Saturday, May 31, 2008

some photos to illustrate the last few blogs

girls in their fairy/wedding/graduation dresses

ninjas leaping thru the air and breaking burning bricks with their appendages

parker being parker and filming some livestock out in a field

miller and sabir

moldova has been very very good to us.


who WOULDN'T want to be here?!?!?

i am continually amazed by the mere opportunity that moldova as a whole presents to people like me and to us as westerners. jen, stewart, parker and i spent the morning interviewing people who have partnered with sweet sleep over the years and i was blown away by some of the things they said. hearing about all that sweet sleep has been able to do, how this ministry has blessed hundreds of orphans, teachers and churches all over moldova...and not just that, but the every growing opportunity to connect with these local churches and orphanages to implement some serious beneficial change in the lives of people here. i mean, it just floors me.
unfortunately, i am unable to post photos at this time, which almost made me not want to blog. but then i decided that anyone who ventures to read this blog HAS to know that even with everything we accomplished this week, and even with all that sweet sleep has done in the past 5 years, there is work to be done here even still. my word of advice to everyone at home is that, unless you have a really good excuse, figure out someway to get involved here. it is one of the best uses of time and resources that i can think of.

i am officially a believer in sweet sleep and moldova.

so yeah...there you go.



Imagine you're an orphan in Drochia and it's your graduation day. You've dressed up big time (a big fairytale ballroom gown if you're a girl), and there's a big ole ceremony in the orphanage courtyard. There are speeches by your teachers and the school director. There are awards given out. A local politician comes and gives a speech too. All pretty standard.
But this is not a bland American graduation, this is a Moldovan Graduation Party!!!
Next comes the dance music - real bass thumping club music. Then some of your classmates try to let off some floating chinese paper lanterns, catching one on fire in the process. Next are the guys from the military who put on a gun show where they all spin their rifles and do steps in unison. Pretty cool. BUT THEN COME THE NINJAS!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we had GRADUATION NINJAS!!!!!!!!!
They ran out and performed a series of self defense reenactments, thus providing not just entertainment but real useable knowledge for the crowd. Knowledge like: how to disarm a knife wielding thug, how to beat up a couple of street toughs all by yourself, and how to take away your enemy's AK-47. But the best part of the Ninja Show was the concrete breaking. Each ninja took out a concrete tile and broke it with his head - all in a coreographed routine. Then the final "piece de resistance" - the supreme ninja lit a stack of concrete tiles on fire and smashed them all with his bare hand.
We're not in Kansas anymore...
Seriously, thought, it was a really neat experience. The local news was there. Parents and relatives came. And everyone was dressed to the nines. The graduates performed a nice ballroom dance for us. I even ended up dancing in a big circle with a bunch of people.
At the beginning of the ceremony, I kept telling Parker "This feels like the Godfather". Then they played the Godfather theme on the stereo, and we both freaked out. Not to mention that I had been sounding like Frank Pentangeli all week.
Anyways, I'm sure you can read more about the graduation in the other posts.
Leaving for the last time was hard. I said goodbye to Sabir (who plays the bass drum in the school band) and Alina and Doina. And I said goodbye to lots ofther kids.
240 beds, and a ton of smiles and hugs.
I'd say we did a good job.

