I’ve mentioned in previous posts I spent the summer of 2005 in the tiny Eastern European country of Moldova. I was there on a solo mission partly to earn credit for my masters degree in missions and partly to lead a high school short-term missions trip for the church I was working for at the time. During the 2 weeks the high school students from Boston, MA were with me in Moldova, we spent most of our time living at an orphanage in the middle of the beautiful countryside.
By the time I was in Moldova, I had been on similar short-term missions trips to Mexico a handful of times and had been to Congo, Kinshasa in Sub-Saharan Africa. Needless to say I had seen poverty before. However, spending those 6 or 7 days in that remote Moldovan orphanage opened my eyes to a new level of poverty I had not yet experienced. I’ve thought a lot about why there was a noticeable difference between the places I had been and the place I was in Moldova. I’ve come to believe the difference to be that while in Mexico and in Congo, Kinshasa, I was a bystander. I was an onlooker to the poverty. I was a spectator to the mess and not part of it.
But in Moldova, at this orphanage, I lived among them, in their subhuman conditions for that week. Rather than arrive, shake some kids hands, give others hugs, snap a few photos and leave, the Boston high school students and myself stayed.
Moldova has a high number of orphans due to the countries poverty. The simple fact is parents do not make enough money to support their own children. They have no other choice but to send them to an orphanage. The government pours very little resources into these orphanages leaving hundreds of children in the care of 2 of 3 adults who don’t know what its like to have a day off.
This particular orphanage was over crowded with some of the neediest children I’ve ever met. Due to a high rate of alcoholism among Moldovans, deformities and mental disabilities run rapid among the children. The first child I shook hands with when we arrived was missing 2 fingers on his right hand. Others had severe mental handicaps and needs that were unmet.
The warn-out, thin mattress I laid my head on every night was soaked in urine. The facility turned the water tower on for showers once a week. And even then, it was a light trickle of pure cold. The single course for the day was potato soup (simply boiled potatoes in water) on days when the potato farm had enough potatoes.
During my 2 month stay in Moldova, I was hosted by a group of girls who had grown up together in an orphanage. They were all teenagers and had lived together in an orphanage in the city for most of their lives (This orphanage was funded by an American organization and the conditions were much more civilized). These girls remain close friends of mine and we keep in touch often. Five of them are now in the US between North Carolina and Georgia while 2 remain in Moldova.