Author Archives: William H Adams

Moldova 2019 – Days 5 & 6

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Day 5

Our last two days in Moldova were marked with changes of plans. On Wednesday we had planned to take a day trip to Romania with Kathryn, Brian, Ellie, & Tim. We had hired a driver and were loaded up in his van with our passports, but on our way there our driver got a phone call when we stopped for coffee.

Missionaries in Moldova (and other countries like it) have a short-hand way of explaining why things go wrong or take too long – later when asked why our plans changed Kathryn simply would say “Moldova.”

The level of corruption in Moldova’s government is pretty intense. Bribes are seen as part of the political process, so occasionally a low-level political official will do things just to get bribes. On this particular day the politician in charge of the boarder crossing was requiring a particular form for all passenger vans leaving the country – except this form actually is unobtainable.

So the many professional drivers who shuttle people in and out of the country are left with a choice; bribe someone or pay an enormous fine. Our driver was actually trying to figure out how to get us on a bus that wouldn’t have the same restrictions, but after he explained the situation we opted to return to Chisinau (Quishe’Now.) Our driver insisted that he show us something interesting in Moldova so on our way back into town we stopped by a convent with a beautiful church.

A painting in the church explaining the punishment that awaits sinners with no mention of grace; helps explain the shame-ridden culture.
one of the ubiquitous crucifixes found at crossroads

While we were there, a nun gave us a tour. She couldn’t have been taller that 4’9″ and had several gold teeth and a lot of spunk. She explained about a tradition that none of us had ever heard of the Easter Orthodox church – one that I’m fairly certain no other Christian denomination believes in – the Holy Fire of Jerusalem. You can read the linked article if you’re curious about it, but it’s safe to say that it is very different from any Christian belief we have in the west. This is part of the Orthodox tradition that feels largely influenced by culture and history – it’s these kinds of beliefs that often make discussions with the nominal Christians that much more challenging.

I personally enjoyed this time as it allowed me to get to know Ellie and Tim even more. Tim and I had a nice discussion on the state of the institutional church – or should I say I rambled on about it and Tim patiently listened and chimed in. In the realm of more trivial things we talked about various accents in the U.S. and asked them if they could identify the differences between various accents. We also spent a fair amount of time discussing various U.S. and U.K. idioms. Though my favorite came up when Tim saw the church we visited and exclaimed. “Flippin’ Doodah”

You might say “Flippin’ Doodah” if you saw this too.

The primary purpose of this trip is to show love to Kathryn and Brian – spend time with them, hear their stories, and give them a mental/spiritual health boost. Since we could do that in Chisinau (Quiche’Now) just as well as we could’ve visiting Romania, it actually made little difference to us and worked out all the same. When we got back to the city we visited the “Mall Dova.” No joke. That’s the name of the mall in Chisinau (Quiche’Now) which is really as nice, if not nicer than Lennox Square in Atlanta.

Proof that I’m not making this up

After lunch at “Lord of the Wings,” we bumped into a missionary couple that Kathryn had introduced us to at her church on Sunday. They’re from the US, specifically Athens Georgia. This is particularly amusing since our whole team is from Georgia originally. Of all the people in Moldova we could’ve run into it’s probably the only other people from Georgia. We decided that this was all part of God’s plan for the day.

When we got to Brian and Kathryn’s apartment I took the opportunity to grab a video interview with Brian and Kathryn – updating everyone on their ministry here in Moldova – you can look for it on Frazer’s site in a few weeks. It’s always great to get them to sit down and talk about what’s been happening in their ministry. I realized that we’ve done it two or three times before this, so I actually pulled up the oldest video I could find of them to show to the girls.

A frame from the video shoot this week (not color graded, sorry)
A frame from a video Brian and Kathryn did about seven years ago

The extra time in the afternoon also allowed the others to get some rest and gave Mandy an opportunity to spend time with N. They baked brownies together – or more accurately N demanded that Mandy teach her how to bake brownies step-by-step and Mandy obliged. Thanks to Mandy bringing some flour from the U.S. (Kathryn says the flour here doesn’t make for good brownies) they turned out quite tasty.

God blessed us with this extra time with the Girls. We played more games and just enjoyed spending that much more time with them. Later in the evening after dinner the girls showed us several dances including this traditional wedding dance:

During this time Brian took some of the extra money that we had donated to help one of the girls that used to be in their care purchase some things for her home. This young woman is transitioning to independent living. Those of us from stable families in the U.S. don’t even notice how much we have and how easy it is to get basic things – need an iron? Mom will buy one. Need kitchen utensils? Here are some that belonged to grandma. These girls don’t have that luxury. Once again, I have to say thank you to our many generous supporters who are now part of this young woman’s support system.

