Saturday, December 15, 2007

Grandma's Coming for Christmas!

It was the day before I was to leave to come home on furlough, starting with Christmas with my family. I had decided to invest in a national Moldovan costume and the woman at the place where they make them was very helpful. She was also very busy and she mentioned, on the day I ordered the blouse, that she was leaving the next week. The same day as me, in fact. So on the very last day as I was frantically trying to get everything done, including cleaning and moving out of my apartment, I went to pick up the blouse. Speaking to the woman, ‘Doamne Maria’, we discovered that we would be on the same red-eye flight to Frankfurt in the morning. And sure enough this morning at 4.15 a.m. we met again at the Chisinau airport. She actually came and found me and we chatted together. She was a bit nervous as this was her first time flying to the US by herself. She, like me, was going to visit her children, who were studying in the States. Her son had been there for 9 years so she and her husband had visited before. It is not an unusual thing in Moldova for parents to be travelling to visit children who are living, studying, working in the US.

In fact, once we got on the plane, I was sitting across the aisle from another Moldovan woman. She leaned over and asked me where I was going and if I speak English. It turned out that she too was travelling to the US to visit her children, and her grandchildren. But she was especially nervous as she had never travelled there alone and had never gone through the Frankfurt airport. And she didn’t know any English. French, yes, but English, no. She asked if I would help her figure out where to go to make her connection. I confidently assured her that the Frankfurt airport was not too complicated, even though it is big, and that the signs are well-marked and that there is an information booth. She seemed re-assured and very grateful that I would help her find her way to California. (Later, we discovered that the airport was being renovated and nothing was simple for anyone, even seasoned travellers.) As we disembarked from the plane and got on the bus it turned out that the 3 of us women – 2 grandmothers and a hopeful – were sitting together on the bus. I indicated that I knew ‘Doamne Maria’ and as they were sitting side by side, they begin chatting. Both being native Moldovan, conversation between them came much easier than with me in my limited Romanian, and I was pleased that they seemed to be connecting. Elena, the other grandmother, seemed to be touched by something they were discussing and she was wiping her tears with one hand at the same time as she held on to a giant ‘walking’ doll that she was taking to her little granddaughter. In the other hand she clutched her purse and other hand luggage. I smiled as I thought of the outfit I had bought for my grandson on the last day on a whim. Later, I was concerned as I saw her heading off alone down the corridor that someone had indicated, towards a different connection than mine. I was glad I could at least say a prayer for her and know that God would also help that grandma to get to her little ones for Christmas.

Yes, Alejandro, Grandma is coming for Christmas, like so many other grandmas all over the world who eagerly look for opportunities to be with their precious ones. For weeks, no, months, I have been waiting and planning and buying a few little things as I dream of the moment I will finally hold you in my arms again. I can hardly wait to see how big you have grown – and walking now too! I am curious to see if you will remember me from when I sang to you on my visit in the summer. I look forward to playing with you and cheering for you and baking together with your mommy and laughing at your antics. I look forward to being part, if only for a short time, of the joyful and loving home of which you are blessed to be a part. I want to be a legend in your life and a haven for your heart. I want you – and others - to know how precious you are to me and I want you to understand that in an even greater way, you are precious to our heavenly Father. And I hope that after this – and for years onward – you and your siblings and cousins will be happy and excited to know, as often as it happens, that “Grandma’s coming for Christmas!”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Precious Things (in no particular order)

1. Every year of life, and the good friends that go with it..
Last week I celebrated my birthday. Again. Every year, another one. Last year was a very significant one but this year, I have announced to everyone that I have made a turnaround, a u-turn - and instead of the numbers increasing, they are decreasing. So this was my 49th birthday. Again. :-) It was nice to have a few of my dear friends over for supper and the evening. Corinne, Claudia, Viorica and of course, Corinne's best friend, Silutsu(Silas) all helped me to enjoy a quiet but very pleasant evening. This was possibly the last time I will entertain in this apartment as I will be moving out just before I head to Canada. Not sure where I will live when I come back at the end of February, but I know that the Lord has just the right place for me.

2. Family, especially grandbabies!

Speaking of birthdays, last month my wonderful grandson Alejandro celebrated his 1st birthday! Take a look at these photos and see how much he has grown in the space of a year!

He's walking all over the place and I can hardly wait to get to the Vancouver airport and see him walk straight to his Grandma. (OK - maybe he won't remember me and it will take a few days, but he will walk into my arms at some point. Of this I am sure.)

