In Moldova, Thanksgiving isn’t so much a day on the calendar, as it is something they make sure they do. Each church I’ve seen has an annual “Thanksgiving” service. It’s not on a certain date, but is during the harvest. Everyone (and that’s pretty much a literal statement) in Moldova has a garden…it’s where they get their food. Without the food from their garden, it would be tough to get enough food to eat. Gardens grow and man gives thanks.
The churches have people bring some of their best produce to the altar of the church where they display it for all to see. There’s then a service with music, stories, preaching (sometimes by numerous people) and more music. They thank God for what He’s provided, then they share what’s been brought with the people present.
Here’s Troy Darrin from last year’s service in Mihaileni. That’s some BIG cabbage!
We got to be a part of numerous Thanksgiving services this year, like at this one in Beltsi (say it like, “Belts”):
When I was at Book of Hope, I remember working with Leah to try and go back and get photos of all of the former interns…never got it done. Too many to track down. When I came to Convoy of Hope to work towards starting this intern program, I thought it would be fun to start from day 1.
So…in the back of the intern training area we have a wall full of photos. We started two years ago with just one…Josh…
He was the lone team member that went with the field guy, Sean Kelly. We added his photo the first day of the 2nd term. Then, on the first full day of the 3rd term, we added 8 photos from our summer team. It continued. Today was the first day of the 6th term. We added 12 photos from the fall team from last year. There are now 57 photos on the wall.
I’ve always been a nostalgic guy, as a shelf in my room from growing up would prove, but the wall helps me remember to pray for those people, to see what’s up with them and their lives and to even check in on occassion. Of course, facebook helps with that too…(it turns out Noah was indeed having fun with his status change to “married).
Anyways, it was fun hanging the photos (actually Jorel did). We’ll hang more on June 19…
I look forward to seeing the wall a decade from now with knowlege of where some of those people have gone…great days are not only behind but ahead for them…
On Monday, the team and I went to a village church about 30 minutes from Sarata Galbena. Many of the homes in the village were abandoned as people had no money and left for other places. We worked with local Christians to share food with some gypsy families, the elderly, and some very poor people. Few times have I seen poverty on this scale.
Here, Claire gives us a bit of a tour and her thoughts…
Then, we went back to the small church building (it’s actually more of a home) where they fed us and we had a service for about 25 kids. What a wonderful time. There’s a family from the main church in Sarata that’s sees this village as their mission…we loved partnering with them for this day. (We also provided a lot of groceries for the church and food for the ministry.)
While there, I met Maria (not her real name…). We were sitting down, and there were balloons on the floor and we, not knowing each other’s language, got in a mild balloon fight. Fun. We palled around for the rest of the afternoon.
I then learned her story. She’s 10-years-old and has a little sister. Her father has been gone for years and her mother left last year as well. She’s taken care of her little sister for months now. This church found her, and has been helping her. In fact, the couple pastoring the church are letting Maria and her sister move in with them. She’s now well fed, warm and has some adults who love her and are telling her about Jesus.
The larger church is working towards perhaps starting an orphanage to help children such as Maria and her sister.
Great girl, fun afternoon, honor for Convoy of Hope and our interns to partner with churches like this.
We’ve been in Moldova over a week now. I’ve heard that the best time to document some differences you see is at the beginning when they’re still abnormal. Things are quickly becoming normal, but here are a few fun things from Moldova.
Virtually all people in the villages and even many in the cities use wells with buckets for their water. They’re quaint, decorated wells, often near an Orthodox cross or small building which they build to help bless their water and land.
There are many horses/wagons in the villages, and again even some in the cities. People can use the horses in more locations than the land, and they’re better on snowy roads. Most don’t need to travel very far and a horse will get them there just fine. Also, the wagons can be filled with vegetables, wheat, corn, etc. to bring in from the fields.
People bring their cows home about 6:30 p.m. If you’re driving then, you’ll have to slow down for the cows. If you’re talking with someone, they’ll need to leave to go bring them in.
The fruits/vegetables are very, very good and very, very big here. The soil and climate are great for growing things. Virtually everyone has a garden where they get much (most?) of their food. Many have beehives, lambs for cheese, cows for milk/cheese, chickens for eggs, etc.
The people we’ve met have been very hospitable. They’ve prepared amazing food, have welcomed us in their churches and even homes, and they’ve gone out of their way to show us kindness. It’s been fun getting to know them.
I texted a blog entry with a small photo as we left Dani and Lena’s yesterday, but wanted to write more.
The village of Mihaileni is a village of about 6000. There are hundreds of them around this country. We partnered with a growing church to help them by painting and reaching out to the poor in the community. In a meeting with the mayor, he told of a family of siblings. The father abandoned the family years ago and the mother is in another country working. She left some money with the market to take care of her children, but the money ran out a long time ago. Thankfully, there are some older siblings in this tiny home, but they’re gone all day, leaving the little ones home alone.
They clearly bathe quite seldomly, are malnourished and in need of some serious attention. Multiple team members have stopped by in the last few days, and I was able to go with some yesterday. They devoured the chicken and soup we brought them, and loved the ball and other toys we shared with them. Here’s Mikellah with Dani…
Not sure how to process that kind of poverty, but I know that God smiles on a young lady going out of her way to help. I know he really smiles on a young couple in the church that have commited to keeping in touch with the kids and doing whatever they can possibly do to help. Igor said, “I didn’t know that poverty like this exists in my village.”
Here are the kids devouring the food…
Is there poverty like that where you live? What can be done? I realize some soup, chicken and toys won’t change their lives…but in combination with a caring couple from a caring church who walks with those kids as they get older…I think it could.
I've been a lot of places, but few of them are like the home of Andre, Lena and Dani. These three siblings don't know where their father is and their mother has gone to another country for work. She left some money at the local market for her kids to have food. That was last summer and she hasn't returned.
There are older siblings who help watch them but they're in the fields all day. The kids stay home…when it's hot and when it's cold.
We got their information from the mayor. He said they were in desperate need.
Igor is a local pastor's son. He and his wife went with us to their home yesterday and today. Igor said he didn't know poverty like this existed in his village. They were moved.
We made it to Moldova. We’re staying in the north where we’re working in the village of Mihaleni. Only about 3000 of the village’s 6000 residents are in town…the rest have gone to other countries to try and make money. The ones we’ve met have been wonderful and friendly.
We’ll paint the interior of the church tomorrow and then enjoy their Thanksgiving service…and meal. It’s not so much a holiday as literal thanks to God for the harvest. This is an extremely agricultural society. In fact, it’s called a village only if there is no industry…pretty much just gardens and a farming in Mihaleni.
Here you see three very familiar sites: a horse/wagon driving through town, a well, an Orthodox Church shrine of sorts. Other than trees and things, it doesn’t get any more common than this.
The team is great, the food has been wonderful, we’re just a little jet-lagged, but all is well.
Thanks for praying. I’ll keep in touch. We’re here until Tuesday when we head south.
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?”
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.”
Her: “What country is Armenia in?”
Me: “It’s not a city, it’s a country in the Middle East.”
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):