Moldova Trip February 16-28, 2015

On Monday February 16, Clair Leaman took Jim Ranck, Angela Zimmerman and I to the Newark Liberty Airport, where we flew to Munich before arriving in Chisinau at noon on Tuesday. Ghena Russo picked us up, and because we had so much luggage, Jim and I took a taxi, while Angela traveled with Ghena to his home. We went to Oliva for lunch, stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things, and went back to Ghena’s for some rest before eating supper with Ghena and Alina.

After breakfast Wednesday morning, Angela and I went with Ghena to Invest Credit, while Jim waited for Michael Caraivan to pick him up and take him to Vadul Lui Isac, where they were going to do some seminars the rest of the week. Angela and I will be doing seminars for Ghena’s clients who are growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in greenhouses.

Ghena and I met to discuss the next steps in importing seeds from the US. The vision is to start up a company that will be responsible for the registering, importing, testing, and distribution of American genetics, testing and proving those that are superior to what the Moldovans have available to them. Many of the Moldovan seed varieties are of very low quality, and of questionable origin. There are some Holland varieties available, which are usually good seeds, with good genetics and quality.

Angela met with Horia Nedelciuc, who did the translations to the presentations for the seminars. They went thru each slide, making sure that he understood the terminology and was able to correctly translate what was trying to be communicated. One of the more interesting things that needed to be corrected was our reference to “liming the fields”, which is what we call spreading calcium carbonate from limestone, to adjust soil ph. He explained that most Moldovans were more familiar with lemons than limes, and was trying to understand why one would apply citrus juice to the soil.

We spent the morning and early afternoon at Invest Credit, working on our presentations, as Ghena was tied up in meetings. He then took us back to his place, where Angela and I had a late lunch, again at Oliva’s. Oliva’s is a new restaurant close to Ghena and Alina’s, very nice, and with my limited Romanian and the limited English of the waiters, have been able to make out quite nicely on our own. We stopped again at the grocery store and picked thru the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, finding examples of good and poor quality vegetables that we will use as examples in our presentations the next couple days.

In the evening Ghena and I met with Vasile Nedelciuc, the vice-president of Endava, an UK investment company, with offices in Chisinau. Vasile was a Member of Parliament for many years, and so knows many people in the Ministry of Agriculture who will be able to help us, and pave the way for the importation of seeds and other agricultural inputs. He is also very much interested in partnering with us in the development of an import and distribution company.

Moldova is going thru a very difficult time right now, with the falling Russian ruble and the strengthing American Dollar. The Moldovan lei has devalued over 30 percent in the last couple of weeks, and we saw people crowding the stores, choosing to buy goods rather than losing the buying power of their money.

On Wednesday, Moldova did elect a Prime Minister, not the beloved former Prime Minister most people had hoped would be re-elected, but at least there is a Prime Minister. Hopefully that will bring some stability to the country. But the situation is very unsettled, as mortgages and most loans are in Dollars or Euros, so that people converting their wages paid in lei to US Dollars are having a very hard time being able to make their payments.

Thursday morning Angela and I spent polishing our presentations, and then Ghena picked us up right after lunch to take us to our first seminars in the village of Pirita. There were 7 women and 1 man at the seminar, ranging from very experienced to moderately experienced.  It was interesting to see the dynamic of the group, with 2 of the women domineering the conversations, and neither Angela or Horia, the translator, being the type to take control.

It was a good experience for us, as we gained greater understanding of their practices, what they are able to do with the equipment they have, what types of products they are using, ect. The seminar certainly was lively, with lots of questions and discussions. Angela probably wasn’t able to do 20% of her presentation, but we learned of fact sheets that would be valuable to create for the producers here. Also, there is much teaching of principles that are needed, as they focus more on the method than understanding how things work. All in all, it was a very profitable seminar.

We ate supper at home, having done some grocery shopping on Tuesday afternoon. It was good to be able to relax and get more acclimated to the time change.

Friday morning Angela and I spent some more time making adjustments to presentations. We took a walk to get some US dollars changed to lei, and then went to some shops where Angela was able to buy some supplies, and we shopped for some goodies and souvenirs to take home. Back to Ghena’s for lunch, and then Ghena picked us up at 1:30 to take us to our next seminar.

Friday’s seminar, in the village of Dubasari Vechi, was very well attended with 30 people, 18 women and 12 men. With Angela and Horia a little more comfortable with going thru the presentation. Angela also had included a few more slides that addressed local questions a lot more specifically. The response was good, and we will continue to refine our presentations, and provide handouts that address their issues.

On Saturday morning I met Jeff Owens and Dave Spangler from World Team at McDonalds for a cup of coffee, and a time of getting to know each other and learning about our ministries in Moldova. This is the first time that I really got to talk to Jeff, and we had a great time sharing vision, and discussing how our ministries can support each other. World Team is trying to help the pastors they are training to find a means of supporting themselves, and agriculture represents some opportunities in a variety of ventures that they could pursue.

