Saturday, February 27, 2010

LMT - South

On Thursday afternoon, together with Alida, we took one of the team cars and drove to the tiny village of Paicu in the south of Moldova. For a while I have been promising to pay a visit here and the opportunity has finally come. We have a Local Ministry Team of five women who are serving the Lord here and in the surrounding villages. The stories from this village are stories of broken lives and tragic situations as well as stories of God's grace at work bringing new life, reconciliation and hope for the future.

(l to r - Tamara, Alida, Kate, Denise, Rita, Stefanie)

As we worshipped that evening with the small church in their new building I was especially touched by the testimony of one young man who stood up and shared just a few brief words. I knew that a couple of years back, one of our team members had spent time with him regularly teaching him to read. As he stood before the church, he gave thanks to God for the courage and the voice to stand up and testify. Then he did an amazing thing - he lifted up his Bible and read a verse from John 14 - 'Nu va voi lasa orfani, Ma voi intoarce la voi.' (I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.) He read the verse. Just a couple of years ago he couldn't even read. Living in a home with alcholic parents, he had not gone to school as he had to stay home and help around the house while just one of his siblings attended school. Even now, I was told, alcoholism continues to play havoc in their home, where he is trying to live as a Christian. For all intents and purposes these children had been abandoned by their own parents, not given the love and nurture and encouragement that every child should have. But one day he had discovered that his heavenly Father had NOT abandoned him. Though he might have felt like an orphan, he was not an orphan.

His is just one of many lives that have been transformed in this community over the years since the beginning of the church there. Now there is a church, a community centre/church building, a Day Centre for children, a meal program for the elderly, food packets being delivered to the poor. Our team serving there alongside the fledgling church is reaching out to the community itself as well as several other communities in the area. Among many other things, each week a few of our team members go to the local kindergarten to conduct a brief program for the children there. It was my privilege to go with the team to the kindergarten to observe their involvement and even to help out a little by playing the guitar. It was a joy to see the darling children and to meet their teachers and be able to invite them to the upcoming women's event for the International women's Day on March 8. The event will actually be on the 7th. How do I know that? I know that because I have been invited to share my story on that day. I pray, and I ask you to pray for me, that the words I share will help to convince others that they are also not abandoned or forgotten or forsaken by the Lord, but rather loved, cherished, and precious in His sight, just like the children are.

Walking down the muddy street in Paicu, I gave thanks to the Lord for all the ways He is bringing hope and new life to this village.

Slipper Project

My dear friend Inga has initiated a project. I can't tell you all the details as I don't want to spoil the surprise for women who may be on the receiving end of this effort at the Baptist World Alliance Women's Leadership Conference this July. Anyway, the project is one of partnership with Moldovan and Canadian women and it began with a believing widow in the small village of Milestii Noi in Moldova. Sister (sora) Sofia lives all alone in a typical Moldovan home at the top of a hill near the edge of her village. Today, Viorica and I went to visit her. Viorica is helping me with this project because in the past she has worked with women's groups in Moldova and she knows more about wool and yarn and crafts and patterns and such, than I do. This week she bought the yarn so we could deliver it to Sora Sofia.

I had been to visit Sofia once before with a group of people (see my blog of November 21, 2009 - 'Blessed') but I wasn't driving and didn't pay attention to where it was. So today the pastor, Yuri, met us in the village to take us up to her house. Although the road was incredibly muddy I was amazed at how, following Moldovans, they were able to find a fairly firm path through and around the muddy road and me and my boots arrived at the house relatively unmuddy. We stepped into her home and immediately felt the lovely warmth of the fire in the woodstove in the corner, as well as the warmth of her smiling hospitality.

We sat down as I explained to her the project that we are asking her to help with. She went and got a bag of slippers that she has been making since last I visited and once more I have come home with a new pair of slippers, and so did Viorica. We discussed the details of styles and sizes and quality and quantity and cost of yarn and she was more than willing to help. With few visitors and not a lot of outdoor activity in the winter months, she can make a pair of slippers a day with no problem. We have another sister in the city, whose help we will also be enlisting.

This was my second village visit this week and as in the previous village, gas is being piped into the community for the first time and homes there will have access to gas heat. Sora Sofia was enthused about her new gas hook-up and she was pleased that we came at a mealtime. After we had discussed the project and given her the yarn, she quickly sat us around her table for a delicious meal of homemade pelmeni (similar to ravioli) and rich, thick smintina (sour cream). All the time she was thrilled to have someone to talk with and chatted away happily as she rarely gets visitors. Her two sons live in Europe and her daughters in Russia and her best company seems to be the assembly of dogs and pups in her yard, who are obviously all related. I was sure to get her phone number before I left so that we can keep up on progress - and develop our new friendship - and next time I visit I won't need Pastor Yuri to play the middleman.

