Moldova Madness—Friday at last

It’s 4 PM in Moldova on Friday afternoon. The clock on the laptop shows Atlanta time—9:01 AM. Our friends and family back home are just beginning their days, while we’ve already put in a full one, and that after being on the job until nearly midnight last night.

The week has been jammed packed with work practically every minute, so I haven’t had time to write as I’d planned. Fortunately, cameras have flashed all week in an attempt to capture ordinary moments that would otherwise go forgotten. We’ve also stretched beyond our norms. Our individual skill sets have been put to use, overuse, and lent to others. You won’t believe the pictures; you really won’t.

The sun in Moldova wakes up somewhere around 4:30, and the distant rooster crows. No need for an alarm clock. If it weren’t for an innate sense of our having to rise to catch the van, I’m certain that we could all put in several more hours of shut-eye. The mornings have come early, and the team gathers on the lower level of our private inn for breakfast. I think we’ll all look forward to bacon and eggs next week. I must say this week is the first time in my life I’ve ever had black olives for breakfast. Other than oatmeal a couple mornings, our fare has been boiled eggs, sliced soft cheese, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, sliced oranges and bananas, a berry compote, thick fruit nectar, and instant coffee. We’ve joked that the cereal looks like all the boxes in the pantry mixed together and should be called Cocoa Fruit Flakes.

We’re rushed to hurry to finish, because our 15-passenger van pulls up right at 8:30, so we grab our bags for the day and pile in, double-up our legs in order to prevent bruised knees from the oh-so-close seat in front of us, and get ready for a bumpy ride. We even spotted a billboard that said, “Welcome to Moldova. Country of bad roads.”

After the crazy drive to the 5-story building where Meteora Community Center is housed, we shuffle in and trek up the concrete stairs. I’m reminded of a scene from Schindler’s List. The market below is up and in action; street vendors setting up their produce one next to another. Along the lane, men and women set up a cloth on the sidewalk with various items spread out in hopes of a sale—a collection of rusted wrenches, worn stuffed animals, used clothes, pots and pans. No one smiles. A faded baseball cap with “Memphis” embroidered on front hangs among others.

This morning is the sixth day in a row of this routine, and I hit my wall. Overly exhausted, not well-rested, rushed, and facing a long day ahead, my smile disappeared. I could have passed for a local. Did I mention it’s the fourth day of wearing the same olive green shorts?

We gathered in the office for a prayer before beginning, and Doc played a video of a coach giving a pep talk. Amidst all the challenges his team faced, he continually encouraged them and asked the question, “Who am I”? “I am a champion!” they shouted back. It was exactly the message I needed to hear at that moment. Regardless of how tired I was, it wasn’t about me. I wasn’t going to let down my team. I was going to reach down and pull myself out of my pity party, and do what I could to continue our project until we finished.

We’ve worked like ants in an anthill today, finalizing, finishing, building, painting, touching up, pulling off tape, cleaning, scrubbing, mopping, dusting, attaching, setting lights, and more verbs than I can even list, all to prepare the space for tonight’s teen event. Getting the main room (which is where we unloaded everything last Sunday) ready was the main goal of the Meteora staff, while our team seemed more concerned about finishing our construction project. All of this commotion has been taking place while the loudest music rehearsal you could imagine is taking place. The constant drum beat pounds while we scrub, hammer, sweep. Whenever I hear these songs back home, and I know I’ll instantly time-travel back to Moldova.

It’s just an hour now before all the teens show up. I better run back into the room and see where I’m needed next. I can’t wait to post the pictures. You won’t believe the transformation that has taken place.

We can do all things through Christ which strengthens us, even on days like this one.