Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Final Thoughts

Well, it's here. It's our last day. Really, it's only half a day. I'm trying very hard not to let the sadness start before I even see Petrica today.

Yesterday we had a great day. We took the children ice skating in the morning. Petrica had so much fun. He was really good, and just had a huge smile on his face the whole time. He had told us before that he had only been ice skating once before, so we asked him how he could be so good. He told us that he used to slide around in his shoes on a frozen pond in his village before he came to the orphanage. D'Ann and I talked about how based on a few little things like this he has said both on this trip and on my trip in June, that it seems that he had a whole other life before he was abandoned at the age of about six.

After skating, we had lunch and then went back to the orphanage where D'Ann and I got to have a meeting with Ms. Galina to talk about Petrica. She told us a lot of good things about him, but mostly we talked about the fact that as far as the government is concerned, he doesn't exist. Petrica was brought to the orphanage about five years ago by some people in a village outside of Chisinau who had found him abandoned and living alone in the woods. The kept him in their home for a winter, and then took him to Internat II. He has no birth certificate, and they don't really know for sure when his birthday is, or how old he is. I knew that we needed to somehow get papers for Petrica so that he could get a job and an apartment in a few years when he graduates from school, but Ms. Galina told us something yesterday that made it much more urgent. She told us that in about two weeks, the government will begin checking the papers of all the children in the orphanages, and that without papers to say that Petrica belongs at Internat II, he could be taken away and sent to a school in the county he came from. It is truly frightening to think that in a few weeks he could be taken from here and we might never see him again. But, Ms. Galina seemed confident that she could get papers for him in the next couple of weeks if she could take Petrica to the village and start asking around about him. They have an idea of who his mother might be, and it's likely that if she is even still alive, that she wouldn't want anything to do with him. If they can establish with certainty who his mother is or was, then she can probably find a birth certificate in that town. If not, then she can finally have him declared a true orphan and get his papers for that. I could tell at the end of the meeting that D'Ann was upset by what she had heard, and by the thought of Petrica leaving Chisinau. I told her not to worry because if Ms. Galina wants get Petrica papers, she will do it. Generally speaking, what Ms. Galina wants, Ms. Galina gets, and it was obvious to us that she really doesn't want Petrica to be taken from her school.

After our meeting, we took the kids to a place near the orphanage that cares for children with disabilities. It was the most un-Moldovan place I have seen in this country. The building was very nice and very colorful. We gave the kids there bananas, cookies, and chocolates. After that, we went outside and raked the leaves from around their building. The kids jumped right in and worked hard to pick up the leaves and bag them. When given the opportunity, they are so giving. It's really wonderful to watch.

This morning we will be taking the kids to a home for elderly people to pass out some bananas and cookies. I think it will be another great experience like we had at the deaf community and the school for disabled children. After that, we'll have lunch at the Irish Pub and then take the kids back to school to say goodbye. I know it will be very difficult to say goodbye because I know that I won't be seeing Petrica again until next summer, and that just seems so far away. But, I leave with the happiness of having spent a few more days with this wonderful boy that God has brought into our lives, and that is truly a blessing beyond measure.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Bag Of Macaroni

Another amazing day in Moldova. There are so many things I could write about tonight. Lunch, dinner, the zoo, shopping in the world's most disorganized street market, Petrica getting car sick. But, instead of all those, I want to focus on what we did this morning.

This morning we went to Metro (sort of the Moldovan Sam's Club) and bought food for about 50 families. I don't know what all was in each bag, but I do know each bag contained a bag of macaroni and some cooking oil. We took the food to an apartment building that is occupied by deaf people and their families. In Moldova there are very few opportunities for people with any kind of disability, so these people are very poor, even by Moldovan standards. On the way there, D'Ann and I explained to Petrica why we were going there to pass out this food. We told him that we were doing it because God loves us, and a part of receiving that love is to go out and share it with others. We told him that by giving this food to these people, we would be sharing God's love with them. After we arrived at the building, we sorted all the food items into each sack and headed inside to distribute them. There are three girls from the orphanage who live in the building, so they led us around and told the people through sign language why we were giving them the food, and also helped us find out how many bags we needed to leave on each floor for those who were not home.

We were on the third floor before I had an opportunity to give my bag of food to someone. I handed the bag to a woman, and she smiled and signed "thank you" to me. I smiled back, unable to communicate anything else to her. After we had given out all the food for that floor, everyone turned to go back to the stairwell and head up to the fourth floor. I was the last one on the hall, and just as I started to go through the door, I stopped and turned back for a moment. The woman I had handed my bag to was standing there. When she saw me look back, she put her hand over her heart, looked me in the eyes, and without signing a word to me, told me how much our kindness, God's kindness meant to her. I cannot begin to express the emotion that came over me looking into that woman's eyes. I thought about what Jesus said about doing things for the least of those among us, and in that moment I was truly standing face to face with Jesus. I don't know how I managed to maintain my composure while we finished up on the fourth floor, but somehow I did.

I've thought a lot about that woman tonight. I've thought about what a perfect example this day was of what it means to be a Christian. I've thought about how much of my life has been spent doing all sorts of other things besides sharing God's love with the least among us. I've thought about how much this place has changed my life in just a few short months and two trips. I don't know how long that bag of macaroni and bottle of cooking oil will last for that woman. Not very long I imagine. But hopefully what will stay with her (and me) long after it and we are gone is that there is a God who loves all of us more than we could ever imagine or deserve.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Wow, what a day. We started out today going to the orphanage and meeting with Ms. Galina. She talked with us about several different things. She talked about how long she has been working at the orphanage (she calls it an "institution") and how the work is wrecking her health. She's been there for 18 years, and the comment about her health may be a bit of an exaggeration, but then again, maybe not. She also told us that she knew visits from people like us are a blessing from God. That was really good to hear. The most important thing she talked about was how the government of Moldova is trying to close all of the "institutions" like Internat II in hopes that it will somehow help Moldova get into the EU. She made it very clear that she's not a fan of the idea, and even remarked that no one has invited them into the EU, an no one outside of Moldova seems particularly interested in them joining. We talked for a good while about all of that and asked a few questions. All I'll say about it all is that I shudder to think what might become of these kids and all the others like them that will just keep being born into this country in the years to come.

After meeting with her, we went to the gym to hang out with all the kids for a while. We talked, laughed, and had some devotional time with them before leaving with our kids for lunch. We took them to a pretty nice restaurant and had a nice lunch that everyone seemed to enjoy. After lunch we got back in the vans and D'Ann started the Petrica sugar fest with a few Hershey's kisses. I should mention that Petrica had ice cream twice yesterday. We took the kids bowling at a place called Ice Bowling. Now we all thought that the name indicated that ice was somehow involved in the bowling, but it turned out to be just a regular bowling alley with a strange name. We had a great time though. I think most of the kids had never been bowling before. I know Petrica hadn't, and he had a great time. He did really well too, breaking 100 in both games. Late in the second game I realized that he was doing so well that I should try to make sure he won. I was trailing him by only three pins in the last frame, so I decided to throw a couple in the gutter and celebrate his win. I didn't want to be too obvious, but I got the first one in the gutter with no problem. I then stepped up to throw the second gutterball, but it slipped from my hand before I could intentionally throw it across my body, and I threw a perfect strike. I guess it was actually a spare in this case, but either way I beat him by a few pins. I felt really bad, but he hardly seemed to notice. I hope that doesn't keep me up tonight.

After bowling, a few of us had to go to the airport to pick up the bags that didn't make it with us on Saturday. I remind you that this is now Monday. After we got back to the house Jen noticed that there was a red tag around the handle of one of her bags that read "rush". Truly hilarious. While we were gone to get the bags, the others that didn't need to pick up any bags went downtown to walk around with the kids for a while. Someone had the great idea of taking them to a pastry shop. D'Ann said that Petrica got some sort of thing that was just pure sugar. Then, he started pouring packs of sugar into his Sprite because another kid was putting sugar into some coffee drink that they got. To top it off, he then started eating packs of sugar. After all of that, we all met up at a pizza place for dinner. After his dinner, Petrica had an ice cream sundae. We were laughing and joking about how much sugar he had had today, and how he would probably be up all night. He told us that he would probably throw up tonight. I asked him if it was worth it and he said it was. Good times.

D'Ann and I are just so happy to be here sharing these experiences with Petrica. While I was gone to get my bag, D'Ann taught him to say "I love you" in English. With a little bit of prompting he said it to me in the van on the way to dinner. It may not have been completely spontaneous, but I know he meant it, and that's all that really matters.

Tomorrow we plan to take the kids to buy food and then to distribute it in the deaf village. That should be a really good experience. D'Ann and I will also have our conference with Ms. Galina to talk about Petrica. I'm really looking forward to finding out whatever she can tell us about him. Stay tuned.


Sunday, October 29, 2006


Joyful is my word for the first day. I really did not know how I would react to the sights, sounds, smells of this world and the children for which this is their reality. But today was joyful. We started off the day meeting our children for church. I cannot fully describe how wonderful it is to sit in church (even for the two hours that it was) and listen to a packed house of people speaking a language I do not understand praise the same God I know. The singing was beautiful. It was truely joyful.

After church we took all the children to McDonald's for lunch. Petrica had never been and it was fun to watch him eat most of his icecream before his meal. We then walked around the outdoor art market. Petrica is such a sweet and shy boy that he will hardly tell us what he needs or likes. While in the market he was fascinated with a man playing a wooden flute. He just kept turning to watch him. It was joyful to hear Petrica play the flute we purchased. While in the shops he finally told us he needed a cap. Here you have to look in every stall to try to find what you need. We finally found one for him and although he was hesitant, we finally convinced him to pick one himself.

