Thursday, September 22, 2011

Moldova 2011 Memory Part 5...

The story started yesterday continues...

Diane and translator teaching girls to sing "Gloria" as angels for the Nativity drama...
... there's more to be told about something that happened during the rehearsal for the angels. Diane was handling the girls who were learning to sing the "Gloria" song so I stepped away from her and the group of girls. I was standing in the gazebo, observing Diane and her singers when a stranger walked into the gazebo, came up to me and said,
"Hi, I'm Gloria."

And I immediately replied as I held up my nametag,

"Hi, I'm Linda."  

With that introduction, we began a conversation.

I had learned the evening before that some team members had met several University students from different countries.  It had been learned that they were in Moldova as part of AIESEC to volunteer in camps where vulnerable children spent time during the summer.  I had not met any of these students but as Gloria introduced herself to me, I learned that she was one of the students with that group.  

I had been wondering about their length of stay and the purpose of their volunteer work so I began to ask Gloria some questions and she had some questions for me.  Her English was flawless. 

I learned that she was from China.  She had been in Moldova for at least 10 days and would be there for another 20 days.

She said that she and the other students who represented 8 different countries, were working in two camps which were geographically side by side.  A path through a wooded area was the way they moved back and forth between the two camps.  She told me they slept and ate their meals at the other camp.  She also mentioned that they hadn't been spending much time at "our" camp because they had learned that a team of volunteers was there that week so the need for their help wasn't so great.

Then she said, "I understand you are teaching Bible stories to the children.  Is that true?"

I replied, "Yes, we are teaching Bible stories to the children.  Are you also teaching Bible stories?"

(I had been very curious about her organization and was grateful for the opening to ask about her organization and its purpose for sending University students around the world.)

"Oh, no," she replied.  "We are not a Christian organization but I want to be a Christian!  I've always wanted to be a Christian.  But no one has ever told me how I can be one.  And ever since I have arrived in Moldova, I have been meeting Christians."

She went on to tell me that she had met a pastor named Dorel who was in a park in the center of Chisinau the previous Sunday.  Dorel, his family and some of his church members were in the park as was their usual custom on Sunday afternoons, to sing and invite people to their church for an evening service.  She had been invited by Dorel's wife to come to their home and stay a few days.  She had done this and had witnessed a baptism during her time with them.

She said, "During the baptism, I just felt like I wanted to be baptized."

Dorel & Olga with John & me in August 2005.
As she spoke, my heart was leaping.  I could hardly believe the readiness of this girl to become a Christian.  And I didn't wonder about the teaching she had received from Dorel and his wife, Olga, because I knew them.  Dorel was the director of CERI - Children's Emergency Relief International - when our church began to have teams go to Moldova each August.  I knew their testimony so I was certain Gloria had been receiving scriptural answers to the longing in her heart.

Gloria was talking fast and furiously.  She repeated her desire to be a Christian.  She told me that when she was 15 - 16 years old, she had a tutor who taught her English.  This tutor had studied in the United States for two years and during that time, she had become a Christian.  She returned with a Bible and gave that to Gloria.

"But the Bible was hard for me to read and I didn't know where to read in it," she told me.  "But I want to be a Christian!"

And with tears threatening to flow, I told her, "I can tell you how to be a Christian.  Do you want to become a Christian right now?"

"Yes, Yes, I am ready!"

I wanted to make sure she understand that repentance of sin was part of the process so I said,
"The Bible teaches that everyone has sinned."

With urgency she responded, "Yes, Yes, I already know I am a sinner!  I want to be a Christian!"

I realized she was ready and I needed to lead her with the prayer that would confirm the choice she had already made in her heart.

We were somewhat in the midst of children and their activity so I suggested we step out of the Gazebo and go to a spot that was just a little more quiet and private.

Photo taken in April 2005.
We walked together to a large tree that was away from the noise and action in the Gazebo. 

As we arrived at the foot of the tree, we turned to look at each other and she said,
"I feel this is a holy moment."

The tears were again threatening but I was telling myself to keep my emotion under control so we could pray together the words that would cause rejoicing in heaven as one sinner repented.

"This is a holy moment."  I continued,  "To become one of God's children, you need to pray, confess your sin and tell God you want him to come into your life and make you one of his children.  I can say a prayer and you can repeat my words if you'd like to do that."

She nodded her agreement and we began.

Dear Lord,
I want to be one of your children.
I know I am a sinner and need forgiveness for my sins.
I know that you died to pay the penalty for my sin.

Thank you for dying for me so that I can be forgiven.
I ask you to forgive me.
Please come into my life and make me your child.
Thank you for coming into my life and making me one of your children.
I love you. AMEN

The glowing smile on Gloria's face was the sweetest thing I've seen in a long time!  We hugged and I told her that there was rejoicing in heaven because of her repentance.

