To the editor:
During this past year, I lived for four months in a small eastern-European community. The town of Lupeni, Romania, captured my heart in a way that I have never experienced before. Life is flavored with a different spice than that of Iowa – instead of fields of corn and soybeans, the roaming hills were covered with grazing sheep and shepherds, and filled my mountain valley. Instead of ethanol plants and co-ops, drives through the region pass by huge corpses of industrial factories from the days of Communism, and the tall towers above mine shafts. My internship with a local youth club reminded me of my 4-H and church youth group days, except for the language difference and the motivation of the kids to get service projects done to improve their community.
That goal was a large reason of why I was in Romania. I studied with New Horizons Foundation, a nonprofit youth-development organization which is attempting to make a better future for this post-Communist country through its youth. Youth in IMPACT clubs throughout the country, run by NHF, learn communication, citizenship and job skills through the use of moral stories and service projects. New Horizons Foundation was founded by Dana and Brandi Bates in 2000 by starting the nation’s first ropes course and outdoor education camp. Their endeavors started a snowball effect, which now oversees IMPACT clubs across the world, including a few here in Iowa. I saw physically that development work is simply change for the better – and that can be found in living into what God has created us to be. St. Iranaeus said that “The glory of God is man fully alive,” and the truth of those words were evident in my life in Romania.