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October 2005

Freedom

Freedom is not fun. It is not the same as individual happiness, nor is it security or peace or progress. It is a responsible choice. Freedom is not so much a right as a duty. Real freedom is not freedom from something; that would be license. It is freedom to choose between doing or not doing something, to act one way or another, to hold one belief or the opposite. (click for full article)            -Peter Drucker

Our world is focusing on freedom.  The war in Iraq is about bringing freedom to the Iraqi people.  Battles about the US Supreme court appointees are because people are afraid of losing their "freedoms." 

"Don't tell me what I can or cannot do!"
"Don't tell me where I can go or what I can do with my body!"
"Don't tell me I'm wrong!"

But freedom is not about the right to do anything we want.  It is about the freedom to take responsibility and ownership.  Too many people think that they are free to do anything they want, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.

Hogwash.

Your and my decisions do impact others, even if they don't appear to.  The woman going for an abortion is making a choice that impacts others...her child, her family, and herself.  She might have the freedom of "choice," but her real freedom of choice came the moment she engaged in the behavior that caused the pregnancy.

The man engaging in his "freedom" to do drugs, smoke marijuana, drink himself into a stupor, has made decisions that impact others.  At the very least, he has allowed him talents and gifts to the world to be usurped and be burned up in a hazy smoke.

Yes, I believe in freedom.  But our freedom is not for our pleasure.  It is not to do whatever I want.  It is a freedom to live responsibility, to become a part of our community, to bless and strengthen others, and to make this world a little better because we are a part of it.

Just some early morning random thoughts.........


Visas

Visa.  For us, it isn't a plastic card but a permission slip.  Without a visa, we aren't allowed back into Moldova.   But we go through a lot of work just to get a piece of paper stuck in our passports. 

We used to be able to buy a one-year visa, which meant that could go in and out of Moldova freely for exactly 365 days.  Of course, they also forced us to leave at least every three months!  Moldova doesn't want you to overstay your welcome!

Oct_7_2004_budapest_054But now they changed that policy too.  Now we can only buy a three-month visa, meaning we have to go through the ordeal again...in three months.  We load up the truck, pack up the kids, and head to either Kiev or Bucharest.  This time was Bucharest, which meant 7 hours dodging Dachas (Romanian built cars), horse-drawn carts, and potholes.  Our excursion was made more exciting by the detours caused by recent floods and the subsequent washed-out bridges!

But we are here...Bucharest.  After a harried taxi ride to the Moldovan Consulate, another trip to the center of town to pay and find photos, I then had to return this afternoon to receive our prizes...permission to stay in Moldova for three more months.

I am always amazed what we do to get permission...too much money, death-defying taxi rides, and waiting hours for someone to stick another sticker in your passport.  We travel on detoured roads, wait at long borders, and wait...and wait...and wait.

So we are happy to once again be heading back to Moldova; our home, our dog, our friends.  With passports and visas in hand, and the permission of the Lord, we are going to continue laboring in Moldova, building His church.


Rejoicing!

There is plenty of joy in Raatz-ville today!  We are celebrating an early Christmas.  A package has arrived!  We finally received the long-lost package (sent July 26), full of all kinds of fun stuff.  Some wonderful newer friends from the Chicago area, the Bryants, blessed us tremendously.

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You don't know if you have ever seen more excited girls.  Natalie called from the post office, saying "Christmas is coming early!"  When we got to the house, the girls were thrilled...Rice Krispies, Fruit Loops, goldfish, t-shirts, and potato chips!  Nancy loved the molasses and new worship CD.  And of course, I grabbed onto the Grape Nuts and coffee.  Caribou Coffee!  Who could ask for anything more?

The wait was worth it.  Two months is a long time, and at times we began to have doubts, but the wait was worth it!  Our kids will be ruining their appetites and it won't bother me in the slightest.

That is a lot of life...waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  We wait to hear from God in order to make a decision.  We wait for our kids to come, then we wait for them to grow up, then we wait for them to leave, and then we wait for them to return! 

But the best kind of waiting?  They that wait upon the Lord....

Lord, give me patience to wait in your presence, patience to wait for Your timing and direction, and strength to wait on Your people.  Amen?


Begging

I have often wondered what motivates a beggar.  To be able to stand next to the side of the road, hands outstretched, looking into the windows of cars, and begging for a couple of coins.  What would drive someone to such desperation?Begging_woman_1

For some, it might be alcohol.  Some are so dependent upon another drink that they are unable to work and can only think of how to get another bottle.

