Tuesday, October 11, 2016

We came to bless and help, but we are the ones who are blessed and helped!!! Today we again saw God at work. It is as though we have seen the hands and feet of Jesus himself helping the poor, weak and needy.

This sign was posted at the entrance to the back of the stage at the largest congregation in Chisinau, the capitol of Moldova. It means, "To serve on this platform is a privilege. God thank you that you chose me to serve." Mike and I have seen this attitude in action in the tireless, hard-working and skillful followers of Jesus in Moldova.

Mike and me on the steps of the largest congregation in Moldova. There are 5 services each attended by 300 people.

The pastor of this congregation shows us the plans for their new facility which will be on a larger property. The current members will remain at the current facility and will watch sermons by live feed from the new place. They are not moving, they are expanding!

This congregation also has the best Christian elementary school in the country.  This school is run by the same director as the one we visited yesterday for middle and high school and the street kids who live in home groups on the same site. These are the finest schools in Moldova with an exam passing rate of 100%. The national average is 40-something %.

 Sign on the art class room.

Children learning a the computer lab.

Mikey made a friend!

The extensive homeless ministry here is incredible! They feed the homeless with food prepared daily on the premises and served at the park across the street. The homeless are encouraged to come on Sunday mornings and are even offered showers and laundry facilities-also on the premises (pictured above) 30-50 homeless people attend worship on Sundays. For those who want to take the next step, there is a rehab facility, which we visited later in the day. We were too early to see the homeless gather for lunch, but we could smell the food cooking!

From Chisinau we drove a little over an hour to the town of Balti. Each congregation was planted by a servant of the Lord who was called to do so. Most of them were able to purchase buildings that were formerly Soviet facilities. The political climate currently is such that the government is very willing to sell these facilities to the Pentecostal Union, because of the extensive relief the members provide to the neediest members of their communities.
The church building in Balti was formerly a theater. The auditorium is used for worship gatherings and the rest of the building is filled with classrooms, prayer rooms and a dining room/kitchen.

The photo with happy faces is the schedule of the extensive list of classes such as sewing, ceramics, complete with a working kiln...a kiln at an afterschool program in the poorest country in Europe, go figure!

The sewing classroom is so tidy.
Wood working room...yes, wood working room!
The woodworking room even has a lathe! The resourcefulness of this poor country is astounding. Also, the churches do far more for with far less than the government does with a much bigger budget.
The art class was full of beautiful paintings and drawings, even though most projects the children take with them.
The cooking class is equipped with a kitchen just for teaching. There is a separate kitchen on the main floor for preparing meals for the needy. 

English class is also part of this after school program.

Again, we arrived too early to see the kids, but the servants of Jesus at this congregation are ready to teach and love on these 250 kids 5 days a week from 1-4pm. This program is so well respected by the community that the schools made a formal agreement that this congregation would be their partner in social work rather than the government agency. They also feed 45 street kids every day.

The people at this congregation are also very devoted in prayer and have a prayer chain 24/7 in which members come to pray around the clock and they even provide beds for those who come overnight and cannot get back home because public transportation does not run all night. There are also 2 small prayer rooms. The children are taught to pray that their parents will know Jesus and be saved.

The next place we visited was a church in Foresti which had been converted from a Soviet bank.

Check out the contrast between these buildings. The bottom pic is the old bank. The church offers after school Bible classes and feeding program for street kids and social orphans as well as "Adopt a Granny" program which provides care for the elderly. The gold-domed orthodox church is right across the street. Many orthodox congregations are puzzled that people flock to these humble buildings. Some are offended and critical. "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."
An interesting history of the building is that the congregation used to meet secretly at a home across the street in the 70s. One member of that secret meeting told the believers there that he had a strong sense he believed was from the Lord that God was protecting them. Little did they know, the KGB was spying on them from the bank across the street with plans to arrest them. That same day, there was a fire that started accidentally because the roof was being redone with tar. The fire kept the KGB from making the arrest. 20 years later, the man who accidentally started the fire had become a believer and told the story of how God had used him to protect his church even while he was unsaved!

These kids are learning praise songs and Bible stories in the Royal Rangers program. Most of them would have no one to go home to after school. Here they are cared for and given the Words of Life!
The street kids can also get clean clothes, food and a shower here. There are several pictures like the one of the woman on the right (whose name I did not get) in the kitchen cooking. Preparing food for the street kids is a continual task and these women go about it with quiet faithfulness "as unto the Lord" because He said, "Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me."

Our next stop was a brand-new rehab center in Ciniseuti. The program is new, but the building is far from it as you can see in the pics.This is a great example of how all of these programs started. They did not wait for everything to be perfect and planned. The most important thing to have in place seems to be the calling from the Lord on the people He plans to use. They just get to work with what they have knowing God will provide as the need arises.
This rehab center serves 26 men and women who have drug/alcohol addiction and want to overcome it. These pics don't really show how badly this place needs repair.
It doesn't stop Ruslan (in the black hoodie) from taking them in, helping them get cleaned up, teaching Bible classes and leading worship and praise in the meeting room.
They have been there just since May and hope to put on a new pitched roof before the rainy season because there is a leak. (You can see the damaged ceiling in the photo of the meeting room with the green floor and pews). They simply proceed with what they have and are affecting change by the power of Jesus in the lives of the people.