Mind you, today I was glad he was there, along with brother Elie because on the way to the village in Corinne's car we drove over a pretty muddy road that was much too close to the underbelly of the car. A part of the front fender had come unattached en route (whoops! sorry, Corinne!!) and would need to be repaired before I could drive back over that road. Yuri and Elie left the house before we did. Sofia walked with Viorica and me, as we chatted and sauntered at a leisurely pace down the muddy incline back to where the cars were parked. By the time we got there the men had repaired the damage and assured me that there was nothing more I would need to do to fix it once I got back to town. One of my favourite things about Christian brothers in Moldova is that they are always ready to serve and they all know how to do "stuff" that I don't know how to do!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Proud sister(me)/missionary sister (mine)

I'm not the only missionary in my family. My sister Beverly (you'll remember her from my January blog of my trip to England as well as the photos of the beautiful quilt she made for me) is getting ready this week to take a short-term mission team from her church in Fredericton, New Brunswick (Canada) to the country of Belize. This is Bev's third time taking a team to Belize, including a group of puppeteers that she directs. It's exciting to see how God is using her gifts to help organize and plan and motivate not just the team, but the whole church to be involved in this mission outreach. They are a wonderful model of how God intends churches to unite in mission with a vision of sharing Christ's love in the world. If you want to follow their journey, check out their blog at If you or your church are thinking of being involved in a short-term mission, this blog is worth checking out if you want to get some ideas how it should be done!
Cu Domnul, Bev. (That means, the Lord be with you.) And with the Belize teams, both home and away!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Extra Hats

My life has been non-stop recently as I try to fill more shoes than just my own; or wear extra hats, if you will. It's been challenging and exhilirating and frustrating and humbling but definitely not boring. Good thing, because I simply don't do boring. So, I haven't been bored. But I have been learning more about what it means to depend on the Lord and to draw from the strength that only He can give. And I have been growing in my appreciation of the awesome team I work with, especially some of the people who work side by side with me in leadership and who are such an incredible encouragement. One of the exciting things on our team at this point in time is that we are rapidly developing national leadership and watching our Moldovan brothers and sisters assume major responsibilities is a wonderful answer to prayer.
So although I am acting Team Leader right now (hat #1), I am not alone in that, with Eugen right by my side helping in every challenge that arises and bringing a wisdom and maturity beyond his years. And although I lead the Personnel Department (hat #2), each member of my team shoulder their responsibilities competently and willingly accept whatever I delegate to them. Next week we begin to run a marriage preparation course for the suddenly many couples on our team who could benefit from some input, especially related to cross-cultural romances. My personnel department stepped right up to the plate to help with this program, planning to prepare a meal for each of 5 evenings to facilitate the 'date nights' for these couples.
And although I have been assigned oversight of the Training Department (hat #3) due to the recent unexpected departure of their leader, again there is a team who are familiar with their responsibilities and open to share and to work together in the way that will best accomplish the goals of this department. They're prepared to handle the training course that will begin next month and are already presenting and recruiting for it through this month. All I have to do is help to coordinate things and approve what needs to be approved.
For the past two weeks since I returned from Germany my days have been filled to the brim. But I am so grateful for what God is doing. The other day while helping our head of Relief to put together a project report about the Day Centres that we help the churches to run for poor children, I discovered that through this project 27 Moldovans are being employed full-time! In a country where so much of the employable population has left to work in other countries, this is a huge blessing for these families. And as I hear stories and reports from our ministry teams I realize that all the leadership and coordination of various departments is simply the background fabric of what God is accomplishing here in Moldova through His people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to serving Him by serving the poor. I am humbled to be part of such a team . The picture on the left was taken during Christmas outreach programs by our local ministry team in the north of Moldova. You can see that even though there is a woodstove in the back of the church, everyone still has their coats on. This has been and still is a very cold winter and when you are living and working in the villages you are just ALWAYS cold!

My life in the city of Chisinau is easier than those who live in the villages. My apartment is not especially warm but it is warm enough and can be quite cozy at times, especially when friends come to visit. The other evening I had some friends over for supper. Melanie has just arrived from the US for three months to serve with our team here, hoping to find some ongoing direction for God's call in her life as she serves in the villages of the north with our team there. Cristina is a Moldovan woman who used to be on our team and will soon be heading off to Costa Rica to marry a man there and settle in a new country. She is full of excitement and nervous anticipation of the new life that lays before her. Alida is from Holland and serves on our team in communication and in relief ministries. Alida has been in Moldova for about 2 years now and always has good stories to tell and an enthusiam that is contagious in her youthful forthrightness. She is helping out in our department right now while Claudia is on furlough and it's great to have her nearby to share moments of laughter and to ask for help with this or that from time to time. We had a great evening together and I just thought it was an interesting assortment of people - one coming, one going and one staying - all with hearts open to know and serve the Lord. I really really am ever so blessed.