Imagine a black suitcase bulging at the sides with a neon green sock hanging out the front, part of a red shirt sticking out one side and another mysterious blue something poking out the other side. That’s what it’s like to try to pack this report into an acceptable word count! Please join me as I recount this mission trip to Moldova by looking inside these assorted luggage pieces.
The Attic Trunk: Pastor Anatol Dunas, his wife Nadea and their church, Emmanuel Baptist, oversee Camp Face to Face, a large summer camp in Moldova, developed and maintained by Moldova Mission. It has Moldovan and US boards. Most recently, the camp has been used to provide housing for refugees fleeing Ukraine. The camp is complete with an outdoor worship area, two German-built orphan homes,* cabins, a large dining hall, a basketball court and a swimming pool. There are bunnies, bees, chickens, ducks and peacocks. More on the peacocks in a bit!
The Background Suitcase: Moldova was once a part of Romania and later the Soviet Republic (1940-1991). Romanian is the common language in Moldova. However, the Dunas family and others are able to translate for Ukrainian refugees since most Ukrainians and Moldovans speak Russian.
The Oldest Suitcase: The path to visit the refugees in Moldova started a long time ago when God planted mustard seeds of mission in my soul through InterVarsity, church missionaries, the Urbana missionary conference and especially a book, In the Gap, by David Bryant. I signed a card in the back of Bryant’s book pledging to become a “world” Christian by building a cross-cultural mission’s vision through study, serving and sharing it with others. Then about 16 years ago, our oldest son David had two basketball mentors who began to run an evangelistic sports camp in Moldova, a neighbor to Ukraine. Thus began my family’s affiliation with Moldova. Between the four of us, we have made over 20 trips to Moldova, the poorest country in Europe and a hot bed of human trafficking.
The Newest Suitcase: Just a few months ago, after studying Acts and having a terrifying dream about going towards a village with smoke rising from it, the idea sprang up of going to Moldova to visit refugees staying at Camp Face to Face. God quickly opened the doors through Providence Baptist where the American head of Moldova Mission is the missions pastor. The gathering of supplies, letters to refugees and the outpouring of love and prayers within my wider community of friends, neighbors and family, Holy Trinity and Providence, and our community group created in my heart a well of tender and thankful amazement. E.B. White’s granddaughter, Martha White, even contributed many Charlotte’s Web books in various languages for the trip.
With much prayer support and practical help from Holy Trinity, our youngest son Luke, David Dunas, son of the pastor in Moldova, and I left for southern Moldova. After three flights (some tickets temporarily lost in the system, hour-long delays and missed flights) and a five-hour road trip, we arrived in Cahul – about five hours from the Ukrainian port of Odessa.
The Largest Duffel Bag: Having arrived at Camp Face to Face, we became friends with the refugee families – a grandfather, women and children aged seventeen and younger, plus one feisty Yorkie named Richie – and keep in touch with some of them through social media. We had an Easter egg hunt, ate meals together, gave testimony and teachings about God’s work in our lives, and enjoyed getting to know each other. Since the recent accelerated attacks on Odessa and the unrest in Transnistria, an independent area that has had Russian soldiers for 20 years, many refugees have sought shelter further west. But they have been well supplied physically, emotionally and spiritually for their forward journeys. Pastor Anatol and various church members traveled to the refugees at camp, Romania and central Moldova to bring supplies, the message of the Good News and spiritual training.
While at the camp, the female peacock we called Mrs. Peacock escaped her pen, but she was back two days later trying to get back in. Luke said, “Just open the gate for her and she’ll go in.” This was a great reminder that every day we are on a mission trip, no matter where we are or what we are doing, and our priority is to ask the Lord, “For whom am I to open the Kingdom gate?”
We also met with refugees at a larger refugee camp where 12 new orphan homes had been turned into homes for the incoming women and children. In the large dining hall, we spoke to the children about the gospel through an interpreter, using colored bracelets to explain about sin, the cross, salvation and growing in faith. We also had an Easter egg hunt with eggs provided by Holy Trinity.
We visited a church in Romania and had another Easter egg hunt, enjoyed lunch together and explained the gospel bracelets. Anatol gave a message on Psalm 23. I talked about God being a friend and guide – that he never leaves us once we put our hand in his and give him our hearts through accepting the payment of our sins through the cross. He promises an eternal home and refuge.
The Suitcase of Gratitude: The ones who lovingly prepared packages and prayed for people they do not know and for us inspired us. Although we went to encourage the refugees, the closeness and singleness of mind of the Moldovan church, the courage of the refugees and the moments of humor and grace forever changed our lives. And mostly, we are awed by the One who allowed us to go, sustained us and brought us home with bulging “suitcases” to share good things with others. God has said he will never leave us or forsake us. He will give us the wisdom and power to do his will his way and in his time. We know that nothing can be done without him, and he deserves all the praise and glory.
The Suitcase of Life Questions: The refugees left their material goods behind. Would I be able to do that and still find joy and stability in trusting the Lord for my future? Where am I supposed to serve? How will I serve those closest to me and lift up the cross to my spouse, neighbor, church member, the one who gives me the most grief? How do I fulfill the command to love one another? Do I need to roll up my sleeves, forgive a grievance, explain with clarity the message of the priceless gospel of life? How do I act for the Kingdom in my business? How do I speak the language of the lost or the hurting so they can understand the love the Father has for them? In other words, how and who is the “peacock” for whom I need to open the gate of the Kingdom? In obedience, there is joy.
The Summer Suitcase: Moldova Mission plans to have two weeks of summer outreach at Camp Face to Face through American teams. I will attend the first camp on July 8-15 and will have a team to lead. Please pray for the gospel to give new life and hope to these young people.
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21
Amanda Chambers, Holy Trinity Member and Moldova Mission Board Member
*Orphan homes – Moldova is the poorest nation in Europe and has one of the highest orphan rates in the world. Orphan houses have been built to help prevent children from falling victim to abduction and slavery.