Friday, December 09, 2005

Craciun Fericit!!

That's Merry Christmas in Romanian, and that is exactly what this team will take to over 300 orphans in Moldova in T minus 26 days. Yes, you heard me correctly...we leave in 26 days! On January 4th, 23 people from Tennessee, Texas, and Oregon will head to Moldova and meet two other teammates who are already working there. Our mission? To share the Hope of salvation that was born in a manger in a tiny little town called Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. Yes, we will bring crafts and games and warm clothing. But more importantly, we bring the one true Love they really need that is powerful enough to heal every scar, fill every lonely place, dry every tear, and bring joy to the most abanodoned child. We covet your prayers for this trip.

Pictured above: (seated L to R) Kari Scott, Emily Borders, Maree Batson, Leslie Archard. (standing L to R) Marilyn Wilson, Tripp Sullivan, Joe and Marilyn Swing, Tim Bedi, Rick Batson, Brian McKay, Jen Gash, Brian Swartz. Not pictured: Steve Davis, Brian Sims, Jamey Dickens, Matthew McIntosh, Calle Griffith, Diane Treadway, Cortnie Treadway, Greg Treadway, Robert Hobbs, Jordan Bryan, Julie Skidgel, Jessica Beasley.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

We're On Our Way!!

We had our garage sale fundraiser today and it was a wonderful success. Our total including the garage sale items, handmade jewelry by Lexi, baked goods and coin jar came to $195.10!

This was the first of several fundraisers we will be holding throughout the year to help raise funds for some of the individuals hoping to go to Moldova during the summer of 2006.

As you can see in this picture, we hung the Sweet Sleep banner and played our Sweet Sleep At Work DVD as well as gave out informational brochures to help acquaint our neighbors and customers with the mission of Sweet Sleep.

This is a picture of some of the handmade jewelry by Lexi. She has made necklaces, bracelets and key chains with SweetSleepYorg spelled out in the multi-colored beads, surrounded by a string to two toned blue beads.

Here are two of our young supporters (Lexi and Kati) manning our concessions and coin table.

Thank you to everyone who donated items, made baked goods, and came out in support of our sale.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Mission Trip 2006 Fundraiser

Come out for great bargains and help support some of those wanting to go to Moldova in 2006!

Date: 09/24/2005

Time: 8:00am to 5:00pm

Chapman’s Retreat Community-wide Garage Sale
Come enjoy the great end of season bargains, lemonade stands and baked goods for sale in Chapman’s Retreat. Be sure to stop by 2010 McCrory Place (just off of Chapman’s Retreat Drive) to support the Sweet Sleep Mission Trip!

Chapman’s Retreat is located off of Duplex Road just north of I-65 in Spring Hill, TN.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sweet Sleep Mission Fundraiser

Dear Nashville Area Sweet Sleep Supporters,

If you love to shop at amazing savings and hate to fight the crowds of the Christmas rush will helping your favorite non-profit, have I got a deal for you!

Each year Hecht's Department Store holds a Holiday Benefit Sale that is invitation only to help area non-profits and this year Sweet Sleep is getting in on the action!

When: Saturday, November 5, 2005 - 6:00am - 10:00am

Cost: $5.00 per ticket ($4.00 of each ticket goes back to Sweet Sleep to help raise money for next summer's mission participants!)

Where: Hecht's Department store at Bellevue Center, Cool Springs Galleria, Hickory Hollow Mall, RiverGate Mall or The Mall at Green Hills.

This is an invitation only event and all invitation holders will be entitled to an additional 25% off of the existing 72-hour sale price that will be in effect that weekend.
ALSO, invitation holders will be allowed to select their purchases beginning Sunday, October 30th through Friday November 4th at Holiday Benefit Sale prices and then can pick up their purchases on or after Monday, November 7th. All you do is go to one of the participating Hecht's during the above mentioned week of October 30th with your invitation, select your items, place them on the Holiday Sale hold along with your credit card information and as soon as the special prices are entered into the Hecht's computer system on Friday, November 4th, your card will be charged and your items will be available for pickup on or after Monday, November 7th! What a great way to beat the sale rush, save big money and get your holiday shopping done early!!

South Carolina "Pillow Talk"

Thanks to the organizational wizardry of Sweet Sleep supporter Holly Lynch, several Greenville, SC businesses turned out in support of a fundraiser to benefit Sweet Sleep. Among the sponsors for this event were Re/Max Realty Professionals, SunTrust Mortgage, The Greenville News, Homes & Land Magazine, Jacqui Lanear Real Estate Attorney, Terry Laws Real Estate Attorney, The Real Estate Bank, PIP Printing and Advantage Home Warranty & Inspection.

The business-casual evening included a beautifully decorated and delicious buffet of finger foods, live music by the "Funk Puzzle Band" (including Holly sharing her singing talens on a few numbers) and a Silent Auction of items from numerous area businesses including "The Fabric Diva" who handmade 5 one of a kind pillows for auction as well as table decorations for the event.

The event raised approximately $3,000 for Sweet Sleep and the new Home Sweet Home project! Way to go South Carolina!!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Exciting News!!

Sweet Sleep

Press Release
Launches $215,000 Fundraising Campaign for Transitional Housing Program in Moldova

NASHVILLE, Tenn. and CHISINAU, Moldova (September 1, 2005) -- Sweet Sleep today announced details on its transitional housing program for orphan boys in Moldova and its kickoff of a $215,000 fundraising campaign called Home Sweet Home.

Sweet Sleep’s Transitional Housing Program

Each spring, 80 to 90 students, half of whom are boys, ‘graduate’ from the Internat II orphanage in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. Boys graduating are typically 16 to 17 years in age and have completed the equivalent of the ninth grade when they are discharged and turned out on to the streets. Sweet Sleep has created a transitional housing program for these young men which will provide a safe, stable environment in order to allow participants to further pursue their education, learn job skills, obtain employment and develop core values that will enable them to become mentors to the young boys still in the orphanage.

When completed, the transitional house is expected to shelter approximately 10-12 boys a year. Sweet Sleep plans to hire a mature Christian couple from Moldova to serve as houseparents. The transitional house will also serve as a staging area for those boys employed by Sweet Sleep in its carpentry and bed- building programs for local orphanages.

"The statistics on these boys are horrendous as 10% are expected to commit suicide and 70% join the mafia or end up in prison as a result of desperate attempts to survive," noted Jen Gash, founder of Sweet Sleep. "Today marks the start of a new school year in Moldova and the last day that these boys are officially part of the orphanage. As we speak, they are on the streets looking for a place to stay tonight. The boys need not only a roof over their heads but a support safety net to model the appropriate behavior as well as nurture and mentor them in becoming men of strong character that are gainfully employed and contributing to society."

First Year Campaign Goal

The Home Sweet Home campaign has established a first year goal of raising $215,000 for the boys’ transitional housing program. This total is comprised of $40,000 for purchasing the existing house and surrounding two acres in Moldova; $120,000 for completeing construction; $30,000 for first year operational expenses; and $25,000 for first year programming expenses. At the official campaign launch earlier this week, Home Sweet Home announced that it has already raised the $40,000 needed to purchase the house. Sweet Sleep expects to close on the purchase of the property within the next couple of weeks and begin construction as soon as the necessary funds are raised.

Tripp Sullivan, Home Sweet Home campaign chair, added, “Without a permanent address, it is virtually impossible for these boys to obtain identity papers. That in turn makes them unemployable. In a culture that values family connections and considers orphans the lowest of all classes, these boys are caught in a vicious cycle that can’t be stopped on its own. We hope to solve this problem for them. We are already off to a strong start on the campaign and will be actively pursuing additional funds in the coming days and weeks to reach our goal. With a climate similar to that of Minnesota, winter in Moldova is just ahead of us. We don’t have a moment to lose.”

About Sweet Sleep

Sweet Sleep was founded in 2003 as a faith-based ministry to provide new beds to orphaned children in the third-world country of Moldova. To date, Sweet Sleep employs six discharged orphans who have helped to build over 350 beds. Sweet Sleep has been featured in several well-known publications, such as The Tennessean, Baptist & Reflector, The Texas Baptist Standard, and Today’s Child and Family magazine. Sweet Sleep is affiliated with CERI (Children’s Emergency Relief International), in San Antonio, Texas.


Sweet Sleep
Jennifer Gash
Executive Director/Founder
phone: 615-481-4593

Home Sweet Home Campaign
Tripp Sullivan
Campaign Chairman
phone: 615-481-4588
All rights reserved. Sweet Sleep 2003

Monday, August 22, 2005

Flooding in Moldova -see comments for updates or to ask specific questions

Last Friday it seems Moldova, and many other parts of Eastern Europe, experienced enough rain to cause extensive flooding in their area. Below is an email from Olga in Chisinau. As we get information we'll post it here in the comments section. Thanks for your prayers for the people we know and love as they continue to pray for the lakes and rains to hold and as they begin to clean up from such an event.

