Monday, March 31, 2008

photo update!

here we are in orhei wearing our kairos shirts for all to was very cold in this moment and we were all yelling directions to the translators about how to use our cameras. humorous.

and this little buddy here was showing us his best calisthenics. he was definitely less physically inhibited than most of the other boys.

we are having such a great time here, these boys are so precious. thanks for all of you who are helping us help them!


Building Beds, PE Class & Sweet Boys

Today was a really rewarding day. We got to the orphanage around 9am and unpacked supplies and started staining bed rails and cutting the foam mattresses to size. I rather enjoyed climbing on tall stacks of mattresses all day! We were fortunate to have a group from the local church come to help us. Miss Maria - an older lady from the church & the ring leader - was quite helpful. She worked just as hard as any of us!

Shortly after arriving, we had the joy of watching the sweetest boys, probably around 6-8 years old, in their PE class. They loved having an audience & really had a great time chasing balls around the gym and jumping over a jump rope. I think that class has to be the highlight of their day.

A few of us also stumbled into a room with about 10 little boys -- all too handicapped to walk. They were extremely sweet. Most of their faces really lit up when we talked to them & touched them. One little boy is confined to his bed all day - either on his back or on his stomach. When I went over to see him, as I talked to him and looked in his face, he smiled and made loud noises to show he was happy. He even tried to raise up from his bed. It was the smallest action, but had the biggest impact on my day.

Later in the day, we had the exhilirating experience of playing ball with some older boys --probably 18-25. If you know me, you know I stayed away from the flying volleyballs!

When I decided to come to Moldova, I didn't really know what it would LOOK like - landscapes, city, country, culture, etc. Moldova has rolling hills and quite a few vinyards. We pass them on the way to the orphanage. Other than that, it's a rather bleak place. Dirty, dusty, bumpy, old. It just looks forgotten. Each village on the way to the orphanage has its own well and an orthodox church. Homes are old, with peeling paint and patched roofs. The orphanage is also what you'd expect. Stale, stark, hard, dark. I hope these beds really provide some warmth. The kids are VERY excited about them. Even the little ones talk about it to us -- in Romanian, of course.

God has already begun work in me through this trip. There are challenges to face and fears to overcome. There is also a great reward - which will ultimately overcome any obstacle. I can't wait to meet more sweet boys tomorrow!

Love all of you at home. Continue to pray for our time in Orhei.

Getting Started

Hello friends and family. Today was our first full day at the children's home. Our day started with the same sort of inconveniences we've grown accustomed to working in Moldova. When we arrived the director was away, no one knew when she would be back, and no one had the key to the room we would be using. Some people might get annoyed at such delays, but to those of us who have been here before, it was just another typical start to a typical day. We went to wait in the gymnasium and after a few minutes, a group of ten or so children came in for their gym time. We were told the children were between the ages of six and fourteen, but I can't believe any of those kids were fourteen. If they were, the were the smallest, most underdeveloped fourteen year olds I've ever seen. They followed their teacher around the room walking, skipping and running. It was great fun to watch the children playing and having fun.

Eventually, a key was located to our room and we set to work. We had six helpers today from a local church and they helped us with staining bed parts and cutting the foam mattresses, which had arrived from the factory ten centimeters too long. We weren't sure how to cut the a six inch thick foam block, but then someone, I'm not sure who, suggested using a wire. Hannah had an extra set of guitar strings she was willing to donate. The B string worked like a charm after we tied it to the handles of two rubber mallets and we got all the mattresses cut to size by the end of the day.

While we were finishing cutting mattresses and gluing Sweet Sleep logos to the bed frames, a few members of the team went off to the gym to spend some time with some of the boys. Apparently it was mostly older boys, and while they started out playing volleyball, it apparently the quickly devolved into some sort of dodgeball free for all that would scare Ben Stiller. The team returned to the work room one by one with dazed looks on their faces. It wasn't really a great start to our interaction with the boys, so we'll have to work on that in the days ahead. Pray that we can figure out some way to keep a bunch of mentally handicapped teenage boys calm and focused on some kind of activity that doesn't endanger anyone's life.

All in all, I'd say it was a good start. We got some good work done, and we made some new friends from the church who are willing to help us this week. Tomorrow we'll start assembling the beds. I know the boys are really excited about getting them, especially a guy named Martin that I met when I visited this place on a scouting trip last November, so it will be really great to see their reactions to them once they see completed beds.

We really could use your prayers this week as we continue to search for the best ways to interact with the boys and share some much needed love and friendship with them. Thanks again to all our friends and family who have made it possible to be here to love these kids. We love and miss you all.


P.S. Thanks to Hannah for the cool picture at the top of this post.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Bed Frenzy

We got to visit Casa de Copii today, which was a fantastic surprise since we weren't planning on going until tomorrow. So, being able to see the atmosphere and some of the kids before jumping head first into an entire day will hopefully help us prepare for the week.
When we arrived, it was immediately obvious that these children are starved for attention. They want to hold your hand, kiss your cheeks, and cling to you. Another one of our observations is that the children we met today are a lot older than we expected, but they were so excited to see us and talk to us. Most of the younger children were inside, including the 110 that do not get out of bed. Hopefully, we will be able to see more of the children tomorrow, who are not capable of coming to us. Our time was limited today, so be on the lookout for many amazing stories about Casa de Copii tomorrow.
But for now, let me tell you a little bit about Martin... a fantastic person who was absolutely estatic when we arrived. Jen had told me about him after her first visit to Casa de Copii months ago, (see the photo above). He is about 18 years old, and according to him, he's famous there and everyone knows him. Needless to say, experiencing his smile and excitement in person was beyond words. He had an entire thank you speech for our team, which he presented in the middle of the playground. He told us we were bringing hope to everyone and he had been waiting for her to return with the beds. When we were leaving, Jen told him to be looking for the truck with the beds to arrive around 5:00. When we finally got there about a hour and a half late, (still no truck in sight), he was there waiting. The time we got to spend with Martin and the other boys who came out to greet us was precious. One of them would smile from ear to ear everytime we looked at him, and could barely control his excitement. Obviously, there was a reason the truck was a little later than expected.
When the truck arrived, it was really touching to see about 25 boys with various handicaps, rushed outside to help unload the truck. They moved extremely fast, and helped us complete the job in 45 minutes, which would have taken us several hours without their help.
I'm sure we'll arrive tomorrow morning to a crowd of boys waiting for us.
Noapte Buna!!!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

We made it to Moldova!

