Saturday, December 31, 2011

Words are not adequate

Spending Christmas in Moldova has been incredible! I am at the point in the trip where I am processing all that I have experienced and can find few words that are adequate. I will do my best share a few thoughts.

I am learning that one of the things I will never regret is loving people well. Loving people well is what Scripture demands that we do. It is what sets us apart as followers of Christ. Loving people well is fulfilling. Being with the orphans in Moldova this week has reminded me of this in incredible ways. We connected quickly and it will be sad to leave them tomorrow. It has been incredible to give them a bed and teach them the significance of the bed. I love that there are 50 orphans sleeping sweetly in their new beds! I love that they will be reminded each day of God's love! I'm thankful that I got to be apart of this!

I wish you could be here with us. Check out this video of an orphan named Maxim receiving his bed. Maxim showed us joy today! It was simply incredible.

On this trip I have laughed so much! I have been reflective. I have seen hard things. I have seen joy in the eyes of orphans. I have been reminded why I believe so strongly in the ministry of Sweet Sleep. I look forward to the Lord showing me more about Himself as I continue to reflect.

My first Sweet Sleep bed in Moldova


Friday, December 30, 2011

What A Blessing It Is...

Oh, where to start? I keep looking at my watch to remind myself that today is Friday. I could tell you that two days ago we were visiting a special needs orphanage in Transnistria (a scouting trip for us to see the shape of the beds in this orphanage).

Transnistria is a portion of Moldova that still wants to live with Russian ties and Russian ways. They actually have the Russian military guarding the “border”. There were 260 children at the orphanage / boarding school. The beds there were in bad shape and now I know why we were to go see this.

Or I could tell you how beautiful that Chisinau is at night as we went down town to see the Christmas lights (most people here don’t celebrate Christmas until Jan 07) and that out team ended up getting multiple Christmas pictures made. Many may say, “I thought you were going to work in an orphanage building beds and sharing God’s love.”

Well, we arrived at the orphanage in Visoca Moldova yesterday afternoon (we are 150 km from Chisinau (the capital) and our base house). We visited the orphanage, viewed the rooms that we would be placing beds in, practiced putting a bed together and then spent some time with the kids and passed out bananas.

It amazes me how grateful they were with being given a single piece of fruit. I think about the reaction that children back home would have had if you said here, enjoy this banana.

After leaving the orphanage yesterday evening, we were treated to a guided tour of a fortress that was built in the 1530’s. It was amazing.

Today we were able to bless 24 children with new beds. Oh, the look on their faces when they received them and were told that God loves them. It seems that one little boy continued to try and tell people how beautiful the beds were (and he didn’t get one today; however, I believe that he will get his tomorrow).

After lunch we sang with the children and then divided up into three groups and we did crafts, had a Bible story and did recreation. I spent my time in crafts and was in awe of the artistic ability of some of these kids.

I started out with the goal of teaching the chicken dance but felt led to play something different. There faces lit up when I played Christmas music by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (and it didn’t matter whether it was a fast or slow song). We concluded our time with the children by singing to them,them singing to us and the then us passing out three bananas to each kid (I think I need to apologize to the produce guy at Metro for over selling bananas to us. It turns out that we had the right amount for what God wanted us to do with them and that was give them fruit two days in a row. It’s amazing how things can work when we get out of God’s way and stop questioning why things are happening). Before we left the orphanage, the director told us that she was amazed at how the children have accepted us, become attached to us and look forward to our returning visits (she just doesn’t know how much we look forward to our time with them as well). Before we could leave Joe just had to hug her (the orphanage director). This was followed by Tony hugging her and before I knew it, she pointed at me saying she wanted to hug or be hugged by me. Needless to say, that hug led to a second hug and then a picture of the two of us.

So far it’s been an awesome experience being used by God to share HIS love and to meet the needs of others. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me / us tomorrow.

Dan McBride

Prayers for you to meet your Maxim..

