But the greatest of these?

OH Moldova, OH Moldova! If you could hear the tune accompanying these words in my head, you’d find my song to be quite cute. I made it up a few summers ago when I was here and I discovered that strange and unexplainable things happen in this country. And not just while you are here, but once you get home. The mystifying Moldovan haze follows you once you leave. Of all the countries I’ve been in, none leaves me so confused or (if having a bad day) annoyed. For those of you who have visited Moldova, little explanation is required here. And for those who are considering a visit, or have never even heard mention of the country, don’t allow this venting on my part to serve as a reason for not coming. It’s worth the experience. You can do anything for 8-10 days.
All joking aside, I’m in a bad place to be blogging. I’ve been bedridden since Sunday morning when I started suffering from flu-like symptoms. I guess that’s the most frequent diagnosis I’ve been given, so we’ll go with that. The Moldovan flu is nothing to be proud of, that’s for sure. But while lying in my bed, soaking up the shots and drugs being pumped into me from one unlicensed doctor or another (Including an ambulance visit, bringing me 2 shots in the rump), I”ve seen an invaluable lesson developing before me. You don’t have to be conscious to know that you are ultimately dependent upon a power greater than yourself. Step 2 in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous states: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” It would be obvious from the claim of step 2 that step 1 is an confession of our powerlessness against that which ailes us: be it substances, people, or illnesses. At the end of the day, we cannot sit back and boast in our strength. If anything throughout our day has led us to believe we are the highest source of all things, then our perceptions are skewed and we’re better off boasting in our ability to take away our own life rather than provide or sustain it: this is all we are able to do on our own.
That’s the lesson I’ve learned in Moldova this week.
I’ve sat with Nicoli, the blue/green eyed brother of Gleb, both 11 or younger, both gorgeous and insanely fun children. I was lying on the hill the other day and Nicoli rested his head on my stomach and together we reclined for hours. He was as content as I was.
I’ve held Galina’s head in my lap as she wept tears of loneliness and fear stemming from her parentless place in the world. She couldn’t even articulate what was upsetting her. All she knew was that she had to cry.
I’ve bounced little Vera on my knees, a girl I spent about an hour of my entire life with. She lives in an unknown orphanage in an unknown country, and yet her name is forever implanted in my heart. I see her face and her smile in my mind’s eye. I feel the weight of her frail body upon my legs, and I see her pull away in relucatant jests as I tickle her or kiss her cheek.
I’ve built beds with Mircea, my sponsor boy. A 14 year old man with 8 brothers and sisters, each by a different father. I saw him succeed in using a drill and his hands, I saw the joy it brought him and how he quickily masked that joy behind indifferent shoulder shrugs and high fives, as if he’d been building beds for years. Teenagers!

This trip has offered me no shortage of God moments, of blessings from him — the kind he rains down freely upon me while I am here. I have no place to complain, worry, or wonder about my current illness. If I had to leave Moldova tomorrow, this trip would have been well worth it. The stick with which I measure my success in the work of the kingdom is invisible to our Lord.
It’s been interesting to see the theme that has developed in words from people back home. Some of the closest friends in my life right now have been writing me emails and letters of encouragment, and would you know that the point they all come back to is LOVE. A prayer letter from Tim sums it up perfectly, and I keep coming back to it:

“And this is my prayer for you and for Moldova. I desire that you will be strengthened through the Spirit so that you can serve God in the way you are capable of serving him and so that Christ will dwell in your heart. I pray that you have been and will be rooted and grounded in love b/c without it you are just a clanging symbol and a banging gong. And I pray that you are able to know just how great and unfathomable our God is so that you will be able to express that in praise, prayer and in testimony.”

His words struck a cord with me today as I reread them. “…strengthened through the Spirit SO THAT you can serve God in the way you are CAPABLE of….and so that CHrist can dwell in your heart.” But what if my capabilites are nothing more than lying in a bed getting stuck with needles and drinking funky fluids till I wanna puke? That’s not strength. And that’s not service.
And yet, through all the questions, I still see the answers. The answer is that I’m not in charge and the only thing that makes me useful here is Christ’s love overflowing from me. There is no missions manual defining the terms of service for the work here, at least not from God.

One of our teammates, Roger Sigmon, stated it so perfectly the other night while addressing the young boys who have been helping us build beds. He said, “If you asked anyone on this team why we are here, we’d all say the same thing. When Christ entered our lives, he put inside of us an abundant amount of love. Love for each other, love for God, and love for people we don’t even know. But the thing is, he put SO MUCH love in our hearts that it literally spills over if we don’t give it away. So we come to places that need love and we allow our heart to overflow, we allow God to spill his love upon you, through us.” His words couldn’t be more accurate.

I’m coming out of this with an even greater confidence in the power of love. I’ve seen it at work all around me this week. I know it to be true in my own life. It’s one of those 3 enduring qualities Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Further up and Further in
Ashley

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