Hello Jen,

Now everything seems to be ok after the flood. None is affected or damaged. But Dorel and me were in the center of events when the flood started to show up. It happened that we had 3 and 4 times more rains per month in August, therefore some of the big lakes broke up and they were coming toward Chisinau. I assume that the authorities knew that but didn't informed the people in Chisinau or in the surroundings. Dorel and me were on Friday morning in Gratiesti (the old party of the location where transitional houses are) at a small wedding party of one young couple from Jesus Savior. Their house is in a valley so it started to rain again, because a day before rained a lot, and big waters were formed but didn't damaged anything yet. But on Friday when it started to rain again we saw next to this couple's house a huge river of waters that were directed to another lake in Gratiesti. We tried to get in the 4-Runner and go to Chisinau, but... the waters were so huge that we couldn't drive, if we would the waters would take away the car together with us. It's God's direction that we didn't try to get against the waters.... it was such an experience!... you can't imagine because I didn't believe either it was happening in reality with me. So we managed to park the car in the small yard but there was no assurance it won't be damaged or taken away by the waters. At least there was a small fence. In this time the waters were becoming huger and huger and very strong, like a big river coming down from the mountains. We didn't know what was happening. We, the groom and the bridegroom, the other quests left the house and went toward the back side. In the back of that house is a cemetery with a high stone fence... we climbed the fence on a ladder, went through the cemetery and hid in the house of one of our friends that is on a hill. We continued to pray. And it was a miracle that the waters came down after about 3 hours and we could get the car out of the yard, undamaged! It was unbelievable! Because the waters were so big and so close to the house! But when we got to Chisinau after 3 hours the other lake broke down and the waters reached Posta Veche, where we live and CERI's office is. CERI's office wasn't reached but the 16 floor- building and many others got waters inside in the basements, we couldn't get into the house, but stayed in CERI's office for few more hours... kept calling Dorel's dad who was inside the 16 floor building, to know what's going on.The waters here reached more than 1 meter, I guess more than 40 inches. We got home the same night but didn't have any power and couldn't get any info what is going to be... one of our relative kept calling to inform us. They told on TV that there was another danger for a different lake to break - the largest one in Moldova! It didn't happen this and hopefully won't! But as far as we know 3 lakes has broken that day. Many parking places in Chisinau were affected - cars damaged, houses destroyed, goods taken away, shops, groceries and open markets damaged. We saw these all with our eyes, not heard from anywhere! I don't know still if there are any people dead. But it was absolutely His grace that protected us! For this and everything else we are very thankful to Him, our Father and God!


Monday, August 15, 2005

A Special Invitation from Sweet Sleep!

Sweet Sleep's 2005 Summer Teams invite you to a special time of sharing on Sunday, August 28, 2005 from 2:30 to 4:00 pm. Please join us as we share with you our favorite memories, video, pictures and a special announcement about the upcoming work of Sweet Sleep.

Sunday, August 28th
2:30 - 4:00 pm
Brentwood Baptist Church
Inman Deaf Chapel

Dessert reception to follow.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Welcome to Home

Will you just look at the smile on Olesea's face. I've never seen her smile this big before. As I look at this picture and think about what to say my mind keeps going back to the picture of Tammy and Olesea posted just a couple of stories below. The first picture was taken in Moldova in December...when we had no idea what the future would hold. Tammy and her family were taking a shot in the dark and praying a great deal. I can only imagine what Olesea was thinking and praying.

The picture above was taken around 5:00 pm on Friday, August 12, 2005....the day Olesea came to Nashville...the day she came to home. It was nothing short of a miracle. For those of us who've been to Moldova we understand just how much of a miracle it is. In a country which does little to nothing for their orphans, whose females are heavily targeted and trafficked for sex slavery, in a country which stubbornly grants visas to their citizens....a young girl from an orphanage was given an eleventh hour visa and became the first orphan in the country to be granted this opportunity. A miracle indeed. God, we thank you for this and for letting so many of us watch this amazing event unfold.

We commit to pray for Tammy and Jerry, each of their four children and now this, their fifth. As friends and I have talked over the last 15 hours we have marveled at the things Olesea must be thinking as she comes to a place like how many firsts she'll have here. She's already been on her first airplane ride (and loves to push all the buttons), last night she slept in a bed, not a metal cot with broken springs and a 50-year old mattress, today maybe she ate her first bowl of cereal. Who knows!

I ask you to pray for Olesea and her new surroundings in this way: stop and imagine you are her. Imagine you have never seen life in this place and have never experienced all you are so familiar with. See how much wonder it brings you, watch as daily life takes your breath away or gives you trepidation or as your eyes grow big from looking at your old surroundings in a new light. I did this on the drive home from the airport and again this afternoon and it truly led me to pray in an incredible way. There is much to pray for and seeing things from Olesea's eyes is a great way to try to begin.

So, congratulations Tammy and Jerry and the fam on your new big bundle of joy. We'll be praying for all of you.

Jen and company

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Moldovan Miracle ---Click on comments for recent updates!

I took this picture as one of my flights to Moldova was preparing to land in Chisinau. The email below shares amazing, AMAZING news.....Olesea is coming home to Nashville. Praise God. Wow. Words escape me for how incredible this is and what it means for the future of other children in Moldova.

Please join me in praying for Olesea as she leaves behind her entire world, her surroundings, the other children who have become her family, her closest friends and her boyfriend, the sights and sounds and even the food. Please pray for her to adapt well. Please pray for those here in Nashville and everywhere else to love her patiently and to be sensitive to her adjustment.

Also, please join me at the airport tomorrow night. I wonder if Olesea will see the clouds like this over Moldova.

Hello friends,
Just a quick note to let you all know that Olesea
has an approved visa and will be coming home this
friday the 12th to nashville airport on flight
dl1051 At an estimated arrival of 4:30pm. I would
like to take this opportunity to thank you for
all the prayers and the undeniable faith in our
great God.To him be all glory. If you know of any
others to pass this message to that would be
greatly appreciated.
Many more blessing

Monday, August 08, 2005

Prayers for Olesea and Tammy- see comments for updates

I wanted to share this with all of you who faithfully come to this blog and keep up with the antics of the Moldovan government and the mission we work on each and every day in order to change the lives of the children we have been blessed to know and love.

A woman from Nashville, Tammy (on right), has been in Moldova since she arrived with her team a month ago. She and her husband and children decided a year ago to begin the unknown process of trying to get a humanitarian visa for a young girl Tammy had fallen in love with, Olesea, pictured with Tammy on the left.

Though Moldova does grant adoptions of their children, it is very, very difficult to get a child out of the country once they are 16. Tammy and Jerry have been very patient over the last year and faithful to this desire God placed on their hearts. God has continued to bless their faithfulness and patience and obedience which is the only reason they are where they are today (both geographically and with the process).

Below is an email I received from Tammy this morning. Somewhere along the way they came to a bump in the road and there is again a need for mighty prayer. Please join with me in praying for this to worked out, today, and for this family to truly be able to become a family by Olesea being cleared to come Nashville. Pray for Tammy and for her strength and patience and time with God to be one that restores her worried and tired soul. Pray for her family who misses her and who are waiting to become whole. Pray for Olesea. A young girl who is now living each day with joyful highs and disappointing lows. Pray for her heart to be protected and to be strengthened. Thank you all for your prayers.

"I am going to the embassy this morning to see if there is something that they can do to help. Dorel told me last night that it is not actually a missing paper, but concerns from the Moldovan government that she will be 17 soon and before she finishes school she will be 18 and can make her own decisions and what if she doesn't come back. I guess it was going to some appeal process this morning and we are supposed to have an answer today, it was something totally unexpected.If they give approval today, it still has to go to external affairs, but we are going to go there to see if we can get them to do things by Wed. so we can go to the embassy on Thurs or even tomorrow. Just pray they don't deny it all after all of this. I am really stressing over it."

Friday, July 22, 2005

We left our hearts ...

We’re home … but we have left our hearts in Moldova. A piece of each child – a smile, a hug, a tug on my sleeve, the feel of their bony little bodies when we embrace, the squeeze of their hand when we pray, their tears when they are hurt or sad – is now a part of us forever, burned into our memories and etched on our hearts. I hope and pray that they were as blessed by our presence as we were by our time with them. I know that we will relive every moment and pray for them constantly until we are with them again.

