The CTL Story
A nation staggering out from the grasp of communism, Romania was a bleak, shadowy place for children left in the care of the state. Government mandates for women to produce four children each and widespread poverty left massive amounts of children without families able to care for them. It is estimated that 100,000 children were being cared for in orphanages by 1989.
On October 5th, 1990, 20/20 aired a news report about the orphanage system in Romania. The world watched in disbelief as news reports uncovered a world unseen—severely malnourished children left for days in their cribs, bathed in blackened water and drugged to sleep for large parts of the day. A sense of urgency swept over the hearts of individuals throughout the world.
In response to the world outcry over the horrors of orphanage life in the southeastern European country, the organization Joni and Friends sent a team on a short-term missions trip to reach out to the physically disabled children of Romania. These children were often locked up, and had no hope of receiving even a fraction of the care they required. One of these team members, from Bakersfield, CA, returned to the US with a heart forever changed and a vision for God’s work in Romania.
DeAnn Sampley with Joni Eareckson Tada, during their first trip to Romania in 1991.*
Through this exposure to the plight of orphaned and abandoned children in Romania, more individuals from her home church (Laurelglen Bible Church) were stirred to action. A team from the church was mobilized to go to Romania in May of 1992. It was through this trip that two Romanian children were adopted by American families. A subsequent trip resulted in three more children being released for adoption. It would be the adoption of these first five that would lay the foundation for answering the question, “What else can be done?" This led to the establishment of CTL in 1993.
Joni Eareckson Tada pictured with the five children adopted by families at Laurelglen Bible Church in 1993.*
Early constituents continued to search for ways to meet the immediate needs of the remaining children who could not exit the system. Milk and vitamins were sent to CTL’s partner orphanages via sea containers in the early days of the ministry. Teams were sent to provide contact with children in desperate need. Missionaries were sent with the sole objective of increasing CTL’s reach into the lives of orphaned children, through networking with the orphanage directors of Bucharest. Many of CTL’s early partnerships were born out of countless cups of cold coffee shared between orphanage directors and CTL missionaries and the example of God’s love shown through team involvement with children society had forgotten.
An early CTL missions team from Calvary Bible Church at orphanage #4 in Bucharest.
The continued momentum in Romania has allowed CTL to bring about more forward-thinking approaches to the orphan problem, in an improving but still broken social system. Children to Love, Romania took on the name “Fundatia Inimi Deschise” (Open Hearts Foundation) in November of 2000. Today, the program continues to work with the vulnerable children of Romania. The program has also extended to include family-centered ministries through Inimi Deschise.
Nannette Gonzalez (CTL's first full-time missionary), Vasile (CTL's first driver) and founders Rille Pinault (Board Treasurer/Executive Director) and DeAnn Sampley (Board Secretary).
CTL believes that family-centered approaches are essential in combating the orphan problem, and serve as vital components of our partnerships. In 2008, Children to Love began a partnership in India. After an initial visit to the ministry by CTL president John Penrose, it was determined by the board that CTL’s expansion into other regions could begin with India due to the ministry's obvious alignment with CTL values. Mercy Childcare Ministry in Uganda and Future for Children in Ukraine became Children to Love’s third and fourth partner ministries in 2013 and 2017 for the same reasons. In April 2020, Children to Love formalized its fifth partnership with Grace Boarding House in Mae Sot, Thailand.
God’s provision was, and continues to be, seen in all aspects of ministry formation and implementation. There were times when the finances indicated that CTL only had a matter of months left to survive. And each time the ministry was sustained, a testimony to God’s heart for His children. CTL was built upon God’s provision and the time and talents of ordinary individuals who desire to make a difference. We are grateful for the lives the Lord has allowed us to be a part of so far, and we look forward to reaching many more as He guides.
*Photo used with permission.