International Travel – Lessons Learned

| August 12, 2009

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1. Sign your passport BEFORE you show it to the airport check-in clerk. “This would have cost you 5 hours in customs…”
2. Don’t attempt to check in online if this is your first time traveling internationally. You may regret it.
3. Please don’t act like you are from a small town in Wisconsin. There is such a thing as overuse of good manners. Thank you.
4. Use all your 5 senses when going on a missions trip. (Unless the man behind you on the 9 hour flight has greazy hair and supernatural body odor.)
5. Never fly Air Moldova. Unless you like mob “lines,” rude employees, cancelled flights and hearing what translates as, “No, I’m sorry.  We cannot help you.” However, the classic style of the flight attendants might have been worth it all.
6. Be prepared to pay double digits for internet access. Or, learn about and obtain SIM cards before the trip so that you don’t need to pay for internet access.
7. Be flexible. You may need to fly through a few extra countries to get to your destination. Your credit card may not work. Your second credit card may not work. You may need to sleep at the airport or a 5 star hotel… who’s to say?
8. It’s great to try everything; there are numerous new foods to discover. But, try to avoid the sliced, raw pig fat if at all possible.
9. Bring anti-parasite medication. ‘Nuf said. (see #8)
10.  Be grateful for the journey. Every single thing you experience will become a part of who you are. You will never be the same.*

Arriving in Moldova

| July 27, 2009

On July 16th, Amy and I arrived safely in Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova.  Stepping outside the doors of the airport was a true welcome, as we viewed such an amazing panoramic of green pastures and blue skies. As we drove into the city, it began pouring and we made our way through humungous structures that looked like city gates from “Lord of the Rings”. As we got closer, we realized that they were communist-style apartments.

"The city gates"
“The city gates”

Troy Darrin (our missionary host) shared with us how each one is a condominium, of sorts, to the inhabitants. It depends on the owners how they will fix up their portion. Most are the size of 2 small rooms, with a balcony attached. One of the rooms may be used as their livingroom/bedroom, with a couch that turns into a bed. The other half of their apartment may be an entryway, a small kitchen and a bathroom. We visited an amazing young couple, with a baby, who rents one of these. The woman told us that it depends on the complex whether they will have heat starting in October or November and whether you might be in one of the warmest or coldest apartments, both summer and winter, based on what floor you live on. (Does the heat come from the top or the bottom?) Some have gas, but hers only had electricity. It costs so much, they only kept one light bulb in their 3 bulbed lighting fixture. The hallway didn’t have any lighting fixtures. The amenities depend on when they were built by the communists and how many levels they have (architectural design). She said that during these summer months it is up to her to boil her water for food and for hygienic purposes. Her small home was kept neat and tidy, and she told us she was blessed to live there. These huge complexes fill the landscape of the city.

Chisinau Apartments

Chisinau Apartments

We made our way past many of these buildings, through flooded streets and downed trees. We found “shelter” in an upscale pizzeria-style restaurant and enjoyed some delicious food. Then, we drove back to the Darrins where I was treated to some meaningful gifts, a birthday cake, and ice cream from a tube. Super yummy! We went to the living room and began the gift giving… for Moldova! Amy, I and LOTS of you donated 3 suitcases of items to the Darrins, other missionaries and ministries and the wonderful people of Moldova. It was such fun! We gave away many of the items during our visits throughout the week. They brought so many smiles! And the Darrins were left with MANY presents to give away in villages and to children, families and others as they continue their ministry in Moldova. Thank you to all who blessed us with the joy of blessing others! It was so fun to be a part of it all.*

We come bearing gifts!

We come bearing gifts!

