Dr Shannon Perry took part in her first Freedom Challenge in 2012, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. This year, she took on another challenge - a Freedom Challenge mission trip to Moldova. Here’s her story…
Through the Kilimanjaro climb, I met Cathey Anderson, the founder of Freedom Challenge. She was an inspiration to me with her evident and vocal love of Jesus. While I have been a Christian my whole life, I had not experienced Jesus the way she appeared to and I wanted to be more like her.
When the opportunity came to travel to Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, to see where the money raised through Freedom Challenge events goes, I signed up and learned that “God has a wonderful time waiting for you.”
Roxanne Hicks, our team leader, provided vital information to prepare us for our travels and was able to give insights into what we would see and do. Our group consisted of seven women and one man from England, Scotland, Southern California, and Phoenix.
We were going to Moldova to participate in a Vulnerable Girls’ Conference in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, and were asked to prepare get-acquainted games, bring ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies, and present a short skit. Roxanne planned to distribute winter coats to the girls and asked for contributions to help pay for them. She also explained that we would be staying with a host family; that we might have to share a bed with another team member; there may be no running water; we may have to use an outdoor toilet, and it may be cold with limited heating. Languages spoken were Romanian and Russian but interpreters would be available. We were given information about the dress code: knee length or longer skirt to church and a head scarf may be required. Long pants and a dress shirt for men. No jewelry or makeup, no fingernail polish, and tattoos should be covered. Christians in Moldova dress very conservatively and use no makeup. We also received lists of common Romanian and Russian words.
A true visionary
When we arrived, Tamara, our host and a true visionary, took us to the OM headquarters where we were to stay the next few days. We stayed in dorm-like rooms, three or four to a room, with toilets and showers available in the hall. We were quite comfortable and met several other missionaries who were there for longer periods of time.
After a good night’s sleep, we had a cultural orientation and then went sightseeing in Chisinau. The next day we had a team meeting and did some decorating in the room in which the conference was to be held. When the conference started, we had some icebreaker games, a welcome and worship. Becky gave three sessions during the days of the conference: My Body, My Mind, and My Soul. In the afternoon, the girls and some others went rock climbing and tried a ropes course. Kim and I stayed back and made dozens of chocolate chip cookies. During the conference, we provided support for the missionaries who were stationed in Chisinau; we set up, cleaned, cooked, washed dishes, and did whatever needed to be done. There was always prayer before each activity.
Giving out winter coats
The final activity was providing winter coats for the girls. The vendor brought a great variety of sizes and colors of coats and the girls had a wonderful time selecting the size and color they wanted. At the end we had a group picture of all the girls in their coats.
The next day, Tamara drove us to Paicu, her home village with a population of about 400. In Tamara’s house, one large room has been converted into a church. We went to the church and sorted all the things we brought: the 35 coats of various sizes that Heather brought and which we planned to distribute to the villagers; craft supplies; school supplies; and candy.
The next morning five of us put together eight food parcels and delivered the parcels to some village women. We came back and picked up some ready-to-eat food: hot soups and bread and delivered it to several other elders. Tamara assured me herthat the needy people receive food parcels once a month for four months during winter. During the summer, the people are able to grow vegetables in their gardens so don’t need the food parcels.
After dinner, we decorated the church with flowers and balloons in preparation for a women’s evening. About 45 women and children came. We had singing, a little preaching, we introduced ourselves, then Kim, Lianne and I gave testimony. We hoped that our testimony encouraged the women. Even though we are fortunate, we also have had troubles and sorrows in our lives which we have overcome or are in the process of overcoming. We performed a silent skit and Mary explained the skit: A young woman, portrayed by Camille, was looking for salvation in all the wrong places. She drank, used drugs, sought money, and was abused. All the while Jesus (represented by Anthony) was there waiting for her. He pulled her out of her troubles and showed her that He loved her. We then did a couple of crafts and gave out prizes. After another song and snacks, we ended the very successful evening with an evaluation and prayer.
The next morning we visited the girls’ house that Tamara is constructing. The house is due to open in June, 2019, and will house 25 vulnerable girls. Next to that building was the Elderly House where eight men and eight women will be accommodated. Tamara expressed concern that winter is coming and she still needs to obtain windows for the second story and a roof before winter arrives. We gathered around and prayed fervently that Jesus would see her need and somehow enable her to secure the funds to buy the roofing supplies and windows. That evening, Tamara received word that €10,000 has been deposited in an account set up in her name by a non-Christian who did not know Tamara. We witnessed a true miracle.
Welcomed with big smiles
We went on into the country to deliver food parcels to two women who live in a remote area. Their homes have no running water and no toilet. The women have to walk quite a distance to obtain water to carry back to their homes. They also collect sticks from the forest which they use for cooking and heating their homes. Three women were there painting the interior of one of the homes; they had painted the other home the day before. They seemed happy, deriving mutual support from each other. These were my favorite people that we visited; they were industrious, welcomed us with big smiles, and seemed content in their setting although it certainly presented challenges. At 80 years of age, I was the oldest one by far in our group. Roxanne and the others had fun telling the villagers how old I am. Because of their circumstances most of the villagers look much older than they are. For example, the two villagers in the picture above are in their 60s.
We returned to the village to deliver more food parcels. We also gave out some of the coats that Heather had brought, a real blessing for the children. In the afternoon, half of us delivered food parcels and the rest of us organized crafts. To experience life in the village we rode in a horse cart, a common form of transport of goods. This ride was a first for many of us.
About a dozen children stopped by after school. They were fed, we had a craft for them, and had a Bible lesson. The nativity story was told by one of the resident missionaries using a flannel board and flannel characters. It was the most clever presentation of the story I have ever seen! At the end of the story the storyteller asked the children questions to be sure they had understood what they saw (and they did). Then they went out to play. Several of these after-school programs exist in the village.
That evening we went to a private home for a prayer meeting. These meetings occur each week. After introductions, we all began praying aloud. After some sincere and heartfelt prayers, we had a scripture reading and testimonials from three of us, then snacks.
On our final day, we drove back to Chisinau and took all the Moldovan staff out for a Moldovan feast at a local restaurant. It was a way to thank a wonderful group of women who are doing marvelous things in their ministry.
The presence of Jesus
Since I have returned home and had time to reflect on the experience, I recognize that Jesus was present with us throughout the trip. The girls at the conference shared some of their challenges and received prayers and support for their healing. The missionaries were wonderful in their ministry to these girls, to us, and to one another.
In the village, Tamara exemplifies charity and prays with and for the people who live there. She has an active prayer life, presides over the church with the help of her brother, has taken a young woman into her home, serves her community, and identifies needs. She is the most visionary person I have ever met. With her limited resources, she is building two residences: one for vulnerable girls and one for elderly men and women.
I have shared my experiences in small groups and continue to pray for Tamara and all missionaries. For the first time, I was able to pray aloud spontaneously over the telephone with and for a young man who is questioning God because of the health challenges his son has experienced since birth. I am seeking additional ways to help the family so that they do not despair.
This was a wonderful, grace-filled mission trip in which we saw blessings occur and witnessed true charity and good will in action in the missionaries “on the ground” in Moldova and the group of missionaries who participated in this trip.
Dr Shannon Perry is a nurse specializing in maternal-newborn nursing. She has taught maternity nursing and child and adolescent development courses. She is co-author of three maternity nursing textbooks and numerous articles on maternal-child topics.