Monday, September 24, 2018

The Children of Moldova


Moldova is the European country that no one’s ever heard of, nestled between Romania and the Ukraine. It’s also the poorest country in Europe. According to statistics announced in a BBC News report, one in six adults in the Republic of Moldova has left to work abroad. About 100,000 children grow up without at least one of their parents. And at least 30,000 of these children grow up without either of their parents.

“These children are more vulnerable, psychologically and socially,” says psychologist Zina Bolea. “They can be more easily manipulated and abused – sometimes sexually – and they don’t know where to apply for help when in need.” Desperate and unemployed, the women and children of Moldova often fall prey to prostitution and forced labour. Moldovan women and children are amongst the most trafficked people in the world.

In the summer of 2009 and 2010, a Salvation Army children’s summer camp organized games, crafts, and singing activities for about 120 children aged 7-14. Sharing God’s love gave the children some much needed love and attention and painted a picture of the potential each young person has. The team saw a dramatic change in many of the boys and girls and absolutely believe that the work they did will eventually contribute to a significant reduction in the number of children at risk.

The money that the team raises covers not only their travel costs but also provides craft supplies, sports equipment, and supports the running costs of the camp. Daily camp activities with the children includes any/all of the following: team sports, nature walks/hikes, Bible studies/daily devotions, age-appropriate crafts, group meals, music, singing, drama, cultural dancing, evening bonfires and friendly team competitions.

2010 Moldova Summer Camp Report 

Moldova doesn’t make the headlines. Most people wouldn’t even be able to locate it on a map. But this tiny ex-Soviet nation is Europe’s poorest country. Unemployment is so high that people are emigrating at an alarming rate in order to find work abroad, and it’s the children who are often left vulnerable to the consequences. Abuse, violence, and the risk of being illegally trafficked into the sex trade are very real threats being faced by Moldova’s young people every single day.

This summer our team of 9 travelled with Global Action to Moldova to run a summer camp for some of these children, in partnership with the Salvation Army. Knowing some of the stresses and everyday challenges the children were facing, we wanted to give them a warm, loving, action-packed and laughter-filled camp experience that they would never forget. But we also knew that no amount of fun would ever be enough to end the cycles of poverty, abuse, and neglect that are threatening the hope and future of an entire generation. We felt completely convicted by God that if there is enough power in the name of Jesus to raise the dead then there has to be enough power in the name of Jesus to reclaim a generation and set them free, no matter how dark the threats against them might seem. So we set out not just to run a summer camp programme, but to introduce the children to Jesus and proclaim loudly the truth about who He is and good plans He has for each of their lives.

The first thing you need to know is that the camp wasn’t going to happen. Most people are so unaware of the issues in Moldova that it’s difficult to raise support for a project like this, and Global Action was struggling to recruit a team and find the finances required. They decided to withdraw their involvement.

God, however, had other plans.

One by one people began to hear and respond to His calling to join the team. One by one people began to hear and respond to His calling to send financial support.  One by one people began to hear and respond to His prompts to pray.

So on July 27th a full team, with suitcases full of craft supplies and sports equipment, hearts full of hope and expectation, and with all their support fully raised, boarded some tiny and slightly shoddy looking aircrafts… on their way to Moldova!

Words aren’t big enough to summarize what God did at the camp, in the lives of both the children and in us as a team.  There are, however some lasting memories. At times, we could see we were doing exactly what God had called us there to do – watching the children soften and respond to our offers of friendship, shrieking with laughter as we played camp-wide games, snuggling up close to watch a film. We saw the majority of children choose to respond to an invitation to follow Jesus and experienced a powerful ministry time as they came forward the following day to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

At other times, it was difficult to persevere.  The hot muggy weather left us feeling exhausted, our carefully planned programme needed to be constantly readjusted, and the children could be whiny and demanding. One of our team members was taken to hospital with a suspected broken wrist and coccyx and each of us were facing personal challenges as we came face to face with our own insecurities and tried to process some of the emotions we were experiencing.

About 6 days in, when the challenges and frustrations were really starting to take their toll on us, something happened to lift our eyes again and remind us again of why we were really there.

The camp facilities we use are large enough to accommodate more than one group at a time, and one morning a group of women arrived. These were women who had been rescued from sex traffickers. It was like an emotional kick in the gut to see such broken women. I think I expected them to be like frightened, vulnerable kittens.  Instead their brokenness was painted across them; they carried their pain throughout their entire bodies and you could almost visibly see the burdens they carried on their shoulders. Many were missing teeth and one girl had cigarette burns across her back.

The youngest girl in their group was 15. Our eldest was 14.

It was like holding up two pictures, side by side. One of innocence, youth, life, and laughter. The other of destruction and devastation. It hurt to look at.

But we looked. A righteous anger returned. This was not going to happen to our girls. And our boys were not going to become the sort of men who could do this to another human being.

I think this was a real turning point in the camp, for many of us. A new wave of passion and determination washed over us and we felt a second wind of energy and love for the children which helped us to dive back in to the camp experience. Resume the constant games of UNO, water fights, and British Bulldog knowing that even these seemingly small things were contributing to an experience that was going to change lives. Resume the sewing projects, friendship bracelets, and getting covered in glitter glue knowing it was for the glory of the God who is capable of infinitely more than we can hope or imagine.

On the last night we had the children stand in a large circle. We gave them Bibles, prayed for them, and anointed them with oil. A heavenly hush settled over the place – imagine 120 children completely silent… that’s a miracle in itself! As we anointed the children we proclaimed “this one belongs to Christ” and the Holy Spirit fell in a powerful way. Even the toughest of children who we hadn’t really been able to engage very well throughout the week were brought to tears as the presence of God increased. There’s no way to adequately describe what happened next, but as we continued to pray the sky turned an unnatural orange/gold colour. It wasn’t a normal sunset or exceptionally bright day – the entire sky was glowing. The air around us began to glow, as well, and we felt enveloped in thick light and peace and love.

There was no doubt in any of our minds that this was the glory of God and that something very big and important was happening. Ephesians 6:12 says that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. It seems like there is a very dark attack resting on an entire generation right now in Moldova; a generation made up of children who are left feeling rejected by their parents or who are a product of rape. The human eye sees no hope or future for them. But on that last night of camp something shifted.

People said the iron curtain would never fall. But people prayed and watched it fall. People said apartheid in South Africa would never end. But people prayed and watched things change.

Moldova’s too poor? The problem of sex trafficking is too big and complicated? The challenges faced by the children in Moldova are too overwhelming? We must pray. 

2009 Moldova Summer Camp Team