As believers our testimony is our story for all the world to see. In daily life people watch to see how this story plays out. No matter if you are a foreigner in a strange country or you are a national at home where you grew up, we have to realize as believers people watch us. So how does your daily life reflect your story, your testimony? Many days I ask myself this, did I show the love of the Lord to others throughout the day, did they feel this love without having to ask me, am I the example they want to be more like and so on…
Over the past year the youth at Rock of Ages church have planned and prepared a youth trip to go snow skiing, this is something most of them had never done before. Not only were they making plans, God was too, He had been laying a foundation and setting people up to be in their paths so that they would need to choose how this chapter of their story would be written. The New Year came and went and they set off on a journey to enjoy a time of snow skiing, fellowship and evangelism.
Several days into the trip they were faced with their first chance to chose how they would write their story. There was a man named Jion who was out for his daily walk one day, and he saw something that caught his eye. He saw a simple symbol of a fish, the symbol recognized around the world for Christianity. The symbol was an emblem on the back of Petru’s car, that happened to be parked in a parking lot that Jion had walked by that day.
Here’s a little background on the fish symbol for those whom may not know. The Greek word for fish is “ichthys.” As early as the first century, Christians created an acronym using the Greek word: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, translated to Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. The fish also has plenty of other theological overtones as well, for Christ fed the 5,000 with 2 fishes and 5 loaves (a meal recapitulated in Christian love-feasts) and called his disciples “fishers of men.” Water baptism, practiced by immersion in the early church, created a parallel between fish and converts. Even some 2000 years later we still see this fish with bumper stickers, car emblems, logos, t-shirts, etc. as a symbol of Christianity giving hope to the world. Credit for fish symbol commentary to christianitytoday.com
Back to the story, Jion passing by this parking lot saw the fish on Petru’s car and decided to wait to see if the people returned that drove that car. He was in need of some encouragement and this symbol open the door for him to receive the encouragement. Petru and youth returned at the end of the day and they were greeted by this man. He had waited for them all day just because he saw this fish symbol, much like I said in the beginning people are watching to see how our story plays out, Jion was no different. Petru and the youth laid aside their plans for the rest of the day and simply ministered to Jion. As they talked with him, they learned he had been in Greece for several years working. He was originally from Georgia and he is a believer just looking for some support from other believers in an area, where there are few. This why he was encouraged enough by seeing the fish symbol to wait all day for these Christians. He has hopes to build a business in the local area and prays to the Lord for direction, but ultimately seeks other believers to fellowship and worship with.
Petru and the youth prayed specifically for his needs and requests and then Jion did the same for them. As they parted ways they said they would continue to pray for each other and if they didn’t see each other again they would in heaven.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.
Thessalonians 5:11 (HCSB)
No matter where you are, in Greece, Moldova, the USA or somewhere else in this world people are watching and our daily walk is our story. We should be ready to share with anyone who has questions, maybe it’s as simple as a fish on your car. How will you respond, will you clear you schedule for the balance of the day? I ask you to pray for the church in Panasesti as they carry over the blessings from the Lord in 2017 to 2018, let their story shine bright for the entire village. Also, pray for Petru’s leadership and for the youth of the church as they are the future. Be blessed and thanks for your time. God is good, all the time God is good.
Today was Christmas and truth be know my heart has been heavy along with the days leading up to today. It is truly hard to be away from family and friends at Christmas just as it is for any other holiday and birthday. I think no matter how long you are gone away there is no place like home. It also does not matter if you are serving the Lord, or your country or what ever the reason may be it is just not the same.
Today we celebrated the birth of Christ and share presents of love with each other but again my heart was heavy, you see there were many today who did not celebrate for they had no one to celebrate to with. We see this a lot in Moldova especially with the elderly generation. Shortly after Moldova gained its independence some 25 years ago life changed for many Moldovans. Both husbands and wives alike were left searching for work to support the needs of their families day to day. The jobs ended as independence was gained, so many found their self with no hope. In the begining the husbands fled to work aboard to make the ends meet for their families. This type of life continued for several years and eventually many wives found they to had to make the choice family or work, they also began to flee looking for work aboard due to their husbands had died, found some else or just plain stopped keeping in touch. Basically a large percentage of that generation’s children were raised by their grandparents mostly by their grandmothers. Now many years have passed, the children have grew up, the parents never returned and this left with no one with the ones who shown the most love. These grandmothers are the reason why my heart is heavy today. There are not just a few, there are 1000’s left to finish this life alone all across the villages of Moldova. Most of them have no family or do not know where their family are. I cannot help but hurt for them, some years ago they stepped up and took on the responsibility of raising another generation of children and now they are left out in the cold.
A few years back I lost one of my grandmothers and today I still miss her, some many life lessons were instilled in me over the years by her. Now as we raise Michael and Mary I see many of these lessons shine through me into Michael and Mary, I even find myself stopping to says thanks Nanny for being who you were in my life. My other grandmother is still living and my prayer today is that she was not forgotten for you see all her life she poured into others rarely thinking about herself and now she lives in an elderly home hoping for that same care in return. I miss her today and Granny I hope you had a Merry Christmas. Grandmothers are important and we should never forget that nor should we ever write them off as done. Helen and Ruth, thank you for your loving impact on my life over the years.
As a family we all see there is a need to reach out to the elderly, especially the ones that unreached and never have had heard the Gospel. As we travel to various villages we try to visit with the elderly and not just families. During these visits you will be so encouraged by the smiles you receive just for stopping by to tell them their flowers are beautiful or what ever the reason may be to why you stoped. They have so much to say and tell but have no one to tell it to or share it with. This grabs at the deepest part of my heart.