The presence of God was in every corner of the camp, every day. Others have written about our activities and many, many special moments throughout the week – there were so many that it’s hard to limit comments to a few. But several additional occurrences also made a particular impression on me during the last couple of days. First was the interest of the teachers in our worship services late in the week. I think their interest had a two-fold source, in addition of course to the Holy Spirit working on them all week. First, we had a little “recognition reception” for them on Friday afternoon to acknowledge the very important role they play in the lives of these many children every single day. Maybe this attention we focused on them made them more curious or accepting of our other activities such as worship (and maybe we will have our little reception earlier in the week next time!). More importantly, I believe that our team leader Bill Lovell’s promise on Friday morning to reveal the secret to happiness at the Friday night worship time brought 6-7 teachers to our gathering that evening. Regardless of their motivation to get within earshot, these teachers heard The Word delivered in a beautiful and moving way that night. May our prayers for their hearts to be opened to the saving grace of Jesus Christ be answered quickly, that they may be strength and light to the hundreds of children in their care each day.

Another few moments that brought me totally to tears was the Saturday night talent show by the children. Not a shy bone in some of those little bodies – they are real performers! Songs, poems, skits – each was delightful! But the most powerful and moving event occurred when a group performed a skit that was a take-off on a skit entitled “Choices” performed by some of our team members early in the week. On their own, these kids choreographed a skit wherein a helpless cripple tried to reach the open arms of Jesus but was continually surrounded and blocked by tempters wearing headbands with the Romanian word for “Evil”. The cripple made the right choice and sought Jesus, and it was a tender and awesome demonstration of the kids’ understanding of our Biblical message for the week. My tears flowed from emotion, but it was hard to be sad at the end of a wonderful week upon seeing this message from Deuteronomy brought to life in their dramatization.

We attended church at Jesus Savior on Sunday, and I am convinced that when we are greeted at the Pearly Gates one day the angels there will be singing in Romanian. The voices in the choir were nothing less than heavenly. To worship there with our sponsored children on Sunday morning was another highlight in a week full of very special moments..

I am thankful and humbled by the opportunity to have been on a mission team to carry God’s word to these beautiful children of Moldova. My prayer is that their hope and trust in Jesus will give them courage and strength to make good choices and that God’s angels will surround and protect each one of them every single day.

Marilyn and Joe

Monday, July 18, 2005

Winding Down

Team 3B left for the airport a few hours ago. They are traveling to Rome. Some are staying for two days and the Treadways are staying for a week. I feel like time is standing still, here. We said goodbye to the children Saturday night, and it seems like it was 5 minutes ago. Sunday was good. We all went to church on Sunday morning at Jesus the Savior Baptist Church. There were several other American mission teams at the church, including a large team from their sister church just outside Boston. Bill Lovell was asked to speak and he talked about Choices which was the theme for our week at camp. He started by reading from Deuteronomy 30:19 "Today I have given you the choice between life and death...oh, that you would choose life..." The pastor later preached on the passage Matthew 6:13-14 The Narrow Gate "...its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way... It was definitely the working of the holy spirit that these passages complemented each other so well in the Worship service. After that, those that sponsor children got to take them to downtown Chisinau, while others went to a large canyon in the country and a monastery for some site seeing. There were more tearful goodbyes for the sponsored children and then we headed back to the team house.
Today, I spent some time with some of our translators Dima, Eugen, and Stas in downtown Chisinau, while the four girls I am traveling with went back to the camp. They are so much stronger than I. It was very hard for me to say goodbye Saturday, that I couldn't go through that pain again. Some others from San Antonio also went downtown on their own. They are here until Friday due to some Air Moldova issues and plan to visit the camp on Wednesday. We have moved to another team house to make room for another team coming in today, and will be flying out at 6:30 AM on Tuesday. This trip has taught me much; the power of laughter, the power of presence, the fact that Americans have so much that they don't appreciate, and many other things that I will save for another blog.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Can You Translate This For Me?

The Greatest: back row (left to right): Constanza, Doina, Connie and Olga. Front: Denis, Stas, Dima, Eugene and Serg (C.J.).

If you were to count the number of times our 21 team members asked this, or made similar requests over the 60 or so hours they worked with us this week, we'd likely be stunned.

We are more grateful for your loving work than any gift could express. Thank you each for the way you helped us feel at home in your country and for the way you helped us adjust to camp life.

This week we had 186 precious children---and then an additional 32 on Thursday or so. At our camps, no child is ever a number, no child is ever seen by their circumstances or labeled and cast aside. We try hard to love and touch and talk with every child and without you our work would be futile.

It is my hope and prayer that as you speak for us you are encouraged by the work you are doing. I pray God uses us not only as His hands and feet, but also as He continues to grow you, you yourself will experience a stronger and deeper faith. And, by being His mouth and sharing His heart, you will find you are called to continue to work to disciple the children long after we return to our homes.

Thank you so much for never losing patience with us, for being willing to adapt to anything we might want to try, for being selfless in a long day and in a long week. Thank you for your loving spirits which not only we see, but also these precious children who grow so familiar with you over the summer. I am grateful for your loving hearts that continue to work with us because of your love for God and for the children.

It's been a true joy to work with each of you. At some time over the last ten days I have been blessed to speak with and through each of you. I always have so much to say and share with these dear children. Thank you for never once seeming as though what I wished to convey was silly or unnecessary or tedious. Thank you for the time you sacrifice and the love of God you boldly work to share with us and with the children.

I can't wait to see you all soon.

Te iubisc,
ps. hey, can you translate some letters for me (ha ha ha).

Friday, July 15, 2005

News from the Front

Hey you guys!!! This is Hannah Holloway and Cortnie Treadway and we think Jen is really really cool. haha. This is a combination of yesterday and today.

Thursday we started out with a morning devotion by Keith Edmondson that got us ready for the day. Then, we left for camp at about 9:15. Next, we started camp out with worship songs and a testimony by Bob Hudson. We then broke up into our small groups. After groups, we had activities such as dance in the gazeebo, crafts in the cafeteria, and sports on the field. The dance was "I Can Only Imagine" and it was so awesome. They caught on so quick that they performed that night and did an amazing job. In the afternoon after lunch the team went to the transitional house that Sweet Sleep is purchasing for kids that have to leave the orphanage and have no place to go. That night, we sang some more worship songs. Amber did our testimony and Bob did our sermon. We got back to the house and had a four on four basketball game between the translators and Americans. Of course, the Americans won by 1.

Friday was pretty much the same as Thursday except we had a pizza party that night for the kid's supper. Also, we served the teachers cookies and drinks in the afternoon. We also gave them gifts as appreciation.

Pray for us as we prepare for tomorrow because we have to say goodbye to the kids. Some we will see Sunday but it will still be hard to leave them. Goodnight for now. We love you!!!!!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Chronicles of The Rock

note: (top) Radu in vest with me and his friend, Sergiu today, sharing his choice with a friend (bottom) Radu in yellow, me and our translator, Eugene, yesterday after Radu prayed to accept Christ

So, my boy Petru (which means The Rock) has added a new dimension to my final week here in Moldova. You might recall him as the boy I spoke about in my blog called "A Modern Day Gideon"--if you've not read it you really might want to scroll down a bit and come back.

When I last left you, a young boy named Petru had prayed to accept Christ and asked God to acknowledge and confirm that choice as he blew on a piece of paper containing a marker. As we talked a unually rowdy boy was sitting still and listening intently. His name is Radu and as our group talked about Petru's excellent choice I asked him if he had ever made a choice like Petru's.
He told me he had given it a fair bit of thought and he wasn't sure. As we continued to talk about this we agreed he would come and find me the next morning for prayer....and only God knew what else would happen.

Yesterday he found me...twice. No conversation at camp is ever really private, so we had gathered a small crowd as I listened to him tell me he had observed the joy and happiness he had been observing in Petru since he heard about his prayer to ask Jesus into his life. He told me he wanted the same thing and asked to pray.

Radu offered two learned prayers to God before deciding he wanted to just tell God how he was feeling and why he was making this "choice". I cannot recall the words, but it was the most beautiful and tender prayer I've heard.

I told Radu he could come and find me again today if he'd like to read some scripture together.

This morning he brought a friend. As we began our conversation I happened to ask if he had told his friend about his exciting decision. He had not. I encouraged him to share his great decision, however he was a little shy about it. So, we talked about Petru and the joy he had and how, by Petru talking about it, Radu had been encouraged and led to make a similar decision. We read about always being willing to have a reason for the hope we have and then I challenged Radu to tell three people today about his decision. I offered to share his news with this friend and he could observe.

