Our 2016 Mission to Moldova will be occurring Friday, June 10th – Monday, June 20th.
Moldova Day 1 2016
This year’s Moldova team comprised 8 people; 3 from Crestview, 4 from Thorndale, and a friend of Angie’s from Baylor University. The Crestview members were given a nice sendoff in the church parking lot by staff members, friends and family. We all met up at the Austin airport, and experienced none of the delays from new TSA security measures reported in the news.
We flew to Dulles airport in Virginia, and had plenty of time to change gates and get something to eat before boarding.
Next we flew Austrian Airlines to Vienna, Austria. Most of the team did not sleep very much during the 8 ½ hour flight, and the layover in Vienna was about 4 hours long. By the time we boarded our final flight to Chisinau, everyone was very tired and ready to be there. Most of the team slept some on the final flight, so we all had enough energy to get through customs, assemble all our luggage, and get everything loaded in the vans. Plus, we were in Moldova! It is always a special time to be reunited with our Moldovan friends.
Thankfully, all our flights were on time, and the airlines did a good job of mostly keeping us together on the flights. There were no lost members, lost luggage, inclement weather or any of 100 other things that can be ‘memorable’ on trips.
We decided to come to Moldova about 3 weeks earlier than we have in the past. The different in temperature has been significant so far; averaging about 10 degrees cooler than we are accustomed to here. Hopefully, this will translate into less worn-out missionaries by the end of the week.
We are staying in a day center that focuses on disabled kids. It is very clean and well run by Moldovan standards. We are thankful for comfortable accommodations, good food, good people, and so far good weather. We are excited to see what God has planned for us this week.
Moldova Day 2 2016
After a round of showers and a night’s sleep we felt much better today! Today was about worshiping with our Moldovan brothers and sisters, seeing a little of the country, resting up and getting acclimatized to this week’s schedule.
After our amazing breakfast, we went to enjoy worship in a Moldovan church in Orhei. A Moldovan Baptist church service is usually two hours long, and has 2 or 3 messages from different people. The buildings are small; usually holding no more than 100-150 people. We spoke about why we have come and a couple of us shared their testimony. We were blessed with a great interpreter, and as in the past were struck with the passion the Moldovans have for Jesus. This was even more noticeable in the singing we heard. The special music was particularly powerful. 12 men sang in strong, steady voices that completely filled the building and then 2 women sang a lighter, sweeter song that was every bit as heartfelt. Both times the room was filled with raised spirits and a heightened sense that God was there.
The weather was pleasant and the distance was short, so we walked back to the day center and changed into casual clothes and enjoyed a great lunch. After lunch we went into Chisinau for a couple hours to see the city and spent an enjoyable time in a couple of the city parks. We learned about Stephen the Great, got see inside an Eastern Orthodox church, had some ice cream, and had a chance encounter to talk with a few local young people. We returned late in the afternoon and as often happens, a ball appeared from somewhere and the team ended up in a circle kicking it around and laughing and enjoying the outdoors and fellowship with each other.
For those that have been, dinner was another amazing meal prepared with very fresh food grown locally and although most dishes are familiar, they are arranged or prepared in a slightly different way to add a new experience to it. It is apparent at this point the lady who is cooking for us is trying very hard to take care of us. She spends effort to add to the presentation of the food and is constantly plying us with coffee and tea to make sure we are enjoying our meals. Although it seems a simple thing, how her efforts make us feel remains with us throughout the day and add comfort to people away from home and families. It also reminds us there are so many ways to glorify God by serving people.
After dinner we were visited by Ana and Eduard, the husband and wife missionaries living in Buliesti; the village where we will spend the next 2 days. It was good to see them again from last year, and they are doing the VBS this year.
Moldova Day 3 2016
Today was our first day to begin distributing bibles in Bulaiesti. We had several people come from Doxa Deo church in Chisinau. We shared greetings with new friends and hugs with old friends. We headed towards the village, which was approximately 1 hour away. The drive north and east from Orhei became rapidly more rural until we were on a single road on the edge of wide, shallow valley with cultivated fields on either side that went from horizon to horizon. After 40 minutes or so, the paved road gave way to an unpaved one and our speed got progressively slower as the road became rougher.