After a short trip back to the team house, we met up with the children back at the school. We had movie and pizza night. There were about 80 kids there tonight and you would not believe how quiet the lunch room was during dinner. Anyone who has visited their kids lunchroom lately would have been amazed.

After a wonderful day together, it was time to load up the van to come back to the house. When I got in the van, Petrica kept coming to the window and holding his hand up to the glass and smiling that Petrica smile that just melts me. A great end to a great day.

When Stuart first came home this summer he said he did not know if I could come because I would just cry. While I am not promising that I won't cry for months and months after coming home, here I am joyful to have this time with these amazing kids. In their eyes you can see joy and hope, and you can see that they are making the best out of what life has handed them. I am so blessed to get to share a small part of their life.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Chisinau Sponsor Trip Is Underway

Well, after about 20 hours of travel time, the Chisinau sponsor trip team is on the scene. We arrived tired and a little stinky, but glad to be here. Our trip was pretty uneventful. We did have a few bags that didn't make our last flight into Chisinau, but we should have those tomorrow. The only big deal about that is that Jen only got one of her three bags, and the one she got didn't include any of her toiletries. I guess we'll have to loan her some stuff or else no one will want to sit next to her at church tomorrow.

We got to go to the orphanage for about 45 minutes this evening before coming back to the team house for dinner. It was wonderful to see D'Ann get to meet Petrica. He's still the same sweet, shy boy I met in June. I saw a few other kids that I meet in June too. They were all really glad to see us, and we were really glad to see them too. Of course our time with them was too short, but we'll have lots of good time with them this week. Tomorrow we'll take our sponsor kids to church with us and then spend some time in the outdoor market before heading back to the orphanage for a pizza and movie party with all the kids. It should be a great first day. That's all for now I guess, but stay tuned for more updates in the coming days.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Team 3 back in America

Team 3 has returned safely to Tennessee and I think the team breathed a collective sigh of relief as we cleared passport control/immigration in Cincy Sunday evening. No one wanted to leave Moldova, yet we were glad to have survived the long flights and grueling customs agents and lines. Actually the lines were not very long, the shortest I have experienced.

Just wanted to update everyone that we were back! If you see one of us you may want to prepare for a lenghty conversation, we all have tons of stories, pictures, and memories to share.

Thanks to all of you for your support


Saturday, August 19, 2006

So thats Moldova......

Well our week is done. The team leaves tomorrow morning, but I will be staying with Tim until Wednesday when we will fly back together. Dima, one of our translators starts college at Fresno State on the 28th. It turns out that we will be traveling together all the way to JFK in New York. Everyone is like, "what a coincidence, who would have thought you would be on the same flight." I say bahumbug to coincidences and see that God is sovereign and knows best. I do not know why he is on our flight, and maybe I never will. Maybe Dima will learn something from Tim and I. Maybe we will be the ones learning from Dima. Maybe it will just make the transition to a new life that much easier for Dima. Who knows. All I can hope to do is play my small role in the script that was written before I was born and receive the blessings that come with it. Sasha, the man who we are staying with here, has provided me with some things to think about, and part of how I feel about Dima has come from it. As we had our last meal together tonight, Sasha spoke a few words to us, and in that he told a story a preacher had told him.

A man is standing in line at the market behind and old lady. She is buying bread, but is counting her money over and over again. He wonders if he should help her pay for it, but he hesitates, he starts to think about it. He wonders if she has just lost some of her money. Or maybe she has the money but didn't bring enough. Maybe she is just having trouble counting because she is so old. He continues to think, and eventually he thinks long enough to get back to his original thought of maybe he should help her pay for it. Just as he is thinking it, a young man comes and helps her pay for her bread and she is overwhelmingly grateful. What Sasha said next will stay with me for a while. He explained how if the man had just thought quickly and done what he knew he should do, he would have had the blessing and the honor of helping this old lady. Instead he thought about it instead of acting, and his opportunity passed. The other young man received the blessing of helping her. When we do deeds of service, we are being a blessing in someone else's life, but our lives also receive a blessing.

That old lady got what she needed to get, and that is what mattered the most. But it doesn't always work that way. What if we act too late? What if we assume that someone else will help so we won't have to? How many people will miss out because we hesitated? Sure we eventually got around to helping someone, or someone else eventually did it, but what about the period of time that is not accounted for? How much more could have been done? It makes me wonder how many times that I have sat with someone or added prayer requests to a list or heard prayer requests from others for a need and prayed that someone would meet that need, when in reality I can meet that need for them. Instead of praying for someone to be an answered prayer, what if we started becoming that answered prayer when possible? How much more could we accomplish for the kingdom of God? I am thankful for Sweet Sleep and Jen and all those who do work over here. God is using them to answer prayers and lives in Moldova and are being blessed as well as their own lives.

This has been a valuable lesson to learn. I hope that I will seize those moments to bless others and that I will receive the blessings that are intended for me through those moments if only I am aware enough to grasp them. Others are seizing those moments and Moldova is different because of it.

Team Flex

A few weeks before we began our trip, we learned that things were changing with our trip. Our original planned work projects were already changed. Things remained this way throughout the entire trip. Each day it seemed we were evaluate our work load for the day. This team became Team Flex to me, because of the ability to adapt to whatever the situation called for.

Tonight after dinner we were sharing about impressions from the week. One thing that has been clear to me was how much this was a construction team in an unusual form, it was all about building relationships. Throughout the week I was able to see interaction between Jennifer, Brian, Joe, Ame, and several others with their "kids". It was amazing what a difference love can make.
So often we take for granted the little things , such as a hug. Yesterday we went to "dirt camp" and these kids clinged to each of us . One little boy was not out of someone's arms the entire time. I carried him for about 40 minutes, Jeremy and Mark also carried him and I saw him clinging to Leslie, and Jen a few other times. He is a sweet little guy that just needed to feel a touch of heartfelt love.

Lives changed? Without a doubt, now our task is to pass along what we learned . Also the most important thing we can do is make the change last in our lives and make life better for the ones we come in contact with.

Tomorrow we leave on a very early flight and will have much time to reflect on all that we have seen God accomplish.


A Week With My Girls

The past 7 days in Moldova have been a dream come true for me. I have gotten to spend 6 days with 2 of the most important people in my life, Lena and Lily Lungu! Let me tell you the story of God crossing our paths. 4 years ago when I first heard of and visited Chisinau, Moldova, God blessed me with beginning a friendship with these 2 sisters. Never did I dream what He had in store. I came to see these girls at camp 2 years in a row while they were still young enough to be in the orphanage. We communicated through translators for 7 days while at camp each of those 2 years, but that was all. They were discharged from the orphanage 2 years ago, as they were too old to continue living there. Over the past 2 years, God has further enriched and deepened our friendship by allowing us to communicate through direct emails, as Lena has learned alot of English and continues to learn more each day. It has been amazing to now keep in contact with them year round. Last summer and this summer, I have been able to return to Moldova on the construction trips with Sweet Sleep in the city where Lena and Lily now live. This week as we've been working at the orphanage, they have faithfully come each day to see us and work with us. On Tuesday, they took me into their world here with a visit to their flat here in the city and to a dance class that Lily takes weekly. It has been indescribable and I'm so thankful to God above for this opportunity to be with them and grow closer in our friendship and sisterhood as sisters in Christ each day! These girls are so brave and so gifted! Lena is studying at university to be a teacher, and Lily is studying to be a nurse. Their future is bright and their joy is contagious! I'm so glad I've had this week with them to encourage each other in the Lord! I didn't see them for a day and a half the past 2 days, and I missed them so much. It's going to be very difficult coming home knowing that I likely won't see them for at least a year! I will miss them tremendously! Jennifer Phillips

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Best day yet

Wow,what a day! We laid a floor today in dorm 3 and no one really knew how when we started. Thank goodness for Jack. He was the man! It was like herding cats in the beginning but he got us squared away and we were off to the races. Ten hours later we were finished and the head teacher of that floor just cried when she saw that it had been completed. She had checked on us several times during the day and may have been crying out of sheer relief that we had not left her with major destruction! My biggest concern was that we not burn down the dorm nor the dumpster(that we turned over in the fire we had started) as we tried to dispose of the rotten flooring . That was a mighty hot chunk of metal that we had to man handle up from those flames. We have not been known for taking the most direct approach to some of the task we have undertaken here. Lack of equipment,long waits for construction materials and the language barrier have made for some interesting situations! There was a dinner and program tonight with both the TN and TX teams along with some of the graduates. Most of us had tears in our eyes by the end of the night after hearing so many of the orphans here tell us their stories. It is truly amazing what a sponsorship of $35.00 a month can do here for these kids. We are off to Felesti early in the morning to put new beds in the dorms for those kids. I have been told after bounce of the ceiling ride I may no longer be so tall. Guess we will see!
Rob, Andrei really liked the jeans and blue shirt you sent! I shared your other clothes with some of the guys I have meet here. We play here in Chisinau Saturday and will have that one last day to share with these boys that we have come to know in such fun and special ways. God is truly blessing this trip and our prayer continues to be that we will be an example of His love to these kids. Please continue to join us in that prayer!

The Never Ending Work

Our work is never finished, a thought that has been on my mind for a few days.
Today was an awesome work day. We "finished" up at the school (orphanage).
Actually a few members of our team stayed behind late to finish working on a floor they couldn't leave unfinished. We set up the clothes closet today to give the boys that worked with us some newer clothes. They were very excited.

