Day 1 Saturday
Gerry Partridge, TEN CEO and Ken Millwood, TEN Operations Administrator arrived in Moldova on Saturday 25th June 2016 and were greeted by Ruslan Telpiz at Chisinau Airport.
We completed the rest of our journey for two hours to the border town of Gotesti by car. On route we saw a wonderful sunset. Some of the roads were in need of much repair. These were old roads from the communist times, so you can guess how rough the ride was!
The first thing that hit us as we go off the plane was the heat; it was like walking into an oven! This did not improve when we got to Pastor Mark McCormick’s house either as it had been shut up for a number of weeks and Mark had only arrived from Belfast a few hours earlier. After a light supper with Mark we hit the sack for some well needed rest.
Day 2 Sunday
After a very healthy breakfast we all three headed off in different directions to preach at the morning services in churches across the local area. Gerry opted to preach at the Gotesti Baptist Church, which was a short walk across from Mark’s garden. Ruslan is the church pastor. There were about 40 adults in the church and about 20 kids. We were very glad about the church air-conditioning; which kept us cool.
Gerry said, “It was wonderful to have fellowship with these amazing people. They have so little and yet are so happy in the Lord.”
“After church we had traditional Moldovan lunch with Ruslan and his family. We were made to feel so welcome and the lunch was delicious. We talked all afternoon about the church and Ruslan and Larisa’s vision for the church and future plans. The biggest challenge for Ruslan, and I guess many other pastors, is how to keep people from leaving the country!”
Later the team met with Natasa and discussed how she could help with translations and communications with the pastors
Day 3 Monday
Ken and I were up at the crack of dawn this morning 5:30 am (3:30 am UK time). I actually saw the sun setting yesterday evening and then the sun rising this morning. Reminding me that ‘in Him everything is held together’ 1 Colossians 17.
The reason for getting up so early was we needed to arrive in Chisinau on time for our morning meeting with Vladimir Ubeivolc from Beginning of Life. After travelling for about 30 minutes, we stopped off at Antonesti the home village of Roma & Tanya. Antonesti has a population of 1,700 people and it is here Roma and Tanya have planted a new church and have committed their lives to share Jesus’ love with their community. In order to get to this village, we left the security of a paved road, albeit very bumpy and in very poor condition, and headed off to the village on dirt roads which would be impassable in the winter or when it’s wet unless you had a 4×4.
Here in the village, which is the same all over Moldova, the livestock, chickens, ducks and geese roam free on any common ground, and of course on the roads. How the owners know who owns what must be a real problem!
Roma was our driver for the day, so after picking him up we headed back up the dirt track to join the main road to Chisinau, Moldova’s capital city.
We spent the rest of the morning with Vladimir Ubeiviolc of Beginning of Life (BOL), he is also the pastor of the Evangelical church. Vladimir talked through all their projects and initiatives. We were both amazed and so inspired with the work of BOL and the church. They have been accepted and approved by the authorities and now have access to all the schools across Moldova. One of the anti-trafficking preventative projects is running a number of education programmes for vulnerable kids, plus programmes to help them develop and become successful.
BOL are now running a youth church on Saturdays, this started with 4 kids and has now grown to 140, in just 4 years. Other programmes include, youth camps, children’s day centres, compassion ministry, art studio (see photo), training centres, mothers’ training, art shop and much more. The church is sharing a holistic gospel to the people of Chisinau and beyond.
After our very informative meeting, we lunched with Vladimir, then met up with Mark McCormick and Roma to travel back 170 kilometres to Gotesti via the small town of Cantemir in south-west Moldova (Population 5,800). Here we met with three mission partners, Voloda (Vladimir) Stefan and Misa, who are the local pastors at Cantemir and other local churches.
We have some amazing partners who are dedicated and committed to the calling God has put on their lives. In the face of much opposition, persecution and hardship they press on in the work they have been called to. Again at this meeting, we were encouraged and inspired by the work of these partners, serving God in some of the poorest areas of Moldova. All three of the pastors had a real passion to reach the least, the last and the lost for Christ and to share love and compassion with those in most need in their communities.
After what was a truly challenging and inspiring day we headed back to Mark’s home in Gotesti.
Day 4 Tuesday
Before breakfast Ken attended the football club run by the local church in Gotesti, where he gave a short message on ‘spending your life’ using the example of spending a coin. You have one life and you can only spend it once!
In the morning we spent time with Ruslan and Natasha (our translator for the week) in Gotesti, visiting poor families with food aid packages. The was extremely challenging as we meet with couples and families in extreme poverty. The aid packages were always gratefully received and we were given the opportunity to pray for their needs and in most cases share the good news of Jesus.
