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Waynesboro, Pa., couple helping to form children's home in Romania

March 27, 1997

By Kate Coleman

Staff Writer

Genovieva Sfatcu Beattie and her husband, Stephen, are working to provide a new life, a better life for children - many of them orphans - at a Christian children's home being built in her native Romania.

The Waynesboro, Pa., residents, along with colleagues in England, Switzerland and Romania, have established Eastern Europe Aid Association to send spiritual and material help to Romanians.

The Beatties know something about what new life means. An "active" Christian in her native Romania during the repressive communist rule, Genovieva Sfatcu was exiled and came to New York in 1980.

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Although the regime of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu ended with his public execution Christmas Day 1989, living conditions and the economy are far from good. The people are poor. Many - including children - are begging on the streets of the cities. The orphanage - Emanuel Villa - initially will house 30 toddlers from a state orphanage. Construction should be completed this spring.

These children will not be available for foreign adoption, Stephen Beattie says. Adoption is a difficult and expensive process in which the aid association isn't involved. The mission also is helping to feed and clothe the estimated 600 to 700 children from about 4 to 5 years old who are living on the streets of the cities. And the organization has received a desperate plea for help from the commander of the prisons which are housing approximately 400 street children rounded up during the harsh 1995-96 winter.

The task is a daunting but welcome opportunity for the couple.

"This is my joy," says Genovieva Beattie, 45.

She tells her story with an ever-present smile. She simultaneously conveys amazement at the course her life has taken, and a matter-of-fact belief that this is the way God works.

The Beatties met while Genovieva Sfatcu was living under virtual house arrest in a Romanian church.

Persecuted for her beliefs, the bright, young language student had been expelled from the university. Blacklisted, no one would hire her, yet it was against the law to be unemployed. Beattie became caretaker of her church - sleeping at night on a bench with only a tablecloth for bedclothes.

Stephen Beattie, a British student, was traveling in Romania with friends in 1973. The trip was part vacation, part education - he wanted to experience the Romanian language - and part mission.

Beattie and his friends smuggled Bibles into the country. They left 40 Bibles with Genovieva Sfatcu.

The couple met once again in the United States and then later in Austria where Stephen Beattie was working in a mission. She had gone to Austria to arrange for her children's books to be smuggled into Romania. They married in England in 1985 and moved to their rented home outside of Waynesboro, Pa., in 1989. The location was chosen because of its proximity to the port of Baltimore, making it possible for them to ship containers of food, clothing and footwear, medicine, toiletries, bedding, school materials and toys to the needy Romanians.

Simple life

The Beatties' life is simple. They live on gifts, taking no salary for their work.

They complement each other. Stephen Beattie, 43, cites his wife's creative gifts, and says he's the organizer and administrator.

"We work together. We wouldn't be able to function alone," he says.

Manhattan was intimidating to the young refugee, but she had lived with fear for most of her then-28 years. When she arrived in the U.S., she says she prayed God would use her. An acquaintance invited her to share her story at a church. When she finished, the congregation asked how they could help. She told them she had promised the children in her church choir that she'd send them sweaters. The collection taken that first evening was $750.

The couple has continued to work in this manner - welcoming opportunities to speak for a few minutes in churches or to display items they sell to support their mission. These include cassette recordings of Genovieva Beattie's Romanian children's choir, greeting cards featuring the art of Romanian artist Maria Lazar and "Genovieva," a biography written for a Swiss children's magazine and translated by Stephen Beattie. The association also has a newsletter in English and French.

Genovieva Beattie says that when she was exiled, security police mocked her with taunts of "Go write children's songs." Little did they know what she would accomplish.

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