3. Relationship with God through Jesus Christ

So, for a couple more weeks I will enjoy life here in Moldova as the weather is getting colder and colder. Several of my teammates live in the villages and making the long trip to the little house in the backyard in the bitter cold is not something I would want to do every day. But they are willing to live simply and to recognize that the comforts of modern life and suburban 'success' are nothing compared to the joy of sharing the love of God and the hope of Jesus Christ with people whose lives are hard and whose hope is lost. All of us missionaries are not living as simply as those in the villages, but whether our lifestyle is easy or hard the most important thing is what we value. We seek to value what Jesus valued. Jesus valued His relationship with His Father above all. His life was a walking demonstration of the love of the Father for all people and His death was a sacrifice that made it possible for all of us, for each of us, to have an intimate relationship with the Father who forgives those who trust in His Son.
What do you value most in life?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pig Snout Soup

One never knows what will be in the soup. At missionary training school we were warned not to be surprised to find a chicken's beak or feet in the soup. And sure enough one day in a village we were served chicken, not in a soup but just as pieces of meat. And on the plate were the chicken's legs and feet. Not attractive at all but we laughed as we watched the Moldovan guys pick them up and tear off what little bit of meat was on them.

So the other day we went to Nisporeni to visit one of our outreach teams. Their meals were being generously prepared by members of the church and so we joined them for lunch. We had lovely bowls of cabbage soup, with a few bits of meat. One girl claimed she had a pig's ear, which is generally a delicacy in Moldova. Afterwards I was passing through the kitchen and one of the girls called me over to have a look in the soup pot. I kid you not - this is what was there. We had just enjoyed pig snout soup! Don't you wish you were here to enjoy the epicurean delights of Moldova?

Before we enjoyed lunch, though, we had gone with the team to watch them present a program for a local kindergarten. These are government-subsidized day programs for very young children. They were so little and soooo cute! Our team sang some action songs and the littlest wee ones made a valiant effort to follow the actions. There was a play presented with a moral and a spiritual lesson, a puppet show and a magic trick and another song rounded out the program. In all of this the team had freedom to present moral lessons that were also including spiritual truths about a Creator who loves each person unconditionally. I'm sure that in each presentation these teams make in various kindergartens, precious seed is being sown as children hear of God's unconditional love for them and of someone named Jesus who loves every parent and every child.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Back to Antioch

'From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.' - Acts 14:26,27

In December, I will be heading back to Canada for my home assignment, or furlough. This is an extended time in my home country when I will have the opportunity to report to my sending church, and my sending denomination, and others who are interested, about the work that I have been doing here in Moldova. As well as presenting the ministry of OM Moldova in various places, I will also be spending some time with family and hopefully having some opportunity for R&R and possibly look into some educational opportunities.

I thought it would be a good idea to post on this blog the dates of where I will be when. That way if you or your church group would like to invite me to share, you will know if and when I will be in your area. Please feel free to contact me at

December 14 - 31 - Vancouver (time with family over Christmas)

January 1 -23, 2008 - Lower Mainland, British Columbia

Jan. 9-13 (tentatively) - Vancouver Island

January 24 - February 4 - Maritime Provinces

February 5 - 25 - Toronto & southern Ontario

Feb. 22-24 - Participation in Missions Conference at YPBC

February 28 - Return to Moldova

a new princess

This week a new little girl joined our OM Moldova family. Ianosh and Mariana (see my blog of Aug.14/06 - Moldovan wedding) welcomed the arrival of their first child, a daughter. Her name is Beatrice Sofia and she appears lovely and healthy. I have not yet had an opportunity to visit but I hope to soon. Ianosh was involved in a serious car accident the week before and was still recovering from his bruises at the time of the baby's birth. We are thankful that the whole family is safe and well.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Joy of Teaching

My friend Corinne tells me that I am delinquent in my blog entries. So here I am. Can you believe it is well into November already? The weather has been getting colder and yesterday morning there was even a dusting of snow. I am holding off on wearing winter coat and boots until it is truly, officially cold. My niece in northern British Columbia tells me that already they have lots of snow there. But here the leaves are still on the trees, although the colours have changed.

Recently I have been enjoying the opportunities that are mine to do some teaching within our training programs. I have one group of Moldovan young people whom I am leading in an inductive Bible study of 2 Timothy. This is a challenging assignment because it is being done completely in Romanian. There are a couple Russian-speaking members of the group so the only translation that is happening is from Russian to Romanian.(No, I don't speak or understand Russian - one of the girls translates into Russian for the others.) I look forward to the time when I can do this kind of interaction without having to use my English Bible at all. The group is very patient with me and gracious in not laughing at my many Romanian language mistakes.

