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 quickly..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!!
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..
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.
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
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.
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!!)