We sat and talked and read scripture and prayed for an exciting length of time and I encouraged them to continue to find me if they wanted to talk or read or pray.

This evening they were both at my heels. They brought a friend and wanted to talk with me in private. I never know what's coming in these private conversations.

As it turns out, Radu and his friend wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed the way I shared things with them and the way in which I spoke and even the tone of my voice. I thought that was very interesting---I mean they are 12, so you wouldn't think they'd be aware of any of those things. These kids are something else....

I pressed him a little more and he told me that he had shared his decision with two people and wanted to make the third a friend he brought over, but had asked to sit a few feet away and wait on him. He wanted me to hear him talk with his friend and to use my "voice and words" if he needed me.

I watched and listened as this little one shared his new faith with a friend. It was incredible. Just incredible. I feel like I've known these little ones for years more than they've even been alive and I know that is God bringing us together. It doesn't get much greater than that.

Oh, except for Radu has been challenged to share with FIVE friends tomorrow.

Praise God and Stay Tuned....


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Some of our Favorite Numbers

Number of children at camp: 186 (a record)
Team members: 20.5 (now that Ashley has returned home)
Number of hard working translators: 9
Vans to transport the masses: 3
Times a week we eat potatos: 14
Clicks of our cameras: 4,327
Hours of sleep gotten each night: 5
Days of rain: 1 (with a bad forecast!!)
The average number of mosquito bites on our bodies: 27
Smiles and hugs given and received so far this week: 12, 834

Times we've shared the chance for the children to know Christ: countless
Number of children who've asked God to come into their lives : more than 40 (indiv. stories to follow).

Nuff said.

Praise God. Send prayers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Modern Day Gideon

Yesterday God reminded me, again, He is working anywhere we stop and look for Him.

A note to all who read this, Team Three's theme this week...what we are constantly bringing up in every conversation, is "Choose Life"...specifically from Deuteronomy 30:19. In everything we do we are talking with the children about making the BEST choice...the BEST decision.

Today, Doina, one of our beloved translators, and I took a few distracting young boys away from a girl's group. We walked down to a bench and started a conversation --about nothing really. As I wondered where our conversation would go I looked up and saw a little boy named Nicu (about 9 or so) who had earlier prayed with Bill Lovell to accept Christ.

I called him over and his friends followed. I took his tiny hand and asked if he had made any decisions today that he wanted to tell us about. He thought for a minute and then told me he was going to leave camp that morning and decided to stay. I laughed and told him he had made a good decision.

As we continued to talk he told us the sweet story about how he and Bill found themselves in a place where Nicu made a choice to know God. It was an great story.

I asked the other young boys squatting in our tight circle if any of them had made decisions like Nicu. A young blue-eyed boy with dark wavy hair began to share a story with us. It's probably the greatest story I've ever heard from a child and I want to share it with you.

He shared that he was alone (except for a few friends he wasn't paying attention to) in his cabin and he made the decision to ask God to come into his heart and live there forever. He told us he prayed for God to do so and to make him happy and to never leave and to forgive him for the things he did that were bad. When he was finished praying he said he didn't feel much different than before the he wondered if he had done it right.

So, in order to check this out, he decided to perform a test of sorts. He told us he took a piece of paper and rolled a marker up in it. He prayed again and told God he would blow on the end of the paper and, if the marker came out, it would tell him his prayers had indeed work. If not, well...I guess he might have continued to pray until he felt an earthquake or something.

Petru blew on the piece of paper (boy was I anxious for the verdict....). The marker blew out of the paper and he said he felt different and took all of this as affirmation that God had heard his prayers and was now living in his heart.

I asked Petru if he had been reading his Bible today and he told me he had been reading in Luke. I invited him to come find me the next day so we could sit and read the Bible together. I asked our little circle if anyone else had made decisions like Petru.

The wild little boy next to me had been noticeably calm for this conversation and suddenly he began to tell me he had thought about this before but had never asked him. I encouraged him with the statement that maybe God would let him know He'd like for him to make that choice this week, and if so, to find one of us and ask us to pray with him...or, to pray on his own and tell one of us if he did so. His name is Radu and he asked if he could find me tomorrow morning and pray with me. Please pray for him and whatever God might be speaking to him.

Below is a picture of our new little brother, Petru, and the illustration he gave us of the paper and marker he used. Praise God for this little guy...and for the many others who are and will make decisions this week.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Day 1 success!!

hello readers!
here in moldova, the clock is just striking 9:38. behind me on the dining room table, supplies, gifts, candy, hygeine products, cds, peanut butter , etc. etc. etc. are spread across the table. the team is in "day 2 preparation mode", and i'm sure they are doing a stellar job. it's a lot like santa's workshop right now, and we are all the little elves (out of costume, however), running around making lists and checking them twice. i've volunteered to be the blogger for the night, so here i sit in the black leather chair, surrounded by voices and hands in preparation to bring joy to our kids tomorrow. but for now,let's sit back and reflect.
saturday night passed by quickly with a short dinner at mcdonald's. we came home and woke up a few hours later. some of us piled into a van and drove out to the country where bill lovell gave a nice sermon on making good choices "for the long run"as opposed to the short term. we were blessed by brent'samazing violin playing abilities. he had an encore!!!
the rest of our sunday was busy. we visited Internat 2, the school where the kids spend 9 months of their year. we saw the new beds (hey hey team 2~~~) and we saw a few classrooms. next we drove out to the summer camp and spent a shorttime acquainting ourselves with the kids and grabbing a few to bring along to the last night of the franklin graham festival. we got through an entire night with 30ish orphans in tow and somehow managed to get them all back to their camp in one piece. it was an act of God. and not to mention that some of them accepted Christ as their Lord and joined our family!!! we were so thankful for the chance to take them, since it was a first for them all, and for this country as well.
after some rearranging on our parts, we set off for camp today. leanne gave a wonderful devotional about having confidence in God and his way of doing this camp rather than our own plans that seemed to be flopping again and again. what foreshadowing!!!! it was an enormously wondeful day. kids found new american friends and vice versa. music was better than ever with a piano playing by greg and a violin by brent. english was a huge hit with karen and loreen and ralph. letter writing with marilyn and nancy and loreen brought a new flavor to camp. the dancetime was totally fabulous,thanks to hannah and courtney. they even had some of our older translator boys out there interpretatively moving for jesus!!!! oh yes, i took pictures! i know there were many amazing conversations going on and kids were being prayed for all day long. bob even led one of the older girls to Christ this evenign. Praise the Lord!!!!
So at the end of Day 1, it went well. As always, Satan finds a way in to distract and discourage those who are threatening him. Thankfully we continue to walk in victory, knowing this week is all about God and he will havehisway.
Will you pray for us, for the kids, and for our ability to flexibly allow this week to work out as it should?
We miss you and wish you were here!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

What I would have said...

Contrary to popular belief, I'm a really shy person, and speaking in front of people, even our team, scares me half to death...

Last night, as I finally finished unpacking, I was thinking about our last night in Moldova, when we went to eat and bowling. After the guys spoke and told their stories, we had a chance to say something to them in return. Dima kept trying to get me to stand and say something but I wouldn't budge. So, as I sat on the floor in the middle of my room last night, I got distracted by once again looking at my pictures, and they got me thinking. I thought about what I would have said if I had found the strength and courage to actually stand up and say something. I think it may have been something like this:

"I go on trips like this every year, each year telling myself that this is the year that I can not attach myself to people because I know I will just be hurt in the end. This year is different. At the beginning of the week, I came to work not form relationships with anyone, but that changed. I saw my sister forming friendships and realized that I did not want to be left out in the cold, so I did the same, not knowing how much you guys would change me by the end of the week. After the first flower from a napkin to the last water balloon thrown at me, I knew that I had formed bonds with all of you that will NEVER be broken."

(I then would have said something to each of the guys individually)

"Ivan: You are like the brother I never had. Sure, I have a brother, but I never see him, so you have filled that void in my life. I wish the best for you in all that you do. I know that I can always call you a friend and nothing can change that. I know God has a big plan for your life and I'm so glad that I've gotten to be a part of it."

"Dennis: I loved watching you work with my dad and Tripp this week. I am so glad that I could share Tom with you and everyone else. Tom is a special man with an even bigger heart, so to see him love and praise working with you, gives me such a joy being his step-daughter, for I know the love he gives me is being given to someone else as well. God will take care of you, and know that you will never be alone in this world, you have a bunch of people who love and care about you now."

"Ruslan: What can I say about have one of the biggest hearts out of the many people I have met in my young life. I have loved watching you grow this week into a man with so much compassion for the world and people around him. God will use you in so many ways that it just awes me to think about it."