** Moldova trivia quiz: What is the purpose of the blue bucket-shaped object in the picture?

I also had opportunity to teach a Bible lesson to the level 1 mission training program, with a translator beside me. The topic was 'The Father Heart of God'. I know that it is very possible, even likely, that some or most of these students have had absentee, abusive or alcoholic parents. Understanding the true nature of their heavenly Father as having a character of love, patience, compassion, tenderness and forgiveness is essential for their spiritual growth and development. As they did last week, in the coming weeks these young people will be involved in outreaches into the villages of Moldova. There they will share the love of God the Father with their words and through their deeds.

Another group I am involved with is the small group of foreigners who are enrolled in our mission training program. Participants from US, Canada, Australia, and Switzerland are bravely taking on the challenge - over the course of 10 weeks - of being immersed in another culture, with minimal language training and many challenges in terms of living conditions and relationships with nationals. The cross-cultural international nature of the course is in itself a huge learning curve for all involved. Part of the challenge for us as leaders is ensuring that not only the foreigners, but also the nationals have some degree of cross-cultural training and sensitivity. Even such small things as common health remedies can become an issue of contention when the views from various cultures are diametrically opposite. For example, will sleeping with the windows open keep you healthy or make you sick?

Tomorrow evening I will have this small group over to my house for supper and an evening of relaxing away from the stress of trying to communicate in another language. They are a fun group and I'm hoping I can come up with a good idea of what to cook for supper. This evening I made chocolate chip cookies. I might just go with spaghetti and meat sauce for the main course - we'll see.

My other teaching challenge this fall is the course for Viorica, who is planning to go to Angola as a missionary. In her course thus far we have covered the biblical basis of missions and now we are supposed to be working on the history of missions. This is more of a challenge for me and I am stumbling in how and what to include in our lessons and discussions. Soon we will spend a fair bit of time looking at cross-cultural issues and cultural adaptation. At the same time we are beginning to obtain more and more information on all that is required in order for her to even get to Angola. Visa applications for 3 different countries, vaccinations, work permits, communication with her sending church, is a huge challenge but also very exciting. We are learning about Angola and as we do, I am reminded once more of what a thrill and joy it is for me to be here - to be part of what God is doing in the lives of individual believers as well as what He is doing in the world. And I pray that my heart will constantly be open to what He wants to do in me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


This photo was taken at our banquet on the last night of our Leadership course. The girl receiving her certificate is from Uganda and works there with Wycliffe Bible Translators. I hope to go to Africa someday...

So a few days after I arrived back from Hungary it was my friend Corina's birthday. I and some others went out to her house and I brought a cake I had made for her. It was a great meal and a fun time.

You may remember that my friend Kathy came to visit in August (that was awesome!) and we had a good time together.
During her time here one of the places she saw was the 'pitichka' which is like a Moldovan version of the Canadian Tire store. She wanted me to take some pictures of it as she was not able to. Here's me buying an extension cord and power bar.

It's been a busy time since I arrived back from Hungary. I've had a Bible study to lead for one of our courses and for the next few days I will be leading the Bible study at a conference we are hosting for the people who work in our day centres. All day today we had our leadership team meeting and tomorrow I will be doing my annual evaluation with my field leader. On Monday my roommate moved out and I am alone in my apartment again, which is fine. But not here for long as my landlady has decided to sell the apartment. Hopefully I can stay here until I leave for Canada in December, then save 3 months rent. On my return from Canada in March, I will have the joy of looking for another apartment! Well, at least it helps to keep me from accumulating too much 'stuff' ! Like Abraham, you know, wandering and not knowing where I am going..

What else did I do this last busy week? Oh yeah, on Thursday, I had all the new foreigners over for supper. This group of young people have come - all except one - soleley for our Challenge into Missions 10-week training program. Two from the US, one from Australia, one from Canada and one from Switzerland have come to be part of our team for this time. It was fun getting to know these enthusiastic young men and women. I fed them dinner and then invited them to make their own dessert as one had indicated that he liked to make food. So Nate and Bethany went to work in the kitchen and whipped up some delicious apple crisp, while the others took turns checking e-mail on my high-speed internet. This week and next they are with outreach teams staying in the villages - not likely to be internet there!
So, that's what's happening with me, just in case you are wondering. Thanks to all my loyal readers for your faithfulness. And praise to God for His great faithfulness!!

