Saturday, June 30, 2012

Goodbye Moldova, Hello Vacation

Top 10 moments of the day:

1.  A hectic but smiley final morning in Chisinau... which included several people coming in and out of the house, and even some Moldovan friends bringing us cake!

2. Getting rides to the airport with friends -- and finding Tania and Maxim there waiting to say good bye to us.  Then we ran into another missionary friend, and his daughter (Rayna's friend) who were dropping off YWAM team members (who we had met last week).  Turned out they were on our same flight!  (See, Dan, we do keep running into people we know in this city!)  

3. On the plane, hearing Rayna start clapping and cheering when we lifted into the air.  Everyone else on the plane was pretty quiet and serious, so she added some light and cheeriness. :)

4. Landing in Munich!  Yes, Miles THIS is finally Ge-many.

5. Absolutely no line going through the passport checkpoint at the airport.

6. After navigating all of our many suitcases and people through the airport, getting a rental van, and driving for awhile, finally spotting the Bavarian Alps!  Everyone was so excited.

7. Then, we arrived in the cutest little town with the loveliest little hotel - our home for the night!

Strider is waving from the window in our room, on the second floor -- see him?
 8. We ordered pork sausages and sauerkraut for dinner, along with large salads with strips of roast turkey.  Delicious!  (This picture was taken, though, before the food came and everyone was just a little hot and tired...)
9.  After dinner we strolled through the town -- and Colsen got to pick the wildflowers he's been waiting and waiting for!
10.  After 6 months of living in a city, I found myself just taking many deep breaths all evening.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Summer-y walk around the block

This is the picture I predict my mom will like best!
Since I took pictures of our neighborhood here in the winter and in the spring, I thought I should complete the series before we left.  (Today is our last day in Moldova!)

It's been kind of cool to see all the changes over the last 6 months.  Arriving in the winter meant that every month afterwards held new surprises for us as we watched what grew and developed out of the barrenness.

Now, if I had to summarize my surroundings, I would say it's a Land of Fruit and Flowers!

These are some of the residents behind one of the fences

There are grapes like this everywhere!
Seems like there are always people out and about
Community living -- the playground is always full at this apt. building
The neighbors' a couple doors down from us-- there always seems to be a party here!

Back "home" in front of our gate

Farewell lovely Chisinau!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Joy for Joi, Final Moldova edition

The sermon we listened to this past week (by Ethan Magness of Grace Anglican Church in Slippery Rock, PA) was based on this verse from James 1:2, "Consider it pure joy, brothers, when you face trials of all kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."  

After talking through how counter-intuitive the connection between joy and trials seems, he affirmed that there is a mystery that we get but glimpses of, but somehow the suffering can be good.  As he said, oftentimes, the problems are actually the cure.  What pains us is what is healing us.  

This sermon came at perfect timing for Pete and me.  We've gotten rather grumbly lately about the little things that are hard here.  We know our trials are very, very minor compared to the ones that so many others endure, but they have been stretching for us.  We've been pulled and tugged on, foiled in many efforts, faced futility, and gone without a few comforts we're used to.  So for us, this feels like trials.  What a good reminder to find JOY in them -- because, hopefully, by the great power of God, He is using them to produce stronger faith and perseverance within us.

It was good to be reminded that joy can abound when things are hard.... it's easier to remember that joy can abound when times are fun, as well.  We've had some of each kind this week.

Here are a few of the highlights:

+ The boys getting to watch fresh fish from the lake, just caught by Tania and her boyfriend Maxim, be cleaned and cooked to eat. Even though Maxim speaks no English, the guys all got along swimmingly (hahaha):

Tania tells us the heads are good to eat because the fish are young...   I did not try one.
This still makes me cringe

+ Having one last, fun evening with friends -- a game night.  We have now successfully introduced our classic favorite, The Bowl Game, to people in Eastern Europe.

+ Listening to my sons discuss if they know any "pretty girls."  First Colsen got major points for saying that the prettiest girls he knows are Rayna and me. Then the discussion turned to Gilligan's Island and as they thought about the females on that show, Colsen concluded the prettiest one was not Ginger or Marianne, but the 60-ish-year old millionaire's wife.

+ Visiting with Liuba at the tuberculosis kindergarten one last time.  She says that I remind her of her daughter who died a few years ago, and she gave me some special spoons that she used to use for parties for her daughter.   I am very thankful for the relationship we've been able to form across the language barrier.

+ Hearing the kids get very excited about our upcoming trip to Austria.  And listening to them practicing the songs from "Sound of Music."

+ Eating chocolate-filled croissants for a final time (in this country anyway!)