"Dima: I loved getting to know you this past week. You're so full of life, and you have so many great things ahead of you in your life...I know my mom loves you like her own, and my family all feels the same way. I wish you the best in all that you do. From my first flower you made me, I knew you were someone who would forever change me as a person. Although we don't speak the same language, I know that I can talk to you about anything, just find me a translator, and you have proved that this past week. In what way God will use you in this big world, I don't know, but I know it will be awesome when that time comes around."

"I am so blessed to have met each of you and the other guys, and I am so humbled to call you my friends. You may be half a world away from me, but distance is just a number, friendships last a lot longer than any distance. I love each and everyone of you, and wish the best for you in your life. I know in my heart that I will see all of you one day again."

It really hit me last night just how much of a bond I had formed with each of these guys. Like I said before, from the flowers, to the water fights, water balloons, to eating lunch everyday in the same spot just to get away from everyone and get the chance to become better friends, the friendships I made last week, have a lasting impact on me, and that has forever changed me.

And that's what I would have said...


Friday, July 08, 2005

"8:44 pm on July 8th"

(decision counselors and our boys)

Team 3A arrived this afternoon. God has blessed all our teams with same travels and smooth entries and we continue to pray and ask this for team 3B which arrives in 13 hours.

The group of 5 was ready to hit the ground running....praise God, for only He knew what He had in store for this evening.

We arrived with the team and the 11 children from the orphanage and found some seats in the soccer stadium. As we all took in the service I wondered how this event might change people's lives. It made me think back to the times I had taken friends to events like this and reminded me of those who made decisions in those moments. I prayed for those who came to mind, as well as for those children who were with us and who'll come over the next two days.

Franklin was direct and to the point from the moment he opened his mouth. He essentially gave the "altar call" first and then said in a few minutes he wanted them to come. He mentioned this again and again as he delivered his message and then finally, offered the invitation.

I watched curiously as I began to see people leave their seats and come onto the track to make their way to the front. Then, I suddenly heard my name, "jennnnn...." I looked down the row and saw Vasile who said, "jen, come go with me." I was in deep prayer mode all the way through the crowded sections, praying for whatever God was doing in Vasile's life and sensing from the grip he had on my hand that God was indeed making that boy move some turf to get to the front.

About halfway up I realized we were not alone. Other boys had followed. We all held hands in a chain, 5 boys and I, as we made our way up to the front. We stood together as we waited for the other people of Moldova to make their way and then Franklin led our sweet boys in a prayer. It was beautiful to listen to their voices.

After, Franklin looked at his watch and announced this new day in their lives..."8:44 on July 8th, 2005..." he told them it was the day God had erased their sins from their lives and made them whole. I pray for that. Praise God!

God has opened up some incredible doors with these young men and in the last week I have had incredible conversations with them. I'm looking forward to getting to talk with them about this evening and to hear their hearts, pray with them and encourage them. Please join me in prayer for Vasile, Ivan, Dennis, Ruslan and Artur---five young men who are ready to change the world.
Partying in Moldova and in Heaven,
Jen and company

Team 3A has landed!

So, we finally made it. We picked up Leann in Cincinnati and made our way here. In Amsterdam, we met Peter Law, an Australian, and he helped us go through the transfer desk and make sure that our luggage made it onto Moldovan Air. Peter, a pastor, missionary, and artist has been coming here to Moldova and other former soviet contries since 1985. He founded Challenge Ministries, located in Portland, OR, which does a lot including large medical missions to rural villages in Moldova. ( On this particular visit he is working with men in prison. We had the opportunity to talk with him on the flight and he told us how much things have changed since 1985 from sneaking around then, to a much more open door policy to sharing the gospel.
I will have to admit that I was scared about going through security. After I checked my passport, my heart started beating rapidly. I was sure that one of the security gaurds was going to take half of my stuff for the children. About 3 seconds later, a young man came up to me and said, "Are you Keith?" His name is Dorel, a local pastor and CERI helper. Jen had told him look for the red-headed guy. My fears were completely gone. Even more so, the black crate, that I had duct taped shut, had not even been opened for a security check. (oh, me of little faith)
We immediately headed off to the Franklin Graham Crusade, which was packed, and met some of the boys from Camp. Jen has a good story on that, and then it was off to McDonald's for a quick snack, before the crazy round-a-bout drive back to the compound. Can't wait to see Team3B. ---Keith

Nancy, Keith, Shannon and Laureen

Moldova Bound - Team 3-A - 07/07/2005

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Mom, I love you!!!

Well, it is time that I gather my thoughts and feelings and make an attempt to put an amazing journey down on paper. After reading everyone's reports, commonly known as "blogs," I feel completely inadequate with my writing skills... So please open your hearts and read between the lines. I will do my best to convey to you the story from my point of view. Here it goes...
I must admit before the trip began, I was completely drained and spiritually unfit to go halfway across the world to share the love of Christ with others. The passing of Tom's mother just under two weeks prior to the trip, took everything out of me and the last thing I needed was a mission trip. But I knew I must go... I was determined not to let Satan get the best of me. That is my stubborn nature! This time it worked to my advantage.
Anyway, I hop on a plane with my family in tow. Yes, Tom, Jessica, and Bekah were all part of this journey. I must admit, even though I was not spiritually prepared, I was extremely exited about my entire family going. This was Bekah's first mission trip ever and I wanted for her to experience the feeling of God's presence like the rest of us have experienced in the past. I was anxious to watch her... I already knew how Jessica would be with the kids. I have had the privilege to watch her in action before on trips to Brazil. She is great with them. Jess-e-ca! Jess-e-ca!
We arrived on Sunday with all of our luggage. (Small miracle!) Had a nice dinner, well everyone but me. Mine never arrived. However, that was really fine with me because I was not hungry anyway. Just glad I did not miss out on any chocolate ice cream... We went back to the hotel and got ready for a very fast and furious week ahead. I won't go into many details about the actual work because I after reading the other reports, I know you got the jest of the work that was acccomplished... (Huge miracle!) FYI--I was so very proud of the team and the efforts that were put forth in getting 180 beds stained, each piece of every bed moved from one area to another area way to many times (thanks ant line participants!), assembling the beds where the parts/holes didn't always match up, mastering the art of putting vinyl covers on a foam mattress, etc. And need I say a huge thank you for the sub-team (you know who you are) that knocked a hole 24" thick in the wall so that the "fan" door could be installed. Dirty job, but somebody had to do it!!! And another thank you for putting in new flooring in two dorm rooms so that more children will have a room to sleep in. Way to go!!!
The team worked hard and we played hard. The team survived me and my bossy behavior. Sorry team, that is just the way I am. I see something that needs to be done, and I try hard to get it done. But I do know you still love me. At least I think so... Don't let me know otherwise!
What I found most exciting was the transformation of the older guys at the orphange. They arrived on Monday being very distant and non interactive. But thanks to the wonderful translators, and Jessica and Bekah, it did not take long for the guys to start to feel comfortable acound a bunch of stangers on their "turf." Anyway, as the week progressed, relationships started to form. They started to come to life and laughter was heard around the orphanage. As a mom, I watched tenderly as Jessica and Bekah became friends with orphan boys their own ages. I could not have been more proud of my girls as they made the guys feel loved and cared for. They are forever bonded!
Get the kleenex...
The guys have a special place in my heart. I think it is because they are in the same place in life that Jessica and Bekah are. Teenagers! They are trying to find their place in this world and are scared of the unkown. Rightfully so... But these guys are strong and like I said to them before, they are survivors. They have it tough. But I believe in them. I love them. And most importanly, God loves them. I have just been chosen as a vessel to funnel His mightly love to them. I am so honored to play a part in their lives.
You know, as a mother, nothing means more to you than when your child comes to you and says "Mom, I love you." Well, by the end of an amazing journey, these guys who have little faith in their own parents for various reasons, were calling me "Mom" and telling me how much they love me!!! Very cool, huh? I get all emotional just remembering their voices in my head! :)
I take my job as a parent very seriously, so I am honored to be called "Mom" by Dima, Ivan, and Arture. They are my sons and I love them so much!!! I may be a half a world away, but in my heart we are forever together.
Enough of the mushy stuff... Got to go and get ready to drive to New York on Friday to share our story with our son, Brian and his family. He has no clue that he has more brothers now!!!
Hugs and Kisses to each of you team two! You are awesome!
Sweet Sleep! zzz

The saga of four "left behind"

Monday as we returned to the United States, some eager team members raced to the ticket counter to learn of some open seats on an earlier flight back to Nashville. After the remaining seats were allocated, four of us were left behind to await our original return flight home.

