Random Thoughts

Thanksgiving

I've always said that the difference between a BIG problem and a SMALL problem is the pronoun.  MY problems are always the most important, and YOUR problems are not quite so big!  

That really is how most of us live our lives.  When a tragedy happens in our life, or in our family, time seems to slow down and we feel the deep hurt.  When it is in someone else's life, (or posted on Facebook!), we are concerned, but not nearly with the same intensity.

But in this Thanksgiving season, I want to give thanks to those that have looked beyond their personal world and blessed us.  I am reminded of people that have taken time to be concerned about our world, our needs.  They have shared our burdens as well as their own.  I am thankful for:

  • The woman in Port Edwards who recently told Nancy that she has been praying for us daily since we shared at the church 8 years ago.
  • The friend who took time with me years ago, letting me absorb his knowledge of photography and guns.
  • People who support us faithfully every month, even through tough economic times.
  • Friends who have our prayer card in this Bible or on the refrigerator, remembering us in prayer.
  • Mary* and Essie* and all the other girls at Freedom Home who have allowed us to be their friends.
  • Daughters that bring their joy for life and for Moldova home each night, making me laugh at their infectious energy.
  • A wife that is a leader in her own right, caring so much for me and the girls.
  • Moldovan pastors that have opened their hearts and are now friends, allowing me to minister alongside them, letting me preach in bad Russian.
  • The friend who routinely sends Caribou coffee, just becauseā€¦.
  • The church that blessed me by blessing my wife with an iPad.
  • Family that put up with the burden of dealing with our junk, our mail, and our absence while we are in Moldova.
  • The wonderful friend who labels and stamps our newsletters, taking that load off of us.
  • The company that prints our newsletters for free, just because they want to bless missions!
  • The cousin who even blessed us with a loaner car the last year we were back in the US.

I know that this list is full of people who have their own troubles and problems.  But I am thankful that they cared enough to make MY burdens THEIR burdens as well.

I am praying for that same heart, to BE a blessing as much as to receive one.


The Early Morning

I leave tomorrow morning in the middle of the night, heading back to the US for some services (and a wedding).  I really hate being away from the family, even for two weeks.  I guess it is worth it for us though, as an opportunity to share about the Home of Hope, raise some funds for the next few months, and reconnect with some churches. 

But I always get a little anxious before leaving, knowing that I still have a myriad of details to finish, things to buy, and stuff to get prepped for departure.  I haven't thought about packing, I need to show Elissa how to download their Amazing Race program, and I need to write out a list of tasks for Gheorghe for the next two weeks.

But it is 5:30 am.  I woke up early today, just needing the extra time to get things ready.  I love the quiet of the morning.  I try to sneak out of the room without waking Nancy, closing all the doors to the kids room, and then let out the dogs.  Hopefully they don't do their early morning shakes until I get the door closed so they don't wake up the kids.  I started the coffee, sweet Obsidian Caribou coffee sent by our friend John.  Usually by the time I've finished making the coffee, the dogs are ready to come in.  Britta (the German Shepherd) crashes again by the basement door, while Grace (the miniature Schnauzer) jumps up on the couch.  She is gently snoring as I write.

I have my favorite rocking chair.  The skies are dark, with just a hint of lightening to the darkness.

And all is well.

I can read my Bible (though I forgot it this morning upstairs).  I like to read a challenging book, or just sit and enjoy the silence.  If it was warm enough to crack the window, I'd hear a dozen roosters from the neighborhood, countless dogs, a few stupid cats yowling after their night prowling.  I might even here the early morning bells from the Orthodox church, glad every time that I don't live across the road from it!

But all is well.

Morning is my reset time, where I try and enjoy the moment.  I want to carry this peace throughout my day, no matter the anxieties that attempt to invade my mind.  I want to remember that what is truly important is this...a time with the Lord, the solitude and quiet of the dawn, and the knowledge that all is well with my soul.


High-Def

My last e-letter was about the difference between blah-color and high-def.  Our Moldovan winters have been so gray that I was losing all inspiration to shoot photography!  Photography is the at its roots "the study of light."  We just haven't had much of that light over these last few weeks!

When blue skies peeked out last week, I called the girls outside and said, "Look!  What is that?"  They all went, "Huh?" 

"It's blue sky!  Don't you remember what it looks like?"  I replied.

I wonder if that will be our reaction when we arrive in heaven?

It is too late to follow this thought more, but tomorrow I want to write a little more about this idea, something that C.S. Lewis best described as living in the Shadowlands.  We live now in a place that is a pale representation of reality--God's heavenly world.

When did you first discover this idea?


Focus...Refocus

One aspect of life in Moldova is that there are always plenty of needs before my very eyes.  It doesn't take long before I am able to see another opportunity, another need.  I'm always dreaming about seeing the Church doing deep transformational work in their community.

But what am I to focus on?

I have the tendency to add more to my plate, always thinking that I can squeeze just a little more on the plate.  But there is only so much room, and I need to learn what to delegate, what to turn down, and what to delay.

