By Jayna Richardson
When Eugen and Nicoleta Ioardache began looking for materials and resources to build up their own relationship, they never dreamed that God would lead them to launch a vibrant family ministry in their area of Romania. What began with using FamilyLife’s resources personally turned into sharing those resources and courses with others, including a focused effort to reach out to parents of kids with special needs.
The Ioardaches have spent the last three years as part-time FamilyLife staff serving couples through small groups and couples retreats. Having experienced the power of God working through FamilyLife’s resources, they enthusiastically embraced the challenge of working together to reach families from Galati and the eastern part of Romania.
Early on in their involvement with FamilyLife, Eugen and Nicoleta began spending time with a young couple, Manuel and Catalina, who were going through a divorce. Manuel and Catalina attended an Art of Marriage® course (which has been translated into Romanian) with the Iordaches and experienced transformation and reconciliation. Their testimony provided confirmation to the Iordaches of their calling to do FamilyLife ministry.
“From being people without God, they are now God’s children and are integrated into the local church,” says Eugen. “It is God’s work, and I understood that the Lord wants to use us for other couples as well.”
Their ministry took on a new component recently when they were approached by a grandfather who has two autistic grandchildren. His daughter had recently gone through a divorce largely due to the pressures brought on from parenting a child with special needs. The grandfather challenged Eugen and Nicoleta to think about how they could serve families like these.
“We started reading, asking, and looking for resources for these parents,” says Eugen. Not having special-needs kids of their own, the Ioardaches realized this was a group of people they hadn’t given much thought to previously.
“Until now, we were passing them by, not realizing they were among us. But since we started thinking about them too, we see things differently.”
Now that God has opened Eugen and Nicoleta’s eyes to the needs around them and laid a burden on their hearts to do something about it, they’ve brainstormed ways to help parents who are raising and caring for children with special needs and disabilities (which could include conditions such as autism, delayed development, mental problems, medical challenges, Down’s syndrome, epilepsy, attention deficiency, paralysis, blindness, and other diagnoses).
Their goals are to develop small groups for these couples and single parents to develop a community of service and love, connect these parents with resources and other organizations, form a management team that includes people who have experience in raising these children and have a passion to help and support them, and facilitate childcare to allow these parents some time alone for dating.
The Ioardaches have already started one small group with eight families. The meetings are designed to acknowledge the struggles they’re facing and provide help with topics like understanding God’s character and heart for people with disabilities. Although guilt and grief are realities for some of these families, they’re also learning together about the healing process and stepping into new hope.
The challenges facing parents of special-needs kids are many: time constraints, financial difficulties, isolation, worry about the future, and lack of help. But the opportunities also abound for families to learn of God’s love and provision, form supportive communities, thrive in marriage, and raise children who will have a special mission from God.
“We must not forget that these special children will have a call from God for their lives, and through them God will shape the lives of those around them,” says Eugen.
Future plans include marriage enrichment opportunities, a day of celebration on the International Day of People with Disabilities, an equipping conference in the spring, and a mountain retreat for parents, kids, and volunteers in June 2023.
“The parents of children with special needs or disabilities have a great need to receive and feel God’s love,” says Eugen. “They must be surrounded by love and be given special attention. Prayer, and both emotional and material support, will be clear manifestations of God’s care for them.”
Eugen and Nicoleta continue reaching out to new families who are feeling the strains of raising children with diverse special needs. They are praying that the families who are refreshed by the Spirit through their ministry would turn and strengthen other families as well.