Tonight at our dinner with the Texas team, Steve Davis (CERI Director) made a very profound statement. He said that the Moldovan kids that spoke tonight, have probably witnessed to more Americans that most of us. SO much truth to that staement. That's a great challenge to strive to change.

Tomorrow we will visit another camp and deliver beds.
Hopefully someone else can fill you in on the rest of today's events.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Love Hurts

The last part of our day was spent at camp (Intranet II). I heard my name being yelled from the pool area as we walked toward the cabins. The boy I sponsor, Sergiu T. came running to meet me. It was greats eeing him again. He told me about trying to write to me and missing me from June. I noticed some deep cuts on his arm and he told me he had cut himself because a girl he loved chose another guy over him. I tried to exlpain that it was not wirth it, that he would meet and fall for many other girls, yet he said he loved this one. He did acknowledge he was not doing the smart thing by harming himself.

Sergiu later told me about his friend that had gotten into more troble and was not able to attend camp anymore. Most of the rest of the evening was great fun, even when Doina (a translators) tried to get one of the boys to help throw me in the pool. Luckily I grasped enough of her Romanian to figure it out!! LOL

I am seeing so many life stories unfold, too may to tell now.


Hold on for dear life

Halfway through the week and more thoughts and memories made every step of the way.

Today after working for half of the day in the orphanage and taking the boys out for lunch, we drove up to the camp. All of the children welcomed yet another group of Americans into the camp, and welcomed us with the new games and tricks they had learned as well as the biggest smiles and the looks showing you how much they want to be loved.

At the camp today the city prosecutors challenged the boys "camp team" to a soccer game. The reward if the boys won, besides beating a team twice their size and three times their age? How about a brand new TV for the camp? While watching the game, several of us had kids hanging onto us like a hair in a biscuit. They were everywhere you looked, asking to wear your sunglasses, asking me (us) if they looked cool or good. In the middle of the second half of the game, a little one came by me and started tugging on me asking for attention. Well I gave it to him. I quickly picked him up and copied what my dad did and what I've seen many other dads do, I put him on my shoulders.

From what the group told me, the little boy had a smile from ear to ear. He couldn't have enough as i moved my head from side to side as I watched the ball go from side to side. I can tell you this, the little boy may have been smiling but he was digging into my neck and chin, holding on for dear life! I gave him a view that he may never experience again, atop a tall American, a view that he never expected and was scared of at first.

I tell you that to tell you this, hold on to your families. Hold on to your loved ones. But most of all hold on to Christ. He will put us in places with views we are scared of. He will give us a view that we didn't expect, but once we trust Him and put our faith in Him, we can let go, put our hands in the air, and enjoy the view, a view we might never have again.

Let you hands go, and enjoy the ride!

Oh...the boys tied the men, with two goals.
The list says its my turn to give you thoughts of my day/week/whatever I want to do with my "bloc" time. So here it goes.

So I stick out a little bit here in moldova. The kids are all skinny as rails, on average much shorter than me, and their heads are shaved. I am not skinny as a rail, I am 6'3, and my hair hasn't been cut in many many months. So first we must get over appearance differences. And then there is the whole language thing. I can now say "fart" in Romanian and something to the effect of "whatever...I don't care" in Russia, you know the important things to know when traveling. I find myself speaking with an accent when talking to them, but I know deep down that English with an accent is still English and they can't understand.

I have learned a lot about myself this week. Mainly I've learned what tools Scott is not good at using. The list includes most of them. I bend about a third of the nails I try to hammer and I haven't cut myself with the saw, but I gave it up shortly after trying knowing that I liked my fingers more than the ability to tell people I am good with tools. I made myself bleed using the drill, not badly, but the fact that I broke skin tells you how handy I am with that as well. The good news is I can lift things.

Today I worked with Jack and Cergio in a different building than the one we have been working in. We went in to tighten beds and were asked to fix one small thing. Then we fixed one more small thing. Well, we played the just one more thing game for about 12 rounds. She was very grateful though. I was glad that she thought we all did equal amounts of works and had equal skill levels. It made me feel good, regardless of the fact it was a lie. We burned through most of the day working for Ms. Maria. We knew we had to go rip up a floor in the next building, but she just kept bringin stuff. We talked about that, but I figured hey, Jesus fed 5000 with some bread and a few fish, surely we can finish all of this small stuff and rip up a floor with his help. Well he sent help in the form of adolescent orphans from Moldova. We had 30 minutes before it was time to leave when we made it to the room we were to destroy. We figured we would move the stuff out and rip up a few boards to see what we were working with. Once the boys got there however, it was as if they finally found what they were created to do. I believe they were put on this earth to destroy rotten floors in orphanages. That's what they did, and they did it with a smile on their face. They were talking the whole time and I didn't understand a word of it, but in my mind I think it was something to the effect of "Guys, we are really good at this. When we get real jobs, I hope its ripping up floors because we are quite possibly the best at this in all of the land." And they would be right.

We went to the camp where they live after lunch to watch them play soccer against the prosecutors of moldova. Its not only a good team name, its what they do for a living....They are lawyers. I realized that what I was watching was a Disney movie waiting to happen. The raggamuffin soccer team of orphans playing the government men who spend more on a car than the kids will make in ten years of fulltime manual labor. All the other orphans are standing around cheering them on as their friends play a team of men twice their age. They are playing a game they love, not for money, but for pride (and if they win they get a TV, but that wouldn't be part of the movie). I'm thinking mighty ducks meets soccer, where everything is super "euro".

I've enjoyed being here and I've enjoyed especially a translator named Dan. He is kid my age who is just very funny and nice. I enjoy our talks and (right now I feel like I am kevin costner in Dances with Wolves writing in my journal) hope they will continue through the end of the week. I got caught looking a ta girl out of the van window today, but I noticed he was looking too and immediately diverted it to him. He knew he was busted and just said, "I thought it might be my cousin" We all laughed and then he informed us that it was not his cousin afterall with a slight grin on his face. I'm glad he's my new friend.

Holding on for dear life.

Hello to all back in the United States. Well we are smack dab in the middle of the trip, and today was another day of experiences for all of us. We spent time working in the orphanage for the first half of the day, then on to the camp.

The camp was quite a site. There were kids of all ages that welcomed yet another group of Americans with their new tricks they had learned from the team working with them. They also welcomed each and everyone one of us with big warm smiles. The camp soccer team had a deal with a group of city prosecutors that if the camp team beat them, they would buy a television for the camp. It was the highlight for the day for all the camp, as well as big even for us. All the boys we worked with seemed so much more welcoming, not only because we all ate lunch with them and talked more, but I think becasue we were on "their turf" which had to help. However what was really fun was seeing the entire camp sit and watch the soccer game, cheering on their fellow campers as they challenged the other team twice their size and three times their age. It was good fun. Every single person had campers all around them. The boys hung on us guys like we were their heros, without even knowing us. It just shows that when you show love, love is received, especially by those starving for it. At one point in the game I had a little boy on my shoulders, watching the game. As I was told, the little boy had smiles from ear to ear, holding on to dear life, as the tallest person in the camp gave him a view that he probably had never seen. I am pretty sure the scratches on my neck and chin show evidence, that in the beginning, he was holding on for dear life.

I tell you that, to tell you this, hold on to your loved ones. Hold on to your parents and family. And most of all, hold on to Christ for dear life, as he takes you to new heights and places you may not want to be, and are probably very scared of. Hold on...but when you put your total trust in Him, well, you can release your hands, see His perspective, a view you probably never experienced or imagined. Let those hands go, and enjoy the ride!

Those that have blessings similar to my own, well I promise you this, you don't thank the Lord enough for each of them.

This is Brad(Not Mark) Part II

Sweet Sleep Journeys
First off, it is great to see the second timers build on previous relationships. Jennifer last night got to go to dance class with two of her girls. It's amazing to see those girls and how they lookd up to her. Today was great. I was supervising Demas, one of the interpreturs, and Andre as were nailing trim to the wall. There was one corner that had several difficult angles and I wondered if we could to it the hard way or do it easy, the hard way looking much better. They really suprised me on what a great job they did. It looked amazing. I then went to another building and help Joe fix some broken slats for the beds and some drawer nobs for some of the dressers. After we finished up we to them to what we call a Moldovian meat and three. I think they really enjoyed being taken out to a restaurant. We then went to the camp where the children stay during the summer, up to this time we have only seen about ten boys that come work on the orphange with us. It was great to see tons of kids peeking out the doors in anticipation for the bell to ring telling them nap time was over. They all came running out to us and introducing themselves to us. Miller took Jeremy and I on a tour of the facilities and one of the boys tag along and became our guide. We firs saw the line of facets over a troft where they washed their hands. Then he showed us the showers, it was an enclosed concrete slab with a line of shower heads. Next was the worse thing I have seen in probably my life, he showed us the "comodes." They were just holes in the ground that the kids had to stand over to use the bathroom. It stunk to the high heavens and I had to go. The boy then took us to his room and showed the beds to us. Not to impressive, the had not been changed out like the beds in the orphange and when I sat on it I pretty much sunk to the floor. How someone sleeps on that night after night, I will never know. Next we headed to the soccer field where the kids were playing. The prosocutors, sort of like our DA's, challenged the boys to a soccer match and they would buy the boys a TV if they won. The prosocutors played a lot harder than they were supposed too but it ended up in a tie. I bet the boys will still get the TV for the camp. I made friend with Radu during the match and he laughed and laughed as I tossed him in the air. It was amazing to see all the smiles that they had just because someone paid attention to them. It was a great day and I already know it will be hard to leave. So good night because it is 10 here and it will be a long day tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Reminder of Our Mission

Today I got a real reminder of why we are here. Last summer we removed all the old nasty pillows and mattresses. We found out they somehow reappeared. As we were removing the old ones we didn't really want to touch them, then we realized kids sleep in these each and every night. Seems we are so spoiled as Americans , we sometimes forget how good we really have things.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow, we will spend a few hours in the afternoon at Intranet II camp. I am looking forward to seeing some more of the translators and some of the kids we bonded with in June. I will also get to see Sergiu T. , the boy I sponsor.

