Just a quick note this is Jim DeMain blogging under Stuart’s account.
Before I left to go on this trip someone close to me gave me a card that said. “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. I had no idea how true those words would prove to be. I watched my comfort zone first begin to disappear as we descended through the clouds into Moldova. It was getting dark and I could make out the snow covered roofs of the houses of the villages below. But there was something missing…there were no lights in the windows, no street lights visible, no lit parking lots or parks, it was just dark. If you’ve ever flown into any American city at about the same time it looks like Christmas time from the air. After landing we passed customs through customs where some very serious looking soldiers with sable hats stamped our passports. A Moldovan stamp on my passport…how cool. The Next day after driving about 40 minutes through the snow covered Moldovan countryside we arrived at the border to Transnistria. We crossed though checkpoints guarded by Russian soldiers holding AK-47’s. This was some serious stuff here, I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more Toto. After about an hour wait at the boarder they let us through. (they probably had to finish getting the bugs planted in our rooms).I’m just kidding. But as we would later come to find out that the whole town knew that “the Americans” had come to work at the orphanage that week. That probably explained the looks we got everywhere we went. Personally I thought it was pretty cool. So here we are. You’ve probably heard the saying that such and such city is kind of like Paris in the 60’s. Well welcome to the Soviet Union about 30 years ago. Oh, did I forget to mention that it is COLD. I mean bitter COLD and windy. I have to keep telling myself just remember we are here for a reason I can’t lose sight of that now. Our hotel had seen better days. I imagine that in it’s time it was quite a place. But that was a long, long time ago. Without going into too much detail I’ll just say that it was basic, very basic. The first night my room mate, Nolan, and I spent with no heat. Any remaining “comfort zone” that had survived the boarder crossing was now in serious doubt. The first full day “in country” as Stuart likes to say (and now I know why) we couldn’t really do much because it a was a Holiday. “National Women’s Day”. So we just prepared for the work ahead and got to know our translators and wonderful hosts at the church. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining because I’m really not. It’s just that this all took some getting used to. But all that was about to change. After all the waiting Tuesday afternoon we headed off to the orphanage. I was nervous. I’d been actually having dreams about this moment. Nothing could have prepared my for how my life was about to change. (or “begin” if you think back to the original quote). “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. We met the director and she gave us at tour. “This is were the children learn to sew or sleep or learn wood working etc. Up to this moment we still really hadn’t seen the children. Just a quick note…. My original intent was to document the trip through photography. (So I was looking at everything through my camera lens). Then the director took us into our first classroom. There they were. The whole reason we had come all this way and put up with everything to this point. I grabbed my camera and framed up my first shot. I beautiful tiny face came into focus. A young girl with short hair looked back at me through my lens with eyes that told stories I wasn’t sure if I could handle. Then a faint smile. I was having some trouble focusing the camera… why does the lens look kind of blurry…then I realized it was the tears in my eyes. As we got to meet all the children the emotions were overwhelming. We spent the next few days teaching them crafts, reading them Bible stories and just spending time with them. I took pictures of the children and we were able to print some of the photos out for them to keep. Unfortunately, because of Customs issues, we were not able to build the beds for the kids. I truly feel that we were able to connect with a few of the kids and hope they will remember this experience for a long time to come, and that we somehow made a difference however small it may be to some of them. As for me, welcome to the new and distant border of my “comfort zone”.