The Return of the Ruracs

Since we don't have internet access at the Stepenencos, five of us are at an internet cafe in Chisinau. There is much to catch you up on. While the team went to the graduation ceremony at the oprhanage yesterday, Peter (driver/translator) and I took Mihai and Vasile home. Peter stopped on the way and bought us all cokes and chocolate croissants. The Ruracs loved it. We sang songs (lots of ra-cha-cha), drew pictures, hugged, name it. The highlight of the trip was when we rolled into Obreja Noua (the name of their village), they saw their "father" coming down the road on his bike. They both yelled out, "Tata!" which means "father" in Romanian. They were so excited to see him and told him they had missed them. He seemed genuinely happy to see them as well. I had loaded up the van with some goodies for the family - underwear and socks for the boys, a Romanian bible, chocolates, and other staples (macaroni, rice, beans, and oil), we had to drive to their house. The narrow dirt road was really hard to navigate with the van (remember...we had WALKED up to their house before), so it was a little scary. I made Peter stop at one point so I could pick some flowers for my journal. We finally got to the house and jumped out. I gave them their food and walked Mihai and Vasile to the door. They ran in to put their stuff down, and I stayed outside with Tata George. He gave me a big kiss on the cheek and thanked me for the food. I told him that I was praying for him and his family and to take care of these precious boys. He asked me if they had been good to which I replied, "Of course! They are such good boys." He told me he agreed and said they always help around the house.

I just can't tell you what a gift God gave me this week. I originally signed up for this trip because we were going to Drochia, where Mihai was. Then I found out Mihai was taken by a family. I had mixed emotions. I was glad he was in a family but wondered if this family was a "good" family and would love him. I was also selfishly sad I wouldn't get to see him. So I decided that God had other plans for this week. I hoped to see them, but didn't think much about it. I was going to be content either way. But it turns out I got to spend a whole week with them, and give SO many hugs and kisses. Mihai told me he loved me for the first time (he had always just said it in return to me). He also got to build beds with John Hataway, which was SO fun to watch.

As we pulled away from their house, I was not sad. Nor was Mihai...and I was ok with that. They stood at the gate and waved at us as we made our way down the dirt path. I feel such peace about where he is, and I didn't expect that this trip. I thank God for this precious gift.

What a wonderful week we have had! We had a GREAT team. The weather was perfect. There weren't too many kinks in our plans, which is rare for Moldova. We had tons of quality time with kids - even moreso than when we had camp! We laughed...A LOT. We built 240 beds!!! We got to hug on so many precious children and tell them God loves them. And best of all, we got to leave them with a physical reminder of that - a new bed.

God is up to some cool stuff here in Moldova. I am just so glad He has chosen me to be a part of it. You can be a part of it, too, you know. Come to Moldova. Support Sweet Sleep. Pray for the children. I assure will change your life.

Thank you for your prayers...much love to you!


Parker's last day in Moldova

This is PARKER BRADLEY coming at you from Chisinau. Can you believe the first time I've ever been in an internet cafe is right now in Moldova. I guess this is a Europe thing. What an awesome trip this has been!! So many great things are happening here! God is truly, truly at work here. And how fitting He would choose the poorest country in Europe to do His work best. The kids at Drochia were just amazing in their openness and giving hearts, even though they have so little. To look an abandoned child in the eye and tell them with the confidence that is in Christ that they are worth something and that they matter greatly to God and to others, and then to see their eyes light up in response, giving a sudden hug or taking your hand... Wow. That is what sharing the love of Christ is all about! Thanks for your prayers and for keeping up with us. You should come over here next time!! All blessings to you.

Angel Wings

It's been awhile sinced we blogged, but we have been busy!!!!!

As one of the many highlights of this trip, Sweet Sleep invited one of our previous translators, Olessa, to come and talk to the girls 5th grade and up, about how to prevent human trafficking out of Moldova, which is a HUGE problem here. Olessa now works for an NGO here called OSCE, and I can't believe how well the anti-trafficking training session went over with our 40 girls. Olessa made her talk fascinating to the girls and engaged them in some great conversations about their future plans in life. She helped them to think for themselves about the kind of women, mothers, leaders they might someday be and gave them some basic tools to make that future a reality. Olessa blessed us with her experience and her knowledge! We can't wait for people like her to keep changing Moldova, one child at a time :)

Our last day of camp was a special graduation ceremony for the Seniors (ninth grade is the highest grade for orphans here). We arrived in the morning to find the entire orphange transformed in their nicest clothes including some Cinderella-esk dresses for the senior girls. It all unfolded much like an American high school ceremony would, with awards given for academics and there were many speeches, which was all fine and dandy in the hot sun for two hours UNTIL.... 12 Ninjas unloaded from a truck and crashed the party. And by ninja, I mean NINJA. Like samari sword, black head to toe and neck snapping their way through what turned out to be a "gift" performance to the seniors by the Moldovan Special Forces Unit. Uh, it was unbelievable and also SO bizarre. "Congratulations orphans, here are some ninjas." This just goes to show you that you really never know what might happen on a trip to Moldova. Come see for yourself!

