Monday, August 18, 2008

Safely Home in TX

Our return flights were smooth and safe. We left on schedule from Frankfurt, Germany, arrived on schedule in San Antonio, were picked up on schedule there, our luggage arrived with us - a marvelous conclusion to our 2 weeks out of country.

It is now Monday and we're getting caught up at home. This morning I accompanied a friend on a trip to San Antonio for another hearing for her in her lengthy process of applying for Social Security Disability as she has multiple complications from work injury that occurred 6 years ago. She started this process a year ago and still won't have an answer for another several months. She would love to be employed in order to care for herself and her family but her constant pain and muscle weakness prevents her from being able to handle any employment.

We were back in Kerrville by noon so I went to the post office to pick up our mail which was being held during our absence. That is sorted and I'm beginning to process my part of those items. Also have loads of laundry being cycled through.

I am also downloading pictures - so fun to relive highlights of our trip and travel. Here's our team on the last day of camp - our smiles and our "banner" speak from our hearts.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Aug. 15 - Last night in Europe

We will head to the states early Sat. am. We have just completed several days of personal travel in the Czech Republic and Germany. We have thoroughly enjoyed God's creation all around us. We are grateful for a wonderful trip and are looking forward to getting home soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday in Moldova - Last day here!!!

In just a few hours our vans will arrive to take us to the airport for our 4:45am flight to Frankfurt and for most of the team back to the US.

We have packed much into this day and we are packed for departure.

Morning worship in Calarasi - one hrs drive north.
Mark Clemons shared the sermon from I John 2 - LOVE ALL - Especially the brethern.
After a 90 minute service, folks were invited to join a baptismal service at a nearby campground. We decided to join the group that went there. It was a very nice camp. The person being baptized will be married next Sunday to the daughter of the camp owners. The camp swimming pool was the site of the baptism. Following that service, the bride's parents put out lots of food for all that were there. We were invited to stay and we did. Our Moldovan support team told us it would be considered very rude not to stay since we were specifically invited. The food was plentiful and delicious - traditional items. As we were preparing to leave, I spoke with the host wife. She told me that she was so happy that we stayed and ate as they would have had too much food left over if we hadn't. She said that she felt God told her to prepare extra for the occasion and she didn't know why until our 2 van loads appeared.

From there we went to the Outdoor Market to do some souvenir shopping.
Our translators were with us all day. (Photo shows Ina and myself at the outdoor market.)
Then we drove around the grounds of the orphanage where the children stay from Sept. 1-May 31 but we weren't able to get into the buildings.

It was back to the team house after that to spend some final moments with our translator friends to give them a gift, exchange addresses and appreciation. That concluded about 5:30pm, supper at 6, debriefing for awhile since it's the last time we will all be together for that opportunity. Then to finish packing, straighten stuff being left behind etc.

Everyone is tucked in for a few hours of sleep.

Thanks for your prayers. Keep them going as we travel. John and I have booked a rental car in Frankfurt in order to celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary which is Wed. the 20th. We will enjoy a few days in Europe and return to the states on Sat. Don't know if Blog updates will be possible or not. Will connect upon return to the states for sure.

We've been blessed and hope we can return again and again...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday in Moldova - Last day at camp!!!

None of us can believe that our week at the camp has come to a close. We are all very grateful for many things:
~ Magnificent weather
~ Great health for all of us with the exception of an upset stomach each morning for one
~ Safety on the many trips back and forth to the camp and other places
~ Wonderful food
~ Bountiful supply of materials and items to give away
~ Sweet relationship between our team members
~ Fabulous support from translators and CERI employees
~ Loving, rewarding and meaningful relationships with many children and adults who give them care
~ And of course, opportunities to share Biblical truth with many

Everyone was happy to see us this morning at camp after not having been there for a day. The day went quite smoothly. My adult gals joined me again for our class and after our Bible Study, I gave them some gifts. One thing was a watch. We had brought watches for our translators and hoped that we had enough for the adults at camp. The number of attendees fluctuates but today I had 7 gals and 7 watches!!! They really appreciated everything they received. We had enough windbreaker jackets to give each of them one as well. They immediately tried them on and I got some pictures. (Maybe I’ll be able to add photos after I return to the states – very slow computer here.) Ludmila politely told me that she never receives gifts from anyone except when our team comes and she really appreciates what we had for her. Everyone expressed gratitude over and over.