Others might be mentally ill, or with sick kids, or abused and beaten.  Others have tried every other avenue, while with others, it is just they way they choose to make their income.

Either way, they have got to change in order to do it.  Something has to change within them to allow them to be so desperate.

I read Jesus' words today, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

We need to become spiritual beggars.  We need to kill our own self-sufficiency, self-justification, and become desperate.  We bring nothing to the spiritual table...we are destitute.  But we change and come to God, admitting our spiritual poverty, He blesses.  Not with a handful of coins, but with adoption into the family of God.

It is time to become desperate...desperately dependent on Him.


Little Bride

A couple weeks ago, Natalie was a little bride.  That is way they call flower girls here in Moldova.  She was a beautiful bride, with white dress and veil.Sept_11_2005_weddingluda_038

I had a team here, working on a project in western Moldova.  I had a hard decision to make.  What should I do?  The wedding was on a Sunday morning, the only Sunday morning the team was here.  Should I be with the team, or with my girl? 

I'm a very responsible person, so I hated to leave the team.  I had already been torn away from them a lot, with the different activities going on.  And would Natalie even care if I was there or not?  She wasn't even sure she wanted to be in the wedding.

And so I wrestled with the decision.  Ultimately, I decided to take the Sunday morning, drive back 2 hours to Chisinau, and attend the wedding.  We find found the Baptist church, walked in, calmed her tears, and enjoyed the day.

Later that week, Nancy asked Natalie what was her favorite part of being in the wedding.  Fully expecting to hear, "the pretty dress" or "the princess tiara," she was surprised to hear, "That Daddy came to the wedding."

Ministry is important.  Responsibilities are significant.  But I'm so glad I blew them off to be there for my girl.  That is what is really important.Sept_11_2005_weddingluda_004


Hedgehogs and Time

I have a hedgehog now.  Nancy doesn't know about it yet, but I've adopted him.

He showed up in our yard about an hour ago.  I had just finished my Russian lesson and was escorting my Russian teacher out the door, when we noticed the ball of prickles sitting in the grass.  I assume our dog, Skeef, had already been acquainted, since Hedgie was definitely in a state of fear.  He didn't want to unwind, but decided to get more unfriendly!Tree_014

I have never played with a hedgehog before.  They are sharp and prickly, not something you want to tuck into bed with.  But somehow you have to like a guy (or gal, prickles make it undesirable to check) who is against the whole world.  Everything in the world is against you!  The only thing you can do it curl up in a little ball and hope for the best.

That is the technique a lot of people use when they are hurting or feel threatened.  Someone criticizes them, and they curl up in a ball.  If someone tells them they are wrong, their prickles come up and it is them against the world.  Perhaps they were hurt once by someone, so they never let anyone else get close.September_21_2005_hedgehog_029

Get over it.  Sometimes you might be wrong (Gasp!).  Open up and accept the truth.   You don't have a corner on doctrine. 
Someone hurt you?  Forgive and forget.  The only thing worse than a broken heart is a heart of stone.
Feeling threatened?  Get over your insecurity and suck it up.  Rejoice that someone has more ability than you and be their greatest champion.

We'll turn little Hedgie out into the forest later today (away from Skeef).  I only adopted him today.  But I hope I get get rid of my prickles now!  And not just the ones from the hedgehog.


Faces

I never forget a face.  I know that is no doubt exaggerated, but faces seem to stick in my mind.  Sometimes that is good, when I need to remember a colleague or friend.

But other times, I remember the faces and hurt for them.

Waukesha_1023Moldova is very poor, and some villages and families are even worse.  As I work with the churches here, I realize that it always the kids that have it the hardest.  They are they ones at the greatest risk.

They don't have enough to eat, or proper medical care.
They don't have a parent sober enough to care for them.
They barely have clothes to wear or shoes to protect their feet.

I see the situation of much of humanity and wonder why any would even exalt the concept of humanism, that mankind is "god" and that we can solve the world's problems.  Mankind hasn't done a very good job so far! 

Some would point that same finger back at God, and wonder how He could allow such pain to happen to this world.

But God has done something.  He came.  And suffered.  And bled.  And died.

Jesus cares for little anonymous girls like the one above.
And He calls us to do the same.


Beginnings

It is time to take a leap...and try to blog.  Writing and communication is a joy and passion, and I love to share the rambling thoughts of a missionary, bouncing through life in another world, butting heads with a different culture, and loving life.

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