Michael and Jim picked us up at Ghena’s about 11:30 and we stopped at McDonald’s due to Michael having a Big Mac Attack. After a quick lunch, we headed south so that we could be at Vadul Lui Isac for another greenhouse presentation late afternoon. It was another great seminar, and I also had the time to spend with Ion Semeret, going over the results of his soil sample I had taken last year.

Ion is doing a very good job, and it’s been rewarding to see his progress since we started working with him 11 years ago. We had helped him financially last year to be able to buy his seed, fertilizer and herbicide needs. He said his wife, Elena, wasn’t happy with how much fertilizer he put on his fields, until he harvested near record yields of sunflower. He harvested 3 metric tones per hectare, 1 is average and 2 is good. So she was very happy Ion followed our suggestions on how much to use.

Ion is also interested in starting a greenhouse. He is looking to find something less physically demanding to replace his flock of sheep. He does a good job with raising some vegetables in the field, but would like to have a more intensive, controlled growing system. We are going to explore how we can help him – I would like to see him put in a better system than most growers in the area are using, one that has ventilation, drip irrigation and fertilization. He was hoping to build something this spring, but I think it would benefit him to spend some time looking at various systems to find what is best for what he wants to do.

It was about 7:30 until we got back to Michaels, where Angelica had one of her feasts prepared for us. We had a great time catching up, and with everyone being exhausted, we all headed for bed soon after 9 pm.

Sunday morning was another beautiful day, and we had a relaxing morning before heading for the10 am church service. It was good for me to be able to just sit and enjoy the service, Michael getting me out of needing to be speaking in some village. With our extremely busy schedule on this trip, it was nice to have this break. After another of Angelica’s wonderful lunches, I was able to spend a couple of hours with Roman and Claudia Cheptene working on websites for Dancu, Fair Haven Camp and AgConnect.

Sunday afternoon Jim, Michael and Angelica met with a family in the village who are raising pigs. They spent the afternoon and early evening with them, giving them much needed advice on how to better raise their pigs. The evening service started at 4 pm, and after an hour of some excellent special music, I brought the message. It’s becoming a tradition afterward to go to Alex and Elena Pascal’s for supper. We had a great time eating, sharing, visiting and laughing. It was nearly 10 pm before we for home.

Monday morning seminar was in was in Chisillia, where there were 85 people who came to hear Jim give his presentation on pigs. I wasn’t on the schedule, but ended up giving the corn presentation. They had prepared lunch for us, and we enjoyed eating and visiting with the pastor before heading for our afternoon seminar.

There were about 30 people in attendance at the greenhouse seminar in Burlaca, and after Angela spent 2 hours talking about growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumber’s I was asked to give the corn presentation. So we spent another 1½ hours, and still had more questions than we had time to answer.

We rushed back to Vadul Lui Isac in time to be about an hour late for the Youth Meeting, where they were finishing up their worship time. A few minutes after we arrived, I spoke to the youth, and with many discussions afterward, it was 9 pm before we got back to Michaels for a late supper.

Tuesday morning was cold and wet, so we had a nice crowd of 45 people at the seminar in Slobozia Mare. Again, I did a presentation on growing corn, and we had a very nice time eating lunch and visiting with Pastor Nicholae and his family.

Then it was to the very south border village of Gluglulesti, where another 40 plus people listened to 2 hours of talking about growing corn. Some of the people wanted to hear about raising pigs, so Jim did a quick presentation. On the way home we stopped at Michael’s widowed sister-in-law’s house where he needed to change a leaking kitchen faucet.

While we were there, we discovered that the hot water heater hasn’t been working since the beginning of the year. Michael was able to show Ema how to manually work the heater long enough for them to take a hot shower, before she needs to shut it down until the next time they need hot water. The heater is old, and the parts needed to fix it are hard to find, and more expensive than it’s worth.

Jim and I quickly agreed that this was a need to be met immediately, and after some discussion Jim decided that he would be responsible for finding the funds to purchase and install a new water heater. There are so many situations like this in Moldova, and while we can’t meet every need, we do what we can for those that we are able to.

We were only 2 hours late for supper, getting back home at 9 pm. Angelica wasn’t real happy, and kept calling Michael to see when we were getting home to enjoy another of her delicious supper’s. People who are so hungry for help and information are exhausting everybody with the schedule, and the inevitable extra demands of our time. It was after 10 pm when we finished supper and most of us went directly to bed.

We were able to eat a later breakfast Wednesday morning since our seminar was only about 15 minutes away. Michael commented that the schedule looked so much easier on paper than it was turning out to be. I had been telling him that Pastor Andre had been trying to pack too much into this trip, since there is no extra time to be able to address things that keep coming up. This always happens, we know it, try to account for it, but can’t always meet the needs that are presented to us. With this particular trip, we are packing a lot of seminars into a very short time, and knew ahead of time that we were going to be faced with this dilemma.

There were about 60 people who attended the seminar in Brinza, where Angela did a greenhouse presentation. Greenhouses are a way for people to be able to have some income in their limited space. It is one of the areas that we are focusing on to be able to have a positive impact quickly on people’s lives. One of my prayers has been to be able to have an experienced person spend an extended time in Moldova working closely with greenhouse growers. This is a big undertaking for us, but I believe it will return widespread results quicker than any single thing we can do.

