Friday, April 04, 2008

the end of the road...

i think i speak for the whole team when i say this week has flown by. this trip has totally blown my expectations in every way. 6 months ago, i'd never heard of moldova. today i am in love with it.
since we finished the beds at casa de copii so quickly, we have had the last few days to spend at internat #2 with a few of the kids that people from our team have built relationships with over the years. it was fabulous to finally see the place i had heard so much about. somewhere along the way i found myself attached to the sweetest 10-year-old, freckle-faced, red-headed boy named Eugen. we barely left each other's side for 2 days straight.
we snatched up several of the internat kids, including eugen, and took them to a local "retirement home" type place. it was such a dark, damp and depressing place.
basically, these elderly people were sent to this place to live out the rest of their days and die. so sad! so we went with the kids to pass out bananas and cookies and let them know that God loves them. the kids got really into it. we have spent the last few days pouring into them in so many ways, so it was amazing to see these kids give of themselves so freely to these elderly people who are even less fortunate. i couldn't understand a word said, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that we were making some people's day.

trying to write this blog is like trying to pull stubborn molars out of the deep recesses of the gums waaaay in the back of your mouth. a combination of exhaustion, emotion and a general lack of words worthy of the experience makes it a really difficult story to tell. i am thankful for the ability to photograph all that i have seen here as a means of communicating the beauty of this place. i pray that God uses my photos to touch the hearts of those who can come behind me and continue the work to make a difference here in moldova.

the moral of the story is, my heart is in pieces--in a good way. i've fallen in love, and come out a better person for it.
AND!! i have begun the process of sponsoring the best kid ever!
i never thought i would be so moved...i just might have to come back here. and God willing, sooner than later.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

La Revedere "Casa de Copii"

Today we said good-bye to our friends at Casa de Copii. It was a day full of pain, beauty, tears and peace.
This was our day in Orhei...

We started our day by sharing with other team members how we had seen God move and work in their lives this week. What a great way to start our day - encouraging each other. After the hour drive to Orhei, we prepared for a "Birthday Party." Now I know it might seem a bit cheesy to say we ended our week with a birthday party for the kids, but let me tell you more. We hung banners, posters, put on some kids music and got ready for more than 250 kids to join us for our party. We had to have two parties to get everyone in the auditorium - or sala festiva. :) Such a happy name - it was screaming for a party. This is the room we built the beds in - a room the teacher's said is never used. That was really sad, but we brought this room back to life this morning.

As the children filed in, we gave them bananas and cookies. Some could open and eat their "birthday presents." Some had to have help from teachers or friends. I've never seen such helpful people than the kids that live at Casa de Copii - kids wheeling their friends around, leading them into the room, even carrying friends out of their wheelchairs and helping them find a place to sit. Our team helped, too and soon bananas were squishing and flying and smiles were growing and growing. It was amazing.

Lauren then shared with the kids why we had come to build beds - not just to provide new beds, but to share with them how much we love them, their local church right down the road "Good News" Baptist Church loves them, and how much God loves them more than they could ever imagine - although I know some of the have a better grasp on this than I do.

Then I shared with the kids why we were having a birthday party - that since we were headed back to America, we wouldn't get to be with them on each of their birthdays and we wanted to celebrate with them. They looked confused. I explained that God had created each of them and that each one of them was special, thus each of their birthdays was special. Their eyes brightened. Imagine this birthday party with hundreds of handicapped boys who may have never had anyone celebrate them or the day they were born - the day God brought them into this world. It was beautiful. We sang Happy Birthday in English, then our translators sang in Romanian. Teachers throughout the morning continuously thanked us for the beds and for our work, as did the kids and young me that call this place home.

After this, we delivered yogurt to the boys who were immobile - the hundred or so kids who are confined to their beds or bed-wheelchairs. This pretty much terrified me. But Sam really wanted to see a little boy he connected with this week, Lilian, who was 5 years old and probably only weighed 25 pounds. He has a beautiful smile and lights up when you ask his name and he barely mumbles out "liyan." Every bite of yogurt Sam fed him made the little buddy beam with joy. Then it was time for a sad good-bye and on to bring more yogurt to kids. As team members filed off to different rooms, it was down to Sam and me again with Anton, our translator. We were being led to a place called "Isolator."

It was a dark hallway with white doors that reminded me of a concentration camp. When we got to the first room, we could see a couple of boys peeking out of their beds. A nurse called us in and we began to feed the boys. I didn't think we would actually be the ones feeding them... I was so nervous! We asked them their names, but they couldn't speak. The nurse spoke for them. She told us she didn't know their ages but that they were paralyzed. She pulled the sheet down to expose their shriveled legs curled underneath them, which made them quite uncomfortable. But I faced my fear head on and began to feed yogurt to this little boy. He could barely swallow so I let the yogurt fall off the spoon into his mouth. He ate every bite with as much of a grin as he could muster. The nurse asked to help sam to speed up the obviously difficult time for us, but he politely said "no" and continued spending time with his boy and feeding him his peach yogurt. On the way out, we asked if the boys were there for a short time or always there. The nurse told our translator that they were there because they would die soon. I wanted to be sad, and I really wanted to cry, but I was instead filled with hope for these children that would soon run into the arms of Jesus - coming to him as little children - literally - and receiving their new bodies in Heaven. No more pain. No tears. No trouble swallowing... Just eternity with their loving Father.