I have to say, this trip I bonded with one particular trouble maker, (read here, the new love of my life) Sergio who is 13 and a kick in the pants. After learning my name, he followed me around for three days repeating it over and over and over. By the third day, he never left my side. It's odd, but we actually had our best times without a translator present. We bonded over frisbee, hand slap games, singing songs and teaching each other Romanian/English. On the last day he asked me if I would be back and I sadly told him no, we wouldn't come back to his orphanage. He smiled and said to me "Don't cry Amy. I have Jesus in my heart and I will see you in heaven."

From the mouth of a babe. Okay, well if I wasn't already crying, I was after that. As we drove away, he called my name again and made the sign of angels wings and winked at me. See you in heaven Sergio. Praise God.

It's been a wonderful wonderful wonderful trip and I can't wait to come back. God has blessed us so greatly with health, safety, wonderful hardworking translators, great weather and an awesome team. All praise belongs to Him.

Much love, Amy

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sabir the Great

So I have a new friend named Sabir. He's about 8 or 9 years old and he comes looking for me every day as soon as we arrive. My voice is starting to return to normal, but for most of the week it's sounded like Frank Pentangeli from the Godfather. So I've been telling Sabir all about Italian recipes and complaining about the Rosato brothers; of course, he has no idea what I'm saying - he just likes the way I talk. Then he tries to do the same thing.
I also have another friend named Alina. She and I spent about an hour taking pictures this afternoon. Alina would see something interesting, run to it, take a picture, and run back to show me. Then we'd repeat the process over, and over, and over, and over, and...
And then there's Doina. I think she just likes me for my cool sunglasses and snazzy camera.
It's funny how certian orphans stick with you all week. There's no real rhyme or reason to it - it's like they decide you're going to be their "person" for the week and that's that. Next thing you know, you have a permanent, orphan-shaped appendage that was somehow attached to your body without your consent. I can think to past trips to Moldova and names start popping up in my mind: Artur, Vasile, Pasha. Sabir, Alina, Doina.
What really starts cooking my brain is when, amidst the chaos at the orphanage, I stop to consider that God probably chose to pair those particular orphans with me this week. That's when my attitude changes from annoyance to appreciation. From frustration that Doina has asked me 37 times to drink my water, to realizing that she just wants share in an experience with me.
So tomorrow, when we're trying to squeeze as much as we can out of our half day at the orphanage, I'll do my best to forget my "self" and give, give, give to these orphans. And when Sabir asks me 15 times to make a happy face and give him a hug, it will be a privilege.

orphans are my favorite

jen and i were walking around in a village outside of drochia the other day when we came across this little scene....

random bed in the middle of a field. made me feel like a scene out of a really surreal movie, or like a dream that one would have where one received some sort of vision or deep insight. anyway, it was appropriate to our mission at hand, we felt.

i have more photos on my photography blog if you care to see them. don't have enough internet juice to post photos on both blogs every night. gotta love me some dial-up....

p.s. hey roomies, i'm bringing home about 240 orphans. hope you don't mind....

Jully Fuish!

I'm a little late in the blogging game on this trip but I have a full appreciation for the saying better late than never! so I'm just gonna jump on in with some stories!

