“A long obedience in the same direction.” – Eugene Peterson
I am writing this post on the plane home from Chisinau, Moldova. We have been flying all day/night, so I am a little tired, but even more grateful. This was my 15th time to serve our God in this precious country of Moldova. When I boarded my first flight to Moldova in 2003, I could have never dreamed what God would do in this country, in His church and in my life in just 12 years. Through these years, so much has changed…
So much has changed in Moldova:
Returning from my first trip, I bought a painting in the art market. We were flying Air Moldova – an unmarked white plane simply with black numbers on it. We were dropped off in Germany on the tarmac by the FedEx and UPS planes. Once we made it inside the terminal, I realized I left my painting, so I ran to the closest ticket counter and asked a Lufthansa agent if she could call Air Moldova. Her response was, “Air Moldova, yuk!” I believe her statement summed up her attitude, as well as so many others’, about this small country between Romania and the Ukraine.
Back then, and still even today, Moldova was known for human trafficking. This poor country, with such beautiful children, is pillaged by evil people bent on personal gain. Even writing about it breaks my heart. It elicits emotions of anger, sympathy and prayer. The reason for much of it is the huge orphan population. True orphans, as well as social orphans, fill the country. Poverty (this is the smallest and poorest country in the former Soviet Union), extreme alcoholism and corruption all play a part, and the result is beautiful children that are left with no hope and no future.
The first year we served at a Camp outside of Chisinau where orphan children would go during the summer. The facilities were dilapidated and the children slept two to a single bed. I can still remember being there in the early years and fighting back tears. Most kids only had one shirt, one pair of pants and one pair of flip-flops. Many went barefoot throughout the day. Yet, they were beautiful, hopeful, longing for love and in desperate need to know that God, and someone else, cared about them.
Fast forward to today. While there are still thousands of orphans, the conditions have changed so much. Through more government involvement, American Christian Teams coming and the church of Moldova engaging, there has been a dramatic difference. Moldova is being transformed from the inside out. Many orphans are being clothed and cared for with clothes and better facilities. It is great to see kids wearing Rolling Hills t-shirts (and so many other English words) and having shoes on their feet. You can truly see a physical, as well as a spiritual difference.
There is still so much more work to do, but you can surely see a difference being made in orphanages as well as in the entire country. There is some new construction happening and more evidence that change is possible. Overall, I believe we are starting to see “Hope.” Before, smiles were few and far between. Now, we see kids laughing, playing and dreaming. Through JMI, Justice & Mercy International, I truly believe that Moldova is being transformed. There is a new generation that knows Jesus and has amazing potential. There is a generation that is starting to dream and to engage. I pray, and believe, that instead of being a country of human trafficking, Moldova will one day be a country of sending missionaries.
So much has changed in His church at Rolling Hills:
The first time I went to Moldova, we had about 100 people at Rolling Hills Community Church. We started with 15 people about 9 months earlier, and on our first mission team to Moldova we took 18 people. Little did I know that God would use that trip (and then sending teams at least twice a year from that point forward) to set the DNA of His church to be serving others.
Currently, I am sitting on the plane near some recent high school graduates from church who went to Moldova for the first time. They have heard so much about Moldova from church, and they were already sponsoring two children with the Student Ministry through JMI. Through the years, they have been on local and national mission trips developing a passion for what is close to God’s heart. They are so excited and ready to serve. Because of the commitment of the church to the work in Moldova, God is raising up a generation that loves orphans and the poor.
In Leviticus 23:22, God tells His people to make caring for the poor a priority when they come into the Promised Land. Then, He judges His people with the prophets for forgetting about the poor and the fatherless. “Learn to do right…defend the cause of the fatherless…” Isaiah 1:17. When Jesus comes, He tells everyone that “God has anointed Him to preach good news to the poor, bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and announce the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4. In addition, James 1:27 tells us, “The kind of religion that God our Father sees as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress…” God’s call for His church is to be about the least, the last and the lost. We have watched God grow this heart here at Rolling Hills Community Church through caring for the orphans in Moldova.
I often think about the impact God is having in children and students in Moldova: hundreds of kids now being sponsored through JMI, thousands of orphans having been touched through camps and ministries, transitional living homes and more. But, it is also amazing to think about the generational impact as literally hundreds, if not thousands, of students from the U.S. here at Rolling Hills who are now passionate about what God is passionate about. Think about what God can do through these students.
Maybe the country that is really being impacted is our own.
So much has changed in me:
I am not the same. Moldova has changed me. By God’s grace, I grew up in a great church that instilled in me a heart for missions. But, Moldova has made it personal. Going each year, communicating with my sponsored children and developing friends in this country has brought the orphan to my every day life. Baptizing young adults in lakes, giving a bride away and looking into the face of hundreds of precious children as we give them food to eat in Moldova has brought me closer to the heart of Christ.
This morning in my personal prayer time, I was reading from our “Daily Step” passage in Luke 12. Jesus is teaching when a man yells out, “Lord, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus responds, “Who made me judge or arbitrator between you.” Then, He uses the opportunity to teach about what really matters. Jesus says, “Life does not consist in possessions.” Which is so true – but definitely not how I tend to live in the U.S. And, He concludes by calling us to be “rich toward God.” I have witnessed first hand that it is only God who can change a life (not money or possessions), and there is joy when you live life for what truly matters. You can’t come back to the States and live the same way once you have been to Moldova. As Mother Teresa said, “You see Christ in the face of the poor.”
When God gives you a call, stick with it.
- A long obedience in your marriage. Serve your spouse, and invest in a great marriage!
- A long obedience to your children. Raise great kids who love Jesus and go into the world to make a difference for Christ!
- A long obedience to your church. Don’t bounce around; stay faithful and see the long-term impact as you serve and love.
- And, above all, a long obedience to the poor. Going, giving, praying – God wants to use you for His glory all the days of your life.
Who knows how your life will be changed and what God will do through you for His glory.
But, you have to get on the plane and keep following Christ.