Wednesday was an incredible day for our team in Chisinau. In the morning we simply went all around the city running some errands. We also got to visit our first orphanage. Internat 2 was the first orphanage that JMI partnered with. Instead of being strictly an orphanage it is more like a boarding house where some of the kids are orphans. Visiting Internat was eye opening. While there the kids were a little standoffish and bashful. A few of them came to us to talk, but most kept their distance as we were waiting while Brian and Alina talked to the director of the orphanage. However, we did have Elijah and Antonina there with us that helped us to communicate with the few kids that were gathered around.
Elijah is a 17 year-old Moldavian boy that grew up at Internat. He is currently sponsored by an American family and is in the Boys to Leaders program (boys component of the Grace House created by JMI). He is completely fluent in English and has had the chance to visit America once before. Eli is hilarious and has caught on to American sarcastic humor. He loves photography and is very talented. Through talking with him we learned that he is also studying Bible in school. It was amazing to watch him interact with all the kids at Internat. Because he grew up there you could tell that he was a big deal and role model to the kids.
Antonina is amazing. She is studying foreign languages and wants to eventually be able to teach foreign languages. She is already fluent in Romanian, Russian, English and Spanish. Her sweet heart is evident through her continual joy and smile. She is only 22 and is absolutely beautiful. Antonina is incredible. During her off time she helps translate for JMI; she is in charge of translating all the sponsor/orphan letters, as well as helping whenever a mission team is in the country. We all fell in love with sweet Antonina and her loving and fun spirit.
We also got to tour Internat. That is eye opening for sure. The place was pretty gross to be honest. Most of the campus smelled like urine. The halls were dark and cold, yet, the classrooms were warm and damp. While on our tour it was crazy to watch the chaos in the school. Kids would come and go from classrooms as they pleased. It hurt my heart to see the kind of conditions that the children lived and grew up in.
After the orphanage we got to visit with the Owens family. The Owens are an American missionary family that have lived in Moldova for 8 years. It was fun to find out that the husband, Jeff Owens, was originally from Johnson City (only 20 min. away from where I am from). The heart of this family is incredible. As mentioned before they have lived in Moldova as missionaries for the past eight years with their daughter, Paulina. Their ministry is a church-planting ministry where they empower Moldavians to build evangelical churches within their country. Hearing their testimonies was great for our team. They told us the truth about Moldovan churches and the conflict that exists between the evangelical Moldovan churches and the Russian Orthodox churches in Moldova. Their ministry encourages and influences peace between the two churches and encourages grace. Mr. and Mrs. Owens helped us to understand the general culture and shared with us some of the encounters they have had with the Moldovan people. They also told us how the church in Moldova wants its people to be perfect before being involved in the church; a concept that horrified me. It was a blessing for us to be welcomed into their home and to be able to learn about their experiences.
Later that night we got to do some more of our ministry. We celebrated our stories with the Grace House girls. I can’t even begin to explain how powerful this night was. It was humbling for me to sit and hear some of our team’s testimonies and watch the girls receive us and our hearts. We started the night by having Olivia, Jill, Lexi and Amy Mc. giving their testimonies. I have seen people share their testimonies several times before, but nothing has been quite as holy as this experience. Watching our girls humble themselves and become completely vulnerable to everyone was beautiful. We were able to mourn and rejoice with our sisters and their stories. It was truly holy to sit back and watch our girls be transparent then to see their English transparency be translated to Romanian transparency and then to see the Grace House girls receive so openly the brokenness of some of us American girls. Antonita was translating for us and there was even one point during the night were she began to cry as she was translating; she said that it was hurting her because she could relate to our stories. The simple beauty of being vulnerable before one another is comparable to non other. At the end of our testimonies the Grace House girls graciously thanked us. They were obviously moved and let us know it. At one point one of the girls from the house said just how important it was for us to share so openly. She said that they had always imagined that they were the only ones with problems so severe; they had an image of Americans as always smiling and living a luxurious life; that Moldova was as low as they could go. After hearing our testimonies they understood the fallacy in those perceptions; they saw how broken we are. Another girl, Alina told us that she thinks that God brought us here to share our testimonies with them. This simple thought brought tears to my eyes. It was the fist real night that we got to spend with them and they already felt like God brought us to them. I was/am amazed by their love and devotion to each other and God. After we shared and had our sappy moments the Grace House girls’ love languages were prevalent. We were able to laugh and play together. We spent the rest of the night making some pretty sweet t-shirt headbands. Before we left we got to have another holy moment. Throughout the night we had all been joking around and silly singing. The girls had heard us and wanted to hear us really sing. Jabesk, one of the GH girls brought down her guitar and we had Amy Mc. lead us in a few songs. We started out by singing some American Christian songs. But a few songs in we got to all sing together. We found out that the GH girls knew the song Here I Am to Worship. We started by the Americans singing a verse then let them sing a verse in Romanian as we sat and listened then finished by both singing. There is hardly anything more beautiful than multi-lingual worship. Their beautiful Romanian voices filled my heart with joy.
The trip has just started and our love is constantly growing and building. I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for us.