We prayed before we left this place, giving up these children to the Lord. A couple of the older boys joined us -- it was a great time praying with them. We cried and hugged them and knew we could not promise we'd see them again, but knew God would take care of them and be with them. And while we were only able to build half of the beds needed for these boys this week, thanks to the amazing volunteers from the church in Orhei, these boys will hopefully receive their beds sooner than we are able to return. They volunteered excitedly this morning to mobilize their church to build the rest of the beds needed as soon as possible.

Our afternoon was in sharp contrast to our week, as we visited the children at Chisinau's Internat #2. These are fully functioning children, dressed pretty well, smiling, playing, studying, waving. The lives of these children look drastically different because of the work of so many friends over the last few years. While the contrast was great, many who had never been to this orphanage made new friends quickly. When we first arrived, we were treated to one of the most amazing things I've seen in Moldova - listening to the orphanage band practice for their upcoming concert. :) The boys proudly played a song and it was fantastic. A little boy sang to the music, looking at his words then danced to the music. The director apologized for the music - it was their first time through. But it was amazing. They then played a Moldovan wedding fanfare, that their teacher wrote, and it was fantastic. I had a couple of tearful moments thinking about the amazingly gifted man that has given his life to teach music to these boys and the amazingly talented orphans sitting in this room. One of the boys pointed out the empty chair where Dennis, our newly adopted son, used to sit and play. I wanted so badly to take that chair home. I miss Dennis so much this week and while I've had an amazing experience, I miss Dennis and my wife, Emily, since I've experienced so much of this place with them.

I realized as we prayed tonight after dinner that all of my expectations were blown away this week. I did not expect to be moved, I did not expect to push myself to work harder, move beds faster, make "hospital corners" on beds for these boys (and to make my wife proud!), and to find myself loving these boys who couldn't make a sentence in romanian, more less english, just as much as my son and my friends in Chisinau. So I hugged kids in wheel chairs, took pictures with "little buddies" and loved this last day like never before.

I am reminded today just how much a bed can change the life of a child. Look at the pictures Hannah has taken on this trip and see the joy, the comfort and the peace these children have found in their new beds. When I sat on the bed with a boy who hadn't smiled all week I thought - this isn't going to work. He won't even look at me. I rubbed his arm and just sat with him. A teacher helped me take his shoes off and helped me help him lie down. When he put his head on his new pillow and slid under his covers, he smiled, turned his head, and was drifting off to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. Sweet sleep has arrived for these boys, many for the first time.

Thank you for praying for us. We are excited to be coming home to share with you all that we have experienced (although I'm sure you're thinking I couldn't have possibly left anything out!).
This trip could not have been possible without your prayers, our friends at Kairos who raised every dollar for the beds for these boys, and our church partners at Brentwood Baptist and "Good News" Baptist Church in Orhei.

May God bless each of you and show you a glimpse of who He is and what He is doing in this country today.

Noapte Buna, (Good Night) :)

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Matthew 19:13-15
April 3, 2008

Today was a very emotional day. Since our team was able to finish all the beds on wednesday, we were able to move up the birthday party that we had planned to have on friday. We got to the orphanage by 9am so that we can decorate the auditorium and pack the goody bags that had a banana and some cookies. By 10am, the first group of kids started walking in the door as we gave them a goody bag each. I have never seen such excitment coming from children at the sight of a banana and cookies. We never thought that the bananas would be such a challenge for the kids to eat. When I saw the kids eating the bananas with the peel, I realized that we had to jump in and peel them for them. Some of the kids acted as if this was the biggest treat of their life. They would stuff their mouths with the food, either because they were hungry or because they were afraid that it would be taken away from the by the other kids. At this point I realized that such a simple and logical task was a complete challenge for them and they were willing to choke on their food, just for the simple fear of loosing their food. At that moment reality hit me and tears started flowing down my face. I was able to compose myself and the birthday party ended up being a total success. We then moved on to the 120 kids who were bed ridden. We took them some yogurt to eat, since alot of them are not able to eat solids because they can choke. When we walked in to the first room, I didn't realize that we were suppose to feed them ourselves as they were unable to do so themselves. What a blessing and total honor it was for me to feed them. Every bite was greeted with a smile. I encountered this child that had massive tumors in the back of his head. He was the cutest child I have ver seen. Eventhough I knew he didn't understand anything that was going on, he was able to look at me and smile with every bite of yogurt that I gave to him. I could only stare at him and wonder if this was God telling me thank you thru him. I never thought in a million years that I would get attatched to children that I could never communicate with, but I am going to miss them all. I have met incredible children, even outside of the orphanage and I know that Moldova is going to be part of me for a long time. I leave behind good friends that will forever keep me connected to this country. God has worked thru us and his plan has taken place and we leave knowing that we have touched and reached out to more people that we could have ever hoped for.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

We Finished!!!