So we have decided that not just in the villages also in the city we want to invest in these elderly. I want to indroduce you to Maria, she lives on the fifth floor of our apartment building. She is in her late 60’s but time has worn on her greatly. She always speaks first as you pass the street and has a smile about her that will brighten your bad day. She cleans the stairwell in the apartment build for about 15USD a month and her pension is no more than 75USD month. So in total she has an income of about 90USD a month, not much when you consider our heating bill for November was 140USD. Now granted it, her apartment is much smaller than our apartment but having to pay 60-70USD for heat is tough when you only have 90USD for the entire month. She lives the story from above, she raised her grandchildren and now she is left to live alone. About the middle of December we took her a food parcel and out of the kindness of her heart she needed to return something to us, so she asked me to take a plant. She just does not have a few plants she has many, basically two stairwell floors full and just as many inside her apartment too. She does sell these plants as she can but the need is not great considering everyone has plants already.
You see these plants are her life literality. The plants give her a sense of worth, she is able to care for them and in exchange she gets to see her handy work as the plants grow and flowers. Much like she would for her children or grandchildren. The plants also give her something to be proud of along with self-worth.
So as i wrap up this blog entry closing out this Christmas I realize the Maria inspired me to write this entry, she is our Christmas Cactus. Her blossoms of hope are smiles on the tough days. We plan to continue to build our relationship with her along with others that the Lord directs to us in 2018. Looking ahead to 2018 I challenge you to find that Maria, Helen, Ruth or Mary Francis in your life and be the difference. You do not have to be in a foreign country to be a missionary, you can share the Gospel with anyone around you.
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation”. Mark 16:15
As believers we are all called to serve the Lord, investing in someone’s life and sharing the Gospel with them is serving the Lord. Thanks for your time and prayers, be blessed.
Wow, summer has ended, and the air is turning cold from autumn to winter, I cannot believe that another year has passed here in Moldova. We are so excited and encouraged by the work the Lord is doing in people’s lives here in Moldova. Stepping back and looking at the second half of the year we realize how busy we have been but at the same time we see all that we are thankful for. This period has been a time of growing for our family in many ways. As a family we have settled in our new apartment and have made many new friends which leads to new conservations about Jesus and the Gospel. We have seen several doors opened to share the Gospel unlike in our old apartment building. Christy and I have truly been reminded of why we were called to Moldova to serve the Lord. Michael is growing into a great young man where everyday we can see his heart growing for missions. The Lord has great things planned for Michael in the years to come as a believer. Mary is also growing, she is actually becoming very tall but at the same time has many questions each day about following Jesus, so I stop here and ask you to pray for her and her heart to be guided to Jesus.
This is a time of Thanksgiving in Moldova, we wanted share some stories and blessings that we are thankful for this year. We hope you are blessed and encouraged by these stories.
While at boys camp I befriended a young boy of 9 years named Danu from the village of Gălești, he holds a special place in my heart. This was his first time at a summer camp and he did not know exactly what to except. The first couple of days he remained very quiet. He lives at home with his mother, he is the youngest of his brothers and sisters, his dad died when he was three years old. He has an older brother and older sister who are married with children. His brother and sister’s husband both work aboard and they are the only means of financial support for the family. With each passing day at the camp he began to open up more and more. On the first day of the camp the boys were given a Bible and I was so encouraged that evening in his quiet time Ion was reading the Bible in his bed. He told me he had attended the Day Center for nearly three years, he enjoyed it there because he felt loved and learned about God. He also told me he was going to miss camp and the people at camp. On the last day, we said our good byes and I told him that I would come and visit him at the Day Center, his response broke my heart, he said “Every day I will wait for you”. Please pray for Danu that he finds the Lord and some stability in his life that he so desperately needs.
In the village of Schinoasa we started a bee hive development project. The project has really taken off, we have received funds for 12 new bee hives and currently we have 6 families in the early stages of the program in which they will receive a bee hive upon completion. This is a story from one of the families. Daniela is 15 years old, she lives in the village and attends the local Baptist Church. She has a heart for missions and is active in youth ministry at the church. She lives in a socially vulnerable home with her family. Neither of her parents are believers nor do they have a job. So, food seems to always be a problem for the family living in such poverty-stricken conditions. Daniela has three brothers, two older than her and one younger. She came to me for help, asking to do odd and in jobs for money. I prayed and feel that Daniela and her family would be a great family for the bee hive project. Beekeeping is something new to her, but she has already shown a great passion to learn and practice beekeeping, she looks forward to working on her own and earning money for what is strictly necessary to contribute to her family’s welfare. Daniela has great dreams and see believes in change, I feel the Lord shining through her with this bee hive project and know He will use her in mighty ways.
Rock of Ages church in Panasesti is on fire for the Lord, you can walk into the building or just on to the property and you can feel the presence of the Lord. The church is growing, we are seeing new faces each week. Over the summer there were three team of foreigners who came and did some construction work and children’s programs. Also the Lord is to provide funds to complete the building process. The church was able to register with the state and now can connect to the gas for heat this winter….PTL! This is an answered pray for we wanted to remain in the church all winter for services. Also you are seeing the willingness of members to take on responsibility and go into the village visiting with the lost. Finally the process of finishing the outside of the building is under way, just not a block formed building anymore. We have to remember the church is not a building but a structure of Jesus followers who share the Gospel and are an example of His Love.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Just in recent days I had the opportunity to visit and meet a little girl with a story that will break your heart but at the same time she is filled with the Lord’s love that shines through her smile from the people who surround her during this time of loss. Three weeks ago her mother decided it was best to end her life, making the choice that many other mothers make in Moldova. Moldovan mothers face the every day reality and do not see any chance for hope, this was the case with Liuba’s mother. On this day I visited with her she seemed happy and even encouraged by my visit. She wanted to play games but her cousins did not react the same way, they were very shy and distant. Just seeing her smile and wanting to hug you told me the Lord was in control. Will she have hard days ahead? Yes but the Lord will see her through. Please do pray that repairs are done at the house so she can stay with family or the state will take her to an orphanage.