First: The AWESOME Birthday Party-
From now on I want to have all of my birthday parties here! While the boys were finishing up building the last few beds the girls went into the cafeteria to decorate. We had Nemo stuff for the boys and Princess stuff for the girls! They were so cute when they found where we had all gone and found out about the first only a handfull of kids were around so not many knew, but news travels at the speed of light in Moldova! in no time all of the kids knew and were fighting over who got to peek through the window at what all of us Americans were doing.

About 30 minutes later everything was ready and the kids came in through the tunnel formed by all of us with the exception of a few "Too cool for school" big kids and with the addition with a number of teachers who were more excited than the kids! I have the lipstick marks on my cheeks to prove that! Their excitement for something that I take for granted more often than I can even recall was so refreshing! (by thу way Moldovan chocolate pies are delicious!)

Second: Jelly Fish-
I'm sure that you are wondering why in the world the title of my blog is jelly fish...well get ready because you are about to find out! Monday, the first day, I was all excited about teaching the kids "cinci" (high five) but someone beat me o it so i had to com up with something else to impress the kids so after a little while of pondering idea after idea of what could set me apart from the rest of the group, I came up with the brilliant (ifI do say so myself) idea of Jelly Fish. So I went up to the first kid I saw and just grabbed his hand which by the look on his face seemed to be a bit out of the ordinary to him but that was ok because I couldn't understand anything he was saying about me anyways. So I had his hand and just made up a simple little handshake and then at the end I let go and made my hand look like a jelly fish and said jelly fish. He just stared at me blankly so I said "spoonya jelly fish" now what came out of his mouth sounded more like jully fuish so we practiced but it didn't really help much so i just told him good job and he went on his way. Now this didn't seem very successful so I wen to a group of kids and did it again and the same result with a little more enthusiasm came about so I made it a point to go up to every kid I saw and did the jully fuish. The next day my name was jully fuish but that was ok with me! at least I sort of made a difference!

I am so glad that I was able to and called to come back to Moldova again this summer and meet so many amazing kids and have such a great team! I am so blessed to be here and won't ever forget that! Thanks to everyone for all of the prayers that have blessed this team and all of the encouragement that we have all recieved this week from you!
Thanks For Reading! -Kelsey Drennan

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

La Biblia

Hello family and friends,

This is my first go at blogging for the trip. Today was a special day for several reasons, the first being that I received a letter from a girl named Diana (pronounced Dee-anna). I met her yesturday along with Adela and Tonya. Diana wrote me a letter thanking our team for the beds and asking for a copy of the pictures we took together. I had to ask Mya, one of our translators, to translate it into English. I was able to writе her back and I am expecting another letter tomorrow.

Besides the wonderful friends I made, I was able to help distribute Bibles to all of the children. This was exciting because we were able to really talk to them about the gospel and show them how to look up passages of scripture. I loved watching my team members faces as they were also sharing with the children because they knew that the message we were sharing was life changing. Our God never fails and will never leave them. I overheard Amy saying that she had the children read Jeremiah 29:11 in their new Bibles after showing them were it was. It is amazing to know that God has a plan for each one of those children's lives. I showed several girls my favorite Bible verse, Galations 2:20 and told them that this is the verse that I try to live by every day, giving all the glory to God. All in all it was a great day and I am looking forward to seeing what is in store for tomorrow!


