Wednesday, September 17, 2008

He's Got A Plan And It's Better Than Mine

Hello friends. I thought perhaps I should say a few words about our trip to Ialoveni. This was my eighth trip to Moldova since June of 2006 and my second as a full time employee of Sweet Sleep. When I stop to think for a moment about eight trips in just a little over two years, I’m honestly a little at a loss for words. Sweet Sleep and our work in Moldova has become such a huge part of my life that it’s hard for me to even think back and remember what my life was like before all of this. I have been witness to many great things over these past couple of years, and I am grateful to God that he has brought me to this place and allowed me to be a part of this amazing ministry.

Every trip to Moldova is different. Each trip we work in a different orphanage with different directors, staff, and kids. And no matter how many times we go and how much we plan in advance, we’re always a little surprised by how things actually work out. This trip was no different in that regard. But, one thing we try to remember is that it doesn’t really matter if things don’t go exactly like we plan them. What matters is that we are there and that we are ready for God to use us that week with those kids.

Those of you who know me know that I am a planner. I like to make a plan and then stick to that plan. Moldova constantly challenges me with respect to my plans, and God is constantly reminding me that it’s not my plan for the week that is really important. On this trip, the big change of plans came when we found out that though the director of the orphanage had asked us for 170 beds, they now only needed 115. It seems that sometime shortly before we arrived another group from England had come and provided some beds. Honestly, I was a little frustrated by this at first, but then I realized that this change of plans meant two things. The first thing it meant was that we would finish early, which in turn meant we had more time to spend with the kids. The first few days of the week we really hadn’t been able to spend very much quality time with the kids in Ialoveni. It was their first week of school, and I think the staff was trying to get them into their routine for the year. That meant the kids were mostly kept busy and away from us until the late afternoon. I was worrying a little about this since we aren’t just there to provide beds. We could buy beds and have them delivered to the orphanages without us being there at all. We go there so that we can share God’s love with the children. So, I was a little worried that the team wasn’t spending enough time with the kids. Finishing the beds early meant that we had a large part of Thursday to really spend time with the kids. The birthday party went great and I think the team was able to effectively communicate God’s love to the kids and staff that day.

The second thing only needing 115 beds in Ialoveni meant for us was that we suddenly had 55 extra beds. This was one of those things you might call a happy accident. I told Jen the news about the extra beds and we quickly decided that they should go to Orhei. If you’ve been keeping up with Sweet Sleep, you know that we started replacing the beds at the Casa de Copii in Orhei in March. Casa de Copii is a home for over 300 mentally and physically disabled boys. We built 135 beds there in March and were making plans for a local church to put the rest of the beds in sometime later this year. I really enjoyed the trip to Orhei in March and was really excited at the idea of going there again to put in 55 more beds. Friday morning we were able to take the team to Orhei and build those 55 beds in just over three hours! Wow! It was great to be back there and to see the friends we had made there in March. My favorite moment there involved a boy named Ion. I had met Ion on our trip in March. He is probably 14 or 15 year old and has severely deformed legs and hands. I met him on our last day in Orhei in March. We were just finishing up the beds we had and he peeked out the door of his room and asked if we were coming in there next to put new beds into the room he shared with 17 other boys. Because of his deformity, he was literally on his knees on the floor, so I bent down and told him I was sorry, but that we didn’t have any more beds for that trip. He looked me in the eyes and very calmly asked me why we had started with other rooms instead of his. There was no accusation or anger in his question, but it still broke my heart. I explained to him that we had put the beds where the director had told us to and that I was sorry he hadn’t gotten a bed this time. Then I did something I never do with kids in Moldova. I made him a promise. This one was easy to make because I knew it would come true. I promised him that we would be back and he would get a new bed. I had thought about Ion several times since that trip, and I wanted so much to be there when he got his bed. As I said, we were talking with a church in Orhei about finishing that project for us, so I didn’t think I would be there when he did get his bed. When we found out we had extra beds in Ialoveni and that we would be putting them into Orhei instead, I thought I just might get that chance. Sure enough, the first room we worked in on that Friday morning was Ion’s room! He was in there walking around on his knees and helping us put the beds in his room. I knelt down again and reminded him of our first meeting. I was so happy to be able to share that moment with him.

As I said in the beginning, every trip is different. Every trip is wonderful, and this one was no exception. God continues to reveal himself in new and wonderful ways through the children we meet in Moldova and the work that he allows us to do. God is good, and his plans are always better than my plans.