The Sky Is The Limit

| July 19, 2009

Picture taken en route to Moldova

Picture taken en route to Moldova

Over one year ago, Amy and I were riding in a car,  coming home from a women’s conference. We were sharing how God had spoken SO much to each of us during the weekend. We were so excited because God was showing us both, in an almost tangible way, that He has a special purpose for each of us. I was sharing how God confirmed in multiple ways that I was to learn more about sex trafficking, a completely new concept to me. I was telling Amy how so many things happened that it had to be more than coincidence. You see, I found out that the same country that my youth pastor is now a missionary in (Moldova) is the same country that has the highest rate (per capita) of trafficking victims. I said, “Maybe I’m supposed to go there, someday.” Amy yelled out, “I’m coming with you!” From that moment on, God confirmed over and over again that that is exactly what we were to do.
Three days ago, Amy and I were flying on an airplane from the USA. We were amazed that God was actually bringing us to Moldova. Since we arrived, we’ve experienced more than we could ever have imagined. Throughout these few days we’ve connected with Romanian, Russian and English speaking Christians because we all share an unseen and unheard connection with an invisible God. That connection is supernatural and always amazes me. This morning I shared Jeremiah 29:11 with a village church. I shared that God has a special plan and a purpose for each one of us. I’m following God and enjoying every minute. It’s our heartfelt prayer that each one of you will find your unique purpose, too. God is truly accomplishing HIS purposes. Wow. I’m so thankful we get to be a part of them.

Maybe There’s Hope

| July 10, 2009

We will be stopping at La Strada Moldova, an NGO working to help trafficking victims.

La Strada Moldova is an NGO working to help trafficking victims.

I am leaving for Moldova in less than a week.
Today, I printed off and cut up home-made “bookmarks.”  Each one has trafficking hotline numbers listed for many European countries, in multiple languages. Part of our mission is to place these in airport bathrooms and on empty seats along our journey. We want to spread awareness about human trafficking to whoever may find them. More importantly, we pray that God would orchestrate the right person/people to discover what we leave behind.
Maybe one traveling girl will realize the danger that she’s in, herself. Many girls take jobs overseas only to arrive at their destination and discover they’ve been trafficked. Maybe seeing our list of trafficking hotlines will confirm the warning signs she’s been noticing along the way. Maybe she will be able to get out before it’s too late.
Maybe one young boy, already sold as a sex slave,  will find our bookmark and memorize the phone number so he can, some day, call for help. Maybe just seeing that number will give him hope. Young children are sold every day, all across the world.
There is a story behind every trafficking statistic. If you are interested in reading some, check out La Strada Ukraine’s website. Please pray for God to do miracles. Thank you.

Take the Lead

| May 30, 2009

Nina Winkelman at the Moldovan display that she and her coworkers created. 

Nina Winkelman created a display at Platinum Salon in Stevens Point to collect gifts for Moldovan children.

When Amy and I were planning our special night, “The Worth of One,” we had people like Nina in mind. Our greatest vision was to inspire others toward the purposes and plans that God created them specifically for.

What we didn’t know was that Nina has a real compassion for the kids of the world. Her coworkers watch in amazement as Nina has patience and love for even the tiniest, most difficult, wiggling salon customers. When she heard about the needs of the children in Moldova, she decided to do what she could to help. She and her coworkers set up a special display and are receiving donations that will benefit orphans and the children of victims of sex trafficking. Because of people like her, our suitcases will be packed full of things that will bring smiles to some of the poorest children in Europe.

Others have shared with me what they’ve been challenged to do: Volunteer at First Choice Pregnancy Center. Work to share about purity with young women. Go for the big vision, “Changing the World.”

Because we are following our dreams to Moldova, God is inspiring others to follow their dreams. Nina is leading her coworkers in the worthwhile endeavor to love kids, both near and far. Whatever your purposes are, I challenge you to take Nina’s example. As you make that next step, others might just follow your lead.

The Worth of Many

| May 9, 2009

For weeks, Amy and I have been planning a special night for those we love. At “The Worth of One,” we wanted to inspire compassion in others for the millions of orphans and the hundreds of thousands of victims of trafficking in our world. We intended to share about why we are going to Moldova, Eastern Europe. We were grateful for the opportunity to request financial help from those willing to partner with us on our mission. But, our greatest desire was that God would do His supernatural work in each person there, to show them their own amazing value and encourage them towards their dreams. Amy and I going after our dreams will be world changing. But a roomful of people all going after their dreams is exponentially world changing.

Well, God went above and beyond anything I could expect. He showed up. I really believe that the great worth of each person was made completely clear. Many people shared with me about what God was speaking to them, personally. He is truly motivating each one of us to do things that lead us beyond ourselves. We have an extraordinary God who is more than happy to use every available person, even if they feel too ordinary. I am so grateful to God and to each one who is helping us fulfill the dreams that He gave us.

Please leave a comment here if you were inspired by “The Worth of One.” Your comment might encourage even more people towards their big dreams. God bless you!

“When the Saints” by Sara Groves

| May 9, 2009

Nathan helped me put this together to inspire guests of “The Worth of One”. We can each be “one of them”!

When the Saints