+ Realizing God's great protection, and how His hand has been so powerful all around us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sabbatical does not equal vacation

Now that our time here is coming to an end, we're getting more questions like, "So, has it been a good experience for you?" -- both from others, and from ourselves.

I think where I'm coming down on this can be summarized in 2 points:
1.) Yes, it has been good.
2.) It's been a break, but not a vacation.

This second point has been what I've been thinking about this week -- and now what I will expound upon here.

Getting away from our normal routines and environment for Pete's sabbatical semester provided us with some unique opportunities.  Aside from the fact that we got to see a new corner of the world, it did give us some of what that word "sabbatical" promises -- rest.  We've had the luxury of time here.  We haven't been rushing from commitment to commitment, place to place. 

My main focuses (foci?) of the day have been teaching the kids, taking care of the kids, cooking, laundry, and beating back the general entropy that a house full of kids produces.  But that's it!  So, in my spare time, I've been able to spend time on some key projects I've been wanting to work on (such as GateWay). We've also had time to develop relationships and spend time with people more than we usually do; we've had more dinners with people here than we've had in the last 5 years at home, I think!

BUT, we are very eager to get home again.  The extra free time has been nice, but we have been missing some of our other "comforts."

Several times over the last several months I've heard myself say, "Had I known that this is how it would be, I would have never come!"  Let's just say, this is not the environment I would have chosen as a vacation destination.

I would not have chosen to live in a house very full of someone else's stuff.
I would not have wanted to be virtually trapped in the (very cold) house for 6 months, which we have been, since the very crowded public transportation is not conducive to larger families, and the city at large is not conducive to children who need to visit public restrooms.
A house with mold all over the walls and ceilings is not my idea of a lovely place to live.
We would not have wanted to take care of someone else's often-barking dogs. (For the record, we have decided that our max for dog-sitting is now 1 month.  After that it just drives us crazy.)
I wouldn't have chosen to come to an unfriendly, untrusting city.
Nor a place where you can't fully trust that the food won't make us sick.

Of course, if I had known everything ahead of time, and refused to come.... I would have missed out on all the blessings and things I've learned while here.  Having just listed #601 in my things-I'm-thankful-for journal, I can easily see the blessings have been many.

So the break from routine has been nice, but now we are ready to head back home -- to a place where there are easy ways to get to an emergency room if you need one, and there are homes equipped with smoke alarms and trustworthy wiring.  To roads that don't have deep holes our kids can fall in, and a yard without wells and dog poop everywhere.

We'll be glad to be able to be understood when we are trying to buy something-- and to be able to find things we need easily.  I can't wait to have a large sink again and a garbage disposal and a dishwasher and an oven that has a thermostat.  And most of all, we can't wait to see the faces that we've missed so much over the last 6 months!

First, though, we head out for "vacation" in Austria and Germany.  It seems weird to use that word after we've been away from home for so long.  But since I've now established in my mind that this has been a break but not a vacation, I am looking forward to the next destinations.

Of course, when you travel with kids and stay in houses where you still have cook all the meals, etc., a mom is never really on vacation, right?

But my parents are coming and my sister- and brother-in-law, too, so that alone is worth looking forward to!  Plus, I bet it will be beautiful....

Monday, June 25, 2012


On Saturday, Pete went out to witness the baptism of Maxim, Tania's boyfriend, in a village about 10 miles outside the city.

By his account, it was a beautiful day and a beautiful service.  It was an all-day affair, with a morning meal kicking it off, then the service and baptism, and then more food, barbecued on a fire started with wooden sticks from the woods.  Pete stayed for a few hours, but then left -- so probably missed quite a bit.

As it turned out, several other members of the church were being baptized, too, including a young boy named David (the pastor's son) we had all met when we visited before.  He's 9 years old, which is traditionally young to be baptized here, so the pastor encouraged everyone present to question him about his faith and what baptism meant, etc.  His answers were very clear and encouraging!

 Then everyone went out into the water, and the singing continued:

Most of the songs were in Russian, of course, but they did do one in English, probably for Pete's sake (hahaha - for Pete's sake!):

During the time Pete was out there, he saw a herd of goats and a goatherd,
....some sheep and a shepherd...
 ...and then, last but certainly not least, a herd of cows were driven through as well.
It's amazing to us just how rural things are right outside the city.

We had thought about having more or all of the family go to the baptism, but knew that transportation would be tricky (and likely very hot).  We were right. Pete called to tell me when he was leaving the picnic...  Then 2 hours later he called again to say he was getting closer to home but wasn't exactly sure where he had just been dropped off.

