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
What does it mean to say it is well with my soul? Sometimes that is a difficult question to answer for we all have our ups and downs in life, some are tougher than others but in the end we feel this sense of peace that is unexplainable. That is where I am today, and have been for the past three weeks. Since we have been back in Moldova you can tell a difference in all four members of our family. I am truly thankful for this peace the Lord has given us.
I will be the first to tell you that furlough was not exactly what I thought it would be, but at the same time we enjoyed being back in the States seeing many people we had missed over the past two years while in Moldova. Our schedule was busy each day, I thought we would have more time to slow down and even relax some. We were tired at the end of most days, but the Lord blessed us with the strength to continue on. His plans for our family were much bigger than we could had ever imagined. As we planned for the next two years in Moldova He began to show us doors to open that we never dreamed of. We visited with many churches and schools, shared our hearts and passions for Moldova and its people, and spent precious time with our parents. Whether we were visiting with family or sharing with a church we could see the Lord’s hand at work. After, sharing our hearts we always felt encouraged that people could see through the stories how the Lord was working in Moldova.
As our time progressed, the last three weeks were the toughest and once again my faith became tested. It seems as thou so many times we want everything to be prefect and we want to see the entire picture, complete in our own time not in the Lord’s time. During this time I did not doubt the call on our lives but instead I doubted if we would return to Moldova. Everything seemed to be in place, we had the return plane tickets, we had accomplished what we came to the States for, but there was one important puzzle peice missing. We did not have the finances needed to return, not just a little bit we were lacking but a great deal of our financial support. This brought worry to each passing day.
We spent many days praying about furlough before arriving in the States. We prayed over our program and gave thanks to the Lord for providing the newly opened doors to speak at various schools and churches. We were blessed with an amazing apartment to call home while we were in the States which allowed us have some personal family time as well. In addition, to a place to live we were provided with transportation for the entire 10 weeks. We praised the Lord for blessing our family. So where did we go wrong or what did we miss. Time was running out and finances were not there. I began to reach out to the mentors and prayer warriors in my life and directly asked for prayer for our future.
One night driving back to the apartment a song came on the radio. As I listened the words they began to sink in and I realized they were expressing exactly how I had been feeling the last few weeks. The song lyrics start by saying, ” They say you sometimes win some and sometimes you lose some, right now, right now I am losing bad.” As the song continued I was overcome with tears thinking that this may be the end of our time in Moldova, maybe God was closing this door. The next verse began and just like the first it completely explained my feelings at that time. The verse says, ” They say it only takes a little faith to move a mountain, well good thing, a little faith is all I have right now. So God when you choose to leave mountains unmovable, give me the strength to sing it is well with my soul.” When the song finished and I realized that no matter the results concerning Moldova I needed to know it was well with my soul and I would need peace like never before.
In the days ahead I changed my prayers, I prayed to the Lord asking for this peace no matter the outcome.
The outcome proved that God still has work for our family in Moldova, in those last few days our finances were meet and peace was found once again in my soul. I am constantly reminded of how the Lord is so faithful to us, but how we fall short trusting Him. Now back in Moldova we feel a peace that is even stronger, as if the Lord has said go and continue the work I called you and your family too, do not worry about fiancees. I think our life verse can change from season to season depending on where God has you, my new life verse is John 14:27
He says to us, “Peace I leave with you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and… afraid.” John 14:27
I leave you with how I started, what does it mean to say “it is well with my soul”. To me it means having a sense of assurance and peace that no matter what happens in life or the circumstance you are faced with God the Father has the best interests for your heart. I can honestly say that if the Lord had not allowed us to return to Moldova it would have been well with my soul.
The song I heard is a fairly new song from MercyMe called “Even If”. I encourage you to take a second and listen to the song if you have not heard it for the words are powerful and moving. Even If by Mercy Me
God is a chain breaker with a heart willing to love the unlove and forgotten. Come hear us speak on Sunday at Calvary Baptist Church Covington Ga as we talk about this love that can break all the chains in your life. Hear first hand stories of people who were bound but now are set free in the Lord. Trust me you will be blessed for half way around the world the Lord is changing lives in what seems to be a hopeless environment. We serve an awesome God and we should praise His name each day no matter the results of that day. Also check out the website calendar to see where we will be over the next few weeks sharing about Moldova.
Hope to see you, blessings
Merry Christmas! Today is Christmas according to the Julian calendar here in Moldova. In addition to it being Christmas it is a white Christmas too. Thinking back to Christmases gone by I do not every remember a white Christmas so this is first for my family and I. The snow has covered the ground much like a blanket, which reminds me of God’s love. As believers we prayed, repented, and He washed us white as snow. Just like the snow that surrounds me today I am reminded go God’s love and how He makes us pure and clean again through salvation.