Sweet aroma

Hello everyone,
We have had another wonderful day. Meghann, thank you for your sweet reply. We miss you and C.J. remembered you:) He asked Kelsey where her sister was.
Amiee, Andre has been such a blessing to us on our trip. He has opened up so much more as the week has gone by. He is downstairs now playing train dominoes and phase 10, so I will tell him what you said.
Today I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 2:14 "But thanks be to God who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place."
On Sunday when we visted the church they had a beautiful flower garden. There were mostly older people in the congregation, their 10 or so youth were on a mission trip in a nearby village. An older gentlemen sang a beautiful song something about a priceless pearl. No one interpretted for us during the song, so we only had his beautiful voice and contenance to go by. What a blessing. He sang acapella and every note sounded of trust in God. As we were leaving the church, another elderly man presented our team with a bouquet of the most beautiful peonies that we are still enjoying at the team house.
Then, another reminder of God's fragrance came yesterday when two teenagers jumped from behind me and presented me with a bouquet of jasmine. It smelled wonderful and we all shareв it in our hair.
These people are so loving and giving. Of all ages, the director, the teachers who appear at least 50 and above, are all so appreciative of what we are doing for them and the children. They come up to us and kiss us and talk very fast in Romanian expecting us to understand. Again, we just know from the expressions on their faces, their gestures, and the sweetness of their voices what they are trying to say. We are the first Americans some of them have met. They don't wait for a translater to help, they just converse. I smile and say DA alot!!!!
Today was a bit tiring as we had the farthest to carry all the bed parts. The children were actually not as helpful today. I think they are worn out to. Don't get me wrong, they are still very appreciative. But, school is ending for them on Friday and they all will leave the orphange until Sept. so you can tell they want to spend time with their friends saying goodbye, etc. So the bed building went a bit slower. But this amazing team of ours got over 50 done again today.

More people will blog about the wonderful time of handing out Bibles, our English lessons, and craft today. I will say that Sean and John and Galena put together a wonderful series of English lesson that the kids of all ages were so eager to learn. It went great and they definitely have learned alot. We saw them take their handouts in thу yard to share and practice with their friends.
I'll just close by saying that God is blessing our efforts. His love is fragrant and contagious. I pray that we are a "fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved" Thank you for your prayers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Double Double This This

Hello everyone,
First let me say a big happy birthday to my mom in Upton, KY. Today is her 81st birthday. I love you, Mom. You're the best. I have been mindful of you all day as I have had so many hugs and kisses from kids who have not have the love and joy you have given me all my life. I'll see you soon!!
I have read all the blogs so far and want to add just a couple thoughts from our days so far.
As said, travel went amaingly well. We even ate at a McDonald's in the Frankfort airport. Seems like they are everywhere, even in Moldova. When we landed in Moldova, we had the two hour drive to where we are staying in Balti. It was approaching dusk and I was so tired but didn't want to miss a thing on the drive. We left the capital city of Chisnau and the hustle and bustle of traffic there and soon were in the country side with mostly two lane roads with ruts (picture St. John roads but worse only these are all flat roads.) God provided the most beautiful sunset, huge big orange ball of fire, that we drove toward as it set. It reminded me of a beauitful sunset Leon and I shared in Sedona. Laborers were leaving their fields for the day, walking their cows home and women and men all carrying hoes, picks, sickles, etc.
There is a different rhythm to this country. The fields are beautiful and the people go about their work diligently. There are acres and acres of sunflower fields and vineyards. It is early spring here and the crops are a foot high at best. I so enjoy our drive each morning and evening to our village of Drochia (about 30+ minutes) because the tree lined roads and fields are so peaceful. And, I am always looking for the horse drawn carts loaded with their results from the days work. The people are always already at work hoeing in the fields by 8:00 as we drive out and then again in the evening at 6 are still at it and/or finishing. Women in skirts, headscarfs, sto ckings, etc. This morning I say a young women pulling a hand plow while the older woman was behind her guiding it straight. I have seen a few tractors, too.
Okay, now for the great part, the kids at the orphanage. They are filled with so much love and eager to learn whatever English they can. I've asked and many of these kids have never seen Americans, but the French have been here.
We carry our bed parts: headboards, footboards, side rails, thick particle board for the foam mattresses to lie on, the foam mattresses, and bedding from the cafeteria area across the dirt rocky, yard to the dorms. We began on the third floor and worked our way down. The team is amazingly organized and after the kids caught the hang of what we were doing, it was even easier today. I would round the corner with parts, and they would take them from me and head upstairs. I must say I was extremely thankful today for that. Last night I was so tired, I literally put my adidas workout pants on backwards! That won't surprise a couple of you a bit.
Today was fun. The kids are trying to learn more English. Today I got a group around and we counted in English over and over. They loved that. And, Kelsey taught them a hand game: double double this this, double double that that, etc. That has been a great game We haven't pulled out the dot to dot yet as we have been so busy building the beds. Today, we finally had time to do a little crafts: pony bead necklaces and color sheets.
One last thing. The kids are so excited about their beds, that they took out more of their old beds yesterday than we had time to replace. I think the director found them a place to sleep for the night. I asked the kids who had beds last night how they slept and they said great with huge smiles, grins, and hugs. One boy told me they didn't make noise.
It seems what little we give of ourselves: this or that, God is literally doubling. We are getting so much done under His power. Thank you for youк prayers. Kelsey aтв I are having sucha wonderful time, even better than last year and that's saying alot.
Much Love,

