Thursday, October 23, 2008

Open Hearts in Exile

From time to time - more frequently than we would choose for ourselves - we are called upon to be in a place or bear a burden or do a service that we don't want to be or bear or do. But there it is. It happens. And it has been said, and will be said again, that in those times when we feel we have no power of choice, we do have the ability to choose our attitude.

Such is the case with some of my team-mates, whom I had the privilege of visiting this week in Romania. They have chosen an attitude of gratitude and a willingness to serve the Lord in whatever way He opens up for them. These friends are living outside of Moldova because they are waiting for visas to come into the country. They have set up house in a small village near the border of Moldova. Henry and Ingrid hope to come and work with us but they have not yet been able to receive an official invitation into the country, which is required for them to obtain a visa. They are sharing a place with our team-mate Dana, who is teaching them Romanian as they wait. Dana's residency permit expired and so she had to leave the country for 3 months so that she can come back in for 3 months. However she is also waiting for news of the possibility to study in the UK or the US.

So there they are... nothing to do but teach/learn Romanian. ? But not really! The village children have discovered that Dana and her friends love children and so they come calling in the morning and all throughout the day. "DANA!! DANA!! Can we play in the yard? Do you have candies for us?" They are received kindly even though at times they need some instructions regarding boundaries... more than once. Later in the afternoon Dana bakes cookies for them - something that is not part of their normal experience. Watching her expressing such care for these children reminded me of how much I have to be thankful for. I had never really thought of how much love is expressed in the simple acts, like baking something for someone. When I was a child my mother baked every Friday afternoon so that we always had some kind of cookies or cakes around. I didn't realize until now how much that spoke of her love for us. (Thanks, Mom!)

I was encouraged by the way my friends are speaking into the lives of these children, who come from very poor homes. Some of them don't even go to school as they are not encouraged at home to do so. But they are learning about the love of God through the caring and nurturing they are receiving from these foreigners in their midst. With open hearts Dana and Henry and Ingrid are receiving this time as an opportunity given by God to care for the poor and to let the little children know that they have a loving Heavenly Father. In the evening I watched the joy of these young boys as Henry played a game of pickup soccer with them. Is he the first adult to ever do so? My friends are not expecting to be in this place for long but I am guessing that however long or short their time is, these little boys will never forget the kindness and the care that they were shown by some people who for a time sojourned among them and told them about a friend named Jesus.
Please pray for these children and for their village, and for my three friends. Pray that they will receive their documents in due time.
I just want to let you all know that I won't be blogging for a bit over a week, at least. I leave tomorrow to go to Montenegro to teach at a conference there. I won't have internet access! I'll post photos later so keep watching!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A very busy month

Dear readers, I must apologize for the lack of entries this month. It is a good reflection of the fact that I have been very busy. I can't even begin to go into details. But when my son complains that I haven't written on my blog, I figure I better do something! So before I go off to Romania tomorrow morning early, I'll see if I can find a photo or two to share with you.

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!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

An Evening in Brussels

Belgium was a good time although it rained most of the days we were there. Good thing we were simply in meetings much of the time. But on Tuesday evening we had an outing, divided into teams to find certain information and report back with our answers. Here is me with my team-mates: Simon (England), Kurt (Switzerland) and Johan (Holland). Some answers were more creative than others!
One of the statues that we found is called "Manneken-Pis" and is in fact what it sounds like. It is a statue of a little boy, commemorating his efforts to extinguish a fire that would have destroyed the Town Hall, by means of the most readily available source of fluid! Another story simply says that a father was looking for his lost child and he promised the Blessed Virgin Mary that he would make a statue of the child doing whatever he was doing when the father would find him. Guess what the kid was doing!!

There were other interesting sights in Brussels, of course. The smell of chocolate on one street in particular was absolutely heavenly. And inside one of those luscious shops was this fountain of chocolate!! Awesome, eh?

The centre square of the city was quite beautiful, in spite of the drizzle that evening. We finished off our time together enjoying the delight of Belgian waffles. So good!!

Rhine Cruise

When I was a kid, my mother went on her first trip to Europe. I remember when she came back that one of the highlights she remembered was a cruise on the Rhine river. She spoke and showed us photos of the castles and vineyards and told us about the legend of the Lorelei. (See The pictures of the castles captured my youthful imagination and ever since, I have wanted to see the castles along the Rhine river valley. This week I finally had my chance, and had a lovely time cruising down the Rhine river on a vacation day I took on the way home from a training forum in Belgium.

An optional part of the trip was a ride down the moutain on a chair lift with a spectacular view. Those are vineyards you see in tiers on the hillside.It was a bit scary but I was glad I went!
One of the really wonderful things about this trip was the timing. Being October, the leaves are at their peak of changing colours and it really was so beautiful to see them! It reminded me a lot of my beloved Canada and the beauty that always surrounds us in the fall as God's paintbrush splashes spectacular colours among the trees. I was very grateful for this relaxing day of rest in the middle of a busy fall season.