Moldova Trip October 2014

I arrived in Chisinau shortly after noon on Wednesday October 1, coming from a 4-day trip in Bulgaria for Cover Crop Solutions. Michael picked me up at the airport, and after a quick lunch at McDonalds, we met with Teodor Botan, director of Agrodor Success.

I met Teodor the last time I was in Moldova, in May. At the last meeting, we quickly developed a relationship that I believe will grow stronger as time goes on. Agrodor Success is a very progressive Farm Supply organization, specializing in irrigation systems, specialized farm equipment, vineyard establishment and programs, seeds and soil and crop amendments. They have a desire to start a gardening center, and are very much interested in becoming an agent that distributes products and technologies that I am trying to introduce from the US.

Working together this summer, we were able to import the first pallet of Tillage Radish into Moldova, to be used by one of his clients, Feodor Ianioglo. Because it has been so dry the past couple of months, Feodor only planted small acreage of Tillage Radish, and Teodor put out some demonstration plots at his place also. So the very first Tillage Radish is just starting to emerge from the ground of Moldova.

We spent several hours planning our strategies to continue to build this relationship. When I first met him, I quickly realized that this could be the man to partner with to develop the business side of AgConnect Ministries in Moldova. The vision has been to create business opportunities that would be able to bring the much needed resources to this part of the world, provide profitable enterprises that build the infra structure that is lacking in Moldova, and improve the over-all agricultural climate of Moldova.

It was a very profitable meeting, knowing that we face a lot of challenges, and it will take time to develop this. But we are making progress, and just getting forward movement is encouraging us to believe that momentum will only increase. We plan to meet again Tuesday Morning for a quick cup of coffee just before I hope on the plane to return to the US.

Michael and I ate supper in Chisinau, and then spent some time looking a cell phones and plans for him, and for some others. We then went to Valarie and Maricica Belous’ house, where we will be staying for 2 nights before returning to Michaels house. It was good to hear about their trip to the US this summer, and how God re-affirmed their calling to Moldova, in spite of family and ministry opportunities in the US. They are a rarity in Moldova, as many pastors leave the country for more lucrative opportunities, finding it very difficult to support themselves and their families in Moldova.

Thursday morning we traveled north to Iablona to visit the No-Till project there. Nicholai Curecheru continues to do an excellent job with the farming project, and also is growing the window and door manufacturing and installation business. The No-Till project is looking excellent, corn wasn’t harvested yet, but almost every stalk had 2 well-formed ears on it, and yields look to be very, very good. Nicolai did a very good job with weed control this year, and it is evident in the crop response.

The watermelons didn’t yield as well as last year, but the price was extremely good due to the dry weather that hurt yields, so income was actually better than last year. He also said there is a new young person over-seeing the hog production, and is not the manager that his former person was. There will need to be some better supervision, as the new crop of piglets aren’t doing as well as they have historically done, but the older hogs look excellent.

We also had the chance to meet with Slavic Aftinescu, the director of Tabita, the old folks home, that are supported by the farm. The problems with the new addition have been fixed, and they are starting to fill those rooms. Also, a new well has been dug, and water is not being supplied to the home. There still needs to be some plumbing that needs to be finished to connect all of the filters and tanks. The well is 253 meters deep, and they pumped water continuously for 3 days  – pumping almost 2,000 gallons per hour the entire time – and never lowered the water level in the well. This may provide a water source for the village in the future.

Friday morning Michael and I first visited the cell phone provider to make changes to Michael’s plan, and to purchase a new phone for Ema Pascal. We then went to Fed-Ex and shipped the first-ever soil samples from Moldova to Woods End Labs in Mt. Vernon Maine. This will give me an accurate look at various soils in the country, to better advise growers on their fertility programs. We then spent some time with ASM’s accountant, Tatiana, to talk about reporting issues that she had, and to find ways to account for cash expenditures on visits to Moldova.

We traveled to Dancu, and ate lunch with Dimitru Caravenco and Slavic Duman. We then toured the projects, seeing the new – 1997 – combine, the dairy and cheese making operation, and saw the awesome response of the American corn genetics they were able to get into the country when they visited in March. Thanks to Taylor Doebler from TA Seeds for donating the 5 kg of seed. Dimitru said how the customs officers were so concerned about the amount of watches –about 15- they were bringing into the country as gifts for their workers, that they never dug deeper in their luggage to find the seed corn. He just wishes he had 100 hectares of that corn planted this year – a project I am working on.

The No-Till sunflowers got off to a great start, but a grass problem along with no rain since May resulted in a disappointing crop. They still got a better yield than most in the region. Another sunflower field that they No-Tilled did very well, as they did not have the weed control issue in that field. They planted a little bit of corn, with no fertilizer in the same field, and got zero yields.

This year just highlights the urgency of completing the Irrigation Project. They have about half of the resources committed to purchase the necessary equipment, but still need about $40,000 to be able to complete the project. They also need to purchase corn and sunflower heads for the combine, so the needs for their Association in great. They also shared they are coming under attack from a Moldovan pastor from the US who has been spreading lies about the work there, telling people not to support their work. Pray for them, and for us, as we plan to address this issue when Slavic comes to the US early next year.