Early in November Christy, Michael and Mary were able to take part and help in an American VBS type program in the village of Lozova where a couple from OM lives and have planted a church. On the day they attended the VBS the children were able to fly around the world and visit many different countries represented by OM Moldova. This was very exciting to the children of the village because the idea of travel was new and they have never experienced. They were divided up into team and each different team visited each country where they were told facts about the country and got to try some traditional food from the country. Michael especially enjoyed this trip because it brought back many years of memories from VBS in the states. He said the VBS program made him happy because the children’s eyes and hearts were opened up to hearing the Gospel in a new presentation. His pray is that the children come to know the Lord and together with their families the church in Lozova will grow.
On the weekend of November 10th-12th OM hosted a conference for 57 vulnerable girls, in which Christy attended. These girls come from homes where families are broken and hope seems gone. The weekend was filled with fellowship, fun and learning for the girls. On Saturday, the girls attended three sessions which were taught from Proverbs 31; on how to be a beautiful woman, a beautiful wife, and a beautiful mother. The last session on being a beautiful mother was one that impact the girls the most. Most of these girls do have mothers to care for them. As the girls entered small group time one girl began to share her story, and we were all sadden beyond words…she was not supposed to attend the conference. On Thursday afternoon her mother decided to sell her to a man passing though their village. God had other plans for this young girls life, He sent a social worker to intervene. This social worker placed this girl in the home of a Godly lady who was bringing some other girls to this conference. As, the girl told her story with tears running down her face she asked how am I supposed to love a mother who loves money more than her own daughter. This is the kind of life most of these girls face each day. They seldom hear that they are beautiful and loved beyond measure. This is why it is so important for these conferences to be held, these girls need to know that beauty isn’t skin deep and that God loves them more than they could ever imagine.
Today being Thanksgiving we look back and see we have so much to be thankful for as missionaries serving here in Moldova. The Lord has given us many blessings to be thankful for. We were able to enjoy time with our family in the states at the beginning of the year along with securing partnerships and support needed as we headed back to Moldova in April. He also opened doors allowing us to find and rent a new apartment that was more suited for our family. He has blessed us with church in Moldova that we can call home and have developed deep relationships within the church. He also has blessed all of us with good health which is truly amazing. Lastly, over the summer Christy and I began to pray for a need for our family. We had no idea what would happen but we gave the need up in prayer to God. God began to work in our hearts, we defined the need, placed a time frame for it to be meet, reached out to contacts as God directed. Praise The Lord , in just 5 short weeks He provided the funds for a new car for our family, allowing us to remain safe as we travel across Moldova sharing the Gospel and working with various ministries. God is good, all the time God is good!
So as the title of the blog entry says, What are YOU thankful for? We are thankful for the Lord, His Grace, His Love and the amazing life changing stories of people we minister to here in Moldova. God is good, all the time God is good. Be blessed and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
God has a reason for allowing things to happen. Trusting in His plan when your personality is a detailer is sometimes a difficult task, and it seems satan knows exactly when to strike so that the sword stabs harder every time. This past weekend OM held a conference for girls with a high risk to be trafficked, after helping with a camp for these girls this past summer I was very excited to be a part of this conference. However, I don’t take it lightly when lives hang in the balance and God has given a clear direction to follow. It seemed like this past weekend was approaching fast and plans weren’t being made as to how this conference would take place. The culture I live in now has an approach very different from the one I’m accustom too, I’m not saying that one is right or wrong, they are just different, and after living in this culture for almost 3 years now I have learned to be flexible as long as there is somewhat of an idea of what will be done, we can completely change it in the middle but at least we had something to go into the program with, leaving me with a bit of peace. As, the conference drew closer and the weeks were now days satan knew more than ever that it was a good time to stick the sword in and twist. I had spoken to several leaders who kept telling me just show up there will be something for you to do, each time that was satan twisting the sharp sword, to the point where Thursday came and I still had no clear direction on what was needed from me for this conference. Late Thursday night I told Kelly, I think I’ll just tell the leaders I can’t make it, Kelly suggested I go for the girls. I spoke with a friend,who was also helping at the conference, on Friday morning who said I’m excited that we get to serve together again this weekend. That was the glimer of hope for me to push through and follow through with my commitment. As Saturday morning approached satan was still twisting the sword as much as possible. I still had not been given any responsibility for the conference program, and when I woke up that morning I turned on the shower and no water came out. Was it worth it, had God really wanted me to attend this conference that was the question in my head as I left for the Mission Center where the conference was held.
God had a plan, He always does. After I arrived at the Mission Center He quickly revealed that plan to me. There were a special group of girls coming to this conference that had never been before, and I had no clue they were coming. Girls that God placed in my life about 2 1/2 years ago, that He has been growing our friendships, to a level of trust built between us. It is just another chapter in the story He is writing in my life. As I exited the conference room 4 timid faces entered the front door of the Mission Center, God’s timing and plan was perfect, those timid faces turned into smiles and I was greeted with the biggest hug! At that moment I knew that if for no other reason God had placed me at this conference so that 4 shy girls could feel free to enjoy themselves with out worrying about not having someone they trusted being near. The girls found their beds and quickly joined the group for some fun.
As most of my time was spent helping in the kitchen to prepare food, I didn’t have a lot of interaction with the girls unless they were on break or eating. However, they attended several large group teaching sessions, small group times, used art to journal their feelings, went out and serve the community, ate, and enjoy a spa time on Saturday night.
