Thursday, 6 October 2011

Last three days in Moldova

On Monday morning we went into Chisinau with Phil who had to go to his Romanian lesson at the language school which is very close to our Andy's office.  We arrived about 10.20 and Peter Haheu came down to meet us and show us round the office.  They have 20 people working for Amdaris in two office suites in a very nice new office building, right in the centre of the tourist area near the Cathedral and the museums and theatres.  Next door is derelict piece if land with a pair of amazingly ornate gates, chained up leading nowhere. It was nice to meet the guys, and we picked up a bottle of wine for Andy, but Peter's English was not as good as we had thought and so we decided not to wait around for them to complete their ' ISO 9001:2008 audit' and thanked them for showing us around and went off sight seeing.  We found a cafe just round the corner and then walked past the archeology and history museum and the theatres, lots of banks and looked round a sort of department store.  We went and had another coffee and something to eat in Creme de la Creme and met up with Phil after his Romanian lesson by the cathedral.   We had bought a potted chrysanthemum for Helen, not realising just how heavy it would be. Phil carried it home for us on the trolleybus and minibus back to the OM Centre. I had a 90 minute teaching session with six students on the level two of the Challenge into Missions programme in the afternoon, teaching on Servant Leadership. The question and answer session found us looking at what it meant being close to God and how the way our fathers treat us can affect how we feel about the Lord.  That evening we walked down to Matthew & Helen's.  The sun was setting and there was a lovely red sky.  Had a proper meal with vegetables carrots, cauliflower and broccoli and roast potatoes with a tasty chicken dish, followed by stewed apples from their garden and custard, real food, much appreciated! (not that we haven't really enjoyed Maria's food at the Mission Centre here.  It does tend to be quite high carb in Moldova.  I dread to think how much weight I must have put on here.). After the kids had gone to bed and we were able to have a good chat, Matthew drove us back about 9.30 pm.  The next morning the six CiM students were waiting for me to do my second teaching session with them on The Importance of Mission.  The first years arrive tomorrow and they will be leading groups over the next ten weeks,  especially when they go out to do practical work in the villages.  They seemed quite responsive to the message, looking at some of Jesus' mission statements and the great commission and finishing with lifting up our eyes to see how ripe harvest is that they would be going out into over the next few weeks.  I prayed prophetically  over each of them after the session, which they responded to well.  Some understood what I was praying and I hope that they will be able to fill in for those that didn't.  Two of the students are brother and sister, twins, from a Baptist church in the north, both have excellent English. After lunch Sandy went to help Helen who was not at all well and helped with their home schooling and played with David and James, allowing Helen to go and have a nap.  Sandy came back quite exhausted. I prepared my last message with the team Bible study tomorrow morning on Bible Meditation, and also had a nap! Tuesday evening was team prayer night where everyone eats together and then they have three to four hours of prayer - although it is more like ten minute reports with a few minutes of prayer between.  They always begin by praying for various counties if the world and this week  it was nations with a significant Hindu  population, such as Nepal and India.  After the refreshment break I shared about ABC and then they prayed very fervently for us. We are both feeling very tired so we slipped out if the PM early to get to bed.  Wednesday mornings is the team bible study.   Eight messages in eight days!  Sandy had suggested I did the session on Bible Meditation, which I prepared yesterday afternoon.  After explaining all about it I got them meditating on John 15:14-15 after which we concluded by people praying out their meditations.  Sandy had walked round to Helen's as she was still not very well, and helped the girls with their home schooling.  I read through the lecture notes for WORDplus and began putting a Keynote presentation together.  Might be able to get some more done on the plane home. Had lunch with the team and the students.  Maria had made a delicious sweet and sour chicken dish with rice that the Moldovan students found rather strange and not to their taste at all. Walked down to Matthew & Helen's for dinner and a last evening with them. Up early already packed, said our goodbyes and are now in the airport waiting our flight home. A great visit to Moldova.

