Monday, January 23, 2006
I met my new friend Jen Gash back in Nashville at the end of last year and heard about her Sweet Sleep ministry. Jen, like other grass roots ministries, has too much work, too little time and not enough woman/manpower to get all the details and tasks accomplished for all the needs Sweet Sleep is trying to meet here in Moldova. I said I would come and be the lens of Sweet Sleep. So here I am. Today, Monday, we passed out EMI donated coats and scarfes to about 150 kids. They were happy to have something to call their own. I came walking into the orphanage classroom hall of Internat 2 and a boy offered in sign language to carry my photo backpack. It weighed almost as much as the little guy did so I tired to decline but he would not stand for it. He carried it all the way to the director's office and smiled so big when he put it down at my feet. I saw all their little or maturing faces through my lens today, said a silent prayer as they stood there staring into my lens...may you be warm and blessed my dear one, may you come to know our Lord, may you grow to love others...and know love.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
I set out on this trip to find a child for my friend, Mary Anna, to sponsor. Well, it didn't take long. On day one, this beautiful little girl - Angela Vieru - clung to me and never let go. I knew instantly that I had found the one. The only thing left to do was see if she already had a sponsor. It turns out she didn't and neither did her sister. Now, Mary Anna is sponsor to two lovely sisters, Angela and Ana Vieru. This warms my heart to no end!
As part of this trip we had the amazing priviledge of giving out coats to every single child - Thanks to EMI Christian Music Group. This is the group in Falesti with their new coats! I love the fact that they're standing in snow. A trip to Moldova wouldn't be complete without a new Mihai. (For those of you that don't know, I went to two cities this summer and bonded with a Mihai in both). I met this guy on day 1 in Chisinau and learned that his name was Misha. He followed me everywhere and carried my backpack for me. On the last day, I asked him to write his name down (I wanted to see if he was sponsored) and he wrote down Mihai Moraru. I said, "I thought you were Misha?" He nodded his head yes. I was confused. I went and got a translator, who proceeded to tell me that "Misha" is the Russian form of Mihai. "Of course his name is Mihai," I thought. So now I have yet another Mihai!
And last, but not least...my precious, precious Mihai. I was blessed to get to spend 3 days with him. As most of you know, he has been sent to a "sanitorium" called Drochia because of "nighttime urination". The orphanage directors agreed to let him come back to Falesti while I was there. He's the same sweet and vibrant little boy. He's a little shy, though. I don't know if I realized that this summer. Sometimes he won't answer questions. But he's a giggle machine. I took this picture from above while he had his arms wrapped around my waist. I just love it. Check out those pretty brown eyes! If you look REALLY closely, you can see me in his eyes...pretty cool, huh? Before I left, I got to tell Mihai that the same sky, moon, and stars that he sees...is the same sky, moon, and stars that I see. So whenever he looks up at the sky, he can think of me. And I told him I would do the same. Tears streamed down his smiling face when I told him this. He loved that thought...and so did I. I think this whole trip was worth it just to be able to tell him that face-to-face. And so now I'm working very hard to have him moved back to Falesti. So keep praying for that...
This trip was incredible, and like this summer, one that I cannot recap with words (although I know I just said a lot!). All I know is that God used this trip to bring me closer to Him...with a renewed desire to devote time to my relationship with Him and to know Him more.
Friday, January 13, 2006
This trip was so amazing, but that word doesn't even begin to describe or do justice to our week in Falesti and Chisinau. At the beginning of the trip, I felt like I wouldn't fit in with the rest of the group because I hadn't been able to go to the team meetings because I was away at school at UT Chattanooga and I was one of the youngest people on the trip. I pushed myself to become involved and make myself feel like a part of our team. I quickly realized that I had been on mission trips with some of our team members before, either to the Appalachian Mountains, Brazil, or Moldova so I was worrying about not fitting in for nothing...
