Coming in to land

Post date: May 18, 2019 9:33:48 PM

We’re now back in the UK (just!), so it’s time to bring you up to date with our last few days and our reflections on the visit.

Thursday (16 May) was very much a day of deliveries.

Some of the money we raised this year was sent out to provide food packages to poor families, the adult ‘nappies’ for families with bed bound members, supplies for Neemia’s project to support those with new born babies and walking aids for old people.

With little social support it is tough for young mum’s, especially those where husbands are working away or abroad to make a living. So Neemia has a scheme to help with packages of nappies and wash materials.

We were also able to add some blankets that a friend of Brian’s wife had made to send out with us.

We already know how hard it is for many older people, with very small pensions and often no extended family as young people move abroad. Rob has visited this lady several times in the past, but her health has now deteriorated and she is bed-bound: her sister pops in to help.

But one day recently Victor was able to arrange for the Orthodox priest to visit her at home to give the Eucharist, and they were both very moved by her response and how this really uplifted her. Sometimes our churchmanship causes us to be very dismissive of traditions that do not align to our own. However, Rob has commented before that people’s faith is still very real based in their context and there is no doubt that the Lord graciously meets all of us where we are, rather than being constrained by the limits of our preferences (something we would ALL do well to remember!).

Before lunch, we popped into the village Post Office as Linda was keen to see if she could successfully send a homemade ‘postcard’ to her grandsons.

We were advised that it would be best to put it in a proper envelope, and were supplied with this rather spectacular one.

That will certainly significantly increase its chances of making it to its destination.

We also had a little time to head over to the area known as ‘O Suta de Movile’ (A hundred hills), which is near the River Prut that marks the border with Romania.

In the Soviet time, Cobani was (and still is) in what is called the ‘Frontier Zone’, and if you were not a resident you would be questioned by the police or army about your business there. There are also old watchtowers (not of the JW variety, although there are a lot of them in Moldova) overlooking the border. Local people were told they were there to protect them from people coming IN to their free country (and given across the river was Ceaușescu’s Romania that had a fair ring to it) so there were not many attempts at escape.

After lunch, a number of the Neemia volunteers came to help with deliveries, and we set off in groups around the village.

It is important to remember this is far from just a case of having extra pairs of hands. Being able to volunteer with Victor, Lili and the team enables them to actively demonstrate a way of helping in your community, not just sharing the Gospel in words. It also gives the young people purpose, pride, confidence and an opportunity for personal development, which is part of their aims too.

A good example is the Guitar Club that runs twice a week. Dani started this when he came three years ago.

When he left last Summer, one of the volunteers who learned under his tutelage took this over and has continued the Club to teach others. So that is fantastic.

Friday morning was surprisingly misty and it took a while to lift.

We’ve been gathering as a team for breakfast at the Community Centre each morning and having a brief reflection based appropriately on passages from Nehemiah, which do indeed closely link to Victor & Lili’s experience.

After breakfast, we were given the opportunity to be the first users of a new dishwasher that was installed on Thursday in the kitchen, which some of the money we have sent to Victor will go towards.

In the absence of a bottle of champagne or suitable clergy and liturgy we improvised with iced tea and an informal ‘blessing’ for its inaugural voyage.

Rob, Jo and Olly were scheduled to be at the high school (6th form) in nearby Balatina for an English lesson at 11:10, while Linda, Brian and Martin did a few more deliveries. However at very short notice we were told that the lesson had been brought forward to 10:00, so we needed to head off immediately (well this IS Moldova!).

For the lesson we had some discussion with the class of 17/18 year olds, before getting a quick selfie with those who hadn’t rushed off at the bell.

Then a few of them showed us round a bit.

On the way back to Cobani we at last had the chance to stop and get a good sight of one of the stork nests that are dotted around the area, on top of trees and telegraph poles.

Rob particularly likes big birds (Oooh Matron!) and they are an impressive sight, arriving in the Spring from Africa to breed.

