Sunday, August 27, 2006


When you live in a foreign country, sometimes things are not as you expect them to be. Sometimes, due to poor or uncertain communication things happen seemingly out of the blue. Or sometimes you expect something based on your own cultural background and the experience here turns out to be totally different. More than once we have found ourselves saying SURPRIZA! when something unexpected occurs.
Take this morning for instance: This morning I went to church, expecting a normal worship service, as anyone would on Sunday morning. Well, it was Independence Day in Moldova, so first I had to get past all the blocked-off intersections.
Apparently there was going to be a parade or something. I couldn't turn up the street I wanted to go on as the police were directing people elsewhere - ever have that happen to you? So anyway, I figured out how to get where I was going even though I had to take a big detour from the route I was planning. So, I get to the church a half hour late. The friends I planned to meet had already gone in, of course. I've only been to this church for service once before and I'm sure there weren't this many cars here the last time. Gee, maybe it's a revival or something...
I found a parking space and as I walked to the entrance of the church I noticed a car with ribbons on it. Hmmm... looks like a wedding car... then I walked into the church and - SURPRIZA! - it's a wedding.
I had been told previously (but had forgotten) that sometimes weddings in Moldova are conducted as part of the morning worship service. This seemed odd to me but in the course of the service this morning, it all began to make sense. Especially it makes sense that a Christian wedding should be conducted in the context of the church family at worship. It's not a private party but a public commitment. In spite of the fact that when I first entered, someone was preaching in Russian, by the end of the service I was quite comfortable and quite impressed. The Russian sermon was only the first sermon; the Romanian-speaking pastor preached a wonderful sermon a bit later on, after the band played its whole repertoire, someone recited poetry, and several people sang solos. It really was a loving wedding and a wonderful service of worship - my friends agreed too.
Now tonight I have Dana and Esther staying overnight at my house so we can drive Esther to the airport early, early in the morning.
Esther is from Austria and she has been with us for a few months but now is going to the OM orientation conference and then Missionary Training School. Like I've said before, there is always coming and going on our OM team here. Lately, the concern is whether people will be able to come once they go, because the visa laws have changed. Even our field leader had trouble getting back into the country when he came to the Moldovan border today. Stay tuned for more on this subject... In Moldova you never know when there might be a -positive or negative - SURPRIZA!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Watermelon & Wanderings

Before I came to Moldova I had heard that they eat a lot of watermelon here in the summer. Now I know it is true. For about 50 Canadian cents you can buy a delicious, juicy ripe watermelon to slurp to your heart’s content. At various spots along the highway and at random spots throughout the city, people park their truck or their wagon-load of watermelons day by day to sell. Today I bought one on the way home and ate a quarter of it as soon as I got home! I also bought another melon that I’ve not seen in Canada. It is a golden colour and similar in texture to a cantaloupe and the taste is a cross between a cantaloupe and a honeydew melon. Very yummy.

It’s been a good week and a good weekend. During the week, along with my colleague Ivanir, I had the opportunity to go to one of our outreach sites to encourage the team that were running the program there. How we do VBS in Moldova is very different from what I’m familiar with in Canada. Basically, a team of our young missionaries go into a village, usually working in partnership with the local church if there is one, and spend the first day inviting children to the daily program. They hand out flyers to all the children they find hanging around and go door to door to invite families to send their children to this program. The next morning any number of children show up and participate in crafts, songs, games, sports, face-paintiing and balloon animals. They enjoy Bible stories and puppet shows and a delicious lunch and drinks as well. As well as hearing about the love God has for them, they experience the care and interest of these missionaries who do what they can to demonstrate to each child that he or she is precious in the eyes of the Lord. Many of these children live in homes with an alcoholic parent, or in a home where their own parents have gone abroad to work so they are staying with grandparents, aunts or older siblings. They don’t have daycamps to attend or nannies to care for them every moment, or parents who take them on road trips or to the beach or cottage; so for the most part, during the summer, a lot of them are just passing the time each day without any direction.

At the day camp we visited there were about a dozen kids on the first day and 30 by the end of the week. Members of the local church were part of the team working with our OMers and that church will do the follow-up with families who have been contacted. I was talking with another one of our missionaries today who told me about a community where they did an outreach, with a short-term mission team that came from the US. They expected about 25 children to show up for the program but when she went on Wednesday there were 85 children there!

This morning(Sunday) it was my privilege to go with some team members to the home church of two of them, which is about 2 hours’ drive from Chisinau. These two young women were giving reports of their mission work to this sending church. The rest of us supported them with our presence but also had a song prepared to sing when we were invited, and one of the other girls gave her testimony. (I am gradually learning to be prepared for these ‘spontaneous’ invitations.) As the leader of the group I made a few introductory remarks, in Moldovan, in front of the church… and was told afterwards that I am speaking their language well (well, at least they could understand what I said!). It was nice afterwards to be invited to a family’s home for lunch and to sit under their grape arbour enjoying the shade on a hot day.
Having got up at 6 a.m., when I arrived home I laid down for a nap, which lasted 3 hours! Ahhhh… Sunday afternoons….