We went to the orphanage today and began building beds. Our goals for the day were to build half the beds and have story time, craft time and recreation with the children. I'm happy to report that all goals were accomplished with the amazing team that God placed here this week! It is hard to describe the amount of teamwork that happened in that orphanage in Visoca today. My team began putting all the mattresses in plastic covers. We were able to complete all 50. Then we began covering pillows got all those completed also. Meanwhile the other 2 teams were building the frames for the beds. We then completed each bed with new sheets, pillow cases and comforters . Next we had the privilege of showing the children their new beds and explaining that they were receiving them because of Gods love for them. Beaming smiles and hope filled eyes said it all. They were very pleased and so grateful! Lunchtime was fun and interesting as always! This team is full of comedians! We laughed alot and Joe had another run in with a dog! Moldovan dogs just don't like him! Back to the orphanage to play games, do crafts and have story time. I'm in the recreation group- honestly when the first group arrived I'm was a little intimidated by the language barrier. But as we begin and as always God has provided the perfect translators!! We play a game with the hula hoops and a game with soccer balls, kickball and with the younger group instead of kickball we do a Moldovan game named hunt the duck. Children stand in the middle and we roll a ball thru them trying to hit them. Sarah J and I were the hunters- they were fast!! Fun fun times. Then by a divine appointment a little boy named Maxim entered my life. During all the games, fun and excitement he pulls me to the side to simply tell me the beds in the rooms were beautiful! And he wants to know if he will get a new bed. For all the doubting Thomases who asked if ALL we would be doing was building beds--- I pray God sends a Maxim into your life just one time- so that you can see the hope that I saw in his precious little eyes and face-the hope that he might get a new beautiful bed tomorrow! Then picture time began. They love to have their picture made with us! Maybe it's just to be touched or hugged- we were happy to oblige. Each child was able to get 3 bananas today- the director and children were very thankful! They just don't have the funds for fruit. They sang for us and we sang for them. One of their songs was asking God to bless their country and send awakening and blessings upon them. Our time seemed short but as we were saying our goodbyes-my little friend Maxim told the director to tell us that if we built him a new bed he would be good and he promised he would not wet the bed!! My feelings on this were overwhelming to say the least. Absolutely brought tears of happiness, sadness, distress, sympathy and empathy. Wow! Never knew how many emotions that God gave us! We should use them for others more often.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 63:6-7

"Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep"

"Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep..." Did you ever pray that little prayer as a child, or hear a child pray it? I have heard that prayer my whole life and it's never really impacted me...but as I think about it tonight, it becomes very meaningful. Today 25 discarded children received brand new beds and bedding, and for maybe the first time in their lives they will lay down and sleep sweetly because of the love of God in the hearts of so many people that made this moment a reality. I had the pleasure today of presenting some boys with their beds. The faces of those children when they walked into their room was God given; one young man in particular, John, sat down on his bed with me and began to move closer and closer to me until he was holding my hand. As I sat and told him and the other boys that God loved them and cared for them, I was filled with joy and thanksgiving that God had allowed me to play a small part in his plan for these precious souls. Not all of us are called to a mission field, not all of us have the means to provide for others, but we all can pray. And as these children pray tonight they'll pray from a brand new bed provided by the mercy of God and the special people who heard from God about this work. Thank you to each one of you who answered the call to help "one of the least of these" and give them a chance to lay down to a very sweet sleep.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Orphans, Beds & Bananas

Buna ziua everyone...that means hello for all of you English speakers! This is Lannette. As I sit here tonight in a room with electricity, plumbing, and a warm, comfortable bed, I can't help but think about the time in my life that I took all of those things for granted. I didn't think about what a luxury it was to have a pantry stocked with food, a faucet that provides clean water to drink, power to cool or warm my house, and a safe, warm bed to rest each and every night. I am also reminded of the day that God "knocked me over the head" with the reality that most of the world doesn't share in the luxuries that I was so selfishly taking for granted. I vividly remember God laying a burden on my heart for the orphans of the world. He wanted me to stop paying "lip-service" to the truth's taught in James 1:27..."Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." He wanted me to take action! He wanted me to GO and the place He called me to was Moldova...a place I didn't even know existed 3 years ago.

