Sunday, February 19, 2006

My Team

This weekend we had a team retreat. It was exhausting but nevertheless, a really good time. As well as Bible study and small group sharing and prayer times, we had workshops and seminars, interesting meals and lots of fun together. One of the most interesting small group experiences I have ever had was on Saturday when we had guests who speak Russian and English, but no Romanian. In our group we had four who speak Romanian, Russian and very little English. When Russian was spoken, someone would translate into English or Romanian. . When Romanian was spoken, a couple of times I actually translated into English, or someone would translate into Russian. When English was spoken - if you can imagine!, I translated into Romanian for my Moldovan team-mates. This kind of language gymnastics is very normal in the OM world.The Christovam family (from Brazil) taught us a Portuguese song this morning during our 'Family Bible Adventure'

This afternoon we all went out to a park together and had quite a wild time. It was mild and there was lots of sticky snow - you guessed it - suitable for snowballs. I think everyone got their face washed with snow at least once, including me. When I look at this group of people that God has blessed me to be part of, I am in awe. This is an outstanding group, with a sense of fun and family and unity and personal concern that is just great. Tomorrow, five more members will be joining our team - all Americans! It will be nice to welcome other English speakers, and I look forward to helping them to feel at home and part of the team.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Hand of a Stranger

It could be that the February blahs are setting in. It could be that I’m just tired of riding rutieras. It could be that living in a language fog is getting to me. It could be that I’m just tired. But there it is. I’m so tired that I’m finding it hard to stand on my own two feet. But I have learned the existential meaning of “am cazut”. On Saturday as I headed out for my Saturday morning walk, I gingerly picked my way along the snow-covered ice of the driveway from my apartment building, but it wasn’t gingerly enough! All of a sudden, my feet went out from under me and - whoops! – am cazut!! My tailbone still smarts from time to time. The problem in Moldova, though, is that it’s not only ice that can cause a fall. Someone had the brilliant idea to use lovely marble-like stone for the walkway in front of some buildings (including the OM Centre). In the summer, it is lovely and smooth and makes walking very easy, but in winter it is deadly – with a bit of snow it’s like a skating rink. But so far I have managed to stay upright on these surfaces. Then there’s the rutieras and trolley-buses – a sudden stop or a sharp turn can cause the most seasoned traveller to go tumbling in someone’s lap. So far I have mostly avoided that (there may have been a few close calls). But then there is the general state of any given walkway or sidewalk. They are often uneven, sometimes manhole covers are missing and if it’s dark you could go down the hole. This evening as I walked through the underground tunnel to my bus stop I was thinking of how slippery the slushy underground walkway was and how amazing it was that I had survived so many times going up and down the snowy inadequately cleared stairway. In my pondering, I failed to notice the grate that was slightly off-kilter along the path, until suddenly I found myself more than off-kilter – am cazut!! – again!....How embarrassing – it wasn’t even icy – I just mis-stepped and went down on the slushy dirty underground walkway. A passing soldier kindly gave me a hand to help me up, and I limped away with an embarrassed but grateful ‘multumesc’. I had only walked a short distance and suddenly I encountered some of my OM friends, smiling and greeting me. I felt surrounded by these caring friends, who noticed the dirt on my coat and heard my sad tale of toppling, and expressed their sympathy and concern for me. It felt good to tell about what had happened and to have those moments of interaction with friends. It gave me time to regroup and remind myself that I am just another weak human being, still loved and cared for in spite of my foibles.
Yes, it could be that I am just tired. Too tired to endure many more of such surprises. I should be grateful, though. Recently I have had two good friends whose falls on the ice have resulted in far more serious consequences than a bumped knee, a sore tailbone, or a red face. Life is like that – you may be going along with everything according to plan or expectations but then suddenly the ground goes out from beneath you. No matter how confident you were, how carefully you sought to avoid any kind of danger…there are times when life takes us by surprise and leaves us fallen and hurt. It’s times like that that we need the hand of a kind stranger or the concerned face of a familiar friend to remind us that we are not alone. Never alone. I am so thankful that God ‘sets the solitary in families’. And families endure across time and distance in a way that is beyond explanation.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day – the day of love. Sure, I’d like to have a love of my own, a sweetheart – but I have survived many Feb. 14th’s without one and each year I appreciate more and more the incredible variety of love God has placed in my life. I am loved. Here in Moldova I have a family in our OM team. Back in Toronto, I have an incredibly supportive and caring church family. And spread across Canada I have three of the most wonderful children as well as many other family members who care for me and tell me so. There is no lack of love in my life this Valentine’s Day. I pray that it is the same for you. When the ground goes out from under you, may there always be familiar faces to express their concern and offer their assistance. And even if the faces are not familiar, may you always know that the stranger’s hand that helps you up is no stranger at all.
When I said, “My foot is slipping”, your love, O Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Welcome to my office...