Monday, August 14, 2006

Moldovan Wedding

Last Saturday Ianosh and Mariana got married. Ianosh is one of my team members and this was a wedding that I had reallly looked forward to. I only actually attended one part of it as Moldovan weddings are fairly drawn out. The day before, the couple went to the magistrate and got 'legally' married. On Saturday morning, they had a Christian wedding, with their church family and friends all present for a 9 a.m. ceremony (which actually didn't start till about 9.30 a.m.) We had a reception at the OM base and then they carried on to the more traditional family wedding wanted by the bride's parents. Had I gone there I would have seen some of the more tradional (Orthodox) components of the wedding. But I only went to the first part.

Shall we gather at the river?

Last Sunday I went to a baptism. Eighteen people came as new believers who wanted to begin their Christian life with this public profession of faith. Baptism is a wonderful symbol of what Christian life is all about. We come to God in repentance, asking for forgiveness for our sins. Because Jesus died, was buried, and rose again from the grave, we can be forgiven and made new, with a purpose for this life and a sure hope of eternal life. Baptism doesn’t make this happen but it symbolizes what God does in our hearts. Going down into the water symbolizes our death to self. Rising out of the water symbolizes rising to a new life, forgiven, cleansed, and empowered by the Spirit of God.
This baptism occurred at a lake outside a town in southern Moldova. People who came to go swimming or boating that day may not have expected to hear the gospel preached, but it was preached – and dramatized by these baptisms. There were sermons in both Romanian and Russian. When the preacher spoke Russian, one of my Moldovan friends translated into Romanian for me. (Imagine! I used to need things translated FROM Romanian, now it’s TO Romanian.)
It was a beautiful and special day, and celebrations were held in heaven and on earth. “there is joy in the presence of God over one sinner who repents…”. Praise the Lord!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Poland revisited

After my sister and niece flew home from Vienna, I continued on my journey solo. First I went up through Slovakia and a corner of the Czech Republic to Poland. (lots of stamps in my passport!!)

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to return to Poland, where I left a corner of my heart when I visited for the first time in 2003. This was my third visit, and the welcome was equally as warm. As well as having the opportunity to worship with the church there, I also was invited to preach. Then in the following days I visited with several of the people who had been involved with the ESL camp we had conducted. And of course, to visit with the Rogaczewski family is always a blessing. After a wonderful time visiting there, I headed home in my trusty little Ford and arrived in Chisinau three days later without incident. OK... well, maybe a slight incident involving Romanian police and radar...but my car was getting anxious to get home and we were almost to the border of Moldova.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

If it’s Monday, this is Vienna

(a continuing description of our European travels)
And so we did arrive! The drive from Budapest to Vienna was like nothing compared to the first leg of our journey. In fact, as we drove westward, the roads had improved increasingly until the patchwork, unlined, pot-holed roads of Moldova and the construction-ridden routes
through the mountains of Romania were but a dim memory. The glory of the European Union is first seen in its roads and then in the ease of crossing borders.
Arriving in Vienna we found our way to the hotel and another reality struck me, that I had forgotten about: Austria’s language is German, one I once knew in my years of academia. By the end of the week I had refreshed my memory enough to use simple questions and sentences in shops, having sequestered my Romanian language skills to a backroom of my brain. (This is not an easy feat – the first couple days there were many sentences begun in German and finished in Romanian, resulting in a few odd looks.)
When we arrived we each made a list of what we wanted to se and do in Vienna. Oddly, all of us wanted to have the famous Sachertorte at the Hotel Sacher, so we did that at the beginning and at the end of our time.
It was a birthday party, after all!Couched in between those memorable chocolate experiences we toured the city, toured Schonbrunn Castle, saw Stephensdom. (Bev and I even went up the tower!) We also saw Belvedere – a castle and art gallery where Gustav Klint’s “The Kiss” is displayed. I saw some Rembrandt and Rubens at the Kunsthistoriche Muzeum (Museum of Art History); Bev explored the Vienna Woods, and Jenni also checked out some of the Art Nouveau. I think the highlight of our week was the Mozart concert we attended where the musicians were in period costume.
I also went to a concert at Stephansdom on Thursday evening to hear the Toronto Children’s Choir. They sounded beautiful and it was fun to say hello to Andrew afterwards, a youn man who was in my Sunday School back at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto.
Our summation of Vienna is that it is a beautiful city but it’s really all about music (and art, too) not about buildings. And we just couldn’t seem to get enough music. (not cheaply anyway). It was fun sharing such a time in Vienna with my dear sister and niece. Early on Saturday morning I dropped Bev and Jenni at the Vienna airport and I continued solo on to Poland. Watch for my further adventures, coming soon….

Jenni & Nimrod discuss their favourite things about Vienna

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Beautiful Budapest.... again!

I still love Budapest. We were blessed to be able to stay at the Reformed Seminary at an economical price and even secure parking for the car. We did the whole sight-seeing bit – bus tour, explored the castle district, cruise on the Danube – and I learned a few more things about this beautiful city, guarded by Lady Freedom up on the hill of Buda.
It’s language like no other I know but thankfully enough people speak English to get by. I could hardly believe this is the third time this year I have been to Budapest! Bev and Jenni enjoyed seeing the sights and it was fun for me to have someone with whom to see them.