Their large group sessions were taught from Proverbs 31 on what it looks like to be a beautiful woman, a beautiful wife and a beautiful mother. We wanted them to see that beauty comes from the inside and is not skin deep. That they don’t need tons of make up, or lots of glamor to be beautiful in God’s eyes. We wanted them to understand that being a beautiful wife meand asking and waiting on God to give them the mate he has created for them. Not settling on or giving into the pressure of the cute boy that comes by, the one that has money, or the one that says “he loves them” but doesn’t really show it. We wanted them to know that God creates help mates that will treat them with respect and honor and love them for them. We wanted them to see that just because their mother wasn’t or isn’t there for them that they have the choice to break the cycle.
As large groups would end and small groups would begin, the leader who was teaching would come down to the kitchen to debrief, pray, and breath. These topics are really heavy ones here in Moldova, the 57 girls attending this conference come from families that are broken. Homes that are filled with drinking, abuse, and pain. Hope doesn’t exist in most of their villages and most people are just looking for a way out. We prayed that walls would fall and that the girls would open their hearts to see that God loves them and cares for them deeply. That they would take this information and let it penetrate their souls, and fill them with hope.
After the session on being a beautiful mother, it seemed that one girl was very restless as she enter her small group. As they begin to talk and use their art journals tears filled this young girls eyes. She didn’t want to have any discussion with the leader of her group during this time, but the leader noticed the drawing in her journal…. it was a picture of a sun. In the inner circle she had written what is a beautiful mother with several question marks. On each ray she had written good and bad qualities of a mother. Some included spend time with my children, make sure my children know they are loved, do not care for men/boys more than my children, do not love money over my children… these were just a few. As the group ended the leader ask her if they could talk. They went into a small room and as they begin the conversation the girl’s eyes filled with tears. She begin to tell her story, she wasn’t supposed to attend this conference this weekend. On Thursday afternoon her mom was faced with a discision that no mom should ever be faced with, sell her daughter for money or to stand up and say no. Unfortunately, her mom chose to sell her to some strange man that was passing through the village. God had a greater plan He intervened for this young lady and sent a social worker to this girls home that afternoon. The social worker placed her in the home of a very Godly lady in the next village who had already planned to bring girls to this conference, so instead of being taken away with some strange man she had the opportunity to be loved and cared for. Please pray that this girl isn’t sent back into her home, and that the social worker will get it arranged for perment housing to be provided for this young girl.
This weekend was one filed with many emotions. I pray for these 57 girls that they will be reminded of the things they learned when life gets tough and it seems hopeless. I pray that they will begin to understand how much God loves them and how much He cares for them. I also pray that when God gives me a clear command, I do not second guess Him and that I would not let satan step in my path. When God presents a plan I should trust Him even when the path is unclear.
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9
Please be in prayer for these 57 girls as they have returned to their homes. Pray that they will listen and follow God’s plans for their lives.
On Thursday November 2nd, Mom, Mary, and I went to the village of Lozova to help with a Vacation Bible School program. The om Moldova team has a family that lives and serves in Lozova, their names are Spiridon and Stefanie Cozaru. Stefanie planned a space themed program for the kids of Lozova much like an American VBS . The day we went she planned for the kids to experience traveling around the world. There were six countries represented there, as well as an airport that was used to travel to these countries. Mary worked in the airport, and Mom and I set up the American country station.
The kids began their journey by making passports for themselves. Then the kids went to the airport and had their passports stamped for country they would go too. The kids would run from the airport to their destination, because they were so excited. At the destination for 15 minutes they were listening to what the Leader was saying about each country. After that they had a snack from that country. At our station we had vegetables, Ranch Dressing, Pringles, and Coke…that’s about as American as you can get. After their snack, we took their individual picture and printed each for them to take home. They were happy to have a photo of themselves.
As I reflect on this day here are a few of my thought. As a child growing up in America my family and I were active in church. I attended many VBS programs. VBS became a regular part of summer time activities at the church. My friends and I were always excited about a new and exciting VBS theme each summer, but as I look back now it seems as if it was a great tradition that we knew would happen year after year. The kids here in Moldova were excited because a group of people came to the village to do a program with them that was completely different from any program they have experienced before. It made me happy to see the joy on the kids’ faces and the excitement they showed us. I am praying this will help the church in Lozova to grow and these people will begin to trust God as their savior.
The Walnut leaves are turning a beautiful shade of yellow and beginning to fall gently to the ground. Michael and Mary were gathering a harvest of walnuts to share with their visiting friends. Off on the horizon are the relics of Orhei Vechi Monastery, a view from times gone by.
The monastery and church are eerily silent. No voices to be heard except for a few visitors and their walnut harvest rattling in their pockets. Where is everyone? Who is here to worship God? Has everyone left? Is God gone?
Where is God and what is He doing these days? With all the pain and suffering in the world, has he retired, is He on holiday? Our team from Harvest Baptist Church in the States traveled to Moldova with that question in mind. What is God doing in Moldova?
That question began to be answered from the moment we arrived. We were greeted by four smiling faces along with big hugs. The Laysons, the same family that joined our church family some ten years ago. The ones who faithfully led our children’s ministry for years. Michael, the little boy who ate play dough his first day in our church’s nursery. Mary, the little girl who would come and visit my office just to see about our supply of soft pepper mints. (The only reason for those mints in my office was to see Mary’s sweet smile) We were grateful and thankful to be meet by these smiling faces.