Monday, 3 October 2011


Had to be ready for Stephanie to pick us up to go to Micleuseni, (pronounced Miclay-ooshen) a village about 45 minutes drive north west. The presidential palace is located in the direction of this village so the road was probably the best road in Moldova. It deteriorated drastically as we turned off towards Micleuseni. We arrived at a house that had been converted into a church meeting room with a kitchen and a smaller hall behind.  The loo was a proper modern loo in an outhouse round the side.  We were welcomed by Stephanie's husband Spiridon, who had gone over yesterday afternoon by bus, to take the youth group, and were introduced to the leader Nico, who has been leading it about ten years since the church was planted out from a nearby town where Matthew & Helen lived when they first came to Moldova, and were involved in the church plant. Nico was appointed as a deacon by the Pentecostal Union three years ago and leads the wotk there. His wife works as a carer in Italy and he looks after his two sons Pavel and Daniel (about 12 and 8)? Nico's eldest son is married and lives with his family somewhere else in Moldova.   About forty people gathered, about half were young people and children. A good time of singing and prayer all together out loud, with several songs sung by members of congregation including one girl about ten who had written a poem/song about heaven. An elderly lady also sang a hymn, she had been brought up in a Christian home, but seeing the persecution her parents suffered during the Soviet occupation, she turned away from the Lord and married a man who refused to let her have anything to do with the Evangelical Christian faith. Fifty years later she walked into a meeting held in a home in Micleusheni, and wept all the way through, and responded to the gospel appeal. She praised God that at last her husband had died and she had heard of the gospel meetings and had come along to see, and committed her remaining years to the Lord she had turned away from all those years before. Her family are all very hostile to her conversion, and she prays for them fervently.   As a visitor with OM I was expected to give the message before which Sandy and I introduced ourselves, and spoke about our church and family and gave greeting from ABC. I gave another version of the Heb 6 message I had given yesterday, but without the constraints of the mixed denominational congregation.   They responded very positively all the way through, lots of amens. I didn't have to tone down the laying on of hands bit, but spoke plainly about baptism in the Spirit, which got plenty of loud amens.  I got some positive feedback from a man who liked my illustration of children falling in the mud and being loved and cleaned up by dad, not being beaten and condemned, which was how he had always seen God, He kept shaking my hand and thanking me for explaining just and how much God loves us like this!  I finished with the millions of Lei in debt being turned to millions of Lei in credit illustration, which got lots of enthusiastic amens from beaming faces!  It was the most responsive group of people I have met so far.   We met a man who had been prayed for and been healed of cancer.  He and his wife were bringing up their grandchildren as both their children had gone abroad to work, and as both their marriages had split their parents were left caring for the kids. His wife had prepared us some lunch in the back hall from where the children's feeding program is run.  After lunch we were driven by Nico in his land rover up to his home right at the top of the village.  It is very beautiful part of Moldova, rolling hills, forests and farm land.  He has a magnificent view from his elevated position and a very nice modern home by village standards, hot running water, a bidet in the bathroom, a computer room for the boys and a spare bedroom where his married son stays when they visit and where Stephanie and Spiridon sleep when they stay, which can be most Saturday nights. They keep rabbits, chickens, turkeys and a pig and have just harvested their corn and pumpkins for winter feed.   Young Pavel's hands were stained black from harvesting walnuts, which grow everywhere, a lad can earn over 100 Lei per Kg. About 2.30 we went to a neighbouring village where the church has been doing open air work during the summer.  Stephanie organised games with the children and sang Christian songs with them, but as it was harvest none of the usual adults turned up.  There was a little boy about 5 or 6 who had never learned to speak. Meanwhile Spiridon had been playing football with the Micleuseni church lads. After hanging around for about an hour, we left the village, which has a well but no drinkable water, it all has to collected from a site about 500m from the village and carried back. We drove to the football field and waited for the game to finish, Nico joined in the game.  We said goodbye to the folk and Stephanie drove us back to Chisinau. Spiridon had injured himself playing football so didn't want to drive. Back at the OM Centre we had a meal with a group of German speaking Swiss young people who have come for a few days to take part in one of the villages on an outreach programme. The Centre is an amazing hive of activity people coming and going, staying for a night, a few days or two weeks like us, all the time. Maria the cleaner, who is a widow, does an amazing job keeping the place clean and changing all the beds and washing the sheets for the next group. This coming week the 22nd ten week Challenge into Mission programme begins with about 30 young people,.mostly Moldavian.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

