It was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to the Baceanu family in October of 2018. We were honored to walk with this beatiful family for 17 months as they worked toward their dream of securing asylum in the United States. We were especially blessed to have many generous partners who enabled us to welcome the Baceanus with open arms and alleviate the hardship that they were experiencing. With the help of so many loving hearts, we were able to give the Baceanus a safe and happy place to live while they waited for their case to be heard by the immigration court. Thank you to all the supporters of this ministry for helping to make miracles happen.
The family's last month in America was especially hard. Just after their immigration hearing, and even before the judge issued his decision, Marin was taken into custody by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) without cause or explanation. Their lawyers, who have labored so faithfully over the past year advocating for this family without fee, tried to secure Marin's release on bond, but to no avail. A few days later, the immigration judge issued his decision denying the family's asylum application. After learning that Marin would remain in prison for the duration of any appeals process, the family made the wrenching decision to return to Romania. The second week of October, we put Mirabela and the boys on a plane bound for home. More than two weeks later, and after some 40 days in prison, Marin was finally released and deported. Now the family is reunited -- praise God! -- and begins the long work of rebuilding their lives in the place where they have known so much discrimination. Please keep them in your prayers, that they may find peace in the path that lies ahead of them.
-Pastor Jonathan, December 2018
Our pastor's family with the Baceanu family
How It All Started
Our pastor met the Baceanu family outside a Giant Food Store in May of 2017. Their sign said "PLEASE HELP - FOOD." Marin, the head of the family, said he was ashamed to be begging, but he had no other choice.
The Baceanu family are Roma — better known in America as "Gypsies," a word often considered an insult. The Roma have a unique culture that is often misunderstood by outsiders. Roma all over Europe have suffered centuries of discrimination and poverty because of their ethnicity. The Baceanus came to America to seek a better future for themselves and their children, but their journey has been a difficult one.
Marin and Mirabela, together with their children, Gustavo and Suraj, have been in process with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ever since their arrival from Romania in 2016. In the meantime, ICE retained the parents' passports, leaving them with only photocopies. Marin must wear an ICE-issued ankle bracelet and report regularly to an immigration officer in Philadelphia. After more than a year in America, they are still waiting for Marin's work permit to be issued, making it very difficult for them to earn enough money to survive. Unlike those with official refugee status, asylum seekers like the Baceanus receive no governmental support to assist with housing, employment, food, and the like—leaving them in a most precarious and vulnerable position while waiting for the immigration court to hear their case.
When our congregation learned about their situation, we felt that God was calling us to action. Joining prayer to purpose, we set out to raise enough money not only to feed the Baceanus but also to move them into better housing. What began with the donation of a few Giant Food Store gift cards soon blossomed into a larger ministry of advocacy and hospitality. Members of St. Paul's opened their hearts and hands, raising more than $5,000 for this ministry. Numerous donations began to pour in from loving neighbors near and far in response to our pastor's GoFundMe campaign. And a number of churches have gifted this ministry with their generous support—see the Honor Roll of Churches below. All of these gifts together have amounted to just over $10,000 so far. (Plus furniture!)
When we first met the Baceanus, they were living in a dilapidated home in a dangerous neighorhood of Wilmington, Delaware, with six other families. On November 2, 2017, thanks to these generous gifts, we helped the Baceanus move into a newly renovated rental home of their very own in a safe neighborhood. Now we are asking for help to ensure that the Baceanus will be able to stay in this home for the entirety of their lease. We are hoping to raise an additional of $8,800 for this purpose, so that we can provide the Baceanus with one year of rental assistance while they move toward self-sufficiency. Any funds that we raise beyond our goal will enable us to assist with other needs such as food, clothing, transportation, medicine. Will you help us? Every gift, no matter how small, will be a blessing for the Baceanu family.
Please see the sidebars for more information, and feel free to contact our pastor with any questions about how you or your faith community can support this ministry.
UPDATE -- GOOD NEWS -- 23 July 2018
I am overjoyed to announce that we have reached, and even surpassed, our Asylum Seekers mission goal!
Just over a week ago I sent a mailing to the PSEC churches to provide an update on the Baceanu family, and to share the good news that we needed to raise only about $2,000 more to provide the Baceanus with a full year of housing support. In the few days since, our prayers have been answered, as we have been blessed with an outpouring of generosity. When this ministry began more than a year ago, I had no idea how many people and congregations would come together to welcome and embrace the Baceanu family, and now when I reflect on what God has done among us I am speechless – lost in wonder, love, and praise.
I will let St. Paul speak for me, recalling to you the words that he wrote so long ago to the Thessalonians: “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Thank you for being our partner in ministry, and for helping our little congregation to welcome the Baceanu family with the extravagant love of Christ himself.
While we are no longer in need of donations to reach our mission goal, we will gladly accept any pending gifts and use them to help the Baceanu family meet other basic needs that may arise. Now what is needed most is prayer, and I hope that you will continue to hold Marin, Mirabela, Gustavo, and Suraj close to your hearts, that they may be blessed with strength and hope as they await their asylum merits hearing on September 4. Meanwhile, I will endeavor to post monthly updates to our website so that you can follow their story and stay with them in spirit.
Thank you, dear friends. May God’s peace be upon you all.
Update -- March 19, 2018
Since we sent out our appeal to the churches of the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference at the end of 2017, we have been overjoyed to receive $2,880 in contributions from both congregations and local church members, bringing us one-third of the way to our goal of $8,000. We give thanks to God for the generosity so many have expressed through their gifts and prayers.
We have some good news to report. Marin has received his official work permit from USCIS, giving him the opportunity to find regular employment. He is actively searching for a job, an essential step toward self-sufficency and security for his family. In the meantime, we will continue to provide housing assistance for as long as we can.
Thank you for remembering the Baceanus in your prayers, and for your help in giving them an extravagant welcome in the name of Christ.
Honor Roll of Churches
We give thanks for these congregations whose support of our Asylum Seekers Ministry has been instrumental.
Brownback's United Church of Christ (Spring City, PA)
Carversville Christian Church, UCC (Carversville, PA)
Collenbrook UCC (Drexel Hill, PA)
Dublin Community Church, UCC (Dublin, NH)
Exton Community Baptist Church (Exton, PA)
Falkner Swamp UCC (Gilbertsville, PA)
Friedens UCC (Sumneytown, PA)
Grace Trinity UCC (Philadelphia, PA)
Grove United Methodist Church (West Chester, PA)
Heidelberg UCC (Schwenksville, PA)
Mt. Zion Lutheran Church (Krumsville, PA)
New Goshenhoppen UCC (East Greenville, PA)
New Jerusalem Zion UCC (Lenhartsville, PA)
St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church (Upper Uwchlan, PA)
St. John's UCC (Phoenixville, PA)
St. Luke's UCC (Ottsville, PA)
St. Paul's UCC (Birdsboro, PA)
St. Paul's UCC (Ringtown, PA)
St. Stephen's UCC (Perkasie, PA)
Trinity UCC (Reading, PA)