Friday, December 26, 2008

Home From Moldova...

As we checked in at our gate in Frankfurt, we learned that our flight was delayed by 3 hours due to a storm affecting O'Hare Airport in Chicago but we were mysteriously upgraded to 1st Class for the 7-8 hr. return flight!!! It was lovely!!! We arrived at O'Hare too late on Sunday to connect to San Antonio so we spent the night at a nearby hotel and had a mid-morning flight to TX the next day - courtesy of AA. We survived the -4 degree (-35 degree wind-chill) temperature in Chicago but it was pretty brutal for a couple of Texans. So we're home, glad to see husbands and adjusting to life after our Moldova experiences.

This is most of our team which became good friends as
we shared such incredible days for over a week.

The first day in Moldova was one of the coldest while we were there. We're bundled up for the Sunday afternoon loading of the trucks which would accompany each team for the next week carrying the boots and socks we would place on the feet of hundreds of orphaned children there. This truck with the large CERI (Children's Emergency Relief International) sign, was a thrill for children to see as it drove onto the grounds of each orphanage. What excitement and joy we experienced from the delighted children everywhere we went.

A number of the orphanages are for children with physical limitations. This girl was unable to get out of her wheel chair so I needed to kneel on the floor to fit her feet. I was afraid of hurting her as her foot was unable to bend but as I watched her face, she never winced but remained smiling as a new boot was found to fit her foot.

We were both joyful after new boots were keeping her feet warm and dry.

My thoughts often return to my days in Moldova. The opportunity to provide these few moments of attention and love as I gave new boots to many precious children has been a great gift to me. It has made my Christmas extremely meaningful and memorable.

Each participant in this Operation Knit Together trip was given a small card with a creatively composed appreciation message from the CERI Moldova team. I share it here as a word picture of how blessed I have been.

and be glad!!!
You brought good things
of great joy which will be
to all people here in Moldova!!!
We are grateful that on the Christmas
Eve you have put aside time, money and
your family, so that many orphans and poor kids
in Moldova would feel the joy of Christmas. Winter shoes
will keep our kids' feet warm. Your smiles and words of
encouragement will remind them about Jesus and His Birth.
"...and they will call him Immanuel - which means, God with us."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday in Moldova Dec. 20 - Last day to share...

It is 10:25pm. I and most of the team are nearly completely packed. We will leave the Team House at 6:30am tomorrow morning for the airport. Flight leaves for Frankfurt at 8:30am. Arrival there is 10:15am. Deanna and I will check in for Chicago and a flight that is scheduled to leave at 2:15pm. We are getting some reports of storms in the midwest and northeast so keep praying for safe travel.

This has been a sweet day. The great college group we have joyfully volunteered to head to the warehouse this morning to help with some cleaning and organization. That took 90 minutes. They returned about noon and we all headed to Andy's pizza for lunch and then shopping at the outdoor market and places near there. Temperature was about freezing - cloudy and slightly drizzly - so quite endurable.

We returned to the Team House shortly after 4pm. I got organized and ready to join a half doozen others for supper with Dorel and Olga until 7pm. That was sweet as we shared their lovely home which they completed building this year in order to move in during the spring. Little David continues to grow and be a sweet child who loves to have company. His mom said he couldn't take a nap as he was so excited about visitors coming.

At 7pm we had some team debriefing and preparation thoughts about returning home. Many are expressing that this trip has been life changing and that it won't be possible to view life in the same way as was done previously.

So following that some packed, some played games and some wrapped up other end of trip activities.

We are all pretty exhausted but we're so thankful that we've been here and that the huge task that was tackled has been accomplished. So many people have made it possible. There are those with the vision; others to implement the vision; people who give, pray and go. All the bases have been covered and we are about to head home. We leave here knowing that many little and not so little feet are warmer and more ready for winter than they were 3 weeks ago. Those who have been doing these trips for many years tell us that they see a big difference between conditions of the facilities and conditions of feet from what was the situation 9 years ago. There were no buildings without heat on this trip. 9 years ago many of the orphanages had no heat!!! There used to be signs of frost bite but those signs are nearly gone. There is more joy on the faces and regular food seems to be served so the children appear healthy. The work of CERI on behalf of orphans in Moldova is having a profound effect physically and we pray that spiritual growth will continue as well. It is a ministry in which God is honored and glorified. I consider it a huge privilege and blessing to have been part of Team Awesome for Operation Knit Together 2008.