The young woman we assisted gave us these bracelets she makes as a thank you

Day 6

Our sixth day was another one that required an adjustment to plans. We had planned to visit an outlying village and a ministry there, but due to some scheduling confusion on their part, their staff wasn’t going to be there on that day. Instead we when to Streshen (approximate spelling) and visited one of the families mentioned in my last post who are very unusual in that they are native Moldovans who are dedicated to foster care. They’re still building their home and currently have two girls, but have room for four. Since the orphanage in their town had closed they’ve been trying to find homes for the children in that area.

They recently lost support from one of the organizations they’d been relying on so we were able to bring them some supplies; cleaning and hygiene products. We got to talk with them and were blessed to see their passion for the orphans of their country. Because orphans aren’t valued, foster care is very uncommon. These people love Jesus and they’ve built their life around showing love to the least of these.

We stopped by the Orphanage in Streshen where many of the girls that Brian and Kathryn have cared for came from. It was shut down recently which is why the family we visited has been working hard to make sure the orphans in their area are cared for.

The facility didn’t look small until we heard that it had held 600 children. One of the girls that is living with them now came from there and apparently earned a reputation for getting into fights – which is both hard to imagine seeing her now, but easy to imagine seeing the close-quarters that she had to share.

In the afternoon we stopped for lunch and coffee. One of the girls, O, called to talk to Brian and Kathryn about having an especially hard day at work. I couldn’t help but realize how big my network of support is. If I have a bad day, there’s a long list of friends and family I can call and talk to, but these girls have Brian and Kathryn – Mamasha and Papasha – and not many others who they can lean on during difficult days.

I was chatting with my mom on facebook and told her about the day O was having and my mother happened to be in her morning prayer time – she said she would pray for O, so I took a screen shot of that message and sent it to O and explained that my Mamasha was also praying for her. That evening she was in a remarkably positive mood despite having had a terrible day – she expressed thanks for the prayers. It is amazing how the family of Christ can support each other around the world.

I was honored to have two of the girls actually sit down for interviews on camera. M, and N. M sat with Kathryn and let her interpret. Listening to her talk about who Jesus is to her is so moving. And I’m excited to share a few clips from her story with the Frazer family soon. N insisted on doing her interview in English, it was precious and very sweet to hear this distilled use of language – perhaps the most meaningful bit was her answer to the question “Who are Brian and Kathryn to you?” She struggled for a moment and finally just said “Love.”

N during her Interview

It is extremely important to me to be respectful of people’s stories. Whenever I do interviews with people who have experienced trauma, I never want for them to feel used, or coerced in anyway. This was part of the reason why it worked out well for these interviews to take place on the last day after I’d gotten to know them.

I was especially glad when Kathryn asked M after her interview how she felt, asking if she felt used, and she smiled and said that it felt good to tell her story. While Kathryn knew the whole story, this was the first time that M had shared the story in full all at once. What was even more amazing to me was her talking about her desire to go into missions in Africa.

Kathryn and M between interview questions.

Afterwards Mandy died M’s hair – something she’d been looking forward to all week. She actually came in this morning and shouted look at my hair! It’s now bright pink.

One of the girls, A, fixed us a traditional dish that was somewhere between grits and cornbread.

A, cutting this dish with thread.

Later Matt regaled us with one of his favorite children’s books – the girls laughed and made “awwww” sounds as he read the sweet story.

Also note the bright pink hair

After that Brian helped me give M a photography tutorial. She’s got a really good eye for photos, so I mainly went over the camera functions. We left her with a lens – used one donated by a Frazer member – and an inexpensive tripod that I bought for the trip.

Gotta hand it to Brian – he really did a great job of explaining some technical photography terms in Romanian

I had several people donate older digital cameras to us and Kathryn will be delivering those to the kids at the Cupcui orphanage on her next visit. She says that the kids there will be really excited to use them.

After that none of us wanted to leave for the night. “A” even offered to call all of our bosses to ask them to let us stay longer. All of the girls expressed that they wanted us to stay. We visited a while longer and headed back to our apartment with Kathryn and Brian where we stayed up late hearing from them enough crazy, funny, and heartbreaking stories to fill several books. I hope someday they do. Finally at 1am we called it a night.

I’m currently sitting our apartment. We’re waiting on the owner of the Air BnB to stop by for us to give him the keys. M and A came with Brian and Kathryn to drive us to the airport. Tonight we fly to Frankfurt where we’ll stay the night before flying back to Atlanta in the morning.

I want to emphasize how grateful Brian and Kathryn have been for us being there. They’ve been here for over five years now and this is the first trip that we – as in Frazer – have been able to do. I hope that we’ll soon be able to make it a yearly trip. In addition to offering Brian and Kathryn support, having these girls know that there is a whole family of people who are praying for them back home really means a great deal to them.

So one last time, thank you, thank you, thank you to all the people who gave to make this trip possible. We got to participate in a substantial amount of ministry, but it also was a great encouragement to Kathryn and Brian to finally have friends from their home church see all that they’re doing here. Thank you everyone who helped make this trip happen. And thank you for reading my typo-laden blog.