Both Jim and I gave short presentations, as there were people who attended who wanted information on growing corn and pigs. Like at each seminar, afterwards we pass out our Practical Farming and Gardening booklet that AgriService Moldova put together, along with a package of 7 different kinds of garden seeds, to each individual. People are so grateful for the information and the seeds that we are providing for them.

The seminar in Valeni was at 3 pm so that Michael and Angelica can get to the weekly Family Seminar that they have been holding in the Cahul area. I gave another corn growing presentation, this being one of the most requested seminars at this time. There were about 70 attending, and we are quickly running out of material that we have been handing out.

It was nice to be able to be back at Michaels early in the evening and spend some time catching our breath. Michael’s sister Claudia came and prepared supper for us, and I was able to spend quite a bit of time with Roman and Claudia, working on several websites AgConnect Ministries is having them design for Charitable Organizations that don’t have the funds to do themselves. This a way that AgConnect can both provide a much needed service to others, and provide an income to a Christian family in Moldova that is so vital for them to be able to stay together as a family in Moldova. So many people want to leave the country as soon as they can, and we are trying to find ways to support those who desire to stay and be a positive influence in their church, community and country.

Thursday morning’s seminar in Colibasi had about 45 people who came for Angela’s greenhouse presentation, and Jim and I also gave presentations on growing pigs and corn The afternoon presentation in Crihana had about 30 people who wanted to learn about growing corn, and Jim was able to give a short presentation on pigs. We were able to make it back to Vadul Lui Isac before 7 pm. Everyone’s exhausted, our voices are wearing out, and we all have been fighting colds. We did go to church to catch the end of the service, mainly because we wanted another opportunity to visit with friends, and say our good-byes. We had supper about 8 pm, and Elena Pascal joined us, and we spent quite a bit of time sharing after supper, so it was after 10 until we got to bed.

Friday morning’s seminar in Gotesti had about 60-65 people, mostly non-believers. The pastor there had done an excellent job using this seminar as a way to get many people from the village inside the church for the very first time. I gave a presentation on Basic Animal Care, before Jim shared a short presentation on growing pigs.

After eating lunch with the pastor, we visited Igor and Vera Costeleanu. They currently have 6 cows, 2 of which just calved, so milk production is just starting to increase. They have been able to sell all of their dairy products, being able to get about a 25% premium for their products over other products available. Igor said there is always a line of people waiting for them when they get to the market, and often they don’t have enough to meet the demand.

Igor presented us with an opportunity that he has to participate in a government program to buy dairy cows from Poland. He would like to increase his dairy herd to about 20 cows, which means that he would need to find a new place to have his farm. I told him I would check into the program for him, to see if it is even a possibility. Also, I would help him to develop a business plan, to see if it is even a viable proposition. They continue to work extremely hard, and are making a difference in their church and community.

We stopped in Cahul to purchase the water heater for Michael’s sister-in-law, and the new furnace for the kindergarten. We were able to make it back home to Michael’s by 5 pm, where we started packing our bags for home, before having another of Angelica’s great suppers. Brother Andre joined us, and we spent quite a lot of time discussing how the seminars went.

It is obvious that we need to have fewer seminars with more time at each one for more in-depth discussion, and to be better able to answer all of the questions that people have. We would like to be able to have several villages come to one seminar, and be able to cover several different topics at each one, as there have always been people who are interested in all of the areas that we had information to share.

I also made a survey for each of the pastors to complete about the seminars to get some feedback on their perspective on the effectiveness of the presentations, and how we might be able to improve them. It is our desire to be able to provide the most beneficial help possible.

In 9 days we had 25 presentations in 16 villages, reaching approximately 800 people. We passed out our Practical Farming and Gardening booklet to each person, as well as a bag containing 7 different garden seeds. Everyone who received one, as they have very little information available to them, appreciated this and the seeds will be a great help raising food for their families.

While it was an exhausting trip, it was rewarding to be able to impact so many people in a relatively short period of time. With the uncertain times that Moldova is facing, economically and politically, anything that we can do to improve their lives will make it easier for them to face the future. And it is a way that we can share God’s love in a very practical way.

Michael took us to the airport Saturday morning where we were able to meet with Igor Hmelic for a short time. Igor showed us the pictures of his son, who was born in the same room as the son they lost 8 years ago. It was good to be able to visit with him, as we don’t have nearly as much contact with him as we have had in the past.

Our flights home were uneventful, and my brother Karl picked us up at the Newark Liberty airport. It was one of the easiest entries we’ve had on one of our trips, taking only about 30 minutes from the time we landed, making it thru passport, baggage claim and customs. We made it back to Bellevue Ave, Gap, PA by 10 pm, where we welcomed back by the cold weather we had left behind 12 days earlier.

Thanks for the many prayers on our behalf. The prayers of God’s people make the way smoother for us, and increase the impact of our ministry, as we strive to be faithful to the calling God has placed on each of our lives.


Leslie D. Yoder

March 1, 2015