Internet has been non-existent and my journaling has been spotty due to a lack of time. Below is a summary of the trip so far with a lot of missing details, but there’s enough here to keep you updated. I will add more details and break up this post into multiple days another time. Here is the summary:
Monday – Clinic Day One – 9/10/2018
The clinic is an already existing medical clinic. A couple of the regular doctors are still here but we took over the clinic, using all of the rooms. There are four people set up at the entrance for triage and four other rooms for medical care and dental work. Andrie and I are using one of the exam rooms for consultation, where we are sharing the gospel with all patients. Trisha was across the street at the community center distributing reading glasses.
Andrie and I have five chairs set up in the room for patients. We have Bibles and some tracts to distribute. I am sharing slightly differently each time, varying my message as I try to find the best way to connect with them. Ultimately, though, the gospel doesn’t change and the same core message is preached each time. Most people seemed quite receptive most of the day with the exception of one man that spoke out to say that this isn’t what he came here for, to which I told him he doesn’t have to stay to listen to me and he got up and left. It turns out he left the clinic without being seen by the doctor. We distributed about 50 Bibles and shared with about 65 patients, including a few kids.
A few more than 80 people came through the clinic today, down from the usual 200 per day. It was raining which may have made a difference. Some of our team was quite disappointed at the low turnout. Steve is taking his dental equipment to a school tomorrow rather than the clinic – he feels he will get more done that way – he was only able to work on two patients today.
My mom and Billy went to a couple schools today, distributing the gift bags we made Saturday. They visited eight classrooms, each with about 30 kids per class. They showed the kids how to brush their teeth, shared the gospel using the wordless bracelet,
We closed the clinic and drove away at exactly 6:00pm, stopping for ice cream on the way home. I bought an ice cream sandwich with a 20 Lei bill and she gave me change for a 50. I often don’t even pay attention to the change I’m getting back when shopping overseas since I can’t determine the bills quickly enough, but this time I saw her enter it into the cash register so I knew the change was incorrect. She was quite surprised and glad that I called it to her attention which made me reflect on our sinful nature as humans: She shouldn’t be shocked, but our natural tendency would be to keep the incorrect change. When we make a purchase we are agreeing to give them a certain amount of money for an item but we will suddenly take advantage of someone’s mistake if it’s to our benefit. However, if we were short-changed we would be sure to make them correct their mistake. We honor and worship money more than God.
Dinner was served at 7:00pm back at the camp. Our team has doubled since we each have a translator assigned to us. My eyes are as heavy as bricks.
Prison Day – Tuesday 9/11/2018
Today I was able to visit two prisons and a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center/house.
I drove to the clinic with the rest of the team and immediately began modifying some of the children’s gift bags to be more appropriate for the inmates. We removed the gift (gloves, scarf or hat) and added a piece of candy and two more travel-size tubes of toothpaste to each bag. I was told there would be about 20 inmates at each prison but, in hopes of more, we prepared 86 bags.
Billy took over the evangelism role while I was in the prison. He gave his testimony and Andrie shared the gospel.
We drove 20 minutes to the first prison and met Giena, a 48 year old man who repented in 1995 and has been visiting this prison every Tuesday for several years. He is one of the pastors of the same church where Valera serves. He is a very Russian-looking man with a shaved head and a large, strong build. We transferred supplies to his car and then walked into the prison. He had cookies and Moldovan candy to take into the prison with us. Security was quite tight – they looked through all of our bags and did a thorough pat down on each of us. We entered through the courtyard and immediately came to a doorway that led to an eight x 30 foot room where the Christian men gather. This is their church and, as I understand it, they call it their prayer room.
I didn’t know what to expect and wasn’t extremely comfortable at first. I didn’t notice that I was uncomfortable until I had been there for fifteen minutes at which time I suddenly realized that this was going to be a very informal time of fellowship and friendship. There were about twenty men altogether but at no time were all of them in the room at the same time. Some came and went and several were there the entire time. One man was in the back room making tea and putting the cookies and candies on plates for all of us. The men were all seated in seats along the long walls and there was a long table in the center of the room that extended almost the entire length of the room. We all sat around the table drinking tea, eating cookies and talking for three hours, from 10:00am until 1:00pm.
The men were full of questions, asking about life in the U.S., the prisons in the U.S., the prisons in Africa and the rest of the world, and asking about how I came to Christ. I shared my testimony with them and also asked them questions about their lives in the prison. They all have beds with mattresses, they eat three meals per day, and they all have clothing. They don’t wear uniforms in the prisons of Moldova. They said that uniforms would make them feel like a Jew in a death camp with a number tattooed onto their arm. They feel like real people when they get to wear their own clothes.