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Moldova 2019 – Days 3&4

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Day 3

We started the day traveling to a village to visit a fascinating historical site. The area has archeological finds that date back to when this region was part of the Roman Empire. As well as evidence from the kingdom that followed that era which at one time encompassed part of Moldova and Romania. The most fascinating thing was this cave that has been used for different purposes by different groups through the centuries and is currently a small monastery. You can see how it would’ve made for a good hiding place or military outpost as it has a outlet onto a ledge overlooking the surrounding valley. More recently it was used by the church as a place for prayer and meditation. The place is filled with museum pieces of importance to the Orthodox church. Many Icons, carvings, and different things used during worship and meditation.

Today, this cave still has an occupant: a solitary monk who studies there all day and is available to answer questions. This monk looked like he stepped out of a time machine that came from the 1200s. He eagerly explained (in Romanian) about the history of the cave as well as the history of the languages in this region. These history lessons are helpful in understanding the challenges that Brian and Kathryn face in their work. As I’m sure anyone who would read my blog can probably recognize, the culture and history of a country (or city) has a great deal to do with the roadblocks that missionaries (and pastors) face when following their calling to be the hands and feet of Christ to people in that place.

Just like in the States – in any country really – there are preexisting assumptions and prejudices about faith here in Moldova and this comes from years of cultural Christianity – again, not unlike the U.S. – only instead of mainline Protestantism, the primary influence is Eastern Orthodoxy. And instead of American materialism throwing things off, it’s deep-seeded historic influences that often manifest in what appears as superstition. One small but very ubiquitous example is the placement of large crucifixes at every crossroad outside of the city – a carryover from an old superstition about evil spirits being present where roads meet.

To be fair, the Orthodox Church is like any other Christian sect – it has many faithful, sincere Christians, while also having a large number of nominal participants who partake in the ritual out of duty. I have been moved each time we’ve walked into one of these churches. There is no doubt the God is at work in and through the Orthodox Church even though it looks very different from Church where we’re from. Though they face similar challenges to the church in the US.

The Orthodox Church up the hill from the cave

When we got back to Brian and Kathryn’s apartment we spent the afternoon and evening hanging out with the girls. We played games and ate dinner. These young women are all working toward independent living – going to university and preparing for life. Their day-to-day lives are very similar to any college student in the U.S. and what I’ve heard repeatedly from Brian and Kathryn on their visits back home is that all their girls would want us to know that they are just like us.

They wouldn’t want to be seen as charity cases or just as someone with a tragic backstory. They’re all vibrant, energetic, creative, talkative, people with opinions, hopes, and dreams. They like music and movies and at at least one restaurant we visited they were scoping out the cute guys. It seems like they’ve been laughing at least half the time that we’ve been here as they’re constantly joking around. They each have enough personality to fill a room by themselves. Only God truly knows how different things would be for them without this ministry.

I know this will sound obvious, but I’m just struck by how these young women could be my niece or younger sister – or the daughter, sister, or cousin of anyone reading this back home. Meeting them in person, it becomes harder and harder for me to stomach the reality of the orphan crisis here and what the kids in this country experience all the time. I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to solicit some kind of emotional response, I’m just trying to be honest about my own epiphany. When I took Spanish in high school I learned the difference between the verbs for knowing something because you have knowledge and knowing something or someone because you have personal experience with them. Knowing them makes the reality of what is happening here all so much more personal.

M & A – That’s a tube of Ice Cream, by the way.

It was after dinner that night that we came to what probably will be the highlight of the trip for me personally. If you’re reading my blog for the first time then you won’t know that I recently finished my MFA in film and television directing. As a part of that I produced a faith-based short film about foster care. It tells the story of a teenage girl with an abusive mother who comes to live with a foster mom.

Kathryn had requested that I send them a subtitled version of the film a while ago, but due to the cost of having it done I hadn’t been able to make it happen up to this point. Thanks to the generosity of the many people who supported us, we paid to have my film, Refuge, subtitled in Russian. While Romanian is the language here, pretty much everyone speaks Russian as well as it is more of a trade language in this part of the world. I burned several copies onto DVD and brought them with me. You can see the trailer here:

Honestly, after I got here I was nervous to show the girls the movie. I even said to Kathryn and Brian that I wasn’t sure they’d like it, but Kathryn assured me they would. Only M and A could be there to watch it. I was surprised that they leaned in throughout the whole thing, at one point saying that the character of Claire reminded them of one of the other girls that Brian and Kathryn had cared for. They laughed at the humorous moments and they demanded more after the story was over. It was a huge personal compliment to have them enjoy the story as much as they did and a big treat to watch how engaged they were.