“For I know the plans I have for you ,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, September 05, 2008

We Told Those Beds Who Was Boss

Happy Friday Night- It's our last night in Moldova and it's been the best day of all! Earlier this week, we were struggling with the fact that we really hadn't gotten lots of hang out time with the copii and wondering how we were going to remember this past week without little names and faces and stories. Our ever so wise and fearless leader, Jen, reminded me that sometimes God doesn't reveal his plan for us until the very last moment... our job is to trust and wait patiently, and she was right! Because we didn't have extra time with the kids, we had ample time to build beds, meaning we finished a whole day early. So in a completely Moldovan, unexpected-twist, we got to ride up to Orhei this morning and add to the beds that the Kairos team (that came in March) completed half of, at an orphanage for severely handicapped boys. As God would have it, this was the highlight of the week for all of us! We completed 55 beds in just 3 1/2 hours! We were so pumped to get this job done and the boys were such a HUGE help that we literally stormed that school and, in massive style held a bed building vigil of extreme proportions! It was awesome! Then our favorite Moldovan resident named Martin (who will be happy to tell you just how famous he is :) serenaded us with a beautiful song of thanks to God... we laughed, we cried, we hugged, we played in new beds.... it was an outstanding day at the Casa De Copii!

To top it off, we drove to Transnistruea and back just to see the only waterfall in Moldova with a monastery visit and death hike in between... ask someone about that one when we get back :) But little did we know that the day still held surprises when we returned back to the team house! In a perfect alignment of the stars, moon, Moldovan government and the water gnomes, there was a MIHAI sighting! For those of you who know about Jen's elusive sponsor child Mihai, aka the Brad Pitt of Moldova, he came to Chisnau tonight and we got to spend some time with him during dinner this evening! I came around the corner and there he was playing cards with Jen like he'd been there all along! I cried like a baby! It means so much to Jen to get to see him when we can and he represents so much of why we are here... I just loved it!

Other than that, we are packing like mad and getting ready for the airport in the morning! Thank you all so much for your prayers and encouragement! We will see you in Nashville!
God with you... Amy

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ce Mila

You'll quickly discover this is NOT Amy! This is Gloria who can't remember her blogger information.
This has been a very full four days. But very rewarding as well. The children at Ialoveni are so precious! Because these children have grown up with no one making excuses for their disabilities, they are amazingly independent. And overall they are so happy and full of life. It makes me happy just being around them! Don is a little boy whose legs don't work quite right. He limps and uses a cane to get around. Yet he ALWAYS greets us with this BIG smile and is full of chatter. The other day as he was walking across the grass with us, he hit an uneven spot in the ground that caused him to fall down. His cane went sprawling away from him and he lay spread eagled on the ground. But did it phase him? No! In a heartbeat he picked himself up, grabbed his cane, and off he went again talking up a blue streak!
In the mornings while the children are in their classrooms studying, we've been hard at work building beds, transporting them across the courtyard and up the stairs (no handicapped accessible elevators for this place!) The guys are amazing in how much they can carry. They pick up the boards and bed frames one handed, while we struggle to carry them in twos! Then bringing up the linens and making up the beds. We've had several hilarious moments trying to put the comforters in the duvet covers (umm...Donnie and to share?) But then we've had the extreme satisfaction of looking over our work, seeing the cheery bright yellow bed covers with their fluffy pillows and Bible laid against each pillow. And we can just imagine the joy of the children as they walk in their rooms and see the old smelly beds gone and these bright new beds in their place! It makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Lunch break and then we return to work. Marilyn and I have been privileged to do arts and crafts with some of the children in the afternoon. Simple stuff, but the children have worked so intensely doing their very best work on whatever project we give them. They've been so proud of what they've created, wanting us to take their pictures and excitedly showing us what they've done. Bene, bravo!!!
It's very hard looking at these wonderful children with their beautiful smiles and individual personalities, and thinking about what the future holds for them. They are obviously cared for here by their teachers. And these children know more English than any other orphan children I've encountered. They actually study it in school. Yet in a country like Moldova that is so impoverished, you realize that there will be extremely limited opportunities for a child with disabilities. What will their life be like when they're adults?
Yet we know that God created these children in His image and He loves them very much. We hope that our week with them has reminded them of that. They have certainly given us much love and many memories. In 2 Chronicles 14: 11 we read, "O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O lord our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come. O Lord, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!"
Tired muscles, a few bruises, some sniffles among us, but oh, what a privilege this week has been! How blessed we are to have met these children and learned their names and given them high fives and seen their joy.

Ephesians 3:20-21

Thursday already- time has flown by. The days are passing so quickly because the mornings have been filled with hard work building, and making beds. Then after lunch we have gotten to spend some time with the kids. This has been amazing!