When we arrived, we split into teams, loaded up on bibles and frisbees, and began walking the neighborhoods; talking with people and greeting them at their gates. It had rained the previous night and we realized we were in for a very muddy day. Bulaiesti is a very poor village by even Moldovan standards. All the roads in the village are dirt and the whole village is built in hilly terrain. All the teams experienced real challenges to not fall in the mud or slide to the bottom of the ‘road’ they were walking on. Turkeys, ducks, chickens, and geese are loose everywhere. There are also horses and goats in the village, so between the birds and larger animals it is very difficult to step anywhere without stepping in ‘something’. Many of us wore sandals and open toed shoes and shorts. That part of our day became a teachable moment in which we were confronted with how some of our brothers and sisters live each day for most or all of their lives. It is in this moment one realizes we are here to reach people and not all people are easy to reach. Is a family’s (maybe only) chance to hear about salvation at the end of the muddy road worth the temporary displeasure of a faithful servant walking that muddy road? We walked, and shared, and cleaned feet and shoes afterwards.
The amount of rain they have received so far is troublesome for more than one reason. Their winter wheat is still standing in the fields waiting to dry out enough to harvest before it rots in all the rain. Also, this amount of water is structurally damaging to the older houses. At home, if wheat is left in the field too long due to too much rain a Texas farmer can file a claim against their insurance and at least get something for it. For these people, this is their food, their bread, and one of their very few tradeable commodities for what little money they can earn. Even in these circumstances God can and will continue to provide for these people. We are further reminded of the overflowing abundance of blessings we have in our lives. Personally speaking, I cannot come up with a single reason why I am more deserving of the rich blessings in my life over any of the people we met today.
Moldova Day 4 2016
This morning we awoke to another wonderful breakfast prepared for us, and the ominous sound of rain on the windows. The rain ensured the ground had not dried out even a small fraction overnight. We planned to return to Bulaiesti (pronounced Boo-lie-esht’) and finish distributing Russian bibles to the remaining homes. With cleaned missionaries and shoes we began to assemble and load the vans. As we got ready to go, Eduard got a phone call with a now-familiar message we have received time and again since coming to Moldova. The bus from Chisinau bringing the Doxa Deo members was not to leave for another 30 minutes, but it was already full and more were still coming. Arrangements were made to get them all here and we began the hour-trek back to the village.
Once we arrived, we found several villagers had gathered at the church to help with the VBS, which finally started today. Shortly after, the Doxa Deo members showed up and we got our first good count of the day. Despite the ongoing rain, mud, coordinating challenges, and trying to get enough food for everyone, our numbers had nearly doubled from the previous day. We managed to corral most of them together for a picture, and we then got organized and went back out into the village.
We had a great morning with most teams coming back either out of bibles or nearly so for the 2nd day in a row. The community center was full of children dancing to music and doing crafts and learning about Jesus. We had a great meal amid lots of laughing and making new friends and some trying borscht for the first time. Right after lunch it started to rain gently, but then got progressively harder over the next 20-30 minutes. We tried to wait it out for a while, which was a bit of a challenge given the 60 or so people in the small community center with a full-blown VBS going on.
Finally, the image of soaking wet missionaries trying to coax people out into the rain to go to their gate and accept a soggy bible was convincing enough that we were done for the day. We greatly enjoyed the fellowship during the wait, and several people spent the time going around memorizing names. God certainly wasn’t idle during that time. We managed to get everyone a ride headed in the right direction and everyone got back safely. One of God’s gifts is the cooler temperature and smell of fresh air and the fields after a rain. We had much to appreciate on the way home.
In running errands and dropping people off two of us were a couple hours late getting back to the center. We were greeted with a very enthusiastic description of a great dinner and dessert and most of the team was playing games and laughing. Although the rain has dampened much of Moldova, it has not dampened our team’s spirits.