Well, many are waiting to get on the net. Thanks for the prayers, and emails of encouragement.


Andrei has arrived!

We were in the midst of throwing out the nastiest old mattress's you can imagine when Scott said I needed to see Jen downstairs. As Andrei was not on the boy's van yesterday and I had been told it would be closer to the end of the week before he would arrive I suspected nothing.As entered the room Jen was in she was so serious when she said there was someone she wanted me to meet. As I looked to her left there was my handsome,smiling Andrei by her side! Several team members who knew that he had arrived had gathered round to witness the first meeting.Whether he wanted it or not he found himself on the receiving end of a really big hug. Considering he hugged me back and smiled and said in English"nice to meet you" I think he liked the way he was greeted. We chatted with one of our interpreters,Dan, for a few minutes and them I headed off to hang more wallpaper and he begin laying flooring with the men on our team. He is really a good worker! We had a good chance to visit at lunch time. Roma handled the interpreting for us at that point. He is a year older than Andrei so he was most helpful with the conversation. For those of you who know how much I have looked forward to this meeting be assured I will tell you more about him when I return home. I will also have lots of pictures for you to see! We are haveing a great trip thus far. We have laid lot of new flooring,wallpapered several dorm rooms and repaired countless beds. We are making progress with the teenage boys we have come to work with. They were very tentative with us yesterday but today were much more engaged with us. It is late now and we have been on Tim's computer a long time so I will close this. Continue to remember us in prayer. We are giving it our best shot with these guys. We are planting the seeds and trusting that God will bring them to the harvest.


Marshrukata! I know you are all thinking what is a Marshrukata? It is part of the public transportation. While some of the other teammates where working on the orphanage, Jennifer, Tim, and I went to go buy some light bulbs for the orphanage at the Hubo, a local construction store. Our way of transportation was the Marshrukata. It is a Mercedes van with about 12 seats. There are bars on the ceiling to hold onto and people cram in there. There is no limit. They said that sometimes they pack them with at least 30 people. There way of stopping the Marshrukata is by throwing your hand out in a karate motion or Chicago style as Tim would say with a little jazz fingers while standing on the side of the street. The bus automatically stops and you climb on. It cost 3 lei a person. 13.30 lei = $1.00. Of course Tim would say he is enraged at the fact the cost of the Marshrukata has gone up. We could have bought a couple packs of Hubba Bubba (gum) from the grocery store with that extra money. It was an interesting experience.

Our second adventure coming back from the HUBO was the plaza under the street. They have little shops all under the streets. They are really small but include all kinds of stores. One store that was open was a shoe repair store. The one we went through was small but some are the size of a small city.

These are just two of the great cultural experiences I have had so far. I am looking for more great experiences to come!


This Is BRAD(Not Mark)

Well after five minutes of being unsuccessfully logging in under my own password my lovely friend Mark let me use his password. I don't really know if I'm supposed to talk about my whole trip thus far or just today. So I'm just going to talk about today. It all started with me hearing the wondeful voice of Jen Gash and I noticed many more right after that. I immeditaly looked at the clock and noticed it was 7:30 and we were leaving a 8:00. I woke up Roger and we went and ate breakfeast. We headed out to the orphange. We started out laying the rest of the uncut laminent and pasting it to the floor. Tim, Boris, and I headed to the store to buy more screws for the beds. Hardware stores aren't like the Home Depot's and Lowe's of the world. The prices are set per screw and not per box. Most people just come in and buy a few screws here and there. Most things here are built out of concrete and not trees so that may explain why. We went back and did a couple of things around the orphange before lunch. Tim, Joe, Roma, Boris, and I went to see if we could find some trim but to no avail at the two stores that were closest to the orphange. We headed back across town to a store that was the closet to Home Depot that I have seen and we decided after all that just to use the trim we already had. I don't know what that's supposed to mean but things work differently here in Moldova. People aren't in a rush to do anything. I really think we are getting through to the boys what it means to work. Some of the guys work hard and other do not. Some of them want to develop a relationship and others do not. They took a lot less breaks today and worked really hard. The interpreters are awesome, really amazing guys. It's really good to see what God is doing in their lives. Just pray for us and our relationships. I got to clown around with a couple of boys and Mark got to have a good talk with one of the boys. I miss you all and see you soon.

Janssen doing time.

Well it was our second day here with the orphan boys. They do work hard when you have things for them to do. We found out that the food we have for them at lunch makes their stomachs hurt. They say they would prefer soup over ham sandwiches. The interpreters are the hardest working people here. Plus they will eat the food we offer freely. They are a lot of fun to get to know. Some of their knowledge of America comes from American movies, they also listen to a lot of American music. My time here is great. I feel for the orphans here. It is so hard for them to make a living here out of school. Family is important here in order to succeed in their eyes. One boys story hit me hard today. I will probably offer to help him out tomorrow. He needs it. I am very glad that I came and will take back a lot of memories with me forever. Mom, Dad and family I love you very much.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My Second Home

I'm not sure if anyone has blogged about this yet...most of the team was laughing at me Saturday in the Cincy airport for "chasing down" an aging rock star. Everyone wanted to kow if it was him and so I set out on a quest ;-)

Speaking of quest: returning to my "second home" has been really cool. I have met up with many of the familar faces and have met new ones. This trip always amazes me in many different ways and never gets old. I have arranged for everything that people sent with me to be delivered and have passed along all the messages as well.

The only quest I have unfulfilled is the quest for the elusive scented kleenex pack. I will find at least one and bring it back to Brentwood for the one that must have it LOL Okay, actually a friend asked if I would bring a pack back if I spotted one, however you know everything to be is an adventure :-)

Today was our first workday and things went well after the typical slow start. Most of the older boys from the orphanage that helped us did great work. Many of them remembered me from previous trips , so it was good to renew those friendships.

We have an unique work schedule this week. Three days will be at the school (orphanage) , one day at a different orphanage and the other day at camp.

The big question on everyone's mind id what color will Jen's toe be tomorrow? It's a nice shade of purple at the moment, so we are places guesses as to what will be next. Read Miller's post to see details of that event.

It's getting late and we have an early start tomorrow. I feel we will have a great week ahead of us. We got a good jumpstart on projects today and team members are already bonding with the guys.

Stayed tuned........


Day 3 - It's Toe Time!

OK, this is Miller writing this post - I've forgotten my password, so Jack said I could use his login.
So...I walked into the dorm this morning to see Jen Gash down the hallway surrounded by a small crowd. Her hands were covering her face, and nary a peep was coming out of her mouth - which is weird if you know Jen Gash. Everyone was looking at the floor and pointing.
So as I arrived on the scene, I looked down to see a foot with a misplaced pinky toe. Maybe not so much misplaced, but rather bent in the wrong direction - as in perpendicular to the rest of the toes. It turns out that Jen had run into Eugene in the hallway, and a dislocated toe was the result.
And as we're standing there, Jack's telling me how it all happened and casually remarks "Someone ought to yank that thing back into place." He then nonchalantly reaches down and snaps Jen's toe back to normal - then just as nonchalantly turns back to me and finishes what he was saying.
Meanwhile, Jen yelps in pain and comments "I think I'm going to throw up" - to which we responded by quickly ushering her to a chair by the window in one of the children's rooms. Because seriously, who wants to smell Jen Gash's vomit in the hallway of a Moldovan orphanage?
Long story short...Jen now has a fresh bruise and a fun story that will go down in the annals of Moldovan mission trips as one of the best!

Havin' fun in Moldova,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Halfway around the world

Well as you now know, we are here, safe and sound. All is well in the construction Team base camp. A couple carryon pieces of luggage were "misplaced" but I am sure they will show up. Airport to airport it was 24 hrs, for those keeping score.

It is pretty powerful to arrive in a country that in my own lifetime was under communist rule. Yet I am connected to the internet, typing on a laptop, letting you all know we are here and are excited about doing some hard work at the orphanage as well as sharing the Word with boys and young men. Awesome...just awesome! The team is great, and we have had many laughs already.

I am really excited to start sweating tomorrow, moving furniture, tearing up floors, or whatever else needs to be done. I look forward to kicking the "football" around with the teens sometime soon as well, hopefully recalling some long lost coordination!

Thank you all for your prayers, please think of us as the easy part is done now, and the real work begins. I ask that you remember how fortunate and truly blessed we are to be in the United States of America, enjoying the freedoms we have, especially the freedom of religion. Embrace that right, use that right, much was sacrificed for that right and all the other freedoms we have. Godspeed.

The Journey ... The Arrival Into Moldova

We have successfully arrived after a nearly 24 hours of travel ... Nashville airport to Chisinau airport. The Lord has a hand on our shoulders throughout the journey and insured that the team remained in good spirits despite the lack of quality sleep. We have a number of jokesters among us which will cetainly add lavity to the week. Upon our arrival into Chisinau we were met by CJ, Boris and Steve and were quickly wisked to our host family ... Sasha and Lucia ... for a great chicken and mashed potato dinner. Before arriving to Miller provided each team member with an inspiration note from our prayer partners. The thoughts of these individuals are inspirational and reinforcing of the good we are hopeful sharing with the older boys starting tomorrow morning. I am personally looking forward to having a chance to share the word of God and being a witness to these boys. The inspiration of the team is also proof the Lord is present.