What can I do in Moldova that no one else can do?  What provides the deepest impact?  What ignites my engines and gives me energy?  What is the passion of my heart?

It is that time of year again where the focus-refocus takes place.  Looking forward to the clarification and focus from God over the next couple weeks.


Thanksgiving

This is the season for Americans to stop and give thanks.  As one of the three biggest Americans holidays, Americans gleefully stop there lives for a four-day-weekend, overeat turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and pie.  Their holiday might include a bunch of football (lousy games this year though!) or a few hours of Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (like watching paint dry for me).

But we all stop to give thanks.

There is so many things to give thanks about.
    For the last few hours you had together with someone you loved.
    For the ability to have food before you, or the opportunity to even eat it.
    For the few minutes you may live without pain,
    For those great words "I love you."
    For the ability to laugh.
    For crepes, pumpkin pie, and banana cream pie. 
    For girls that love to hug me and give their daddy kisses.
    For the simple pleasure of our schnauzer and german shepherd.
    For friends with which I can relax, just being myself.
    For a GREAT wife and wonderful kids.
    For people that sacrifice so much to pray for us.
    For Jesus Christ.

Is it even possible to end writing a list like this?


Baby

Dsc_0008 Gheorghe and Ina had their first baby a couple of weeks ago.  Gheorghe works for me and is a great help when it comes to teams--driver, interpreter, and whatever else is needed.  So it is fun to see this young couple enjoying their baby.  They have been blessed enormously by friends, with enough clothes to last at least two years, a highchair, port-a-crib, and more. 

Now if we can just help Ina get some rest!

We stopped by their apartment the other day and Natalie got to hold little Ariana.  She is a doll.


Heading Home

I am heading home to Moldova this afternoon.  Nancy and the girls will be coming after me in ten days, so I have a small window to get Nancy's living permit worked out.  I will take her passport back with me, work on her living permit, and then send it back via UPS.

Strange feelings as I prepare to return.  I hate leaving the girls behind but I'm ready to get back to work.  Pray for us as we work through these next few days.


The Day From...

Yesterday was not a good day. 

It started from the dreaded phone call that Nancy's mom had suddenly passed away.  All of sudden, Nancy was no longer packing for a visit to see her mom and dad to packing for a funeral.  A million decisions crashed into me yesterday.

  • Do I bring the girls or should we stay in Moldova?
  • The girls don't want to go back, but want to stay in Moldova.  How do I resolve that?
  • How can I comfort the tearful questions from the girls at losing their Grandma?
  • How can I comfort their fear of not being able to come HOME to Moldova?
  • Do we jeopardize our return if we leave?
  • Can I even find tickets for us all, or afford it if we do?
  • Where did I put my car keys?  (amazing how stressful even that last questions can be!)

All this is complicated by the fact of our continued living permit situation.  As Nancy left, she was given grief for her lack of a living permit, told not  to return until we have resolved that.  So if I leave with the girls, is this permanent?  Semi-permanent?  Two weeks?  Three months?

Then I got the second call that I had to stop our interns that are en route to Moldova.  They are missing one document, and NOW I am told they need it BEFORE they arrive here.  Last night I frantically tried to track them down, locate a contact number, and have them halt before they flew into Moldova.

To paraphrase a once-read quote, I was facing a fork in the road. One path led to utter despair.  The other led to total annihilation.  I was praying for the wisdom to choose wisely.  My high blood pressure was NOT being controlled by medication yesterday.

But the sun comes up, even in this snowy, cloudy, gray country.  The girls and I have resolved to fly back tomorrow morning.  We have found some good tickets.  At 1 am, the living permit situation turned to the better, with a message giving some semblance of hope that we can resolve it.  And I finally reached the interns and put their arrival on hold.

I love The Message's take on the Beatitudes, with the words of Jesus.  "Blessed are you when you are at the end of your rope.  When there is less of you, there is more of God."  I don't have a lot of theological answers about death, life, and living permits.  I don't pretend to grasp God's sovereignty, or our place in building the Kingdom of God.  Simple spiritual platitudes don't sink too deep into my soul, usually causing more questions than resolving them.

But I know I can still hang on to God.

I may be stressed.  I may have peace.  I may have answers.  I may be filled with doubts and questions.

But I will still hold on to the rope of Jesus Christ.

Thanks for praying,

Your missionaries to Moldova,
Andy Raatz


Snow Snow Snow

We are socked in this week.  It started to snow yesterday and it really piled up!  I had to take the Nissan out yesterday afternoon for a little bit, just to take Shauna back to her apartment.  But I really don't want to travel too much today!  It is nothing but packed streets and icy roads. 

Yesterday was Orthodox Christmas so the entire country was off work.  We enjoyed a great afternoon with our friends, the Dommerholt's, drinking coffee and playing Settlers of Cataan.  Just what Christmas is supposed to be like---white and cold, full of time with friends and family, eating and reflecting on God's great gift.