I was met as soon as I arrived by Maria who was smiling and giddy and very anxious to tell me some exciting news. She was a first time grandmother! Her son had called during the night to tell her of the birth of this baby. At our first meeting on Sunday, she had told me that she was going to become a grandmother any day. She was very happy that it happened before I left so that I could receive this news. This son and his family live in Spain so she doesn’t expect to see this baby until next summer.

We were able to get some team photos this afternoon and then had a volleyball game between the Americans and Moldovans. We stopped the game at 5:30pm tied 15-15 in order to start our final gazebo time. It was difficult for some to walk away from the exciting game but we decided it was the best thing to do. The kids shared this evening – songs, memorized verses, skits and 2 brothers shared an accordian playing/singing duet. They are very good. Their father played the accordian on the street and for events and taught his sons. He is now deceased and the boys are at the orphanage.

We had adequate time to give each child the gift bag we’d prepared and to say “Good-bye” with lots of hugs and some tears. The whole camp walked us to the vans, holding our hands and bumping into everyone else trying to get all the attention and contact possible. But the moment to drive away arrived and we left feeling elated and exhausted.

This evening we ate at the Irish Pub – our evening to hear from Connie about the present direction of CERI and to hear the testimonies of 2 gals who have come through the CERI children’s sponsorship programs. It is very touching and encouraging to see how God has been at work in the lives of precious children.

We will go to Calarasi for church tomorrow morning. Mark Clemons will preach. We will go to McDonald’s for lunch and then to the outdoor market for shopping. Following that, we’ll drive to the grounds of the Internat 2 orphanage to let new people see that property. Then it will be back to the Team House to pack! We will leave for the airport at 2:45am on Mon. am. This week has flown by and been a wonderful experience for all of us.

Others are waiting for the computer so I will sign off – 11pm.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday in Moldova & Transneistria

This was our day to travel to Tiraspol. We departed at 8:30AM and returned at 7:30PM. It was another sunny, beautiful but plenty warm day. We traveled through a part of Moldova which was new to all but the drivers. We saw fields of newly harvested grain, cows in pastures, goats being herded along the roadsides, corn fields, vineyards and villages. The road was pretty well maintained. At the border, there were 3 parts to the crossing – Moldova check-point, Transneistria check-point which included a form to fill out in duplicate and an inspection of the interior of the vehicle. We could stay on the van for that. There were no problems but the line of cars and trucks was long and the process lasted at least an hour. It was nearly noon by the time we arrived at the Baptist Mission Chapel where we were met by Brother Peter and Brother Stepan. They welcomed us, had a prayer, helped us decide how to proceed and went with us to the store to buy groceries. The store was nearby and had 2 ways to purchase items. Since we were buying in large quantity, we went to an area where people buy wholesale. There were enclosed glass display cases which showed all available items and their price. Connie and the house cook, Lilia, chose the items and placed the order. Our van backed up to a loading dock and we loaded the $918.00 worth of rice, oil, canned meat, sugar, pasta, tea, cookies, jam, canned milk, etc. We took everything to the Chapel and John and James Worden created an assembly line on the grass along the street where we were parked. Using large shopping bags we’d purchased, we filled 2 bags for each household holding all items which we then distributed to homes later. With 28 people at work – team + translators – that task flowed quite smoothly. But everything had taken quite awhile so it was nearly 2pm and time for lunch. We headed to Andy’s Pizza – another lengthy process for 28 people to order and be served. We had hoped to go to 25 homes but we split up and went to several streets where we took food to homes where someone was available until about 5:45. We then took the undistributed bags to the Chapel where items will be taken to other people in the near future. The water has receded for the most part though is still high in the river and some yards still are under water. We could see the high water line on homes – about 4 feet up on many buildings. The homes we were invited into were really a mess. Supposedly the water rose during the night very quickly. People were awakened by sirens in their city. Water was already coming into their homes. There was little time to move things to a higher level. We saw lots of ruined furniture, walls, floors, yards, unstable buildings etc. The people to whom we gave our food and clothing were very tearful and appreciative. Most wanted to talk about their loss so we listened and gave hugs and told them that we cared and wanted to help in a small way to ease a tiny portion of their great pain and loss. We told them that God loved them though we couldn’t understand why this had happened to them. Some of the homes we visited were quite new. Probably many of the homes have been built over a long period of time by the owners and represent many hours of labor and much money. We wished we could have been there longer but we are grateful for the time we had. We arrived back in Chisinau – fairly short, smooth border crossing – to go to a restaurant for our meal to express our appreciation to the team of people who have supported us this week and made this possible. We didn’t have time to get our prepared gift bags to give each one before we went to the restaurant so we will distribute those tomorrow. We have had a wonderful team of capable translators, van drivers and a cook.