March 29th, 2008

By the grace of ourLord we have made it safely to Moldova. What a journey. I have to say that for traveling such a distance and for such long hours, our trip actually went by really fast. Our departure went very smoothly. We were sent off by family and friends that came to the airport to pray as we left. The first plane was the smallest that I have been on and I have to say that I had a slight panic attack, since I am not a fan of flying. Thank God for Laura, she kept me focused in our great conversation and all of the worries went out the window. At the airport in DC, we had a layover of 4 hours and that gave us some time to interact more with each other and I have to say that we have the best chemistry any group could ever have. At that moment we realized that we were in for a great journey. The flight from DC to Germany went fairly smoothly, besides the bad take off and landing. The 8 hour flight went really fast after hours of sleeping and eating. By the time we got to Frankfurt, we all started to feel the tiredness of long traveling time. We managed to eat again and sleep a little until the hours went by and it was time to board our last flight. By far the best flight we had was our last one to Moldova. Great takeoff, alot of empty spaces, good food, lots and lots of laughter and a great landing. We all let out a sigh of relief when we landed and became very anxious to get out of the airport and head to our home away from home. The dinner we had at our team house was amazing. Lydia is a great cook and we got brownies with icecream for dessert, my favorite. I also want to thank you all for the sweet letter that our prayer partners have written for us for each day that we are here. I can tell you all that we were all very happy and emotional as we saw and read the touching letters. There were lots of tears as we know that this mission is a life changing experience for all of us and to have a little piece of home here with us makes us really happy (thanks mom, dad, Javi and Nicole). Well this is all for now. I am headed to bed after a long day as tomorrow our job begins in Moldova.

Sweet Sleep,

Irene Rodriguez

airport goodbyes and long delays

airport goodbyes, long delays, sleepless plane rides, and foreign languages. this pretty much sums up the past day. there is nothing quite like the experience of traveling internationally, especially if you were the one that got elected to carry the pinata on your bag. (*side note* we brought a pinata to moldova for a birthday party we are having with the kids) i had some guy ask me if we were with the circus. i said yes. this is my fifth trip to moldova and there is still a sense of excitement knowing that within the day i will be thousands of miles away from home. and there is still the surreal feeling of, "am i really here?" as soon as we land. moldova is an interesting country. i just recently found out it was ranked as the unhappiest country in the world. however, spend a few days here, and you can find some of the happiest people in the world. people who are so grateful for foreigners who actually want to invest time and energy and most importantly, love, into their lives. i'm really looking forward to this trip. i've worked in the same orphanage the past four times. going to orhei and working with the special needs children at casa de copii is going to be a completely new experience for me. i'm excited as much as i am nervous.
i'm excited for what the next few days are going to bring. we have such a unique group of people, all who have different talents and strengths, and it's going to work well for this trip. i'm looking forward to seeing how God is going to use everyone and what He is going to accomplish, even if we never fully see the result. Isaiah 55 reminds us that his word does not leave his mouth without accomplishing what he sent it to do.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Final Preparations

The Orhei team is making final preparations for the trip tonight - we leave in 3 days!!! We'll be sorting our donated items and supplies as well as tying up loose ends. The folks at Kairos will also send us out with prayers during the service.

It's amazing to me to see how God provides! He first gives us the opportunity and follows through with giving us the desire to go and help. He provides encouragement from friends/family, donations and supplies and financial support. We don't know exactly what to expect when we arrive at the orphanage, but I know He will also give us the love, patience, creativity, understanding and energy we need.

Thank you for your support of our team and our mission of sharing God's love with these precious boys. We are an extension of all of you who have contributed.

Please continue to pray for us in these final days of planning. Pray for safe travel, healthy bodies, open and ready hearts. Pray for those we'll meet along the way and in the orphanage.

With gratitude & joy,

Friday, March 14, 2008

Team Prepares for Upcoming Mission Journey to Orhei, Moldova

Sweet Sleep/Kairos Orhei Mission Journey Team: (left to right) Back row: Stuart McAlister, Sam Wey, Jon Merryman, Lauren Bing and Laura Wall. Front Row: Sandra Plaza, Irene Rodriguez and Casi Bryant.
Not pictured: Jen Gash and Hannah Westphall.

Sweet Sleep
and Kairos, a group of young-adults from Brentwood Baptist Church, have partnered again to share God's love by providing beds to the world's orphaned and abandoned children. During their trip, March 28-April 5, this team will be building beds and providing activities for the 327 handicapped boys who call Orhei's "Casa de Copii" orphanage home.

Please pray for our team as they prepare to minister to these boys, 110 of whom are confined to their beds every day. Sweet Sleep beds have never been needed more than by these boys who have spent their entire lives to this point lying in uncomfortable, old, broken beds. Keep checking this blog for updates from our team members as they prepare, during their trip and as they process their experiences upon returning home.