Living faith

Romanian cook serves up love with meals for the homeless

For more than a decade, Alina Sharebenescue has been cooking soup in a small kitchen at the Light and Life center in Bucharest, Romania. She prepares homemade food for people without homes.

“Many were rejected when born, left in the hospital or actually in the street. They grow in the street and come here and know us,” she said.

In addition to the people who come to the center to eat, she also prepares portions for three families. Many of them are Roma, or gypsies. They are often despised and live in rough conditions. One family of seven picks up food at the center because they have no electricity or kitchen appliances.

Light and Life also offers job training, housing for orphans, and other services. But Sharebenescue cooks. She comes in early to chop fresh vegetables for one of her many kinds of soup that simmer in big pots on the stove.

“Romanian tradition is very large, and we have a lot of soup. … Everyday it is another kind and fresh food,” she says.

But Sharebenescue also serves up love, something the homeless have never known. One man said his parents left him in an orphanage when he was 4 years old. He stayed there for five years until some older boys took him out against his will.

That was in 1989. Since then, he’s never had a stable home. He goes to church, though, and likes to sing.

Others have families but find it hard to resist the temptations of the city. A boy of 18 talked about his pastor father and accountant mother. Three months earlier, he’d left home to become a vagabond—his word—and his adventure turned out badly. He was left begging for food at Ikea and eating at Light and Life with men two decades older than he. He planned to go home and knew his parents would welcome him.

But not every story has a happy ending. Sharebenescue said many of the homeless die from drug use, starvation, or disease.

“Somebody has to do something for this,” she says. “It’s the job that God gave to me. He called me to do this for poor people because I have children, and I’m a mother also. … I know what it is to be somebody who does not receive love or other things that you need in your life. Because you don’t need only food and clothes. More than everything, you need to know that somewhere there is someone loving you just for the way you are.”

— by Susan Olasky

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