These men are 4 of 26 who would be freezing on the streets with no practical help or hope if it weren't for this facility. This is the men's dormitory. The beds were built by a volunteer from Sweden who brought in all the wood and materials.

This is Uri. He arrived while we were touring upstairs. We watched as Bishop Victor asked him where he had come from and why he was there. He said he has been an alcoholic for 50 years
and that he had lost his family and his apartment. He was at the point in which he would either die or change. Bishop asked him if he was ready to change and he said "Da!" "Yes!" From here they will help him get cleaned up, give him new clothes, a warm bed and most importantly, the good news about the redeeming power of the blood of Jesus Christ! Note: In trying to take this photo discretely, wouldn't you know my flash went off!? Forgive me Uri! I don't think he noticed, actually.

There are also chickens and cows to take care of, so they can get to work right away. It helps to be useful and do your part in a community.

The last place we visited was back in Chisinau. It was a house for "rebellious teenagers." They can stay for 1 night or 6 years. It is an "open shelter" meaning the children are free to come and go as they need to. Most of them are social orphans. Some have been trafficked as prostitues or slaves. The goal of this house is to convey the love of God and the sense of family, which includes structure and rules but in a loving and supportive environment. There is a psychologist who sees the children individually and in groups. This group is recognized by the government organization Cener of Resources for children and though they are not a church, they are allowed to invite the children to church and to study the Bible. Each year they have children who are baptized. The director gets messages on social media from kids who have stayed there. He got a call from one boy who was in prison for theft. After that, the young man was baptized and got a job. Two years later he will be conducting the young man's wedding!
The director shows us one of the girls dorm rooms.
Laundry hangs outside to dry on the balcony.
Thanks to the generosity of church and community members, the supply room is full of food and clothing. The people give out of their own poverty! God brings forth the increase and does wonders with so little. Praise Him!

Now that Mike and I have taken in all we have seen, we will wait on the Lord to make clear how he wants us to work. We greatly appreciate your prayers!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Note: This is a very long and full post after a very long and full day. There is just soooo much more to tell than this. I am impressed by the fact that the people we met today work so hard and so diligently for the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope when you read all this you will simply see Christ, because that is who is fueling the energy and providing all the love and means it takes to accomplish what is being accomplished here!!!

God is blessing Moldova!!! Mike and I could never have surmised the amazing things God is doing in this small, poor, beautiful country without seeing it firsthand, and it is not possible to adequately relay in this post all we witnessed today with our own eyes, ears and hearts!

Bishop Victor and our American friend, Dale showed us the works of God in His Church in several towns and villages in northern Moldova. The effectiveness of the effort and the enormity of their vision is simply staggering! In the late 1980s, before the fall of the Soviet Union, Christians met underground. They met discretely in an obscure building and left a few at a time so attention would not be drawn to the congregation of believers of Jesus Christ. That was then. Today, church buildings are boldly being built, expanded and renovated on prime property, and the Prime Minister favors their progress. He has approved government donations of land for the churches to build more facilities as well as attending the dedication ceremonies of these facilities, because they are meeting the needs of orphans, elderly, the poor, and the disabled.

As you look through the photos and captions of what we saw today, notice the evidence of God's blessing and provision as these workers maintain vision along with organization and hard work!

Mike, Dale and Bishop are standing at a building site of a new church building in Chisinau, Moldova's capital city. The beauty of this location is that it is central to 3 main roads of the capital city and is surrounded by new apartment buildings.
A welder works on rebar for the foundation of the three story building.
A sign with a rendering of the finished facility. In spite of the new freedom the church has with the Moldovan government, the Pentecostal Union had to fight in court in order to keep the government from taking this property back once it realized its value. God is still winning battles for His people and His purposes!

Next we drove to the outskirts of Chisinau to the Bethany Christian Center which houses the only Christian high school in Moldova as well as a community of family groups for former street kids. The facility was a communist camp during the Soviet rule of Moldova.
Mike with Dale, Bishop and Nikolai, who is the administrative leader of this incredible Christian school which houses children from the streets. The bus is one of two that are used to transport the children to and from the city center where the affiliated elementary school is located.
  They have 100% success rate for children graduating and successfully passing exams. The street children have priority, but children from all over the country are on wait lists if there are openings. This school impressed Mike and me tremendously. Respect, discipline and JOY were all evident in these children and the faculty and staff. For the past 3 years the Prime Minister has sent the Ministry of Education administrators to learn from this school's model.
The school is also home to the best gym in the country. The ladders were brought over and put together by a volunteer from Sweden.