All in all, he walked for part of it, hitch-hiked in a car, then took a mini-bus, then took a trolley bus all to get home (a 2.5 hour trip) -- and it was only a distance of 20 kilometers or so!  I was glad we didn't all make the trip.... although the baptism looked like it almost would have been worth it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What I've been working on for the last few months

While Pete's been working on his sabbatical writing this semester, I've taken the opportunity to do some research and development on a project as well (not nearly as academic or high-level as Pete's endeavors, of course).

Almost a decade ago, my mom and I started brainstorming about an idea, which we christened "GateWay," and now, at last, with Pete's help, we have finally gotten it all on paper!

GateWay is designed as a program for boys, ages 11-14, to teach them and train them in becoming a Man.  We've realized that our culture, unlike so many others in the world, does not have a real "rite of passage" for kids these days;  there is not an official time when they are pronounced a man or a woman.

So for one, intensive year, the GateWay program takes these young boys, who are old enough to really grasp the meaning of manhood, but are still young enough to be eager to learn and listen to the adults around them, and presents them with opportunities to both learn important skills and develop character traits that are needed in men these days.

Through sessions with "experts" who will expose them to a variety of manly skills and activities  (things like fishing, camping, knot-tying, woodworking, etc), and a series of "challenges" designed to help them grow in 10 different character areas, we're hoping that the boys will gain a vision for what it means to be a true man.  We think of it as a condensed Boy Scouting experience, combined with serious spiritual development.

At the end of the year, the plan is to have a big ceremony that will mark the rite of passage for each boy.  At this point they will not be officially called "men" yet -- since in our culture, 12-14 year olds are not ready for all of that responsibility -- but they will be given a new name.  No longer will they be just boys or children.  Now they will be "journeymen."

(There is more to the whole plan...  follow-ups to the initial program a few years later.... but basically the end result, we hope, will be a final ceremony around age 18 or 19, in which the boy will finally be called a MAN.  We hope this will help dispel a lot of the confusion that it seems many of the younger generations have had in our country.)

It's been a great exercise for us, going through all the various character traits and thinking through how the boys can demonstrate them through challenges, etc.  We've ended up with a book over 30 pages long full of resources, ideas, and a plan for the year.

Now we're just having some trouble finding families who actually want to do it with us....  It may be a small pilot program this year!  But I'm excited to see what God will continue to do with it anyway....

(And soon we'll have to start working on a girl/woman version!)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Joy for Joi, Summer Solstice Edition

Today I am feeling discouraged and emotional.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that we'll be leaving soon.  No, that can't be it.  It probably has more to do with the fact that I got blisters on 4 of my fingers this morning when I was trying to use what certainly must be the hottest glue gun in the world.  Or maybe it is because the gift I was trying to make someone was a complete failure.

Or maybe it's because we are just very ready to be done here.  Living in someone else's house, with all of their stuff, has taken a toll.  Being trapped here in the house, not able to go very many places (since I don't choose to have my face smashed against the windshield in the very crowded public transportation options), has started to finally make me a little stir-crazy.  Plus we miss our friends and family at home and have this sense that we're missing out on really cool stuff a lot.

Or maybe it's just because I keep getting up waaaay too early in the mornings, either because the kids wake me up, or because the sun does.  (Sunrise was at 5:09 this morning!)  So I'm tired.

This probably wasn't the best opening to a "Joy for Joi" blog post!

BUT, the good news is that God is faithful, even when I'm feeling emotionally drained or tired.  He never is!  He keeps providing, protecting, and giving.  And here is the benefit of keeping a Gratitude Journal:  even if I don't feel like finding things today that I can be thankful for, I can flip back a page or two and see all of the things I wrote down earlier this week.

And here are a few of those things:

+ This cement-block house keeps us relatively cool in hot weather.  The temperature has been in the 90's lately  (today's high is 97!) and we don't have central air conditioning.  But the lower level of the house hasn't gotten too hot!

+ Getting to play in some water outside.  These hot days mean the kids are clamoring to get wet.  So, we've been setting up homemade sprinklers, and they've had hours of fun!

+ Walking 200 yards around the corner as a family to get ice cream treats at the alimentara.  It's like having an ice cream truck permanently parked at the end of the street!

+ Several friends giving to the doors and windows project at the tuberculosis children's center.  It looks like the doors will be installed in the next couple of months!

+ A friend for Strider to play with these last couple of weeks.

+ A few evenings with friends and good food.


+ Not only is it the longest day of the year today, but it's also my half-birthday!  Six more months left in my 30's.  Wait -- maybe that's why I've been so emotional today!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pictures in the park

A couple days ago we met Tania in the park so we could take some pictures together (it's going to be so hard to say goodbye to her!).  Since I've just discovered the fun of Picasa, I played around with some of these to see the different effects.

The girls
S for Strider!
Cole and his preschool teacher

Someone was getting a little tired.