I had several firsts on the first leg of our journey. One first I never imaged having was sleeping on an airport floor ... while in Frankfurt.

I deeply miss my wife and four daughters and their love. It is my hope to return home with a strong focus on the Lord's teachings and sharing with others. Praise the Lord! Please keep our team in your prayers.

We're here!

We must be living right. We arrived 30 minutes early and that was with security checking every single piece of carry on luggage in Frankfurt! I am now in my 32nd hour without sleep so this will be short and sweet. Chisinau is like no city I have ever seen. It seems to me that I am in a war torn country. Broken sideswalks with grass growing thru them,lots of concrete buildings(many under construction), worn out appartment buildings everywhere. Makes me so grateful for my home in Brentwood. We were meet by the CERI staff at the airport with lots of smiles and hugs. Am looking forward to working with them this week. We meet the boys in the morning and start ripping up old flooring to replace with new. We will be taking beds to Felesti on Friday.
Keep us in your prayers. This place needs it and so do we!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Team 3...Chisinau Construction

Where would we be without those who have gone before us....both on the fields of gold (Moldovan sunflower fields of gold, that is!) and those who have petitioned our Father for the work we are doing. Thank you to each of you who pray, give, go, read and who are a voice to this ministry and to the children. Please pray for our team during August 12-20th.

Back Row (L): Jack Wolf, Scott Drennan, Miller Hancock, Jeremy King, Brad Johnson, Roger Sigmon, Mark Janssen, Brian McKay

Front Row (L): Jennifer Phillips, Jen Gash, Leslie Garrison, Ame Satterwhite, Nancy Nelms

Not pictured: Joe Swing

Be sure to read the two previous posts from team members. We'll see you at the Sweet Sleep Summer Report August 27th at 5:00 pm in the Brentwood Deaf Church on Concord Rd!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

High Alert...but a Higher calling at work

Well amidst the news of the foiled bombing plot out of London, we are all on high alert, just like the rest of the World, and certainly all those in the United States. Am I worried? Not even one little bit. My concerns? I guess I won't have my Nalgene bottles of water with me on board for the flight across the pond.

It is Thursday, 8/10, and I have been asked numerous times about the security of travel, will our trip be cancelled, are you scared, etc. This is natural. But for those of us with faith in Him, He is much greater than the plots of terrorists, and the sheer intimidation of terrorism as a whole. The Lord will protect us, make no mistake about it.

Moldova awaits our arrival, and I am excited to be on the journey with the others in my group. I anticipate much from our group, as we seem to all get along and I think there will be lots of smiles, and just as many memories as we share the Gospel with the children and teens in Moldova.

The real beauty of trips like these, is that Christ works in miraculous ways. Not only will we be sharing the good news with the kids/teens, Christ will also be working on our hearts. The hearts of a group of people brought together to do a wonderful work. I am thankful for each individual who has made the journey to Moldova before us, to prepare the "field", and for those after us who will continue to care for the "field".

The anticipation is building, for an event that will impact my life (our lives) forever. Godspeed.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Departure ... The Journey

The departure date for our team is August 12th, which is just around the corner. The energy and excitement continues to build. I find tremendous comfort and peace with the members of our team. Some have been to Moldova on past mission trips but there are several neophytes leaning on the leadership of Miller. As one of four older males (not exactly sure of the age break point for "older"), I look forward to working with the teenage boys and hopefully being able to contributing to their spiritual walk.

A neighbor called me after hearing that I was traveling to Moldova to share the message of two missionaries from Russia who spoke at his Franklin church. The prominent message was about the need for Christian outreach to the children in their country. At the service, these missionaries passed out lapel pin printed in Russian the words - "Love the Children." The Lord is definitely at work with all aspects of Sweet Sleep and CERI.

The packing for me is the start of the journey. I anticipate the journey will forever change me and influence me on my spiritual walk ... a life long journey for the glory of God. Please keep our team in your prayers and heart.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Two Weeks and Counting

I can not believe we leave two weeks from today for Moldova. Seems as if I was just there last month....WAIT...I was there last month. As Jessica stated, there is just something about the kids and Moldova that gets into your blood and you just have to keep going back. It's definitely an addiction, however it's a positive one.

The August team, led by Moldova Guru Miller Hancock, will be doing construction work . As Scott Harris is so found of reminding us, we must be flexible, and in true fashion our work assignments have already changed several times and we have yet to leave the USA. No matter what we work on , we will do in with the love of Christ in our hearts and use the time to bond with the orphans and translators we work with. Maybe we will even have the opportunity to introduce a few of them to our best friend, Jesus!!!

Stay tuned for more on our trip Aug 12-20, 2006.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Three trips down, and many more to come...

There is just something about the orphans in's something that I can't quite put my finger on, but it's something that keeps drawing me back to this tiny country. I'm still sick and still trying to get over jet lag, but whenever someone asks me about my trip and the kids, all of that goes away. I'm always so eager and willing to talk to anyone who will listen. Someone needs to speak up for all of these precious children...

I will never forget the kids in my Bible study all raising their hands to tell me that they've accepted Christ into their hearts. I will never forget washing the children's feet in that tiny cabin. I will never forget hearing them giggle while I tickled their feet as I put lotion on them after we washed them. I will never forget seeing them run to the buses as we pulled up each day. I will never forget the "Cristina and Jasica's," the "Elmira's and Jasica's," and the "Sasa's and Jasica's" that were written on the mirrors, canvs bags, and other things made each day during craft time. I will never forget Sasa beating me in arm wrestling. I will never forget dancing with Iura to songs from the 50's. I will never forget painting nails that I tried my best to make beautiful but there was just so much dirt on their tiny hands. And, most of all, I won't forget being told "I love you," hugged so tightly that it hurt, and the tears that fell from their eyes and from my own as I left on Friday. It's moments like these and many more that melt your heart. It's moments like these that keep me returning to Moldova...

There is something about each and every kid that I have met in my three trips to Moldova that makes me want everything and more for them. It breaks my heart to know that not every child will make it, that every child has been hurt in some way, but it gives me hope to know that God loves His children in every way more ways than what I will EVER be able to...

I told myself before leaving this time that this just might be my last time to go to Moldova. I'm in college and money doesn't grow on trees for me. However, before even stepping off the plane in Chisinau, I knew that this was by far not my last trip. Every child I have met and have yet to meet keep me coming back every few months...

All I can do is sit and wait until my next opportunity to go back to Moldova, and in the meantime I will cherish every moment that I have spent with the children I have grown to love in countless ways. Not a day goes by where I don't think of them. I constantly pray for them. Sometimes, I think people get tired of hearing me talk about Moldova, but I don't care, each child is worth every conversation with anyone...I used to think that I would go on trips such as these to help other people, but I have realized that these children are the ones who show God's love to me and who bless me in ways I can't even fathom...they're all precious bundles of joy that completely melt my heart...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tomorrow, tomorrow...

Hello everyone! It is late and I am tired so I apologize that my thoughts are probably going to be all over the place. Today was our last day at camp. we left early, at noon, and drove about 3 hours to Chisnau to the home we are staying at tonight. we ate dinner at the same restaurant we ate at last year in town.

there are so many stories that will be much better in person, trust me. our team is incredible and Emily has provided outstanding leadership :) I was able to reinforce relationships I built last summer, especially with my sponsor child, Carolina.....and also make many more new little friends. it was wonderful sharing hugs and kisses with Dad's sponsored boys and their older sister Mariana. They are such beautiful children (as all the kids are). Dad - One of the men on our team really bonded with Gehorge (sp.?) and Trofim, and I would love for him to be able to tell you a couple stories about them. Everyday when I arrived they called out my name and ran to give me a hug. I also played ball and stuff with them throughout the day.

I am really sore from doing recreation with kids for 5 days in a row! I'm so out of shape! I have tons of pictures to share of the kids and also of the country and the things we saw. Our drive to and from the camp every day proved very entertaining :) I have laughed SO much this week with our team members! This trip has been even better than last year. I'm not excited about the 20 or so hours of travel we have ahead of us, but I'm trying to look on the bright side!

Well I should wrap this up. Thanks to everyone for the prayers....they have worked in amazing ways! I will be home soon!

For me to...

Hello everyone! We are in Chisinau now...our final destination before we leave in the morning. Wow, it's been an a-mazing week. I can't even tell you all the amazing things God has done. I started calling this team the "Dream Team" in the beginning, just trying to be funny. But I can honestly say this was the Dream Team and the Dream Week for me for so many reasons. I look forward to telling you many stories. I know you'd like to hear them now, but I'm so tired and I'm so close to home that I would rather wait. Just know that God is good and worthy of glory, honor and praise. See you soon...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Heading home tomorrow

What an eventful week this has been!! It's hard to believe it's coming to a close..... Today we had the most awesome experience--we washed the feet of our children. We told them about how Jesus washed his disciples' feet, and that we wanted to follow His example and wash their feet. We explained that we had come to the camp to serve them and show them the love of Jesus. Our group was the older girls. At first they were very embarrassed and didn't want us to wash their feet. They finally acquiesed, and amidst much teenage girl giggling, we washed their feet, dried them, lotioned them with sweet smells, and put brand new socks on their feet. What a blessing it was to kneel before them, gently love on them, and show them the love of God. I learned that you have a whole new appreciation for someone when you care for their feet, when you see the dirt, the crooked toes from years of wearing ill-fitting shoes, the blisters and mosquito bites. How humbling. Tomorrow morning will be our last day at the camp. It's been awesome to spend time with my sponsored child--whom I now consider to be my daughter --I can't believe I'm not going to see her again for another year! It will be SO HARD to leave!! But how blessed I am to have been able to return to the camp and to spend this week with her! It's been a great week, though much too short, I'll tell you all about it when I get home. Love you all.