Falesti now holds a very dear place in my heart. The first day we arrived I saw the most precious little girl who would by the end of our time in Falesti capture my heart. Ludmila ended up being in the group of children I was working with, and I just fell in love with her and her older sister, Aloina. Every morning when we got there, Ludmila and Aloina ran to me and gave me the biggest hug and until the time we left they clung to me. Our last day in Falesti was a hard one for me. We were singing songs with the kids, and one of the last songs we sang was "Jesus loves me." It was such a sweet moment to hear "Jesus loves me, this I know..." in Romanian and English. All of a sudden, the room quieted down a lot, and with my arms wrapped around Ludmila, I could hear her singing...I leaned down and realized that she was singing in English. It was music to my ears and to my heart. It quickly became evident to me that from now on, that the children in Falesti would be just as important to me as the children in Chisinau. Tripp and I then took the 1st and 2nd graders to do crafts and our Bible study. Ludmila sat on the front row, put her head down on her desk and cried. I went to her and tried to get her to look up at me, but she kept turning her head away from me. I felt awful because I was doing everything I could to help and comfort her but she kept crying and crying...I walked away to help some of the other children with their pictures, when she came over to me and gave me a letter. She climbed in my lap, wrapped her arms around my neck, and held on to me for the longest time. She buried her head on my shoulder and cried even more. I just sat there and held her close until we had to leave the classroom. We walked back to the auditorium, and I walked over the the stage and looked out across the room full of heaven's little bundles of joy...Ludmila had run off with her friends to play, and with tears running down my face, I began to realize that He had called me back to this country for reasons beyond measure. I sat on the stage, looking for this little girl I had grown to love but I didn't see her. Out of no where, I felt these little arms wrap around my neck and I turned around to see Ludmila. She climbed in my lap again and I held on to her as I tried to fight back tears but as soon as I noticed she was crying again, the tears began to fall even more...we said our goodbyes and I made my way to the bus. I was waiting for everyone to load up, when I felt a tug on my coat. Ludmila's older sister, Aloina pulled me down so I would be face to face with her as she gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Ludmila came running up to us, and I held on to both of them. These two little girls took me by storm, and I knew at that moment that I would see these two again...
In Chisinau, I got to spend a lot of time with Eugen and the two older boys my family sponsors...Those are moments that I will cherish for a lifetime. Eugen would hold on to me, and tell me over and over again that he loved me. Everytime I began to cry, Ivan, Dima, Vasile, Artur, Ruslan, and Denis did or said something to make me laugh because they said that if I cried they would cry too...It's moments like these that I will keep close to my heart. The night before we left, I took Eugen to his room and gave him his Christmas presents. My sister, Bekah, had made him a blanket that in the corner had a heart with his name sewn on it. When I explained to him what she had done and told him how much we loved him, a tear fell down his cheek. It was one of those moments that seems surreal and it passed by so quickly. Artur, Ivan, and Dima came to the airport to tell us bye, and somehow I managed not to cry in front of them. Needless to say, by the time I got home Thursday night, I already had e-mails from the three of them...
I haven't even been home for 48 hours, and I am already getting excited about the next trip. I would leave today if I could, for God has heavily laid the children, both young and old, on my heart. I have grown from this trip, and I know God was speaking to me the whole time. So, as I head back to Chattanooga on Monday and prepare for my second semester, I know He will be working through me on campus. I know there will be many trials and tests ahead of me, but with His love and compassion, I am not alone...I can't wait until summer until I can go back to Molodva and see, love on, and share His love with the children who will forever be in my heart...
How great is our God!
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
I can't really explain how amazing this trip has been. This summer I fell in love with the kids, and became so passionate about them and about Moldova. This trip is a little different. Yes, I am coming home passionate about the kids again. They are wonderful. But more than that, I'm coming home passionate about Jesus and how much He loves us and what he has done for us. God has used this trip to quietly minister to my soul and recharge my relationship with Him. I came here to minister to kids, but I realize that God brought me halfway across the world to speak to me. Maybe that was the only way He could get me to hear him. Our team has been wonderful, and I have enjoyed getting to know each and every person. Thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers. Thank you to my prayer partners...your notes have been so uplifting and I'm so appreciative. Please pray for safe travels tomorrow...actually in just a couple of hours.
Ok, I'm about to go get ready...it's time to "get up" now. Mom and Dad, I'll see you later today!