This will be my last post from Moldova. We will head to the airport in 8 hours! Thanks for continued prayers - weather could be an issue as we travel.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday in Moldova Dec. 19th

It's 11:20pm but this house isn't yet ready to settle down for the night. The northern team has returned to join the 2 southern teams so friendships and stories are being shared. We reconnected at the Appreciation supper which was held at Bethel Baptist Church this evening from 6-8:30pm. The Moldova CERI staff hosted the traditional Moldovan meal and our teams shared small gifts with those whose support has made our ministry possible. It was such a sweet time as we celebrated together the love for Moldovan orphans which we all share with passion.

The 3 weeks of Operation Knit Together 2008 completed its task this afternoon at about 2pm!!! Dearing Garner reported that 11,500+ pair of boots and socks had successfully been placed on the feet of every orphan in this country. He was part of the northern team which worked late last night because of delays on icy roads. Some children had to be awakened as they fitted feet past 10:30pm.

Our team headed out today at 8am toward the border with Transnestria. We arrived at nearly 10am but were told to cross at a different check-point. Perhaps the paper work involved for our team and the contents of our truck was too daunting? The second border crossing was a ferry. We arrived about 10:20am and learned that the next crossing would be at 11:30. So we sat in our van, ate our sandwich lunch and waited. The ferry left the dock as scheduled and a "late" vehicle flew to the crossing only to see they'd just been left behind. The driver got out to wave the ferry to return for them and we did!!! But we finally got across and to our destination after that fairly brief delay. The last ferry of the day would leave at 3pm so we knew we had to leave our facility by 2pm in order to be in line for that ferry. We had 90 minutes to serve the 300 adults at this home for folks with mental illness. We unloaded our truck, divided into 3 teams as that's how many translators we had and loaded our arms with boxes of socks and the slippers we were giving these folks. We were led by a staff person at the home and went into each room to leave our gifts. This was a challenging task for many reasons but the delight of the folks we met made our efforts worth it.

Upon our return to the Team House, our team had about 90 minutes before we were to leave for our evening dinner. It had been arranged that Deanna and I would get to meet the twin girls we sponsor along with another couple from our church. Elena and Valentina were waiting for us and we had a precious time of visiting, sharing gifts and taking photos. These gorgeous girls have a mother but she doesn't have employment that provides for the girls. Their father has not been part of their lives for many years. The girls lived at Internat 2 orphanage in Chisinau until this past summer when they graduated from 9th grade. They are now enrolled in a 3 year trade school which will prepare them to be "cookers". They are doing well in their courses. They live together in a "hostel" which must be a school dorm type facility. The girls are rather shy but expressed gratitude for all we're helping them with. Fortunately the Transitional Living program provides "Training" in spiritual matters and with issues of self esteem and life. It was a privilege to meet them and share a time of prayer before we hugged them good-bye.

Our dinner was delicious - abundant plates of traditional Moldovan food. We had appetizers of a couple fresh salads plus cold baked chicken with mushroom sauce. Then came platters of stuffed grape leaves and cooked cabbage served with sour cream sauce. I thought that was the entre but following that we were served "Mama Liga" - cooked corn meal served in a ball like mashed potatoes with shredded goat cheese and fried pork cubes. Dessert was a torte type cake served with hot tea or coffee. We were really full after all of that which had been beautifully served on a table set with Christmas candles and decorations. Those who shared during the "program" were Connie, Moldova CERI Director, The Moldova Baptist Bishop who will be the recipient of the over-run of boots and socks which will be used in Baptist benevolence and the CERI Social Worker who directs the Transitional Living program. We also heard the story of Olga, a young woman who has benefited from the CERI programs and has now finished advanced schooling to become a cosmetologist. The evening ended with lots of photos being taken and lots of hugs given.

Tomorrow will be a mostly "free" day - breakfast will be at 8:30am!!! Some volunteers will help organize the warehouse. There will be a souvenir's shopping trip at some point. We'll pack and about 5pm I will be joining some other team members for an evening with Dorel and Olga - past CERI leadership staff.