We were able to finish bringing every bed that we had made to every room today! We are so thankful for the translators and helpers from a nearby church who worked incredibly hard with us to unload all the beds from the room and to replace them with brand new beds! Everything I have seen this week has been incredible. From interacting and communicating with the children to seeing the faces of the children receiving their new beds for the first time! We even had a few kids from the orphanage help us tear down old beds and put together new ones. Overall we had a very productive day and exciting one too!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Out With The Old And In With The New

Today was a great day. We started assembling beds this morning. We had more helpers from the local church today who turned out to be Moldovan Olympic bed assembling team. In the space of about three hours the assembled all 135 of our bed frames. They worked so fast that it sort of became a problem for us to find room in our workroom to store all the frames waiting to be move the the children's rooms.

While they were assembling bed frames at the speed of light, some of the team went to have some time with some of the kids and the rest of us started carrying the bed frames down to some rooms that had been cleared out for us. Speaking of which, when we arrived in the morning some of the older boys were clearing out three rooms for us to put new beds in. All I'll say about these boys is don't get in their way while they're working. They are quite enthusiastic. They cleared out three rooms totaling 42 beds. I was a little concerned because we had to replace all those beds, complete with linens by 1:00 so the children could have their naps. I wasn't sure we could get it all done by then. Silly me. We flew through those three rooms with an hour to spare. As we were finishing a few of the kids came in to see what we had done. They were so happy about their new beds. What a great sight. What a great reminder of why we do this.

We had a minor miscommunication after finishing those three rooms that caused us to waste our last hour before leaving for lunch, but we were so thrilled with the progress that had been made on assembling the bed frames that it didn't really get us down. The kids have rest time from 1:00 to 4:00, so we went to lunch. We got back around 3:30 and started quietly carrying bed parts up to the next room we were going to work in. Our plan was to stack the frames, mattresses, linens and pillows outside the room so that we could be ready to begin when the children woke at 4:00. But, the children were already awake when we got up there and the teacher said we could go ahead and start. The beds we carried out of that room were some of the worst I have ever seen in Moldova. I worked with Irene to carry out the mattresses while some others carried out the frames. Those mattresses were completely disgusting. Really, it's hard to even describe how bad they were. After clearing the room, we all set about filling it back up with nice, new beds. After we finished the room, they brought all the kids from that room back in to see the beds. Eighteen little boys came in the room and began squealing, laughing, and clapping with joy at the sight of the beds. They hugged us and shook our hands over and over again. I saw one boy who just kept motioning to where his old bed had been and his new bed was. I didn't understand the words he was saying, but the look on his face told me that he just simply couldn't believe that he would get to sleep in this new bed. The sight of it all literally brought tears to my eyes. Seeing things like that makes all the travel, bumpy roads, exhaustion, and stinkyness (ours and theirs) worth while. It reminds me what an awesome God we serve (emphasis on serve), and makes me thankful once again that He allows me to be a part of this.


P.S. Thanks also to D'Ann, Cameron, and Evan for letting me do this as often as they do (and believe me, it's often). I know it's a sacrifice for all of you for me to be here. I love you all more than I can say.

Today was a very productive day. We were able to start assembling the beds and taking them to the children's rooms. We have an amazing group of people from a church that have volunteered to come help us since Sunday. They were able to put the beds together while the rest of the group took beds, sheets, comforters and pillows to the rooms. We worked so hard. By lunch time we were all glad to get a little break. On Tuesday, Hannah, Laura, Bing, Eli and I went on a search for a bathroom. We were told that there was a really clean one not far from where we were, but instead of taking a right, we took a left. This led us to a room full children that were being bathed and changed as we walked in to use their bathroom. We decided to go ahead and stay and play with them since we were already there, although we should have headed back to work. The photo above was taken by Hannah, our amazing photographer. This little boy was the sweetest boy ever. The minute that I squat down to say hi to him, he grabbed my hands and gave me a smile that melted my heart. I started to caress him from his forehead to his little nose and he actually, at one point started to fall asleep. This children yearn for affection and just love to say hi and hug you or hold your hand. Whatever fear or uncertainty that I may have had coming to Moldova, has long been thrown out the window. Today I had the chance to actually be present in a room as the children came in to see their new beds, and seeing this children smiling from ear to ear and hugging us and saying thank you brought tears to my eyes. I thought, God this is why you want me to be here. Just knowing that I am part of something that brings so much joy to these children makes all my aches and pains and tiredness feel like nothing and it makes me want to work even harder. Moldova will be a place that will always be part of my life.


Irene Rodriguez

beds beds beds!!

today we successfully assembled every single bed we had--and did it all before lunch!! we were really blessed to have a really hard working group from a nearby church helping us on the assembly line. it cut our work time in half and allowed us the opportunity to deliver over 60 beds to 4 different rooms!

the kids were so excited to have their new beds, they absolutely could not contain themselves. in my book, today was better than christmas. instead of this...

they now have this...

we were able to give a gift that blessed precious children. and on top of that, through giving beds, hugs, kisses and sweet lovin', i really feel like we gave them a glimpse of their value as human beings. what an amazing day! i could get used to this...