We will have our last day at camp tomorrow. It will be a big day – very special and emotional for all of us I’m sure. Please pray that what ever is essential in God’s scheme will be communicated, received and remembered.

11pm and time to sign off for today.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thursday in Moldova

This has been another full and busy day. Another day of milder temperature with a light breeze - very beautiful!

We had our usual morning and activities. The children are so excited about participating in drama skits and puppet plays to communicate the message of the day. They love wearing the costumes Diane has brought or creates from items she scrounges around here. We frequently have a number of glitches - with sound system that doesn't work, TV/DVD that balks, kids that get into a scuffle as important points are about to be communicated... But somehow we all continue to keep going the best we can.

I had some extra time to meet with the adult teachers today and that was great. We shared for about 90 minutes following our regular 45 min. class about many things. The outspoken participant I asked prayer for yesterday was deterred from our group as she was assisting a visiting "Inspection Team" - health checkers from somewhere. With her out of the circle, I found that all the rest had lots to say and often talked 3 or 4 at a time. I tried to listen to their thoughts and share some of my own. I was able to share some of God's truth with several but at times there was the distraction of the director's daughter's new baby and some children who needed correcting. But the sharing was warm and free - God will use it for His purposes I pray.

During our afternoon time for lunch, we filled gift bags for each child who has participated with our team this week. Each child will receive a new windbreaker jacket, a toothbrush, toothpaste, pen & pencil, handful of candy, some misc. toy item and some socks. We also prepared gift bags for each translator and support person who has made it possible for us to do God's work here this week. We will treat them to dinner in a restaurant tomorrow evening and present the gifts to them at that time. They have been wonderful people this year and we are so grateful for their ability and their willingness to serve.

During our evening gazebo time skit, the youngest girls presented a skit depicting Jesus and his disciples showing compassion by feeding the 5000. The girl who played Jesus was walking amongst the children to touch and help and care for them. She touched a little boy on the arm and he grabbed her arm and wouldn't let go. She pulled her arm loose and immediately planted a firm smack on the top of his head. At this point she ran from the gazebo and remained off stage. Fortunately Diane moved in to continue the skit as the Jesus character. But Helena was mortified - weeping inconsolably - so sorry for having been Jesus and not able to be "perfect". What a child-sized reminder that none of us is really Jesus and therefore we'll do things imperfectly but He'll not remove us from our assignments. We get "start-over" days everyday and He'll continue to empower us to "Show Compassion" and feed 5000 or maybe at least 1. Fortunately we had a couple translators who took little Helena in their arms to comfort and encourage - along with Diane and Elizabeth - her teachers for the week.

A number of us are still up preparing clothes and socks for our trip to Tirospol tomorrow. John Myers continues to print photos each night. How much the kids love to get those. The photo album they will have at the end of the week with their memory verses and a few photos will be a special memory for many years.

The importance of these trips has been made very clear to me this year through the adult women in my class. Most of them I've met in previous years but none of them were here last year. But each of them remembers many things that we talked about when I was here previously. They have asked specific questions about my family and have recalled exactly what I shared and what I gave them in past years. They express great appreciation for everything. I am aware of how important it is to remember that these are special moments with eternal ramifications. How privileged I am to have these opportunities and how humbled I am to be in this country at this time.

I forgot to mention yesterday that our youngest member, Phillip, had his "moment of stardom" as he demonstrated "Speed Stacking" as an illustration of the Wise and Foolish Builder during morning gazebo time on Wed. All the boys were really intrigued so he later had a class with interested boys. I think they thought it would be easy but found out it was rather tricky. He did a great job as a Speed Stacker teacher and his students had fun.