Beds on Fire....

That's right my friends, after another day of hard work and beautiful weather, we smogged up the atmosphere with a total of 131 smoking matresses. We still have a few to go but I can't tell you the joy it brought me to see those stinking, rotten, digusting, smelly, and just plain wrong piles of bedding in a smoldering heap. Injustice burning. It felt like permanent freedom for each of those kids. The director of the orphanage told us the beds were over 50 years old. Goodbye and good ridance.... I couldn't wait to spread the news to the rest of the team that our precious and so dear copi would never ever sleep in them again! ANd for that, we give all the praise to God!

I swear these kids get smarter and cuter and more huggable each time I come here.
While we were making the pretty pink beds today, one girl around 10 or so started crying in frustration because she couldn't get her bedspread to look right inside of her duvet cover. After making it right we snuggled in her new bed together with her head on my shoulder... she hasn't left my side since! More to come... Sweet sleep tonight.... Eimy ( how they spelll my name here)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Is This Really My Job?

I had to blog today because today was my first day of building beds as a Sweet Sleep employee. Woo hoo! I came on this trip to pretty much be in charge of the bed building part of it, and today I ended up pretty much in charge of everything since Jen was gone allllllll day long hunting down a Rurac with Emily and СJ (see Emily’s blog below for the play-by-play on that little adventure). I don’t mean to sound like I’m the great bed building expert and I spent the day telling everyone what to do. We have a great team and they don’t need that from me. But still, it was exciting for me to be left on my own as the guy from Sweet Sleep and to really start to feel like this is what I do. Overall, we had a really good day of building beds and I know that with this team, the rest will go smoothly as well.

I also met three very sweet teenage girls named Alina, Elena, and Vica. They helped us build the beds for their room and proudly showed me things their sponsors had sent them. I’ve said to may people before that I feel very strongly that men need to come on these trips and provide, at least for a week, the kind of male influence and guidance that they so rarely get in their lives. I believe this is true for both the boys and the girls, and today I was reminded of that as I spent time with Alina, Elena, and Vica. So many of the girls here end up tricked or trapped into sex trafficking and they need to know that a man can and should love and respect them for who they are, not for what they can do with their bodies. I hope to be able to impart at least some of that to them this week.

That’s it for me tonight. And as always, I want to thank D’Ann and my boys for supporting me in this work. I know it’s hard on all of you for me to be away, and couldn’t do this without you.


Operation: Rescue a Rurac

When we got to the orphanage this morning, Jen approached me and said, "How much do you love me?”

“Uhhh…a lot…duh. Why?”

“Because you’re coming with me and CJ. We’re going to go find a restaurant for lunch, put our order in, and then go pick up a Rurac.”

It took a second for that to sink in.

“What?! Are you serious?!”

“I’m totally serious.”

I gave her a big hug but I still wouldn’t let myself too excited.

(For those of you who don’t know me, Mihai Rurac is a boy I have known, loved dearly, and sponsored for three years now)

So off we went down the bumpy road to Falesti. Our first stop was the Social Assistant (aka – gatekeeper of Mihai). Luckily Emilie (don’t you love her already?) was a really nice lady and extremely helpful. After about 30 minutes, 20 phone calls, and for me a trip to the bathroom that was a very bad idea, we headed to the orphanage in Falesti to pick up a social worker who would take us to…are you ready for this? Mihai’s new house!!

