Monday, 7 December 2009

Finally up to date.. !!

Greetings to all our friends.

As always life is busy and the end of 2009 fast approaches. In this coming week we celebrate 2 years since we stepped off the plane onto the snow covered tarmac at Chisinau airport for the first time. Time has passed so much has happened, so many wonderful experiences, but there is still so much we feel that needs to be done.

Let’s try and bring you up to the present..

About 3 months ago we moved apartment as our previous landlord dramatically increased our rent beyond what we really could afford. We have resettled into a smaller apartment with one less bedroom, but nevertheless very comfortable, and it feels like home.

Our new apartment block.. ours is the fourth floor on the left hand side.

The smaller sleeping capacity was recently tested when we had 2 officer couples staying a couple of nights – little squeezy but we all managed despite the toilet deciding not to work during that time!!!.

In early October Moldova hosted a Territorial Officers Councils for 3 days. This was a logistical challenge organising transport and accommodation for about 130 officers from the length and breadth of the Eastern Europe territory. Due to the fact that there are 4 languages (including English) spoken across the territory in different countries, there was the additional requirement of arranging translation so everyone could fully participate in the experience.

The Salvation Army in this part of the world commenced just over 15 years ago. It has a been a bit of a roller coaster ride to this point of time and there are still challenges with registration and various legal requirements. Despite all this, there is a good work being done and this gathering of officers was testimony to the work of God over these years. There was time for quiet reflection, whole-hearted worship, spiritual challenge and of course the rich fellowship which is a unique aspect of such Salvation Army gatherings. Commissioners van der Harst and Colonels Herring gave excellent leadership to our days together. We celebrated and experienced the unity in Christ that is ours despite the diversity of cultures.

The surprises continue to come!

A few months ago we were contacted by the Australian ambassador in Moscow who asked us to give assistance to an 85 year old Moldovan born Australian citizen who was in some distress in the north of Moldova. He had suffered a couple of strokes while visiting the place of his birth and they were requesting some assistance to bring him to Chisinau while they arranged for him to travel home to Perth. The stroke had left him paralysed down one side, but he was still able to shuffle around. He was unable to talk but understood what was being said. Having brought him to Chisinau we arranged some accommodation for him, but the surprise came a couple of days later when the Australian embassy made contact with us again and asked if one of us could accompany home to Perth, of course with our fare being paid! Viv made the LONG journey assisting with toileting and eating, but it all went well and we were eventually greeted at Perth airport by an ambulance that had been arranged and he was taken off to hospital for assessment. It was a tiring journey as our friend did not sleep at all, and there were also 2 lengthy stopovers at Istanbul and Dubai.

Of course, Perth is so close to Melbourne and Adelaide, and so I was given permission to travel on over to the east coast to spend time with the girls and their men, and of course, those 2 beautiful grand children. We spent special times together fitting in as many outings and ‘Nanna times’ as we could before getting back on the plane to make the L-O-N-G journey back again.

Joel getting the eggs from the chickens at home

Teaching Nanna the fine skills of netball

'Anything you can do......'

Sadie, the individual!!

Enjoying a drink after running through the water sprinkler at Glenelg beach

Then came another surprise trip!!

Only a week after arriving back from Australia, Viv was asked to attend a ‘Sally Ann’ conference in Norway as the Moldovan representative, replacing someone who was unable to get a visa in time. Of course she accepted and spent a week in Oslo meeting up with other delegates from all over the world.

Above, the delegates in session.. and below.. the Sally Ann shop in Oslo

An outing with the team.

‘Sally Ann’ is a fair trade business that seeks to provide employment opportunities to the world’s poorest people. This is a means of addressing poverty in a sustainable way, rather than just providing charity.

We heard amazing stories concerning the origins of the business in Bangladesh. ‘Sally Ann’ has developed to the point where products are now produced in several countries and sold through outlet stores in Scandinavia. The purpose of the conference was to generate interest for even more countries to become producers, and for Salvation Army territories around the world to open ‘Sally Ann’ stores. It was an exciting time of sharing as we considered what an impact this could all have on the lives of so many of the world’s poor. The hard work is now before us to make this dream a reality. Once again, the fellowship was rich fellowship and we were hosted so generously and graciously by our Norwegian friends. (I think I tasted the best cake I have ever tasted !! as well as reindeer meat).There was also a little free time available where I was able to walk around Oslo – a beautiful city situated on a fjord.

The Oslo Opera House on the left and the docks on the right

With visitors all gone, and no more trips on the near horizon it has been good to re-engage with the business of the division. There have been so many travels, so many visitors and so many special events to organise, and there is often much that is left undone as we attend to all these other matters.

In recent months we have had 3 regional gatherings for Sunday worship as corps combine together. These have been opportunities to promote our mission and to bring mutual encouragement to each other.