We heard her name being called.  Other university students were telling her it was time to go back to the other camp and have lunch.   

I told Gloria I would be back after my lunch and would return to the camp the next day also.  She said she would try to return before I left the country.

(I have blurred Gloria's face in this photo.  I do not want her to be identified by face or national name which may cause her to be subject to persecution and discrimination.  Gloria is the English name she apparently gave herself as an easily pronounceable name.)

As my heart overflowed with gratitude to Father God for the privilege of having this moment to share in the harvest for his kingdom, I walked to the van for our ride back to the team house.

A prayer of mine was answered, the prayers of many others were answered and a new life in Christ had begun.

I was about to learn that another new life had begun at about the same time as Gloria's had.  Rick would share over lunch that one of the boys in his small group had lingered after their sharing time in order to place his trust in Christ as Rick opened the way for him.
John 20: 30 - 31
 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

It was an especially sweet time of sharing and rejoicing around our table for lunch that day as a team.  And we prayed that God was glorified through us as we gave him our praise and thankfulness.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Moldova 2011 Memory Part 4...

The Gazebo where we all start and end our programs for the day.
The largest portion of our time in Moldova is spent providing the programming for a camp where children ages 7 - 16 live during June, July and August.  These are children who live at a boarding school/orphanage from
September 1st - May 31st each year.
Children filling the Gazebo and listening, singing, participating, learning...
Girls share a Choral Reading of our scripture for the day.

This year the camp also included children from vulnerable families who qualified for a free camp experience.  Those sixty children arrived on August 1st and would spend the month there before returning home.
These girls await the moment they'll take the stage in the drama they'll be sharing with the group.
The youngest girls claim a spot on the steps to the pool.

Following the large group singing and sharing, children head off to a small group time with a team member or two plus a translator for the Bible lesson for the day.  Groups meet wherever there is a bit of space to create an outdoor classroom feel.

Following the small group lesson times, the children participate in small group activities...                                
More crafts....
Knot tying which even the girls enjoyed...
Archery was a greatly enjoyed activity...
Diane with Irina and Anna to translate
These will be the angels who sing "Gloria" for the Christmas story.
Another activity option was Gazebo Prep.  During these sessions, my daughter-in-law, Diane, and I worked with groups of children in preparing them with drama, puppets, speaking in choral voices that they could participate as leaders/presenters during our Gazebo Times with the whole body of campers. This is one of the ways which we use to develop self confidence and leadership skills with the children. Diane is a pro.  She is gifted, educated and experienced as a Mom, school teacher and church children's worker.  She exudes the joy of developing children in creative ways.  In spite of conditions at our camp in Moldova being a bit more spartan than other venues where she has worked, she had ideas for each day and would always wrangle some "costume" items from our stash of donations, the team house cupboards and the items we'd planned for ahead of time and taken with us.  I was always extremely grateful for her creative energy and ability to overcome obstacles to work with a translator and prepare children for an important participation role during our week of camp.    There were times the children weren't so sure they understood or were interested in the plan but results amazed us each day. 
Friday would be our last day at camp and our Bible story would be the birth of Jesus.  Diane and I had decided to have the children do a drama of the whole story.  Thursday we would have to prepare and rehearse all the children who would participate.  Diane decided the girls ages 10-12 could be the angels and sing the song the angels may have sung to announce Jesus' birth.  Certainly the children would know a Christmas song like that!  But alas, they didn't and the Christmas songs they knew were not the Christmas songs we knew.  So creative Diane, exclaimed, "we'll just make up a song they can sing."  With that she began to sing in her lovely soprano voice, "Glooooria, Gloooooria, Gloooooria..." and with each time she sang "Gloria", she sang higher and with a beautiful melody.  After a few times through as a solo, she engaged the girls who began to softly sing the song.  Over and over again Diane and the girls sang this angelic praise to God - each time with voices getting stronger and stronger.
"Let's compose and learn a song which the angels might have sung the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem!!!"
Joseph & Mary getting into costumes
We would have Mary and Joseph, Baby Jesus, shepherds, angels and wise men.
Angels robed in white as they sing "Gloria" to the shepherds.
Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Wisemen worshiping and Little girl who wanted a "front row" view.

The whole cast would take a bow after their stellar performance.
Friday's performance was a huge hit.  The day was lovely and the children glowed with joy wearing their simple costumes but with knowledge that they'd had an opportunity to be on stage to share a very important and exciting story.  What fun to see them pleased with their part in the program.