Day 4

We started the day by splitting into two groups. Kathryn, Matt, and I all went to QSI, an international school here in Chisinau (pronounced like Quiche-Now; I’m going to keep writing that until I remember to say it correctly.) This school is all English speaking and apparently has a substantial tuition, so it mostly is made up of children of people who work in the embassies and wealthy locals. Ergo these are not impoverished orphaned children. They are, however, a long way from their home and live pretty isolated lives. For many of these kids their family might be the only people from their home country throughout all of Moldova. Kathryn has gotten to know the principal of the school and has been able to form relationships with some of the kids in the school, once again showing the reach of their ministry exceeding what is expected.

Story time with Mister Matt

At both QSI and the international preschool which we visited afterwards (where Kathryn also volunteers), Matt “Mister Matt” Williams provided his services as story reader extraordinaire. Matt works in the Pike Road branch of the Montgomery Public Library and as a part of his responsibilities he reads stories to over 700 kids a month. Needless to say that the kids really enjoyed Mister Matt’s interpretation of several fun children’s books. The teachers were actually pretty engaged too and expressed thanks to us for stopping by for the morning.

At the preschool Kathryn had to translate one of the books into Romanian

Meanwhile, Mandy and Karen went with Brian to pick up supplies for kits that we’re giving to three different ministry groups. Once again, thanks to the generous support of our partners we were able to spend over 5000 Lei on donations. That’s a little under $350, but the 5000 number is much more reflective of the amount of supplies they were able to purchase. They then sorted everything into kits for the different groups.

The kits included shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste deodorant, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, tooth brushes, razors, shaving cream, dish soap, laundry detergent, cleaning products, trash bags, baby wipes, baby lotion, hand sanitizer, and some candy to top it all off.

These kits are for:

  • CTI, an organization that looks to provide shelter and care for single mothers and their children
  • The Ciabanu family, a Moldovan family who took it upon themselves to help foster and find homes for all the kids being forced into homelessness when an orphanage was closed in their village.
  • The Vitalie family, who in addition to having four kids of their own have taken on four more boys to care for.

We got to make a delivery to CTI, a home for single mothers and their children. Single motherhood is almost impossible here as the culture shames unwed pregnancy, while also creating the conditions for single-motherhood to occur. This is one reason why children are so often abandoned, so CTI is as much an orphan prevention ministry as it is a ministry to single mothers.

The clothesline outside of CTI

While we dropped off those supplies Karen and Brian did the lion’s share of dinner prep for us and the girls. We sat and watched a movie and wrapped up our evening, heading back to our apartment. The girls all turned in early as they all have exams coming up.

By the way, while we ate dinner M was meeting with a Moldovan who has been doing mission work in Africa. She’s curious about it. Me: speechless.

Thanks for reading thus far, and thanks everyone for the continued prayers as well as the financial support that made all this possible.

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Moldova 2019 – Day 1 & 2

Day 1

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Waiting to check in at the Atlanta airport

Our first day was mostly spent traveling, first from Montgomery to Atlanta then to Frankfurt Germany (at which point it felt like 1AM to us) then onward to Chisinau, Moldova, which I was only a little surprised to discover is properly pronounced more like “Quiche-Now.” Our trip was blessedly smooth and all of our many bags made it! This was especially exciting as most of our baggage was actually gifts for orphans or resources for Kathryn and Brian and the four young women they have living with them.

Waiting right across from the baggage claim were Kathryn and Brian along with one of their girls, who we’ll call “M” for the sake of my blog. Also present were UK missionaries Tim and Ellie who, Kathryn has told us are awesome musicians. Specifically, Kathryn said that Ellie has a voice like an angel. I like to make decisions for myself about who is and isn’t tonally angelic, so this evening I took a moment to listen to their music and, well, ok, Kathryn is totally right. They’re working on an album and doing some cool stuff. You can read about it here.

We went to Brian and Kathryn’s apartment where they and their four girls live. M, O, N, & A. All the girls speak English pretty well, but they’re more comfortable speaking in Romanian and it has the added benefit of allowing them to talk about us without us knowing. Teasing – to the point that might seem harsh in the states – is kind of part of the culture. Despite this, the girls are very sweet and expressed appreciation for us. They’re full of energy and laughter even though we pretty fatigued at that moment because of being awake for over 24 hours.

Sorry, not the best picture, but you get an Idea of this apartment

Kathryn and Brian had made gift bags for all of us and we were able to deliver some of our gifts to the girls. Crest toothpaste is especially beloved. To be clear, they have perfectly good toothpaste here, but they don’t have “Crest”, so it is pretty special to get it. The power of branding is amazing.

After gifts were exchanged and Christmas gifts were stowed away, we went on a walk around the surrounding area. We saw some beautiful parks, a few government buildings, Moldova’s take on the Arc de Triomphe, and finished the walk with a visit to an Orthodox church.

The church was especially beautiful inside and we happened to be there during their All Souls Day observance. Being that it is a place of worship photography is discouraged, but I did record this audio of their stunning chorale.