OM Relief Workers Conference

Twice a year OM host a conference for all the OM Day Centre programme leaders and helpers where they gather together the relief workers from the churches who run the Day Centres feeding children after school and/or the elderly.  They get two days of inspirational and practical teaching with group work and some special treats, such as going to the sauna, bowling or shopping. They get fed really well and take their funding back with them for the next month.  They all run on a monthly contractual basis.  The team is headed up by a Moldovan young lady on the OM team called Snejana.  After breakfast we joined the opening sessions. I had been asked to bring the message for the opening session and I did a session on 'not growing weary in well doing'. It was particularly appreciated by a number of them who had come who were a bit discouraged and weary.  After a break there was a session on Team Work and Sandy and I took part in that speaking from our experience.  There was quite a lot of interaction and some of our more negative experiences seemed to particularly help them. That evening we went back with one of the OMers, Lilian, to his flat after work at 18.00 for dinner with his wife Michaela.  Had a really excellent evening, didn't get back until 22.45! Chatted about all sorts of things including Mark Driscoll and Bill Johnson.  Lilian is Moldovan and Michaela is Austrian, but they seem pretty much in touch with the global young Christian scene. Woke on Saturday morning at 6.00 and prepared a message for the Relief conference on foundations from Heb 6.  Their speaker has dropped out at the last minute, so I gallantly stepped into the breach. Matthew and Helen and family were away for the weekend with the International Church at one of the Moldovan camp sites and would not be back until Sunday afternoon. We had been invited but declined and decided to have quiet day so I was free to take the session. After breakfast I deliver the message, which went down quite well. I had to tread carefully when it came to laying on of hands as the baptism of the Spirit is one of the major contentions between the Pentecostal Union and the Baptist Union in Moldova, but I think I managed to urge people to ask for the Spirit using Jesus words in Luke 11:13 wthout causing any controversy. Again had some good feedback After that I wrote some more of my blog and then joined the delegates for lunch.  It was a really warm day, and after all the conference delegates had gone home and everything had been cleared up, Phil took us by bus into town.  We went to the botanical gardens which was more like big park with some specimen plants and some lakes, but nothing on Savill Gardens, while Phil went with some of the team to the nearby gym.  In the gardens we met Eugene and Dana who are on Matthew's core team. In June Matthew had asked us to pray for Dana as she had been diagnosed with leukaemia. She has been having treatment in Romania and has been declared clear and 'in remission'. They had just come back from Romania and so it was the first time we had me her, although we had met Eugene that morning at the OM Centre. Sandy and I walked back from the gardens up Bulevardul Dacia, as far as the stadium, we were looking for somewhere to have a drink and found La Placinta where we waited until Phil & Andy a lad from Romford Essex, turned up, where the four of us had dinner together for about £22.  We were going to get the bus back, but as we were waiting while Phil went to a pharmacy to get me some more antibiotics, there was taxi waiting where we were standing, so they negotiated a price (£2.50) and we got the taxi back to the OM Centre.  A much more pleasant journey than going on the trolley bus and minibus, and only twice the price.  