The 30 minute drive took us to a small village outside Falesti. The village was actually not far at all, but the roads were SSSOOOO bumpy that it took forever. We eventually reached roads impassable by car, so we got out on foot and followed a muddy path to the house. Although it wasn’t all mud, because some horses had left some welcome presents for us along the way…if you know what I mean.

My heart was pounding, and I could hardly believe what was happening. Not only was I going to get to see Mihai…I was going to get to meet his new family!

We walked through the gate, and I immediately recognized one of the girls (this family took in Lena and Tania - sisters - and Mihai and Vasile - brothers - from the Falesti orphanage). It didn’t take too long before a Rurac came flying around the corner screaming, “EMILY!! EMILY!!” Oh my stars…it was my boy. :) That was one of the best hugs I’ve ever gotten!

I met his mother, Angela, and father, George. I watched Mihai pick strawberries. I saw their garden and their chicken coop. I went in their house and saw where little Mihai lays his head down every night. I saw the table where they have meals together. I heard him call Angela “Mama.” I watched him eat a home cooked meal.

I saw a happy family.

And as if one Rurac isn’t enough, Vasile came home from school (he had stayed later than Mihai because of some test or something…I never quite figured that out) and that made two Ruracs! Angela and George agreed to Mihai and Vasile come back with us to Drochia. So they packed their bags, we took a family photo on the steps, and piled in the van for the bumpy ride back to Drochia. By the time we got back, most of the bed-building was finished for the day. I felt bad having missed that, but it was worth it to get to see my boy.

And may I just say how beautiful the beds are?! The linens are the prettiest I’ve seen so far. I really wish you could see them for yourself. Pictures never do justice.

We finally capped off the day with an impromptu worship time with the kids, complete with ra-cha-cha.

We are really looking forward to the rest of the week and what joys lie ahead.

Thank you for your prayers…they mean more than you know.

This is PARKER BRADLEY again blogging for the second time in my life. We had great time today building beds and working with all the kids in the orphanage. It was crazy! They were haulin' the old beds out while we were bringin' the new ones in. The boys were especially proud of their new beds and celebrated with a colossal pillow fight and the girls hugged every sheet, pillow and blanket. They were so happy! The director of the orphanage and her team were speechless for a time at how well the beds looked and the at the overall excitement of the kids. Today was a great start to the week, but we were dead tired at the end of it. 54 beds total, 186 to go! Keep us in your prayers!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday in Moldova

Today was a beautiful Sunday here in sunny (and pleasantly cool) Moldova. We began the day with an excellent home cooked breakfast and then loaded up the buses (technically vans, I think--I'm not really sure where the line of distinction should be drawn there).

Our destination was our partner church in Drochia. This was my (by the way, this is John, in case you were wondering) first time in a church service in Moldova, which is fitting given that it's my first time in Moldova.

The service was similar to what we have at home, but slightly reorganized and substantially extended. If there had been an official order of service, it would've gone something like this:
1) Singing
2) Welcome/Introduction
3) Singing
4) Introduction from our team to the church
5) Singing
6) Sermon #1
7) Singing
8) Singing (this time led by our team)
9) Singing (specifically for the 70+ crowd)
10) Sermon #2
11) Song/Offering
12) Closing

Note that there were additional 'mini-sermons' built in to this schedule that I can't fully classify due to my lack of Russian fluency. Also note that except for items 4 & 8, the above were all in Russian (ok, or maybe some Romanian as well). Thankfully, our translators were sitting with us; so we did our best to pay attention to both the preacher and the translators.

Despite the differences of format and language, the love of the people in the church was definitely visible for us. They welcomed us with open arms and prayed for us and our mission this week. Additionally, they spoke and prayed about how our work this week would be visible to the greater community--showing many people the love of God through our work (a prayer echoed by this team).

