Monday, September 29, 2008

Frankfurt am Main

Last Sunday I was in Frankfurt. It's a beautiful city, centred around the lovely river where green walkways and leafy trees line the banks. The local citizenry spend their Sunday afternoon strolling, dog-walking, biking, fishing, dangling feet over the wall, and just walking along the riverside. Some people, including the odd tourist, such as one from Moldova, go sailing down the river on a cruise boat. It was sunny and beautiful with a nice breeze ruffling my hair and the sun shining down warmly.

Later, I enjoyed strolling through the historic centre square, enjoying buskers and just seeing all the people enjoying themselves.

Reluctant Angels

Every once in a while God sends us a reluctant angel. At least, I had one last week. It happened when I was on my way home from work on a day that was one of a week of just about everything going wrong. As I drove down the hill not far from my apartment block there was a strange sound. I wondered why the street was making this strange new sound and then it occurred to me that possibly it was me.... like the tire slapping against the pavement. My worst suspicion was confirmed as I pulled up to the stoplight and a guy walked over pointing to my tire. Oh-oh> it was a flat tire. I pulled over (across a lane of traffic) and pulled around the corner. I drove the car slowly and carefully to a spot behind another car which also seemed to be in distress. The guy had the hood of the engine up and was standing there in his black leather jacket, white turtle-neck and pointed shiny shoes, apparently waiting for someone to come and help him with whatever his car trouble was. I opened the trunk, took out the spare tire and the jack and set about looking confused, helpless and open for offers of assistance. It took a direct hit on my part for me to finally ask the nice man if he could help me change the tire. (I could have done it but it has been years and years since i have changed a tire and also I was wearing my good clothes.) So he did it, all the while looking over his shoulder to see if his help had arrived. Once the tire was on the car, it too looked a bit low. Next thing I knew, the nice man went and got a gadget out of his car, which he connected to my battery and then used to fill my tire with air - very cool! I thanked him profusely and he barely said a word and hardly cracked a smile the whole time. Once fixed, I was on my way home, thinking all the while about how this guy had been a reluctant angel and doing all I could do for him - praying God's blessing in his life.
Of course, it's not just reluctant angels that God has sent my way. The other evening I had some of my team members over to my house, including the new recruits. We walked in the door, planning to cook supper for them all (there were 8), only to discover that my power had been turned off. (Another long story, but it's related to a non-payment of a bill) One of my angels - male team member - did everything he could for me to find out what had happened and then to find out where to go and even offering to go to the place the next day and take care of the problem. So meanwhile, we cooked hamburgers and french fries on the gas stove and visited by candlelight. I made frosting for the chocolate cake that I had fortunately finished baking in my electric oven that morning before the power went off. Here is Eugen licking the spoon as Aurica looks on. The flash was bright but in actuality this was my kitchen in darkness aside from a candle! I am so thankful for all the reluctant (and willing) angels, who bring so much light and encouragement into my life.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Leaders' Retreat

Last week the leaders of our team took a few days apart to "refocus" as we move into the fall season. We had an area leader visiting with us and it was helpful to have his more objective input as we discussed many things. Matthew led us through an overview of the history of our work here since its beginnings, in 1995-6. The place where we retreated for 2 days and one overnight was somewhere in the middle of nowhere but it was very picturesque. We ate very well, particularly the evening we had 'shashlik' (shishkebab). It was prettty nice to be in a place where we were undisturbed for a while by outward demands and responsibilities. That's not to say, though, that we didn't work. We had meetings all day long both days, that resulted in us doing some restructuring of the organizational aspect of our team. The end result, hopefully, will be that things will be run more efficiently. But one of the decisions made that affects some of us immediately, is to do some office-changing that will reflect our new structure. For me, this means that I will be moving out of my nice, big, open, airy, blue office in the new mission centre into an older, smaller office in the older building where our other offices are. Sigh. There are some positive aspects to this, though. Namely, there is wireless internet in the old building (and not yet in the new - go figure) and the old building is much easier to get to as it is on a paved road. No longer will I have to discuss with myself on the way to work which road will be least muddy and which road will be inaccessible and where I should park and how far and through how much mud I will have to walk to get from my car to work. I will just pull up in front of the building, even when it's raining, and park right there. Ain't life grand?