"He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." -Psalm 23:3
Speaking of ice...we had a very interesting, uplifting and wet experience today. Two of our team members have accepted Christ as their Saviour - Brian and Julie. Brian wanted one of the two guys with him from our team this summer to baptize him. That was either Bill Bedi or myself. Bill, you were first choice. You should know that. I think you probably would have done a better job than I today, but glad I could enjoy the experience. We literally had to break the ice on top of the lake. Not sure how thick it was but there were people walking on it. The Americans didn't seem to be too shocked by it, but I'm afraid we scared our Moldovan friends a bit. Anyway, back to the story. When I baptized Brian in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we either slipped on the bottom of the lake or misjudged the room. Let's just say Brian knocked loose some ice on the under and floated on me. You know us Baptists...had to go all the way under. What happened next was quick but I dunked him and we celebrated briefly before running to the buses and changing into dry clothes. It wasn't exactly what you would expect to see at BBC but we celebrated nonetheless.
That had to be one of my most interesting Moldovan moments so far. I'm looking forward to more in the future with family and with friends - hopefully not all of them will be baptisms in sub-freezing water! Becky, Gretchen, Van & Connor, your dad is coming home tomorrow. I can't wait to see and talk to you. I love you very much. See you soon.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Rick participated in a snowball fight with the boys and then got tackled from behind-on snow and ice-but no injuries!
I have connected with a 16 year old girl, Anastasia, who has such a kind and gentle spirit. The first day we met we returned from lunch and she handed me a scroll. She told me she liked to draw and she had made a picture of Joseph,Mary and baby Jesus. It is beyond words how incredible of a talent she has. She mad it in a couple of hours while we were at lunch. Tomorrow she is going to show us her sketchbook-she is truly gifted.
Rick has a new buddy-Peter-he has carried Rick's bag everywhere for him and waits for our van to arrive back from lunch. He is 9 and precious!
It will be so hard to leave Moldova. This is such an indescribeable trip-we-ll have to reflect once we are home to sort it all out. We are missing our children so much and have falen in love with even more and are excited to share their lives with our family
Falesti was really emotionally draining at the end of the day I think because of the conditions the children have that we are not used to. We leave in a little over 24 hours and it will be extremely difficult to leave Anastasia and Peter-probably even harder then leaving Fileste. We love these children and can never replace this experience except for returning soon to our new friends!
Well, we're currently on our 5th day in Moldova and it's 12:30a.m. I'm finally getting time on the computer to fill you in on what I've been up too.
The first thing I can say I'm going to do when I get home, is go to the pantry, get out the Charmin and hug it to death. I'm pretty sure that toilet paper manufacturers must be missing a few steps in the process of trying to create a nice comfortable serene experience for the user. It's quite obvious they strip bark from a tree and put it on a roll...OUCH! Our legs are also getting a work out since toilet seats seem to be in short supply as well.
Our first three days we got to spend time with the children in Falesti. There are no words to describe the conditions of the place and what the children go through there. The kids are wonderful and I got adopted by two wonderful boy's in my stay there. Constantine, is seven, though he looks like he is about four,(most of the children are much smaller due to not eating very well). His situation is listed as very bad with both parents being deseased. He has a younger brother in the orphanage as well, but I didn't get to meet him. And there is Andre'. Andre' is a wonderful energetic twelve year old boy who just desparately needs human contact. Both boys would sit with me and play the shakers or the tambourine as we had praise & worship. We got to talk and have fun! Andre' and I even got to sled down a hill on a broken down cardboard box. But unfortunatley, the end of the hill was the side of a building with a pile of rocks...We only hit it once...don't worry mom! All is well, and we had a blast. :-)
It was hard to leave the children of Falesti. Constantine and Andre' carried my bags everywhere and would walk me to the van. I can't begin to say how heart breaking it was to see them cry and wave goodbye as we drove off. I found that not only were our leaving moments heartbreaking, but so were some of our most greatest, memorable moments; like when we got to give each child a new coat. God gave us the gift of being able to enter into their joy as well as their suffering.