Our flight departs Chisinau at 8:30am Sunday. Our experience here has been truly a blessed experience but we're getting ready to return to family and friends for the celebration of Christmas USA version.

Your prayers continue to provide us with the strength we need and the safety we're experiencing. Thanks for keeping us wrapped in His care as we return.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday in Moldova Dec. 18th

It is 9:45pm and another lively game of Phase 10 is going on behind me but I'll try to summarize the day while I overhear the giggles and verbal jabs of the crew behind me.

We climbed into our van at 8am and headed to the Warehouse in order to load some additional sizes into our truck. By 9:30 we were on our way to our first stop which was a school/orphanage for physically handicapped children. Most were normal in intelligence but were coping with "not so severe" handicaps. We didn't have wheel chairs today but we did need to get onto the floor to fit some children who had deformities. We had very grateful, involved, professional faculty involved with the children - we've seen this quite universally at all of our stops. One teacher spoke quite a bit of English. I visited with her and learned that she had been to the United States to observe Elder care there. She attended an event that was held in Des Moines, IA and included a tour of part of the midwest including Chicago. She was very impressed by what she saw and knew that the level of care wasn't yet possible in Moldova but hoped for a way to incorporate some of the things she had seen being done in the states. She wondered if we had brought any pictures of the US - capitols, etc. - as she teaches history and would love to have some additional materials to use in her classroom. She had "won" her trip to the states by applying for the trip and being selected as 1 of 10 or 20 out of 150 applicants.

Next we went to another facility for handicapped children. This was a very clean, neat school. As we concluded, the administrator brought out a platter of a special bread for Christmas which was made in individual roll-sized pieces. They told us the school cafeteria had baked this treat for us. We ate it while there and it was similar to a breakfast bread with some raisins - we liked it. Again we were very profusely thanked for what we were doing.

Before leaving there to head to our 3rd stop, we recieved a call from Dearing Garner with the team in the north. He asked us to pray for them as they were on the side of the road with their drivers putting chains on their vehicles. A wind and dropping temperatures had blown in to cover everything with ice and they still had another facility to reach and serve before their day was finished. We have learned that they have had prayers answered for safety and the completion of their task. Great news!!!

Our 3rd stop was a baby hospital, day-care and orphanage combined in one facility. There are 70 children there under the age of about 3. Not all children were brought into a large room where we fitted them with little boots but quite a number were - probably about 30-40. They were so adorable and were so eager to have their feet fitted. They stuck out their feet and giggled gleefully as they had their turn to get new boots. There was a set of twin girls who were so sweet I could hardly resist packing them up to take home with me. We were not allowed to take pictures there so the memory will remain in our hearts.

Following that stop, we returned to the warehouse to unload all our unused boots and socks and reload with the 370 pair of slippers and 740 pair of socks we will use tomorrow.

We got home at about 7:30 which was our scheduled dinner time. The other team was here and we had lots of lively sharing about our day. The other team was at a facility today with just handicapped boys.

I haven't learned why so many handicapped children are in institutions here but the translators suggest families are unable to care for these children at home. We've also been told that a handicapped child is viewed as a disgrace so they are put in an institution or kept hidden at home. They also think it's possibly the result of Chernobl which happened in 1986 in the Ukraine - not that far away from here.

Kim has commented that she thinks the handicapped children have expressed the most thrill and gratitude for our gift of boots. Nikki M says the children alsways ask if we're Santa Claus. Nicky H says life in the states will be viewed much differently now that we've been here to see a different way of life.

We are nearing the end of the week but have a big day tomorrow. My team will be traveling to Transneistria to take slippers to 320 mentally handicapped adults there. We hope to be on the road at 8am. We'll conclude the day with a 6pm dinner with the support team we've had here at which time we'll give them some gifts.

A few team members will leave Sat. am and the rest of us will have a "free" day on Sat. Deanna and I will meet the twin girls we help sponsor who are in the Transitional Living program. I also hope to connect with some of the friends I have here who I've not seen yet this week. We'll have some souvenir shopping time and will get our packing done for an early Sun. morning trip to the airport on Sunday.

We know that prayers are being answered for our safety as we have observed several fairly serious accidents as we have been on the roads. Today has been cloudy, foggy, drippy and chilly but not below freezing here in the south where our 2 teams are serving. There are a number of drippy noses including mine so you can add a prayer for our health as well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wed. in Moldova Dec. 17th...

