Inside this house a woman lies deaf, not eating, unable to raise her head to drink a cup of water. At 80 years of age she has outlived many of her compatriots. She is very fortunate as she has some people in her village who care about her. The woman who cooks the food at the day centre for the elderly worries that she is no longer coming to get food and asks the Pastor to take lunch to her. He knows the woman well and thinks she may not have enough fire wood so we set off with him to see her with a hot meal and a few sacks of logs. While we stand by her bedside another woman enters the room. She lives down the road and comes in to give the woman water and to keep the fire, which heats the small bedroom, burning.
We go to the house of the woman who joined us at the lady’s beside. She is a gypsy and lives with her husband and her brother. I am told later on that she has head injuries caused by drunken beatings by her husband. He tells us that he was in the army and he asks us to pray that he will die soon. He wants to be with God, not on earth.
The brother arrives. It is not yet 1pm and he is drunk. He cries and tells us that it is hard to avoid drinking when he is with his friends. I am told by the Moldovans we are with that alcoholism is a huge problem in the country. Poverty, unemployment and cheap wine make it an option for those with little. We spend time with these three people – the two members of the Operation Mobilisation Relief Team we are with leave a blanket and the Pastor , who is supported by OM to provide relief in the village, arranges when the men can come to collect some clothes from him. The husband is very grateful for the new shoes he was given recently. My daughter prays for them and as her prayer is translated into Romanian by the Pastor and we shake hands and exchange greetings of ‘Pace’ – peace – I feel connected and of no use at the same time.
The Pastor also runs care for children in the room behind the church, after school (1pm) until 4pm. Many children have no parents at home, or their parents are at work until late in the evening. The day care provides the children with a hot cooked meal everyday at 2pm, a teacher to help them with their homework, bible teaching, English language lessons twice each week and a safe place to be. When we arrive around 15 children aged between 6 and 13 are sitting at tables doing homework. When we leave at 2pm the children are streaming up the road to the church kitchen for their meal and many more are joining them. Up at the elderly care centre where the children will eat there is a laundry room and a shower room so that in this village, where the well is still the place that many collect their water from, the elderly who can walk as far as the building can have a hot shower and the lady who cooks their meals will also wash their clothes for them.
The next village Huzon is a 20 minute drive. The hills are tricky in the snow but we make it to a small breeze block building at the top of a hill. The top floor is the church and below, built into the hillside is the day centre ( a main room, a bathroom and a kitchen) for children. In this village many of the children have parents working in Israel and again the day centre provides them with a hot meal at 4pm each day, friendship, and a safe place.
The children there were aged from 7 – 14 or 15. They want to practise their English ‘Hello, my name is … and I am …. year old.’ They choose to do a craft activity and they sing us the songs they have learned. The three young women who work for OM in this area clearly do a great job as the children are so obviously happy to be in the day centre.
This day has left me with much to think about and I have so much to learn from the people here. Pastor Viktor definitely became one of my heroes today. As did Anastasia (pictured below with her boyfriend Slava who drove for us), the 26 year old Moldovan who gave up a banking job in Moscow to return to her home country to serve with OM and who oversees four day centres and is trying to establish care for people with disabilities.
I’m trying to process it all. How do I respond to the poverty here? What does it look like to serve my community? As a christian in the UK am I and is my church blessing those in the area by providing for their needs ? What are the needs ? Do our concerns for child safeguarding procedures (which are obviously of crucial importance) sometimes owe more to concerns about adults avoiding mis-placed blame than a concern for children’s wholeness and wellbeing? Do we tie our hands with bureaucracy and risk aversion rather than stepping in to do what we can when we can?
I chatted later in the day, back at the OM centre, to a Moldovan who has just returned from 5 years working in Nepal. ‘We are not poor’, she said, ‘I have seen much worse poverty. Here in Moldova we are rich.’
I’m glad the questions are forming in my mind. It feels a little overwhelming but it’s actually why I came. I wanted to see and hear and understand how and why life is different. I wanted to see my own life through different eyes.
Today we had sunshine and snow so I will leave you with some Moldovan beauty.