After church, we decided to go to a great little local spot for lunch. Unfortunately, the restaurant didn't really have a desire to serve us. This seemed a little odd, and seemed moreso when the next restaurant refused as well. I'm fairly sure we all took showers and had on clean clothes, so I'm not sure what the problem was.

Having given up on having lunch in Drochia, we returned to Balti and ate at Andy's Pizza. (In case you were wondering, Andy wasn't there--apparently Andy doesn't own Andy's Pizza anymore.) The food and fellowship was great. (If you're in the area, the Rancho pizza--hold the mushrooms--is a good choice. I'd also recommend the potato balls. Imagine fried round bits of potato--yum!)

Finally, we returned to the team house for some rest and preparation for our work this week. We closed out the evening by having dinner at another restaurant (accepted on the first try, this time) and then returning to the team house to fellowship and then head to bed.

I think that today set up the rest of the week very well: the team is working very well together and the people we've met so far are amazing in their willingness to welcome and serve.

God is definitely here (not that that fact was ever in question) and I know He's going to be using us this week. Thanks to all of you for all of your prayers both in preparation for this trip and while we're over here.

To paraphrase one of our translators, saying that God has a plan here is like saying wet water.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

This is PARKER BRADLEY writing under Emily's name beacause to sign in is so slow here. Whew! We made it!! 24 hours of airplanes, airports and bumpy bus rides, and we are here. Everyone is pooped, but the energy is still there somewhere and everyone is talking about the upcoming week. We start bed building in earnest on Monday, so I'll blog later on those events. Right now, I'm going to bed! Thanks for your prayers!!

Safe and Sound

Yes, it's true...we're here in Balti at the team house. We're stinky and tired, but we're are all of our bags! Praise God for that. There's really not much to type yet, so we'll type more later. I mainly just wanted to let everyone know we're here, we're safe, and we're healthy. So thank you for your prayers. And may I just say it is always good to be back in Moldova. It is SO green here...just gorgeous. Ok, off to clean up and head to bed. Nopta Buna!!



PS - Happy Birthday to Duncan and Hadley tomorrow!!!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Preparing For DROCHIA

My last experience with Drochia came in February 2007. In preparing for the March 2007 trip to Falesti, we found out that some of the Falesti kids had been sent up to Drochia. Having heard rumors and stories about this particular orphanage, we wanted to do our best to convince the orphanage director in Falesti to get those kids moved back. So we used the promise of new beds as a bargaining chip: if the director would arrange for the children to be moved back to Falesti, we would build new beds for all of them. We were able to get most of them moved back, but some remained in Drochia...

So here I am a year later, preparing to go to the one orphanage about which I've heard so many bad things. Having been to Moldova four times before, I know what to expect in the way of travel fatigue, culture shock, different food, orphan living conditions, etc. But the big uncertainty of this trip for me is what this orphanage in Drochia will be like.

Will the director and staff be receptive to us?
Will the orphanage look (and smell) like all the others I've seen in Moldova, or will this one be different?
Will the local volunteers be willing to work with us, and will they be willing to commit to ongoing ministry at this orphanage?
Will our team work well together, and will we accomplish our goals?
And most importantly, will we be willing to go as God leads, according to His purpose and His plan?

I have no doubts about our team's ability to shine a light into the lives of the children living in Drochia, but for some reason I've been particularly burdened about the staff at this orphanage. I pray that we as individuals and collectively as a team will influence their lives as well. Lord, prepare us to be ready to share the joy of Christ with whomever and wherever You give us an opportunity.

I'll be lone team member not coming from Nashville - instead, I'll be flying out of Portland, Oregon. So to the rest of the team I say: enjoy the Packing Party, prepare as much as you can, and then realize once that plane leaves the ground, you are no longer in control - and that's the way God wants it.

I'll see y'all in Chicago.