Our next nine days were glorious and memorable in Moldova. Kelly had us off and running the first day to the village of Schinoasa. Where is Schinoasa? This village was just placed on the official maps just a few years ago. Is God here? We had the privilege of meeting the first person to embrace Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior in the village. She along with pastor Sergio led our team down dirt roads and up dirt paths to give proof that God is there! His hands and feet brought much needed food and timely prayer. As a team we were truly encouraged to see how the Lord was working even in this most poverty stricken village at the end of a dirt road.
Sunday brought us again to our wonderful friends Pastor Petru Catravest, his wife Larissa along with the precious people at Rock of Ages Church in Panasesti. Our team had the privilege of leading in worship, testifying and preaching the Word of God. The afternoon was spent again being God’s hands and feet delivering much needed food and prayer too two families in Panasesti. Once again we could see God is there in Panasesti too.
A few days later we traveled to the village of Lozova, once there we saw the new church being built and visited the home of our dear friends Pastor Spiridon and his sweet wife Stephanie Cozaru and had a time of spiritual encouragement and prayer. They took us to several families that needed help from our Lord and once again we saw, God is there.
Now a few weeks have passed since our return to the States and I have spent much time reflecting on our trip to Moldova. Looking back now our time in Moldova was balanced with times of ministry and times of encouragement and fellowship with OUR family, the Laysons. We were able to “shop” in Mary’s store (we were given and discount card to lower the prices) and hang out with Michael while listening to his Moldovan experiences from the past few years and we just had fun. Christy, the gracious host that she always is, made our meal times special and memorable all the same too. Kelly showed us the Operation Mobilization Moldova offices where he works each day. With such a tiny workspace it’s amazing how God uses him to reach around the world daily.
As I close, I leave you with this. During our time in Moldova the season was changing, temperatures were cooling and leaves were falling. What a metaphor for what’s happening with the Layson family. We enjoyed the harvest season when Kelly, Christy, Michael and Mary served along side us in our church but to see them blossom in the spring of their new season is so exciting and rewarding. Seeing them do exactly what they were created to do filled my heart again with hope and excitement.
So, back to the original question, is God there in Moldova? Yes my friend, our Lord is there…
Pastor Richard Culpepper
Harvest Baptist Church
Many times, while on the mission field I stop and ponder the question are my children really okay with living in Moldova. Do they understand how we were called to serve as a family? Do they get it? Well I have to brag just a little bit on Michael and Mary. Yesterday my questions were reconfirmed and it is truly a blessing that they can see the love of God in their parents and want to share this same love to others.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
During school yesterday Christy received several messages about a need within a group
of mothers she is a part of here in Moldova. Throughout the day there was more discussion about this need between the mothers. Michael asked Christy to tell him more about what was going on or what was all the discussion about. I feel as thou he understood mostly what was said and about the specific need. So, after she explained exactly what was going on and the seriousness of the need he decided to talk with his sister while they ate their lunch. Here comes the part that gets your heart, you see each week Michael & Mary are given an allowance, basically 10 % should be given to church, 20% savings and the balance is personal money. Michael talked with Mary about this need and explained it to her. He told her that if she was good with the idea he thought they had enough money between them to use some savings and personal money to buy this breathing machine needed for this young boy who was sick. He even told her that the mothers could all use the same machine for all the children when they were sick, so they would be helping not just one child but several children. Mary agreed and they decided to talk with Christy after lunch before school started back for the afternoon.
So as school started again they both told Christy they needed to tell her something. They shared their hearts and how they wanted to help these children. They told Christy they felt they had enough money to buy this breathing machine. They then asked could they finish school and go to the pharmacy to buy the breathing machine.
They finished school, walked to the bus station and caught a bus to the pharmacy that sold these machines. Once at the pharmacy there were several machines to choose from, both high and low priced. Together they decided to go the middle road and take the machine priced between the low and high-priced machines. In doing they were about $ 10 short on the price but Christy made up the difference. So from one child’s heart to another this problem was solved.
That was yesterday and today I delivered the breathing machine to the family that is in need of it now. Turns out the mother will be the one who keeps the machine and offers it to others in the group as needed. They thanked us and prayed blessings on our family. As I drove away I began to think about Proverbs 22:6. We should train up our child in the way they should go, meaning we should teach them that knowing and obeying God is the basis for pleasing Him and living victorious in His Grace. At the same time, we should live by example allowing the child to understand sin and their need for a Savior. Loving parents should model a loving God who not only forgives but provides the perfect sacrifice for sin in Jesus Christ. In closing they watch and they listen to you every day, so live Christ like and be the example that they want to be like ultimately leading them to the Lord, the Savior of all men.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3
Children are a reward from God, let’s now forget that. Love them and be the example of Christ for them. Be blessed.
Last week I had the chance to visit a mental hospital for boys to deliver a therapy bed here in Moldova. The visit was unexpected and spur of the moment but exactly what I needed, the timing could not have been more prefect. Before I get started a verse comes mind.
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
This day trip reminded me of how our time here on this earth is short, we do not know the day when the Lord will call us home but we should live each day like it is our last day. Sharing the Gospel and just plain out loving on people. You see, as we arrived at the hospital the boys were outside enjoying the sunshine for winter will arrive soon. As we waited to be checked in by the guard the boys came near the gate. The guard allowed us to pass and gave us directions to where we should deliver the therapy table. The boys did not know us but they welcomed us, and gave us hand directions to where we should go once inside. They just wanted to help and express their love from deep within, a true love without limits and no favoritism.
We followed the boys and guard’s directions reaching the building to where we were to take the table. As we exited the car I looked up and just around the corner of the building were several of the boys making sure we had arrived at the correct location. I did not take any pictures of the boys for the trip was only a short visit but many of their faces filled with emotions are etched in my mind as I write these words. They were just so happy that we came even if we were not visiting them directly. I just wanted to hug each of them and tell them I loved them along with Jesus.
