Big World Small Boat

Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!

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Location: England, United Kingdom

I've been serving children in crisis for over twenty five years. My goals are not to raise money, but to find organisations and individuals who can help change lives! What may be outdated equipment for you could change the life of a child in Eastern Europe! To learn more please visit our site at: www.ProjectNewLife.org

Wednesday

Get A Life!

It was one of those; I-can't-believe-I'm-hearing-this moments, and it made me want to laugh out loud. On television last night, there was a show featuring a twenty-four stone (336lb), American chap explaining why he'd joined a growing group of overweight fellow-citizens who are filing lawsuits against a vast array of fast food restaurants.

'The fast-food industry has wrecked my life,' he whined. 'I always thought it was good for you. I never thought there was anything wrong with it.' And just where have you been, I mumbled to the telly. And then I thought, ‘who am I to cast stones?’ as I gave a polite tug on my snug t-shirt.

Had he never heard a generation of warnings about killer diets in polystyrene containers? There might be all sorts of good reasons for objecting to the practices of fast food merchants, but protesting that their products are greasy, salty and sugary struck me as rather like complaining that your ice-cream is a bit on the chilly side. This was the blame culture gone crazy. ‘Take some responsibility as a human being,' I wanted to shout. 'Get a life!'

My self-righteous sniggering lasted only a few seconds. I had switched to the BBC to watch the current news. Across the screen were compelling images of the suffering people in Indonesia who are homeless and awaiting emergency help. The earthquake has left nearly six thousand dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. The next article was on the emergency needs in southern Africa - 16 million people - half of them children, facing starvation. Food, medical supplies, tools, everything is desperately needed to prevent this continuing humanitarian catastrophe.

And, of course, as the images of suffering and despair continued across the screen, my mind moved to the children in Eastern Europe. ‘My’ children, my own images; some caught on film, some so indelibly chiselled into my soul that they will remain with me until the day I die; The children I’ve tried to help, the children I didn’t have the resources to help; and especially the children it was too late to help.

These juxtaposed themes stunned me. There is a unique yet familiar contemporary obscenity; Half the world worries about their stomachs being too big to fit into this year's fashion; the other half worries about children's stomachs distended by starvation.

'Take some responsibility as a human being': my words were haunting me even before I'd had a chance to hurl them at the fast food addict. The children in Africa, Romania, Moldova, are not looking for people to blame. They are just frantically looking for a way to survive. Their horrors are similar yet different. But the fact is that they indeed suffer. And the much crueller fact is that all we have to do is reach for the remote and with a simple ‘click,’ the image no longer offends. We can go on to watch ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Rich Girls.’ Let’s face it, they’re much more entertaining, aren’t they?

Finding targets for blame might be easy, but indignation is never enough. Just as every portion of fat-soaked chips should raise questions about diet and exercise and basic health, so every picture of a hungry child should provoke hard thinking about our own use of global resources, about burdens of debt and terms of trade. And about how far we'll dig into our wallets.

If you’re a person of faith - be it the Bible, the Koran or the Talmud, there really is no escape- ‘We are our brother’s keeper, like it or not,’ all faiths make this clear.

Even if you’re not a person of faith and you reject God’s expectations of us to reproduce compassion and mercy in His world, there is still our responsibility as a fellow human being.

Get a life!

Big World Small Boat Moldova Children
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An Urgent Project

A new dawn! A good night of sleep did me a world of wonders. I still felt poorly but at least I was now coherent.

Marisha was in Transnistria visiting her mother for Easter. She’d be back tonight and I was looking forward to seeing her. I’ve missed her. One of the things I love about staying with Marisha is that I’m always guaranteed to meet the loveliest people.

There were two people sharing her guest room this time. There was a fascinating lad from Sweden who was finalising his dissertation on Moldova. I felt entirely inadequate around him because of his perfect elocution in Russian, English and Romanian!

And much to my delight I had the honour of meeting Leif Even Pettersen, the new Travel Writer for Lonely Planet. He had been making a comprehensive tour of Moldova and Romania, revisiting the tried and true and exploring new horizons, with the hopes of inspiring others to come visit this beautiful country.