It is nearly midnight. I just spent 45 minutes typing a blog post and somehow accidently deleted it!!! So I'll attempt a repeat of today but it may be a shortened version.

Our teams were up and off at 8:30 this morning and our team returned at 9pm. We had stops today at 3 facilities which took us on a drive nearly to the Romanian border and a couple stops in between. Each place had lots of excited, lovable and grateful children. We always have great help from the oldest boys at each stop to unload and reload the large boxes of boots and socks.

Unfortunately, we have begun to run out of some sizes - especially the black boot we've been giving to the girls. Their only option now is to accept a pair of brown "boy" boots or take a size of black "girl" boots which is either too large or too small. Their choice seems to fall at about 50/50 when their option is explained. We are all grieved to have to disappoint some girls but we're at the end of 3 weeks of distribution and this can't be avoided. The boot order is carefully planned based on records of sizes and gender from past disttributions but shortages seem to be inevitable.

It begins to get dark by 4pm each afternoon so we drive in darkness part of our day. Today we had thick fog as we drove the final leg of our journey so that slowed our van and truck quite abit. We have a large truck that travels with us hauling the large boxes of boots. As we drove into our 3rd facility today, a front wheel of the truck dropped into a hole and was stuck. We were able to unload, however, and by the time we were ready to reload and leave, the driver had shoveled the wheel free and we were not delayed in our departure.

Many of our team felt that our 3rd stop today was their favorite place so far. They felt that the children were more demonstrably grateful and so there were quite a few minutes of clinging hugs. In our concluding devotional, we mentioned that Christmas was coming which is a time of celebration of the greatest gift which God has given to the world. That gift is Jesus who made salvation possible. We told them that our gift to them of new boots was symbolic of that greatest gift from God. We wanted them to think of God's gift each time they put on their new boots. As we neared the door to leave, little Maria had something she wanted to say. She chocked back tears which flowed freely as she concluded her effusive expressions of gratitude. She also promised that she would never forget us and that each time she put on her new boots, she would think about the greatest gift of Christmas which is Jesus. At that point, Maria was not the only one with tears in her eyes and gratitude in her heart.

Thanks for your continued prayers. We are staying strong physically and as a team. Tomorrow we will head to 3 more orphanages - closer in proximity to Chisinau so perhaps we will not be out quite so late tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday in Moldova Dec. 16

It is nearly 10pm and it is now my time for the computer. A group of 8 is behind me playing the game Phase 10 and at times it gets pretty lively so we'll see how long I can concentrate.

It has been another day of work, joy, emotion and exhaustion. Some of us have some sore muscles from lifting large boxes of shoes and/or being up and down while fitting boots.

My team headed off at 8am for a 2 hour drive SW of Chisinau to an orphanage with 198 children. The space for set-up was a little smaller than we had yesterday but there was heat in the building so we didn't get chilled as we worked. Again the facility seemed to be in good condition, the children were clean and sweet and faculty appeared to be caring and supportive of the children. The children almost always thank us for the new boots and seem pleased with the gift. A team member named Nicki did the student body closing devotional at each home where we were today. She is a foster single Mom in TX so has lots of experience with children similar to the ones we're seeing here. We concluded the first place about 1pm and the faculty invited us to their kitchen where they allowed us to eat our sandwich lunch along with the hot tea and cookies they served us. That was a nice place to enjoy refreshment before getting back on the road to another orphanage. The next stop was a large home for 300 girls with emotional illness. They were fitted by another team in the past couple weeks but there had been a shortage of boots so we were delivering the needed extras so that all girls would receive a pair.

From there we went to a facility for 100+ children who have some type of physical impairment. 1/3rd of the student body also have a learning disability. That was quite a challenging event. Quite a number of children were in wheel chairs; some had various deformities of feet and/or hands; and others had various weaknesses and disability. It took quite awhile to fit these children as many were unable to assist to any extent in getting the boots on. For the wheelchair children, we knelt on the floor and took care of their needs that way. I tried very hard to be gentle and caring even when removing the socks of a child whose foot was quite severely deformed. I struggled some to get socks and boots on those feet but I was imagining how painful it must be for the child to realize they were the cause of difficulty and delay. Without being able to express anything with words they understood if a translator was not nearby, I tried to take a few moments to rub and caress each foot with a smile on my face as I looked into their eyes which hopefully communicated that I wasn't repulsed by their body though inside I'm afraid there were many times that I was. I have been trying to pray silently for each child I care for as I ask God to somehow provide the needs which must be huge for children who are alone and separated from parents who can give all they need in a loving home. It is hopeful to see that there are many caring teachers in their schools and to see that they are quite healthy and adequately clothed.