The Christmas feast was just that. A FEAST! We were told that they have never partaken of something like that before and it was all I could do to keep my composure and not loose it in front of the children. It was a true privilege the Lord allowed Michael and I to be able, through Mad Dancer, to provide the meal to all the staff and children of the orphanage. I was overcome with gratefulness that I got to be a part of serving the meal as well as watching the children savor the moment. Most of their meal was served and eaten off dirty unsanitary tables and small plates were provided with the main course. The smell of the cafeteria reaked of rotting food and sewage, so people dabbed perfume and menthol under their noses to help from the feeling of nausea. But the kids didn't even notice. They didn't notice the dog and cat running around the room picking up their scraps, they didn't know that their situation was what we American's would call deplorable. They just dug in and partook of their feast. They were grateful for the opportunity to eat, and I was grateful for the opportunity to serve them.
People are waiting on me so I'll shorten it up a bit.
Though a few caught my eye, all captured my heart and I was reminded of how blessed I am that the Lord chose to give me a home and someone to love. I pray that one day these children might be given the same opportunity.
Okay...got to go. Look forward to telling you more later.
Nopte Buna (Goodnight)
"They have oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me."
I miss those little girls in Faleisti. I wish I could take them out of this place and bring them back home with me. It is not fair that they have to suffer and scrounge through life they way they do. I spoke with a few group members yesterday evening who were getting discouraged from the overwhelming needs of these children. It's hard when you are trying to help and you realize that what we are doing seems so "little and insignificant." In reality though it is each little "insignificant" hug, Bible story, and prayer that really does make a difference in these children's lives.
I had just received a prayer partner note from Katie Miner discussing this very topic and it placed things back into perspective for myself and I shared it with some of the group last night. Within this blog I would like to share part of her letter with you all and thank her for her inspiring words:
The Starfish Flinger
As the old man walked the beach at dawn, he noticed a young man picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Catching up to the youth, he asked why he was doing this. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun. "But the beach goes on for miles and there are millions of starfish," countered the other. "How can your effort make any difference?" The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and threw it to safety in the waves. "It makes a difference to this one," he said. -Author Unknown
Katie quoted Luke 17:21 and said, "The kingdom of God is within you," so do not underestimate the power of one--One choice, one deed, one example, one kind word, one touch, one minute of time, one prayer, one lesson, one laugh, one listening ear.'
Thank you Katie and thank you to everyone praying for our group and the precious children.
When we first arrived at the Faleisti orphanage we were setting up for worship and the third grade class walked in single file line into the room. I quickly walked up to Olga, Christina, Maria, and Aliona to give them hugs. They kind of looked at me blanked faced for a moment and my heart just sunk. I didn’t know if they were mad at me, if they had forgotten me, or what. A few moments of blank stares passed (it felt like eternity) and then a huge smile went across Olga’s face. She wrapped her arms around my waist and I just wanted to cry I had missed these little girls so very much. With exception of Maria, the other girls did the same as Olga and we were tied to the hips for the next three days. Six of the ten children I had really connected with and have been praying for ever since this summer were not at the orphanage. Instead they were at home with a family member(s) for the holidays. I was sad that I did not get to see their little faces or hug them tight, but I’m glad that they have family to stay with during the holidays. Since those children were not their, I was able to spend more time with the four that were there and actually built relationships with five other children as well.
While we were getting in the vans for lunch that day, a team member accidentally slammed the door on my ring and pinky finger of my right hand. Ouch. Thank goodness my hands were in my gloves for some padding. Once we finally got the door open, we immediately put my fingers in the snow and that helped with the swelling and bruising. It looked really bad, but miraculously in a matter of hours they looked so much better and they are fine now.
Two highlights of the trip for me personally was after we passed out the EMI bags and Christmas dinner. (1) After the EMI bags had been passed out I was able to go through Ludmilla's typed list of the children. From that list I was able to read a brief description of why the children were there, if they were "true" orphans, how they were doing in school, their birthdays, what were some of the favorite activities, if they had any brothers or sisters at the orphanage, ect. It was very inciteful and answered a number of questions.
(2) We served the children and the teachers a dinner provided for by Maryland’s husband’s company. I wish you all could have seen their little faces! Even though it looked like they were busting at the seams with excitement, they were very polite and waited for everyone at each table to be served before they started serving each other and themselves. Oh! They were so excited and we all took so many pictures. I cannot wait to tell you more about it when I get home.