We delivered the table and drove back to the front gate to leave and there they were again to tell us good bye as we drove away. While making the journey back to Chisinau my mind and heart could not stop thinking about what I saw. I even shared some words and comments to my friend that was traveling with me. Quickly I began to understand why I was chosen to go to this hospital on this day not by OM but by God.
So, you ask what am I getting at. Well I want to be more like these boys. Even through their emotional and physical issues they have a sweet spirit from the heart and it shines out to all to see. Let’s go back to the verse, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35. Jesus was not just talking about our nice thoughts toward others which no one else can see. He was talking about a love that can be seen. It stems from the heart, but it is seen in outward actions to others. It is the sort of love that stands out conspicuously in this self-centered world we live in today. A love that is not trying to gain attention but is clearly visible by all. Believers as well as non-believers should see this love in us as believers and say “They must be followers of Jesus!”
Our time is short here on this earth and I want to be known to have this love/attitude like these boys. I want people to see the Lord through no matter what crosses my path each day good or bad. I want to be the smiling face at the gate telling others about the Lord and His love.
On this day woke up not feeling the best and truth be known the last few weeks have been difficult and I have lacked this love/ attitude to others and even team members but never knew this unexpected visit would break my heart and allow me to see the need for this love/attitude.
These boys in a mental hospital in Moldova will never know what I saw in them today but my heart goes out to them. I do ask you to keep them in your prayers for the conditions not the best at the hospital but better than being on the street like some others I have send. Thanks for your time and prayers. Be blessed and let your conspicuous love shine allowing others to know that you are a follower of Jesus.
As I sit down to write this blog my mind is still in overload and my heart is still broken. Finding the words to describe a week with 111 girls ranging in age from 9 -19, first let me say how humbled I am that God would choose to use me as a leader at this camp. This was the first time that I have had the opportunity to attend girls camp. It was one of the hardest weeks I have ever experienced. While God was working, the enemy was ready to attack around each corner.
As the girls begin to arrive we had a task of breaking down walls that have been built up from the harsh reality of the life they live each and every day. Some girls are so excited they couldn’t wait to tell you all about life while most are so closed up and didn’t really want you to know where they come from or how they survive life. But, God already knew the walls that stood and He wove together a team of ladies to blanket these girls with prayer and love. As the week progressed, relationships were formed, trust was built, the walls begin to fall and hearts begin to open.
So many stories unfolded that were just unbelievable, and even make you want to question why God would choose to have these young girls go though such horrific events. I know God has a plan for each one of these young girls and He has the power to use them all in mighty ways. My heart aches for them, they are all still little girls but they have had to grow up so fast. I want to share three stories with you from girls that I became very close to this week, not to make you sad but to shine light on the reality these girls live with every day. (For the girls protection I will change each girls name.)
The first girl’s name is Oxana, she is 10 years old. Her parents have both gone to Russia to work with no plans to return to Moldova. She lives at home with her 18 year old brother and her 2 year old brother. As, Oxana begin to tell us her story her eyes filled with tears. Life is good now she states but she doesn’t know how she will survive much longer. In two weeks her 18 year old brother will leave Moldova too, he will to go abroad for work. She has no other relatives that live in or near her village. She is 10 and now faces a life where she is the caretaker of herself, her 2 year old brother, and their home.
The second girl’s name is Natalia, she is 16 years old. She lives at home with her mother and younger brother. Her father has left the home and no one knows where he is, before he left he was drinking a lot and abusive to Natalia’s mother. Natalia’s mother doesn’t have a job and has no source of income. Natalia’s heart is very hard, and she never opened up to us, when asked about her prayer needs she ask us to pray for her little brother. He has a mild health issue that requires him to visit a doctor once a year, with no income he hasn’t made that trip this year. Natalia would never tell us anything personal about herself. During one of our sessions about “My Mind” and manipulation the girls were given green(yes it’s ok), yellow(it depends on the situation), and red(it’s never ok) circles to answer questions with. The girls were asked questions about relationships they had with either family members, friends, or boys. They would then answer by holding up which color they felt was a correct answer. When asked the question “is it ok for someone to touch you in places that makes you feel uncomfortable?” Natalia answered with her yellow circle, this broke my heart. How is it ever ok for someone to touch you if you feel uncomfortable with it. I asked the leader of our camp for Natalia story. In her village it is know that her mom will sell her to any man who ask, for the small fee of 200 Lei (10 US dollars). Does it make her answer right, no of course not, but you can begin to understand why she answered the question the way she did. She knows it’s not right but, in her mind she is helping her family and her mom tells her it’s ok. Natalia’s solution for her problem is that she will find an older man who “loves” her and they will get “married” and he will take care of her. She is currently dating an 27 year old, who tells her they will get “married” and he will give her a job. More than likely this will turn into a case of human trafficking, this is the hope she sees for her future.
The last girl is Liuba, who is 16 years old. Liuba is a very beautiful young lady, who also had a very closed heart. However, during several sessions you could see a look on her face that said I need to talk to someone. There were several times she would almost break and her friends would come around and she’d close up tight again. Each day the girls meet in small groups to talk about the large group sessions. On Thursday this particular group ask for three of our team leaders to come and help them write letters to their mothers. Liuba had no interest in writing a letter to her mother, so I begin to have a conversation with her. It was just her and I and no one else was paying any attention to what we were talking about. The first thing I ask her was why she didn’t want to write a letter to her mom. She told me that she didn’t know where her mom was. Some people have said she might be in Russia with another man, but she didn’t know for sure. I then ask her who lives at home with her. She responded that it was her, her dad, and her 2 brothers. We begin to talk about her dad. Whom she said drinks all the time and is drunk most of the time. Then she became teary eyed. I ask if she ever felt scared at home. She said yes. I asked if her daddy ever hurt her when he was drunk. Tears flowing she said yes he is mentally abusive and hits me quit frequently. I asked if she had anyone that she could talk to when she was scared at home. She responded no she had no one in her village she felt comfortable talking with. I gave her my telephone number and told her to call me if she ever needed me. She quickly dried her tears and said she would, the other girls were finishing up their letters and begin to notice us talking and Liuba was finished with the conversation. She would come to me during the day when her friends weren’t around and wrap her arms around me, just needing some love, but as soon as her friends came around she was finished. I know Liuba’s story goes much deeper, and I only scratched the surface of her problems. I pray that if she ever needs me she’ll feel comfortable enough to call me.
