McAnulty a ‘whirlwind of energy’ for children
The images came from state-run orphanages in the central European nation of Romania. They surfaced after the death of President Nicholae Ceausescu, the communist dictator who was executed in 1989. Among the president’s legacy were 96,000 children living in appalling conditions.
For McAnulty, an American missionary living in Bucharest, Romania, in the 1990s, a visit to the orphanages ignited a passion to show God’s love.
“I was driven to serve … because I was there,” said McAnulty, a native of Fayetteville, Tenn.
Today, nearly 1,500 children in nine orphanages and four hospitals in Romania regularly receive powdered milk, clothing, shoes, food and medical supplies from American and Romanian Christians.
McAnulty, now 77, and her husband, Dale, 79, returned to the U.S. recently after 34 years on the mission field — 15 in Lille, France, and 19 in Bucharest.
“She’s a whirlwind of energy,” said Sharon Horrell, director of development for Christian Relief Fund in Amarillo, Texas. Horrell met McAnulty in 1991 at a symposium on Romanian relief. The relief group partnered with the missionary, contributing funds earmarked for food and medical supplies to Romanian orphanages.
When McAnulty, a graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., visited orphanages and hospitals, children greeted her with smiles, hugs and happy shouts. They clamored to sit in her lap.
FEEDING THE HUNGRY
In recent years — with help from churches, ministries including Nashville-based Healing Hands International and volunteers from Lipscomb — McAnulty also has annually purchased, assembled and delivered nearly 6,000 Christmas packages. Filled with food, clothing and stuffed toys, the packages go to children and needy Romanian families.
While McAnulty’s actions have blessed the lives of thousands of children, “God has also used the work to open doors for the Gospel,” said Ken Smith, an elder of the McAnultys’ sponsoring congregation, the Cedar Lane Church of Christ in Tullahoma, Tenn.
Dan Davis agreed. He worked with the McAnultys in Bucharest from 1992-95. Later he and his family moved to the Romanian city of Cluj to plant a church.
Missionaries in Romania have experienced few problems renewing their visas to stay in the country — compared to many other former Soviet nations. Imogene McAnulty’s work with children is a likely cause for the Romanian government’s goodwill, Davis said.
Romanian Christians said that McAnulty’s work has given Churches of Christ a good reputation in Romania. Emmanuel Sanda and his wife, Cristina, were converted by the missionaries in 1991 and are members of the Mihai Bravu congregation in Bucharest.
“In the early ’90s people were hungry for both the Word as well as food and supplies of any kind,” Emmanuel Sanda said, “and Dale and Imogene provided the perfect combination of love, care, knowledge and funds to meet many of those needs.”
McAnulty’s ministry to Romania’s children was accompanied by an ever-growing need for funds. She spent four months per year in the U.S., speaking to church groups. The trips allowed her to visit her children and grandchildren, but meant leaving her husband behind and living out of a suitcase.
“She’s a take-no-prisoners kind of person when it comes to helping the less fortunate,” said Cedar Lane elder Mike Fitsgerald. Members of the Tennessee church have visited the McAnultys numerous times and were instrumental in leading the effort to fund a church building in Bucharest, which opened in 1998.
Linda Purdy, director of the Christian Relief Fund, recalled McAnulty speaking to a group of women about her ministry. She was raising funds for orphans and children in the burn unit of a Romanian hospital. She spoke, showed pictures and stopped suddenly, Purdy said.
“What’s wrong with you? Get out your checkbooks!” she urged the women.
“And they did,” Purdy said.
TEACHING BY GIVING
This spring the McAnultys moved to Abilene, Texas, where they are building a house.
“She’s not really going to retire,” said their son, David, a clinical psychologist and professor at Abilene Christian University. “She’ll continue to speak and raise funds for orphans.”
Difficult as it was to leave friends in Bucharest, the McAnultys said the work is in competent hands.
Imogene McAnulty has trained two Romanian Christians to serve as liaisons with donor groups and Romanian officials. Her husband has trained members to preach, lead singing and handle finances for the Mihai Bravu church.
The couple looks forward to returning yearly to teach and encourage Romanian Christians.
As the McAnultys prepared to leave Romania, physicians whose hospitals have benefited from their work thanked them for their giving spirit.
“Mrs. McAnulty, you and your church taught us how to give,” said Dr. Dan Enescu, a physician in a hospital burn unit. “You didn’t give with an expectation of anything in return.”
“That’s how Christ gave,” she replied.
Imogene McAnulty’s advice for women considering mission work:
“You need to be secure in your own faith. Don’t go there to get faith. You have to believe that you are God’s saved children and that you have a message people need to hear. You have something they need, and you want to share it. And if you don’t have that, you aren’t ready to go.
“Sometimes God will show you that you aren’t ready because, perhaps, you may not be able to find support. And if you can’t take rejection from your own brethren, you aren’t ready to be in the mission field. If you can’t convince elders that this work needs to be done and that you are willing to do it, then you can’t convince people that they need to change their lives.”