Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Doing One Thing

This blog was written on Sunday, September 18.

Most of our day today was spent at church. The church is helping with the building of a transition home in Moldova. Of course, many of the members haven't had a chance to get to Moldova so the church basically had a "mission Sunday" to share about the work there, and about human trafficking in general. If you recall from my blog about Moldova you'll remember that the transition homes are just one way to prevent "at risk" girls from being trafficked.

A couple of us shared about our time in Moldova and how God worked in our lives while we were there. Since I only have one other thing to tell you about today I thought I'd give a brief summary of what I shared with the congregation.

As a little girl I grew up thinking that all children had parents that loved them. Now, of course, I know that isn't always the case but in Moldova I was overwhelmed by the reality of that fact. The more you hear about human trafficking, the more you want to "fix it" but the problem is too big for one person alone. In fact, it's pretty much an impossible problem. But God is the God of the possible and he kept reminding me over and over again of the quote that says "no one can do everything, but everyone can do something." The transition home allowed me so see the hopeful side of things. For this congregation to build such a home may be the "one thing" that will help make a small bit of difference. Pastor Lindsay also shared Andy Stanley's quote "Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone." What we do may not seem like much, but in God's hands it is multiplied just like the loaves and the fishes.

I met a girl at church on Sunday, Tabea, who God is using in a big way to minister to women who have already been trafficked and forced into prostitution on the streets of Zurich. Tabea is a young mom with three kids and was praying for a way to minister to these women using the gift and talent God has given her as a therapeutic massage therapist. With the help of another organization in Zurich, and a miraculous opening in the building adjoining theirs, she goes into the red light district once a week, during the day, to offer free therapeutic massages to the prostitutes. These young girls are so abused and mistreated that they basically set up a stiff wall within themselves as a means of protection. To receive a loving, healing touch is something so rare, Tabea says, that as she starts to massage them their bodies feel like boards more than people. Eventually, as they begin to relax and trust her they will often cry and let down their guard a bit. Because the girls speak so many different languages Tabea's touch, and ultimately God's, is the only way she can show them love. To say that I was impressed with Tabea would be an understatement. She is doing the "one thing" that God has called her to do.

Good job, Tabea, good job.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Powered by Chocolate

Well, we've been home for five days now and I'm just getting around to posting my blogs from the trip. I'll try to post one each day for the next few days until you've "heard it all." Since I'm posting these from home and not during our trip I'm able to post the pictures along with the story. It takes a bit longer to add the pictures, having to choose and edit the pictures; thus the delay. This blog is about our first day in Switzerland - Saturday, September 17.

800 miles - that is the approximate number of miles that we walked today. Thankfully, there was plenty of chocolate to keep us energized. We were met this morning by Joel, the son of the pastor that we will be working with here in Zurich. Due to a scheduling mix-up, we won't actually see the pastor until church tomorrow. So, Joel, and his fiancé, Nicole, met us and showed us the city.

We started off by taking a train to downtown Zurich and then a tram (similar to our light-rail in Minneapolis) to Uetliberg which, according to the sign on the building there, is "The Top of Zurich." Granted, the hike to the top was, shall we say, challenging, for some of us but it was well worth it, The view was beautiful despite the fact that it wasn't a very clear day. Pictures hardly do it justice, but as you might guess, I tried.

Of course, all that walking wore us out so we needed to stop and have something to drink before catching the tram back into the city.

By the time we got back into the city it was time for lunch but instead of spending a lot of time at a restaurant we all voted for pretzels - the giant kind that you can get at sporting events only WAY better. I know you may find this odd, but as good as the chocolate is here, I think the pretzels are my favorite. They even make sandwiches out of them, with pretty much any kind of sandwich meat you could imagine.

After "lunch" we did a little shopping, focusing our efforts on getting some yummy Swiss chocolate because, as you can imagine, we were starving at this point. We hit up the expensive chocolate store first and later went to the "grocery store" for some more reasonably priced chocolate. I say "grocery store" but in reality it was a department store with a "grocery" department. Come to think of it I don't recall ever seeing what I would consider a "real" grocery store.

As we were walking through the streets I saw this beautiful clock. Later in the week I heard that it has the largest clock face in Europe - even bigger than Big Ben. About two hours later we were walking by the same clock and I heard some guy tell his friend that it has the second biggest clock face in Europe. Who to believe?

