Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas in Poland

I enjoyed a traditional Polish Christmas with my friends in Katowice.
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

Christmas Season...

... has begun in Moldova. After church this evening I went for a walk along the main street - it was a damp mild evening but the streets were all lit up. Because it was mild, lots of people seemed to be out walking around. I have been going to this new church plant in the centre of the city for the last month or so. We meet in a kind of library on Sunday evenings. Even there, was a Christmas tree.

For me, the first taste of Christmas was a few weeks ago when I went to the edge of Romania to visit our Australian exiles. Ben & Becca had hoped to work with us in Moldova but the government will not allow them in the country. So now they are stuck in Romania and praying for guidance as to what field they should go to. So when I visited them I stayed at an American hotel and we had supper there together, with lovely western Chrismas music in the background. That was nice.

More recently I attended the International Women's Club Christmas bazaar, an annual even that brings in a fair bit of revenue and is also full of interesting things to see. There were some folk dancers as well as lots of food and crafts for sale.

Since then our team has been busy with a number of things. Of course, many of our workers are involved in Christmas programs in the villages, and distributing various food packages and gifts for children that have been donated by sponsors. Our fall training program for missions has also come to an end and with that a variety of responsibilities to be fulfilled, including evaluations and reports. Tomorrow evening we have our team Christmas party and so we have been preparing for that. That will involve dinner out at a very special restaurant and then a rollicking good time back at the mission centre around the Christmas tree with gifts for everyone and enjoying desserts there.

I am looking forward to my Christmas trip to Poland where I will visit some special friends and join in the Christmas celebrations there. I'm excited about that but I'm feeling kind of sad about not being able to be with family for Christmas. Packages have been sent and I've been learning the art of shopping on the internet for a few things, just to make sure they arrive in case Moldova Post lets me down. So I'll end this post with a few newly received photos of my adorable grandchildren, Alejandro and Eliana.

And I also want to take this opportunity to extend best wishes to all my readers and friends and friends-I-don't-know-yet for a very blessed Christmas and a happy new year 2009! As you contemplate the coming of the Christ Child to this earth, may you understand for the first time or in a new way the depth of God's love for you, and the joy Jesus delights to share with you.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Well, faithful readers, I guess I owe you an apology for such a long delay between postings. I ask myself why and realize that last weekend, for example, I basically didn't want to go anywhere or do anything as the nasty cold that was being passed around found its way to my house. So I made chicken soup and drank hot lemon and lots of water and tea and honey and hoped it would all go away. Being at work on Monday and Tuesday was miserable but by Wednesday I was feeling better. Thursday was a lot of nose-blowing and today, while I felt fine, I still break into coughing fits every so often. So that's my excuse for this week.

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.