Camp was such a blessing for these girls, you could see the joy in their eyes. It gave all 111 girls time to be free, just to be little girls, to feel loved, and to learn about a heavenly father who loves them and can restore their broken lives. God worked in and trough these girls this week.
I ask that you pray for them every day. They have all gone back home to life and everything that goes with life here in Moldova. Pray that they will remember the things they learned and that they would have the strength to use some of the tools given to them when life gets tough.
We have been back in Moldova for over a month, I have been back in the office for several weeks and I have been so encouraged to see the Lord is carrying out His works in some amazing ways here in Moldova. The first week back I was able to complete what I would a call a milk run, visiting many ministries throughout the country of Moldova to see how things are going. These types of check ups result in long days however, it does your heart good to see how people are responding to the Gospel and to the practical activities carried out through the ministry of OM. Being able to jump back into ministry and see these activities first-hand have brought me much joy and happiness. It has most importantly lit a new fire in my heart for our next two years in Moldova.
First Stop: Rehab Center
As we began the journey we made our first stop at a Christian Rehab Center for people suffering with the addiction of alcohol and drugs. The center is located on the Eastern side of Moldova and is operated by a Christian organization with deep christian beliefs. This was the first time I have visited the rehab center so I was not I sure what to expect. As we enter the facility I was not overwhelmed because you could truly feel the presence of the Lord in the center. We were greeted at the gate by the director and all the patients were waiting at the front steps. When you first walk in you see a wall of pictures every picture had a story. I asked about one of the pictures and an amazing story was shared. I was told about a man named Anatol, he was in grade seven when both his parents died. He was left to care for his brothers and sisters, which resulted in him dropping out of school to do, this is when he lost track of his life. Shortly after dropping out of school he became an alcoholic and his life begin to spiral out of control. Years pasted and his addiction to alcohol only became worse. His health declined and he found himself waking up in a hospital one morning. After some time he was told he could leave the hospital but returning to alcohol would kill him sooner than later. He was offered the chance to go to the rehab center, he took the offer realizing his life had hit rock bottom. He enjoyed his time at the rehab center, he even finished the program but the best part was that he repented and now he is a believer. He says he was given a second chance at life. Anatol got married this past December to a believer and they are expecting a baby later this year.
This is just one example of the many stories on the wall at the rehab center. I could have stood at that wall all day and listened to these amazing God stories. The rehab offers their attendees three meals a day, a time to praise and worship God, and they each have special chores to complete so that the rehab center will contiune to run smoothly. The day I visited there were 24 participants in the program. You could see changes in appearance as well as sense changes in their hearts. Please be in prayer for these recovering addicts, pray they continue to reach to the Lord for help. Also, pray the center remains funded and new projects are completed. They are working to make a new bathroom, repair the roof, and a construct a greenhouse for growing produce year around.
Second stop: Multiple stops to see projects across several villages (Day 2)
The second leg of the milk run started out in a village not far from Chisinau. We traveled to the village of Ciorescu to visit with a family who recently received a cow. We also visited at a playground site that has recently been completed the same village. Sometimes the villages near Chisinau are the most heart breaking to me, you stand in the front yard of a family’s home staring at some of the worst poverty you have every seen and just in the distance is a tall high-rise building that is in the big city of Chisinau. I wonder many times they feel like they live in bad conditions and hope is just in sight but never can be reached. The family we visited lived in what looked to be a four room house it was home for a grandmother, her son and daughter who were both married with six children…do the math that is a total of 11 poeple in a four room house. Even in all the poverty I was encouraged, of the six children there was a set of triplets, two girls and one boy. One of the little girls was completely amazing. She was three years old. I asked her what her name was and she responded with her name, her age, and where she lived. Not only that she lived in the village of Ciorescu, in the district of Chisinau, in the country of Moldova , which was located in Eastern Europe, and it happens to be the both the northern and southern hemispheres on the planet Earth…I was completely blowed away. She basically talked the entire time we were visiting with them. She lead us down the path to see the new cow. The adults said the cow was a blessing for the children to have milk twice a day each day. Both men of the house had jobs in Chisinau but requested to be free that day in order to see the expected visitors. We talked for a while longer but our time was short because we had to see the playground project site. Please pray for this family that they will see and understand the Lord’s love shown by others and they will repent. Also pray the fathers remain employed in Chisinau.
The next stop was the playground project site there in Ciorescu. The playground projects are special to me because this was our families first outreach together. This playground layout was different than the one we helped build however, you could still see signs of daily use by the local children in this area. The playground projects are also an important tool for the local church, they provide a way to connect them to the local families as the kids come to play and provide a place to have outreach events for the local community. Please be in pray for other playground projects that will take place this summer during Love Moldova.