With chocolates in hand we continued to window shop on the Zurich equivalent of Rodeo Drive. At one point we ran into a full concert band performing on one of the streets and as we finished up our "shopping" some of us sat on a bench by a fountain to wait for the whole group. I was aghast when I saw a woman hold her son up so he could get a drink out of the fountain "spout." Apparently, the water in the fountains is safe to drink. I however, have not tested that personally. Pretty sure I won't.

We saw two churches that were right across the river from each other. FrauMünster Church was built in 853, and was beautiful. At one point a fire destroyed a part of the church so it was renovated and some of the stain-glass window were replaced by more modern windows designed by artist, Mark Chagall.

The second church we visited, GrossMünster, has quite the intriguing history. It was built by Zwyngli Platz during the days of the protestant reformation in the 1600's. Unfortunately, Zwyngli was a bit nuts and, in an effort to eliminate the corrupt Catholic priests he'd take them up in the bell tower and throw them out the window. I can say with pretty much 100% certainty this was NOT how Jesus would have handled corruption in the church. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful church.

After a stop for dinner at a fabulous Italian restaurant we headed down to a park along the waterfront. In the background of this picture you can see both FrauMunster church and the giant clock.

There is a little pond at the park with stepping stones across it. Most of the stones are placed so that anyone, really, can walk across them without much effort. But some of the stones are placed further apart either for design or so that one 20-something man (say, Joel) could dare another 20-something man (say, one of our team members, Heith) to jump across them. (You know where this is going, don't you?) It appears that it's difficult for a 20-something man to say no to a dare such as this and once the jumping and momentum got going, well, it couldn't be stopped . . . until Heith landed in the pond, just shy of the fourth stone. I know it's wrong, but it still makes me laugh. Thankfully, his injuries were minimal, and we expect his shoes will be dry sometime before we leave.

Our return to the hotel consisted of three forms of transportation - four if you include our feet; boat to tram, tram to train, train to hotel shuttle from the airport. It's a great system which would be even easier if only I knew German. So far, I love Switzerland.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I am posting this on Saturday night in Switzerland. There is so much more to tell you but I have to get to bed. Following is a recap of our two days in Moldova. All I can say for now is that Switzerland is amazing and I will probably have to post the rest of my blogs when I return home as internet use is incredibly expensive.

I could write a book on our two days in Moldova. If you've been checking for my blog update you have probably guessed we did not have internet access in Moldova. But, we did have ducks and chickens; grapes and tomatoes right outside our door. Oh, and a rooster who obviously has not been schooled in the proper crowing hour.

We arrived in Chisano (pronounced Kish - ah - now) on Wednesday afternoon and spent most of the day getting to know our host and being briefed on what we'd be doing there.

The goal of the group we worked with is to help prevent kids from becoming victims of human trafficking therefore the majority of our time was spent going to schools distributing pamphlets with information on how to avoid getting caught up in the trafficking web. It's a huge problem in Moldova because of the low income level. When a person is desperately poor and can't get a job, he/she is a prime target to be trafficked. The unemployment rate in Moldova is nearly 65%!

Every week there are 22,000 victims of human trafficking worldwide. Only 1% of the victims are ever rescued so keeping them from being trafficked in the first place is key. It's an overwhelming problem with no easy solutions. The things I learned would make your blood boil - at least I hope it would - but it's too much to share here.

One of our stops on Thursday was at a state run orphanage. The young children came right over to meet us as soon as we got out of our van. What amazed me was that when our friend in Moldova pulled out toothbrushes for the kids they flocked to get them as though he were giving away gold bars. While at the orphanage we gave a trafficking prevention presentation to the older kids - probably the most at-risk group of teens for trafficking.

There was one little girl at the orphanage that reminded me of a little girl we met in Russia two years ago. She was quite eager to talk to us when we first arrived and loved having her picture taken. As we left I went to give her a hug and she kind of pulled away from me. I realized later that she very rarely has any kind of loving touch, or really any kind of human touch at all and probably didn't know what to think when someone touched her in a kind way. (Either that or she just didn't like me.) Heartbreaking.

