles of wet rags. The next morning it was still raining heavily. Together with the pastor and another brother we decided to go see what happened in the city after a night of continuous rain. While traveling through the town, Pastor Medit received a call from a woman living in the refugee center Pinchinat. She wanted to be taken to a nearby school that served as the center for flood victims.

A dream of finding a dry place and little food.

I did not know God’s plan at that time, but He was fitting stone after stone in fulfilling the dream I had many years before. God arranged the framework in which Wilandine Normil, an 8-year-old orphan girl shivering in the cold rain, would be granted her dream of finding a dry place and little food. What a dream …

I took her in my arms and covered her with the heat of my jacket, and along with her I took in the car two more children living in similar conditions.  When the pastor returned to the car he found me together with three children.

I expressed my desire to help these children, and I did not have to put much effort in explaining why. Pastor Medit had a heart for helping, raising and educating orphans in Haiti, but God had not yet provided the financial possibilities to turn his desire into reality. We took the children to the pastor’s house, we washed them, dressed them and fed them, and then, with the pastor’s approval we went back to the center for flood victims to look for the children’s kin and ask permission to let them live in his care.

We returned to camp where we found one parent for each child, and after a brief explanation of what we wanted to do, the parents signed their children to us unreservedly. Moreover, parents of five other children, learning what we were doing, came begging and crying for us to take their children as well, because they are unable to feed them and feared that they would die of hunger. In the heat of the moment I made a simple calculation and thought that if my widowed mother in Romania managed to raise nine children alone, I would be able to financially support these eight children and together with my daughter in California, nine. Pastor Medit expressed his joy and willingness in raising these children, seeing it as a fulfillment to many prayers made to God in this direction.

Pure and faultless religion before God.

I returned home to California, but my heart remained largely in Haiti. I got in touch with Ovidiu Buliga, a dear friend from Detroit, and in December I went back to Haiti with him to take gifts to the children who were now part of Pastor Medit’s family. Together with Ovidiu, I taught the children their first song in Romanian: “I have a little heart.” I cannot express my joy when I saw these children, now 12 in number, who less than two months prior had no hope and no direction, singing and praising God. Moreover, everyone knew The Lord’s Prayer by heart. In time, by the grace of God, the number of children in care increased to its present number of 20.

In March 2011 I traveled to Haiti again, and discovered that the situation there had worsened. The large number of children, the work involved in their care and spiritual growth, and the dedication in spiritually growing the church, led our attention to imminent need of building an orphanage in Jacmel. It seemed that my dream was not a dream anymore, instead finding fulfillment in the real calling of God to help and raise orphans in that land.

James 1:27 states, “Pure and faultless religion before God our Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I want to call true believers to open their hearts to God’s challenge in helping orphans in Haiti.

If you wish to join me in my desire to truly live the life of faith based on the word of God, and to see the wonderful work done by Jesus in the lives of these children, please read about our plans and projects started in Jacmel, Haiti. May the Lord bless every sensitive heart that is ready to answer the call of ministry.

Gabi Illioi