In January 1992, shortly after the fall of communism all over Eastern Europe, seven students and a professor from Eastern Nazarene College spent the month of January taking care of severely disabled children in orphanages in rural Romania. The students and the professor, Dr. Ed Mann, were profoundly changed by the experience. Upon returning to ENC, Professor Mann proposed the establishment of a semester abroad program which would allow students to interact with a culture very different from their own while at the same time contributing to the development of a post-communist society in transition.
A pilot project semester in the fall of 1993, led by ENC Professor Dorothy Tarrant, led to ENC’s establishing the Romanian Studies Program (RSP), with an initial two year commitment that lasted for seven years. Until the summer of 1995, the RSP operated in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, working alongside missionaries and members of the Church of the Nazarene. In the summer of 1995, the RSP moved to the small Transylvanian city of Sighisoara. At that time, there were no foreign non-profit organizations in Sighișoara. Students quickly became involved in working in the orphanage and children’s hospital, working with children from poor families, and with the elderly and disabled. Originally, students led these ministries and Romanians were hired to serve as translators. Over time, several of these translators were supported in obtaining a university education and became the staff of Veritas, a compassionate ministries organization which directly grew out of the RSP.
As RSP students met for worship on Sunday evenings, they invited their Romanian friends, and a bilingual church developed. The Sighișoara Church of the Nazarene is now a fully-organized church under Romanian leadership. Various student-led ministries attracted young people, such as a Coffee House, where Romanian young adults and teenagers hung out and played table games with American college students, theatre club, ecology club. The RSP also opened Sighișoara’s first internet cafe.
Since 2002, the RSP has served as an independent study abroad program: students receive credits from their own schools for their work in Romania. In recent years, many students have chosen to complete junior and senior level internships during their semester in Romania. Students continue to work alongside the Romanian staff of Veritas, many of whom have degrees in education, social work, psychology, and law. Veritas is now the largest social service organization in Sighisoara, accredited by county authorities, and serving more than 300 persons per week. Dorothy Tarrant is still the RSP Director but is now assisted by a strong team of Romanian and American professionals.