Friday, January 26, 2007

Beautiful Feet

Whatever may be your opinion of Moldovan foot fashion, the Bible says that the feet of those who bring good news are beautiful.

" How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news..."

(Isaiah 52:7)

This week the feet of my friend Vlad have taken on a whole new beauty. After a farewell last Friday from the OM team, and a commissioning service at his church on Sunday, scads of us went to the airport on Wednesday to see him off. My sympathy was totally with his mom, saying goodbye to her son for 2 years, knowing that he is going to preach the gospel and serve the Lord in a country that is anything but hospitable towards Christians. But at the same time I was really excited and of course his departure brought back all kinds of memories of what it was like for me to leave my home to go to a far and distant land where I didn't know the language or the customs or the culture or anything about the people. Now 1 1/2 years later I am still surviving and excited that I have had a small part to play in preparing Vlad for his ministry in an east Asian country. Here is a photo of me with Vlad and his parents. God bless them all! Please pray for Vlad as he learns a new language and adusts to his new surroundings. I did get an e-mail from him today letting me know that he arrived safely. I am glad. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Feasting on Friendship & Rejoicing with Family

I was so excited on Saturday - I finally received the Christmas parcel from my sister! Hurrah! and the customs dude at the post office even let me bring it home without it being opened and examined minutely, which would be the normal procedure for incoming international parcels.

< My sister Beverly (thanks, Bev!)

Earlier in the week I received practically all my Christmas cards in one big pile. I came home and put my feet up and feasted on the friendships with which I have been blessed. Somehow receiving Christmas cards AFTER the time you had expected them is like a whole other gift! I paid closer attention to the thoughtful words and the beautiful verses. I listened more carefully to the family news in Christmas newsletters from friends I only hear from once a year. I savoured every line and treasured the promise of prayer offered by so many. Once again I was reminded how blessed I am. Thank you, dear friends, each of you who have cared enough about me to spend the extra money on postage to send a card to Moldova. Don't worry that it didn't arrive before Christmas. (God bless Moldova Post.) After all, Christmas lasts for well over a month when you are on an international team - starting with December 6 for the Dutch and finishing with "old" Christmas for the Moldovans on Jan. 7 and then even further with "old" New Year on Jan. 14!!
And I wish you all a most blessed 2007.
But wait!
While I'm telling you about my wonderful sister, I also need to share the news about her daughter, my wonderful niece - Jenni. This weekend a very intelligent man made a very wise decision when he brought this chocolate truffle cake to my chocoholic niece (ok, so it runs in the family - never mind). Even if it hadn't been chocolate, I am sure that the answer Jenni would have given would be the same as she has been quite smitten with this knight in shining armour for quite a while.
So - congratulations to Jenni and Chris on their upcoming wedding in July 2007. Already for you and your family the year has brought joy and blessings. May you know many more!!

A pinch of unreality - or is this possible?

I remember when I first moved to Toronto from Nova Scotia. You have to understand that Nova Scotia is a small province in a big country and the people there are friendly, hospitable, relaxed and unsophisticated. For many in my province, moving to the metropolis of Toronto is almost a form of betrayal of all that is simple and pure and good. Everyone knows that the big city is full of dangers and evil, greed and corruption, and worst of all, arrogance. Living in Toronto was the last thing I ever wanted, or expected to do. (Note: After 8 years of life and ministry there, I look forward eagerly to returning to this city I grew to love.) And yet like any perceived danger and unknown situation there was also a sense of adventure and excitement in coming to this most multicultural of all cities in the world. I remember for the first few months, every time I drove down the Don Valley Parkway and saw the CN Tower like a beacon in the distance, I had to pinch myself. Could it be true that I, a simple Nova Scotian, was living in the city of Toronto?!?