Our story begins with Miller, Tripp, Roger and Brian aimless walking around the Cincy airport in search of FOOD! The choice is Outback , so we head over to concourse A. Miller is beginning to recover from his adverse reaction to some Delta Airlines veggie pizza, and all four of us are ready to eat. Enter our waiter singing"I love my job" ...actually it was very apparant he wanted to be ANYWHERE but at his job. This was very clear when he asked, "Can we finish the order now"?

He was a rather foul mouth young man, and I'm sure he was thinking "Great, I get stuck with the Jesus Freaks". He was bored so he started the usual small talk of where have you been, what did you do there, and where are you headed. After we told about how mission with sweet sleep, he said "So you guys get paid to do this, or do you have regular jobs"? The look on his face was unforgettable when we stated that we actually paid to go on this trip and had regular jobs.

I noticed that somewhere along the line he begin to respect us and he caught himself a few times before using profanity as an adjective. He even gave us our drinks with no charge and said he would have taken our meals off, but they couldn't comp meals.

I say this to make a point. We were exhausted, hungry, and basically zoned out....yet simply telling our story of how we had spent the past 10 days made a small impact on someone that would have (at first meeting) appeared to be the last person that wanted to hear about God's work. This tells me that we need to always be very aware of how we respond or react to anyone or any situation.

After our meal we headed back to our gate. Miller crashed on his luggage and two seats. He put in his ear buds , covered his head with a hooded jacket and dreamed the world away. Tripp couldn't be pryed away from the phone, he was sooo ready to see his family. Roger and Brian wandered around the concourse areas trying to work off sitting for so long on a long flight. Then again, maybe Brian was sneaking off to call Shari?????? ;-)

Finally back in Nashville we noticed that the luggage for Bill, The Bloughs , and The Beasleys were coming off with ours so we gathered it up for them and after not reaching either on the phone carried it over to the baggage service, so it would all be together.

UPS Special Delivery!!

I said in a previous post that I would write more about my experience in Moldova when I got back to the States. Well, I've been back for 3 days now, and I still can't quite find the words to answer the question, "How was your trip?"

Instead, I wish I could give each of you a package. Your vision is fuzzy and you can't make out the shape, but you open it anyway. As you open the package, the first thing you notice is a beautiful and distinct smell - the smell of a dirty child mixed with farmland and your own sweat. You breathe it all in. Somehow, you feel at home.

Next you hear a sound, faint at first but slowly getting louder and louder. You realize it's the voices of children speaking in Romanian. "Now take MY picture!", "Ha ha ha!", "I don't know when my birthday is.", "Do you want to play volleyball?", "Ha ha ha!", "Look at this banner I painted!", "Come sit on my bed with me and let me show you pictures of my family.", "Ha ha ha!", "Are you coming back tomorrow?" Everything goes silent, and your heart breaks. For the first time since you arrived you have to say, "No, I'm not." You quickly follow with, "But even if I'm not here, God is always with you...I love you and so does Jesus!" But your heart is still broken.

Your stomach growls, and you notice there's food inside the package. You have a choice...chicken and potatoes or McDonald's. You choose chicken and potatoes, and you wash it down with a cold Coke light. Feeling reenergized, you look back at the package. Its shape is still fuzzy.

Suddenly, you feel something in your hand. It's another hand...much smaller than yours and softer. It squeezes your hand to let you know that it loves you and trusts you. You squeeze back to return the sentiment. Next, you feel two small arms wrap around your neck, and they don't let go. You return the embrace and decide to stay there until the other arms let go.

They finally let go, and the package takes shape. It's the face of a small, 9-yr-old boy named Mihai Rurac. And the only thing keeping you from weeping is the giant smile that he brings to your face. Your heart is warmed and your perspective on everything is changed. You are discouraged by this young boy's sitation and yet challenged to make a difference in his life and in his world. Every day from now on becomes one day closer to seeing him again and another opportunity to pray for him, his future and his salvation.

You take heart in the following verse..."Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
-2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Emily Borders

Today is Day What !!! ?

Each morning as Miller handed out our letters and cards from our prayer partners , we were so amazed at how many days of the trip had already passed. The envelopes were labeled for that particular day and we couldn't believe some mornings that our 10 days were so quickly winding down.

It seems I never want to return home from these types of trips. I always feel as though we left something undone, and when you see the magnitude of projects to still complete, lives to be touched, etc you feel somewhat guilty.

Recently I was having lunch with our singles minister, Ramon Presson. We discussed a few ideas and projects and the conversation took a turn. I stated that I wanted my life to have an impact, to do something that "meant something, or made a difference". As our plane flew to Moldova and after we were there it dawned on me....what better way to make that difference than to show God and his love through your life and actions. I mean, we could have a transalator sit and tell these kids all day that Jesus loves them, however unless they see it lived in and through us, they might never understand.

Working with the older guys, then playing them in basketball, frisbee, american football, and soccer we built something other than new beds. We built trust and friendships! These are things we have everyday, they may never have had this before or ever again!! Let that rattle around your brain for a minute.

It was quickly obvious just how spoiled we as Americans are. This was never so more clear than the night after our hardest work day, followed by some outdoor activities with the kids. We returned to the house and Lucia met us with some bottled water and buckets telling us this was to flush with, there would be NO water until the next morning around 11am, we panicked! The thought of missing an evening and morning shower floored us, but we quickly decided we could deal with it. Amazingly not long after this, the water suddenly returned and although muddy for a few hours we had water!!! This is nothing short of a miracle for anything in Moldova to be finished 16 hours ahead of schedule ;-)

Early in the week , it seemed this was a "task/construction" mission, quickly that changed and the boys' lives and those of the younger children we visited became our focus. God allowed us to finish almost TWO days ahead of schedule and thus had the chance to really get to know and bond with the young men we had worked beside each day.

This team was AWESOME! Sure there were a few moments of drama , a little aggravation, etc. however we made some life long friends and touched each other's lives in various ways. We knew we had jobs to do and we did them , then we allowed God to work through us to do "his job" on the boys. I wish we could be there as the kids return and see there new beds and new floors.

I think each of us could go on for weeks trying to explain how this experience has changed us. I wish team 3 the best as they were with some more kids the next few weeks!


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Reflections on Moldova

I believe we all have within us a desire to leave this world a better place than we found it. That was my goal and reason for hopping on a plane halfway around the world to help some children in need. The reality of it is that it not only helped in Moldova, but it transformed my life as well. If I could only be more like these children. The lessons we could all learn from them. They are true vessels of God's amazing, selfless love. They remain happy regardless of life's circumstances. They have a smile of innocence on their faces, and a warmth and yearning for God's love in their hearts. The more we tried to do for them, the more they gave back of themselves. We gave the smaller children at the orphanage camp some small toys and candy. They were soooooooo appreciative. They lit up with joy. Yet, what did most of them do with their prized possessions? They tried to give them back and share EVERYTHING that they had. THEY wanted to make ME happy. THEY wanted to make ME feel loved. They were never more content than to have your arm wrapped tightly around them. They grasp you tightly in the hope that you will never let them go. They want to love and be loved. Isn't that true for us all? How is it fair that Igor's mother died 2 years and 3 months ago and his father is in jail for beating him until he broke his skull and was bleeding from his head. How sad that he didn't say 2 or 2 1/2 years, but that he is still counting the months since he lost her. This little 12 year old boy has nothing and no one. No siblings, no family and yet he remains open to love and be loved. He is able to trust again and to love with God's love. It is the same with all of the children here (Nina and Dina and Ruslan and Ilie and Doina... I could go on and on with the stories they all have to tell.) The bottom line is they are all vessels of God's amazing love.

The older boys we had the opportunity to build beds with were very much the same. As we worked side by side together throughout the week, we made true friendships I will never forget. Even with the language barrier, there is a universal language of love. A smile in passing, a purposeful "slip" of a paintbrush, a bump from a foam mattress, a pillow fight, a water balloon tossed from a 3rd story window, a game of frisbee or basketball or bowling...these are all memories that will stick for a lifetime. The most touching memory of all showed us that the trip had become everything we had hoped for and so much more. The last day of work at the orphanage we had to finish setting up the beds. We thought it would be a very full day, as they all had been. As I went to the first building to get an accurate count of what needed to be done, I found the boys ALREADY FINISHING the entire days work. They had arrived EARLY in the morning to surprise us. They were BEAMING with pride in their accomplishments. Our smiles and joy could not be contained! I ran as fast as I could to tell the rest of the group what they had done. When everyone arrived, the boys took the group on a tour of their labor of love. This empty shell of a building suddenly had all of the beds in perfect order. It had been transformed from drab and dreary to a place where Sweet Sleep could be found. It was the boys that had taken the initiative to help all on their own. We were able to see the self worth and self esteem they had achieved. It was a glorious sight to watch them mature before our very eyes. These boys are all "Diamonds in the Rough." If someone would simply take the time to look and see their value. If we could just help cultivate and polish them, they would shine with a dazzling brilliance. I know God cares for these young men and so do I.

