‘The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.’ John 1:9
Craciun fericit! Merry Christmas! We will be celebrating two Christmases again this year: 25 December as a family at our home in Chisinau and the Orthodox Christmas on 7 January with our church family. Christmas is not as commercial here in Moldova as in the West. It is still a predominantly Christian festival where the churches will be full. At the moment, many Orthodox are also fasting for 40 days. For some, they do so out of a genuine faith, however others are fasting because they hope it will earn favour with God.
We returned to Moldova at the end of August after a lovely summer break in the UK. Since then, our weeks have been jam-packed full with our regular commitments as well as some new ventures.
As you may recall, we planned to start two youth groups off the back of our summer camp. This has happened and we are running a group for around eight teenagers, mainly girls, aged 15-18 who come to our house every other Saturday. They are a lovely bunch and we are thankful for their enthusiasm, friendship and openness.
In October, Graeme launched a café for international students in Moldova. Every month on a Saturday evening, we meet with around 20-30 students from India, Turkey, Israel and some of the central Asian ‘-stans’ to socialise and have a discussion. We have also held other events such as board game evenings and English/Romanian speaking clubs. We are so thankful for this opportunity to reach people whom we wouldn’t easily be able to. We are looking forward to our Christmas party on Saturday 15 December when Graeme will explain why Christmas is so important to us as Christians. Pray for more meaningful conversations off the back of this.
In November, thanks to the toys sent over from friends and churches in the UK, Bequi was able to start a Mums and Toddlers group at our church. These groups don’t really exist in Moldova and many mums are left with their small children, staring at four walls every day. It’s very lonely for them. The group has started well with around 18-20 mums coming each time. We’re thankful that they seem to enjoy it and want to come back again. Pray for Bequi as she teaches the Christmas story to the little ones (in Romanian!). This will be the first overtly Christian content we have had so far.
Another big development is that Graeme has started lecturing at Universitatea Divitia Gratiae (UDG), the Christian university here in Chisinau. Two days a week, Graeme teaches church history to four different classes made up of students from predominantly Muslim countries in Central Asia. Graeme loves this opportunity to share with them some of the amazing theological training he was privileged to have received in the UK.
We decided over the summer that we would make language learning a priority for Bequi and the children. Bequi has been going to a language school three mornings a week and has been intensively learning intermediate-level Romanian. Whilst she struggles to find time to do her homework, she really likes her fellow-students and teacher. Bequi is seeing an impact on her confidence levels and ability to interact with Moldovans so we are very thankful for that. Bequi is, however, less excited about the two exams she has got before Christmas!
Iona is also having Romanian lessons at school. She is also gaining confidence speaking to others. Recently she even sang two songs in Romanian at church and recited a poem. We were so proud of her as these are big steps for her integrating into the culture here.
Whilst Bequi is studying, Josh is looked after by a Moldovan Christian lady. She talks to Josh in Romanian and English and he often surprises us by answering us in Romanian!
Graeme is working on sharpening his preaching in Romanian and trying to improve his Russian. Most of his students at UDG are Russian speakers, so currently Graeme is lecturing in English with the help of a translator. Russian is significantly harder than Romanian and requires considerable time and energy to become conversational.
As we approach Christmas, we are feeling pretty exhausted and there is a lot to do between now and Christmas. Please pray for us to prioritise spending time in God’s word and prayer and for us as a family to be excited about the true meaning of Christmas. Please also pray for us to get some rest between Christmas and New Year. In January we will be heading to the mountains in Romania for a winter camp with our church. Whilst it won’t be entirely restful (Graeme will be doing half the preaching and Bequi will be leading the Sunday school team), we are looking forward to the change of scenery and hoping to see lots of sun and blue skies.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support and we do hope you have a wonderful Christmas celebrating the birth of our Saviour!
Graeme, Bequi, Iona and Josh
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