Moldova Day 5 2016
Today started like the other days so far with a great breakfast upstairs. We eat breakfast on the top floor of the day center because by the time we are ready to go the center is beginning to receive kids and it gets progressively louder and more chaotic until we leave in the morning. Last night, there was some sort of meal or party with the kids and parents and 4-5 little dogs running around. One small Chihuahua was determined to get back into our small corner of the day center. We managed to get cleaned up and fed without having to adopt any new pets or get in the party’s way. Despite dealing with kids and parties and now us this week, the staff is doing a great job of caring for everyone.
We went to a new village, Budai, west of Orhei after the Doxa Deo youth came. We went to do the bible distribution in the village and to provide the materials for a VBS at the local church. Budai is where the Doxa Deo youth minister was born and raised. It is fairly small and we were told to expect no more than 50-60 kids in the whole village. Kids began arriving as soon as we got there. It turned out the VBS program needed 2 of our team members, so we helped with the program as well as passed out bibles. It took the usual amount of time sorting teams and working through morning details and 3 bible teams left in different directions.
About 20 kids showed up in all, and they played games, sang songs, did crafts, and heard stories about Jesus.
At lunchtime the teams came back in reporting great success in passing out many bibles with some running out completely. They had to hand out pamphlets they had been given that contained the books of John and Romans; a great way to get started reading the New Testament and beginning to understand who Jesus is. A couple of the teams also said they had some success in being allowed to pray for some villagers. This is important, as most non-believers and Eastern Orthodox do not wish for their neighbors to see them praying, or anyone praying for them. We continue to chip away at this attitude because there is almost always a change in the faces of those we pray for. It is hard for many in this culture with their background and history to believe or even understand why people who do not know them would want to pray with them and expect nothing in return. Our hope is these people will let God use this moment to get past the hardness and suspicion in their hearts and allow Him to begin blessing them in the way He wants to.
After lunch the teams went back out for the rest of the day, passing out bibles, pamphlets with the gospel of John, frisbees, and praying with any who would share. After talking with a man, one team was invited to fish with him in his pond. They took some time to be with him; taking a short break of being fishers of men to become fishers of fish.
Moldova Day 6 2016
Today was the first ‘normal’ temperature day for this time of year. The weather was clear and sunny when we started this morning and it got progressively hotter. Today we were assisting a local missionary in 2 villages right next to each other: Putintei and Viprova. They were doing a VBS and we helped some in the morning and gave the kids a craft to do. They sang songs about Jesus, had reading assignments and memorized verses. As usual, there was a lot of time for fun and playing games too.
The rest of the team distributed bibles. We were blessed/challenged with approx. 30 people again, and we broke into teams and began to distribute bibles and pray for people. Although the morning was productive, a couple of the teams reported back meeting their first real resistance to the gospel. Most people seemed open, and it is apparent the time is right for Christians to come here and share the gospel, as many asked questions and were receptive. However, a few are openly angry with God and did not want us there.
One such person was one of the local Orthodox priests. He said we needed to go and threatened to call the police. He was cheerfully answered to please call the police, so we could give them bibles too. However, another man kept asking questions and after every few sentences took another half step outside his gate and closer to us. By the time we were finished talking with him, he was standing with us and said that yes, he would like someone to come talk with him some more.
This region is among the most unreached in all of Moldova. Several of the villages have not had an active missionary or church for quite some time. God is calling young people and people with a strong faith and families to come to the area and minister. There is a real sense of possibility among them, as they work to coordinate with each other and share God’s love for the lost and hurting in this region.
The villages are small, and we managed to finish one completely a bit early, and then the other teams came in . We shared stories and rested a bit and then headed back to the center where we were staying. On the way, we made a last minute detour to visit a monastery in Curchi. This monastery is striking in appearance very well kept. Combined with the picturesque countryside of green fields and brilliant –colored wildflowers along the roadside, it was a refreshing treat from the heat and the effort of the day.
Afterwards, we arrived back at the center, enjoyed yet another great meal and had great fellowship and much laughter the rest of the evening.