There is an extra special place in my heart for all of these I met in Moldova. There is also a very special place in my heart for each and every team member I have gotten to know. I have so many FUN memories of each of you. If you are going to be crammed in together like Sardines, I can't think of a better group of friends to do it with. You are all truly amazing and I have so much love and respect for all of you. It will be very hard to think of anything other than these kids over the next few days. Maybe that is God's plan, to permanently stamp them in our hearts. !

GO TEAM THREE! We will be praying!

Ashley building beds with her boy, Mircha

Ashley with the Moldovan flu

Ashley at camp, feeling better

New Beds

New Beds
Originally uploaded by emily_borders.
A room full of beautiful, new amazing sight!

Old Bed

Old Bed
Originally uploaded by emily_borders.
This is an example of an old bed and mattress that has been soiled over many years.

New Floor

New Floor
Originally uploaded by emily_borders.
This is (top to bottom) Artur, Ivon, and Vasile helping to put in the new floor, or "foundation".

Old Floor

Old Floor
Originally uploaded by emily_borders.
I tried to add these 4 photos to Jen's Blog "Beds-R-Us" but I couldn't get it to work. So I'm uploading them individually. This is a picture of one of the rotted out floors in the dorm.

I can't sleep, and now I know why...

My family and I made it home safely on Monday.

I have been on my fair share of mission trips in my young life, and I have thought that for the past couple of years that I would only go to Brazil, and that every other place in the world was just not my cup of tea...Somehow, my family, especially my sister Rebekah, talked me into going to Moldova this year, so I gave in and came...little did I know how much my life would change...

I'll be the first to admit that I love doing His work and I love being part of a team who feels the exact same that I do, but when I first got to Moldova last Sunday, I wanted to be on the first flight out of there. Something inside of me wasn't connecting and I really didn't feel that I belonged there. I swallowed my pride and went about staining countless pieces of wood and unloading even more...

One day, one of our team leaders, Brian, sat down with me during lunch, and we had a heart to heart talk. I told him that I didn't want to be there, and that I just wanted to go home, but he assured me that I was sent here for a reason, even though that reason wasn't clear to me at the point...something clicked...that missing piece in my heart, found its place, and from that moment on, I knew that God had sent me to this country that hardly any of my friends and family had even heard of, for a certain reason...

I think everything really hit me on Friday morning, when Laura told me that some of the guys had shown up early to finish putting together the rest of the beds...I ran to the third dorm, to see what they had accomplished, and when I looked in the first room, tears ran down my face. I was so impressed with what Dima, Ivan, Vasile, and Artur had done, words really can't do justice to that moment...

My heart really goes out to the older kids, because I am kind of at the same point in my life as they are...I'm going off to college next month, and I'm being forced to face the world on my own, and I know that they are already facing this big, scary world by themselves, and it truly makes me admire each and everyone of them. I'm really struggling to force myself to grow up, and to have to see these guys grow up so much faster than what I have ever had to do, just floors me...

So, as I sit at home, a few bruises and paper flowers later, I can't sleep...not just because of jet lag, but also because I really was changed this past's amazing that me, a person who only sees in black and white, finally gets the big picture...if you had asked me not even a month ago if I was excited and ready for this trip, I would have told you that I didn't really care, and that I was just going because my family wanted me to...but now, I know with all my being that God had a reason for me going, and I'm so thankful that he opened my eyes to realize that Brazil is not the only place he wants me to be, but he wants me in Moldova as well...I'm so proud of our team, and all that we accomplished this past week, it's amazing at what He can do in such a short amount of time!

In God's grace,

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


As the Sweet Sleep Construction team returns and settles back into Nashville and the reality of the work accomplished here begins to sink in, I thought I might just share a little about the incredible events that occured.

In short, it was witnessing a miracle...maybe a modern day "Loaves and Fishes" story. Here, a few dollars were given by many individuals and then God was able to take those dollars and provide for the building of 180 new beds for the largest orphanage in Moldova.

Children who sleep two-to-a bed suffer from health problems from sleeping on metal bed frames with broken springs which make the beds sag like a hammocks. Inch-thin cotton mattresses are completely soiled -and disgusting, really- from countless years of children wetting their beds. Worn and dirty wool blankets do little to comfort a motherless child.

In just 6 days our team of 17, plus 5 translators, 2 drivers worked along side 12-15 boys (mostly recent graduates from the orphanage...meaning they've been discharged after completing the 9th grade) to teach them various carpentry skills. What we couldn't anticipate was the actual impact the work would have on the lives of our young boys....or our team.

For the first time in most of their lives, these young men were a part of a team. They were respected, accountable, instructed, guided, encouraged and loved. Their faces beamed as they worked. Their gait had an extra strut as they walked confidently from site to site. They worked long and hard hours as they loaded and unloaded trucks, carried heavy lumber, learned to work sanders and drills and saws for the first time and joined in by sweating with people they barely knew, but who they sensed respected and loved them.

Our example of this pride came one day as we arrived at the orphanage and discovered several Sweet Sleep boys (2 current and 1 newly hired) had arrived as the roosters began crowing and worked feverishly to assemble the last 50 beds before we arrived that morning (see blog post "Bed Elves").

Young boys became young men last week--understanding what it felt like to be counted in and counted on. Working together for a common purpose. Taking and giving love. It was a first in so many ways. Our men became unexpected fathers---showing love and respect to children who've not known either. There seems to have been something magnificent in showing a fatherless boy how to smooth out the rough edges of a floor....or maybe their life.

Men and women alike worked hard to give love and then to leave traces of even more love than they could dish out in a week. Because of the willingness to step out in faith and in love, between 180-360 children will have new beds this fall (many children will continue to double up on these new beds so as to not be hurt hurt by old beds). Because of the willingness to do whatever it took, this team replaced and repaired the floor in two bedrooms (because the first step to sweet sleep is a firm foundation!) and now those rooms can be used which will allow living quarters for 12-24 children. Because of the flexibility of this team, a brother of a Sweet Sleep seamstress will now be able to live with his family because our team and Sweet Sleep worker, Vasile, made the necessary repairs to their dilapidated home.

Truly this work has been a miracle from God. Just ask the children whose lives are now changed.

So, to all my laboring friends back in Nashville and Kansas City...Sleep Sweetly tonight.


But the greatest of these?

OH Moldova, OH Moldova! If you could hear the tune accompanying these words in my head, you'd find my song to be quite cute. I made it up a few summers ago when I was here and I discovered that strange and unexplainable things happen in this country. And not just while you are here, but once you get home. The mystifying Moldovan haze follows you once you leave. Of all the countries I've been in, none leaves me so confused or (if having a bad day) annoyed. For those of you who have visited Moldova, little explanation is required here. And for those who are considering a visit, or have never even heard mention of the country, don't allow this venting on my part to serve as a reason for not coming. It's worth the experience. You can do anything for 8-10 days.
All joking aside, I'm in a bad place to be blogging. I've been bedridden since Sunday morning when I started suffering from flu-like symptoms. I guess that's the most frequent diagnosis I've been given, so we'll go with that. The Moldovan flu is nothing to be proud of, that's for sure. But while lying in my bed, soaking up the shots and drugs being pumped into me from one unlicensed doctor or another (Including an ambulance visit, bringing me 2 shots in the rump), I"ve seen an invaluable lesson developing before me. You don't have to be conscious to know that you are ultimately dependent upon a power greater than yourself. Step 2 in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous states: "Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." It would be obvious from the claim of step 2 that step 1 is an confession of our powerlessness against that which ailes us: be it substances, people, or illnesses. At the end of the day, we cannot sit back and boast in our strength. If anything throughout our day has led us to believe we are the highest source of all things, then our perceptions are skewed and we're better off boasting in our ability to take away our own life rather than provide or sustain it: this is all we are able to do on our own.
That's the lesson I've learned in Moldova this week.
I've sat with Nicoli, the blue/green eyed brother of Gleb, both 11 or younger, both gorgeous and insanely fun children. I was lying on the hill the other day and Nicoli rested his head on my stomach and together we reclined for hours. He was as content as I was.
I've held Galina's head in my lap as she wept tears of loneliness and fear stemming from her parentless place in the world. She couldn't even articulate what was upsetting her. All she knew was that she had to cry.
I've bounced little Vera on my knees, a girl I spent about an hour of my entire life with. She lives in an unknown orphanage in an unknown country, and yet her name is forever implanted in my heart. I see her face and her smile in my mind's eye. I feel the weight of her frail body upon my legs, and I see her pull away in relucatant jests as I tickle her or kiss her cheek.
I've built beds with Mircea, my sponsor boy. A 14 year old man with 8 brothers and sisters, each by a different father. I saw him succeed in using a drill and his hands, I saw the joy it brought him and how he quickily masked that joy behind indifferent shoulder shrugs and high fives, as if he'd been building beds for years. Teenagers!

