Acts was born in the early 1990s following the downfall of Ceausescu in Romania. This was significant, since as a BA pilot, Len Gruber had been flying into Romania, and had seen the terrible child deprivation in the orphanages there. Len who was a member of a large church in Worthing, the ‘Worthing Tabernacle’, had a severely disabled son himself, whose outstanding care conditions in the UK were incomparable to those that he saw being meted out to children in Romanian orphanages.
Romania had the highest child poverty levels in Europe because of the austerity years throughout the ‘80s that had been imposed on the country by Ceausescu, in order to reduce their £10 billion national debt. Even today Romania still has extremely high child poverty rates. The opening up of the country exposed terrible policies, which had been trying to grow the national economy through a young population, and had failed disastrously, creating a baby boom, and these severe levels of austerity and poverty left most of these children in state orphanages. After the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, who were executed by firing squad on Christmas day 1989, our TV screens were filled with images of babies left to rot, with the bare minimum of life-support given to these little mites, and of children up to the ages of 10 and 12-year-olds still in nappies, imprisoned in cots, in dire conditions, extremely malnourished and unable to walk or talk properly. Starved of human contact and love, this was a generation of children severely neglected on an industrial scale, and desperately in need of loving care.
Len having seen first-hand the plight of these children, rallied help and support from his local church, Worthing Tabernacle, through its pastor Tony Sargent, to offer help to these children. The response was heartfelt and immediate, working alongside other agencies and with the help of this church, supplies and basic goods were made able to be transported out to Romania. In fact, support grew so quickly that the church was unable to handle it, being somewhat out of its remit, and so it was that out of the Romanian revolution Acts Trust was born, and a number of men formed the trusteeship, namely, Len Gruber, Tony Sergeant, Brian Hughes, John Kennard and John Milne.
Len with Muriel Foxon, a member of Worthing Tabernacle, and experienced in child care, together explored the possibility of partnering with a local church in Romania, who already had plans to build a new church building in the mining town of Lupen . The proposition was offered that we come alongside and help their vision of building, by incorporating an orphanage as part of the building programme. So now with the aid of tax relief, Acts Trust were able to continue transporting basic supplies out to Romania, as well as supplying funds to build a church with an orphanage attached. Part of our vision, was for pastor Toto and his church to catch the vision of caring for, and building up young orphans within a Christian environment, and for it to become a self-supporting orphanage through the local church.
Like so many projects in poor developing countries, this project was a steep learning curve for the Acts Trust. Many lessons had to be learnt, through the exchange of monies, cutting across cultures, old communist dogmas, and general malaise and corruption. The project was far more complicated and took much longer than anticipated to achieve the satisfactory outcome of getting orphaned children to be cared for. Felicia, a very kind and concerned member of their local church, not only helped in obtaining local farmland and a cottage, which provided a respite and holiday centre for distraught children, but also, with a little assistance from the Acts Trust, greatly assisted in making this project a self-supporting enterprise. Today it is a fully self-supporting entity, caring for 18 orphans under the amazing care of a fellow orphan from that era, Vasile Nemes and his family.
Along the way Tony Sargent developed a wide-ranging mission support through Worthing Tabernacle, and with his friend George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilisation, travelled third world countries extensively, teaching and preaching. He also spent time developing his theological skills and attained a doctorate in theology to became Dr Tony Sargent. His time pastoring at Worthing Tabernacle ended in 1998, when he accepted an invitation to became the Principal of International Christian College (ICC), newly formed as the result of a merger between Glasgow Bible College and Northumbria Bible College, and based in Glasgow adjacent to Strathclyde University. Under Tony’s principalship, ICC went on to become very successful. Students from all around the world attended (ICC) and Tony along with his wife Rowena built up long lasting relationships with several of these young people.
Tony has been invited to visit many of these young pastors and itinerant workers back in their own countries, and seen the vision and enthusiasm many had gained from their time under the tutorship of ICC, and Tony’s personal care. Tony networked amongst many of Glasgow’s alumni, and having made so many friends and connections in Scotland, he titled himself a professional beggar for Third World projects. After 11 years of heading up ICC, Tony and Rowena retired back to Worthing.
The connections through ICC have led to many men and women in Third World situations, who have such great needs requiring development, support and the supplying of aid in many underdeveloped countries, being helped through the means of men and women known to Tony and Rowena and the Acts team, as personal and trusted friends. This has led to projects spanning across many East African countries, and developing various ministries and projects through the heartlands of India, Pakistan and Nepal.
Len Gruber after many years of administering The Acts Trust has laid down his trusteeship, and Dr Tony Sargent after 45 years of pastoring and teaching, has through health issues, stepped down from chairmanship to take on a much valued advisory role within Acts. The trusteeship has recently been re-formed under the chair of John Kennard, with Ruth Brown; accounts, Chris Cobbett; admin and Bruce Keen; IT. Under the new trusteeship, we hope to take the good will of Acts forward and on to greater feats by the grace of God and with the help of all our supporters, continuing to uphold so many worthwhile projects abroad, by giving hope and practical help to the underprivileged, and glory to God. No one draws wages from our organisation as we are all volunteers, thus keeping administration costs to the bare minimum. We make maximum use of every pound donated, ensuring that funds are passed through safe hands, to reach projects that have been vetted by us personally or by trusted partners abroad, and no admin or travel expenses are deducted from general gifts unless designated as such, ensuring that every penny donated is used for the projects intended.