Monday, July 14, 2008

Doing What Should Have Been Done Awhile Ago

Warning: This post is very picture heavy. My apologies to anyone using dial up.

I'm finally posting pictures from my trip to Moldova. I went with an organization called Operation Mobilization (OM). They are a sort of missions trip catalyst if you will. They help organize mission trips for individuals and groups in 110 countries around the world. I have a friend who has been a full time missionary through OM for 6 and half years. He and his wife invited me to look into a short term trip with OM last fall and that's what started the whole cycle of things.
This is the OM center in Chişinau, the capital of Moldova. We were here for a day preparing to go out into the various villages.
This is Bălți (pronounced Belts). It's the second largest city in Moldova (Chişinau is the 1st) and this was our home base for the first 5 days of the outreach. We would drive 30 minutes on dirt roads every morning to the little village of Cubolta where there was a small church.
This is the van that we drove 3 hours in to get to Bălți. There were 9 people, a driver, and all our luggage in an 8 passenger van. And this was considered comfortable.
Here I am doing crafts with the kids in Cubolta. We would have a 3 hour Vacation Bible School type program in the morning with a Bible story, games, crafts, snacks, and English lessons. After lunch we would come back and have organized sports like soccer or baseball with the kids. In the evenings we might have a church service or plan for the next day.
For those of you who have never had to use one, this is an outhouse. This particular one was behind the church in Cubolta. The one at our house in Bălți had a much nicer one. Most are just a hole in the ground that you squat over. This one had a little box that you had to stand on and then squat.
As you can see, it's quite cozy in there. There are usually spiders and bees and of course a lovely smell. And see where the door frame is in relation to my head? I hit that stupid thing every time I used the restroom. As if it weren't bad enough that I was having to squat in the elements.
The kids in Cubolta (and pretty much everywhere) are super sweet and love holding your hand and talking to you. Even if you don't speak Romanian and have no clue what they are saying.
One of the coolest things I got the opportunity to do was teach the kids how to play a very crude version of baseball. They had heard of baseball but never played it themselves.
On average we had about 30 kids each day who came out. The day before we left we did face painting for all of them. This was the picture of all of us when we had finished.
We also spent some time in the village going door to door and inviting people to come to church or just praying and evangelizing. The Orthodox church is very strong there so we had some doors slammed in our faces and some accusations as to why we were even there (OM is affiliated with the Baptist and Pentecostal churches) but we also got the chance to share the gospel and challenge some of the people who weren't as strong in their faith. We also saw some of the most spectacular views of the land.

The next week we left Bălți and went 3 hours south to the city of Răzeni. There was a local church there that was quite large and had done 3 church plants in some nearby small villages: Molestii noi, Carbuna, and Ciogarleni. Each morning we would go to one of these villages and begin walking door to door to invite people to church that evening and to the children's program that afternoon. After lunch we would have the kids program. At 8:30 we were supposed to start the church program but the cows came home around 8 and needed to be milked so we would usually start the church service at 9 or 9:30 and go for an hour and half to 2 hours. Then we'd drive back to Răzeni where we stayed with host families, eat dinner (usually around 11:30) and then go to bed (hopefully by midnight).
In addition to the kids program we would give the kids snacks. It's amazing how quickly 20-30 kids can go through 12 liters of soda.
Moldova is mostly agriculturally based. However, the fields are usually for personal use, not commercial. What you grow is for your family. Many times the fathers will go to work in the city and the mother and children will be left to work the fields and care for the animals. Often times the parents will even leave the country to go find better work. Then the children may be cared for the one parent left behind or older siblings, aunts and uncles, or even grandparents. The above picture is from Carbuna. We had an especially difficult day in that city as many of the Orthodox residents were in full opposition of us. We had less than 10 kids show up (eventually) to our program. They told us other kids wanted to come but their parents wouldn't let them because we were Baptist.
When the older children would come to the program it was not unusual for them to bring their little brothers and sisters along. These are some of the littlest ones who showed up in our final village of Ciogarleni. The kids were so well behaved though. Just give them some balloons or some markers to draw with and they were happy.
We also did face painting in Ciogarleni. One of the boys had on a Spiderman shirt so I used that as a template to make all the boys into their favorite action hero. The big guy in the middle is our leader. He had to preach that evening but luckily we got all the face paint off before then.
I have never seen a land as beautiful as Moldova. There are rolling hills and stretches of pasture and farm land as far as the eye can see. Despite being the poorest country in Europe it is rich in natural beauty.
This is a picture of our group that spent 9 days traveling the countryside and sharing the gospel. We came from 7 different countries (Moldova, America, England, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, and Romania) and spoke 5 different languages (English, Romanian, Russian, Swiss German, and Dutch) but we all came together and, even more, became close friends.

It's very interesting to hear that 90% of the world lives in poverty but to actually experience it was a totally life changing adventure. I had so much fun though and, when you think about it, 2 weeks out of an entire year is nothing.

Well, I hope you enjoyed just a little glance into what I was doing for the 2 weeks that I was AWOL (be thankful I didn't post all 384 pictures I took on here). We'll return to our regularly scheduled knitting program later this week.

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