Canadian Distinction

Can you believe this one?!? I was walking down the street in Chisinau, minding my own business when suddenly this Canadian flag leapt into my awareness! It seems that Canada, specifically Quebec, is doing a big push for Moldovans to emigrate to la Belle Province. So many Moldovans are constantly leaving anyway, somehow Quebec has clued in to the fact that they could learn French and help populate that part of Canada. So here I am on the other side of the world and suddenly my country (not the other North American country!) is becoming well-known in the eyes of my hosts.
I only recently realized what a rare bird a Canadian is in this land. While contacting the (closest) Canadian embassy in Bucharest I asked the nice lady how many Canadians are in Moldova. She told me that the embassy is only aware of 5, and the other 4 are Moldovan-born who lived in Canada for some time and obtained citizenship. In other words, to the best of my knowledge, I am the only Canadian-born Canadian living in Moldova! And I barely even remember any French! C'est la vie!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


(in which no pictures are included so as to focus on the sounds)
I live above a pizza place and so always in the evening there is the sound of chatter and laughter as people relax over a casual meal. Sometimes the voices and the music go on late into the night and often are mixed with the clattering of bottles being unloaded from a truck, and empty bottles being collected from the restaurant. Across the street is a casino and it isn’t unusual to hear loud talking on the street in the wee hours. Not long ago the most prevalent sound at night was the barking and whining of many dogs who wander randomly in the city. But I think when I was away this summer there must have been some kind of purge of the canine contingent. The first few nights after I returned I would lie awake at night wondering why it was so quiet and then I realized that I hadn’t heard or seen many dogs since I got back.
But still there are the sounds of people; sometimes an inconsiderate neighbor who plays very loud music in the middle of the night. But that doesn’t happen too often. In the evenings you can hear the sound of children running and playing, riding bikes, climbing and swinging in the playground between our apartment buildings. An older brother teases a sobbing sister, and an overtired child whines at the heels of an equally overtired mother. Behind my building is a kindergarten and when I am home on a week morning I can hear the children laughing and playing but always there is at least one child crying and the not-always-pleasant voice of the adult in charge.
My street is a route for trolleybuses and mini-buses so you can usually hear traffic going by, especially the distinctive sound of the trolleybuses, which should have been replaced with new buses long before this.

Today is Sunday and earlier in the afternoon there were some very loud sounds of cars honking their horns. I had seen a vehicle all decorated for a wedding so I wasn’t surprised. In Moldova weddings are often part of the worship service on a Sunday. I heard the horns and felt some of the excitement and joy of this new beginning for a young couple.

But now, with my balcony door open, (despite the September chill that has set in) I hear a new sound – but a very old sound. It is the sound of funeral dirges being played by a brass band. Through the tree branches I cannot see the band but the mournful sound rises clearly in our little community and it is known that someone is grieving for a lost loved one. For a while the other sounds seem to diminish and it is as if the sounds of joy and continuing life stand back for a while in respect for this profound reality. The dirge stops for a bit and I guess that the customary ceremony of the priest saying some prayers and maybe reading some Scripture is taking place. In a village the funeral procession would be walking from the home of the dear departed – where the wake had been held with the open coffin in a room of the house – to the cemetery. At each corner the procession would stop for some words from the priest. In a Baptist ceremony, the gospel would be preached at every corner, with the evidence of the brevity of life in full display as people consider their own eternal destiny. Today I cannot see the procession but the dirges continue, with breaks in between for whatever words of comfort, hope, or warning are being shared.

So many sounds here in my fourth floor home. I stand on my balcony to see if I can see the funeral band. I cannot. But I can hear, here among the treetops, the sound of the breeze blowing through the leaves. And I remember Jesus’ words about the Spirit of God:
‘The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’ (John 3:8)
I can hear the sound of the wind, but can I hear the sound of the Spirit? More than any other sound, may I hear the voice of the Spirit of God speaking to me of things eternal , of Jesus Christ, and of how I might bring praise and glory to God in the space of this brief life. I hope that you, too, dear reader, are listening for the sound of the Spirit of God speaking to your heart.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Tyranny of the Urgent

Do any of you remember that? It was a little pamphlet published by IVP and written by Charles Hummel in 1967. (Wow! I am aging myself!)
In a 2004 editorial, Gordon Govier refers to Hummel's article and says:
' The issue, Hummel said, is not so much a shortage of time as a problem of priorities. Or, as a cotton mill manager once told him, "Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important."The essay does not offer three, five or ten bullet-points of a program to get our priorities back in order. Instead it points to the Gospel accounts of Jesus who never seemed to be in a hurry, even when his friend Lazarus was dying. Quoting Mark 1:35, Hummel saw the secret of Jesus' life and work for God in that "He prayerfully waited for His Father's instructions." The headline for this section reads "Dependence makes you free," and Hummel quotes P. T. Forsyth, "The worst sin is prayerlessness."

It's something I have thought of different times over the years but this week I have really been feeling under some kind of tyranny - spiritually, that is. You know, when there are so many urgent AND important things that MUST be done that you don't even have time to sit down and prioritize. Never mind sit down and pray about it. Part of the problem is that I am so much unlike Martin Luther. I think it was him that said "I have so much to do today , I think I will spend the first few hours in prayer." Maybe if I was more like that, I would not feel so frazzled. I need to learn to 'prayerfully wait for my Father's instructions'. Anyway, I don't have the energy to go into details but for those of you who pray for me, please pray that I will be able to focus and find my centre and my strength and my wisdom in Jesus.
" His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption that, just as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." - 1 Corinthians 1:30,31