We drove from Ciorescu to the north to the village of Crasnaseni to visit the Day Center and Elderly Center located there. These centers are one of the oldest established projects at OM Moldova. If you remember my blog post about Peter (Searching for Real Love) this is the village in which he lives. He attended this Day Center for many years, his situation is pretty much the same, he is trying to finish the 9th year of school and care for his brothers and sisters at the same time. Please continue to be in pray for Peter to find a good Christian home in the city so that he can finish his schooling. Shortly after arriving at the Day Center the children also begin to arrive. They welcomed us and greeted us with the romania saying ” Hristos a înviat” meaning “Christ has risen”, this is custom during the Easter season. Many times I think we should say it to each other everyday for we are not worthy of our salvation. Hearing the children say this was such an encoruagement because as you look out the front door of the day center you can see the village Orthodox church and the cemetery where some many died not knowing there was hope and that hope is the Gospel. This Day Center is truly special you can sense the prescience of the Lord and see it in faces of the children.
After leaving the Day Center we begin to trek through the village delivering hot meals to the elderly. This job is done by a couple Christian ladies from the village, they do this every day for 8-10 elderly no matter the how hot the temperature is or how much snow is on the ground. They GO for this is their calling that the Lord has given on their lives. The first elderly person we visited was a man named Victor. Victor was at a crossroad in his life and was having deep thoughts about the Gospel and about being a believer. Victor is old and cannot move around much anymore for his legs are failing him. For the most part he lived a good life, he was rich by Moldovan standards but, he got his wealth by being involved in illegal activity, and that life caught up with him one day. No one knows for sure but he was in debt to someone and couldn’t pay, so they took his left arm as payment. Not being able to work after that he lost everything and he will tell you he is a dying old man with nothing to live for. He has been part of the Elderly Center for a few months and he is often visited by the local Orthodox priest. This is where his struggle begin now, the priest tells him that the food the Christians bring is poisoned and from Satan. This is not true but Victor struggles with it each day because he lived a life of oppression from the Orthodox church for so long. This is not only a struggle for Victor but for many others as they are told the food is from the devil and they will good to Hell but what choice do they have eat the food or starve. Please be in pray for these men and women that their hearts will be softened and that they would repent of their sins, and know that they have a Father who loves them and would never poison their food.
The day was getting short and we had one more stop. We drove to one of my two favorite places in Moldova the village of Schinoasa. This was my first time back in Schinoasa since retuning to Moldova. I was excited to visit to get to visit with Sava and his family. Prior to visiting Sava we stopped to talk with a family who recently received a goat from an OM Moldova Relief project. This family was truly appreciative for receiving the goat and were blessed to have the milk each day for the children. I had visited this family once before, not much changed but the smiles on the children’s faces remained for they had just come from the children’s program at the new church. Their hearts are beginning to understand the Gospel and God’s love…Praise The Lord!
Then we visited with Sava’s family. Seeing Sava again was such an encouragement to me, I could see a lot of change in him. He was dressed nice and clean, he seemed be more hopeful and have more respect for himself.
He was happy to see us and appreciated the food parcel we brought. He told us about his salvation and asked us to pray for his family especially his oldest granddaughter Denisa. Denisa is the girl in foreground in the picture below.Denisa is 12 years old and has begun to experience some serious health issues. The local doctor does not know the cause of the problem and has said there is nothing else that can be done at his clinic. She now needs to go to Chisinau for further tests. Denisa will just be sitting, playing with her friends and pass out, this has happened several times in recent months. Sava is very concerned and ask for specific pray for her healing. I ask that you to pray for Denisa and her health. I am working to see if I can get her to Chisinau for a doctor’s appointment. As we were leaving Sava’s house he threw his hand up to say goodbye as if we were old friends, I cherish these times knowing that without a doubt we are more than friends we are brothers in Christ.
As we left Sava’s house on a spirtual high we stopped for another family visit, this stop was unplanned and unexpected. This family decided as believers they were going to be the change. They have established a small business making corn brooms. These brooms sell for about 1 dollar each in there market and they are looking to sell them outside of the market in higher volumes.
In the few minutes we were there you could feel their happiness surround you. This family is making a difference and they gave all the praise to the Lord. The brooms are quite nice and work very well. I was truly blessed that we stopped by this family’s house because they are just another example of how the Lord is working in Schinoasa. Please continue to be in pray for Schinoasa, the church is growing and they even have a vision to reach out to the next village that is in the same situation as Schinoasa, they have a heart for missions and sharing the Gospel.
Third stop: Multiple projects across several villages (Day 3)
After finishing day one and two of this milk run, I begin to think there was nothing more to see but was I wrong. We started out day three by traveling to the village of Panaesti to see some ongoing OM Moldova projects. In Panasesti we visited the church to see the new progress being made on the building. Every time I’m at the church I feel happy knowing that God’s hand is at work with this project, it seems like with each passing week the church is reaching completion. Just recently the church was able to apply insulation to the ceiling and walls as well as finishing the wiring for the lights and electrical needs in the sanctuary.
Before leaving the church we stopped in to see how the day center was going talk with those smiling faces. The center is blessed to have 15-20 children and the Lord is providing funds for the daily meals.
After leaving the church we visited with two families. One was a recipient of the seed pack project and the other a recipient of the cow project. Seeing first hand the seeds planted and growing was amazing knowing that in a few weeks the family will be blessed with fresh vegetables each day. The family who received the cow was very appreciative for the cow, they offered us fresh milk and said the milk is making a difference the children’s life.
We closed out the day in the village of Lozova. Lozova has a new church plant that is currently in the process of being built. The team there has gained a lot of ground in a short time getting the construction under way. In a matter of a few weeks the foundation has been set and now they are waiting on the walls and roof to be delivered. The church in Lozova is growing just as the church building is. This project is just another example to how the Lord is working Moldova.
God is still working in Moldova in amazing ways. Please continue pray for these individual projects along with the lives of people that will be transformed by these projects. God is good, all the time God is good. Blessings