They can receive money if people bring it to them and they can purchase goods at the prison, but they are very limited as to how much they can purchase at a time. If people bring them gifts they have to pay the prison to be able to keep them. I guess this is how the prison keeps everyone on an even distribution of wealth.
I gave the gift bags to the men and explained to them that my mom had makes the bags to give to kids in the schools but she wanted me to bring some to them, as well. They were really excited to receive them and said that this kind of toothpaste is very expensive here. One of them left the room and came back a while later with a gift for my mom, a wall plaque with a rose made out of bread. Yes, you read that correctly, they use water to make bread into a consistency that they can use to mold it into shapes like leaves and pedals, then they assemble it and paint it.
After two-and-a-half hours one of them asked me if I could share a message from the scriptures before we had to leave. I modified my favorite evangelistic message and taught from Mark 10, the rich young ruler.
We left the clinic at 1:00pm and went to lunch at O’café where I had Buckwheat and Chicken, a delicious soup and a cappuccino. We were there until 1:45 and then left for the second prison which is right around the corner, on the opposite side of the block from the first prison.
After closing the clinic I went with Valera, Billy, Andrie and Chrissy to the rehabilitation center. There were seven men living there. We sat with them and talked for about an hour. They talked about their lives, we introduced ourselves, I gave some encouragement from my testimony, and Chrissy offered them some medical advice and recovery expectations from her professional background (she is a Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Nurse in Australia).
Wednesday, September 12, 2018 – Clinic Day 3
Today is our last day at the clinic. This afternoon we will pack up and move everything to a clinic in another town where we will be working tomorrow and Friday.
The weather is much nicer today. The sun is shining and it is warmer. The past couple days it has been wet with showers and rain, much like a Seattle rain.
The clinic has been busy this morning, we’ve had a steady flow of people coming through the clinic. Steve is with us again today and, last time I looked, he was seeing patients – one man walked out smiling with a piece of gauge in his mouth, smiling because he lost a tooth 🙂
The message I am sharing with patients today is that we are a team of medical professionals that God has gifted with the ability to diagnose and help cure their illnesses, but it is not us that does the healing. It is God who created us, God who sustains us, and God who heals us. God loves us and, therefore, we are hopeful that he will heal them through our medical attention. Not only does God care about our bodies and our health while we are on this earth, he also cares about our life after our bodies die. God created us for a purpose – to love us and to fellowship with us forever. However, he gave us the ability to reason and to know what is right and what is wrong. When we do what we know is wrong we sin against God, showing him that we don’t really love him as he expects us to. Because He is just he can’t ignore our sin, he must punish it. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), that the soul that sins must die, not only a physical death but a spiritual death, eternal condemnation in hell. God willingly forgives us but he can’t and couldn’t leave our sins unpunished. The greatest demonstration of God’s love for us is that although we deserve the just punishment for our sins, He provided the sacrifice necessary – he became a man and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ, living a perfect and sinless life and, therefore, not deserving of death. When he hung on the cross he took upon himself the full wrath of God, he bore the punishment for every sin of everyone who would believe in him, repent of their sins and trust in him for their salvation. Three days later he rose from the dead, proving that he has the power over death, and he now sits at the right hand of God in heaven. He has paid the price, there is nothing we must or can do to earn his forgiveness except to believe on Jesus – a belief that drives us to our knees because we recognize that it is our sins that caused the sinless lamb of God to die on the cross. This type of belief will result in a repentant heart that desires to live a life that pleases him.
I shared with probably 15-20 groups of people today (maybe more), ranging from three to 8 people. A lot of children came through the clinic today to see the pediatrician.
There is a really cute little girl. about three-years-old, in the hall waiting to see the doctor and singing the ABCs in English. As I sit here typing this there is a box of the gifts that we took out of the gift bags that went to the prisoners, so I gave her a pair of pink gloves and a pink scarf with little animals on it.
Andrie, my translator, is very tired today and I don’t think he’s very excited to be here. At the end of the day he switched places with Mark. We had three or four groups after they switched and we closed the clinic at 5:00pm.
After lunch we walked next door to get ice cream and then we were all taken to the community center where the mayor and several other city leaders (three whom I recognized from visiting the clinic during the week) were all assembled to thank us and give us recognition. They had certificates for each of us, a painting painted by a child in the town, and a “Discover Moldova” book.