Past 11pm so I'll sign off for today. Pray for ease in crossing the border tomorrow and that our items will be able to reach those in need.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wednesday in Moldova

Slight drop in temperature today after last evenings light rain so that was a welcome relief. It was a really beautiful day.

The day flowed as usual with large group, small group and activities as planned. Of course some kids also flowed as usual – in and out of groups as they decided where the most excitement was. But we all managed to keep smiles and hugs readily available to all around us.

After lunch, we took boxes of clothes to the children and adults at the camp. I think everyone found at least one and most found a number of items to select. Almost immediately there was a fashion parade from the cabins as children changed into their new clothes and came proudly to show off their new duds. During some sharing to the large group at evening Gazebo time, I told the children all the clothes and shoes had been given by people in our churches in TX. As I said this and it was translated, the children started clapping to express their appreciation for what they had received. The unscripted response was sweet.

Tomorrow will be a regular day but will have the added benefit of us taking an ice cream treat to the children after our lunch.

Our plans for Saturday have been to go to Tirospol which is a city in Transneistria which has suffered devastation in the recent flooding. We will be supporting Baptists there in taking food staples and clothing to people who have suffered extensively. We will also share Jesus’ message of love and compassion as most of the people of the worst hit area are probably unbelievors. But now we have been asked to make that trip Friday instead of Sat. due to the main Pastor having a wedding he must attend or officiate – not sure which. So we have decided to go there Friday and return to camp on Saturday for our final day.

That pretty well wraps up today and I could use a good dose of sack time tonight so will call this a wrap for tonight. It’s only 10PM!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday in Moldova

Another bright, sunshiny, hot day until our evening Gazebo time ended and some sprinkling began. Don't know if that will develop into more rain and a rainy day tomorrow but we'll see before long.

The children are eager and excited about being with us but that often leads to kids roaring and racing all over the place trying to participate in what seems to be most exciting at the moment. My Treasure Hunt is quite a fun activity but it's quite a challenge to keep some kids who haven't yet had a turn from trying to join a group in progress. But we have managed to have some fun moments and hopefully give a bit of God's truth about what True Treasure is.

The children are actively getting involved in performing during gazebo times as Diane is rehearsing them to reenact the scripture story or an adaptation of the scripture's theme and message. A group of young teen boys were The Unforgiving Servant and all the main characters in that story this evening. They had their lines memorized and gave a great performance. Their comrades really enjoyed the colorful skit. I was surprisingly delighted to see that the young man who had been such a pest as I tried to guide a group of girls through the Treasure Hunt this morning, was quite the actor and the star of the skit. His begging, pleading, tearful performance as the King demanded repayment of debt was quite amazing.

We have DVD segments to show each day of photos taken in the past years which we show daily on a TV. The kids crowd into the gazebo and love watching themselves and their friends from years past. We have many children here who have been in camp since 2005 when we came for the first time. They are growing and maturing so it's fun to see that progress. In some cases the children are very sweet and in other cases we see some hardening and toughening of their personalities and actions. One teen girl who seems poised to choose a path of rebellion, is actually very regular in attendance at all activities - right front and center with her loud, enthusiastic participation. Pray that Nargessa will follow the Lord she hears about daily during the weeks a CERI team is here.

Our theme today was FORGIVE EACH OTHER. In the adult class, I am trying to present the same scripture to my 7 or 8 faithful teachers. It was quite a discussion today on this subject. Forgiveness is a challenge for all of us and it stirred deep emotions today.

As we got back to the team house for lunch today, we were met by Connie, the CERI director to ask is we had someone willing to share a sermon at the young people's meeting at Jesus Savior Baptist Church tonight. The church Sr. pastor had called her to ask. I immediately thought of Mark Clemons and he said "Yes" before he asked how many would be attending or how long it should last. The answer to those questions was that there would be about 400 between ages 15-30 and he should plan to speak for 40 minutes. I guess summer vacation took that number down a bit but he went (after ironing his golf shirt) and enjoyed his experience. He had studied last evening for his turn as the morning team devotional leader on the subject of ARE NATURAL DISASTERS GOD'S PUNISHMENT OF PEOPLE? I had been told by an adult at the camp that "God is punishing us by sending floods" and I had suggested we discuss that concept as a team. He did a good job of Biblically dealing with the subject so it seems his thought and preparation got used for a couple different purposes.

