Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Some of you know Jurek and his sister and their parents. They were very generous in welcoming me into their home to share the season with them. I have acquired a new love for the famous beetroot soup. The best so far was what Ania prepared on Christmas eve, served over yummy mushroom-filled perogies. The evening of Dec. 24 is the main family gathering and traditionally no meat is served. Instead the main course is fish. The carp was delicious, even though we had to fight with the bones a bit. After dinner we sang Polish carols. One of them I have now heard several times and it is constantly ringing in my head - a very catchy tune. After the carols we had tea and cakes - several different kinds - and then we opened presents. I was surprised to receive several gifts but pleased to be made to feel so much a part of the family. Tomek, Ania's very kind and thoughtful son, passed out the gifts. Ania received a very classy hat and glove set from her brother.
On Christmas day there was a church service in the morning and I was invited to share a brief word. I shared a few thoughts and told the story of the 3 trees. But the highlight of the service were the testimonies that were shared by the children as part of their Christmas presentation. What a touching thing to hear young children speaking sincerely 0f their love for Jesus and their desire to serve Him!
On 'second Christmas' ( the second day of Christmas, Boxing Day to Canadians), I had the delight of going to lunch with my dear friend Radek, who I had met the first time I came to Poland. We found a Pizza Hut that was open and ate a nice meal while talking and talking and talking. It was a really good visit.
The next day I jumped on a train to travel the hour and a half to the town of Skoczow to vist my friend Renia. Renia was a member of our team in Moldova up until a few months ago so this was a good chance to touch base with her and to see how she has been doing in readapting to life at home. Her parents were very hospitable and her mother kept serving us with delicious food while she and I talked and talked and talked for hours. Then she walked me back across town to the train station and I headed back to Katowice.
On Sunday once again I shared a very brief thought from the pulpit and also sang a song. After the service I reconnected with a really nice family who have kept in contact with me since the first time I came to Poland. It was great to see them again and to hear of the interest of the two teenagers to come to Moldova maybe this summer. I hope my boss realizes how much recruiting I have been trying to do over this Christmas!!
This has been a good Christmas and of course it is always a joy to celebrate the birth of our Saviour and to be reminded that he is Emmanuel, "God with us". The difficult part of this Christmas, of course, has been being away from my kids and just missing them so much. I'm thankful for internet as I have had e-mail contact with Marah, chatted online with Joshua, and know a bit of what Ben is up to through Facebook. I love you all, my darlings. Today I saw a man with a very cute little granddaughter in hand and I started thinking about Eliana and what she will be like as she grows older. Suddenly I realized I was walking along the street with a silly grin on my face as I thought of the little princess and remembered how cute she is when she laughs!
In my next post I'll fill you in on my visit to Cracow...
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
But on to more interesting topics now that I have fully played on your sympathy. For any of you who are going through the same misery with a nasty cold, you have my sympathy and I hope you are feeling better very soon. My team-mate, Butje, tells me that if you take echinacea regularly you won't catch cold. He is from Indonesia and after his first nasty confrontation with winter colds in this very different climate he discovered echinacea and he swears by it.
So the big news this week is very disappointing news. The couple from Chile who we were hoping to get into Moldova to work with us here have been denied their visa. No more chances to reapply anytime soon. No explanation or reason given - just a no. And on top of that, the Australian couple who had been here and had to leave temporarily (we thought) have also been denied the possibility of re-entry. No reason given. This was not expected at all and so now they are sitting in Romania and need to decide what other country they might like to serve in. Please pray for all these dear friends - this has been a very stressful time for them and now all their plans need to be readjusted.
And now we start the journey towards Christmas. I have noticed recently that Moldova is becoming more and more westernized. A big new mall just opened - the "Mall Dova" - if you can bear it! And in the shops there are Christmas products already for sale. Because Christmas here is celebrated on January 7 (Orthodox calendar) to see Christmas paraphernalia so soon seems a bit odd. The celebrations here are generally not nearly as materialistic as they are in the west, but I can see it moving in that direction.
I have been assigned with the task of finding a restaurant where we can go as a team for our Christmas celebration. The per/person cost is something we are trying to decrease as our team is so large now but it's not easy to find a place that is affordable. Albine and I went to a few potential venues today and were shocked at the prices some of them are asking. Our favourite and would-be choice is a lovely new place on the edge of town that fits all our requirements perfectly except for the fact that the cost per person starts at 600 lei - the equivalent of $60! I think I picked my chin up off the floor before we left the restaurant. As we drove back to the base, Albine was telling me about visiting a 'feeding the elderly' project that we have in one of the villages. As she described the condition that many of the seniors live in it was hard to reconcile their desperate reality with the amount of money that we might spend on a simple team celebration. This is one of the challenges of living in a poor country. We don't have western salaries as the American embassy employees would have but even a missionary budget is better than that of many Moldovans. A constant issue to grapple with is that of financial inequality and how we as Christians are to handle our money - wisely and generously - ; recognizing that all things come from God.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
When I left Montenegro on Monday, we had picked mandarin oranges and pomegranates off the trees outside my friend Micah's house that morning. The day was hot and sunny and short sleeves were very comfortable. The day before I had watched a man swimming at the beach nearby!