As we concluded our time at that orphanage, I spoke with the administrator for a few minutes. She thanked us for what we had done for all their children. I thanked her for all she did every day for so many children with needs requiring help with everything. I asked about the length of each employee's shift and she told me that they work from 7am - 9pm each day. I'm assuming that's 5 days a week but I'm not sure. What devotion these folks have to work those hours and daily do what I did for only a couple of hours today.

Our team climbed wearily onto our van in deep thought; knowing that we are tremendously blessed - to have had the opportunity to serve others for a few hours today and to trust God to care for all needs whether inward or outward.

The other team stayed in or near Chisinau today for their orphanage stops. At one of the places, they were joined by the United States Ambassador to Moldova and his wife who arrived to help fit a few children as they were interviewed and filmed by a media crew. Supposedly the group was to be featured on the evening TV news but we missed seeing it.

The drive in the countryside was a nice outing for our team today. We observed a number of horse drawn carts hauling people and things around villages. There is still no snow and today was a little warmer outside so we were pretty cozy most of the time. The game behind me is ending and I could use some sleep so will sign off for today.

We're all being well fed and cared for at the Team House and by our CERI support team - translators and van drivers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday in Moldova Dec. 15th...

Our team has returned from a full day but the other team staying at the Team House with us hasn't returned yet so dinner is an hour away. I think my team members have decided to rest for awhile.

We were on the road at 8am toward the border with Transnestia. For the last half of the drive, there were some snow flurries which gave a coating of white to the landscape and caused the road to be slippery. Boris drove our van more slowly so we did not have any problems. At noon as we were transferring to our second orphanage,we passed an accident in which a car had flipped over just off the highway. We do not know if there were injuries or not.

We arrived close to 940 am at the community center in a small community near the border. 178 children had been transported there from their facility in a village outside of Tiraspol. They were unloading as we arrived. A number of the teachers were there with them. The set-up guys for our team, Trey, Don and Patrick from Houston, moved quickly to decide how the room could be arranged for our task. The oldest boys came to help carry boxes into the building and it wasn't long before we were ready to start fitting children with their new boots and socks. We stocked each "fitter" with socks so that they could concentrate on the child and have socks handy. We have 4 translators and they are "fitters" also and are seated between the Americans to assist with the limited conversations we are able to have with the children. Deanna and I worked as "fitters" along with keeping the sock supply available. The community center was not heated so we kept our coats on and some of the team still were pretty chilly. We were all impressed with how healthy, clean, well-dressed, beautiful and sweet the children were. We removed their socks and put on new socks but most children were wearing 1 or 2 pair of socks. They were full of smiles and seemed very excited and appreciative of the new items. Each child was given a Bible story booklet, a couple pieces of chocolate candy, a second pair of socks and their old footwear in a bag as they left their personal fitting session. The 2 hours it took for this group seemed to fly by and went quite smoothly. We had plenty of boots in all sizes so every need was met. Before the children loaded their buses to return, our team leader did a short devotional time with them. We left with gratitude for the joy we'd experienced during the morning.

Lilia, the Team House cook, had prepared a sandwich lunch for us. We drove toward our second facility and pulled over along the road in a pull-off area out of the traffic. We stayed in the van and passed around our lunch items. We had some debriefing sharing as we ate and decided to adjust the sock access for the next stop. One gal volunteered to "issue" 2 pair of socks to each child as they were assessed for boot size. This seemed to work better so we will probably take turns filling that role at our future sites.

The second facility had about 148 children. These children were perhaps even a little more out-going but they seemed a little needier than the first group. Most socks had holes that we took off so the new socks were a real hit. Again it was a sweet experience for our team. After the closing devotional, the children sang us a song and hung around to help load the truck or engage in conversation and get pictures taken.