There is no social services ‘net’ to help these people get the support and care needed and so they have to do whatever they can just to put some food on the table, often times they do not know where the next meal is coming from. Many people are in a desperate place and the only help they are getting is coming from the church with food parcels together with personal care and support.
One old lady we met was sent home from hospital with a broken arm sustained from falling off a chair putting something on the window in her home. The hospital set the arm incorrectly and so she was in a great deal of pain.
On returning to the hospital the next day, the doctor refused to treat her and sent her home again because she had no money to pay for the treatment. At home her husband had to re-set the arm for his wife, but she was still in a lot of pain.
There are many other cases like this and worse which the church deal with on a regular basis. If the person has no money they do not get treatment by the doctors and are sent away. In a lot of cases this results in people dying at home in great pain, sometimes alone, with no one to care for them. The local church is the only place they can get care and support, but the need is far greater than the available help from churches and in many villages there is no church to step in and demonstrate Jesus love and compassion.
After visiting four families, we returned to Ruslan and Larisa’s home, where they treated us to another delicious traditional Moldovan lunch. We were also able to spend some time with the whole family (see picture)
The afternoon was much the same as the morning, visiting poor families, but this time we went to another village Chircani with Igor and we visited three poor families. We had time to do a pastoral visit too and met with a family who are members of the church in Chircani.
One very poor family we met was a grandmother with her 3 great grandchildren. She was telling us how she had not only cared for her 7 grandchildren, she is now caring for her 3 great grandchildren. The father is away in the city working in order to get enough money to survive and the mother is often away in the city visiting him.
The pictures shows they have very little and the house is in a very poor state. The grandmother told us, they all wash in an outside bath tub which they fill with water in the morning and through the day the sun heats it up enabling them to have a warm bath in the evening.
We met another lady who was 93 years old, she lives on her own and is cared for by her neighbour. While visiting one poor family the husband returned and staggered across the front yard and into the house completely drunk, fortunately he did not get violent. In many cases men come home drunk, beat their wives and kids. We heard of one man beat his wife so badly that she died and he was not prosecuted for this terrible crime. In Moldova 30% of women in Moldova suffer domestic violence and abuse.
There were many other stories of suffering and surviving in very difficult situations.
Much prayer and support is needed for this compassion ministry of the churches in Moldova.
Day 5 Wednesday
Most of Day 5 was spent with twelve amazing pastors who are TEN partners in the south-western Moldovan region of Cahul and Cantemir.
What a wonderful blessing and an encouragement it was today to spend time in fellowship with such dedicated pastors from the districts of Cahul and Cantemir, some of the faces you may recognise (see photo below). Both Ken and I were privileged to be able to bring a short encouraging word at the beginning of the meeting. The main purpose of us getting together was to talk through our partnership with them, tell them more about TEN, how we operate and give them an update and their supporting church or individual sponsor.
Photo taken outside the church in Cahul.
The time was well spent and we were able to talk through the partnership Memorandum of Understanding and how we expect this to work covering each other’s roles and responsibilities. We openly talked of areas needing funding and the great need of the people of Moldova. There is much to be done in this very poor country. It was such a blessing to share a lunch together, having fellowship and praying for each other. We finished off the meeting by talking a group photo of the pastors on the steps of the Cahul church.
The city of Cahul is 30 kilometres south of Godesti, and close to the border with Romania.
After saying goodbye to these wonderful pastors we headed off to visit Misa and Ina Hiorescu and to review the Ursoaia church building project in South East Moldova. We were very encouraged to see the progress of the church building and also to hear of the impact this project is having on the local community and the church plant. Already they are seeing people come to Jesus and committing themselves to the church. Misa has a great vision for the church, he is expecting the church building to not only be a place of worship, but also a local community hub where they plan to run a day centre, youth and children’s work and much more.
After reviewing budgets and costs, we were invited to share a traditional duck and pasta supper with Misa, Ina and his whole family before heading back 140 kilometres to Gotesti
Day 6 Thursday
Today was a shorter day. We had time to rest, take stock of the week so far and complete some admin work.
We were collected from Gotesti by Andrei Ghedeon to take us to his village Burlacu about 65 kilometres away and a population of around 1,800. Our first activity was to take aid packages to some needy families in the area. One such visit was to a grandmother and grandad who were caring from their two granddaughters. The children’s parents had left the country and abandoned their children. The grandparents had to step in to care for them and they have no idea where the girls’ parents are or if they will ever return.
