Monday, September 22, 2008

Moldova, part doi

I'll just start by saying that I have wanted to go to Moldova ever since last summer when my friend, who was the leader of the trip this time, went and came back with incredible stories of the people there. Not to mention that I feel really connected to Eastern Europe for some reason. I keep getting the chance to go to different countries (Czech Republic, Croatia, Moldova, etc.) in that area of the world and I really love it there. And I'll just go ahead and get this out of the way: yes, this trip was particularly difficult for me due to two incidences that sort of "hemmed in" my time there. The first is that, after months of praying, we found out that I was pregnant just three days before I left for the trip, creating in me all sorts of thoughts, feelings, and questions that I had never had before and allowing no time to process these things. Secondly, the "morning sickness" for this pregnancy decided to rear its ugly head on the very day we left Moldova, associating the time there with being nauseated all day every day for me. (Morning sickness, schmorning sickness.) That's why it has taken me a full two months to both process the trip and be ready to write about it, because I had to come home and process being pregnant for the first time in my life. (And thankfully leave the nausea in the first trimester.)

So, what exactly did we do there? We were primarily there to provide instruction about how to put on a summer camp and then serve as back-up during the week of that camp. For the weekend before the camp, we (me and the one other girl and three guys from the U. S.) met with the camp leaders and counselors, building relationships with them and teaching them how we "do" summer camps here. When the students came on Monday, we also tried to get to know them, attending all of the sessions they had, playing games with them during breaks, and teaching English classes in the afternoon. I probably should mention that we participated in their sessions thanks to our wonderful translators, since Moldovans speak both Romanian and Russian, and often both in the same sentence. It was a true joy to get to know some of the students. Those that knew any English at all were pretty eager to talk to us. My personal favorite was a boy named Octavian who came up to me on the first day of camp and said, "Hello. My name is Octavian. My favorite food is Coca-Cola. My favorite drink is pizza." It was fun to sit with him during the week and just teach him words because he wanted to learn. He would point to things and say them in Romanian, then we would teach him the English words.

I also had a great time getting to know the counselors at the camp. They are trully amazing people. Most of them were early college age and were trying against all odds (poverty, difficulty leaving the country, etc.) to get good educations in order to have good professions. Most of all, they showed a genuine love of the Lord in all that they did, sharing with us all that they had even though we have so much more. Despite all of the physical beauty of Moldova, the breathtaking sunflower fields, and Lord of the Rings-like cliffs and valleys, the true beauty of Moldova is the people.

It's always encouraging to me to go to another country and see the body of Christ at work actively there. Whether it's Moldova, Honduras, or even China, it continues to remind me that what God is doing in His redemption of His people is much bigger than me or even the whole scope of what I know.

He is at work and He is trully awesome.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Numero 100

I've seen on other blogs that the 100th post is supposed to be momentous somehow, and this being my centennial, I decided to skip Moldova, Part 2 (it's coming, I promise), and do something a little different. So, this post will, after 99 others, finally explain my blog and give direction for it.

Over the past couple of days, I've been thinking a lot about why I started this blog, due to a very encouraging email that I received from an anonymous reader. "Reasons Why" was initially begun as an outlet for my very first post. In it, I wrote a letter to people in my past at a time in my life when the concept of grace had initially made sense to me for the first time. I knew at the time that I would never be able to get the letter to the people that I had in mind, so I wanted to put it on a public forum so that fate could take it's course and maybe others would read it and be encouraged in their own faith. The blog grew, though very slowly, into an outlet for other things in my life as well, namely, whatever was on my mind at the moment that I felt like writing.

First and foremost, however, I want this blog to be a place where I can be honest about life, what's going on in mine, and how I am thinking and feeling about it. It is my hope that my honesty will enable readers to be more honest with themselves and others. This blog was begun in 2005, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much has changed on the inside and outside of my life since then. (Go back and read some and you'll get a glimpse.) During this time, the major work that I feel God has been doing is driving me to a place of honesty with myself, showing me who I am in Him, and basically, teaching me to be okay with it. Teaching me to like myself for how He made me, and be content in all of the situations in which He puts me. Here, in the almost sunset of 2008, I am just straining my eyes to see the beginning of this truth. Gosh, I could go on for hours, but I won't.

To sum up, God is good. No matter what. I am who I am. I live where I live. I do what I do. And I'm okay with that. I'm okay with me. Because God is good.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Moldova, part unu

It's been two months since I was there, but I think it's finally time to talk about my trip to Moldova. I realized yesterday while talking to a friend that I have not portrayed my trip adequately even to the people I talk to a lot. So, here's my first attempt at writing about it.

On July 9th of this year, I traveled to Moldova with four other people to teach a group of people there how to run a summer camp, to teach English, help with recreation, and give nightly talks to camp-goers. I hesitate to call it a mission trip because, although we were all Christians going to a Christian camp and it was a trip with a mission, it was just a lot different than mission trips I've been on before. But, in essence, that's what it was.

I guess I should start with where Moldova actually is. It sits in Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, just above the Black Sea. An independent Republic since 1991, it has at times been part of Romania and the former U.S.S.R. The numerous conflicts over the last century in that area of the world has left Moldova the poorest country in Europe. Their major industries are wine making and sunflower product producing. (Which, by the way, makes for breath-taking fields upon fields of sunflowers and grape vines.) The capital city is Chisinau (pronounced like "quiche-now"), and people there live a comparatively modern, urban lifestyle. Outside of the main cities, however, many Moldovans who live in the country draw their water from often-ornately decorated wells and rely on horses and buggies for transportation. As I stated earlier, though, they live in almost constant beauty from the grapes to the sunflowers, to the steady hills and valleys that make up Moldova's landscape.

Many of the campers at the camp we were at came from such countryside. The camp itself was situated on a dirt road about 30 minutes from Chisinau, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Dniester River. The sunsets over the fields there were like none I've ever seen before.

So that's pretty much an introduction to Moldova and my time there. In the next part, I'll talk more about what we did there. It was a wonderful time.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Sunday Morning

We were blessed with a trip "home" last weekend. By home I mean Georgia, and by Georgia I mean the most blissfuly wonderful town that God has yet to create-Athens. Despite the 9 hour each way drive and the oppressive pregnancy headaches I cannot seem to get rid of, it was a magnificent weekend. We got to see family and friends. And not just any friends, the friends we spent time with this weekend are the kind that your soul recognizes. The kind you can pick up with at any time on any subject and you know each other, there's no background needed or explanation to be had. Before the move to Virginia, I took these kinds of friendships lightly. Now that I am, and have been pretty much, just meeting new people since May, I relish the kinds of social situations in which I'm not introducing myself and explaining why I don't have a job at present.

On Sunday we got to see an old friend marry a new friend and it was beautiful. But before that we got to go to our home church and it just felt right. The whole weekend just felt like a Sunday morning. You know when you're sitting (or standing) in church and the light is beautiful and you're singing a song that reaches to your core and you just feel the love of God swirling all around you? No matter how dark Saturday night may have been and what transpired there, you just feel forgiven and loved. You know you are home because you belong and are loved in full view all of your deformities and quirks. That's how Athens makes me feel. Well, not Athens, but the people who still call it home and we count as family and friends.

And that's why it would still be the greatest place on Earth, even if it were not home to the greatest football team in the nation (and Barberitos).