It has been a great but exhausting day. We will spend time at 2 orphanages again tomorrow, 3 on each day Wed. and Thurs and a large, adult facility on Fri.

The other team has just arrived and food is being brought to the table so I better sign off for now. Thanks again for remembering us in prayer.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday in Moldova...

Our day started pretty early - about 5:30am for my room - and it's nearly 10pm and most have gone to their rooms for the night but I'm hearing giggles from our college gals who are enjoying making new friends and being used by God to serve in new ways and the week is just beginning. Everyone reported sleeping well last night which helped a bunch with the tasks of today.

Breakfast at 7, orientation for the day at 7:30, load the vans at 8:30 so that we were at Jesus Savior Baptist Church before 9am. Eight team members had to have all their luggage in their van so that they could be taken to Balti (Beltz) when their truck load of boots, socks, gospel booklets, hats and scarfs was loaded this afternoon.

It was a very special day at Jesus Savior BC this morning and we are all grateful we were here to experience the joyful worship service. It was a day when 25 +/- adults were baptized. As we arrived, this group was seated, all dressed in white, in the choir loft for a picture. Then they moved to front pews until the time in the service came for the baptism. We knew there was going to be the baptism and communion during the service so it was anticipated that it would be a 3 hour service instead of the usual 2 hours. Our leader decided we would find it difficult to complete our other required tasks for the day if we stayed for all 3 hours so we stayed only 2 hours and left after the baptism and before communion. Our leaders asked us to sit in the balcony so we could leave without making too much commotion. The balcony was already nearly full when we arrived so half of us had to sit in the back rows on the main level. By 9 am, the church was overflowing - extra chairs brought in for the center aisle, people standing all around the back and sides of the sanctuary and filling the foyer to only partially be able to see and hear. I was told this was more than the usual morning congregation due to many extra family members and friends of those being baptized. The service included the usual outstanding choir, congregational singing, prayer times when people spontaneously offer prayers throughout the sanctuary, the sermon and a special music group consisting of 3 trumpeters and some orchestration. There were a couple singing groups who sang as well. Ina, the translator I had in August, was in the service and was able to translate much of the service for me. She translated the pastor's sermon which was primarily directed to those being baptized. Many of those folks were young people. He started his sermon by telling about the incident a number of years ago at Colunbine, CO. He told of a young woman there who had been asked if she believed in God. When she answered, "Yes", the pastor told everyone that she gave her life for her commitment to God. He also told about Paul and Silas who were imprisoned for their faith. It was touching to be reminded of the truth about what could happen as a result of commitment to Christ. During the service it was reported that the baptismal group had been asked 3 questions; then just prior to their baptism, these questions were asked of them again:
* 1. Have you made this decision by yourself without coercion from anyone else?
* 2. Have you repented and committed your life to Christ?
* 3. Do you promise to faithfully live committed to Christ for the rest of your life?

Two pastors participated in the water as they baptized 2 people at a time. The pastors placed a hand on each head as the person went straight down into the water and back up. As soon as they came up, the choir sang a short song. This happened for each group baptized. Lots of people were taking pictures so hopefully I will be able to include a glimpse of the service in the future. (This computer doesn't seem to allow adding photos.) It was a very joyful and worshipful service. It is always a great blessing for me to share in worship at this Baptist Church whice seats 2000 +. The people are very friendly and welcoming.

Following the service, we headed to McDonald's for lunch - pretty traditional food there.

We had been instructed to attend church in "work" clothes as we would not return to the team house until we had sorted and loaded all the supplies needed for the week for 3 separate teams who will distribute 5-6000 pairs of boots to children - Lord willing. We arrived at the warehouse about !;30pm. It was a large corrugated steel building with electricity but no heat! The temperature both inside and outside of the building was in the 20's - pretty chilly for the mostly Texan crew we have on this team. I haven't forgotten life "in the north" so I was able to be bundled for the occasion and stayed warm all afternoon. We completed our task about 5:30pm and many were chilled but no one was complaining nor flagging from the work.

