DOTHAN, Ala. (ABP) — In 1998 Sonny Glover went to Romania on a missions trip looking to do church construction. Instead, he looked into the big, brown eyes of a young girl who changed his life.
The girl, a 4-year-old Romanian orphan, was one of many children living in the streets and train stations, even along the train tracks. In Romania, abandoned street children begin using drugs as early as 8 years old, and many girls in their early teens have babies. The street children rarely attend school and exist by begging on the streets.
It was a scene that touched Glover's heart — individual faces he knew he'd never abandon.
Glover, a Dothan automobile dealer, has been back to Romania every year since 1998 and now goes every three months for a two- to three-week stay. “God has given me a vision of building 10 canteens in 10 Romanian cities,” said Glover, a member of Bethel Baptist Church in Dothan. The
Romanian cantina — the origin of Glover's word “canteen” — means a place to eat. But Glover wanted to create much more — a safe place for children to go, be fed and clothed, hear Bible stories and learn personal hygiene.
His vision burst into reality in 2001 when Glover and his wife, Sarah, established “Food for the Children,” a registered nonprofit charity in America and Romania, and purchased two primitive buildings on two acres of land in Cruceni, Romania.
Now modernized and fully equipped with gas appliances, electricity, bathrooms and showers, the facilities also have a full kitchen where hot meals are prepared daily for 70 children, ages 2 to 15. And the vision keeps expanding. Last summer, Glover added a basketball court, a recreation center and fences around the property. He also purchased five acres on which to grow wheat, raise farm animals and plant a garden.
The employees maintain all of this, sell the wheat and use the vegetables from the garden to feed the children.
Glover and his employees also try to meet needs of families by providing firewood and teaching them to can food.
“They do not know how to preserve their food, so we have a canning operation and also let them use our freezer to store food,” he said. Romanians are fed physically in Glover's visionary cantina, but that isn't where the ministry ends.
Through “Food for the Children,” a Bible club has been started, and the children have learned mime and songs and are invited into churches to perform.
At the cantina, four full-time Romanian employees tell the children about Jesus in their own language, tutor the children in English, sing, play games and watch Christian films that have been translated into Romanian. Sixty-five children have accepted Christ.
And the vision continues. Two other Bethel Baptist Church members, Tony and Donna McCord, share and support Glover's burden for Romania. McCord has left his family business to begin One-Way Ministries. McCord hopes to work with churches setting up mission trips.
In December 2003, the McCords raised $5,000 to go to Romania for the organization's Romanian Christmas Child Project. Rather than paying to ship Christmas gifts to the children, they decided to purchase them after they arrived.
The McCords walked from store to store, without a translator, purchasing gifts — 150 jackets, 600 pairs of socks, pencils, fruit and toys. They prepared 600 boxes with the gifts, as well as sandwiches, chips and drinks, then packed a van and drove to areas where the children stay.
For the December trip, a 6-year-old Alabama boy gave two of his own outfits and $30 he had saved. He begged his parents to let him go to Romania, because he wanted to tell the boys and girls about Jesus. When his parents explained repeatedly he couldn't go, he finally asked, “When can I go to Romania?”
The parents told him that he could go when he turned 13. The boy replied, “That's OK. I will still know Jesus when I am 13.” The little boy asked that his clothes go to someone his age and that he have the boy's name and a picture.
McCord found a family with two small boys who could wear the outfits and took enough pictures to cover a bulletin board. The $30 fed that family of four for a month.
Glover's next step is to build a second cantina in the city of Arad, where large apartment complexes house many families with desperate needs. The average family's annual income is $1,000. If the family buys food, they often don't have money to buy firewood or pay the utility bill.
— Photo available from the Alabama Baptist.