In some ways coming to Moldova was a return to the simplicity I left behind in Nova Scotia, Canada. Life is more relaxed here than in Toronto, with the option of occasional sidetrips to beautiful places like Budapest, or Prague, or Vienna. But there are aspects of life here that, like Toronto, take me well outside my comfort zone. And so occasionally I find myself pinching myself. This evening I was sitting in a restaurant with a newly engaged couple having the introductory session of our marriage preparation sessions. Marriage preparation, something familiar, something I have done before and enjoy doing. I didn’t really expect that I would have the opportunity in Moldova as the chances of exercising a pastoral role in many aspects are limited for a woman. But in this case, the guy is American and the girl is Romanian and they will be married in Romania by a pastor from one of their churches. So they have asked me to provide premarital counselling. I am happy to – so what’s the deal about pinching myself? I’ve never taken a couple through marriage preparation before in the Romanian language. This, to me, seems like an incredible thing. But it’s really true. Praise God!

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Family for Christmas

The first Christmas was an event that not only brought to us the One who was to become our Saviour, but it also honoured the human family. God entrusted His only Son into the care of adoptive parents and made Jesus to become part of an earthly family. In heaven I suppose Jesus had God and all the angels to spend his time with and to share in family events together. But on earth, his family, initially, consisted of a young woman engaged to be married to a man who wasn’t sure what to do. They became Jesus’ family when He was away from home.

This Christmas, again, I have been away from my home and family.I wish I could have been with them - I've decided that is the very hardest thing about being a missionary. I was all too aware that although I held a baby at Christmas time, it wasn't my grandbaby, and although I mothered some young adults, the deepest places of my heart still long for my own young adults. And talking on the phone to my mom and my siblings just isn't the same as being there among all the Christmas trappings and jokes and familiar smells and sounds. But nevertheless, God did give me a family with whom to share Christmas in Moldova. It might have been lonely except for the fact that I had another ‘family’ here over the holidays.

Our team gets a good Christmas break and lots of time to relax and be refreshed before the new year begins. So I invited anyone who wanted, to come and stay at the house I have been house-sitting while the American missionaries who live here were home in the USA for Christmas. (Don’t worry, they told me I could! Thanks, Tanya & Kevin!) What a blessings this house has been! And what a great thing it was to have Katy, Alex, Emily, Esther, and sometimes Renia, Lilian, Victor, Stephanie and Cherise to be my adopted ‘children’. They are all fellow OM-ers and Katy, Alex, and Emily are members of the OM Romania team that has come to stay with us for a few months. They were great!

Some people came to stay overnight and some came just for a meal. So as not to be bored or lonely over Christmas I just kept inviting people to my house. On Christmas eve and again on New Year’s eve I had gatherings and I had two dinner parties the week after Christmas. For each event I was not alone in preparation and setting up and it was so fun to have my ‘kids’ to work with me. As you can see, (this is for you, Inga!) there was lots of food. Notice that the vegetable platter is empty – everyone likes fresh veggies (and we don’t get them often here in winter).

On Christmas morning everyone helped peel potatoes so we could make mashed potatoes to take to dinner at Matthew and Helen’s place.

On new year’s eve we had several groups of children come to our door, as is the custom, to sing carols and recite poetry. The first group was four boys, 12-14 years old, who recited poetry while ringing little bells the whole time and every once in a while joining together in a unison “hey-ho”. I learned from making a mistake last year, that when the children come to recite poetry they expect to receive some food and/or money. The fact that some of the children came back a second time made me think that maybe we were being overly generous with the money!

Later in the evening, around midnight, we went outside to see the fireworks. People all over Chisinau were setting off their roman candles and whistlers for everyone else’s amusement. I’m sure we watched fireworks for at least half an hour – big ones in the center of the city but lots of smaller ones above us and around us in the neighbourhood. On New Year’s Day, starting late in the morning, we sat around the table for hours working on some of the salsa, cake and fruit salad that hadn’t been eaten the night before as we talked and shared and prayed together. Not a bad way to begin 2007.
Thanks to Skype technology I did talk to my own children over the holidays, and I did miss them dreadfully, but all in all, it wasn’t so bad. And it’s not over yet! This Sunday is the Moldovan ‘old’ Christmas (set according to the Orthodox calendar) and I have been invited to join another family for their Christmas celebration. More about that later…but for now – Happy New Year!