Welcome to my office! I thought that it would be nice to introduce you to some more of my colleagues. As I may have explained to some of you, my job is divided between the Department of Personnel and Training and the Department of Public Relations. My desk is in the Personnel and Training office. This is a good thing because the upstairs office (PR) is way too crowded and it’s hard to find a corner in which to work. Some of my work for PR, though, does require that I use one of the computers in that office, plus for meetings about PR, etc. There are only 5 of us working in the downstairs Personnel office so I want to introduce you to my colleagues in that office.
You have already met Ivanir. She and her husband Vitor are from Brazil and are here with their two great kids, Joao and Marina. Ivanir works with the people who are in the Global Action program, a two-year discipleship and mission program that all new recruits participate in. She teaches the core study programme and mentors the participants.
Ianos (pronounced Yanosh) is one of the Moldovan members of our team. He is from Ialoveni and he works with Liuba to plan and run the Challenge into Missions training programs – a huge job! Twice a year we have about 20 students from churches all over Moldova who come for this 10-week course. Ianos and Liuba work together to develop the schedule, find and book appropriate teachers/pastors to lead various seminars and components of the teaching stream of the program. They also assign the students to their mission groups and oversee their hands-on involvement in missions and evangelism in the villages where they are sent. They deal with any problems that arise and basically do all that is necessary to keep the program running. Ianos also was the person who arranged for my stay in a home in Ialoveni for my first few months. That is also part of his job with Personnel.
Liuba is also Moldovan but her mother-tongue is Russian. She had to learn Romanian when she came to work with OM from the town of Anenii-Noi. ( This is not unusual. People in Moldova speak either Romanian or Russian or both. And many people, even if they don’t speak both languages, they do understand the basics of the other language. When I ask how much something costs in the market place, if the person responds in Russian, they expect me to understand – even if I asked in Romanian!! I guess I’ll have to learn at least my numbers in Russian. ) Anyway, Liuba is the same age as my oldest son and she is a gem. She is the person who did all the phone work and leg work to help me get my apartment. That, too, is part of her job in the Personnel department. She is one of those people who just sparkles almost all the time and is so pleasant to be with.
I believe I have already introduced you to Rafael, who is not only our Team Leader, but is also our Department head for Personnel and Training. (Sorry, I was going to put in a photo but blogger stopped cooperating with me and my photos for some reason all of a sudden.) My desk is next to his and it is nice to be able to ask for his help if there is something I don’t understand. Rafael is Romanian but he speaks very good English. Our department meetings, though, are in Romanian and I’m getting better at following the conversation and even offering input at times. When I get an idea or have a suggestion, I start off fumbling in Romanian but sometimes if I just don’t know how to say what I want to say I eventually break out in English, knowing that Rafael will translate what the others don’t understand. They are all very patient with me. But hey, can you believe that I am actually participating in meetings conducted in Romanian? When I stop and think about it, it really is amazing.
Having said that, there are times when I perhaps become overconfident and that is always a dangerous road to travel. Last week I had to give a report at prayer meeting. I could have had translation but I decided to go for it and speak in Romanian. So I said the things I needed to say but then I asked for prayer for Ana, who is in our PR department and has had problems with her back. I meant to say that she was not well, but when everyone started laughing I realized that perhaps I hadn’t said that. When I asked what I had said, Dana kindly informed me that I said Ana was crazy. Instead of saying that she was not well , I had said that she was not sane. Poor Ana! So now Dana is telling me (you may notice in the comments on my blog) that I am crazy – but of course, I don’t claim not to be!!
Speaking of crazy, today I bought pussywillows from a lady on the street. Pussywillows! In February! The Romanian word for pussywillows is ‘little lambs’. Isn’t that cool? Spring isn’t here yet, though… there’s more snow coming next week. Don’t know that we’ll get as much as my friends in Nova Scotia got recently though. How are you all? Hope you’re safe and warm! God bless you, my friends.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Teaching English

This is my English class!From left to right you see Viorica,Lilia, Oxana, and Alina. What a great time we have together learning the sounds and meanings of the English language. I am beginning to understand why English is not considered an easy language. Just working on the vowels and vowel sounds alone, with all their variations, is pretty complicated. So on Tuesdays and Wednesdays every week we have our class. On Wednesdays I also have a separate class with my colleagues, Liuba and Ivanir. This is a typical OM reality: Ivanir (from Brazil) with an English-Portuguese dictionary, Liuba (from Moldova) with an English-Russian dictionary and me with my English-Romanian dictionary speaking together in our common language, Romanian and learning every eastern European's desired language: English. You'd be amazed how much fun three women can have learning the long vowel sounds!