On the day we visited it was the grandmother’s birthday and she said she was 58 years old. She said, “My birthday is like any other day, I have to get up early to work in the fields before it gets too hot. Then home to care for the children and cook the meal. In in the evening she goes out to the fields again to work.” She does this to earn enough money to survive and to feed the children. She also has to care for her sick husband. The burden of caring for the whole family falls to the grandmother, with no support apart from the local church run by Andrei.
We visited other families and delivered aid packages. In all our visits we were able to share the love and Good News of Jesus. We were also able to pray for the family’s needs. Every time this week when we asked what they wanted us to pray for it was always their health, so they can continue to work. There is a real fear of becoming sick, which is not surprising as this would cost them a great deal if they needed a doctor or medicines, not to mention the inability to work and earn money to live.
One of the biggest challenges facing this generation in Moldova is dealing with social / economic orphans. This is where parents leave their villages and go to the city but mostly to another country, leaving behind their children to another family member. Or as in many cases, these are a grandmother or even great grandparents. Often too it is the oldest sibling caring for the younger members of the family, or they are just left for the State to take care of them. These are the vulnerable children of Moldova. These are the ones at serious risk of trafficking and exploitation. Look beyond the faces and you see many are living in poverty.
After visiting a number of poor families, we enjoyed another tasty (Goostos in Romanian) Moldovan meal with Andrei and his wife Eugenie and their family at their home. We were truly blessed by their love and hospitality. After supper we headed off to the local church, pastored by Andrei where we enjoyed fellowship with the local believers. We were also privileged to be able to bring a word of testimony and preach.
Day 7 Friday
After healthy breakfast, we set of with Mark McCormick to visit another anti-trafficking project at Badicu, in South Moldova. Taking a short cut we drove over unmade roads to reach our destination. By now we were well accustomed to driving on dirt tracks rather than paved roads; all adding to the experience of daily life in Moldova.
As we approached the construction site we were encouraged to see the structures and buildings already completed. We were greeted by Anatol Dunas, the visionary and manager of the project. The plan for this new complex is to provide family homes for vulnerable children, run anti-trafficking projects and offer education Also to set up a training centre, a retreat and rescue centre, together with a large complex for youth camps and youth events. Already the foundations are laid for the first family home, the large canteen and conference structure is already up and the roof was going on. The central building, medical centre and staff accommodation is complete. There are several outdoor shelters completed too, which we were very pleased to use to shield us from the scorching sun as we spent time talking with Anatol about this fantastic project.
Anatol explained the plans for this amazing complex. It is clear this will have a real and lasting impact on many young people attending the numerous planned events and programmes once the building are completed. For example, each family house will be home for two house parents and up to ten vulnerable / orphaned children. The plan for the youth camps will be to accommodate around 120 – 140 kids each week. The seminar centre will be for training and educating young people who are at risk of being trafficked. More details on this project will be made available later in a separate report upon request.
We left this site inspired and enthused having been provided with an insight into the project and an understanding of the impact this amazing investment will have on the children and youth of Moldova.
Next, we then headed off to the village of Badicu to meet with the local pastor and mayor Lucian Tabac, his wife and their three lovely daughters (see photo below). We were welcomed into their home and had another delicious Moldovan lunch. Lucian talked about the church, the challenges, together with his vision and plan for the future. Later we visited the new church building and the mayor’s office where Lucian also works. We were really encouraged by the work being done in this village by the local church, especially their projects for the poor and needy. One of Lucian’s plans is to open a day centre for the poor familie of his village.
After leaving Lucian we headed back to Gotesti for our last night before flying back to the UK.
In the evening Ken went over to Chircani with Igor and spoke at their youth group. There were about 15 young men and women who sang worship songs, watched YouTube clips, played silly games and listened as Ken shared a message about the prodigal son and the loving Father waiting for them to return. The evening ended with more games and a Table Tennis tournament.
Day 8 Saturday
Up early today to catch our flight home from Chisinau airport. We bade farewell to Mark and Roma (our driver today) and headed into the terminal building, check-in and going through Moldovan customs was uneventful, together with the flight home; in fact, we arrived into Stansted 20 minutes early. Praise God for a safe flight home courtesy of Air Moldova.
Now back in the UK we are left with much to process over the coming weeks after encountering some of the challenges, corruption, poverty, pain and hopelessness being endured by many of the lovely people of Moldova. Also, meeting with our partners who are sharing Jesus love with the least, the last, and the lost.