With that being said and with all the snow today and yesterday I began to think. Moldavians are a lot like the snow in many ways. They to want to love and cover you like God’s love too. Their overall hospitality is unlike any other in this world. Like I have said before, they would give you the shirt off their back but they have no shirt to give you. Have you experienced someone like that? Someone willing to make your life better at all cost to them, see the similarity to the Lord’s love.
Many times over the past two years we have spent nights in various villages across Moldova. Sometimes in the local village church but, most times in a church member’s house. At first spending the night in the village for a foreigner can be overwhelming no matter how many times you do. I mean you meet this person and within a couple hours you are sleeping in their house, not really knowing them or knowing the house. They welcome you and act as thou they have known you for years, they offer you the best they have, it is a honor for you to stay with them. Christy and I have been given the bed of the parents at a house to insure that we were most comfortable. Once we stayed with a family who gave us the entire house and they slept in the much smaller winter house for five nights. There was also a time when an elderly lady gave us her entire house and she went down the street to her sister’s house for four nights. But this love and hospitality is much more than giving you a place to sleep, they will also insure that you are feed before bed and again in the morning before heading out even if you are going to the church to eat. The older Moldovan ladies will pull your children close and hug them tight just as if they were their on grandchildren. In some cases where you stay there may not be a shower so the host will take you to someone else’s house who has a shower making sure that you are okay and comfortable ultimately hoping you come back to visit another day. After several nights and days with a Moldovan family you will leave not only with a new friend but, you will leave as family. I stayed once with a family in the south for one night in a small village, and several months later while in the same area with a team the father called another Omer that was traveling with us and asked if we could pick up some paper work and documents. Not knowing I was with the team that day, we arrived at the village where we were to meet him. As he arrived to give us some documents and items to take back Chisinau he saw me standing on the side of the road and he immediately came to me and hugged me. Asking me how I had been and how was my family, he even mention some of the funny stories we had talked about that night I stayed with his family. So you you see how much they care and love others. He was a believer and in most cases we stay with believers but sometimes we may not but no matter what it is the same love and hospitality just as the Lord loves us.
Here is where the disconnect comes in, if they share and show this type of love why are they not open to or understanding the Gospel. Maybe they do not think they are good enough for the Lord or they have done some things they think are unforgivable. I know this is not the case for the God I serve forgives everyone. I wrote today what was on my heart and the Moldovan people are no different than anyone other people group for the Lord offers salvation to them too. Today is Christmas but not the Evangelical Christmas we know, they will celebrate the birth of Jesus but tomorrow right back to their old ways, with no effect on the heart what so ever. I ask you now to please pray with me today, tomorrow and in the weeks ahead that their minds and heart will be softened and they will be open to hear and understand the Gospel. In doing so a unexplainable revival will spread cross this country like a blazing wildfire and hearts all around will repent and turn to the Lord changing not only the people but also the direction of this country, the government and the politicians. This is my prayer, will you pray with me?
To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by Faith in me. Acts 26:18 NIV
As I sit thinking about writing this blog entry my emotions run high. Thoughts run trough my head like I’ll offend someone or hurt someone’s feelings. And every time I tried to write it my way God would redirect the words to say what the Holy Spirit wanted me to say. So I’ll just speak from the heart and hope people will understand. The Christmas Season has just ended and while it’s one of the happiest seasons in the Western world, it has become something that it was never intended to be. Please hear my heart, I love Christmas time just as much as anyone else however, my perspective has changed over the past two years. I still love the giving gifts part of Christmas because after all that’s what God gave us the greatest gift of all, His son. As I look around in the mall I see people trying to fit into the Western culture; Black Friday sales, Christmas decorations, blinking lights, people rushing around and even Christmas music. That was my one of my favorite parts Christmas music and it was even in English, I must tell you I would go to the mall just to walk around and here the music. Outside the walls of Chisinau however, most kids have never celebrated Christmas. And I’ve never really thought about it until my 6 year old ask, “mom why will Santa not visit my friends in the village?” You see we still do Santa but the kids know that we must pay for the gifts they don’t just magically show up on Christmas Day. This began a great family conversation that ended with the kids deciding to be Christmas elves for some of their very special friends. Then 3 days before Christmas we had the honor of being on the opposite side of the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Shoebox project. I can remember how exciting it was in years past to pack a shoebox, gathering to pray over those boxes and then sending them out for their great adventure. The joy is incomparable to the joy of seeing a kid open the box and be overwhelmed with all the small gifts they normally never have. Or to sit and hear stories two weeks later about how the kids are still talking about things they had in their shoeboxes. Then to hear my 12 year old say ” wow, I never knew you could feel this way.” Then asking Michael what do you mean, tell me what your feeling, and his response “I don’t know mom, it’s this unexplainable feeling, and I’ve never felt this way before.” What joy it brings a mom’s heart to see your kids actually get it! This is what Christmas is all about! As we returned home from church on Christmas morning I opened up Facebook to see everyone celebrating Christmas, and this hard knot began to swell inside my chest. Post after post was a worry or wonder if what Santa left would be enough, as I looked at what Santa had left I thought how could it not be, look at all the stuff. And my mind slowly drifted back to the village where the only gifts givin were those that could fit in a shoebox. What would kids in the Western world say if they only got a shoebox? Would it be enough? Then as I struggled with the answer probably not, not even for my kids, I prayed that God would continue to open my eyes and the eyes of the Western world to not always focus on the presents but His presence at Christmas and though the year.