The day we left for Chisinau, we spent half a day with the children of Fialeisti. I pulled each of the little girls I have been spending time with one by one into the hallway with a translator (Alena). I let them each pick out a Barbie doll, a pad of paper, some socks, and gum! Oh! How adorable. Even though Maria had basically refused to talk to me (not in a mean way, but she was upset with me because I had left) I gave her the barbie doll that I had specifically picked out for her. The Barbie had red hair (just like her) and was an ice skater. She started crying and apologizing for being mad at me. We talked for a while and we’re going to write to each other. I also pulled three of the little boys aside and gave them race cars and socks. (Mom one of these little boys was Tudor! The very smart boy I had told you about this summer.) Oh they were so cute. I wish I could be with them right now.
Later I spoke in length with one of the older girls named Tania. Throughout the week, she had insistently giving me bracelets, hair ties, drawings, etc. When we finished talking I asked her what her favorite Bible verse was and she said John 3:16. We wrote it out on a small piece of paper and I then we placed it into Peggy’s prayer bracelet. Then I told her about Peggy and her present she wanted me to give to a special girl in Moldova. We talked about the prayer box and bracelet. She wanted me to thank Peggy and give her a hug.
The end of our time in Faleisti came too fast. It was hard to leave, but it was not as hard as this summer. I was able to hold back the tears until I got into the car.
We drove to Chisinau and had dinner at a “New York” restaurant. Later that night I took a shower and was in my bed reading when I suddenly started itching. Then my throat started itching and I had a cough. Next thing I knew small whelps were popping up all over my body and my throat and tongue were swelling up. Jen woke-up Julie, a nurse, and she came into the room to check out what was going on. I was having an allergic reaction…to what we don’t know. My fingers swelled and then my face started swelling (yes my face looked like Will Smith from the movie Hitch, not so funny though at the time though). I took some of Emily’s prescription Benadryl, we all prayed, and we went to sleep. I knew I was in God’s hands and that he would take care of me, but I was scared to sleep because I was afraid I could stop breathing and not wake. Suddenly I felt all alone and then I started to pray again. As I started praying I felt Maryland put her arm over the top bunk to climb up and check on me. I then felt much more at ease. The next morning I took another one of Emily’s pills and slept literally the whole day. Today my eyes are still swollen, but things are getting back to normal. We decided I should stay here for at least a half day. I have to go with the rest of the group to the police station to register with our passports and visas this afternoon, and then we will see whether or not I will go to the orphanage or back here to the team house.
Goodness…I cannot thank you guys enough for your prayers. This has been a difficult trip, but the children are such a blessing. Watching their little faces light up when the saw all the coats and Christmas presents, while we sang with Jordan and Carrie during worship time, while we taught Bible study, and while they proudly showed off their crafts and drawings…it has all just been amazing. I cannot wait to show you all pictures and share more of the wonderful stories.
Monday, January 09, 2006
After we gave the kids their coats, we had a basketball tournament between the Americans and some of the graduated orphans. As Eugen sat next to me, still not letting go of my hand, he looked up and started yelling, "my Momma, my Momma!!!" His mother had come to the orphanage to take him for the afternoon. He ran to see her and a few minutes later came in to get me because he wanted me to meet her. I walked out of the gym into the hallway and she told me thank you for taking care of Eugen and then they left. At the time, it appeared that she was taking him for a couple of days at least, and I began to cry because I didn't get to really tell him bye and give him all of the presents that my sister has collected for so long. However, later on as we were doing crafts, Eugen walked in, and ran to me...words just can't describe the feeling that came over me when I saw this little boy's face again. He did not leave my side the rest of the night...
So, as I sit here telling you about my emotional day, I know that my sister fell in love with this little boy for a reason, for in one day he has made me fall in love with him too. I can't even tell you what it was like for me to meet the woman who gave this precious boy away for whatever reason...I didn't know whether to be mad, upset, confused, etc., but I smiled and told her that our family loved him very much...These children mean so much to me and to see them, be with them, talk to them, and love on them, gives me the greatest joy...