All of this without microphones

Our dinner was a pilaf dish prepared by N, who really did a fabulous job. Several of us has seconds. Despite being very tired it was fun to share a meal. Kathryn and Brian have worked very hard to create a real family environment for these young women and it shows in the way they relate to one another. While much of the time the girls simply refer to them as “Brian” and “Kathryn.” They’re often referred to as “Papasha” and “Mamasha” and Kathryn tells us that when one of the girls does something similar to her, they’ll say “Well, you are my Mamasha.”

After dinner we checked into our Air B&B which is clean and roomy. Brian picked up some breakfast foods for us and Kathryn helped us get our luggage up to our room. After putting it off as long as we could, we called it a night.

Day 2

Blessedly, we all slept pretty well. After breakfast Kathryn picked us up to take us to Cupcui, a village that’s about an hour drive from Chisinau (Remember, it’s pronounced Quiche-Now.) I have to brag on the team for handling the drive, crammed into the Jones’ Honda Element and crossing some pretty bumpy roads. Everyone handled the trip like champs with only the aid of some ginger chews to settle stomachs. . . and Dramamine.

The structure of the villages is pretty different from what we’re used to in the US. Chisinau is the only “city” and many of these villages really wouldn’t fit your picture of the word “town.” They’re more like large neighborhoods, each with farms, stores, churches, and varying houses. We even passed through Moldova’s wine country.

A small taste of the farm country.

At Cupcui we went to a children’s home there with which Brian and Kathryn have had a long-standing relationship. We helped put on a fall festival of sorts. M came and helped as well – the kids there LOVE her – and we met a few more missionaries from the Assemblies of God church. The team dove in and related to the kids the best they call could – this in spite of the language barrier. These kids would soften anyone’s heart. The moment I walked in I was met with a hug around the waist from a little boy.

It’s hard to accurately explain the poignant nature of moments like this without sounding trite. Kathryn pointed to one of the older girls living in the orphanage and showed me a picture of her from when they had first started visiting Moldova years ago. There are many mission workers who are pouring into these kids, but it would be difficult to exaggerate the impact that Brian and Kathryn are having in these kids’ lives. At the end of the many games, crafts, and other activities Kathryn offered a Bible lesson where she had kids read scripture verses and used a pumpkin as an object lesson. What kind of object lesson, you ask? Well I don’t speak Romanian, but the Kids paid attention quite well, so I’m guessing it worked.

After the festival activities were concluded, we took a walk around Cupcui village and right at that time a funeral March came passing by. This is a part of the Moldovan tradition as much as it is part of the Orthodox church in this region. There was an open casket on the back of a flatbed truck that moved slowly down the road. Ahead of it were people scattering flowers, dropping bread and drink offerings, and carrying wreaths. Directly behind the truck there was a woman leaning over the body of what was likely her elderly mother. She had tears in her eyes and we were instructed to make the sign of the cross when they passed. There was a larger crowd of mourners walking behind them. I didn’t get a photo of this because it wouldn’t have been appropriate, but it was a moving thing to experience.

We stopped and ate lunch and drove back into Chisinau. On the way we did get stopped by police, which is a regular occurrence here. He was cordial and once Kathryn showed him her credentials he let us on our way. More eventful, however was when Kathryn saw a gentleman that she’s gotten to know just from seeing him on the street. She quickly pulled over and grabbed some of the extra food from our lunch, went across the street, and gave him some food. I caught a photo of it. Though, Kathryn probably wouldn’t want me broadcasting it to the world. I just have to brag on my friends for loving people – even when they’re not directly in their sphere of ministry.

That evening, back in Chisinau we were treated to attend a service at the International Fellowship Church where Kathryn and Brian are active members. We got there in time for sound check, so I got a little of the praise band practicing. One of the songs they played had a very eastern European feel and even ended with “HEY!”

I was struck by how integral Brian and Kathryn are to this community. In the above video you can see Brian training a volunteer to run lyrics during the music. In the photo below Kathryn was called up to make an announcement because she’s organizing a thanksgiving meal later this month. There are enough US Americains (including the US Ambassador) who attend there that they decided to have a potluck meal where all the different countries represented are going to bring a traditional dish from their country. The gentlemen who gave the message was from Norway so he promised to bring some rotten fish.

The music and message were both a blessing – but the community it self is what impacted me the most, especially seeing all the races and languages represented in the congregation. After the service they invited people to pray with their prayer volunteers – and Brian and Kathryn stood up and shuffled to the side to be available for people to pray with anyone who needed prayer.

I’m just amazed at how despite the fact that their whole life here is volunteering in ministry – they’re also fully integrated into their church as volunteers in ministry. At Frazer, the church we’re all from, we have agreat emphasis on every member being a minister. They’ve really lived that DNA out in their approach to life in Moldova.

