On Thursday I'll be travelling down to London to meet the team that I'll be co-leading to Moldova. We're leaving on Friday. (For more about Moldova, look here).
It's a strange prospect thinking about returning to Moldova this time round. Part of me will leave with a heavy heart. Some of you will know that my wife, Linda, yesterday had an operation on her right hip. She won't be out of hospital by the time I leave. Part of me is somewhat anxious: we're leading a large team (23 in total) - there are plenty of potential hiccoughs both in travelling to Moldova and in maintaining team unity. Part of me can't wait to get back to a country that has a very strong emotional place in my mind.
Our trip will last three weeks. It will take over 24 hours for the team to travel to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. We'll fly out to Bucharest in Romania early on Friday morning. We'll then face the joy of an overnight sleeper train into Moldova (it's actually quite fun)! But please pray for safe travel for both people and baggage - it will make the trip even harder if things go wrong here.
From Saturday until Thursday, we'll spend time as a time in orientation in Chisinau. We'll be hoping that the team will get to know each other, find out a bit more about Moldovan culture, have some Romanian lessons, learn about God's plan for evangelism and prepare Bible studies from Mark's Gospel. It's an intense and often a quite stretching time for team members. Pray that it's a significant and fruitful week spiritually, and that all team members get to know and love Jesus more through the studies in Mark.
The focus of the trip is the English and Bible Camp, that will run from 10th-19th July. This year, about 75 Moldovans are expected, two-thirds of them not Christian. Most of them will have read little or nothing from the Bible. The team's job is to teach English classes and to lead the Bible studies for everyone. Previously I found the camp exhausting and very tough, emotionally and physically, but loads of fun! Pray for good relationships across languages, plenty of fun, strength and stamina, and clear gospel teaching. Pray that Christians grow in love for Jesus, and non-Christians repent and believe the good news as they meet Jesus in Mark's Gospel.
After the camp, British students stay in a Moldovan student's family home (a brilliant highlight of the trip). There's then a debrief period ... and long journey home to Britain with plenty of sleep!
I've written before about many of the struggles that the country of Moldova faces. And it certainly won't be a holiday for the team of us that head out there. One of the things that I found very different is the very different spiritual climate there. In some ways it's very hard: there's not very much hope in a country that has no obvious way of getting better. It's refreshing in that the Moldovans are keen to hear God's word - little or no apologetics is needed in persuading them that the Bible really is the word of God. The challenge for Moldovans listening to Scripture is its message: particularly, in a meritocratic ex-Soviet state, the idea that God wants to give you something, that you can't pay him back ... and that it's OK that you can't pay him back.
The trip could be massively significant for all those involved. Please pray God does some open heart surgery on all whilst we're out there. I'll try to post from Moldova - but there may be no chance. Please keep praying regardless!