"All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth." -Colossians 1:6
Brothers and sisters,
I write to you today with encouragement. Today we saw the beauty of Moldova's brokenness. Throughout this week we have constantly been reminded of what a broken country Moldova is. A young country and former Soviet property, Moldova gained independence in 1991. Since then the country has been in turbulence. The Communist party still remains one of the most popular parties and the economy is horrible. The government does not produce any jobs and is therefore broke, so Moldovan people must find work in other countries to send back from to their families. This creates broken homes and families, not to mention being detrimental to the economy of Moldova. The small country (only the size of Maryland) has the largest human trafficking problems in Eastern Europe; women are often beaten in the household. They have an unbelievable amount of orphans (due to the lack of economy and because so many parents travel abroad to work) and they all want out of Moldova. In a nutshell, that is Moldova. However, this week we have seen glimpses of the beauty within all the brokenness- today specifically, but more on that later.
Throughout this trip our team has truly become best friends. We are constantly laughing, sharing wisdom, speaking truth, singing and loving each other. I mentioned last time that we are the 12 best friends that anyone could have and that is the truth! It has been more than a God-sent blessing to be able to fellowship and serve with my sisters. These ladies (and Uncle Brian, of course) are radiating God's beauty and teaching me about God's continual love, grace, service, strength and endurance. Never have I been with so many beautiful girls and been able to stand it for such an extended amount of time. I truly thank God for all of them daily. As I mentioned we have fun with each other and one thing that we have loved doing has been singing with each other. Since we have loved singing with each other (and making Brian, Borris, and the our other traveling companions endure all of our singing on the bus) we have noticed that we don't sound half bad. We have also dubbed ourselves as the Vontrapp's. Today the Vontrapp family singers busted out another concert. Our manager, Brian, and groupie, Borris, asked us to sing some songs while in the Orthodox monastery that we visited. This monastery was built in 1429 and is gorgeous. The interior is stunning with traditional icons covering every part. Towards the front of the small cathedral the ceilings jutted upward into a dome-like ceiling to showcase Christ the pantocrotor. This architectural design creates a stunning acoustic atmosphere. Standing at the front of this Orthodox cathedral, the Vontrapp family singers began our set list with Holy, Holy, Holy. It was honestly one of the holiest experiences I have had; the walls echoed our harmonies, as our predominantly Church of Christ background team members belted out the hymnal. We busted out a few more songs and ended up gathering a small audience before moving up to the balcony to sing a couple more. The sound was chillingly beautiful.
After visiting the monastery we ate at a Piccadilly-esque Moldovan place called Yellow Box. It was about like Piccadilly. We then visited Beginning of Life. Beginning of Life is an organization here in Moldova that is God's hands and feet. It is a beautiful and powerful ministry. In a culture where women are treated as less superior, the Beginning of Life is the product of one woman's dream. Beginning of Life has a lot of ministries for several different things. They started as a program that helped women who were wanting abortions to seek other ways of help- they informed women of their options, as well as telling them about what abortion actually is. The ministry then began morphing into a rehabilitation program for women who have been abused. Since then the ministry has adopted programs for schools and for children to learn about life. But the program that we were the most interested in was in their rehabilitation program for women who have been trafficked. Our entire team was able to meet with three of the staff members as they told us all about their ministry. They informed us of their preventative measures through school lectures and summer camps that kids attend. They also enlightened us with some of their hopes and dreams for the program (more staff members, more consistent sponsors, bigger facilities, etc.). However, the biggest aspect of their program is the in-house rehabilitation that they offer. Due to building size they are only able to have 8 women living in the center at a time, but they also have an off-site program that helps them reintegrate into society. In the in-house rehab the women have three counselors that are working 24/7 to provide help and security for these women. Talking to the lady who came up with the Beginning of Life was moving. Hearing her passion and story for how she envisioned the program and how she, like us, wanted to be able to empower the women of Moldova, and she wants to help them. I know that these simple words don't give the organization the credit that it deserves, but I can honestly say that I felt the Spirit of God alive and moving in that place. After we talked and prayed over the staff a few of us were able to visit the rehab house. We got to see their prayer room and where the girls lived. We also got to meet some of the women who were living there. Before going inside I was prepared to walk into a place where the women were obviously hurting; I envisioned them to almost look like the girls in the movie Taken. But, alas, I was wrong. Immediately when we walked into the house we were greeted by two girls who were overflowing with joy; you could see it coming out of their eyes. Their smiles were pure. They were excited to meet us and show us their home. Later we did meet a few other women that were not as joyful as the first two, but they were all grateful to meet us and showed us sincere smiles. We got to pray blessings over the girls and tell them how much we love them and want to help them. It was an experience like non other.
Tonight we had a gathering with the Boys2Leaders and the Grace House girls. We started off the night worshipping; half of us sang in English while the other half sang in Romanian. At one point they gave us some lyrics and we all got to sing in Romanian. The rest of the night some people sat around and sang/played guitar while the other half of us played. We started off by playing a simple game of volleyball. By the end of the night we were playing keep-away Moldovans vs. Americans. It was so much fun! We played for hours, but finally had to stop when it was getting too dark to see the ball. Through this simple game we got to bond with the girls in a very different way.
I am thankful for God's plan that has allowed us to experience Moldova and the life here. We are all sad that we only have three more days in this wonderful place.