Many times when I go out to the village to visit with different families I cannot but wonder in the last few minutes before Jesus died on the cross how it must have felt to be alone and forgotten. That is the case for many elderly people across Moldova and Ion (John) from a village in south Moldova is no different. He lives everyday alone and forgotten. This loneliness and being forgotten is unlike anything you have experienced. You see Ion is 81 years old and looks to be 90 plus years in age. He lives in a house that is falling in, at the end of a road on the edge of the village. To understand more, life in Moldova requires much walking and this is easily recognized throughout the villages by the beaten down paths from house to house. Walking to Ion’s house was different thou, there was no beaten down path. Basically no one drops by to see him except for a lady from the local evangelical church. I cannot begin to imagine a life like the one Ion lives each day.
Ion is 81 years old, he lives alone for his wife passed away about 10 years ago. He also has problems with his eyes and cannot make out objects further than 10-12 feet in front of him. He has two sons and a daughter. The sons left the village many years ago and he has not seen them in close to 30 years. His daughter came to visit about four years ago only to take his money he had saved. He has not heard from her since. He does not even know if they are still alive, where they live and if he has any grandchildren. Ion lives in this loneliness each day.
During my last visit with him he had a radio playing music, I ask him if he liked listening to the music, he said many days that is the only voices he hears. Basically each day he sits close to the broken down soba (Moldovan oven used for heat) breaking small sticks and twigs to use to keep the fire burning for heat. The one room he lives in is very dark and damp. There is a bed, the soba and not much else. He is provided with one hot meal Monday thru Friday delivered by the local Elderly Center operated through the local evangelical church in the village. While visiting with him I try to talk to him, asking him about life gone by. He was a farmer for most of his life in the village where he lives now. You can see where he lives there is a lot of farm land surrounding the house, I bet in the day Ion had a large farm. You can get a smile out of him if you ask him about his time in the military, seems that this time he remembers well and he was happy to serve his country. As we said our good byes until the next time, he always tells us thanks for the food parcel and hopes to see us next time.
Ion’s life is no different than the 1000’s of other elderly people all over Moldova. In every village you will find Ions and others, there is 1600+ villages in Moldova. Ion needs firewood for winter to stay warm and some food, his pension is less than $50 a month. Please pray for Ion and others like him in the coming days and weeks as we get deeper into winter in Moldova.
In early 2017 we will return to the states for a short visit with family and friends, also use the time to raise and secure support for our next two years of ministry. As a family the Lord has placed people like Ion directly on our hearts, and going into 2017 our theme or motto is “Standing In The Gap” for others. We want to show people God’s love in an extraordinary way, not like before, we want to invest into this people lives at a personal level.
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you” -John Bunyan
Please pray with us for Ion and others like him, also if you would like to help specifically for firewood and or winter food parcels contact me directly and I will give you needed information. Lastly keep our family in your prayers too, we are preparing for furlough and seems as if every day there is a new something to finish before we can leave for the states. Also we have only been in Moldova for two years but it feels as thou we are preparing to leave home again for the second time. Thanks for your time and prayers, blessings to you and a Merry Christmas.
Everyone follows a path in life, having to make many decisions along the way. Those decisions will effect the rest of your life whether good or bad decisions were made. Today marks 18 months we have been serving the Lord in Moldova a decision I do not doubt nor regret. When I think back on the last 18 months I find it hard to believe that a year and a half have pasted. My heart is full of joy, seeing all the Lord is doing here in Moldova and how my family is being used for the building of the Kingdom. I also know that these past 18 months have been meet with much challenge and change, in knowing that just as Deuteronomy 31:8 says, He the Lord has gone before us and He will take care of us. I live this verse out everyday.
We have been meet with some challenges but nothing the the Lord cannot correct or resolve so I will not tell you of the challenges. I simply want to tell you how we as a family have changed.