After the service we went to dinner at a new restaurant with lots of fine Moldovan cuisine. I don’t say that sarcastically. I’ve been to eastern Europe before and Moldova’s food is much better than my previous experience. One of the standard dishes in this part of the world is called plăcinte. And it is not at all what it sounds like. Pronounced “pla-chin-ta” it’s a light pastry – kind of like a large croissant – with some kind of filling. We had it with cheese, potato, meats, and pumpkin. We also had sausage and a few vegetable dishes, one of which was called “mother-in-laws-tongue” though I’m fairly certain no tongues – or mothers – were involved in the making of the dish.

After we got back to the apartment where the team is staying Brian and Kathryn sat and talked some and we got to hear about some of the recent struggles in their ministry. Needless to say ministry anywhere is hard, but in a place like Moldova there are many unique challenges and they have had some truly difficult circumstances over the years. We sat and listened and assured them that we, their church, are here and ready to listen and pray and do whatever we can when these situations arise.

These first couple of days have already been a blessing, and we’re excited to kick off another day here. Thank you all for your prayers and support. We have had a great trip thus far and we’re grateful for the many people who have partnered with us through financial contribution as well as intersession – please keep those prayers up as we head into another day this morning!

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Moldova 2019 – Day 0

Tomorrow our team departs for a trip to Moldova, a small country between Ukraine and Romania. A former Soviet block country, Moldova is so unknown that when we first started partnering with mission organizations there, spell check still didn’t recognize the name of the country.

The only thing to come out of Moldova that you might’ve heard of is the pop Song, Dragostea Din Tei by O-Zone. It was a internet viral hit in the early 2000’s because of this guy’s dance. That has nothing to do with our trip, I just thought you’d enjoy a fun fact because things are about to get sobering really quick.

There it is, if you’re curious.

According to last year’s statistics, the GDP per capita of Moldova is less than 5% of the US’s, making it the poorest country in Europe. Given that, it’s not terribly surprising that among its many struggles the orphan crisis at epidemic levels there. Children are often abandoned and Moldovan orphanages have children aging out in their early teens, leaving them susceptible to human trafficking.

Brian and Kathryn Jones are missionaries in Moldova who are members of Frazer, my church here in Montgomery, AL. The Jones were living and working in Montgomery when they started to feel the call to move to Moldova full time after a few short-term mission trips. Since then they’ve been learning Romanian and have filled several roles while working there including being over a house full of orphan girls. They now are working with a smaller group of girls, helping them finish school and transition to independent living. You can read all about them and partner with them financially by clicking here.

I’m leading a small team to visit Brian and Kathryn and we’ll be getting to do a lot of different things; visiting with orphans, packing meals, reading aloud to kids, teaching photography lessons, and helping with a fall festival are all on the itinerary. These are all the more typical “mission trip” things we’ll be doing, but as I’ve been telling everyone the primary purpose of this trip is to be a support to our missionaries on the ground.

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.

Proverbs 25:25

This will be my 14th mission trip, and my 10th international mission trip. Over the years I have come to the belief that the best thing a short-term trip can do is be supportive of the local long-term missionaries. I’ve been friends with several mission families and I know that the isolation of living overseas can be soul-crushing at times. I say this to encourage anyone reading: visit your church’s supported missionaries, and ask them ahead of time what you can do to be an encouragement to them.

I’ll be giving updates as I’m able, but please be praying in the meantime for an easy trip and for our team to be able to adjust our sleep schedule quickly.

Rocky

I’m blogging through the AFI top 100. You can read more here.

Released in 1976, a small independent film written by and starring a mostly unknown actor won best picture. This film had a lot against it. It was very low budget, the script was written in the course of three days. The casting was tumultuous with the producers not believing that the lead actor was right for the role he created and the other principal roles weren’t cast until late in the game. Yet, it reached $117 million at the box office – an absurd amount for a film in that day. It received ten Oscar nominations and won three.

So this one my top the list of the “I Can’t believe you haven’t seen it already.” I have seen so many scenes, clips, and “making of”s that I feel like I had already seen it. And I had seen a lot of it, but sitting down and finally watching it knowing what I know now about how unusual it was that it succeeded, makes the event more enjoyable. Watching it in sequence did make one thing clear to me: Rocky is definitely not about boxing.  All good sports movies have this in common, but I was struck by how little time is actually spent watching boxing during the run time of the movie. The final fight is pretty short and other than a few minutes of fighting at the beginning the rest of the movie is more about Rocky and his relationship with Adrian.

Watching Rocky in the context of a modern view really does make one question how it could’ve won best picture, but in 1976 we were still willing to accept a fictional story about an every-man who went from not being able to climb some steps without getting winded to beating the heavyweight champion in a few weeks. The greatest achievement of this film is that it shows a good man, a blue collar, normal guy – and does it without showing life to be hopeless and cynical – and yet somehow it is almost universally loved by audiences, critics, and the industry.