This trip has offered me no shortage of God moments, of blessings from him -- the kind he rains down freely upon me while I am here. I have no place to complain, worry, or wonder about my current illness. If I had to leave Moldova tomorrow, this trip would have been well worth it. The stick with which I measure my success in the work of the kingdom is invisible to our Lord.
It's been interesting to see the theme that has developed in words from people back home. Some of the closest friends in my life right now have been writing me emails and letters of encouragment, and would you know that the point they all come back to is LOVE. A prayer letter from Tim sums it up perfectly, and I keep coming back to it:

"And this is my prayer for you and for Moldova. I desire that you will be strengthened through the Spirit so that you can serve God in the way you are capable of serving him and so that Christ will dwell in your heart. I pray that you have been and will be rooted and grounded in love b/c without it you are just a clanging symbol and a banging gong. And I pray that you are able to know just how great and unfathomable our God is so that you will be able to express that in praise, prayer and in testimony."

His words struck a cord with me today as I reread them. "...strengthened through the Spirit SO THAT you can serve God in the way you are CAPABLE of....and so that CHrist can dwell in your heart." But what if my capabilites are nothing more than lying in a bed getting stuck with needles and drinking funky fluids till I wanna puke? That's not strength. And that's not service.
And yet, through all the questions, I still see the answers. The answer is that I'm not in charge and the only thing that makes me useful here is Christ's love overflowing from me. There is no missions manual defining the terms of service for the work here, at least not from God.

One of our teammates, Roger Sigmon, stated it so perfectly the other night while addressing the young boys who have been helping us build beds. He said, "If you asked anyone on this team why we are here, we'd all say the same thing. When Christ entered our lives, he put inside of us an abundant amount of love. Love for each other, love for God, and love for people we don't even know. But the thing is, he put SO MUCH love in our hearts that it literally spills over if we don't give it away. So we come to places that need love and we allow our heart to overflow, we allow God to spill his love upon you, through us." His words couldn't be more accurate.

I'm coming out of this with an even greater confidence in the power of love. I've seen it at work all around me this week. I know it to be true in my own life. It's one of those 3 enduring qualities Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Further up and Further in

Monday, July 04, 2005

From Falest with Love

Here are a couple of shots I thought I'd share with you from the first team in Falest. The children come from an orphanage of 360 children. Our camp was for 140 children between 2 years and 16 years old.

The first picture was taken on the first day as many exicted children crowded around each team member. So many sweet faces.

The next image is on a little girl, clearly holding her favorite baby doll. There's no telling how long she has had that doll---or, where she or the doll might have come from. If only one of these baby dolls could talk.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Emily and Jen "isms"

Ok, after more than two weeks of an emotional roller coaster, Jen and I are sitting here together on our last night. So, to lighten the mood a little bit, we thought we'd list some random inside jokes that none of you will understand...well, some of you will. =)

1. "No, but I have some Vasoline."

2. "No, I said my mom barks randomly!"

3. 50 ways to use "chinch" in a sentence. (Romanian word for "five") For example, cinchinator, chicken and chinch potatos, to the chinchth degree, chinch times chinch, say "chinch"!, it's the chinchiest, send me a chinch mail, etc.

4. Panama City: Spring Break 2005.

5. Picture Chinching.

6. Operatic worship leaders.

7. Chicken and potatos, chicken and potatos...did I mention chicken and potatos?

8. Frogs in outhouses.

9. The Mafia ca-ca story.

10. Emily: "Dorel, are there many mormons in Moldova?" Dorel: "No, but there are a lot of oxymormons!"

11. "Hey Steve, where's your underwear?"

12. Bill Bedi...nuff said.

13. "I'm sorry, these mushrooms have been baked in, and now the pizzas are contaminated. But feel free to leave 5 of them."

14. Covert Op: Locate Mihai

15. "I disagree with the parable of the lost sheep.. . Sometimes you just have to cut your losses for the good of the 99."

16. Bill Bedi: "I worked in elephant dung today."

17. Emily: "This is me, showing mercy (said with hand gesture)!"

18. The finger of forgiveness is in here somewhere.

19. The Brooklyn Snorenacle Choir.

20. Speaking in goat. (Baaahhhh)

21. Jen, did you take the blue pills or the red pills today?

22. "I like to move it move it...I like to move it move it...I like to...MOVE IT!"

23. Jen: "Emily, I need to 'copy your pictures'." =)

24. Tripp + apple spice granola = MOLDIVA!

25. "Let's just say Ms. Galina and I are dating now."

Well folks, that all for now. I'm sure Team 3 will have many more stories to tell. I'll post more about my experience when I get back to the States. Until then...Nopta Buna!!

Bowling Moldovan Style

A little disclaimer. With minor technical difficulties on my account - probably self-inflicted - I'm writing under Emily's blog account.

It would be impossible for me to offer my reflections on the entire week tonight. I know it will take at least a week to process everything, but I do want to get down my thoughts on today as it was an important one for me.

With the hard work over for the week, we were able to celebrate today with a lot more time with the boys and at camp. Looking back on the day, it was very bittersweet. Every other day, when the kids asked us if we were coming back tomorrow we could say yes. Today, only some of us fortunate enough to stay longer could say that. It felt very empty to say I'm not coming back tomorrow but probably next summer. The goodbye hugs were longer and more frequent. Departure time was definitely way off schedule.

It was great to be in camp again. I didn't have much space on my camera card so the handstands and cartwheels went quickly instead of for nearly 30 minutes during my previous visit. I was able to spend a lot of time playing volleyball with the kids. Surprisingly, our team kept winning. Maybe that was because we kept serving to Jen. Known more for her bowling, let's just say her heart wasn't in volleyball today. The kids kept rotating out and moving from team to team so we got to meet a lot of new kids and at least act like we knew what we were doing by showing them how to play. Tom and I also got to show off our 2-inch vertical leaps. Thanks to John and Laura, we had plenty of gifts to hand out - pencils, stickers, necklaces with crosses, etc. I hope we had enough to go around.

After dodging the police checkpoints and a commandering by Ms. Gallina on the roadside, we headed back to town for lunch and a little shopping and haggling at the market. A visit to the Moldovan meat and three was nice -envision a much cleaner Sylvan Park with food you can't pronounce - but we might all agree that they had nothing on Lucia's cooking all week.

We kept the highlights rolling this afternoon with a little "drama" and then finished strong with a great experience at dinner. A visit to the Irish pub (don't worry Scott it was just for dinner and we have proof you ate there too!) was nice and so was the opportunity to hear from Dema, Ivan, Denis, and Ruslan about their experience this week and how they ended up in the orphanage. There were a lot of tears around the room and I must admit from me as well. Miller brought us all in for a time of prayer and laying on of hands on the four boys - thanks to Dorel for translating all of that - which was a very moving and amazing experience. The waitresses all stayed in the room while we were praying over the boys and we found out as we were leaving that one of them was a Christian and had been struggling with a way to witness to her co-workers there. With the teams coming there and praying at dinner and over the boys, it gave her a chance to answer questions they had about her faith.

Yours truly got all choked up talking about the boys and how great it was to work with them, play with them and try to mentor them this week - especially hearing Denis talk about working with Tom and I this week and showing him how to put the beds together and work with other tools. I hadn't realized during the week what kind of impact we had on the boys. To hear it from them cut straight to my heart.

What mission trip would be complete without a visit to New York for some Moldovan bowling? All of the team plus the four boys, our translators, Boris, and a few friends tried our hand at bowling. Ruslan and Denis had never bowled before so we had a great time bonding and trying to break 100. If we can ever convince them to not throw it so hard we might consider ourselves a success.

After giving some gifts to the boys and the translators, we had some very tearful goodbyes - plus more drama - and promises to see the boys soon. I can't give you too much on those as I still can't believe we're already leaving in the morning to go home and they were far too tough to say.

All I can say is that Moldova has a big piece of my heart now and I won't let it or the boys go. Off for now.