It would be easy to get overwhelmed with the sadness, and vastness, of the problem but fortunately we were able to see the upside of things also. After leaving the orphanage on Thursday afternoon we drove to a transition home for girls. That is another project that our hosts support. The transition home was amazing. There are eight girls living there, along with "parents." It isn't a big house but it is filled with lots of love. In this home, and all of the transition homes that are built, the "parents" are a local pastor and his family. When asked how living in this home has made a difference in their lives the responses were things like, "I finally have a family," "Now I have hope," "Now I know what it feels like to be loved."

In the transition homes the girls are taught basic skills such as tailoring, cooking, gardening, etc. These skills not only help them learn how to care for a household, but also enable them to get jobs so they can successfully support themselves. And, if the girl has a dream to go to college or to get some trade school training they try to find scholarships for them. I didn't really notice it at the time but one of my team members pointed out that the home for the girls is probably a bit nicer than the conditions of the homes of those who actually built it. I think that says a lot about the care they offer the girls.

If you read my pre-trip blog you might remember that I had some concern (translate as "scared to death") about the home we'd stay in during our time in Moldova. I was even more concerned as we were being driven there on Wednesday night. It was dark and we were driving on dirt roads better suited for a four-wheeler than a small sedan filled with four people and 150 pounds of luggage. I looked over at Pastor Lisa, who was going to be staying at the same house with us and said, "I think this would be a good time to break into the chorus of 'I Surrender All.'"

I have to say I've stayed in worse places - and better places. Our hostess didn't speak a lick of English but, despite the fact that she cares for a husband who as far as I could tell is basically dying and hasn't left his bed in three years, was incredibly gracious and cooked us a huge breakfast every morning. She has so very little yet offered us so very much. Before we left she gave Pastor Lisa and I table runners made her grandmother. It was incredibly humbling. The picture here is of Nadia, our hostess, and me in my anti-trafficking t-shirt.

Well, I have rambled on long enough and yet only touched the surface of all that happened during our short Moldovan visit. Despite the lack of creature comforts that I am used to I would do it all again if it just keeps one girl or boy from getting caught up in trafficking.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Refuse

In a few short hours we will board a plane bound for Moldova. Well, actually, we’ll board a plane, and then another plane, and THEN the plane to Moldova but eventually we’ll end up there. Where in the world is Moldova anyway? I will have to say that with our recent surge in traveling my geography skills have reached new heights and may now be at least at a fifth grade level. Moldova is located east of Romania and is surrounded on the other three sides by the Ukraine. I’m sure it’s perfectly clear for you now. We’ll be in Moldova for just a couple of days and then we head to Zurich, Switzerland for five days. As you might guess, this is a mission trip, or as we call them at our church, a Global Project. I wonder if anyone really goes to Moldova just for fun?

I love going on Global Project trips but if I were to be totally honest I’d have to say that most often, before I leave, I am scared to death. Do I fear harm of some sort? Not at all. Here’s what I am afraid of; the food and the accommodations. I know it sounds silly but it’s the truth. I’m not a huge fan of foreign foods. There are even a few, quite a few really, American foods that I don’t like all that much. Basically, I’m a fussy eater. Add to that a couple of food allergies and eating can sometimes be a challenge. As long as I don’t need to worry about offending anyone I’m o.k., it’s just that sometimes we are fed by a host family/missionary/orphanage cooks and you really don’t want to offend them. So, I try. I’ve already started praying that I won’t be faced with anything that’ll make me gag. Ha! (I also have a suitcase full of high energy foods to “tide me over” until our return.)

As for the accommodations, well, let’s just say you never now what you might end up with but you can be fairly certain that it’ll never be The Hilton. But, I’ve managed to live with some pretty nasty places and as long as I have my own travel pillow along, I usually do o.k. This time will be a little bit more interesting in that we’ll be staying at someone’s home in Moldova. I’m trying to think of it as a short-term Rotary Exchange program.

Why then, do I go, you might be wondering? Because I feel that God has asked me to do this for Him. When I consider all He’s done for me, it would be foolish really to say no. And, as a missionary friend once told me, “If God asks you to do something and it makes you fearful, do it afraid.”

There is a song that I’ve been hearing a lot on the radio lately. It pretty much sums up my feelings about this trip. It’s called, I Refuse by Josh Wilson. Click on the song title if you’d like to hear it in full. It’s an amazing song! Below is the chorus.

‘Cause I don't want to live like I don't care.
I don't want to say another empty prayer.
Oh, I refuse to
Sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself.
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse.

So, that’s why I go. Because I refuse to say no to God. Would He find someone else for the job it I didn’t go? Of course. But then I would miss out on the adventure and the blessing.