Whilst I would have loved to just stay in bed and convalesce I actually felt a bit better. This was an extremely important journey and I had a full dance card for this short stay.

Over the past year, the Rev. Fred Morey from Searsburg Community Church in upper state New York has been working towards coming to Moldova in June. He is to install the desperately needed bathrooms for the children. It’s a major undertaking and the project has moved at a snails pace due to a sad series of events.

Rev Morey was to join me in Moldova this past month. However, due to his own health challenges, this was not possible. Nevertheless, there was still plenty to do. The children have been scheduled to move to a Summer Camp just outside the city during the time the bathrooms will be constructed. I needed to finalise measurements, consider options, etc.

One of the issues Vasile and I discussed and agreed upon was the issue of shower stalls. There are two bathrooms upstairs. Each contains one toilet, two sinks, and two shower floor basins. There are no shower stalls and the water simply goes everywhere, especially under the shower floor basin…and it remains there. Hence the problem with wood rot. There also are no extraction fans or ventilation which has added to the problem of condensation.

Additionally, the shower areas are extremely dark. Vasile and I discussed and both agreed that
it could be extremely intimidating for a child, especially one who has already suffered the horrors of being a trafficking victim, to feel enclosed in a shower stall that could appear intimidatingly dark and confined. We’ve agreed that one of the bathrooms will hold a open tiled shower area, similar to those you might find in an American school’s gym. It will require additional tile work, but due to the unique angles of the ceiling, due to the roof, this will actually work out better. The second bathroom will be able to support stalls, thus offering a functional privacy for the older children.

The project budget is circa EUR€5400.00, or USD$6900.00. Due to years of water flowing beneath the floors, major work will be required including over five thousand bricks, ninety six metres of wall and shower tiles, twenty eight metres of floor tiles, five hundred kilos of concrete and over fifteen hundred kilos of sand to mix with the concrete. Add to this all of the glues, equipment and associated materials, such as toilets, shower stalls, etc., to complete the project. It’s a major undertaking and due to the length of time it has taken to finance the project, it’s at such a crisis point that the home could be forced to close should there be any further structural damage due to the current water leakage.

Together, Vasile and I finalised the measurements. I was astounded at how rapidly the bathrooms had deteriorated since I last saw them. But with up to thirty-four children using them at any given time, it’s no wonder how heavy the wear and tear can be.

Vasile and I were some sight. He wasn’t feeling well, nor was I. But I think we fuelled off of each other to complete the task. My fever was back. Vasile was looking a bit grey in the gills himself. We were a lovely pair. And the next morning would be Orthodox Easter Sunday.

Sunrise Mass would begin at 0500 and the basilicas would have hundreds, if not thousands, of people overflowing outside. After services we were to head north to a small village for the day.

As I write this, I again give thanks to God for Rev Morey and the kind people of Searsburg Community Church, as well as the First Baptist Church in Interlaken who have been working so hard to make this project come true.

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Thursday

Just A Stones Throw

‘You’re in big trouble buster!’ I suppose it could have been a multitude of people speaking to me, but in this case I uttered the words myself. Just as the plane backed off its stand at Heathrow I felt an uncomfortable but exasperatingly familiar ‘twang’ in my back.

I had already been feeling cruddy for the past few days, but I struck it up to a raging cold. It was important for me to get to Moldova, particularly now as I had just been told that my dearest friend there had received an upsetting diagnosis and was due to enter hospital on Tuesday.

‘V1, Rotate;’ as the aircraft lifted from the ground I could already feel the cabin pressurisation pushing on my kidneys. But in addition to this I couldn’t get my ears to equalise. The lines from some old Bette Davis movie came to mind ‘Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.’

I tried to focus on other things. I had a beautiful new industrial knitting machine sitting in the hold, which was destined for the village of Budesti, and a lovely family had sent me a blanket that had been hand knitted over generations by their family.

