This summer our National Directors from Moldova and Brazil had the opportunity to visit each other’s country on mission. Last week we shared Alina’s wonderful experience in the Amazon. This week we are excited to share Sarah’s story…

From The Amazon Jungle To The Sunflowers Of Moldova

Have you ever heard about a certain thing that many people have seen, experienced, and loved, and wondered what is it truly like? That was me and my husband, Magno, about the amazing stories we had heard about through the work of Justice and Mercy International in Moldova. John Paculabo, founder of our work in the Amazon, used to say that if you love God, you care for what He cares for. We are absolutely grateful for what God is doing through JMI towards the fatherless, the ‘least of these’ and the forgotten people of Moldova, Brazil and South Africa. It is truly amazing! 

Once a year we have the joy of joining Alina and Vlad, from Moldova, at JMI’s headquarters in Franklin, TN, for our Benefit Gala which is coming soon once again, onSeptember 25th, 2018. This year we have much more to celebrate with our friends after everything our eyes have seen and our hearts have felt in our visit to Moldova.

When we heard the news about our trip to Moldova, we immediately began to wonder what would we do, how would we communicate in a third language, what would the weather be like, or what items should we pack. After two days of travel and a few flights, we finally arrived at Chisinãu, Moldova. As soon as we walked out of the arrival gate we walked into Alina, Vlad and a dozen of the young men and women whom we grew to love during the week as we served together. Right then, we could tell it would be a great week. And it was!

What stole our hearts? 3 things…

Reality & Opportunities… 

Moldova is a beautiful country made of beautiful people! Stunning sunflower fields and kids who are absolutely gorgeous. As a couple who live in the Amazon jungle under high temperatures, the weather in Moldova was definitely a highlight. Learning our poorly-pronounced Romanian was also an adventure as we attempted to build relationships with our “bunas” [hellos], “multusmescs” [‘thank yous’] and “la revederes” [goodbyes]! The time spent with the local staff, translators, local volunteers and the kids at camp helped us understand the relevance of the work we do in Moldova, the culture and the needs. It is the real deal! Most of the kids in Risipeni, the village where we served, would come out wearing the best outfit they owned, with their best attitudes and rejoiced with every lesson and every song. As we went on home visits, it displayed a clear picture of the situation many of these kids live in. Although parents are concerned about their children’s wellbeing, the need was so great that many still live in vulnerability. We were grateful to see that JMI appears as a response to many of those basic needs.

One morning, as we led a Bible study on ‘Jesus & Nicodemus’ for the teenage girls, we had a God given moment as we asked them to write questions to Jesus like Nicodemus did. You would not believe how many questions we got! In a group of a little over 30 girls, we got 22 questions. Mostly wondering: “Am I loved?”, “Does Jesus love me?”, “Does He love my family?”, “If Jesus loves me, why does my family fight so much?”, and so many other core questions of faith and identity in the Lord that had not been answered. It definitely made our trip, to be able to affirm their value in Jesus through His word.

Lastly, but not least, one morning I had the opportunity to share the Gospel message with all of the kids at camp using a story telling tool, the Evangecube, as Anatolii (one of our translators) interpreted for the kids. Imagine the scene: a text written originally in Greek, translated into Portuguese, spoken in English and interpreted into Romanian just so kids would know that Jesus is Lord, He loves them and He has a place for them as a loving father. Again, a story to be told! Volunteers on the ground are the voice, hands and feet of Jesus, who loves them and cares for them deeply.

Fun… 

Yes, fun! This trip was a lot of fun. Magno and I had the most fun learning the language (as we could). The boys would teach Magno so many words and the girls would laugh at me every time I would call for Magno and I would say: “My mush!”, which means “my husband” in my adaptation of the term. They would giggle and ask questions. And of course, you may not know us personally, but Magno and I both have dark skin. We were probably the first people with dark skin that the majority of the kids had ever seen. That was a trip in itself! They were so curious about us – good curious! As my big-afro-curly-hair would bounce around with the Moldovan breeze, the kids wondered what it felt like and for several moments I had about twenty hands in my hair, twice as many smiles and many hugs, which I absolutely adored.

On the last day, we had a graduation party for the transitional living kids that were moving to apartments as they concluded their 3 years in the program. Vlad and Alina had warned me about the way they celebrate in Moldova and how dancing with the kids was fun and fast. Yet, I could never imagine until I actually experienced it! The music started, and before I realized I was carried away by Alex, “the dancer”, one of the sweet transitional living boys, and there we went. In the middle of a turning circle, he would spin me around, and jump and spin, I could see Magno going around with all the kids laughing and trying to keep up with his pace. We love those kids and we could celebrate them all night all over again, for God had given them the greatest gifts through Jesus and His body represented through Alina, her staff and all the volunteers.

Finally, Change…

Lives are being changed. Futures are already changed. There is a new story being written in Moldova through the opportunities God has given JMI, Alina and her staff. Magno and I rejoice in the fact that Alina and Vlad get to be parents to the fatherless and point them to their heavenly Father in whom they have a true family. We are grateful for days that touched our hearts, strengthened our spirit, challenged our faith and renewed our calling to love and care for the forgotten people in the Amazon.
Our love and prayers to our new family in Moldova.

 – Sarah Rodrigues, National Director Amazon

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