We then travel south to Michael’s house, arriving about 8:30, eating supper and then, for me, going to bed. While I am a morning person, I was happy to not have to make an early start the next morning, as I hadn’t been able to average more than 4-5 hours of sleep a night, starting with traveling to Bulgaria the previous Friday.

Our plan to visit our project in Gotesti was delayed Saturday morning, due to the death of Michael’s uncle during the night. I told Michael that family comes first, so we gathered lots of food, piled the car full of relatives, and spent some time with the family. I joined Michael and Angelica in sitting with the family for a time, and it was interesting to see some of the traditions that are part of the Orthodox religion.

Michael’s uncle was dressed in his best, laid in a shallow coffin, a bowl of some type of porridge with a couple of candles in it at the head of the coffin, a prayer cloth on his forehead and across his legs. Mirrors in the house were covered, and bowls of fruit and plates of cookies were all around the room. While I never met his uncle or aunt before, I did know some of the other family, so to be included as family was an honor for me.

His uncle was 69 years old, and had cancer for several years. Michael talked to him many times about his salvation, and while he couldn’t communicate very well the last months, Michael had shared the plan of salvation with him again a couple of weeks prior, and his uncle seemed to respond positively. We talked about the differences in Moldovan and American funerals, and I said that in reality there weren’t a lot of differences, other than some traditions. You still paid your respects, spent time with the family, sharing memories and catching up on people’s lives, which you haven’t seen in a number of years.

While Michael and Angelica went to his parent’s house to get more food, I spent some time polishing my message for Sunday. I had something in mind before I went to Moldova, and Wednesday night Michael said that Andrie wanted me to bring the morning message for Celebrate the Harvest service. What I was planning on sharing fit into what they wanted me to talk about, so I had been jotting down thoughts for the past couple of days, and finally had some time to pull them together.

We were able to visit the project with Igor and Vera Costeleanu, as they live in the same village as Michael’s parents and uncle. This is the couple that we helped purchase their homestead, buy cows and plant a field of alfalfa. Igor and Vera are among the hardest working people you will ever meet, and what they have accomplished in the past year is incredible. When I visited them in May, Igor was trying to develop a market for their dairy products. I told him that he should have no problem building a client base, given the high quality of products they were producing. He told me, with a big smile on his face, that demand is now greater than supply, and he purchased another cow this fall, bringing the herd up to 7 milking animals.

They have expanded to 3 sows and are raising a couple more gilts to add to the herd. He also has his own boar, which he also uses to breed other people’s sows. He sold the bull calf that he was raising from his best cow, in order to purchase a breeding age bull, as the Artificial Insemination industry in Moldova is very unreliable.

There are problems with the village herdsmen that take the village cows out to pasture during the day, many times being drunk, and not moving the cows to better grazing or taking them to water. So Igor needs to feed extra feed, and is looking forward to the day that he can control all of his cows care. But it is incredible what they have been able to accomplish in the past couple of years, starting with absolutely nothing, and making a life for their family, one that is providing sufficient resources for their needs, and beyond.

Igor continues to tell how God is working in his life, to change his attitude, and his outlook on life. He and Vera are extremely grateful for the faith that we have in them, and for the way that we have been able to provide resources that have enabled them to stay together as a family in Moldova, that one of them doesn’t have to go to another country to earn money to support the family. They are truly the kind of people that we envisioned helping thru this ministry.

Saturday evening Angelica had another great meal, shared with some family who are staying over night at Michael and Angelica’s. After supper I was able to spend considerable time with Roman and Claudia Cheptene looking at the website they are designing for Dancu. Claudia had done a tremendous job, designing and setting up the website. She will finalize the project over the next couple of months, and this is a way that we can support both Dancu and the Cheptene’s.

In May I approached them about designing and administering websites for various ministries that I am connected to. I had envisioned this as a ministry that would support a Moldovan individual, while providing a much needed service to ministries that had limited resources to create new or remake existing websites, and maintain them in the future. I had asked someone I had in mind for this project, and due to their leaving Moldova to pursue other options, they suggested Roman and Claudia.

Roman and Claudia just had a son earlier this year, and so Claudia is no longer earning a salary to help support them. Roman was considering going to another country for a year or so, to earn enough money for them to survive. They are in the process of building a house on Roman’s parents land, and need the funds to complete the house, in addition to meeting their basic needs. They were just struggling with this decision in the previous weeks, and by AgConnect Ministries committing to this project, another family is able to stay intact in Moldova, and these ministries will have website needs met at a very affordable price.

Being able to find a way for Moldovans’ to support themselves, so that they can stay together as a family, and be a positive force in their churches and communities has been a priority since the day the work was first started in Moldova over 10 years ago. And while there are thousands of families facing the same dilemma, providing such an opportunity for a single family seems like a drop in the bucket, we have seen how meeting a need like this impacts many people, as they are able to help their extended family and friends.

Sunday morning was a special day for the church in Vadul Lui Isac, being Celebrate the Harvest – much like our Thanksgiving Day. A table at the front of the church was loaded with pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onion, apples, pears grapes, and anything else that was in season. There were strings of peppers lining the walls, and the entire church was decorated with colorful and tasty things.

