Where in the world is Moldova?

Still sitting in the O’Hare airport with time to share some thoughts…

The team and I are on our way to Chisnau, Moldova. I’ve had some fun conversations about Moldova lately:

 

With a TRAVEL agent:
Him: “Where’s Boldova? Is that in Africa?”
Me: “No…Moldova”
Him: “Is Moldova in Africa?”

 

With the INTERNATIONAL desk at ATT:
Her: “What country is this city in?”
Me: “It’s a country called Moldova”
Her: “Really? I don’t see it here? Is it a city?”
Me: “No…it’s a country in Europe.”
…later…
Her: “What country is Armenia in?”
Me: “It’s not a city, it’s a country in the Middle East.”
Her: “Albania?”

 

 

With the guy at the AIRPORT as I checked in my bags this morning:
Him: You’re going to Chisnau, Moldova…where is that?
Me: It’s in Europe, between Romania and Ukraine near the Black Sea.
Him: “Oh…I’ve never seen that before. Cool.”

 

That being said, I probably couldn’t have pointed it out on a map until a few months ago either. However, I’ve been there and I’m going back. It’s a beautiful place where the people are considered the poorerst in Europe. I look forward to telling stories from this place over the next few weeks. Here’s a map with some Photoshopped spots on the cities in which we’ll serve (Mihaileni, Saralta Galbena, Straseni):

 

You can also read more about Moldova here.

 

moldova1

Karl Rove’s gonna tell me hello in the WSJ

So I got up way too early today to catch a flight out of Springfield (the 5:50 a.m.) to Chicago and then (through various connections) to Chisnau, Moldova. The team will rendeavous with me here in O’Hare as they get the second flight out. We’ll fly the rest of the way together. Tired.

While walking aimlessly in Terminal C with very little sleep I encountered “The Architect.” Karl Rove was a Bush advisor and…well if you care about politics, you know Karl Rove.

Should I talk to him I wondered? I twittered the fact that he was near. My friend Will Kousma texted back and encouraged me to get a photo with him in my Burger King shirt. The Burger King shirt is a long story…I’ll tell that another time. But in honor of my friend Will (and Travis and others), here’s the photo (I carry the shirt with me in carry-on on all international trips):

We actually had a fun conversation…about 5 minutes or so. I pay attention to politics and loved engaging with the man who by all accounts is amongst the greatest political strategists in U.S. history.

At the end, we took the BK photo and he said he was going to go write a column for the Wall Street Journal. I told him to tell me hello in his column. He said he would…I suggested he use the word “Obama” to actually mean, “Hello Matt Wilkie.” He thought that was a great idea.

Watch for it in the upcoming column.

Ever make a fun memory like that?

It’s starting…

They’re a wonderful and hard working team. Our fall ’08 interns will serve in the areas affected by Ike, Moldova and Armenia.

As part of our training, we stopped by Project Rescue, an organization that helps those affected by human trafficking. Here we are with David and Beth Grant. The team will plant a garden and do more to help a Home of Hope (through Project Rescue) in Moldova.


We had dinner Thursday night with a young lady from Armenia…perhaps the only one in Springfield. Fun conversation.

I look forward to sharing more about this great team of 13.

Sylvia and my grandmother (and Convoy of Hope)

From 1941-45 my grandparents were missionaries in El Salvador. They first served in Santa Ana where they pastored Templo Betel, and then pioneered the Assemblies of God work in San Salvador, the capital.

Grandpa is with Jesus, but Grandma is a strong 87-year-old. Though she hasn’t been to El Salvador in years, she’s been sponsoring Sylvia, an Latin American Child Care student in Santa Ana, a city in which she lived 67 years ago.

The team and I met up with Sylvia. She and her family invited us to her home where she showed us some photos my grandmother sent, some letters she wrote, and shared her amazing personality. To say that she’s thankful for Grandma’s sponsorship is an understatement. Here are her words of thanks.

A few weeks ago, I returned to El Salvador with the team from Oregon. We met up with Sylvia again…wow. We met her father for the first time.

Two things stand out from that night:

1. It was her father’s 45th birthday. We’d asked Sylvia about her favorite restaurant (Pizza Hut). As we ate there with her family, he let me know two things that humbled me, it was his first food of the day, and it was the first time he’d ever eaten out to celebrate his birthday. Wow. We were honored to join him on his special day.

2. I asked about her little brother, Walter. He’s a fun and energetic 9-year-old. In speaking with the familiy and then the school director, I learned that Walter stopped attending school after 1st grade because the family didn’t have money for school supplies, the uniform, or small school fees. A team member decided this should change…Walter will be back in school when the next term begins in January.

Our Convoy of Hope teams have worked in Sylvia’s schools and dozens like them this summer. These are the types of students and families with whom we’ve been working. We loved getting to know Sylvia and her family, learning more about El Salvador and opportunity in this country.

I like it when leaders are real and obviously care

I’ve read books about leadership, worked with an amazing array of leaders over the years, and have heard stories of leadership (good and bad) from friends. If there’s a quality, outside of integrity, that impresses me the most about leaders, it’s when it’s clear to all that they’re real people and they care.

This week our interns have met leaders like that. Hal Donaldson (Convoy of Hope’s founder/CEO, etc.) is as sincere and gentle of a man as I’ve ever met. He cares. He shows interest. He’s real, and everyone who knows him, knows that.

Then tonight, we had dinner together and John Bueno and his family joined us. John Bueno is the Director of the Assemblies of God World Missions. He also started Latin America Child Care in El Salvador where he served for 28 years (and continues to serve in many ways). He hung out with the team for a few hours eating dinner, telling stories, asking questions, spending time, showing interest and more. I like that. The team will spend the next 4 weeks working in the schools he started decades ago. Then, they’re off to Nicaragua.

He then sat down and reminisced with the group.

It was normal. It was good.

Here’s the group photo. His son Ron, and daughter-in-law (Bob’s wife) joined us as well…as did numerous grandchildren. Fun times, good conversation, interesting talk.

The team is wonderful. We leave tomorrow for Kansas City and they’ll fly to El Salvador early Tuesday. I’ll join them soon.

Full week and a great team

These days have been very, very full, but wonderful. The team heads out Monday and I’ll join them soon after. We’ll be at a team building rope’s course tomorrow. Will blog about that day too. When I get a minute I’ll actually blog a bit more about what’s going on. Good week.

One note…we had a great time hearing from, learning from and receiving inspiration from Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolates. Good stuff.