The kids quickly warmed up to us. I had an immediate connection with a few girls that latched on right away- they want to walk hand in hand wherever we go- it's cute. These girls are 12 yr old. There is another special little boy that has stolen my heart- Ewan. Ewan is one of those mischievous little boys- everyone else is in class and somehow Ewan is free to roam around and hang out and help us. He's always there. It's great. Today Ewan was around as always, and Dave and I were working on a bed but not working together at the moment. Ewan walks in the room and grabs Dave's hand and pulls him over to me and then picks up the teddy bear in the room and points to the heart- it was so sweet. Apparently he wanted us to work together and wanted to make sure we were not mad at each other- it was sweet. Adorable.

Today was a very neat day. We finished the beds in the morning, went to lunch, and when we returned we got to spend tons of time with kids. I got to work with with the crafts today. We helped the kids put crosses on paper and then decorate them. We did not have a translator most of the time, but I finally went to get my Romanian translator sheet and starting writing Isus Te Ibueste- which means Jesus Loves you. As I wrote that on their crosses- their faces lit up with smiles. This was incredible. It was neat to share this with them.

During our crafts the older girls were taken to hear a sex trafficking talk. This was a time when they talk to the girls about sex trafficking and try to warm them of ways to avoid getting into this. It happens often here. Karla and Amy helped with this and they reported that it went very well. While all of us girls did these events, the boys worked hard on the beds.

The best part of the day came with the birthday party- the birthday party is this special time when we throw the kids a party our last day. A lot of the kids don't even know their birthday and most do not get a birthday celebration so it's a neat opportunity for us to throw them all one It's also a time to remind them of Jesus' love for each of them and how special they are to us. The birthday party was a hit. We had100 kids come- each received a cupcake, party blower, goodies bag, and juice. They scarfed the cupcakes down so fast- it was like the best thing they had gotten in a long time. We asked the kids tonight as they were all seated quietly how many of them had received new beds- every kid in the room shot their hands up and smiled big. Tears welled up in my eyes at this moment as I realized that we got to be a part of something so cool in these kids lives. With as little as they have, we got to bring joy into their hearts even if for a short week. But also knowing that each night they go to bed, they will hopefully remember us and more importantly how much God loves them.

Goodbyes were exchanged after the party. It was a neat time to hug them and receive hugs and kisses from them. Many were so thankful and I had several thank me several times for being there and what we had shared throughout the week. It was sad to leave.

Tomorrow we head to another orphanage to build some of the extra beds we have left- this orphanage is a boys orphanage with mentally and physically challenged boys. Several are confined to their bed. We are so excited- these boys know we're coming and they are anticipating our arrival already the day before.

The verse I have been praying over all week is Ephesians 3:20-21. Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.

The Lord works in amazing ways- each morning I have prayed that he would accomplish even more than I have thought to pray for. I believe he has. I don't know what Jen had in mind with Sweet Sleep, but I believe he has done infinitely more than she probably imagined- that's just what He does. He is providing so much for so many kids and it is only through Him that we are able to do any of it.

Thanks for praying, we do appreciate it and again tomorrow we ask for prayers as we go out to share God's love with more children who don't receive much love in their lives.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Mission accomplished...almost!

What an amazing week this has been. I know many of you have been reading some of the beautiful stories on the blog. There are obviously way to many to tell you in a blog. God has totally blessed this team and this trip. We have been healthy. We have been united. We have been productive. We have been blessed! You never know what lies ahead when you head off across the sea to sevre. You can be sure to experience some unique circumstances and unforseen situations. Those have been true on this trip. But I have to say that this trip has been extra special, because of the great team that God put together. They have each been so special and amazing. Because of this, we are going to finish a day early with bed building. Again, we have been blessed.

Now a blog from Moldova would not be complete without a mention of the kids. Today was our first day that we were able to spend some quality time with most of them. There have been a couple from time to time that have popped up while we worked, but it wasn't until today that we really were able to connect with most of them. We were able to do crafts, play some games, teach some English, hug some necks, and worship with them. You cannot come here and not be impacted by the life of a child. For me it was with a boy named Vilay. He is probably 11 or 12 and walks with a limp. Vilay is not able to speak, but Vilay's gift does not come through words or works. It comes from a simple smile. You see everytime any of us see him, he is smiling. Always! It hit me so hard today when I stopped and thought about it. No matter what life hands you. No matter what your circumstance. Smile. It speaks louder than words ever will. So wherever you are know that you are blessed and smile!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

These kids amaze me!

One more quick note before we call it a day here in Moldova...

As more kids show up at the orphanage everyday to begin school, we have the pleasure of meeting more and more of them. And they amaze me with the level of energy and enthusiasm with which they help us. I've never seen children who desire to help as much as these children do. They literally run the halls to come help us carry/lift/move things. And once we've completed that task, they run on to help someone else. If there isn't anything that they can immediately help with, they'll stand there beside us with eager eyes, waiting for the next chance to jump into the action. To be honest, I think we've all drawn much needed, additional motivation and energy from just being around these children. Such sweet, unspoiled spirits that simply want to spend time with us and give of themselves...what a concept! And what an inspiration to us! Thanks kids!