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A Trip to a Village

On Wednesday morning I was invited to take a bible teaching session with the OM team. I went through part of the material of my message from 1 Cor 6 entitled 'Don't you know?" It was interesting preaching with an interpreter. It seemed to go down quite well, although teaching on grace and that God cannot judge us, because all his wrath was poured out upon Jesus had caused some questions, I was told later. It seems that God's judgment is quite a popular topic in the churches here in Moldova. The message about being the temple of the Spirit seemed to be less controversial. It is interesting talking to younger OMers who feel called to serve the Lord as missionaries, serving the churches here. After the morning session we got ourselves ready to take a trip down south to a small village called Paicu, near to the town of Cahul, very close to the Romanian border. A delightful young lady called Tamara, who was one of Matthew and Helen's first converts, drove us to her home village where she is doing a remarkable work. She works for OM and also cares for a church that she has planted in the village. She has supervised the building of a property as a church centre, with a worship room, kitchen and adjoining hall and two rooms for accommodation all completed and up and running. There is another upstairs hall, office, meeting room, toilets and staircase that need completing. So the loo was a long drop, a hole in the ground some way away from the building (in a wooden shed). They have quite a bit of land behind them where they grow food and they are hoping to be able to keep chickens too soon. The hen coop is built. We met the kids that come after school, about 15 of them. Many of their parents work in other countires and they live with just a mother or grandparents, but although dad should be sending money home for the family, often he drinks it all and they have very little income. Alcoholism in Moldova is apparently higher than in any other cuntry in the world by far. The OM project feeds children in many villages around Moldova where a church is able to provide the facilities and workers. Some of the children did their homework and then they all tucked into a hot meal after which they went into the church room where a 31 yr old Moldovan guy working with OM called Vitalie gave an enegetic talk to the kids about the wise and foolish builders, using some great home made flannelgraph illustrations. Afterwards they all played games in the sort of field behind the property until the sun was setting at about 6.30 pm. That evening was the church mid week meeting and I of course had to speak. Another variation on the 'Don't you know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit' theme. Boy when they prayed it reminded us of Korea. They all prayed out loud, and I mean loud! There was a wonderful sense of God's presence and although some were more passionate than others, everyone was enagaged for ten minutes or more. Being a Pentecostal church many prayed in tongues as well as Moldovan. But what passion. They also meet every weekday morning at 6.30 to pray, like in Korea. The only difference was the numbers; no more that twenty here instead of twenty fifty thousand in Seoul. Tamara has personally led evey one of these people to the Lord, and sort of leads the church as well as heads up the building project, child care centre and the elderly feeding programme. All the time we were with her she seemed to be constantly chatting to people on her mobile phone, even on our drive up- which is not illegal in Moldova. After my message I got them praying in twos for each other which they were not so familiar with, but it was humbling to see the ladies in particular on their knees on the floor arms round each other praying for each other - very loudly, while their partner prayed loudly in tongues. That night we stayed in the church building in the only completed upstairs room and had a bucket as it was pitch black outside. Slept well, and sister Paulina a Moldovan OM worker the same age as us had made rice pudding for breakfast, popular here as a warning energy breakfast for Moldavians working on their smallholdings. That morning Tamara drove us into the town of Cahul, where she went to the market and also bought some more building materials they needed. When we got back the elderly were arriving for their only meal of the day. Three old gentlemen and two ladies all between seventy and eighty six. They ate well and then sister Paulina spoke to them about the Lord and prayed with them. We then took food round to three old ladies unable to get to the building. One had been married to a company director who had died and she took to drink and now has nothing left, her beautiful house is now a slum. It was so sad. The last lady we visited had had serious problems sleeping but after Tamara had prayed with her and through her rooms, she has slept well ever since, she wanted to tell us all about it. Her grandson is one of the lads who comes to the after school project and also come to the Wednesday night meeting. After we had some lunch back at the church centre, we had to catch a minibus back to Chisinau. It took about three hours and was not particularly comfortable. Matthew picked us up from where the bus dropped us and it was good to get back to the comparative comfort of the OM Mission Centre. Tat evening we had a meal with the American business guys at Matthew & Helen's. It was great chatting to them, especially a Korean named jason, who had lived longer in the US than in Korea. The Koreans in the US are exactly the same as in Korea - they pray!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Learning more about Moldova