Friday, October 12, 2007

New Friends

Tomorrow will be the last day of this Leadership Matters course and it will be a bit sad to say goodbye to the wonderful people I have met here. On the very first day we did a thing where we learned how to remember people's names. And it was amazing how quickly we all learned each other's names by doing that! Now all those names have become not just faces, but individual personalities and many of those have become friends. Because the course has been very interactive we have gotten to know each other very well.

In small coaching groups we have worked together on the skills we were learning, listening to each other's talks and discussing together our plan of action for this or that assignment. We have shared our job descriptions and we have played games in the coffee shop. That's been one of the real perks here - a place to go for a latte at the end of the day! We don't have coffee shops in Moldova. Each of us also took turns leading the daily devotions and that included our new skill of story telling with a message. All the devotions were really touching.

The weeks have been fairly intensive as classes were from 8.30 am to 6 pm and then in the evening there was usually homework. After I got back to my room I would then try to get caught up on any e-mails I had received from work, dealing with things that had to be kept current back in Moldova.

The place we are staying is beautiful and the manor house is also used as a Bible college. Most of the students here seem to be American as it is an American-based ministry, Calvary Chapel, that runs the facility. As part of their program, a service component of 8 hours per week, the students staff the place in most instances and they are all really really friendly and helpful. The food has been great - and lots of it!

Our training team has consisted of people from Holland, England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA.

One of the highlights for me has been a piece of networking that I have been able to do. There is a guy on our team in Moldova who wants to serve the Lord cross-culturally. He believes that God is specifically calling him to a largely unreached people group called the Tuareg in West Africa. OM does not work in the country where he wants to go, or among those people, so we have been looking for someone who does so that we can develop a partnership that will facilitate his going to that country. How interesting it was to me when one of the participants here stood up and said that he worked among the Tuareg in the desert of West Africa!! I have been able to get lots of information from him and establish a connection that could possibly be the answer to helping our friend serve in the country to which he feels called. Sometimes I stand in awe of how the Lord orchestrates our lives and our relationships. The Lord's purposes stand firm!

Friday, October 05, 2007

still learning...

So there I was in Hungary, learning some leadership and management skills at a two week training course... Well, actually, here I am. Once again I find myself blessed to be at a beautiful venue, which is actually a Bible college and there are students here from all over the place. The college is run in English.

So they use this place as a conference centre as well and it really is quite wonderful, including not one, but two coffee shops! It really is too bad I'm off coffee - but they have decaf...

One of the fun things about the course is that there are people here from so many different countries and also from different mission agencies. There's Dutch, British, American, Irish, Moldovan, German, Hungarian, Kiwi, Ugandan, Philippino, Chinese, Korean, Romanian, and Canadians (4 of us Canuks here in one place - imagine!) It's such a relief to finally be able to speak in Canadianese, eh.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Momentous events

So in the last few weeks our team has been busy preparing for the opening of our missions centre. We had several work days when our whole team rolled up our sleeves and pulled out the drills and paint cans and screwdrivers and mops to get everything ready for the Big Day. We watched as the long dreamed-of sports area miraculously became a reality with the laying of lovely terra cotta bricks where once was the construction site which was our front yard. In the space of 3 or 4 days the outside area of the building was transformed and we were amazed and delighted. The day before the opening some of the team members were putting together this tent frame and covering up the unsightly construction scraps with the colourful parachute.

International guests arrived to participate in the opening ceremonies and to celebrate with us the completion of the building and the possibilities for ministry and blessing that are made possible with the use of this facility. The photo on the steps includes guests from Germany, Switzerland, and England as well as our team leader, Matthew on the right at the top and me and Corinne at the foot of the stairs. On the day of the opening, pastors arrived from all over Moldova to join with us and to hear about our various ministries. We had information booths set up throughout the building and international food tables set up on each level. Downstairs was European food, on the main level was Asian food, upstairs was South American food, and outside in the courtyard was North American food (barbecued shish-kebabas and chocolate chip cookies). I helped to man the booth that represented our Moldovans who have been sent into other countries as missionaries. We had put up a world map with photos of our missionaries and strings directed to the countries of service. I had prepared a little trivia quiz with questions such as 'What is the second largest country in the world?' and 'In which countries are Moldovans currently serving with OM?' Not too many took the quiz but it provided some interest. Mostly people just chatted with the different pastors that came along and gave information about programs that OM offers to assist the local churches in sharing the gospel and the love of Christ in their communities. It was a good day and the food didn't run out and the sun shone brightly all day. In fact, on Sunday afternoon we had a team social just to get together with our international guests and relax and enjoy the sports area and have a meal together - which consisted of all the leftovers from Saturday, supplemented by pizza.