I was put in charge of socks and I immediately designated a co-chair for the project so Deanna came on board without a whimper. We soon realized the task was huge and we needed additional help which came as Christi and Kim joined our ranks. We had the numbers for all the orphanages we will be serving and each child will be given boots and 2 pair of socks. We divided the socks into S, M and L. We had the total # each team needed. The socks were "mostly" in boxes which had come from a company in North Carolina (I believe) and from Buckner Ministries. "Some" of the labels on the boxes were accurate but we had to open most boxes to determine sizes and quantity. We stayed on task all afternoon and managed to have each team's amount ready to load by the time the boots were loaded. We handled 12,000 pairs of socks!!!

We are being told this would probably be our coldest day and the most physically difficult as we won't be working in unheated buildings for the rest of the week though we have been informed that some of the orphanages may have no heat.

All 26 of us worked with energy and endurance. Thank goodness for leaders who have been doing this since 1999 and for the youngsters who aren't prima donas. We were all ready for supper by 6:30 and then for sharing afterward related to plans for tomorrow.

We'll again have breakfast at 7am and load our vans at 8 to head off to orphanages. The team we're on is heading toward Transneitria to deliver boots to children from Tirospol. The boots cannot be transported across the border so we'll be met in the buffer zone by buses bringing children to us there. We will go to another facility before returning in the evening.

I'll try to bring a post about that tomorrow evening. It's 11pm and the house is now quiet so I better head to bed also.

Your prayers and comments mean a lot to us so keep them coming. There will be travel tomorrow plus our first opportunity to spend time with the children we've come to serve. I'm really looking forward to the day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Safe Arrival in Moldova Dec. 13, 2008

It is 9pm in Chisinau, Moldova and 26 team members have just completed supper and our first team orientation meeting.

It has been an incredible trip here for Deanna and me. At every juncture we had provision for everything and all went extremely smoothly. Our departure from O'Hare was delayed by about an hour while a fan was changed on the plane but that time was made up in flight and we arrived in Frankfurt at about the same time as we were scheduled. We had no problem getting our luggage and getting checked in at Air Moldova. No extra fee was assessed for any of our bags as we had anticipated. The lines going through security were long but no bags were ever opened. A few questions were asked about contents but we were always cleared to proceed. We felt and knew that specific prayers were being answered for that process. Thanks so much.

The team members we were meeting in Frankfurt arrived at the gate after we got there but it was nice to begin to meet the people we will be spending the week with. Many are students at TX universities and all are excited as we are about what we will be doing.

All flights have been smooth and we slept fairly well on the 8 hr overnight flight. All luggage for all team members arrived with us.

There is no snow here but it is quite cold. Our coats felt good as we arrived.

Some team members are busy unpacking supplies before heading to bed. We will have breakfast at 7am; continued orientation, devotions and at 8:30 we'll head to Jesus Savior Baptist Church. Lunch will be at McDonalds and then we'll head to the warehouse where all the boots are waiting. We will load 3 trucks with the 5000 pair still to be distributed. There's no heat in the warehouse so we've been told to prepare for that.

Deanna and I will be part of a team of 8 that stays in Chisinau for the week but we don't know more than that about our schedule. Another team of 8 will stay in the same Team House here but they will go to different facilities.

We know God has already been blessing us during these days of travel. We are pretty tired but are so grateful that the week has begun with such grace.

In the airport at O'Hare, I met a young woman named Barbara. She had just said good-bye to a special boyfriend and was returning to Germany. Her eyes were red and swollen from crying. As I heard some of her story, I learned that she's facing difficult choices with a conflict between her head and her heart. It was a time of sharing some things related to the most important gift of Christmas and what it means for all humanity. She was a good listener and I knew God was speaking to her through me. As you think of her, ask God to help her have the courage she needs to make the right decision for her future.

The computer is working so hopefully there will be more time in the days to come to send some updates.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Final Preparation for OKT in Moldova...

Operation Knit Together 2008 started Nov. 28th and continues for another week. Eight teams will have fanned out to cover all Moldovan orphanages - 12,000 children - to individually put new boots and socks on their feet. I will be part of the 3rd week in which this takes place. I'll be on a team of 8 who stay in the capitol city, Chisinau, and move out from the IMB Team House there. Watch this video to get an idea of what happens with this project.

Another gal will travel with me from our homes in Kerrville, TX. We're very excited and can't wait for the fun to begin.