Mrs Noel Preston had sent it to me, asking if I could offer it to a family who might need it. It was magnificent and the more I looked at it the more I felt that it would be more valuable displayed in the village community centre as an inspiration for others to make their own. (I’ll write more about this at a later time.)

The cabin crew on Malev are always lovely to me. They brought me cups of ice to chew on. I have no idea why I was craving it, but for some reason it made me feel better. I wasn’t panicking or anything. It was just that gnawing realisation that I might be getting ready to give birth to a happy little kidney stone.

I’m absolutely astounded by the number of people who read this boring little blog. And from every account there’s an amazing diversity reflected in its readership. And in that spirit I would like to share with you what it’s like for a man to pass a stone.

Now, for women, all I have to say is ‘childbirth.’ Enough said. You ladies know the drill. There are some who say God’s female and kidney stones are Her way of evening things out for the male species.

But for you guys out there, especially the ones who are either too insensitive or too thick to understand (or care) what women go through during childbirth, I’m going to try to give you my best possible portrayal of what passing a stone, or giving birth, is like. (Please ladies, I’m offering the concept of giving birth from my perspective. Please, please don’t be too judgemental if I fail to accurately capture some of the low points of this experience).

All right gentlemen, now, brace yourselves. I want you to open your mouth as wide as possible. Come on now, you can do better than that. Stretch it wider. Let me see your tonsils. Wider! Wider! Can’t you open your mouth any wider than that? ‘No,’ you shake your head? Ok, fine, now, SHOVE A PIANO THROUGH IT!

I really don’t remember most of the flight. But as the plane descended into Budapest the pressure on my kidney began to subside a bit. But the pressure in my ears remained. I couldn’t hear a thing. I thought it would pass and my ears would clear during my 4-hour wait between flights. I also found that my breathing was a bit shallow.

I found a corner in Malev’s Duna Lounge and curled up on the sofa. Rummaging through my rucksack I found a couple of lint-encrusted tablets that were supposed to help the pain. They may as well have been Tic Tacs.

Moldavian Airlines is consistently wonderful! In fact, they could send a powerful message to other airlines that you can actually operate an airline with reasonable prices, and good services, including treating staff and passengers with respect and still turn a profit.

The little Saab 2000 airliner is indeed small. But it’s constantly full. On board, passengers are provided a range of amenities from towelettes and mints before take off, a fully cooked meal, and a choice of wines and champagnes. Champagne from Moldova’s Cricova vineyards can easily compete, and surpass in many instances, the finest French champagnes. (désolé France!)

But this time I just don’t remember any of it. I vaguely recall the water cascading down the windows as we took off. It actually turned out to be water dripping off my own face. It was clear outside. And as the cabin pressurised my body was debating over which was in more misery – my kidney or my ears.

‘Do you have someone to come for you? A wife? A girlfriend to meet you? If it is no, then you can come to stay at my home till you feel better.’ I don’t think I realised that I looked as bad as I felt. And through my wet eyes I saw it was Valika, the same flight attendant that I’ve innocently flirted with so many times on flights from Budapest. There was nothing forward in her question – just sweet, kind, genuine concern; so typical of all Moldovans. But it did cross my mind….oh to have only been ten years younger. Ok, ok, twenty.

I was last off the plane. This time it wasn’t cunning on my part. I just had trouble getting up. But it was better for me because it meant I was last on the bus that took us to customs arrivals, which meant I was first through.

All that was in my mind at the moment was to see my dear friend. We needed to speak and I needed to listen to him – to what he would and would not say. I’ve grown to know him well and I can read his face. He wanted me to stay at his home, with his family. But as I told him, it was an important time for them to be together and for him to rest before he entered hospital. I would stay with my friend Marina tonight. He looked hurt, but I knew it was for the best.

It was the Orthodox Easter weekend and we would celebrate together. For now, I needed to put my head down in bed. But over and over, those first words I muttered to myself at Heathrow kept coming back to me, ‘You’re in big trouble Buster!’

Indeed!
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Moldova Children Big World Small Boat

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