Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Evazatu and Its Pictures of Poverty

“Mine eye affecteth mine heart.”Lamentations 3:51a

What follows was part of a newsletter I emailed home to my family and friends, on occasion, while I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania. This was written about eight and a half years ago, and this particular newsletter was about the gypsy community who my church ministered to in Onesti (pronounced “oh-nesht”). I decided to keep this article written in the present tense. The verse above is an apt summary of how God used these pictures of poverty to affect my heart and teach me lessons that I continue to process today.
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EVAZATU is the name of the bloc apartment building (above) that is located across the street from the church I am a member of while I lived in Romania. What distinguishes it from the other blocs (as these Communist-era buildings are called) in Onesti is the fact that it houses mostly gypsies. It is also notoriously known as the worst place in Onesti because it is also the location of many thieves and prostitutes, as well as individuals and families who just cannot afford to live anywhere else.

From what I know, the rent for a one-room apartment runs about 200,000 lei, or roughly $6 a month. There are one and two-room apartments, and as of the writing of this newsletter home, I have only seen what a one-room apartment looks like.

I have personally nick-named it the ghetto of Onesti. Many people are afraid to enter the bloc, as it is perceived, with validity, as a dangerous place.

For those familiar with the way many immigrants live together crammed into a small apartment or house in America, Evazatu’s brand of housing is no different. My friend and fellow church member, who is pictured below on the right holding her niece, lives in her room with her five sons, not to mention probably about 100 cockroaches. Two of her boys sleep on the bed/couch with her, and her other three boys sleep on the floor.


You can’t see it very well, but her “stove” is under that black pot of rice soup on the right in this photograph. It is a brick that is wrapped with a piece of metal coil that heats up when plugged in. This is a very dangerous contraption, having already caused a small fire, which burned her curtains in the background, and at the same time, it is a precious commodity, many in Evazatu having to share the use of one to cook their daily meals.

They have one sink in the room, which is also shown below, and that sink is the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry sink, all in one. Above her sink is her family’s “medicine cabinet.”


The toilets are shared in Evazatu and are located at the end of the halls (pictured below).




At the end of the halls garbage is swept into a pile, as if to keep it out of sight.

Many of the children and church members that go to my church live in Evazatu, so I have gotten to know some of its stories very well. Probably one of the saddest stories is about a four or five-year-old boy who would show up to church from time to time. His father has been in jail for a while, and his mom was just arrested for prostitution. He is terribly abused by his mother, the signs of which have been observed in my church frequently. He just stays with a neighbor (I hope), but he should be picked up by the state, as he no longer has parents that live there. He is treated like one of the stray dogs in Romania, abused by both children and adults that live in Evazatu. He loves my dear friend and sister in Christ, who teaches the children’s class at my church, and who also gave him a piece of her cake the night before writing this. It was probably the best thing he ate that day. I have reported him to the authorities, and now we are just waiting, and praying, that he will be cared for soon.

It is my opinion that poverty looks the same everywhere, and Evazatu is only one glimpse into its face—the poor being always with us.

“For ye have the poor with you always, 
and whensoever ye will ye may do them good.”—Mark 14:7a

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UPDATE: Many years later, while I was settling back into my American life, tragedy struck the family I featured in this update. There was a fire in her apartment in which two children died, one of whom I know was her youngest son at the time I lived there. We may never understand fully why such tragedies happen, but I thank God that He can turn the ashes of our lives into beauty and that He has faithful servants throughout the world able to minister to the needs of the communities they have been called to serve. The biggest need—salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The little boy in the middle was the one who died in the fire.
One of his brothers is on the left, and his mother on the right.



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