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Romanian orphan pursuing dream of college education

RIVERSIDE (Nov. 12, 2013) – A picture of a 10-year-old Romanian orphan with an uneasy expression hangs on Victor Popa’s refrigerator.

The photograph of Popa as a child serves as his reminder of where he has been and how God has brought him to where he is today — a graduate student at California Baptist University and member of the board of directors for the Children to Love ministry.

"Every time I struggle with something, I look at that picture and think ‘I’ve been through all these challenges and struggles,’” Popa said. "It is just a reminder to myself to see what God has done in my life."

Popa, left at a hospital at birth, spent 17 years in the hands of a Romanian government struggling to care for the nation’s high number of orphans after the communist government was replaced.

Popa was 8-years-old when he first experienced Christ’s love through visitors from the Children to Love ministry who came to the Bucharest orphanage that was his home.

Popa said it is difficult as an orphan to understand the idea of God’s love and His sovereign plans. However, the ministry's investment in his life helped bring Popa to a personal relationship with Christ at age 17. 

"I grasped the idea of what it means when you give your life to Christ," Popa said. "You are a new creation; you leave everything behind."

With a new driving force in his life, Popa said he felt God put an “ambition and passion” on his heart to pursue a college education, a unique dream for an orphan. During his undergraduate career in Romania, he began an internship with the very ministry organization that changed his life.

"It was nice to be able to give back to the ministry and serve with people who served me in the orphanage — not just for me but also for them,” Popa said. "They invested in a person who was now giving back."

Popa is pursuing a master of business administration degree at CBU while leading teams back to Romania with the California-based ministry.

"Every time I take a team of people, I picture who I was 15 years ago," Popa said.  "I know what it means to the orphans. Even though it is just one time for the Americans, for that kid it is something more."

Popa said he hopes to continue working in leadership positions with the Children to Love ministry and one day return to Romania.

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