On Thursday, June 30th, a group of people from all walks of life came together and headed out for a small country in Eastern Europe called Moldova. While we traveled over there together as a large group, once landing in Moldova 13 of us would split off from the main group and head several hours away to be on our own for the week. For some of the people in our group this was a return trip, but for several of us it was the first time. Going over there, with the exception of one person, everyone in our group was completely unknown to me. But now we have returned home as a family, united by this experience in ways that can never really be explained, but will always remain in our hearts.
Our mission was a simple one: we went to put on a summer camp for a group of orphaned children who were living out in the woods because they had no where else to go. Our summer camp would consist of a week filled with music, recreation, arts and crafts, life skills classes, and Bible studies. Much like what you would expect to see at a Vacation Bible School, only we were doing it in a place that didn't have running water or electricity. Those in our group who had been there before were really excited to see the children again, as many of them had kept in touch over the years.
I'll admit that I really wasn't sure what to expect at first, but I was soon surprised by these children. Many of them have experienced more heartache, despair, pain, and rejection in just a few short years than most of us will see in our entire lives. Yet they have some of the most loving and giving spirits of anyone I have ever met. They didn't have much, but they were so eager to share with us, and in many cases give away, whatever they did have. It was truly heart warming.
Growing up in the church I was always taught that we are all God's children, and he loves us just as a father loves his child. This is something that I never really understood until I had children of my own. I remember holding my first child one day and thinking that I finally understood, that the love I felt for her had to be the same love God felt for me; that I finally knew what it meant for a father to love his child. A few days ago I realized that I was wrong. What I felt was only the beginning. It was only a small part of something much, much greater.
On Friday, July 8th, at 4:45 in the morning we left Moldova, our lives forever changed. It's hard to put into words what happened to us over there, but I can honestly say that a part of me will always be there and I will never look at life the same. All of the things we seem to chase after in this world, our careers, our finances, homes, vehicles, social status, all of these things go away when you look into the eyes of one of these children. When a dirty little barefoot girl in ragged clothes throws her arms around you and looks up and smiles, you see the world in a different light. When looking into the eyes of these children you will see the true meaning of life. You will see love. Not money, or prestige, or power, but love.
Those in our group who had made this trip before warned us that once we got back and told our story, most people would not understand it as we do. They were right. You can not be told about this experience, you can only go through it. It is not something that can be accurately explained with words or pictures, it is something that has to be felt. It is something that has to be lived.
This will not be my last trip to Moldova. In fact I consider it to be the beginning of a new chapter in my life, one which will bring me back to this country and these children many more times. I went over there hoping that God would work through me to help these children in some way. Instead, God worked through them to change me.
Multumesc, si Dumnezeu sa va binecuvanteze.