I was encouraged this morning by a verse I read in my morning devotions. In Psalm 139:5 David says to the Lord, “You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” Even though I may be fearful, I can rest in the knowledge that God has his hand of blessing on my head. Why then, should I be afraid?

I know I’ll have more to share as the week progresses so check back. I’m not entirely sure of my accessibility to the internet; that’s part of the adventure. I’ll post when I can. And, when I come to mind, I wouldn’t be at all offended if you offered up a prayer for our team and the people to whom we’ll me ministering.

Addendum to Sunday's Blog Post

Apparently my memory isn’t as good as I think it is. Actually, I don’t think it’s all that great so I guess what I should say here is, once again my memory has failed me.

I said in Sunday’s blog that my son, Paul, was not in the air on September 11, 2001, but I was wrong. He landed a plane that morning right about the time the events of that day started taking place. I guess that since I was able to contact him later in the day I just focused on the fact that he was safe and at home and not that he’d been in the air while other planes were being hijacked.

Paul wrote a great article about his perspective from that day that was published in Sunday’s edition of the Star Tribune. I’d invite you to read it by clicking here. I have to admit, it was a proud mommy moment for me yesterday.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years Later

Ten years. And yet, just yesterday, it seems, that the world heard the shocking news that our nation was systematically being attacked. I’m sure anyone over the age of ten remembers where they were when they first heard the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I had just finished drying my hair when the radio announcer told of the “accident.” It looked, he thought from his first glances, that it was a small commuter jet. By the time I arrived in the bedroom and turned on our television images of the second plane hitting the Trade Center were on the screen. Only I didn’t know it was a second plane. I figured they had somehow captured the first plane’s hit and were replaying it. The whole scenario still seems unreal somehow; unless of course, it was your family member, friend, co-worker, or city that got hit.

It seemed strangely unnerving, that life in Minnesota was going on as usual. That morning I left the house and picked up my friend’s dad to take him for a radiation treatment in St. Paul. As he received his treatment, I sat in the waiting room hearing more news. Two more planes had crashed – all others had been ordered to land at the nearest airport. He and I, of course, talked about it on the way home though I’m sure I had nothing profound to say.

I arrived back at my house to a phone call from my dad – knowing I’d be safe, but wanting to hear for himself. He was actually on a plane in California, buckled in and ready to take-off, when everyone was asked to return to the terminal and then out of the building. My brother, too, had recently landed in Salt Lake City where he was to meet up with my dad to fly out east for a golf tournament. At that moment, on the phone with my dad, it all seemed too much. I lost it.

At some point I checked in with my own kids. Adam was at college – I assumed he was safe. Scott was in high school – not much danger there; at least not from suicidal terrorists. And Paul, well that was another story. He is a pilot and I never really know where he is unless I’m with him. Thankfully, he wasn’t flying on that fateful day.

I also called my nephew to wish him a “Happy 3rd Birthday.” Like I said, life seemed unnervingly normal.

I had it easy on September 11, 2001; I knew, or could find out quickly, that my family was safe. For others, there would be waiting; some would wait for hours, some for days and others for weeks. And many, too many, would never see their family members, or friends, again.

There are two images from 9/11 that will forever stick in my mind. Of the thousands of images that have been shown over the years, I find it odd that only two have emblazoned themselves into my brain. The first image is that of President George Bush sitting in the classroom reading to a room full of students and hearing the news from an aide. What should have been a fun morning for the president quickly turned into a nightmare. I’ve often wondered how the horror of that moment was explained to those young students upon President Bush’s quick exit.

The second image that stays with me is of a man I’ll never know, running for his life away from the Trade Center, so covered in ashes that he was nearly unrecognizable. The terror on his face is one I hope never to know.

I’m sure you have your own memories from that Tuesday morning. It’s a day that changed the world and how we function in it. It was a day filled with loss. But, it was also a day when heroes were born; strangers became friends and neighbors helped neighbors; people discovered a strength they never knew they had, and we all realized that regardless of income levels, race, or status, every person is important. It’s a lesson I hope we don’t forget, but fear we already have.

To those who lost family or friends ten years ago my heart still hurts for you. I am praying today for your hearts. To those who still live with nightmares, I pray for you, too. And for those who, like me, were relatively unscathed that day, I pray we’ll never forget.