As with watching most movies from this time, the cinematography was much more simplistic. Mostly medium-wide shots of any given scene while close ups were rare and extreme close ups were non existent. The camera is static and outside of the action for pretty much all the movie except for the scenes where Rocky is running, but even those are wide and are pretty simple tracking. Compare this to the Creed films – especially the first Creed wherein there is an entire fight shot in one long stedicam shot. Not to take away from Rocky – it was original – it was THE original. It does hold up quite well in spite of this. And the slow-pace and simple story is something that we miss today in modern cinema. It’s innocent and fun – and that’s rare on this list.

Rear Window

I’m blogging through the AFI top 100. You can read more here.

Rear window isn’t a perfect movie, but it is darn close. This is another one that I was embarrassed to say that I’d never watched before. I was very familiar with it and I’d probably seen about half the movie watching various documentaries and youtube videos talking about the greatest films, and there is no doubt that this one deserves to part of any list of the greatest American movies.

I don’t want to oversell it, but it is so unique, so unmarred by its age, so beautifully shot, it’s hard to ignore the brilliance of the film. If you’re not familiar with it the film takes place entirely in one room, but the story is happening in the surrounding apartments. Jimmy Stewart plays Jeff, a photographer who is laid up in his apartment after breaking his leg. In an era before air conditioning and netflix he has no choice but to entertain himself by watching his neighbors in the surrounding buildings who all leave their windows open. He has nicknamed several of the characters and becomes increasingly involved in their daily activities. Eventually he becomes concerned at the suspicious activities of one of his neighbors whose wife is suddenly no longer present.

The brilliance of the film is the fact that while the story is taking place around the neighborhood and beyond, the entire film takes place from the perspective of the main character who never leaves his living room. Despite this we have a compelling a-plot, coupled with a love story, and several sub plots – all told visually as he looks in on various neighbors and gets snippets of their life. There is almost no score throughout the film – instead you’re allowed to feel the eerie calm that comes with being unsure about one of your neighbors being a vicious murderer. There is only natural sound – which often includes the sounds of one of the neighbors playing piano – a happy sound that is often dissonant with the feeling that the lead character is experiencing.

This is such a different film that everything that is similar would be considered derivative, which is why any aspiring filmmaker both loves it and hates it. It represents a spent idea that can be rehashed only as a tribute, and it has many times. It’s one of the standard episodes of a long-running show. It is fun to see Castle‘s take on it. I recently stumbled across Family Guy‘s tribute to the classic film. Once you’ve become a plot that people mimic repeatedly, you know you’re a classic film.

The Birth of a Nation

I’m blogging through the AFI top 100. You can read more here.

The Birth of a Nation is a awful reminder of the world that was, and perhaps the world that still is to some degree. It’s a ficticious account of the Civil War and life following. It’s the oldest film on this list, having been produced in 1915. At over 100 years old the piece is remarkable for a number of reasons: its racism, its length (the first 12-reel/3 hour film), and its unique position as the first film to be screened at the white house.

I’m aware that there was a remake that was intended as a sort of correction to the numerous faults of the original. I haven’t had a chance to view it yet, however.

I don’t have much good to say about this film. Any three hour long silent film is going to strain to keep the attention of any human born after 1910. It is dreadfully boring and would be difficult to watch even with a less objectionable subject manner. But seeing as this film was used as a recruitment tool for the revitalized KKK in the earlier part of the last century, I don’t have to explain why I’m shocked that it was chosen for the AFI top 100. There is no doubt that it was the most historically important film of 1915, but any number of films over the 100 years were a higher quality and more truthful.

Much of the first half of the film could be seen as a relatively acceptable fictional account of the Civil War. The main objectionable part of this is the large number of roles played by white men in black face. The second half of the film really goes off the rails when it begins to depict a fabricated version of the antebellum south that is besieged by an uncivilized and tyrannical black political majority. The film then shows the creation of the Ku Klux Klan who rides in and saves the day. The film has quite rightly been the subject of a great deal of criticism for its inaccuracies and general racist tone. The one thing I’ll say about it is that the fact that this film is still in the modern vernacular at all is an indication that censorship has not won out. The film was an early victory against film censorship. While I’m very much for free speech, and I’m glad it wasn’t censored (for the president censorship sets, mind you, not because I do not find the matter abhorrent.) I wish censorship could’ve been tested on something that was less objectionable.

Firm Foundation week 5: The Global Mission of the Church

Introduction:

1) What’s been your experience with Global mission work?

The Global Mission of the church

2) Read Matthew 28:16-20. This bit of scripture is called the Great Commission, where Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. As we talked about last week the word for “make disciples” is a Greek word that takes the noun “disciple” and makes it a verb. It is different than the word for preach or teach. Why do you think Jesus commands specifically to make disciples instead of simply preaching or teaching?

