The Sunshine School Ringers

Linda Gyrsting Elkan is a freelance writer living in New Hampshire with her husband, Matthew and their disabled son Jack, whose adoption from Latvia was inspired by their trip to Romania with RCE.

    “The principal is here! We can start.”  The small classroom in Arad, Romania, crowded with chattering teachers and aides, suddenly became quiet.  A visiting camera crew started filming.  All eyes and lenses were focused on eight disabled schoolchildren.  Some of them were orphans abandoned to horrible state institutions and rescued by RCE; some were local neighborhood kids with disabilities that made access to local public education impossible.
    I faced the children standing before me in a semi-circle, one seated in his wheelchair, each clasping a hand chime.  They looked slightly terrified, but ready to play.  Smiling reassuringly, I pointed to a series of bold numbers I had written on large half sheets of cardboard resting on a music stand.  Slowly, sweetly, sublimely, the children played, ringing out the unmistakable strains of Silent Night, a tune that crossed the cultural borders effortlessly.
    As the music filled the room, I thought back to my home church, Fourth Presbyterian in Bethesda, Maryland, where it all began.  Listening to the enthusiastic exhortations of a visiting pastor during a Missions Emphasis Week, I remembered a dream I once had of becoming a foreign missionary.  But I quickly concluded that with three small children and a husband committed to legal work investigating fraud on the US commodities markets, it was unlikely God was asking me to leave my home and become a foreign missionary.  Wistfully, I admitted there were some aspirations I would probably never achieve, but surely there was work I could do right in Bethesda.  Wandering around a few Sundays later, I noticed a room full of disabled adults having a special Sunday school hour with a few dedicated volunteers.  When their lesson finished, I introduced myself and asked if they would like some music in the class.  With instructions from a video I discovered, I learned to re-write hymns using symbols familiar to my students so that without any musical training whatsoever they were able to play recognizable pieces.  The Special Blessings Hand Chimes choir was born, and was soon invited to play twice a year in the sanctuary as well as for occasional special events.
    Six years later, in the spring of 2008, I sat in church amazed to see a young woman, Nicoleta, who had been rescued by RCE, adopted, enrolled in school and now brought to Fourth Church to help raise awareness of God’s work at RCE.  This young girl, once abandoned, with legs crippled from botched surgeries, discovered by RCE workers tied to a crib in a psychiatric institution, stood in front of our huge congregation playing her flute.  The notes, halting yet clearly the melody of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, shattered all erroneous preconceptions I had had about the limitations of the disabled orphans of Romania.
    I approached Mary Ann Bell, founder of RCE, about bringing hand chimes to the Sunshine School and we eagerly planned a trip for the fall.  There was even a set of chimes in Arad, a gift from Fourth Church years earlier.  
    We decided to make it a family missions trip.  My daughter and I worked all week at the school, showing the teachers how to transform a hymn into cardboard sheets suitable for the children to follow and rehearsing with the students, while my husband and sons worked in the Poverty Prevention Program, cleaning and building a fence around the yard of a local poor family.  When my fourteen year old son, still fuming that we hadn’t yet bought him a cell phone, blurted out, “Dad, my bedroom is bigger than their whole house!” we knew the trip had been a life-changing blessing to our whole family.
    My thoughts returned to the eager little faces of the children before me.  As the last note rang out, the room erupted in applause, with hearty congratulations to the children and hugs all around.  The proud smiles on the children’s faces unleashed enough power to revitalize any weary worker laboring to educate, care for, love and maybe even adopt one of these fragile little souls.  I smiled too thinking that maybe I was a foreign missionary after all, even if only for a week.  “Hast thou not seen how all thy longings have been granted in what he ordaineth?”  Praise  to the Lord.




Sorin's House Opening


Last week Sorin helped cut the ribbon at the grand opening of RCE’s newest group home, which happens to be named after him. His art brightened the walls of the newly completed house where he and other young adults with severe disabilities will live on RCE’s Residential Campus.

A brass band welcomed local church partners, the Child Protection Department, neighbors and friends. Take a look at this clip of the celebration.

