It was graduation night in Moldova. There were 11 students graduating from our Justice & Mercy International Transitional Living program and moving into the Independent Living program. All of these kids grew up in the orphanages throughout Moldova. They never had much of a chance of success – until now. And, this called for a celebration!
In Moldova, the statistics of what happens to kids when they have to leave the orphanages at age 15 or 16 are overwhelming. Sex-trafficking. Organized crime. Suicide. But, through JMI and by God’s grace we are seeing that change. Surrounded by their 12 Moldovan Staff Leaders – house parents, social worker, phycologist, vocational director and more – as well as 31 Americans (our Mission Team from Rolling Hills), and 50 of the other transitional living and independent living students, these 11 graduates received their diplomas.
This marked a huge milestone for them. In the program, they have been discipled in Christ, learned to speak English, received additional education (high school equivalent) and been taught character, self-esteem, work ethic and integrity. These kids are sharp, and they are ready. Most people with any ounce of initiative in Moldova merely leave the country. But these kids are now prepared to change the country.
So, we hired a Moldovan band and we made it a celebration! These graduates are just as smart, talented and gifted as anyone their age in America. The difference – opportunity and someone to believe in them. In the America, many kids have parents who teach them, give them advice and believe they can do anything. In Moldova, these kids don’t have parents, or really anyone who believes in them. In America, our kids have opportunities for college, universities, and well-paying jobs. In Moldova, you need connections to attain more eduction and good jobs are hard to come by. In fact, a decent paying job can range from $100 to $300 a month. A month! Think about trying to live on that.
But, now these kids have three things necessary to succeed: 1. Jesus – they know Christ and He is with them. They know an inner peace, a joy and a purpose in life. 2. An opportunity – because of JMI they have access to universities (we even have one graduate going to med school) and through our vocation director, access to good jobs. 3. Someone to believe in them – because of having a sponsor (an American Christ-follower who has been helping them) and because of our JMI Staff in Moldova, they have people who believe in them. And, if you have someone who believes in you, there is nothing that can stop you!
Therefore, we had to hire a Moldovan band and celebrate. And celebrate we did. We had food, a big JMI cake and lots of Moldovan & Russian traditional dances. Everyone loved it! All the kids were in awe. Most of them have never had a birthday party in their life, much less a huge celebration. We wanted to mark the moment and to let the graduate know that they are valued and celebrated for their hard work. Also, we wanted to set the stage for the ones coming behind them. The American high school seniors on our team said it was better than their prom at home. It really was one of the best nights ever!
I think this is so much like our God. Remember, when the prodigal son came home, what did the Dad do? He threw a party. And, I bet his party was incredible! There was food (fatted calf), and I bet a cake, and I am sure traditional dances – and who knows, maybe even a Moldovan band with a xylophone and a violin. I am sure that this party was better than prom. How awesome that we have a God who gives us His Son, who offers us the opportunity to be adopted into His family, and who believes in us. This should cause us to celebrate! As well as to throw parties for those who, because of His love and grace, now have a hope and a future. You see, we had to hire a Moldovan band!