3) Read Proverbs 25:25, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Today the global church is growing faster than ever before and soon there will be far more Christians in China and Africa than the US and Europe. Are we still called to go to these regions even if they already know Jesus? How else might we be called to support them?

4) Short term mission trips are sometimes criticized as less beneficial to the people overseas. What are some of the pitfalls of short-term missions? When do you think they are beneficial?

If you want to read more, here’s a good article on this discussion: https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2006/march-online-only/commonpitfallsstm.html

5) Read Luke 10:29-37. There is actually much more in scripture about simply loving foreigners and travelers in our presence than there is about going to far off lands, how does that inform the way we can help accomplish the mission of Christ here as well as overseas?

6) Read Exodus 23:9, Malachi 3:5, 1 Kings 8:41-44, how might these passages challenge our view of refugees and immigrants?

7) How are you actively helping accomplish God’s global mission now?

Wrap up:

8) We’ve covered several topics over the last few weeks; Discipleship, Evangelism, Holiness, Scripture, the person of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Global missions. Of these topics what is the area that you need to learn more about or what is your chief growth area?

9) What can you do to, or continue – to improve in this area? Do you need to read more scripture? Do you need to study a specific topic? Do you need to take a mission trip? Do you need to start to serve in an area of the church? Do you need to commit to attending worship more often? Do you need to commit to spend more time with God? What next step can you take and how can this group help you?

A Firm foundation Week 4: The Church and Discipleship

Introduction:

1) What negative thoughts come to mind when you hear the word “church?” What positive thoughts?

The Church:

2) Last week we talked about sanctification –AKA “Holiness” – John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement once said “You can no more be a Holy hermit than a Holy adulterer” – what does he mean by that? Have you seen this to be true in your life, or in the lives of others?

3) Read Hebrews 10:22-25, why are church gatherings necessary for believers?

4) The word church can have lots of different meanings. The word we use comes from a German word that could be interpreted “house of God,” but in Christian theology we don’t believe that God resides in our church buildings. The Greek word that we translate as “church” in the Bible is “ecclesia” ἐκκλησία – which at the time referred to a democratic gathering of Greek political leaders. Given this information, what is the difference between “a church” and “the Church?” (also known a the universal church, or the ecclesia.) Why is it important to know the difference?

See: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=g1577 for more info on the word ecclesia (as well as any other greek words you have questions about)

5) Read Acts 2:42-47 – what would you say were the goals and purposes of the early church? How is this different from the modern, American church?

Discipleship

6) Jesus preached to thousands during his ministry. Why do you think he chose 12 to spend more time with? Do you have someone discipling you?

7) Throughout the new testament there is one word that is translated as “disciple” or make disciples, mathēteuō, as seen in acts 14:21 where it says “after preaching and making many disciples…” And the word didasko as in acts 15:1 where Luke talks about the false teachers who came to said that all Christians had to go through the Jewish right of circumcision to be saved. What do you think the difference is between making disciples and teaching?

8) Read 1 Tim 2:1-2 – What does this passage tell us about our roles as disciples?

9) If you are being poured into by people who are discipling you, are you discipling anyone else?

Closing

10) How are you engaging with a gathering of believers at least once a week for worship and discipleship? What next step can you take? Serving in a church? Discipline others? How can this group help?

Firm foundation week 3 – Holy spirit & Sanctification

Holy Spirit/Sanctification:

Opening:

1) What are some negative things that come to mind when you hear the word “Holy?” What are some positive things?

Holy spirit:

2) Did you grow up hearing about the “Holy Spirit?” or “Holy Ghost?” what have you heard about it?

3) Read John 14:26, Romans 8:26, Acts 1:8 – what roles does the Holy Spirit play in our lives according these passages? Have you seen that in your life or the lives of others?

4) Read Galatians 5:22-23, have you seen these “Fruits” in your life or in others? Have they ever surprised you?

5) Read 1 Corinthians 2:14 and 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

see: biblereasons.com/holy-spirit for more reading on the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification

6) Sanctification is a big, churchy word. It simply means to be made Holy. One definition of it “Becoming the kind of person who would be comfortable in heaven.” Have you heard people talk about Sanctification before? What comes to mind when you hear it?

7) Read 1st John 1:8 then read 1 John 3:6 – why do you think these two verses seem to conflict? (notice the verb tenses) and what can they teach us about a Holy life? Is holiness just about avoiding sin?

…This is a big topic that theology nerds love to talk about, so if you’re having trouble grabbing hold of it, remember Jesus told us in last week’s passages to simply “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.”

8) read 2 Peter 3:18 – do you think Sanctification is a process or does it happen in a moment? What has it looked like in your life or in the lives of Christians around you?

9) Read Romans 12: 1-2. Be honest, do you believe that you can be made Holy in this life time? Do you believe that God’s sanctifying grace is at work in your life? Why or why not?

Closing:

10) What practical steps can you take this week to allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life?