After the meal delivery detail had returned from the day’s visits…

…we all rendezvoused back at the Community Centre for lunch with the children at the After School Club.

You may remember in a previous entry we talked about the land at the back of the house next to the Community Centre. Neemia have been using this to give the children an opportunity to learn about how to plant and grow some fruit and vegetables.

This day it was cucumber and water melon seedlings going in.

Victor had twisted Rob’s arm to get ice creams for the children as it was our last day, the distribution of which was surprisingly organised and well behaved.

There were even enough for the ‘big kids’.

Last activities for the day proved, not by direction, to result in a strict gender divide: the girls chose to do craft…

…while the boys were bravely let loose with paint and brushes to decorate a wooden car that Eduard had made.

But then there is much clearer demarcation in this country than ours – that’s just the way it (currently) is!

Something that seemed clear about the Community Centre is that it is a safe place in the village for children and young people to come, especially girls. With little else to do other than chores at home or spend time on-line it is somewhere that is their community and family, where they can learn different things, play or hang out, and that is very important.

Back chez Zama, Victor was dealing with a swarm of his bees that had left one of the hives.

He’d managed to get them out of the tree into a box temporarily while preparing a new home for them.

Victor has a significant number of hives, which produce hundreds of kilos of honey in a year! Some of this they sell, labelled ‘Dar cu Har’, which means ‘Made with Grace’.

We were all given a couple of jars as a thank you gift to bring home.

After the Friday evening Youth Club at the Community Centre we gathered with the Neemia team for a final BBQ.

It was a great way to round off the week, and a chance to share about our experiences and future possibilities.

Then this morning (Sat. 18 May) it was an early start to head to Chişinău for our flight home. We got everything packed into Victor’s van and headed off around 06:30 for the 3 hour journey.

Despite the early hour, we didn’t manage to avoid ALL the local morning traffic!

Beats the usual jams. We made good time to the city…

…which sadly meant a less romantic form of traffic jam.

But hey ho! We got to the airport – thankfully we were flying home on an Airbus 320 rather than a converted Soviet Tupolev TU-134 bomber.

But that IS the type of plane Tony Hawks flew out to Moldova in in 1999 – if you’re never read ‘Playing the Moldovans at Tennis’, do get a copy.

We had a final coffee and breakfast stop…

…before parcelling Brian off to Malcoci for a few days with Igor and checking in. The journey went smoothly and all on time so we made it home late afternoon, after 12 hours on the go.

Rob & Jo got home to the sound of more bees, in the laburnum tree outside their front door.

A little reminder of Victor’s hives and honey in Moldova.


We’ll leave you with some final reflections from the new St. Mark’s members of the team.

Linda: The week has been a mix of emotions and memories that will stay with me forever. From the hardship of no running water and refuse collection to the amazing service of Victor, Lili and the team to the community. I have enjoyed the pastoral life of the village and feel honoured to be able to be part of the group to visit Cobani in rural Moldova, as spring emerges and the flowers bring beautiful colour.

There are challenges the team manage daily. The elderly and infirm are served by the team three lunchtimes a week in their humble homes. This gives an opportunity for the team to see how they are coping. They may need water from the well or just a chat as close family members are often away to find work. A friendly face is always welcome.

On the same days the cook is also busy feeding children who come to the afterschool club. Irina oversees the craft and activities after lunch. Other days can involve various deliveries: a monthly distribution of supplies to new mothers; sanitary wear for the bedridden; food parcels.

Victor also runs youth clubs and involves the older ones to mentor and encourage the younger ones. And I must not forget Eduard, Irina’s husband: the Mr Fixit, who kept the distinctive red minibus going and everything else in the community centre as far as I can tell. Neemia (and indeed everyone) requires paperwork for their activities, and Victor’s “stamp” is needed even for a visit to the Metro hypermarket. Lilli has the task of keeping records in order and ably manages the administration, which is no mean task, and somehow managed to produce fantastic meals for the group and family. The team work very hard and have used us in every part of their work and ministry in Cobani.

