Carmen grew up in Romania during the Cold War. With her young schoolmates, she used to pay homage to Ceausescu, chanting at rallies: Long live the President who gives us a good life. But long queues for bread told her she was living a lie; the entire country was living a lie.
Carmen was fascinated by psychology. As a Christian, however, she could not study it at university – professions in teaching and psychology were only for Communist party members. Instead, following her father’s footsteps, she enrolled in Mechanical Engineering.
By 1987, during her third year of studies, Carmen became deeply dissatisfied. She saw no future for herself in Engineering or in Romania. She wondered if she could escape; she saw a better future for herself outside Eastern Europe.
After interviewing her about her amazing journey to Australia, we both stood at her kitchen bench. She was describing her plan to turn her house into a place where she could offer counselling and prayer.
‘It’s a bit woolly out there at the moment,’ she said, looking out the back window, her gaze directed at a carpet of weeds, ‘but my husband and I will landscape it. It’ll be a garden where people with troubles can come and sit. Can you see it?’ She peers at me through her spectacles.
Almost thirty years since she embarked on her own journey of hope, Carmen has launched Hope 4 You House, which aims to ‘assist families experiencing extreme hardship, by offering food parcels, emotional and Christian spiritual support.’
Carmen’s story is about having the eyes to see potential, a kind of vision that gives us hope and enables us to keep working until possibility becomes reality. We all need such eyes – how else could we raise children, build houses or write books?
‘Where there is no vision, the people perish…’
The Bible, King James Version