This is Laura. Yes, I forgot my password.

Yes, I am really here. I know some of you thought I just took the money and ran. This has been an amazing week. The children are absolutely adorable and are just craving some time and attention from anyone. This afternoon, we read the story of how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and then washed the children's feet. (and lotioned them) It was an amazing experience. They are not used to anyone serving them. At first they werent sure they wanted to do it, but after we convinced the first one to do it, they followed right along. It was the first time all week that they were very calm and reverent. It was something we will never forget. Nancy scrubbed those little feet until they were pink, and sang to them. They loved both. How can you be sooo ready to come home and sooo ready to pack all you own and move here. Thank you to everyone that made it possible for me to be here. Christie, you wrote the devotion I gave this morning. Thanks for that. I love you, Will and Megan. Mind Grandma! I'll be home in a few days.

Nu Plinge (dont cry)

This is gonna be quick. I haven't been able to bloc all week but its been an amazing week. I have made several new friends and have learned a lot of Romanian. I have had kids correct me on my Russian and have official quit talking to them :). I have gained a new brother named fan(stas)tic. The cutest boy in the world. I have had so many experiences here that I am so unbelievably sad that I am leaving. The translators are the bomb and are so fun to be around. We have created bible study lessons for the kids and it has gone great. The little s\kids keep hanging on me and it is adorable. I also keep telling my mom that I really am an orphan and that I should stay here with two translators I have fallen in love with (Alina and her husband Dima). The other missionaries here have also gotten closer with me and I have made new relations with them. With all the friends I have made I need to come back to Moldova. I am on the verge of tears thinking how I will miss these kids. You'll have to ask for the details later. I've got to go.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hugs from Moldova!

The children here are so loving! Everyday they have been flocking to us when we arrive at the camp. Have you ever noticed how a child can become attached to one of their stuffed animals and no matter how dirty or tattered it becomes, they continue to love it and don't want to give it up? Well, I can now relate to those children! Even though these children are dirty and tattered, I have come to love them more each day. Every day has been a humbling experience for me. Each day I have listened to children pray to God and thank him for all their blessings, and I look around and wonder how they do that! Most of them have one set of clothes, shoes with holes in them, parents they hardly ever hear from, (many have no contact with them or their parents are gone) dirty shacks to live in, poor food and water, and bathroom conditions that would equal the concentration camps I visited in Dachau Germany. How humbling! Today during prayer requests one of the little boys that Rhonda's dad sponsors named Ghiorghe, whom I have really bonded with this week, prayed that I would have a safe trip home. For someone with so little, he didn't ask for anything for himself, but for me. Although there have certainly been children who have asked for us to give them things, especially our watches, there have been even more who have only wanted to be loved on and nothing else. Actually, I am surprised that there are not more behavior problems. I have had several boys that always beg for me to sit next to them during our Bible lesson or music time. They want me to hold them and hug them, and I can almost feel their hearts filling up with the attention they crave so badly. Often when one of them is sitting on my lap or I am hugging them and I let my hand relax, they will put my hand back where it was and press it toward them. They want me to continue hugging them very tightly. These children are so beautiful! I see so much potential in so many of them. I also know that without the proper guidance and opportunities, many of them are going to end up just being a statistic. Another boy named Ion, who has not left my side the entire time I have been at camp wrote me a letter today when our team went to lunch. At the end he quoted a Bible verse. John 14:1, which says, Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. I really need to hear that because my heart is really troubled for these children. Please pray for them! DonMeyer

Cel mai bun ziua...

What a great day! Really, how many days can you say that you got to see cow intestines, haggle for wash tubs, sing a duet with Dierks Bentley (aka Matthew) and be part of a bunch of orphans giving their lives to Christ? Well...that was today in a nutshell. I know it sounds like a lot of random events or at least the start to a really bad Nicholas Sparks novel but in reality, it is only one day in a trip to Moldova to work with a team of incredible people who only want to serve Christ. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I learned to speak Romanian 12 years ago and really, at that time, had no idea that it would culminate in a moment that would have ETERNAL consequences. The Bible tells us that God only uses broken vessels and honestly, you could lump me in there with them, but today I had the opportunity to tell the group at evening devotion time about God's Plan of Salvation for us. At lunch, I had enlisted the help of some of the other ladies on our team (thank you Nancy!) to really pray for the hearts of these kids and for a move of the Holy Spirit. However, I really didn't expect that move to come so quickly! After I walked the kids down the Roman Road I asked them if they had ever prayed the Sinners Prayer and asked Christ for salvation. Some hands shot up, our teams included (thanks for the moral support helped in a HUGE way to help out with crowd participation). However, when I asked if anyone would like to come up and pray that prayer with little tiny dirty orphan girl (Doina) came forward and hugged me...and before I completely lost it...8 others came up and prayed with me to accept Christ! I wish I could say that I remember exactly what I said (maybe it had something to do with the afformentioned cow intestines...probably not...but really, I just wanted to mention the cow intestines again...OH...I did it, I am tired) but honestly, I don't...I was totally on the J.C. autopilot and ALL of the Glory be to HIM! An incredible, incredible day. I will share more and it will mean a lot more when you can see the video and pictures. (Yes...we did take pics of the cow intestines...OH, I did it again!) But thank you, THANK YOU for all of your thoughts and prayers. I mis you all and will see y'all soon!!!! Yours in the unbreakable bond, Will P.S. Dierks and I album will be out in the look for our tour to be in a city near you very soon!

Lots of chickens have had to die for us to come to Moldova!

I have never been fed so much chicken and potatoes in my life! I commend our cook Loliana for coming up with so many variations for chicken breast, but wow- when we leave will any chickens be left alive in Moldova?!! Today is Wednesday at about 10:00PM Moldova time and we have come to the Internet cafe to blog our thoughts for the day. I sit here listening to some R&B song in Romanian booming from the bar next door and honestly I find it hard to remember hearing familiar songs in English. It seems as if we have been here for much longer than 5 days. The last few days have been exhausting, exciting, heart breaking and convicting. So many emotions rush over you during the day as you spend time with the kids. I am trying to learn all of their names and I repeat them everytime I see them. They look at me with a curious look like "gee, can't you remember my name??" Many of them are hard for us Americans to pronounce, but when you do say their names their eyes just light up and they give you a big hug. Here are just a few details about some of the kids I have met: One girl, Olga, has nearly taken my breath away when she hugs me. Everytime she sees me she hugs me so tight. Almost as if she hugs me tight enough I will stay. She tries out English words on me like "hello" and "goodbye" and giggles when she gets them right and I say "bravo." Ana is like a leech. She mets me at the bus and grabs my back pack and wants to carry it around all day for me. She has big brown eyes and is just precious when she watches my mouth as I pronounce Romanian words and she corrects me. Igor is super smart and is always very eager to answer questions in group time. You can tell that he is eager to please and is good with the other kids. He says my name like a song "Sunny, Sunny, Sunny." Vacile is a real jokester and is always covering my eyes and hiding from me. Eugene is a quiet boy, but he is very intent when he listens to you. I have been reading stories from a picture Bible and he is just catatonic looking at the pictures. He wears a Superman shirt everyday and when we were looking at some pictures I had of my family, he was very excited to see my newphew Graham in his full Superman outfit. Another kids came into Arts and Crafts in a Batman shirt with full cape. It was cute. I called his name during evening worship to come sit beside me and when he sat down I put my arm around him. He looked up at me and smiled and then hugged me and kept his arm around me the whole worship service. These kids come up to you and just rub your arms, smell your hands and clothes and run their fingers through your hair. Even if I never said a word to them, they are happy just to sit in my lap, play with my watch (endless facination with the indiglo watches) and rub my arm. I have to say that it is difficult to hold back the tears several times during the day. You just want to scoop them up and give them everything that they need- clothes, a warm bed, love and attention and the opportunity to reach their potential. We have brought many things to help meet their everyday needs (underwear, socks, toys, etc) and have focused on feeding them the love of God too. It is funny that when you get off of the bus at the camp you seem to forget anything you have on your mind or anything that is bothering you. I have no concept of time or place since I have been here. Not just because we are all the way on the other side of the world, but because these kids just suck you in. You can just sit with them and watch them flip through a picture Bible and point out characters they know and talk in a language that you don't understand for hours. I need to get off now as we are heading back to the house to prepare for tomorrow. Thanks for all of your prayers!! Hope all is well and I can't wait to see everyone when I get back!!! I have fabulous pictures!!!

