I want to tell you about a friend who has begun regular visits to the Republic of Moldova, an Eastern European country that is the second smallest and the poorest of the former Soviet Union states. Her name is Marilyn Swing, and she is a sister in Christ with me at the Woodmont Hills Church in Nashville. The mayor of Nashville praises her highly for her twenty plus years of service in city government, but she has her heart in Moldova now, too.
Increasingly as the world becomes “smaller” with transportation and more short-term mission opportunities, we find ourselves in the position of Marilyn, longing to serve both the people in our locale but also in places far away as Moldova is from Nashville.
Below is an excerpt from her latest letter. Our small group plans to help them with some of the items she’s requesting for orphans to span the long freezing winter. I’m asking you to either explore this effort or find a mission locally that you can help this winter.
Pictured: Marilyn Swing and one of the orphans she serves in Moldova
From Marilyn Swing . . .
I was part of a mission team led by San Antonio-based Children’s Emergency Relief International to work with orphans in a summer camp program. (The state-run orphanages are closed in the Summer for lack of government funding. Children are sent to rustic camps around the country and cared for by unpaid staff for the season.)
My time in Moldova was spent with 175 orphaned children at a camp near the capital city of Chisinau. I was welcomed at camp each morning by dozens of smiling faces and the open arms of sweet children whose entire worldly possessions were stored in a small box under their beds but who freely offered their most treasured possessions to me as an expression of love and friendship.
The days at camp were filled with soccer and volleyball, crafts, singing, hygiene sessions, praise-and-worship services, and Bible lessons–and there was also a good amount of “down time” to relax with the children and talk about the things that were on their tender young hearts. They wanted to hear about America — our favorite pastimes, the names of our pets, the kinds of activities that American families enjoy together– and they asked challenging questions about their future, my faith, and how Jesus could be the answer to the overwhelming issues they will face for the rest of their lives.
It was heart-breaking to hear so many of the children tell me that they had no parents, or that they had been left at the orphanage by a parent and were hoping for that parent’s return, even after 6-7 years. To have children ask if they could call me “mother” because they had no parent reinforced in me the importance of my work there and the significance of helping these little souls learn about Jesus as the only true hope they will ever have in the dire circumstances of this impoverished country. I spent every waking hour talking with, listening to, being interested in, and loving these inquisitive, creative, beautiful children whose sole daily support system–except for an occasional kindness from tired, very overworked teachers– is their fellow orphans.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the orphan population in Moldova has doubled — parents leave the country to find employment, they fall into a life of alcoholism or crime, or they die at an early age because of poor health and unsanitary living conditions. The children are left behind, abandoned and alone.
The Moldovan government provides little more to these children than basic housing and a limited education at the orphanage. The children are furnished no coats, hats or gloves to survive winters in a country located at the latitude of Minnesota. Each year a child is given two shirts, a pair of pants, and one pair of socks; every TWO years the government will give each a pair of shoes.
Many of the children sleep two to a bed–narrow, old metal World War II army cots with only a blanket or a thin, dirty mattress between the rusty springs and the child. Last year a team member began a bed-building project called Sweet Sleep. The men on our trip built 60 new beds while we were there in August in a skills-building and Christian mentoring effort with the older boys at the orphanage. The sixty children receiving new beds and bedding were ecstatic: Sanda, one of the young girls, upon seeing her new bed, exclaimed “You brought a rainbow to everyone who got such a nice bed!”
I will be returning to Moldova on January 3rd to celebrate the Christmas holiday with the children. I plan to carry as many items of warm clothing for the children as I can gather, along with money to meet special needs such as shoes, mittens, medicines, warm blankets, and to build more beds. I need your prayers and your support to assure that my journey will be a safe and productive one, and that my love, hugs and my encouragement for the children can be enhanced by meeting some of their basic winter needs.
Your contribution will make a difference in the life of an orphaned child. Monetary donations are tax-deductible if made payable to CERI (Children’s Emergency Relief International). You may mail checks to me for delivery to CERI; for donations of clothing, medicine or other items, I will be glad arrange pickup at your convenience.
I have met and love these children, and you can be assured that 100 percent of your donation will be used to meet the direct needs of these children.
My deepest appreciation,
I am making this donation so that an orphaned child in Moldova can receive:
One year of care in the home of a Christian foster family ______ @ $1000 each = $________
One year of sponsorship in the orphanage $15/month to meet needs of a child; $15/month into savings account for child ______ @ $ 360 each = $________
Bed, mattress, blanket & pillow set ______ @ $ 100 each = $________
Winter coat, cap, gloves ______ @$ 50 each = $________
Shoes & two pairs of warm socks ______ @$ 25 each = $________
Whatever special assistance he/she may $________ need in January 2005
Total amount of contribution: $________
Contact Marilyn Swing
1706 Castleman Drive
Nashville, TN 37215
Hm 615 269 0101
Cell 615 500 4193