Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beyond the gas crisis

Let me begin by sharing with you the most recent photo of my angelic granddaughter, Eliana. Here she is being held my her 'god-grandmother', Vicki, in British Columbia, Canada. Eliana and her brother Alejandro and their parents just spent a weekend together with their wonderful god-grandparents who kindly stand in the gap for their absentee grandmother from time to time. Thanks, Eric and Vicki!

Don't you all agree that Eliana is absolutely adorable? (This is Grandma missing her babies.)

It could be that some of you are wondering whether for lack of gas I froze to death in my apartment here in Moldova, mourned only by the pigeons who gather regularly outside our building and only eventually to be discovered under the powdery snow at the time of the spring thaw. In fact, had Ukraine (don't you just love their prime minister - or is it president?- and her very Ukrainian hairdo?)and Russia not made a deal, we may still have survived easily in the mild temperatures that have stayed with us over the last weeks. Fog, rain and mud. That's the current situation in Moldova. And I emphasize mud! (Yuk) During the gas crisis there were in fact many Moldovans who endured hardship with lack of heat in various situations. Schools were closed an extra week at the end of the Christmas break and when they did open, some were still woefully under-heated. Personally the only real effect of the gas cutoff for me was that the central hot water in our apartment complex was turned off and my electric water heater was not working so I had to have a few cold showers. Thankfully my wonderful landlady had a repair guy come and together they ensured that the hot water heater was repaired.

Anyway, so here I am alive and well and living in Moldova. In the last few weeks we have been preparing to receive our new recruits - a couple from Australia and a young girl from Austria. At the same time we have been making every effort to keep the other couple from Australia here in the country. Sadly we were unsuccessful and last Friday I travelled to Romania for a last visit with Ben and Becca before they flew out to England to join up with one of our teams there.

That hasn't been the only disappointment. Eugen, a Moldovan on our team was hoping to attend a training program in England and has been refused a visa. Maybe an appeal will be possible but we need prayer in this world of seemingly random visa refusals.

Another highlight in the last few weeks has been the opportunity to meet with Vlad, who has returned from his two years of ministry in Nepal. It was interesting debriefing him about his time, but it was also great to be with other friends who attended his church the day he made a fascinating presentation about his work and ministry and life in Nepal. Stories of trekking in the Himalaya mountains and sharing the gospel with Hindus and Buddhists who had never heard the name of Jesus was the stuff of genuine mission adventure.

My mission adventure here in Moldova is not quite so ... adventurous. But nevertheless it is full of relationships and opportunities to mentor and encourage and train as I serve a team of people who are involved in many different types of ministry. I enjoy having people over to my home for a meal on occasion and recently I hosted our team leader and his family of 5 children (who are being home-schooled!! by their brave and competent mother.) I have begun meeting with Helen, their mother, for a weekly Bible study and time of sharing as we discuss the gospel of Mark. I was also happy to welcome back to Moldova my good friend Corinne and her dog Silas, who came for a movie night and sleepover one weekend.

Most recently my time has been consumed with preparation for the arrival of our new recruits and planning of their orientation time. It's great to finally have them with us and last Saturday I returned from my visit in Romania in time to meet them at the airport on their arrival from a new recruits' conference in Germany. In the photo you can see Justin and Jessie, from Australia, on the left and Michaela, an Austrian girl, on the right along with our Moldovan teammate Lilian.

So dear readers, that is what I have been occupied with over the last two weeks. It's always nice to know that people miss my blog when I don't get around to updating it. Thank you, Inga, Joyce, and Dana, for reminding me that it's been too long. I also want to say hello to someone who reads my blog regularly but whom I have never met but someone told me about you and gave me your name and I wrote it down somewhere and was going to surprise you by greeting you by name on my blog but now I can't find where I wrote it down!! So, if you read my blog but have never met me, I just want to say hello and welcome to my ramblings about life in Moldova.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Current news

Once more we find ourselves praying for gas! The weather has been getting colder every day. I still have heat in my apartment, but no hot water.

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's president says his country will supply its own gas to freezing Bulgaria and Moldova amid a Russian cutoff.
Viktor Yushchenko says Ukraine will help the two countries by sending them gas from its own reserves starting Saturday. He didn't say for how long Ukraine will provide gas.
Deputy head of Ukraine's state gas company Naftogaz Volodymyr Trikolich said Saturday it will supply daily about 2 million cubic meters of gas to Bulgaria and about 1.5 million cubic meters of gas to Moldova.
Russia cut off all supplies to European countries via Ukrainian pipelines Wednesday, leaving more than a dozen countries with no gas shipments. Bulgaria and Moldova were among the worst affected.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

New Year's Eve in Wisla

On December 30 Jurek picked me up at the train station as I returned from Krakow and off we went to Wisla. Wisla is a small tourist (ski resort) town in the south of Poland in the mountains. It is here that the Wisla, or Vistula, river begins. It was just crisp and snowy when we arrived and the next day I had opportunity to walk into the town and see some of the sights. It was a lovely town and a beautiful day and many people wandered the market area on a break from their ski holiday, I suppose. I enjoyed wandering around and seeing the souvenirs and crafts that were on sale. I also saw some interesting food items and stopped at a place to eat some lunch. The air was clear and brisk and it was a real holiday atmosphere in the little town. After exploring for a while I headed back to the church where we were staying and where the concert was to be held that evening. It was a lovely large facility with a round sanctuary on the main floor and the upper floor able to accommodate a lot of people in lovely rooms with big windows overlooking the town.