Since that time, my life has been forever changed by the mission trips I have had the great privilege of being a part of each year. I can't help but always think about all of the thousands and thousands of children around the world who do not have the opportunity to have a safe, comfortable bed to rest in or any of those basic comforts that I took for granted for all of those years. It's something that I strive to teach my children and the children I work with at our church to always be sensitive to...

As I was preparing to blog tonight, a whirlwind of feelings and emotions were swirling about in my head...exhaustion (my body is still trying to adjust to the time change and I had so many responsibilities to complete before I go to bed tonight)...happiness ( I have met so many new friends and had so many wonderful experiences already)...about being asked to sing on camera...(side note: those of you who know me are aware that I only sing for preschool audiences who think that there teacher is the best singer in the whole wide world! LOL)...but ABOVE ALL OF THESE...IS THE OVERWHELMING FEELING OF LOVE that surrounds you when you are following God's plan for your life! My heart is filled with love for these kids. My goal is to not only help provide the comforts of a new bed but also to bring the light of Christ to an otherwise dark place. As my prayer partner so sweetly reminded me in her letter to me this morning of the words found in Daniel 2:20-22..."Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells in Him."

Today we made our first visit to Soroca. We were able to meet the director and the children at the orphanage in Visoca. We were able to play an interactive game with the kids, sing Christmas carols, discuss the true meaning of Christmas, and share a sweet snack...BANANAS! You could see the excitement in the children's eyes and the anticipation of special surprises that are coming tomorrow. I look forward to the opportunities we have over the next few days to share the light of God's love with these precious children. I ask you to join our team in prayer as we continue this great adventure God has for our team! I also ask you to search your heart. If you feel God tugging on your heart to take action on His perfect plan for your life, don't be afraid to answer the call! Believe won't regret it!

In Him,
Lannette Burlingame
Today we went to the Russian occupied area of Moldova called Transnistria. We were able to visit the orphanage in hopes to build a partnership with Sweet Sleep. As you can see, their current beds are in poor condition from the years of use with many, many kids. Hopefully a Sweet Sleep team will be able to replace all 120 beds in March when they return!

We were able to leave the children with a special treat. Long live bananas!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jet lagged and dog bit

Today in a nutshell; we woke up, ate breakfast and drove in a van to an orphanage. We walked around, handed out bananas and candy, and had lunch in the nearby town. Tony and Dan made us laugh. The drive was bumpy but the people in the van were great. I gained a respect for the people of the land and fell in love with Lucia and our translators. We drove home, saw christmas lights in Chisinau and had chicken and pickles for supper at the mission house. Went to bed.

The day for me was defined by what I think they call "Jet lag". My body doesn't know what day it is or what time it is and I have periods of normality followed by periods of extreme sleepiness. In fact, I had to take a two hour nap after dinner just to be able to process what happened today and put it into words.
Here are some random things I've noticed in my jet lag fog:
-The people here are no different than us, they just have not had the opportunities we have had. In some ways they are better than us. They don't complain and are very greatfull for even the smallest act of kindness.
-Moldova is Moldova not Romania or Russia, Inteleg?
-Transnistria is loyal to Russia and they speak Russian but they are not officially recognized as independent from Moldova.
-The younger women are apparently enamored with the west because they dress rather provocatively with high heels, tight jeans, hair and make-up even though they must of had to spend a large portion of their income to portray that look!
-The locals seem quiet and unashamed of who they are and how they live, in fact they love their country and each other.
-The Orphanage buildings and equipment were very old and in serious need of repair but were clean and organized.
-The teachers and workers make use of anything and everything to do whatever and are effective. Since teachers can't really print things off the internet for teaching and crafts they design and draw it themselves with skill.
-The children were disciplined and respectful and grateful to have clothes and shoes even though the clothes didn't match, the coats may not zip up or the shoes may have no laces.
-So far, the food whether home cooked or in a restaurant has been fantastic!
-Apparently americans stand out easy and may even be intimidating to some.
-God loves the people and the children and the Church must help these people!!!
-I am glad God has opened my eyes to how blessed I have been and ashamed at the same time that I have been ungrateful, selfish and mostly ignored the cries for help from others in the past.
-One cannot see first hand the suffering and depravity of his fellow creation and then not do something about it. Children are children and innocent regardless of where they live or what lanquage they speak. I wonder how my life will change.