Watch it again and take note of Claudiu, a Darius House boy and special guest in the upcoming 5K RUN. He is playing the tuba. It has been his dream to play in a band and there he is doing so! And Ghitza, who now lives in Pecica House on the Campus, joins in spontaneously on the drums. It was a happy day.

Residents in RCE’s group homes are not measured or valued for their accomplishments or abilities but for their intrinsic value and worth as children of God. However, Sorin’s art is brilliant and enriches us all, and Boti’s smile brightens any day.  Knowing these young people is to know a little more of the heart of God who rescued them.

There was a time, and it is still true in far too many places around the world, that these kids would not be treated with dignity. But in this place there will be laughter and light – and yes, there will be some tears - but God’s people will be there to wipe away the tears.

With your help, and by God’s grace, we have created a place where Sorin can continue to use his gift as an artist; where Boti and Adina can work in the garden and help care for the chickens and rabbits and vegetable garden; a place where Leti can grow old with dignity.

Thank you for your generous gifts, your prayers, and your support that made Sorin’s House a reality.

Mark your calendars for April 28th and come join Claudiu . . . and RUN FOR THEIR LIVES! Click here for registration and details!


Baking a Cake

Some of the classes from Sunshine School are vocational classes, where students learn through more practical daily activities rather than math, Romanian, or history. These classes have older kids, and they learn to mix snacks, clean their room, wash dishes or cook.


One of these lessons proved just how fun learning can be, when they baked an apple cake! Everybody had something to do: cut the apples, mix the eggs and yogurt, and mix the flour with sugar. The hard part was waiting while the cake was in the oven and then waiting again for it to cool down.
The kids had a special guest for this activity, Doina Martin, as a mother who cooks at home for her family. The kids listened to her very well, and the result was a delicious cake!
Thank you very much for all who give so that we can provide all the supplies kids needs in their learning process. Enjoy the video! Sorry we can't post the cake to share too...

Snow Day!

Life has been hard for Dani, Luci, and Marian. And they are only 5 years old! Abandoned by their families – all three little boys came to live in RCE’s Darius House over the last 12 months. They have been labeled as ‘disabled,’ but most of their challenges come from neglect and abuse. All three are high-functioning and have great expectations to thrive in the loving, recuperative environment at RCE. The boys attend the Kindergarten class together at Sunshine School and are affectionately known on campus as ‘the babies’.  

RCE takes fun seriously for children who have been denied the joys of childhood. You can see that in this note and short video from Lorena Martin (Assistant to the Director).

We had a great time today, playing in the Snow with Luci, Dani And Marian, the babies from DH. They love Snow!

The weather today is great! Bright shinny sun and amazingly white Snow!

God is So Good! Their smiles and fun can light up your day!

Enjoy it!


thank you for running for their lives.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who ran for their lives Saturday morning at Landon! We had amazing weather and loved seeing so many of you (almost 200 supporters!) come out to help this work we are all doing together, by God's grace, to rescue and care for "the least of these" in Romania.

Check out our recap video below and click HERE if you'd like to give to our campaign.


Our spring event this year is the FUN RUN on Saturday, April 28th from 8:15-10:15am at the Landon School in Bethesda. This year we have an official timed cross country 5K and a half mile fun run/walk suitable for families with young kids. The run/walk starts promptly at 9:00 and brunch follows the race.


Our special guest this spring is Claudiu who was rescued at age seven by RCE after living much of his young life on the streets. He is accompanied by Cipri and Lorena, two of his excellent teachers at Sunshine School. By God's grace, Claudiu is surrounded by the loving and supportive community at Darius House.


If you are interested in creating a personal fundraising page and asking friends and family to sponsor you to participate in the 5k or Fun Run, please click HERE.

If you would like to donate please click HERE and scroll to the bottom.

RCE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and all donations are tax-deductible.
All donations go directly to helping children like Claudiu, so each gift truly makes a difference.

With your help, we can continue to end cycles of abuse and poverty by giving kids like Claudiu a hope and a future.