Already people had started arriving from the Katowice church and other churches in the area. I met some of the people who had attended the English language camp that is conducted as an outreach event each summer at Katowice. Some of them had been taught by friends of mine from Nova Scotia who had been there the previous summer as part of a short term mission team. I had been billed as the English language speaker from Canada so before the evening program even began some people came to my room to bring greetings and to take the opportunity to practise their English language skills. I enjoyed meeting them as well as my roommates for the night. Eventually the evening program began with a lovely meal served by the women of the local church, followed by a concert put on by several bands and guest singers. The music was great and the fact that it was in Polish was not a problem - I just did my best to pronounce the words on the screen and sing whatever songs I could. Later there was a time of worship and some preaching and testimonies, and I was invited to share a word of greetings and testimony. My mention of the fact I was currently living in Moldova led to an interesting conversation with someone later. After the fireworks at midnight there was another meal and then as people started heading home or off to bed, the singing continued on a more and more informal level. It was a great night and one that I will not soon forget..

The next day we had another meal early in the afternoon and then later on we made the return journey to Katowice. That evening I had one last visit with the Rogaczewski family in their home and was so grateful for the warmth and kindness that they extended to me, including me as a member of the family. Early the next morning Ania drove me to the airport in Cracow and I went home feeling that - if I had to be away from my own family - this had been a wonderful way to spend my Christmas. Thank you, Lord, and thank you Ania and Jurek!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

After Christmas in Cracow

After Christmas I took the train to Cracow to spend a couple of days on my own just seeing the sights and relaxing. The only time I had been there before had been with my short term mission team in 2003 when we spent an afternoon seeing as much as we could see in a brief time. This time I was able to spend some time getting my bearings, familiarizing myself at least with the old town and some of the historic sites, such as Wawel Castle. I just missed the Christmas market which they hold in the centre square, but that was ok as the 'Cloth market' was open anyway and there were plenty of shops to browse in. My hotel was just 5 minutes' walk from the train station and the historic town centre was also about 5 minutes' walk, so it was very handy to be able to see the town. On the first evening I just strolled around a bit but the next morning I did some serious tourist sight-seeing.

I had read a guide book in the hotel that told me about some interesting architecture by a guy named Teodor Talowski so I went in search of the houses they mentioned. One had an interesting inscription that I liked, which means 'Hurry slowly' and another had a character of a frog as the building had originally been by a part of the river where the frogs would sing at night. Another house had a donkey's head on it for some random reason - all very interesting but a bit off the beaten track.

I looked in the big St. Mary's Cathedral on the centre square and I also was able to go and see the exhibition of the elaborate nativity scenes created for the annual contest. "Every year since 1943, Krakow's Museum of History has celebrated Christmas with a competition for the most beautiful szopka (nativity scene or crib). All the cribs remain on display until early February. These are no ordinary cribs, just depicting Mary and Joseph in the stable with animals, shepherds and wise men coming to greet the baby Jesus. Krakow szopka are highly elaborate, depicting multi-storey buildings topped with church towers, although all with a focal point of the stable and the blessed child.The tradition is centuries old, and now has renewed meaning in the aftermath of the fall of Sovietism. The cribs are displayed in Krakow's main square (Rynek Glówny) on the first Thursday of December until 12pm when, after the sounding of the bugle call from the tower of St Mary's Church, they are transported to the museum in the Krzysztofory Palace for judging." For more information check out and to see some sample szopki.
Unfortunately I didn't buy a ticket that allowed me to take photos and afterwards I wish I had. After walking all morning I was able to go back to my hotel and rest for the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening I attended a Chopin concert in a historic palace of sorts right on the centre square, after which I treated my self to a nice supper at a restaurant called the Orient Ekspres, whose decor was that of a train. After having travelled more than once on a train I wondered why I chose this very familiar ambiance but anyway, the food was good and the conversation of the British couples sitting across from me was somewhat entertaining. It would have been nice to have someone to converse with myself but oh well.
The next morning I only had time to walk across the park and up the hill to see Wawel Castle. It was a beautiful day and although my feet were still sore from all the walking I did the day before, it was quite pleasant and the air was just slightly crisp but not too cold. I toured the big cathedral in the Castle, poked in a souvenir shop and perused the grounds without taking time to see the other exhibits.

I was tempted to go and see the dragon's lair but decided I just didn't have time as I had to catch a train to get back to Katowice to meet my friend there. It had been a very pleasant couple of days in Krakow and certainly is a city I would recommend visiting and wouldn't mind visiting again.