The combined congregation at Beltsi in the North..

Us in action with Oxana our translator

The first stage our new building on the DHQ site has now been completed. This is a 3 level building – on the ground floor a new corps building; on the 1st floor DHQ offices, and on the 2nd floor - 2 small apartments for officers.

Looking good on the outside, but still lots to do within these walls...

It has taken over a year to come this far. It has been an interesting process (to say the least!!) as we grapple with the unique Eastern European way of doing construction and business. Things have now pretty much come to a standstill as we now have to seek new sources of funding to complete stage 2 of the building including the interior, landscaping and furnishings.

If any one has a free $250,000 please contact us ASAP!!!

On this past weekend we had the opportunity to participate in the Winter Bazaar that is organised by the International Women’s Club of Moldova. This is a yearly fund-raising event that supports charities in Moldova. For the first time, ‘Sally Ann’ had a stall selling products produced by our workers here in Moldova. It proved to be very popular stall with people showing a lot of interest in our work and of course, also buying.

Captains Slava and Elena Katrutsa staffing the 'Sally Ann' stall

Busy at work with customers...

Meanwhile our band played Christmas carols outside, welcoming people as they arrived. They did us proud.

The Band making a great contribution on the day..

Click onto the following link - or paste it into your web browser to to hear the band in action

The day provided excellent exposure for the Army and wonderful opportunities to network with other agencies and build our relationship with the community. We handed out literature which told of our mission and work. Of course, in Australia The Salvation Army is well recognised and almost all Australians know of our work, but here we are still relatively unknown, so such an occasion is such a blessing for us.

Another recent sponsor visit saw us head out to the villages once again with the Mobile Clinic. On this particular day we accompanied Sasha, our outreach worker as he visited the homes of some of the villagers. On such visits he distributes food parcels, clothes, blankets, walking sticks, wheelchairs and disposable adult nappies to those families who are nursing bed-ridden loved ones at home.

Two typical photos of the people that we meet in their homes in the villages

Providing crutches to a 'granny'.

In every village, the Orthodox Church stands very prominently.

We met an 80 year old lady who had lived in her small house all her life. There was no electricity, no gas and no water. She sat alone every day in this room.

As we shared with her she said, ‘I live here alone’, but as she kissed the crucifix that hung around her neck she added, ‘but Jesus is with me !!’ We left a small parcel of food to help, but it seemed such a puny offering in the midst of such poverty.

This is the home of the lady we spoke about - a run down, mud walled, thatched roof hut.

But the real work is all about our mission and we have begun the process of visiting each corps and centre to conduct a review and facilitate some strategic planning with the corps officers and local leaders. This will take a couple of months to complete with the Christmas holiday season coming in the middle of these visits. We hope and pray that as folk commit to their goals there will be significant benefits for God’s Kingdom in Moldova.

Above, the Corps team at Ungheni, and below, the group at Beltsi.

The temperatures are dropping dramatically. In the next few weeks we have forecast temperatures as low as minus 13 degrees !!! …and lots of snow. It may be another ‘white Christmas’! We hope so!

There may not be another ‘blog’ until after Christmas, so we take this opportunity to send special Christmas greetings and express our deep appreciation of your continuing interest, love and support to us and to our work. I am reminded of the little old lady who sat in her village house…she said.. ‘but Jesus is with me!!’ We celebrate the coming of Jesus into this impoverished and broken world… ‘Emmanuel – God is with us’, and as his people we seek to do his work in this world.

To check out more of the work of The Salvation Army in Moldova, become a Facebook friend of Armata Salvarii.

Until next time…. Lots of love… Ian and Viv.

Craciun Fericit si La Multi Ani!!! (MC and HNY!!)

Monday, 16 November 2009


Greetings from Moldova where the days are getting colder and shorter as we read about the record heat waves in Australia!

This blog entry is a desperate attempt to get back on track with our communication

There are many challenges and hardships being appointed in this part of the world, but on the ‘upside’ is the opportunity to have so many wonderful holiday destinations so nearby. With 6 weeks furlough owing to us this year we followed on our time home in Australia with nearly 3 weeks touring Switzerland and Italy. We planned our own itinerary taking advantage of Salvation Army accommodation in various places, and travelling by rail.

Holiday snapshots to follow.

Perhaps the best way to do this is include a few snaps from each stopover and you can drool.
Minimum commentary - We’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

INTERLAKEN. Switzerland
We flew to Milan where we stayed overnight before heading off to Interlaken the following day.
Here we stayed in an Army accommodation complex and spent our days at high altitude, gob-smacked by the spectacular mountain scenery.

Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps

Nice place for a picnic lunch!!