Monday was a quiet day. Spent much of the day reading and writing messages, my diary and blog. Quite hot outside, so spent most of the day in the Mission Cente. Sandy went to Helen's to help her with the home schooling which she enjoyed. There are a group of business men here from the States looking to work with OM in taking micro financing of Christian businesses to the next level of investment. We went with the Skirtons to their hotel where the kids had a great time using the pool, while I went to meeting in the hotel with the businessmen and a Christian MP, who shared about the political and spiritual state of Moldova. Too much info to put in this blog, but it is quite precarious as there as been no President for several years and the country is split between pro-European and pro-Russian factions, as Moldiva sits between the Ukraine and Romania. 2% of the country are evangelical believers. There are three out of 101 MPs who are believers but the Orthodox church has a strong influence over parliament. Most Moldovians are nominally Orthodox, but churches are pretty empty and it is mainly women who follow the Orthodox religion. He was a delightful brother who had at one time been President of the Baptist Union. After he left we all went to Andy's pizzas for a meal. Sandy sat with Helen and the kids while I sat with Matthew and the business guys. Again some very interesting discussions about Business for Transformation and what these guys are doing in various parts of the world. On Tuesday we went with some girls from the communications dept to a camp where churches in NL had provided finances through OM to provide a holiday for disabled adults and children. Met a wonderful disabled believer who has championed the cause of disabled people in Moldova and was the organiser of this camp for the disabled and their carers. Over 100 attended and the OM girls had to prepare a report on the camp fir the Dutch sponsors. The camp was a sort of ex-soviet holiday camp with small accommodation blocks, toilet & shower blocks a large refectory, a covered meeting area, swimming pools and sports facilities in the forest very close to the Transnistran border and river. In the evening all the team and visitors ate together at the Mission Centre and the prayer evening took a special form - every department shared what they were doing and we then prayed. It is very exciting to see what is being accomplished here in Moldova and how God is at work through all the ways that OM is helping and supporting the work of the local churches throughout the country. Awesome!

Monday, 26 September 2011

A Weekend in Moldova

My ankle has got infected.  Phil, an OM worker who is qualified nurse came over and checked it out. I need antibiotics and he dressed it and will look after it while we are here. Helen took Sandy & me to the Market and Supermarket.  Very interesting; wonderful selection of seasonal produce.  Bought a few items - butter, eggs for breakfast, wholemeal bread, fresh milk!  White baguette and sausage and cheese are already getting a bit tedious. Got back to Matthew & Helen's for lunch and we all got ready to go to the circus.  An interesting experience!  Matthew had an allergic reaction inside the big top and had to use an inhaler. At 4.00 the second half started but we left and Matthew had to stay outside, leaving Helen with five wide-eyed children.  Phil, the nurse, met us outside the circus and took us on a tram (2L each) to the centre of Chisinau where we visited the main sites of the city. Passed the Presidential palace and the Houses of Parliament, still surrounded with corrugated fencing since there were riots and massive destruction in both these buildings.There was a service going on in the main orthodox cathedral with the most magnificently beautiful singing and many people lighting candles, kissing icons and genuflecting, mainly women, young and old!  The cathedral had the most amazing artwork everywhere, the wall and ceilings all painted.  After leaving the cathedral we had a coffee in delightful coffee shop called 'Creme de la Creme'. Sandy even took a photo of the loo!  After some more walking and sightseeing we  ended up in a restaurant where we had dinner, which was really excellent.  Phil kindly took us by bus back to the OM Centre, (3L each) and saw us home before getting a bus back home. Sunday morning we had an early start. Matthew was picking us up at 7.55 to drive up north to town called Rezina. It was about a two hour drive. When we arrived the main road was blocked off and the police wouldn't let any cars across the main road to get to the church. It was apparently because they were expecting a cycle race coming through the town.  But we waked arriving at the building, or rather building site, in sufficient time for Matthew to touch base with the pastor, Virgil.   There is a hall with kitchen, toilets and a few side rooms finished, but the  main auditorium is a shell and the building has roof struts but no roof. There will eventually be rooms over the hall area. A church in Holland is helping to support the building work as there is no way the believers of the town could provide the funds, their offerings only cover local running costs, the pastor earns his living as a teacher and is not paid by the church, and the weekly food kitchen for children and the elderly is supported by donations from OM. The ladies who run that receive a small wage to help them make ends meet.  The meeting was their harvest thanksgiving celebration to which Matthew had been invited to speak.  About ninety people including children all in their Sunday best, the wives all wearing head coverings,  were crammed into the hall, some had come from tiny churches in surrounding villages. They sung songs from a song book, a mix of older hymns and newer songs, a couple of which we knew the tunes from some years back and so were able to join in in English. People brought their own song books if they had been able to afford to buy one. Many sang the songs from memory. Participation consisted of items: poems, songs performed by individuals or groups, short exhortations and prayers at various times for specific things such as the offering, blessing the harvest loaf.  I was given five minutes to bring greetings from ABC with an exhortation.  I spoke about God making things grow.   The Pastor's brother, Costel, who lives in Chisinau and is part of the church that the Skirtons attend, translated for me. The folk were responsive. Virgil's mother played the accordion for a group of three ladies from a village where she and Virgil's father lead a small church of about a dozen believers. Then her father, Virgil's grandfather, played the harmonica accompanied by his daughter. Because it was harvest the children did a presentation for about 30 minutes including poems, songs and a drama- all about different fruits and vegetables.   Matthew spoke from John 9 about the pharisees getting incensed about Jesus healing the blind man on the sabbath. He spoke to unbelievers about being blind and addressed the issue of legalism with believers.  Helen gave us the gist of what he was saying, although the children were finding it hard keeping still while dad was speaking after such a long meeting, and kept interrupting mum. Even after Matthew finished there were several more contributions and greetings from the villages. The meeting had been due to start at 10 am, but it was almost 10.15 when the pastor welcomed everyone and went on for about three hours. It was followed by a church lunch, but with so many people in the hall we had to stand at our places at the tables as there was no room for people to sit.  There was bread, cold meats and cheeses, tomatoes , peppers and cucumbers which are in season and bowls of chicken bits with potatoes, carrot and cabbage in a thin gravy, all very tasty not at all spicy. There were bowls of grapes and biscuits and boiled sweets to finish and a grape drink that they make themselves.  It was frustrating not being able to communicate with anyone except the Skirtons and Costel especially not being able to converse with the pastor. After the meeting and lunch we went back with a delightful Dutch lady from OM, who works with the church caring for children, for a drink and a chat before the long trek back to Chisinau. The journey went quickly for Matthew and me chatting about all sorts of deep issues in the front, but not so quickly for the wives with the five kids in the back! It was a long tiring day, but very interesting and after we were dropped back to the Mission Centre, we vegged out for the evening. During the night Sandy had to get up with the dreaded Village Tummy! A quiet day today. Nothing planned for the day so Sandy has gone over to Helen's to help with the home schooling and I have been reading, meeting a few people and writing this blog.