Meanwhile, in other news, while my daughter Marah and her husband Dan and my grandson Alejandro were visiting Dan's mother in England, Alejandro began in earnest to enjoy the world of upright living. :-) He started to walk! Wow! Can you believe that it was almost a year ago that he came into our lives? Ali will be 1 year old on October 10.

Bravo, Alejandro!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Random Glimpses

It's harvest season, and the main crop harvested in Moldova is grapes! The other evening on the way home from work we were behind this truck and, as you can see, it is full to the brim with... grapes! We have a grapevine in the garden of the OM base and on the way to and from the office, you can just hide under the grape arbor and have your fill - or grab a bunch of grapes and take with you. :-)

One morning when I parked my car in the upper parking area (actually an empty lot) there was a horrendous, loud, continual bleating sound. Not far from where I was, there was a goat, fastened on a rope and standing on a pile of sound. Crying. Bleating. All day long. His mournful cry echoed in the empty lot surrounded by half-constructed building. Poor thing. Other days there is a cow fastened by the path to the Mission Centre. Or sometimes there is a horse tied up near the driveway. You never know what the animal accompaniment for the day might be. But if you're wondering whether Corinne is at the office or the Mission Centre, just take a look to see if her dog Silas is anywhere nearby. Where Silas is, Corinne is - and vice versa. Corinne had a few of us over to her place for supper last Saturday. She and her dog and her cat Jonah entertained us in fine style.

Every property is generally surrounded by a fence. It's the first thing you build when you're starting a new construction. Our new building is fairly high so I can get some good perspective on what's beneath. Here's a picture of our side and the neighbour's side of the fence. Actually, it's a picture of their outhouse. We demolished the pathetic outhouse we had because we now have indoor plumbing - and electricity too so you don't have to light a candle to see in the bathroom anymore. On the right side of the fence, you can see the beginning of the terra cotta basketball court we are installing.

I wanted my roommate Viorica to teach me how to make Moldovan food. One of the basic foods is mamaliga. She showed me how the other night. Basically, mamaliga is cornmeal and water. They serve it with meat sauce or eggs, brinza (sheep cheese), sour cream, and garlic mixed in oil. Here's the evening meal in my apartment, with the mamaliga in the middle of the table. Lilia is on the left and Viorica on the right.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Team Retreat

This past week was our team retreat and we did have a great time. We had originally planned to go to Romania, as we have done in the past. The problem is that Romania is now part of the European Union. Why is that a problem? Well, it makes it easier for many of us to travel in and out of, but for Moldovans it means that they now need a visa to enter Romania. That is a problem. There are waiting lists for weeks to get an appointment to stand in line to apply for a visa. The Moldovans on our team were not able to get visas in time for our retreat - so we changed venues.

We went to a Christian camp facility just an hour away from Chisinau and it was really quite wonderful. Well, not the Ritz but decent, clean rooms and beds with mattresses, indoor toilets, a lovely outdoor chapel, camp food prepared for us by the camp cook, trails through the woods, staff to help us, sports fields and equipment for playing soccer, volleyball, basketball, tether ball and to have team-building activities. We had a good Bible study leader, a man who has been with OM for over 30 years and who started out as one of the people preparing vehicles that they used for smuggling Bibles into the Soviet Union. He led a very meaningful study on the book of Hosea and God's covenant love for us - and he had plenty of great stories to illustrate his teaching. The only slight discontent was over the quality of the food, which was good but was definitely Moldovan camp food. The first morning, for example, we had spaghetti soup - sort of like rice pudding (with milk, sugar, butter) but with spaghetti instead of rice...hmmm... Next time we will know to order the highest end menu rather than the middle one - and we'll bring our own desserts (there were none - imagine!!). Actually, it's not very often that we have dessert in Moldova, which doesn't hurt me any.

The last evening of the retreat we had a variety show that was quite hilarious. I think everyone that did a drama was making fun of someone else on the team - all in good sport - and it really was funny. Monday we are back to 'normal' life as we begin our fall schedule. I am starting a mission training program with a woman who senses God calling her to serve him in Angola. What a blessing to be part of equipping others for service throughout the world!
On September 22 we will have the Grand Opening of our new World Mission Training Centre so lots of plans and preparations are being put in place for that big event. The Centre looks great and is already being well used. In October we will have a new group of students arriving for a 10-week mission training program here in Moldova. The weather has cooled down to a respectable fall temperature and I am glad to be getting out the socks and sweaters after the high temperatures we endured in August. In whatever preparations and new beginnings you are having this fall, I wish you God's blessing.

Team OM Moldova 2007