Monday, March 14, 2016

Moldova Day 3 - When Your Heart Breaks

This week, I'm on a trip with HillCity Church to see the work of Beginning of Life, one of Partners International's ministry Partners.

The sun rose on our second full day in Moldova. There was a nervous, but excited sense in the air; a growing familiarity to the country laced with a healthy dose of ignorance. After a day seeing how Light of the World church ministers to the needs in Chisinau, we dove into the ministry of Beginning of Life.

The morning started with hearing about the work of the Way to Success program, and the unique challenges Moldova students face. Over 90% of students want to leave the country and work abroad when they graduate. They are fleeing the country like deer fleeing a forest fire.

They do this without any planning or long term goals. They have one goal: get out. This leaves them open to exploitation and trafficking. It doesn't matter if the promised job is credible, it will get them out of the country.

Combined with an education system stacked against them, there seems to be little hope for Moldovan teenagers. Last year, the minister of education changed the final exam to greatly increase the difficulty without warning, leading to a 53% failure rate across the country. These students are faced with the choice to start over and throw away 3 years of their lives and give up hope, trying again, or (as many choose) leave for a foreign country to work as laborers.

The taxi cabs of Moldova are filled with lawyers and accountants. The future is grim.

It's not only the students who face reality in Moldova. Young mothers are raising children without any proper role models who can teach them the skills of rearing a child.

Enter beginning of life, with their early childhood center, combining both the theory of parenthood with the practice of raising children. The mothers will learn a skill with a worker, while their kids are cared for and then immediately spend time with their child to practice it.

In the basement of the same building are the staff who meet the practical needs of the widows, single mothers and orphans. Here, staff gather food hampers, clothing and more for each of the families. Four times a year, a family is given a ticket to pick out a few outfits from the 'store.'

Here is where our heart begins to break. The team split into three groups, each going to visit a widow's home and give them a special hamper of food. I'll share from my own experience, but each was equally as powerful.

We jostled down a dirt road into a back alley of Chisinau, rolling past a derelict, abandoned former circus stadium. Squeezing the van into a tiny parking space, we unloaded to a stray dog deciding if we were worth chasing. The cool winter breeze cutting through our clothes, we squeezed into a gated yard to view a tiny little home where the mother, Olga greeted us.

Entering into the home, there was a pungent smell, the lights poorly arranged for light. She invited us to her portion of the home, a small bedroom down a short hallway.

Over the next 20 minutes, Olga shared with us about her husband. Pictures of the couple adorned the wall, smiling faces telling a tale of happier times. He passed away last November of a drug overdose.

Her eighteen month old toddler waddled past us, her gait clearly off as she teeters from foot to foot in a bow-legged fashion. Cute as a button, Inga shyly peered out from the safety of her mother's arms.

Olga came to Beginning of Life a few months prior when her childhood friend, now a secretary of staff heard about her husband's death. She was understandably distraught, unable to purchase even diapers for Inga, let along keep the lights on.

Olga's a fortune woman, as her father in law allows her and Inga to stay in the room. She's been estranged from her own family for years, and otherwise would be out on her own.

A young woman of 21, Inga only finished grade 9 and depended on her husband to provide for the family. Now he's gone, and she is left to fend for herself. Already, Olga's life would break anyone's heart, but the story isn't done there.

Inga, the little angel, isn't developing properly. The doctors believe that she had a growth in her head. Her skull plates are not fusing together properly, and no one knows what the prognosis will be. She goes in to see a specialist in the next month, but Moldova does not have health care that covers more than the basics. Any follow up will need to be paid for by Olga, and if Inga requires surgery, it will easily run in excess of 3000 euros.

We prayed for them both, knowing that unless the Lord steps in to heal Inga, there is little hope for her. The Beginning of Life social workers, Ana shared with us how it breaks her heart daily to spend time with these women. How could it not?

There are 50 women and 70 children enrolled in this portion of the Beginning of Life program. Each with their own stories.

As Canadians, we come as observers to what is happening. We're powerless to affect change in Chisinau, leaving that portion to the cable hands of the Beginning of Life workers. But we cannot merely put our hearts out for people like Olga and Inga. Our hearts break because God's does the same.

Our calling is to effect change. Working with the local church to see these areas transformed for Christ. Abbotsford changed by local churches that live out the social gospel while preaching Jesus. Influencing holistic change in every aspect of our communities lives.

There is so much to process from today alone. How can I be a better citizen of the Kingdom? How do I open my heart to the people around me at home that are struggling just like Olga? What is my role in supporting Beginning of Life in their vital work being the gospel in these communities?

God breaks our hearts so he can institute change. He crashes over us like a tsunami so he can rebuild us.

We serve a God of hope. For Inga, we will continue to lift her us and entrust her to our loving Father. Even in the darkest night, we are gifted with the promise of the sunrise.

After the visit, we went to see the Psychological Arts Center. This is where victims of human trafficking, and other vulnerable and broken Moldovan's come to explore healing through art.

Julia shared with us the history and methodology of Beginning of Life. How they are called to seek out the hurting and lost and enable the Spirit to bring healing in their lives.

Stories of women so broken that they won't accept hugs, allow photos or take any form of love, transformed after a few hours working the pottery clay. Discovering that no matter the mistakes, you can always smash it and start it over. It's never useless.

Altogether, today was a powerful day seeing a fraction of the brokenness of Moldova, mixed with the hope that the Spirit is unleashing through the passionate staff of Beginning of Life. I'll leave you with this prayer:

Lord, would you continue to break our hearts for the things that break Yours? Show us how Your Spirit is at work in Moldova and Canada so we can move with you. Reveal to us how you would have us involved both individually and corporately. Gift us the courage and tenacity to stand up to the demons that haunt our culture and fight on behalf of the defenseless. May our battle be your battle, our sword yours and use us to cut the chains of injustice and declare freedom for the captives.

Lord, use us.

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