Message to USA from Willa

Hey everyone!!! We're having a lot of fun in Moldova. We are staying in Balsti. The camp is about an hour away. I have made several friends, Alina B, two translators, both named Elina, Ludmilla, Lilia, Carolina and Angelina, to name a few. We play hand games and talk. I help with the recreation group which is a lot of fun. The kids have to leave the camp when they are 16 and they will have no where to go. A lot of them get very sad when their 16th birthday comes close. We visited the orphanage today and it did not look good for living in. The buildings were dreary and cold looking. They were very old and did not look safe to live in. Also in the winter the one dorm they live in would be very crowded. The children have very few clothes, and have been wearing mostly the same clothes since we arrived. The Preschool children had their clothes washed today so they were running around in just a tshirt and underwear. Even the boys had girls underwear on and they were all grey and dirty looking. It was sad. Tomorrow we are washing their feet. I think that will be a little exciting because their feet are really dirty. Their shoes are broken and their shirts and pants have holes. We will also be giving them the socks and underwear we collected before the trip. We are all getting very tired. At supper everyone is silly. Most of the time we go over the day and pray. By then it is late and time to get ready for bed; however, there are still showers to be taken and supplies to get ready for the next day. Over and out from Willa!!!!! Susan: I am very proud of the kids today. It was a hot day (not complaining since it was not raining). They are tired, Willa has bags under her eyes. And everyone is getting a little testy. Still they are troupers. They are holding out everybit as well as the adults. The kids still cling to them and they still give them attention right back. Willa played soccer (futbal) with some kids today and apparently made a really good block at the goal using her stomach (that's my girl!). And Sam was able to convince a few of his new friends to come up to the front to pray with the group during evening worship. I was very proud of both of them. Sam surprised me as we got on the bus to go home however. He came up to me and said he was thinking he wanted to stay until the end of the year. He said he was starting to empathize with these boys and wanted to stay and help them. He even promised to go to school. I couldn't answer him and told him to sit down. It was a good day. Of course Willa wants us to bring them all home with us, which would also be great, but she would have to share her room! Again, I am so glad God allowed us to be a part of this adventure. He has allowed us to be used for his purpose, and it is a wonderful thing. As much as I am ready to come home to something to eat other than chicken and potatoes, I am dreading having to say goodbye to these beautiful children. I will certainly keep a part of them in my heart.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sandy speaks from Moldova

Greetings from Balti, Molda. Today has been the best day yet!. Beginning with, God blessed us with a day of sunshine which was wonderful after 2 days of ran! We are all getting to know each other well and in my opinion working together wonderfully as a team. I have felt God's presence here so strongly. This is trully a life changing experience for the children as well as myself. The children seem happier more each day that we are here. It has taken me a day but they seem to we "warming up to me" and all I can say is that I love them even though they are not my own. They are so easy to love. Today I watched as they were in "free time" , learning English, playing cards, painting, etc and they are so eager to learn! As we go through the day, the children just want to be touched and held - I am blessed to be here to hug and hold them. The pictures we are taken are many and will be great to show ya'll when we get home. If anyone reads this today or any day this week will you Please forward this to my sister at the e-mail address thank you, See you soon.........Sandy

Greetins from Moldova

Today has been an eventful day and God has been awesome. I got to share my testimony with the children at the orphanage. God loves them just like He does our children in Tennessee. I have many things to share with you and I am looking forward to doing that after our arrival home. God bless you and please keep praying for us! Moldova Has some of the richest farmland that I have ever seen . God is doing some great things here. See you soon. Nancy Weatherspoon

the toilet paper is PINK!!!!!

I don't have long to blog so this will be short. these past few days have been wonderful. I have really bonded with this 8 year old girl named Cristina. She is WONDERFUL!!! she says that she is new in the orphanage. All the children are so loving... they will carry your backpack, give you kisses, and NEVER let go of you. My bible study group, as i said before is a group of 6 eight year old boys and two girls. The boys are SOO crazy. God is really testing my patients with these children. Hopefully by the end of the week i'll be able to keep them from jumping on the beds during the daily lessons. One of the little girls in my group, Elina, has such a sad story. She was found by the police when she was three and her sister was two. They were living in a hut on the side of the road and eating garbage. There parents left them with nothing and no one. Since she had lived alone so long she would act like and animal. Now at age eight she still acts like that from time to time, like biting the translator on the leg today, but she is getting better. Please pray that i will be able to work with her bc she has asked my to pray that she can have Jesus in her heart. Today i adventured down to the camps bathrooms... it was unbelievable. They have a SMALL hole in the group which they squat over and use. There is feces all around the hole, and no toilet paper to use. It breaks my heart to think that these children do not even have a toilet to use. On a better note the children have been wonderful....everytime you leave they will not let go and we have to explain that we will back the next day. i am STILL struggling with romanian and can only say "what is your name" and "thank you". Today Cristian and a girl named Alexandra made my braclets from "floss". I told them i would think of them everytime i saw it and would pray for them. at this point cristiana started to cry. it breaks my heart to think that these children so not have anyone at all. Martha Blair has bonded with an eight year old girl, and yesterday she gave MB "the only piece of jewelry she has ever owned". even though it was just a small string with a few clear beads on it, it meant the world to both her and Martha Blair. Just today was the first time cristiana had changed her clothes. From Sunday to this afternoon I have seen her wearing the same outfit, and this is not uncommone. I don't have much time, but hopefully i'll be able to blog one more time this week. please pray for me and all the wonderful children of Moldova.

Sam and Susan Sharpe say "Hello"

We finally saw sun today! It actually was hot for a while and the kids played out in the yard. I have been surprised by a lot so far this week. The kids are all so happy to see us. I am working with the young ladies who are in their early teens. Sam is with grades four through six and Willa is with first through third. Willa's group is a rowdy bunch. It is amazing to see how the kids have been accepted by the children at the camp. The kids follow them around and love to be involved in whatever Sam and Willa have going on. I don't know how Sam is communicating with the boys, but they seem to be able to discuss things and figure out games to play. God is certainly breaking down the communication barriers for him and it is beautiful to see. It has been a blessing to be with the team of workers we have from Tennessee. The are very uplifting and do their best to encourage each other whenever the going gets tough. Of course we always find something to laugh at, which is what you do when fatigue makes you slap happy! During the afternoons we have free time with the kids. We can do whatever activity we want. Sam has made a duct tape wallet for one of his closest friends and has help the boys with basic origami projects. Willa has helped the kids with making bracelets and braiding hair. Today I was working with a couple of students teaching them some basic English phrases. One of the girls was trying very hard and had some difficulty with the "th" sound. Most Romanian words use hard consonants and she had difficulty getting it right. She was very upset, but she kept trying and eventually got there. The best part however, was hearing her say "Jesus is my friend" and "Jesus loves me". We were even able to carry on a basic English conversation by the end. I could tell she was very happy. I have been very uplifted by this whole experience and am very grateful that I have been able to come here. God is good. I hope that we are being a blessing to the children and bringing glory to God's name with our work. Sam: What my mom says is pretty much it, except she omitted the part where I made up a cool game with bottle caps. It's almost ready to be sold to the Parker Brothers. A couple of guys I have met include but are not limited to(By the way, I really don't know how to spell the last names): Sasha N., Sergio, another Sasha, and Yuri. So, that's it. By the way, a big shout-out to my peeps at BGA. SAM SHARPE Rachel, Henry and Seth, I love you and see you soon!

Monday, July 17, 2006

This is Emily reporting from Balti, Moldova...

Well, so much to say, so little time in the internet cafe. First, let me say God has been good. It has been so evident that Jesus has prepared our way. I'm sure you've read about that in the other blogs. We have had obstacles - what else is new - but the team has a great attitude and we are bending (not breaking) with every trial that comes our way. Today was the first official day of camp. Just like yesterday, it rained. For those of you who don't know the Falesti camp is called "Dirt Camp". Dirt Camp+Rain="Mud Camp". Oh the joy! :) But it's been nice and cool, which I am thankful for. We have had to readjust our plans because many of the acitivities require being outside. But then you feel arms wrap around your waist and you look down into the face of a broken and dirty child. They smile at you and you realize you're looking into the face of your Savior. It's a powerful thing. And somehow you don't care about the rain or the changed plans. Meredith, Jura is here (and Irina and Vova) from the handicapped orphanage. I have given many special hugs to Jura. Today, a couple bulleys were messing with him. Jen and I of course reprimanded them. A few mintues later (while Jen was talking to one of the bulleys), the bulley's shoe fell off into the mud. Jura walked up, picked up the kids shoe, and handed it to him. That's a picture of Jesus if I've ever seen one. Jura sits around camp, reading his bible. I looked over one time and it was upside down, but I have a feeling he was getting something out of it anyway. It is so good to see him.

One major piece of Mihai is not here. I thought he would be and found out he wasn't when I got here Saturday ngiht. :( Apparently he is with a family in a village near Drochia. He was here a couple weeks ago when another team was here, but they sent him back once the team left. He MIGHT come tomorrow - on the bread truck that comes every day. I certainly hope so. I have been very sad about this, so please pray that he will come tomorrow. On the other hand I know God has a perfect plan and purpose for this trip, and I am getting to spend lots of precious time with new kids that I might not have met if Mihai was here. I've spent a LOT of time with some of my friend's sponsored kids like Angela, Aliona, Vasile. I spend most of my time walking around camp, trying to bond with the kids that are by themselves or not participating.

One kid's name is Jura (different than the one I mentioned before). The teachers told me he's no good..causes trouble. But I find him quite adorable and am determined to love him this week. He has definitely opened up to me and seems to always be at my side. He meets me at the van in the morning and walks me to the van when we leave. It's amazing how love - unconditional - can melt the coldest heart. We're all doing really well. Everyone is healthy, getting along great.