I could see that expectations are changing as the younger generation looks to the comforts and experiences of the modern world, but I trust they won’t lose sight of the traditional skills and resourcefulness of the older generations. We were the beneficiaries of the growing, harvest, the preserving and animal husbandry skills of Grandma and Victor & Lili, and ate amazingly well. The family cellar (a stone underground cave in the garden) is a treasure chest of everything from preserved watermelon to wine! At home I can get up and have a shower, put the washing machine on and leisurely have my breakfast in comfort, a thing of difficulty for many families in cramped and very basic conditions.

Then there is the work of the day, tending to the veg patch and animals to provide food and an income, or for a few people work in the nearby towns to try to make ends meet. Often people leave their homes to find employment in other cities or abroad, which leaves a strain on those left behind, young and old.

Mulţumesc for the trip Jo and Rob and I pray for Victor that his leap of faith in going back to his home community will continue to reap rewards for all those he touches and serves in that place. La revedere.

Martin: I have really enjoyed the time in Moldova, and it has been good to work together as a team with Victor & Lili. His vision of possibilities of what could be done in Cobani is amazing, along with what is already being achieved with the elderly and young people in the village. The lack of welfare and support for the elderly is sad to see, but Neemia provides lunch three days a week and is helping with mobility aids, and sanitary products for the bed bound.

The way they engage with the children and young people for both their clubs is great but they also draw them in to help with the support for the old people. On Friday we walked around delivering the meals with three of the children from the after-school club, and they were prepared to visit and chat to the house bound and brought cheer to the elderly through it.

His plans for the future are challenging and will need clear prioritising, resources and support to achieve. But God is a great big God and will help and provide as he has done so far.

Olly: This experience has been amazing in so many ways. It was a bit nerve-racking at first, throwing yourself into something that you haven’t done before, but once you get going you definitely feel like you’re helping out and making an impact on other people’s lives. To say that the people here are welcoming is an understatement. Everyone of every age has welcomed us into their homes, the Community Centre and the activities, and they try to communicate in the best way possible.

Despite all the smiling faces and positivity, many people here face daily problems that we can see around us, and it is overwhelming at times. Most teenagers want to leave the country in search for better opportunities, and have access online to see where those opportunities are. Adults also leave to find proper work as job opportunities beyond part-time work are rare. Generations are leaving the country for better jobs and to earn money for the family. They have left the older people behind, sometimes completely abandoned other than rare visits, often in small homes where life is exceedingly hard for them.

This is where Neemia’s work and the Community Centre come in. Victor & Lili aim to make it a beacon of hope for many different generations of people. This can be through the kids’ groups they run, with activities and games to learn skills and build confidence. There are also the teenage volunteers who help with the activities for the younger people, where they learn work skills and gain confidence before they become adults. The Neemia team also helps struggling young families by delivering items such nappies and washing powder.

But most importantly of all, they deliver food to vulnerable elderly people, so that they have at least one good meal regularly. Sometimes there are conversations with them where they share their life stories (although it is hard to hear some of these) and they find other ways to help out. Victor also shares the Gospel when the opportunity is there, bringing some peace and hope no matter what situations they are in. Their work is well-known throughout Cobani and they have gained respect from people who can see they are trying to help the community, and many people can see God at work through this.

It is clear in that Victor, Lili and the team have impacted the area in a positive way. It is fantastic that our church is supporting this work and that we are able to keep the mission and Community Centre going for the future. I would recommend anyone to be part of this as well as it is unlike any experience I will ever have. I will have memories that I won’t forget and will most likely try to come again if the opportunity arises.


So thank you for joining us on this trip. We hope you have found it interesting, informative and inspiring to hear about the work that Victor, Lili and the Neemia team do in Cobani. If you’d like to know more or how you can help, please do get in touch: details on the ‘Contacts and Support’ page.