Us on top (almost) of Jungfrau, the highest peak in Europe

The weather was perfect with just enough snow on the mountain peaks to pretty it up. At times we hung by a cable over deep mountain ravines, at other times took the opportunity to do some walking in the mountains listening to the beautiful gentle clang of the cowbells in the distance. Such a beautiful country! Words and pictures fail to do justice to it all.

After 5 amazing days in Switzerland we boarded the train and headed down to Lake Como in the north of Italy.
Having searched the internet for accommodation we found a beautiful little hotel on the shore of the lake.
Mansions owned by the rich and famous abound, but we didn’t spot any celebrities at the take-away pizza shops we frequented!!! Once again, the scenery was spectacular, and the little villages with the narrow cobbled streets just enchanting, and the food – what can we say!!!
Pizza, gelati, pasta EVERY DAY!!!!. Just as well we also did a lot of walking.

Our 'Room with a View'

View from our 50cm wide balcony

View from a hotel where we had tea one night - stunning!

After lake Como it was on to Florence for 3 or 4 days. We marvelled at beautiful works of art that are found in every street and in every building it seems.

The 'Beheading of John the Baptist'

Ian and Viv (Ian has his pants on!)

While based in Florence we did day trips to the old town of Sienna and the 5 towns of Cinque Terre – these are 5 old fishing / agricultural towns set miraculously into the sides of the cliffs of the Mediterranean Sea. They are now popular tourist resorts, visited by thousands every year- us included!!. It is possible to walk the track passing connecting each of the towns, but time was limited and we only managed the walk between the last 2 towns before heading back to Florence after a long day. Of course there was the obligatory trip to Pisa which we also did on the same day.

One of the five villages at Cinque Terre

We had ‘ummed and aahed’ as to whether or not we should visit Naples at all as this city often does not get a good reports in the tourist guides. Well we went and stayed for a few nights ‘in the back streets of Naples’ and were glad that we did. We decided that this was a city on steroids!! The traffic is crazy, there are almost as many motor scooters as people and the idea seems to be to get as many people on one scooter as possible!!

Typical Neapolitan street

While here, we travelled out to Pompeii for a day. We walked along the streets marvelling at the way in which this town has been preserved, and were intrigued to learn of the way of life back so many years ago.

Whilst in Naples we once again checked out some beautiful works of art – in particular the beautiful sculpture by Giuseppe Sammartino…’The Veiled Christ’'

There is also Via San Gregorio Armeno a street which specialises in nativity scenes – from the sublime to the ridiculous – most to our way of thinking erred on the side of ridiculous!!

We had promised ourselves a bit of indulgence here and booked into a homely guesthouse perched high on top of a cliff in a little town just out of Positano. The view from our bedroom window was breathtaking, looking out over the Mediterranean Sea and the little town of Positano nestled below. It is a charming town with narrow, cobble-stoned streets, catering very much to tourists, but it was pleasant to wander and browse the shops.

Positano on the Amalfi Coast

One day we caught a boat to the Isle of Capri, lazed on the deck, waked around the towns on the island, then swam in the warm waters of the Mediterranean on the way back – we thought of you all as we did so!!!.
Every night we dined in a little restaurant not far from our guesthouse that must have one of the best views in the world!!

Evening view from our balcony

This was a relaxing few days before our final stop in Rome.

Once again we stayed in Salvation Army accommodation just a short distance from the centre of Rome. It was the final 4 days of our holiday and we jammed in as much as we could. There were all the usuals like the Coliseum and Trevi Fountain,but highlights of Rome for us were the St Peter’s Basilica, the visit to the catacombs and the Appian way, and of course the Vatican Museums.
Once again words and pictures fail dismally to portray all that one sees in these places. The works of art in the Vatican are truly awesome and inspiring; The Sistene Chapel did not fail to impress, and the stories of the catacombs were intriguing.

Trevi fountain from the side showing the assembled crowd

Ian walking on the ancient 'Appian Way' - the location of several catacomb sites

Catacombs near the Appian Way. Burial places for early Christians - not hiding places as some have thought in the past

St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican

'La Pieta' in St Peter's Basilica

The Map Room in the Vatican. About 150 metres long, every wall has a painting of an ancient area of Italy.

The Swiss Guard (and a nun!) at the Vatican

Our audience with the Pope (along with about10,000 others)
If you squint you can see him in white in centre stage.

The history, architecture, scenery and culture of Italy are rich, and of course the links with the early church are evident everywhere.
All in all – a wonderful holiday. We returned with suntans, a little fitter because of all the walking and ready again to put our heads down as we returned to Moldova.

So often we have to pinch ourselves as we visit all these wonderful places. We could never have imagined how the world has literally opened up to us. But it truly is our work in Moldova that brings us greatest satisfaction as we continue to work with the Salvationists of that division, endeavouring to make a difference for the sake of God’s kingdom here on earth.

Until next time….

Ian and Viv xoxo