Monday, November 03, 2008
Sunday, November 02, 2008
The conference we have come to is a gathering of missionaries from our region who have just completed their first year on the mission field. The purpose is to give them a chance to reflect, receive some pastoral care, share their experiences with others who they trained with upon their first arrival, and also receive some teaching and training that will equip them better for their ministries. The group is small: the German team leader for the small team here in Montenegro, a Korean couple who are serving in Kosovo, an Ecuadoran woman and a Chilean couple who are serving in Albania, and two young women – a Moldovan and an Austrian – who are serving with me in Moldova. I have come as one of the teacher/trainers along with another long-time missionary, Dave, who is American but has been living in Austria for more than 30 years. We have been hosted and organized by Micah, a woman from Idaho who arrived in eastern Europe at the same time I did and who is now serving in Montenegro, after spending her first term in Albania. Micah and I get along really well and it has been nice to renew acquaintance with her. She’s going the extra mile in hosting several of us in her home for a few days after the conference.
For me this week has been a gift in the opportunity I have had to do the Bible teaching I love to do. The first few days I was doing seminars on how to study the Bible and for the last few days I was teaching the book of Colossians. I also had the privilege of working together with Dave in presenting several workshops related to ministry skills. We did a few on transitions and adapting to the culture and then some on mentoring and listening skills.
One of the highlights for all of us was the opportunity to hear Dave’s stories. He is renowned in our organization as a story teller – and does he have stories to tell!! Around the dinner table after the meal each evening he would entertain us with all kinds of stories.Whether they were stories of his childhood or stories of his Bible-smuggling days, they were either humorous or rivetingly exciting. As we talked about the challenges they had faced bringing the word of God to countries that had been behind the Iron Curtain, I suggested to Dave that we have it much easier now as missionaries – at least in the countries where we are serving. I was really challenged by Dave’s response that the opposition is just as strong but we don’t always recognize it as easily. The things that make missions difficult now are such things as materialism, that distracts and deters people from listening to or responding to God’s call to follow Christ. If people are satisfied temporally, they don’t always realize how great are their deeper spiritual needs. And so they don’t bother listening to the good news we bring.
I guess we need to pray that we as missionaries not be entrapped by materialism and lulled into indifference and lack of passion for the message we bring and the ministry we fulfill. Also that the people we seek to reach are not deceived into thinking that material things can fulfill spiritual needs. Dave smuggled Bibles to bring the word that people were longing for. We openly bring the Word of God and sometimes people are totally unaware and uncaring that this is a message of hope and redemption that can dramatically change their lives for the better.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Last Sunday I went with Albina to her home village so she could present a report of her work to her sending church. After the worship service, in which I also stood up and brought greetings to the church, we went to Albina's home for dinner. The food was awesome! Some of my favourite things were on the table, including placinte cu bostan and clatite cu brinza dulce. Soooo good! Albina then took us out to see the calf that had been born that very morning. Imagine that they can stand on their feet the same day they are born!!
Our missions training course is currently running, with about 30 students from all over Moldova participating. Our regular prayer meeting was extra special last Tuesday as we had different stations representing different countries. We would travel from one "country" to another, hear about their culture, sample their food, and pray for some of the needs that had been shared regarding that country. In this tent we learned about some Asian countries, like Indonesia. Our Australian team members had some amazing photos of their beautiful country and we learned a bit of culture as they taught us how to play cricket!! Speaking of whom, we have been spending a fair bit of time trying to get their documents sorted out and it is still uncertain whether they are going to be able to stay in Moldova or not.
Last Saturday I spent the whole day at a women's conference at which Anne Graham Lotz (Billy Graham's daughter) was the speaker. She is an excellent preacher and I really enjoyed hearing her. Hope she doesn't mind that I'm going to use some of her material at a training seminar I will be doing next week in Montenegro! There were several hundred women there and during the breaks I saw some women who I hadn't seen in awhile so it was nice to realize that I do know some people in the country now! Got my photo taken with Anne so I could show my friend Birgit. Birgit, do you see this? I met her finally! God bless you, Birgit! The event was at the Moldova Opera House and I was back there again this past Saturday to attend an opera - Verdi's Aida. It was quite good and Becca (from Australia) and I enjoyed it. Also enjoyed a conversation we had with a couple who work with Peace Corps, who were sitting next to us. There's over 100 American Peace Corps volunteers in the country of Moldova.
Yesterday (Sunday) evening I went with my Moldovan friend Tanea to a worship service at a new church plant here in the city. It was great to be there although the numbers are small but the pastor has a heart to share the hope and love of Christ with the people in this city. I'm sure the church will grow.OK, so tomorrow morning I will be travelling by mini-bus to a town just on the other side of the border in Romania. I'm going to visit the couple from Chile who are still waiting to receive their invitation to be able to come into the country. They are there with my team-mate from Romania who is teaching them the language. So I need to finish this and get to bed. But before I do I'm sure you want to see photos of my grandchildren so you can see how much they are growing. Alejandro turned 2 years old on October 10! You can be sure that I am thankful for all the Lord's blessings, but especially for these beautiful grandchildren!