I myself have grown spiritually, seeking the Lord in all decisions small or large, through prayer and the Word. I have also realized the importance of smiles, never really understanding how much the Lord truly shines through your actions especially your smiles. He simply radiates with love just from a smile to a child or adult who may have lost all hope that day. You can see this effect on people you pass each and every day. I specifically have noticed this with the people who live in our apartment building. Early on they would have nothing to with us and many times they would avoid us all together. As months passed several begin to be more and more interested to why these foreigners had come to live in Moldova. So over the last year of so I have really seen God shine through me to these people which I now refer to as my neighbors. We know each other on a first basis, and they ask many questions both about the work we do and about God. I truly believe these relationships were started simply by smiles, something not seen so much in Moldova. They just wanted to know why we were different.
Christy has always had a strong faith in God, but in the past 18 months she has learned to let go and completely focus on God, His will, trust His plan, and then to give Him the glory for the outcome. Not just in the big changes but the small ones as well. The first change she faced, began before we even left the US, it was the climate. Christy is not a fan of cold weather, as a matter of fact I remember her saying “God I go anywhere you want as long as it’s warm”. The first snow we experienced here we had about 8 inches and before it could all melt 10 new inches fell. Life in Moldova doesn’t stop because of cold air or snow on the ground. Life went on and she learned very quickly to bundle up and keep going. That small change helped her to realize that no matter how small the problem seemed God had a plan and He was in complete control if she would only surrender to His will. The next change Christy was faced with was being a full time mom and teacher to our two children 24 hours a day 7 days a week with little time for herself. She has learned to be more loving and patience with them, even on the days when she feels she just needs to be away from them for a little moment of time. She has learned in those moments to ask God to intervene and help her see them through His eyes, as the previous gift that He gave to us. Another big change that has helped Christy to completely trust God’s plan was going to the dentist in Moldova. In April of this year she broke a tooth and was faced with a dreadful trip to the dentist in a third world country. She ask God to guide her to a dentist that could be trusted, the courage to make the appointment, and to follow through with the visit. Christy doesn’t like the dentist, and hadn’t been to the dentist in the states in several years. It turned out that those years of neglect to her teeth caused some major problems in her gums. However, God knew this and already had a plan. He already had the dentist pick out, a very sweet Russian dentist who is a believer, and a translator that has been willing to accompany her to every visit. Christy has now been able to become very good friends with the girl who was willing to be her translator. Because she trusted God’s plan she is now able to mentor with this girl who has no family here in Moldova. Her new motto to live by is “Through it all my eyes are on you, and it is well with me so let it go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name”.
As for Michael there have been some huge changes and you can see them in his walk everyday. Christy and I were concerned about his transition and how exactly he would react to culture in Moldova. After much prayer we turned it over the Lord and He allowed Michael a smooth transition. He has come to have many friends both on the OM team, in the village of Panasesti and around our apartment. The boys around the apartment respect him and notice his reactions especially to Christy and I. When outside time is over and we call for him he knows not to linger long and his friends see this as an example. Also, they see his example of helping others and not always being first which has brought positive thinking for these young boys. There are some things Michael wishes to avoid like grocery shopping but if you say lets go to Panasesti he is the first one out the front door. At 12 years old I have seen him change as a believer to be a more Christ like example to his peers. I am very proud of Michael and his willingness to be an example to others without even being asked.
Mary is now 6 years old and she has probably changed more than any of us. For the most part she has lost all shyness and is very willing to speak her mind. Sometimes this is a struggle but after listening to her many times you understand why she wanted to speak her mind. By speaking her mind her heart is shining and she is actually wanting to stand in the gap for someone else. Many times you will see this because she will begin to ask many questions, maybe even over the course of a few days. Then once all her thoughts are straight she comes to you and lays it all out. Even at the early age of 6 she stands her ground and has one of the biggest loving hearts for other people I know. She has become her on little light of God and you can see how her light shines in the relationships she has made. She is my daughter and I am proud but if the Lord tarries she will do amazing things for the Kingdom of Christ.
As I close I want to share some of Toby Mac’s speak life words I came across the other day. I have taken these words to heart and looked back on the last 18 months and truly realized the change as the result of challenge.
If it does not challenge you, it does not change you. Fred De Vito
Moving your entire family to another country, serving the Lord faithfully and full time is a challenge but how you change is completely amazing. Face your challenge and expect change knowing as Deuteronomy 31:8 says He has gone before you.
As always thanks for your time and prayers. Today marks 18 months and only leaves 6 months of our first two years to go. Please pray as we begin to make plans for a return trip to the States for furlough. Pray the Lord directs us to the people who are willing to be committed partners for the new phase of this amazing journey. Blessings to you and your families. God is good, all the time God is good.
Holding to the Faith,