Friday, 23 September 2011

First two days in Moldova

We left for LHR at 06.00 Thursday morning and flew Austrian Airlines to Vienna and from there Air Moldova to Chisinau, (kish-in-ow) the capital of Moldova.  Matthew picked us up from the airport around 16.00 Moldovan time (2.00 pm in UK) and took us to his home.  The Skirton family (Matthew & Helen, Hannah10, Lydia 9, Rachel 7, David 5, James 3 and two dogs, have a good sized house within walking distance of the two OM properties, one with accommodation for the team members and several offices and the other, where we are staying, is the fairly new OM Missions Centre, where Matthew has his office. Helen home schools the five children.  We have a room with two sets of bunk beds and are sleeping on the two bottom bunks.  But it does have an on-suite toilet & shower.  It has been lovely and sunny high 20s C.   Had a meeting with Matthew and Michaela from the personnel department.  Have pretty full programme worked out for the two weeks.Then we had a tour of the two offices and met everyone who works in the OM Moldova team, too many to mention and too many names to remember!   This afternoon we went we went into the city with the Skirton family and booked places for the circus Sat. afternoon and went to a restaurant for dinner.  Interesting eating Moldovan cuisine, a bit different to anything we have eaten anywhere else- a cheese pie, sort of cabbage dolmas, soft sheeps cheese, a sort of long thin sausage but the fench fries and potato wedges with ketchup and the salad were the same as in the UK.    We are staying in a more expensive area of Chisinau, where there are some very large houses, but the roads are dreadful- so full of potholes or unmade. The Skirtons have a land rover but most of the cars have to have their suspension changed quite regularly!  Moldova has two main evangelical groups the Baptists and the Pentecostals. They can be quite conservative and legalistic compared to UK but in a land where there are many people who drink to get drunk and where alcohol is even more of a social problem than in the UK, most Christians are teetotal and do not conform to this world.  We had some induction time this morning learning about the culture here, what to expect especially in the more rural areas we will be visiting.  Tomorrow we go shopping to a large supermarket and go to the circus and....