One week ago, last Friday was our last and tearful day to spend in Moldova with the kids. We had a great day with them at the Monastery and then the Zoo. Friday afternoon we had a mass birthday party and each child received a bag full of gifts from donations made by church members back home. They were, needless to say, delighted!
Many of the children left Friday afternoon to go home to be with their families. We're not sure how many are going home with their mom and/or dad or with relatives. As the week went by, we discovered that many of the children were at the orphanage for different reasons, some are truly orphaned, others have families that are too poor to keep them, several are abandoned due to parents finding work out of the country and some are there because of their disability.
I can't tell you how much respect I have gained for the Moldovan staff and teachers at the orphanage. The children truly love them and show that with big hugs when the teachers finally started coming to help us after their school chores were over. Talking with them through our interpreters, its obvious that they are dedicated professionals and are there because they love children.
We will leave Moldova tomorrow, Monday, with many emotions and memories for the children but we will also have many thoughts and emotions about other people we have met in this journey.
The interpreters were tremendous!! They not only helped us with the language but they became part of our team, building the beds, playing and hugging the children and sharing their culture and spiritual views (they are all Christians). Lucia did a marvelous job of choosing these workers!
Andrei Nicolai, the assistant pastor soon to be a full time pastor at another church, is a true inspiration to all of us. He showed up everyday and worked with us as a team member. Slowly during the week we found out more about him. He is totally a volunteer at his church and will be at his full time church too. His wife is a nurse and supports the family so he can do God's work. We also found out he could play the guitar and on the last day Dean gave him the guitar that had been donated by a friend back home. It was a very emotional scene when Andrei realized (he doesn't speak English) that Dean was giving it to him and he broke out with the biggest smile and gave Dean a huge, off the ground, hug! Andrei's wife is expecting (a boy) and she will be going on maternity leave when the baby is born. She will be paid a portion of her salary while on maternity leave (50 dollars a month). I asked Andrei how they will live on that, and he said by faith! Wow, what more can I say about Andrei and Elena? They are a special couple and God has great plans for them!
Sarah Little, the American Peace Corp worker and Southern Baptist girl from Mississippi, instantly became a team member and a close friend to all of us. She is what any of us would want our daughter or granddaughter in my case, to be like. She is courageous, independent and very smart. She is learning the language by living with a Moldovan family in a small town and is helping people start their own home based jewelry business. She has a MBA from Mississippi State University and is someone all Americans can be proud of for representing the USA!!
Then there's all the rest of the team members, Dean, Kelsey, Katie, Tessa, Josh and Brianna. Sometimes we more mature Christians and Americans worry about the future of our country; with more people like these we don't have to be concerned. Their parents have obviously done a super job of raising these youth for God's work. They know their bible and they are totally cooperative as team members and show tremendous servant hearts. I could say a lot more, but the best thing is to read their blogs and you see their hearts.
Lucia Hmelic, our Sweet Sleep person on the ground in Moldova is outstanding. She is such a great Christian and a professional at what she does. She quietly goes about her business and everything goes smoothly because of that and her great working relationship with Dean. They are both true leaders!
This is going long and I'm afraid people won't read it, but it needs to be said so folks (like me) back home can understand the great ministry going on here. More later.