I'm hoping to add to this blog from Moldova. If the house computer is up and running, I'll post updates throughout the week.

More information is also available at

  • "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance." Ps. 2:8a

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Summarizing a couple of weeks...

Our time in Richmond, VA flew by with every moment spent maximizing family time and collecting memories to savor long after the aircraft door closed and our jet taxied to the runway. With 4 children between the ages of 5-10, our son and his wife have little time to be inert. It's a mighty peppy foursome with energy measured by the ton. But I had treasured moments with each one and feel privileged to be needed and wanted by each grandchild - sports with the boys, baking with the girls and games with all. The boys - ages 9 and 10 - still like to sit in my lap for bedtime stories. We almost made it through a SUGAR CREEK GANG book which my mother had read to me and I had read to my children. The girls were in the midst of a PRAIRIE PRINCESS book. I love these ages - love reading to children - love having family opening their home to other family.

A highlight Sat. morning after Thanksgiving was to attend a performance by the Christian Children's Theatre of THE CHRISTMAS CAROL. I was very impressed by the well-done show we attended. And I was very grateful for the play's message: A person can change; you don't have to remain a Scrooge forever, you don't have to be alone if you have family because they love you and will welcome you whenever you are willing to walk up to their door... It was a great message for the holiday and I'm glad our family attended.

Since returning to TX, my attention has been consumed by preparation for my trip to Moldova which starts on Friday. Interspersed with the mundane, however, has been the enjoyable side of Christmas and birthdays - 2 in our family this month - mine and our daughter's. So I've attended 3 Christmas parties, a couple birthday celebrations and participated in something our church does each year which is called "The Edgewater Boutique."

The boutique event is a time for residents of Edgewater Nursing Home to "shop" for Christmas gifts. Items they or members of their family might enjoy are donated. That collection of things is put on display where residents can view and make their choices. If they want their selection wrapped, we provide that service. For folks who cannot get out to shop elsewhere, this event is greatly anticipated and enjoyed.

It was at Edgewater, a nursing home in our community, that I met Betty N. She needed help with the event because she had limited vision and was in a wheelchair. We almost immediately bonded. She was excited about the event and was a fun-loving person. She found a lovely crocheted sweater and wanted to put it on. I helped her with that and she decided to "buy" it. I told her it was a gift and required no payment. After that, she was ready for coffee and a cookie so we moved to a table where those were being served. We had plenty of "helpers" for this event, so I decided to linger in conversation with Betty. She shared much of her life story with me. We had some things in common and great differences in other things. She grew up with her wants and needs easily provided for - not the same for me. But we both had/have loving, kind and capable mothers. After hearing about Betty's life, I decided to ask her about the future - specifically the time when her life in this world would end. I asked what she thought would happen then. She said, "I hope I go to heaven." That statement led to a conversation in which I was able to share with her about things of faith which she said she found very interesting. She told me she had never before heard the things I was telling her and she remained actively engaged as long as I talked. She kept thanking me for spending so much time with her and for telling her about such wonderful things. I told her she could have a spiritual birth and become one of God's children. She said she'd have to think about it. I told her it was possible to pray and become a child of God right then if she'd like that. She immediately replied that she wanted to. I told her I would pray and she could repeat my words. She spoke clearly and exactly every word I said. When we finished praying, she beamed and continued to thank me for taking time with her that morning. I took her to her room after that and as we passed another person helping with the event, he spoke to her and said, "Have a wonderful day!" Her sincere reply was, "I've already had a wonderful day. It can't get any more wonderful than it's already been!."

My heart was soaring. As I drove to Edgewater that morning, I had been thinking of the time when Jesus told his disciples that "the fields are white for harvest." I told him that I believed that was true so I prayed that He would show me someone that morning who may be ready for His harvest. And that prayer was answered in an amazing way!!! Betty was waiting to be told God's truth. When she heard it, she responded with eager, trusting faith and I shared the joy I knew that angels were expressing as they welcomed another sheep whose name had just been entered into the Lamb's Book of Life.

Tomorrow I will complete my packing, have lunch with some girlfriends, mail some packages and take a couple of pictures to Betty at Edgewater. I told her I would come back to see her and I can't wait! I will also make a big pot of chicken soup for a friend who had surgery on Monday and is now home. I know it will be a good day.