But it's past my bedtime and only a couple people are still up at 11:20pm to continue preparation for tomorrow. John M. is faithfully printing photos he and his classes are taking during the day. Diane is putting together props for presentations tomorrow. Phillip (age 10), has gone to bed now but practiced his speed-stacking demonstration for tomorrow morning when we begin a day with the theme, PUT MY WORDS INTO PRACTICE: THE WISE AND FOOLISH BUILDERS.

Natalie and Shera have a growing number of teen gals in their troupe. Pray for these gals as they are strategic in modeling Christ-like behavior and choices to young women about to become adults with many tempting, but ungodly choices.

We shared some of the clothing we brought with translators today. They were so appreciative of being able to select some lovely items which suited them nicely. One gal is 29 years old. She is a college prof in Medical education. She has 6 years of education in medicine. She found a lovely brown, twead sweater sent from Idaho for this trip which she lovingly held up to herself and asked if she could have that one. She said, "It is so soft and it's just my size and style." I can't tell you often enough how grateful I am to be able to share what many have provided with all we have contact with while here. We will take clothes to the camp tomorrow afternoon.

We've had a few moments of lightness - volleyball games with the translators and some good-natured teasing and laughing. It's going well here at this point. The pool remains unrefilled so the kids are up for all the action and activities we have the energy to lead. How thankful our "seasoned" team members are for young Sydney and Phillip, Allison, Natalie and Shera in their twenties, James, Diane and Tammy next in line and from there we won't speculate.

Keep praying for us as we're depending on your important role in that needy and critical area.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Monday in Moldova

This was such a full day and we all survived it well!!!
Prayers are being answered!! All of the lost luggage arrived intact and we were able to get it this afternoon. Diane did a great job improvising during Gazebo time this morning without her puppets and props - she was quite the actress as she worked with John, James and Phillip as they portrayed the Prodigal Son story with her narration and the help of the translator. Kids enjoyed the enactment of the story. Now that props have arrived we'll be experiencing even better drama with the children.

The day was beautiful but pretty hot. One thing that has a happy/sad consequence is the swimming pool. A storm put junk in the pool - there has been severe flooding in parts of Moldova - and chemicals were added to clear it up. That didn't work so the pool is being emptied - with bucketfuls by children taking turns at baling water. So the pool couldn't be used today and won't be refilled and ready for use for several more days. It is unfortunate that the children can't be swimming during these hot days but that means they can spend more time in our groups and that's a good thing. We came prepared for that and it is very helpful to the teachers who are here supervising the children at this time.

It was a usual first day of camp - a few surprises, some kids not sticking with the group they're supposed to be in, some translators not quite as available as wanted but overall quite smooth and pleasant. We debriefed and will adjust a few things to perhaps gain some turf for tomorrow. We had decided yesterday that we would take shoes to camp this afternoon for distribution. Most of the 80+ children found a pair that fit but 10 or so weren't able to find something. We are planning to address that issue before the week is over in some way. Some of the teachers also found shoes that thrilled them. Thanks to everyone who donated those shoes - some came from as far away as Idaho in order to make this trip. The kids seemed excited about their new shoes and the teachers were very grateful.

We all slept well last night but most need another lengthy night in the sack to feel really adjusted to the time change and work load - not related to age for any of us, however.

Thanks for continued prayers - we're working well as a team, everyone is actively involved, the kids are energetic and lovable, food is terrific, all is well here.

A shower is calling and I'm hoping there's some hot water left for me!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday plus first trip to camp!

It is 11:35pm and I need some sleep but also want to communicate about some of the events of today. Weather has been beautiful - sunny and quite warm. Church was all in Romanian until a greeting to our team at the end of the service in English to express appreciation for our presence. The 2 hrs flowed smoothly through singing, prayer, sermon and communion and though we didn't understand much, we knew we were with people who take seriously their faith and their privilege of intercessory prayer. There is a significant portion of the service devoted to prayer and people come forward with slips of paper containing prayer requests and give those to one of the pastors on the platform.
We had pizza at a restaurant for lunch, ordered pizza to be delivered t0 the camp at 7:00pm, made a quick swing through an out-door market though we didn't yet have money changed so couldn't buy anything and then returned to the team house to unpack our supplies, organize and prepare for our first trip to camp. Several team members shopped for lunch supplies and got money changed. We had a brief prayer/share time before heading to camp.