Oh...I almost forgot. The sunflowers are in bloom! I missed them last summer (I was here in June). But they are in full bloom. It's one of the most amazing things I've EVER seen. It's literally a field of gold. Sunflowers as far as the eye can see. When you're driving in this amazing countryside, you forget you're in a third world country. The landscape is so beautiful and fertile. I wish you all could see it for yourself. A picture does not do it justice. Maybe some of you WILL see it someday! ;) Thank you all so much for your prayers. Keep it up. Stay tuned and love to all...E

Moldova musings!

Hey everybody, it's Rhonda! Our trip has been really good so far. The 25 hours it took to get here, seemed like it would never end at times. I took Tylenol PM on the 8-hour flight with hopes to sleep. It worked, I was so tired, but yet I could not fall asleep because I was so uncomfortable on the plane! I will NOT be doing that again....I'll just let myself sleep naturally or else not sleep at all on the flight. I will try not to be repetitive with what others have already written. Sunday when we went to just visit the kids for a couple of hours, I got off the bus and a boy walked up to me and said "Hello Rhonda!" He remembered me from last year! I was so excited that now I can't even remember which little boy it was LOL But it was very neat. I hugged many other children but did not see my sponsored girl, Carolina. A couple minutes later I turned around and she was coming towards me and I gave her a hug and began to cry. I held onto her for a long time - I think that Jane snapped a great picture of us :) I am teaching the 11-year-olds for Bible Study time. My partner and I have about 16-17 of them, and they are pretty crazy! Hard to keep their attention and to keep the quiet in a small room. For afternoon time, I am on the Recreation team. Today we had relays and games planned but had to stay under the tent because of the rain. We were able to do the Hokey Pokey, and a couple other song games. The weather has not been cooperating, which changes our whole plans for the day. It is raining a lot, which makes the camp one huge mud puddle. Plus it was VERY cold today...well, very cold for July, probably 60 degrees - and raining and windy. I could see my breath at times. I only brought 1 pair of pants and I really want to keep them for the trip home. I've got a fleece though, so don't worry Mom and Dad! Dad - I have talked with your boys today. I told them that you became sick and could not be here but you really wanted to. I said that you love them so much and wanted me to tell them that. I said that you really like writing to them and would be here if you could. They are beautiful kids....the 15-year-old Maxim is at home though, not at camp. Trophim is adorable, but I spent more time with George today. He would look at me while we were doing games and stuff, and gave me hugs as we were leaving today. I am also spending a lot of time with Carolina also, as she is in my 11-year-old bible group. I know everyone's mentioned the bumpy bus rides here, but I forgot just how bumpy it is! I am seeing a few places that I recognize from last year. The countryside is gorgeous and I plan to take many pictures when it's sunny again. There are huge fields of sunflowers that I just want to run through!!! We plan to stop and take photos of them/with them. Our team house is nice and the food is great and plentiful! I miss all my friends and family a lot, but time is flying by and I know we'll be home before we know it....which is good and bad. It's strange that we've only spent about 9 hours with the kids so far, considering this is the end of Day 4. Here is how you can pray for us: Pray for the rain to stop and the weather to warm up. Pray for positive attitudes and that we may be flexible. (We've had many things throw kinks in our plans so far and satan is trying to hinder our purpose.) Pray that the kids will ask us about salvation if they have not accepted Christ, pray that we may begin conversations about that. Pray for our translators and the teachers as well. We are not certain about their salvation, and also the work that the translators do for us. Most of them are young and we are getting along with them well. Several I worked with last summer. Ok I feel I've talked for a really long time so I'll wrap it up! I miss everyone and you are in my thoughts, mom, Sam, Joe, the Elite 8, and everyone else! I love you all! Thanks to my prayer partners for their notes that I get daily! Personal e-mails are much appreciated, I might be able to check them once before we leave. Love you all, goodbye for now!

Taking life for granted...

In 1994 I had the opportunity to live in Romania and experience life by living in a foreign country with a foreign family in a foreign culture for a year. During my time in Romania those 12 years ago, I learned a lot of conversational Romanian and culture...and wow, in the past 48 hours those language skills have been put to the test. (Thanks Mom and Dad for letting me postpone my undergraduate graduation and allow me to study in Romania!!) At the time I was learing Romanian, I had no idea that it would benefit me so much later in a way that I could not even begin to comprehend at the ripe ole age of 23. Fast forward 12 years and here I am again, speaking Romanian and emersed in a culture that is totally foreign to what we call 'home' in the United States. I am surrounded by children who have little or no family and definitely no parents that can love them and nurture them like mine did. Thank God, that I have the limited gift of communication so that I can talk to these boys and girls and pour a little of Christ's love in their young lives. Upon arrival at the 'camp' for the kids the overwhelming needs that are immediately apparent are almost too many to count. Everything, and I do mean everything, that we call creature comforts at home, these kids do without. They don't just do with out on a limited basis but every day. Once the initial shock of the conditions sank in, I really had to focus on the task at hand and realize that you can't do everything in one short week. Immediately, I resolved to do the best I could with the gifts that God has granted me to pour out for these children who so desperately need to have hope and love in their lives. Little things have become big things. Even it is just a hug, a smile, or just being able to talk to a little 7 year old boy and ask him how his day is going and what he wants to do today. These children love to have their pictures taken and I know that the pictures I have taken, I will treasure for a lifetime. After our initial introductions, I was paired up with a group of 8 boys that are between the ages of 14 to 16. While these boys don't have families as we know it, clothes as we know it, rooms as we know it, they are still teenage boys who want and need the same thing American boys need and want at their age. Again, thank the Lord, that I can at least speak passable Romanian. We made some big strides in finding common ground and getting to know these guys. In getting to know them, they do want the same things that American kids want but the main and obvious difference is the lack of hope and opportunity. I was amazed at how smart they are with their limited education and means! Hopefully, through work like we are doing and continuing perserverance this can and will change. We have only been at the 'camp' for two days but both days, the boys don't want to see us go and make sure to ask us what time we will be back tomorrow. Truly, I am looking foward to going back tomorrow and sharing with them a little more of what has been given so much to me. However, if nothing else does come of 8 days in Moldova, I will definitely come back a more thankful husband, father and son. Truly, we are blessed to live in the U.S.A. but more so, I am blessed to have a loving family, wife and son!

I have been transported

After a 45 minute ride to Falesti we arrived for our first full day at the camp. The countryside of Moldova is so beautiful. There are huge fields of sunflowers and vineyards sometimes on both sides of the road as far as you can see. It is hard to believe that a country so rich in agriculture it so poor in so many other ways. Arriving at the camp for day 2 wasn't quite as overwhelming as yesterday. Some of the children greeted us at the front entrance of the camp because they knew to watch for us today. They are so excited when we arrive. They immediately come running and want to hold your hand and hug you. There is one little girl in particular (Mihaela) who picked me out the very first day in about two minutes and now has become my buddy for the week. She is 11 and she also has a sister at the orphanage who is 13. Whenever we have worship or any free time, she immediately appears by my side. Everyone told me before we arrived that this would happen- there is always one that becomes your friend for life. They just so long for attention, it is their opportunity to feel special to one person for at least one week out of their lives. I guess what I have been most shocked about is just the extreme conditions these children live in 24-7. There is no way to adequately explain unless you have been here and touched, seen, and smelled the atmosphere of the camp. I am in the group that works with the preschoolers (ages 3- 7). They are so adoreable. We waited for them to wake up from their naps so we could spend some time with them. When they wake up they get up, make up their beds and put on their clothes without any help - even the three year olds. They were so proud to recite rhymes and sing songs for us. Again, it is difficult to express in words what this "world" is like here. (Yes, I do feel like I have been transported to a different one!) The children are so precious and no different in their desires, loves and fears than my own children. Their smiles are contagious and they so long to be loved. God reminds me today that although these children barely have enough to survive - "even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ is for all those who believe; for there is no distinction" (Romans 3:22) To Gary, Caroline and Audrey - I love and miss you. To Mom - Happy Birthday!

"People pray when they ask Jesus into their hearts"

One more day down in Falesti, and I must say that rain and all it was a good one...I won't get into all that we did today at camp like recreation, arts and crafts, yada, yada, yada because what happened in my Bible Study with the 12 years olds is a great story all in itself...Don, Sam, and I are the leaders for a group of 17 12 year olds, mostly boys. Today was my turn to lead the Bible lesson, and our topic was prayer. I talked about when to pray, why we pray, and other such things, and I asked my group of kids to go around and say one thing that they were thankful for and give me a reason that makes them pray. What happened next threw me completely off guard because I wasn't prepared for such an amazing thing. One of the kids said that people pray when they ask Jesus into their hearts. Good, good answer...this led me to ask them who had accepted Christ into their hearts. Before I tell you what was said, I have to tell you that I asked a lot of these same kids the same question when I was here in January and only a few raised their hands and an argument started between the kids. Well, this time was a lot different...all but two of my kids raised their hands before the translator even finished asking the question. For some reason, it threw me for a loop and I broke down. I cried see these same kids that I asked the same question to a few months ago be so eager to tell me that they had all accepted Christ touched me in so many ways, words really can't describe. I think me crying confused the kids because they thought that they had done something to make me mad or upset because I was crying but I quickly explained to them that I was happy and that what they just told me, well actually showed me by raising their hands, would NEVER make me upset. I was so taken aback by such a powerful moment that Don had to step in and pick up for me because I could speak...these precious children left me completely little Ludmila that I met at Christmas isn't here, but I picked up on building relationships with two other children that I met at Christmas. Both of them asked me if I remembered them and ever since then Sasha and Christina haven't left my side. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I do know that at this moment I belong here...Oh yeah, today was the first Bible study I have ever led in my entire life, and I msut say that it was an amazing one, don't you think?