A little story, after we returned from Transnistria we stopped by the mission house to freshen up and then go to downtown Chisinau. In the downtown area there were Christmas lights and lots of people and an area where you could have your picture made in front of various back grounds that said "Happy New Year 2012" in Romanian

The background that interested me had a live owl, an eagle and two chinchillas. So Darla and I had our picture made here. The back ground that interested the group had two small dogs and a dwarf dressed like an elf. I grabbed one of the dogs and we began filing in and posing for the picture. My dog was interested in what I had for lunch which was apparently still in my beard.

I was describing what the dog was doing, sniffing and licking my beard as we were all facing the camera. That was when the animal clamped on my beard and tried to rip it from my face. That's when I screamed like a little girl, which in Romanian apparently means "everybody laugh at the stupid american man afraid of a little dog".

Bible verse that comes to mind.
Isaiah 3:13-15
The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.

Gnome Away From Home

Many hours spent in the van traveling today. This afforded some quality bonding time with the “Christmas in Moldova” team. These “team moments” will hopefully help establish a comradery that will help our team more effectively take on the mission God has sent us here to do.

Today was a “scouting” day to an orphanage in a Russian occupied area called Transnistia. The mission was to see the orphanage and the bed situation in order to prepare for another team to build beds on a future trip. We also took a treat of bananas and chocolate for the 260 boys and girls that live there year round. While our time at the orphanage was not long, we were able to see the living quarters and distribute the treats to the children.

While I have seen children in a variety of improvised conditions, this was my first experience in an orphanage. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the situation of this facility was better that what I was anticipating. I was very impressed with the orphanage staff and their apparent care for the children and desire to improve the environment for the children. While the bedrooms and classrooms are basic and outdated by our American standards—what they have is clean and well kept.

As with every mission journey I have been a part of, God reminds me of His Kingdom agenda for ALL people. It is so easy to get caught up in where I live (which is Brentwood, TN) and be so focused on what is going on in my little world. Often forgetting that there is a whole world of people who live in drastically different conditions and many who have never even heard about the love of Jesus.

I’m reminded of lyrics from one of this year’s VBS songs…

You said, “Go,” so I will go, You said, “Tell,” so I will tell
Sharing Your story, proclaiming Your glory
To a world that needs to know what they’re worth
I will take Your name to every nation
Spread the Good News of salvation
Baptize in the name of the Father
The Son and the Holy Spirit
I will teach the things that You’ve commanded
Make sure that Your truth is planted
Jesus, I will do whatever it takes, To bring glory to Your name

Easy words to sing but more difficult words to live out. God has been challenging me over the last few years that His command is not complicated-it is simply to “go.” It’s not always around the world; sometimes it is across the street. But my job is to obey when He says, “go”—no matter where it is or to whom it is. My prayer is that glory is brought to the name of Jesus through building beds and loving on children this week!

Posted by Amy Carter

getting ready for a big surprise!

I will let the photos do the talking. We are going to our first project tomorrow where we will surprise 260+ smiling faces at the first orphanage we will be serving. To give them an extra special time, we assembled gift bags for each child. While the gifts may seem simple to Americans, Lucia (the Moldova Sweet Sleep Manager) assured us that it would bring joy to many hearts tomorrow. We had a great time putting them together, too!