There are fewer children at the camp this week but we still had a significant time seeing some familiar faces and finding a number of new children this year. One translator canceled without notifying anyone so we had a few moments of frustration until Boris, our van driver, stepped in to help me with the adult teachers.

It was very special for me to find that Svetlana, a teacher I connected with in 2005 has returned to camp for the first time since then. And there was Maria who was special 2 years ago and now is back. I had also gotten to know several other teachers a couple years ago - Ludmila, 2 more Maria's and also the director who has been here each year, Galina. Along with these gals there are several student teachers who speak and understand some English. It was fun to see each of these gals.

We have not heard from our "Lost Luggage" so that's our first prayer request tonight. Diane will be going to Plan B or C as she prepares for Gazebo times tomorrow without the props in those boxes.

Request 2: Adequate translators to cover our groups.
Request 3: Good sleep tonight for everyone.
Request 4: Participation by all children at the camp.

We feel your prayers but want to ask your continued covering.
Monday will be a full day with the children and the teachers staying with them this month.
The teachers are pleased to hear that we have shoes and clothing for the children with us. They told us that some of the children have no shoes so they'd like us to bring shoes to the camp tomorrow afternoon to distribute to the children. This will be a blessed time as we provide for this need from the wealth of donations we have with us.

Praise: Gratitude for all the supplies we have to share.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

We've arrived safely in Moldova!!!

All has gone very smoothly as our team has assembled from at least 5 different parts of the world. Six of us left Kerrville at 8am and 3 joined us at the airport who had come from San Antonio and Austin, TX. It took 2 hours to check in but finally all of our baggage was checked in and we were cleared to trave. United Airlines expressed fear that not all of our boxes would be able to be loaded on our flight as it was a full and small plane. Our flight from SA took us to Chicago where we left on a full flight for Frankfurt at 6:45pm. On that 8 hr. flight, some slept quite a bit, some a little and some not at all. Fortunately I was in the first group so feel pretty good (and am able to stay awake to update this blog). We had about 5 hrs in Frankfurt before boarding Air Moldova for our flight into Chisinau, Moldova. Joining us in Frankfurt were 2 from Kerrville who had gone ahead by 2 days, our daughter-in-law and 10 year old grandson from Richmond, VA, our son from NYC and a gal from England whose original plans to spend a week at a camp in Moldova had been canceled due to a flooded camp. She will spend several days with our team so we're enjoying getting to know her.

Our flight was smooth - new plane with air conditioning - and the weather that greeted us was sunny and beautiful. Most of our luggage arrived. We had checked 17 boxes in San Antonio - all but one arrived with us. Diane and Phillip's 2 boxes and his suitcase did not arrive. We filed "Lost Luggage" reports so hopefully those pieces will arrive tomorrow or the next day.

The best part of arrival, however, was to be met by Connie, the CERI director for Moldova, Russ Massey the TX based CERI director for Moldova and Shera, a volunteer from Houston joining us for the week. We also were welcomed by Boris, one of our usual van drivers plus a driver we hadn't met previously.

We had our traditional photo taken from the airport with the city in the background and then we piled in to head to the Team House.

We could smell our delicious dinner as we walked through the front entrance. Lilea and her "home cooking" provided a delicious first meal here.

We are settling into our rooms, heading to the showers and sending a few messages. I am full of gratitude and excitement. It almost feels like I've "come home". God had blessed us with happy travel, much that was donated for our work here and the sure confidence that friends and family are continuing to keep us covered in prayer as we're here. What an awesome God we serve.

Tomorrow we will have breakfast at 7:30am, attend Jesus Savior Baptist Church at 9am and spend some time getting ready to meet our translators and the children at the camp in the afternoon. It is predicted to be quite warm this week - in the 90's perhaps!!! But we'll update what happens tomorrow on my next blog.

Your encouragement is such a source of strength for all of us.