Dima, Ivan, and Artur say hello and that they miss you...I found a little girl in Falesti that I have fell in love with named Ludmilla, I can't wait for you to see what she looks like...tell Bekah I have a video of Eugen and he keeps asking why she isn't here...
Today we gave out new winter coats to all the kids. It was such a joy to see their faces light up when trying on the different styles of coats and finding their right sizes. Thanks to EMI for their unbelievable love and commitment to the kids, and for providing all of the coats.
Worship with the kids is always "high energy" and exciting. I love hearing many of our well-known worship choruses sung in Romanian. We also had a special treat with Brian Sims teaching the kids sign language to Jesus Loves Me. It added a special dimension during that time of worship.
Well that's all for now. We're already preparing for the busy day tomorrow, with more gifts for the kids. It's like Christmas all over again!!!
Sunday, January 08, 2006
Again I say wow--There is so much to say that it is hard to know where to begin. You will see the word amazing used so often by everyone and that is because we cannot think of a word good enough to explain this experience. Yesterday I had the opportunity to hand out coats to the children. This was Christmas like it should be. These children were as grateful as it gets. In the evening we were able to serve dinner to the children, teachers and other workers. They all loved it. This small dinner of fish, chicken, french fries, bread with anchovies and a few cookies was an absolute feast.
Today we spent a half day at the orphanage. I spent most of the time hanging chalkboards. We managed to hang 3 boards. This I considered a major feat since all that we had was a hand saw, screwdriver and hammer. I salvaged the nails and wood mostly from the old chalkboards. The last hour I spent with the children. Within this last hour I met this young girl named Christina who stole my heart. She had been given a plastic bracelet in one of the gift bags earlier in the days. She took it off and gave it to me. Such a simple gift and one I will charish for the rest of my life.
I know this is getting long but I have to mention our translators. These people have made me look at my life and faith in a whole new light. I thought I new about personal hardhships on or about my faith until I met these people. These people have practiced their faith under communism. You hear the stories but it is different when you actually meet the people who have lived it. I am sure that it will happen but my prayer for myself right now is that I never use the words "Why Me God" again. I have met the people who truely live their faith daily and they are my inspiration.
May God shower you in his love every day
I food out she came to the orphanage one year ago with her 2 sisters and her brother.
Needless to say the stole my heart.
Hope you are helping Nana and Pop Pop-Love you-Mom
Saturday, January 07, 2006
just a quick note to let you all know things are going great! today was coat day....this was amazing.
for those of you who don't know....EMI CMG (EMI Christian Music Group--see more on our website) partnered with Sweet Sleep this Christmas to provide winter coats for the children in both of the orphanages....1,040 coats in total. Praise God...that is so amazing.
the children in falesti completely loved getting new coats. tomorrow we'll post pictures of the event so you can begin to imagine how amazing this was. children were squeeling, jumping up and down, throwing their heads back in laughter and hugging each other. one child was so amazed when he saw the new coats he just dropped what he had in his hands and kept saying, "wow" again and again---his eyes getting bigger each time. it was absolutely wonderful!
brian sims, the deaf pastor of brentwood baptist deaf church, arrived in moldova tonight. tomorrow we'll start to investigate ministry opportunities for the deaf in moldova, including a deaf orphanage in the south. please be in prayer for all the challenges that come with this.
our team is still in falesti and will be leaving a place they've quickly grown to love. please also remember them and the children in your prayers as they leave and travel to chisinau.
monday we'll have our first day at the orphanage in chisinau. we're also planning to distribute coats to the children there. that should be another great day!
thanks for your postings and your prayers.....keep them coming!
stay tuned for more from our team...and, pictures!
the christmas in moldova team
Friday, January 06, 2006
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Everybody is quiet from the overnight flight. I imagine the excitement level will pick up soon. We all enjoyed our first day notes from our prayer partners. I know I did. Thanks, gang. Love you very much.
More posts on the way. Talk to you soon.
Our entire team met in atlanta (from oregon, texas and tennessee) and have just landed in germany!
Our flight was great. Now we're all looking for a place to brush our teeth and something tasty to eat.
Thanks to all who came to the airport-and thanks to everyone else who'll be praying for our team.
We leave for Moldova in 4 hours.