Moldova appears as a small, almost featureless country on the Eastern European maps. There are no great rivers or ocean ports in the country. It has little international strategic value, especially for Americans. We hardly ever hear of it. Quiet, unremarkable, and seemingly insignificant, there it appears on the maps. Ask the average American where it is and you get shrugs and “who cares?”
None of that is true if you ever come here. After a couple of long flights and a five-hour drive across Romania, we arrived near midnight at a very lonely looking border crossing. “About what I expected,” I thought. Then we arrived at our destination outside of Cahul, ‘Camp Romantica.” What an odd name!
All of my preconceptions were confirmed – quiet, unremarkable, insignificant – or so I thought.
Over the last several days I have discovered an amazing, delightful, “romantic” place! And it has nothing to do with the accommodations or the countryside (although it is beautiful). What captures your heart are the PEOPLE! Two days of fellowship and learning together with the pastors of the region and I was hooked! These men and their wives are amazing in their Christian commitment. I was texting my wife all about them and she said, “You are falling in love with Moldova, aren’t you?” Absolutely. “Camp Romantica” isn’t such an odd name, at all!
Three people in particular have impressed me greatly – all of them are involved with Sweet Sleep: Ion (John) Groza, Veronica Popa, and Stuart McAlister. Stuart, Sweet Sleep’s Director of Operations, is passionate, involved, and so helpful that our team’s needs are met quickly – usually before we even know we need something. He has proven himself to be a good partner with our church in doing the work here.
Ion is Sweet Sleep’s Moldova National Director, and also a local pastor. He works continually and seems to be everywhere doing everything all the time. But what impresses me is his heart for his people and his desire to see Moldovans grow in Christ. We have become instant friends who seem to share a common mind about pastoral ministry.
Veronica is also a completely fascinating person. She is Sweet Sleep’s Moldova Program Coordinator, teaches music, works constantly to minister to orphans in her country, and is a gifted interpreter. She has stood beside me every day for hours giving a flawless interpretation of the teaching I have been doing. But again, it is her heart that shines with love for Christ and her fellow Moldovans that impresses me.
Two days ago, the four of us went into the village to see a woman who suffers from cancer. As a cancer survivor, I looked forward to sharing hope with her and praying for her, but her concern was not for herself. She was concerned about one of her teenage daughters who hadn’t been home in two weeks. I watched as her pastor, Ion and Veronica comforted her and ministered to her. I offered what I could in prayer and left feeling sad. But Ion was determined to put action behind the prayers, and he found a way. I’m not sure how, but it seemed like magic! And, I watched as Veronica shed tears of concern, then of joy as the young lady was found. It is thrilling to see this team of dedicated people loving the children of Moldova. Love for children is what drives this team. Anyone who loves kids would be honored to serve with them.
It makes me wonder how anyone could call Moldova quiet, unremarkable, and insignificant! In the Kingdom of God, where small is great and last is first, I might have just found a prime place to see the King in action! How “Romantica!”