But there's more to be told about something that happened during the rehearsal for the angels.  Diane was handling the girls who were learning to sing the "Gloria" song so I stepped away from her and the group of girls.  I was standing in the gazebo, observing Diane and her singers when a stranger walked into the gazebo, came up to me and said, "Hi, I'm Gloria."  And I immediately replied, "Hi, I'm Linda."  With that introduction, we began a conversation which I'll tell more about in my next blog post.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Moldova 2011 Memory Part 3...

An acquaintance who has been a missionary in Russia since 1994, shared a statistic today that is both convicting and heart breaking.  She sent an update of progress on the work she does in Russia this morning and included the following information.
"America is far from God!  How did it get this way?  One big reason is that many believers have not been laboring in the “harvest fields”!  Many are not being “salt and light” (living out the Gospel  values) and  have not been sharing the Gospel (explaining the Gospel truths), which is the responsibility and calling of every believer!  II Cor. 5: 15,19-20  The Apostle Paul gives clear instruction in Eph. 4: 10, 11 that those who have the gift of evangelism are to be equipping  the rest of the “Body of Christ” to do evangelism!
"When I was in Germany at our ReachGlobal Missions Conference in August,  I learned a terrible thing!
"In our evangelical churches in America, it takes an average of 165 believers to bring 1 person to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ!  I could not believe it!  I knew it was bad when I left America 16 years ago, because I had been on a National Board that did research... Back then the statistics showed that it took  approximately 100 people to lead one person to Christ.
"In contrast to that, the students who were trained in evangelism in... Kursk and who were committed to obeying God’s Word,  have been leading 1- 3 people to Christ a year! And don’t think it is easier there (in Russia) than here (in the United States)! You have no idea how much more difficult it is to share your faith there!!!!" 
 I share these comments with you because it underscores my own admission in my previous blog.  A relationship with Christ is the answer to all needs in this world.  Why are we - why am I - so reluctant to share this good news with those who don't know this truth?  Why are we reluctant to ask God to use us in his harvest field?  And why are western evangelicals spending so much of their money on their own church needs when there is such GREAT disparity around the world in giving/spending/going.  Just one statistic from World Mission Statistics shows that the following is true for American churches concerning how they allocate the use of their giving:
  • 99.9% of Christian income on themselves
  • 0.09% on the Evangelized Non-Christian World
  • 0.01% on the Unevangelized World
I am grieved to read and contemplate these statistics. But I am also ready to be a person more committed to not being part of these statistics but instead to pray for the courage and focus to be more concerned about the lost world than these statistics indicate is the case in America.

And the story of my experience in Moldova this past August will continue in another post.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Moldova 2011 Memory Part 2...

As I prepared for my seventh August trip to Moldova, I prayed for an opportunity to be part of Jesus' harvest.  I recognized that there are many important steps for each life being sought by God for redemption.  There's the planting and watering of seed.  Those are critical stages.  My earlier trips had been spent serving those purposes in the work of God's kingdom.  But something inside me this year desired to be one of Jesus' Fishers of people who would experience the joy of harvest.

I'm quite sure my prayers for this matter were somewhat tentative.  I didn't want to set my expectations so high that I would be greatly disappointed if God should decide not to provide this opportunity for me or other team members.  But I felt enough confidence and trust to mention this idea to God in my personal prayer times.  I didn't, however, announce my thoughts to the rest of the team.

That was not humility but lack of honest courage.  How could I admit that for past trips I hadn't really been praying for harvest opportunities?  Wouldn't the team be assuming that my spiritual maturity would have included prayers for the salvation of people with whom we'd be meeting and interacting?  Well, I wish that were so but I'm afraid my prayer life has lacked fervent, confident, hopeful specifics!  And for that I'm sorry.

So my conversation with God this year included the dipping of my toe into a stream I'd not waded into with much exuberance in the past.  And fears of failure on my part are used skillfully by the Great Deceiver to weaken, silence and intimidate me.  When will I learn that allowing intimidation to silence me is a tool of Satan to weaken the ways in which God could use me if I would claim His offer of courage like Nehemiah did while he was rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem?

This is a lesson I learn and appropriate; then forget and fail to appropriate.