The church was packed, special music abounded, and one of the most moving events was the children from the Kindergarten, along with their mothers, singing several songs. Only 2 of the children who attend the Kindergarten are from families in the church, and 2 of the mothers who attended Sunday morning had never been in a church service before, and were moved by how the people in the church reached out to them. This is another example of how important it is that ASM continues to find ways to support the Kindergarten.

It was a joyful morning of celebration, and after about 2 hours of primarily music, I was honored to bring the morning message. I was reminded how we are all called to The Harvest, and how one plants, and another waters, it is God who brings the increase. After the service, there was a delicious meal served by the ladies of the church. It was a beautiful day, so the crowd of about 200 people where able to sit at tables outside.

By mid-afternoon, I was able to go back to Michael and Angelicas for a time to get a much-needed nap. In the evening we all went to Alex, Elena and Ema Pascal’s for supper. Pastor Andrei and Lydia were there as well as the Messina family. We all crowded around the table for another feast, and then spent several hours talking, laughing and singing.

On Monday morning while Michael attended to some responsibilities at the regional pastors’ meeting, I visited the Kindergarten, playing with the children, talking to Elena Pascal, the director, and seeing all of the work that had been done to the facility.

There was an urgent need to repair the inside toilets, and Jim Ranck was able to solicit some funds for that project. As always, the job was much bigger than originally planned, but Brother Andrei was able to find some funds from some other sources, and they were able to completely redo the toilets, which had been unusable for years, put in new windows and doors, repaint the entire downstairs area, fixing up the room where the children take their naps, and making a room that is suitable for someone to stay in long-term.

There is still a great need to re-do the kitchen and the dining area upstairs, but we trust that God will provide the resources to do that in the near future. As I watched the children, play, eat, do their lessons, I was again reminded of the far-reaching impact of the work that is done there. Over the past 20 years that the Kindergarten has been established, probably 80 percent of the children join the Youth Group, and many have stayed, d on to join the church after they are married.

Monday afternoon Michael and I went to Cioc Midan to meet with Feodor Ianioglo, the innovative farmer I met in May. I was able to help him get Tillage Radish and some other cover crops for his farm this summer. While he elected not to plant a lot of them due to the fact that there has been no rain in his region since May, he did plant some experimental plots to evaluate the performance of the cover crops. He plans to establish some early next year, and is excited to have someone to work with that understands what he is trying to accomplish, and can help him fine-tune his program.

Monday evening I was able to join the youth for their service, and as always, was glad for the opportunity to share with them. This being the start of the new year, there were a number of new youth, so while it was good to be able to renew my relationship with the many I have come to know and love, it was special to get to know the newcomers.

We stayed around until late, and I was able to convince Andreea Iorga to play some of the music that she has been working on since Jordan showed her some techniques when he was along on the May trip. She was reluctant to play something for me, being a little shy, but when I told her I didn’t dare go home without being able to report her progress to Jordan, she willing play several pieces she has been working on. Here is a young lady with a lot of talent, and it would be great to be able to buy a guitar for her of her own, that she could continue to expand her talents.

Angelica had another feast for us when we go home, and it was after midnight before we headed to bed for a few hours of sleep, needing to leave for Chisinau before 7 am Tuesday morning. I was able to meet again with Teodor Botan for about an hour before needing to be at the airport for the flight home. Over coffee, we were able to do some work on a cover crop brochure, and talk about some new applications of cover crops. We are continuing to develop our working relationship. I was able to arrive safely home Tuesday evening where once again my generous brother Karl picked me up at the airport and drove my tired body home.

Monday night during supper, we got a call from Andrei telling us that the pastor in the church in the neighboring village of Manta was leaving in several days to take his family to the UK. He was leaving the church once again without a pastor, not being able to find enough work to support him and his family in Moldova, and having an opportunity to do so in the UK.

It was another heart-breaking example of the plight of many of the churches in Moldova – pastors leaving for opportunities elsewhere, leaving their churches without adequate leadership. I had the opportunity to bring a message in that church last year, and he had done a tremendous job, rebuilding an almost dead church into a vibrant force in their village. While I certainly understand, and am happy for them, too many of the good people are abandoning the country, because of the dismal prospects to provide an adequate living for their families. It was another stark reminder of the call that God has placed on us, to save Moldova, one person at a time.

This trip was filled with non-stop activity, not what I desire, but I was glad that I had the opportunity, and the physical strength to once again to travel to Moldova, and to monitor the progress of the projects that are being done there. God continues to call me to the work, and as I try to be faithful to the calling, I am trying to not let what sometimes seems to be a hopeless situation discourage from doing what I can with the resources He provides, and to make a difference, no matter how small it seems at the time.

Moldova, a country of 4 ½ million people, who has been claiming that 1 ½ million of the population lives outside the country. This summer they did a census, and found that there are currently less then 2 million now in Moldova. Many of the villages have unemployment of 80-90%, and there are many empty houses in many of the villages. Please pray for the country, the people, the church, and for the work of AgriService Moldova, and AgConnect Ministries.