Monday, July 28, 2014

There's More Than One Way . . .

Dutch volunteer showing contribution to Petru
Though I have never skinned a cat, I frequently tell my children that there's more than one way to do so.* There's more than one way to contribute to spreading the Gospel, too. Stichting** Hands to Serve does so by taking donations from people (laptops, cars, greeting cards, blenders . . .), repairing items as needed (laptops, cars . . .), and making them available free of charge to missionaries. A member of our recent Dutch team to Moldova did so by contacting Stichting Hands to Serve for a laptop. The computer our partner in Romany outreach in Moldova had been using no longer worked, and he could not afford to replace it. But not only did the Dutch team member contact Stichting Hands to serve, he drove across the country (admittedly a small country) to pick up the laptop and then hand-delivered it to Petru Ciochina in Moldova. Since this is the only computer available to the church Petru serves and since in additional to all the other uses a pastor/missionary has for a computer,  Petru also uses his to Skype chat with Roma church members working abroad (as well as me, by the way), this definitely is one way to contribute to spreading the Gospel. What's one way you've done so recently?

*American idiom meaning that there's more than one way to do something.
**Stichting = Foundation or Organization.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Purifying Love

Nicole with one of her ponies
   In a small village in west-central Slovakia, a transformation of lives is taking place.  Dreams are becoming reality.  The change began several years ago when Anna began to spend her free time helping out at a center for special-needs children.  Through relationships Anna made, she became aware of the number of Roma children who are never adopted from the state-run orphanages in Slovakia.  Anna had dreamed about having a child of her own.  That's when she met Nicole.

   Nicole's birth mother left her when she was just a few hours old at a baby-receiving center in the Czech Republic.  Though Nicole had no family, it was determined that she was Slovak and she was shipped off to an orphanage in Slovakia.  Anna fell in love with the then two-month-old Nicole and in time decided to adopt her.  A caring mother plus a child in need of a family.  It was a dream come true.
   But the decision to love and adopt Nicole was costly for Anna.  Nicole is Roma, minority Slovak; Anna is majority Slovak.  Anna spoke honestly about how her closest friend - a friend for whom Anna had been the witness at her wedding, godmother to her children, life-long pals - cursed her for adopting a "gyspy" child.  Convinced that a relationship with Anna would some how contaminate her own life because of the darker-skinned infant, she cut off all contact and refuses to acknowledge her former friend.

As Anna shared this heart breaking story, she looked over at Nicole and said, "What could a small child do to change my life?  She changed everything.  I am richer now than before . . . she has purified my life."  Love has a way of doing that.

Anna and Nicole now live on a farm with lots of ponies, miniature horses, cows, and goats.  They occasionally host days where other ethnically-mixed adoptive families or families with special-needs children can come and enjoy a day on a magical farm.  "What kid does not love a pony?" Anna asked as we strolled across the pasture to where the horses were pinned.  Their dream of a permanent playground and a magical farm is still only a dream . . . a dream which one day may come true.

(Nicole and Anna are not their real names, but the story and the farm is real.  We'll keep in touch with them and see what doors God may open.)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lots of Fruit in Moldova

By their fruits, you will know them, Jesus said, and once again real life proves His words to be true. One of the Dutch volunteers who went on the recent two-week trip to Moldova bore almost immediate fruit. About 10 years ago she and her husband returned from missionary work in a country which was so challenging that it should not be named here. About 6 weeks before going to Moldova, she and her husband began learning a bit of Romanian online. When they arrived at the airport in Chisinau, they were able to carry on a rudimentary conversation with the Roma man who’d come to pick them up (aided, admittedly, by the French which every Dutch person is required to study; French and Romanian are related languages).  The same sort of thing happened in the Roma village, where she was quickly carrying babies and making friends with a little Roma girl who climbed up onto her lap during the worship service. When we went to visit another Roma village for the first time, in less than 5 minutes two little old Roma ladies sitting on the main street invited her to sit down between them. After a while, she, her husband, and the volunteer who spoke fluent Romanian went on down the street to explore further. They ended up being invited in for a cup of coffee with a couple of  Roma women who turned out to be the key believers in that village.

This woman is not a flamboyant extrovert. She is petite, quiet, shuns the limelight, and just lets Christ live through her. She bears a lot of fruit.