But my story this year is doing much to boost my joy, confidence and commitment to being a more faithful woman of prayer.  The notions that lurk inside my head causing me to feel unable to be a winsome witness for Christ are not honorable but dishonorable.  And my reserve is not attractive but is the product of faulty thinking and inability to step into the life of freedom and faith which God has designed for me and out of which he desires for me to serve him.  I'm a trusting child of his and it's time to more firmly remember St. Paul's words to Timothy which are preserved for all of us who follow Jesus Christ.
II Timothy 1: 7
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity,
but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Dear Lord,
I admit I frequently allow intimidation to sabotage your desire for me to experience your spirit of power, love and self-discipline.  I confess that I have allowed lies to limit my voice and actions.  But you are my faithful, forgiving Father of whom I am not ashamed.  Thank you for continuing to call me to serve you at home and abroad.  Thank you for ways in which you have designed me with abilities which can serve and make you known.  May my faithlessness be turned to courageous faithfulness which will result in the growth of your Kingdom.  Thank you for trusting me with your words.  And may you find me faithful so that your redemption plan will be unveiled to all whom you wish to draw into your family through me.  I am your humble servant. Amen

The story of his answer to this prayer will continue another day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Moldova 2011 Memory Part 1...

One afternoon during January, 2011, I heard a man reading scripture on a local radio station.  The scripture being read was Luke 8: 26 - 39.  I have written other blog posts about this passage.  The key words which Jesus spoke to the former demoniac in this passage and it seemed he was speaking to me were these:
  • “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”

Today I begin a story which seems to be a fresh example of what God has done for me.

Moldova Team 2011
My story begins during the preparation phase for my seventh August trip to Moldova with a team of people in order to provide programming at a camp for children from an orphanage in Chisinau, the capitol of Moldova.

I have been pondering the Luke 8 passage often this year.  It has seemed as though God wants me to be bold in my witness for Him and this scripture has allowed me to see his expectation in a form I felt I could embrace without fear.  Couldn't I "tell how much God has done for me?"  I don't have the story which the demoniac has but that's the freeing part of these words.  I get to tell my story not someone else's story. 

So preparation for the trip was underway.  I'm quite sure that Jesus' commission in Matthew 28: 18-21
was on everyone's mind.  It's a given that the purpose of our trips is to
  1. go
  2. make disciples of all nations
  3. baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
  4. teach them to obey everything I have commanded you
and do this knowing that Jesus promised "Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."

Teaching precious children

We prepared each year for this international trip so that we would be ready to teach these precious children and adults about Jesus as we sought to disciple them.  Our wide open welcome to share Jesus' truth, love and hope was an opportunity we did not wish to squander.  

Meeting with precious adults...

Fun games...

And we grew each year in our boldness to share His words ...

...alongside fun games, crafts and activities.

fun crafts...

But my years of participation had not been blessed with a specific opportunity to have a conversation with someone who would become part of Jesus' harvest.  I was actively planting and watering the seed planted in hearts there.  So I decided this year to pray and ask that if it would be God's will, could I and our team be part of his harvest?  

The story of his answer to this prayer will continue another day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sharing Another's Story...

The Perfect Mistake (don't know who wrote this, but it is great!!)

My mother's father worked as a carpenter.  On this particular day, he was building some crates for the clothes his church was sending to orphanages in China .  On his way home, he reached into his shirt pocket to find his glasses, but they were gone.  When he mentally replayed his earlier actions, he realized what had happened; the glasses had slipped out of his pocket unnoticed and fallen into one of the crates, which he had nailed shut.  His brand new glasses were heading for China !

The Great Depression was at its height and Grandpa had six children.  He had spent $20 for those glasses that very morning. He was upset by the thought of having to buy another pair.  'It's not fair,' he told God as he drove home in frustration.  'I've been very faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and now this.'
Months later, the director of the orphanage was on furlough in the United States .  He wanted to visit all the churches that supported him in China , so he came to speak one Sunday at my grandfather's small church in Chicago .  The missionary began by thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting the orphanage.  'But most of all,' he said, 'I must thank you for the glasses you sent last year.  You see, the Communists had just swept through the orphanage, destroying everything, including my glasses.  I was desperate.  Even if I had the money, there was simply no way of replacing those glasses.  Along with not being able to see well, I experienced headaches every day, so my coworkers and I were much in prayer about this.  Then your crates arrived.  When my staff removed the covers, they found a pair of glasses lying on top.  The missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in.  Then, still gripped with the wonder of it all, he continued:
'Folks, when I tried on the glasses, it was as though they had been custom made just for me! I want to thank you for being a part of that.'

The people listened, happy for the miraculous glasses.  But the missionary surely must have confused their church with another, they thought.  There were no glasses on their list of items to be sent overseas.  But sitting quietly in the back, with tears streaming down his face, an ordinary carpenter realized the Master Carpenter had used him in an extraordinary way.  There are times we want to blame God instead of thanking him!  I have to remember this in these times of trial with my own family.

May GOD bless your week. Look for the perfect mistakes.

'People are like tea bags- - you have to put them in hot water before you know how strong they are.'

Now 'ain't' that just like God to do something like that???????? 
Peace is not the absence of trouble. Peace is the presence of God.