Early fall months usher in a wonderful celebration in the the Pentecostal and Baptist churches in Moldova. Harvest Sunday is a day of thanks to God for the year's abundance, whether large or small. The front of the church is filled with local fruits and vegetables. The date is marked by carving into the flesh of a watermelon. The pastor gives thanks for all God has done the proceeding year in the lives of the people and in the life of the church.
Yesterday we celebrated this Day of Thanks with the church in Buibuieci (Boo-Boo-yetch). After service we shared in an amazing meal prepared by the ladies in the church. We ate at our pew surrounded by children eager for this Thanksgiving meal of baked chicken, cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers and homemade cake. As we ate my girls recounted their part in this church. Elissa helped build one of the walls and Lauren learned to say her "R"s in the footings of the church. (A speech teacher came with a construction team, and at age 6 Lauren had speech therapy as they unloaded cement trucks around her).
The church building is not complete, but it is beautiful and progressing. We love what God is doing in this village and through these people. They reach out to children and youth and continue to see the faithfulness of God as this little congregation grows.
When it was time to leave, Pastor Sasha took a banana box and called me to the front with him. He filled the box with eggplant, peppers and tomatoes. He gave us a jar of homemade raspberry jam and another of apricot.. A braided rope of garlic was added to the gift. He filled a large bag with potatoes--enough to last us until Christmas.
A grandma in the church came and thanked me for coming and pulled a small bag of Moldovan chocolates out--she said that God spoke to her to buy these to give to someone. She knew they were for us. When I gave them to my daughters they exclaimed, "YUM! These are our very favorite!"
I'm sure someone in the church could have used these more than we, but that wasn't the point. They wanted to give from what they have. They can give at harvest time.
It is a gift filled with love. Over the past nine years we've had an abundance of peaches, potatoes, grapes, apples and other wonderful fruits and vegetables brought to our home. All given with love and gratitude.
We left Buibuieci with full stomachs, a full car and full hearts. We went to minister. We left blessed beyond measure.
We stopped by Freedom Home before heading home. At the end of our visit there Olga told me to come to her sewing area. She wanted to give me a gift. She pulled out a really neat iPad case--a clutch for my iPad. And another and a phone case and a few other things. I told her I didn't need it all. She said she wanted to give to me.
Olga came from Russia to Moldova a year ago to serve at Freedom Home and learn how we minister to the women broken from trafficking. She will lead the home in Odessa, Ukraine. She hasn't taken a salary in the past year, but sewed a bit here and there to make some money. She has lived at the home and given tirelessly of herself. What a gift she has been. It is a gift given of herself that I can never repay.
And then she gives me gifts. She wants to thank me for allowing her to serve! I could only cry and thank her.
Yesterday I received so much. Yes, I received physical gifts that I can touch and use, but I received so much more than that. I received love and friendship. I received what my friends could give. I didn't need what they gave me, but I am humbled by it.
Again, my friends here have taught me what giving truly is. They give of themselves. Pastor Sasha is an agronomist--brilliant with plants. I'm only brilliant with plants if they are at the end of my knife and about to go in my skillet! Olga is a seamstress--brilliant with the sewing machine. Their gifts humble me.
Although I will never grow a garden like Pastor Sasha or be able to sew like Olga, I want to accept the unique gifts God has given me and use them for His glory. I love to cook, and I love to serve people the food I prepare. I pray that my gift to others from my kitchen will be given with as much grace as these gifts I received yesterday.
Roma tomatoes and garlic. Spaghetti sauce is already cooking from yesterday's gifts.
How are you using your gifts?