Of course, then there is the laughter - most of the time at our expense as they attempt to teach how to say things in Romanian and we absolutely butcher it!?

Last thing...about the "locked in the bathroom" thing mentioned, see, there isn't a handle on the inside, so if one should close the door might find themselves spending a little extra time waiting for rescue. Thank you Marilyn for being my rescuer.

And thank to you all of you for checking in on us and continuing to pray with us and for us. We will need it more and more as our time here draws to a close.


Day 5

Greetings from Moldova,

We had a good day making beds for a total of 53 now so we are about half way there...yeah! However, not without a few mishaps. Amy took a little tumble today and Donnie got overtired so he decided to lock himself in the bathroom...for 20 minutes! I think that was just an excuse to take a cat nap.

We were able to spend some time with the children today doing arts and crafts and recreation which was a lot of fun. I think they especially enjoyed the worship time at the end when we sang Ra cha, cha, si, boom, boom, boom. Some of the clowns in the group (I won't mention any names) mimicked certain animals including, elephant, rabbit, pig and rooster.

Pray that we will all be rested up tomorrow for more bed building!


Monday, September 01, 2008

One more note for LABOR day in Moldova

If you're following this blog, then you know by now how much we labored today on Labor Day - hope you all at home enjoyed your holiday! And you also know that we are being well taken care of and not wanting for anything other than rest.

But did you know that this time, our work here in Moldova, is the result of 2 years of faithful work and prayer!? Neither did we. Jen shared that news with us at supper tonight and it made me view this journey from a new perspective. For me, this proves John 14:13 - "You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father." The seeds of the ministry of Sweet Sleep that is being done in Ialoveni were sown 2 years ago in prayer, asking the Lord to make a way and provide the means and the workers. And here we are now, building beds and spending time with these children just as had been asked in the name of Christ 2 years ago.

And why is it that we are able to be here, doing this work? So that we can bring glory to the Father. That's it! That's all the the motivation we need - so that God may be glorified by these children finding out how much they are loved by Him.

So, please continue to pray as Jesus instructed, in His name, for strength, effectiveness, rest and health - so that we may love these kids and glorify God. Who knows what great things we can all report on in 2 more yearsas we continue to ask it in His name!? I can't wait to see!


I need a bed for myself!

Hello faithful fans of our Moldova journey! We got a late start today but managed to hand crank out a few beds before the end of the day! We could use some extra prayer for health...We are fighting fatigue pretty hard and we've got a few sickies, including me... Jesus kill all the germs and give us rest! Amen.
The kids here are different than any group of kids we've been with before but I know that their special needs make them all the more special to God and to us. Tonight we introduced ourselves during our first "worship" time, and we all got sing "My Bonnie lies over the Ocean" by request from the kids! Random, but funny! We hardly remembered the words! And of course no day would be complete without a rowdy round of Ra Cha Cha Chi Boom Boom Boom... Noah building that ark has nothing on our crazy carpentry skills!!!! Bring on more beds tomorrow! Much love, Amy

Monday in Moldova

Hi everyone, this is Gloria,
We just returned from the orphanage at Ialoveni and we are all bone tired. I don't think any of us will have any trouble sleeping tonight!!
We got quite a few beds assembled. Had to disassemble the old beds. Everything had to be carried down or carried up 6 flights of stairs. Wasn't long before we were all sweating. The girls were the took 2 of us to carry up the mattresses and bed frames...the guys of course had to show off their muscles and they carried them up all by themselves. Some of the kids helped us. And a couple of the workers pitched in too. One lady put us all to shame...she carried one sheet of plywood up all the stairs by herself...the guys could barely do it, and it took 2 of us girls. But I noticed she didn't volunteer to carry anymore after that one! We sure appreciated whatever help we got!
The workers in the orphanage were so nice. One lady told us she had been working in this orphanage since 1960! She said all the children called her "grandma". We asked her when she was going to retire. She laughed and said when someone sent lots of money her way. She makes only $50-60 per month and said she needs to keep working. She cleans in the morning and cares for the children in the evening, sleeping at the orphanage.
We had a short worship service before we left. We planned to sing (I don't know how to spell any of this)
"Rotsi, rotsi, boom, boom, boom" since all the children in Moldova seem to know it and love to sing it loud.....But...this group didn't know we sang it and introduced it to them. Then the workers requested that we sing "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean". How random is that!! So we did..and the workers started doing hand motions to it!! Who knew it had hand motions?! So we started improvising and adding motions. There was a group from Great Britain over earlier in the month...guess they taught it to them. We were laughing...some of our group didn't even know it.
Sweet sleep tonight!!
Love you all,