They live in groups of 12 with caregivers in small homes on the property.
The kitchen is modern and immaculate.
Eugenia is one of the house mothers and also works in the kitchen.
Bishop, Dale and Mike were very impressed with this boiler room. Look close and you'll see the clear labels of all the workings here. It is an example of the quality of all the projects we saw today.

Horse stables are part of the property as well as cows and crops for corn and potatoes.
Bishop, Mike and Dale in front of one of the 12 houses for the family groups that care for street kids. Each house is a working home and has a married couple that are the parents for up to 12 children who would otherwise be on the streets. Instead, they are living in safety and receiving the best education Moldova has to offer. 100% of these children go to university after graduation.
This is one of several greenhouses on the compound. They grow primarily tomatoes and cucumbers. The goal is self-sufficiency. It is one of many ways they make the most of contributions and keep the budget far less than government programs were able to do.

The vision of the Bishop is to build and establish a Christian University. Training children to become doctors, public administrators, lawyers, educators, etc. will enable them not only to make their living in Moldova but to contribute positively to their communities and to keep moving forward "little by little" in building on what God has given by giving to others in need. It's an upward spiral.

 Not far from there, in the town of Hincesti, the church is being expanded to accommodate its rapid growth.
This is the current meeting room in the church in Hincesti.
The new meeting room is under construction. Mike loves a good building project! It is especially exciting to see God growing His church!

The small building in the back is for the "pinea vietii" or "bread of life"-an after school feeding program that provides food, homework help, Bible lessons and even showers and fresh clothes for poor children in the town. Across the country, children are abandoned when parents are forced to leave the country for work. Many children are also abandoned by parents because of alcoholism.
This is the "Bread of Life" sign outside the door.
 Church members like Natalia (R) care for and know each child who comes to her after school everyday. On weekends they have crafts for the children to do as well.  

Next we visited a sweet church in a very poor village called Vozneseni. There are many of these poor villages outside the towns of Moldova.

These children are attending a Bible lesson at the after school feeding program. Children like these would likely not eat or have anyone to help with homework if were not for churches providing for them. We watched as several children stood and recited Bible verses. "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee."
Pastor Mike and his wife Liuda work hard for the poor in their village.
The garden touched my heart!
Horse and carts and wells are common sights in these small villages. We passed many horse and carts along the way, but they were moving and I couldn't get a good pic from the backseat of the car. I was so glad to find this one parked across the  road from the church in this small village.
This is a very nice well on one the church properties. We passed many primitive wells along the way, but they were too far away to get a good picture.
In the town of Sarata-Gambena we visited a home for the disabled and the home church of Bishop Viktor. This congregation is blessing the people of the town so much, the people want the current pastor to run for Mayor. He has no plans to do so right now, because he knows his calling is to pastor this church.
This facility was so dear to Mike and me! In the town of Sarata-Gambena, they converted an abandoned government daycare center into a beautiful home for the disabled. The house has wide doors, roll in showers and ramps everywhere. There are also opportunities for work such as electronic repairs for those with use of their hands. A few of the disabled people are even able to work at the retirement house for the elderly. This was the first dedication the Prime Minister attended. The media coverage mentioned nothing about the Church having a part in this facility at that time. Now the Prime Minister even prays publicly for the projects at the dedications he has since attended!
Bishop, Mike and Dale are admiring the newly renovated main sanctuary at the Serepta Christian Center. It is the church Bishop was raised in and became the pastor of 25 years ago. His son-in-law is now the pastor there and has overseen many expansions that bless the town of Sarata-Gambena immensely.
Ladies prepare food for the elderly in the retirement house that is just across from the sanctuary. I didn't take any other pics because I was enchanted by a couple of the elderly ladies who were incredibly cheerful and grateful to be there. These elderly have no family because they have left the country for work, and one dear soul was a retired teacher who was in a government facility that was privatized and she could no longer afford to stay there. She spent time living on the street before coming to the retirement house.
The children here right are blessed to have food and a home to go to after school. They are also given bread to take home, because the church also houses a bakery to feed the poor in the village.
The bakery ministry about knocked our socks off! These brick ovens were part of the original property, but were labor intensive, so they are currently renovating the kitchen facility. Check out the progress in the pics below:
State of the art industrial equipment!

They plan to be able to feed up to 1000 people at a time when they are done! God bless this ministry. They feed the poor of this village with this bread! The children all bring home loaves of bread every night. The flour has been donated by different companies. Jehovah Jira!

Note: I have no pics of the last place we visited, because it was getting dark and it was, once again, a building project with no electric lights. It was expanding because of the growth of its membership! We arrived just after the last of the elderly had left from their daily meeting and meal. They had 100+ elderly come for the meeting and their current room seats 80-something (can you tell my brain is on overload?!) We walked through the buildings' 3 stories and from the 3rd story we could see the neighboring property, which has been offered for the church to purchase at a very low rate by the owner. People like to see the churches expand this way since they have done so much for the needy over the years. The church in Moldova is impactful in this way. They are in tune with people's need and they provide in obedience to Jesus call to serve and to seek and save the lost. All this from the poorest country in Europe.