La multi ani!!
Hello dear friends and family. We hope this letter finds you well and enjoying the New Year and all of the joys and promises it holds. We hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas spent with family and friends. We are well into January, and we apologize that we have not sent you an update sooner. Let’s just say we have been going full speed ahead since we last wrote. During the month of December, we unloaded a large container from Scotland, had multiple Christmas celebrations, took our English class to see The Hobbit in English, visited with friends, celebrated Moldovan Christmas, celebrated New Year’s Eve and then headed wildly into 2015.
The first week of January brought special guests from America, including Philip Cameron (the founder and patriarch of our organization) and Sadie Robertson (from Duck Dynasty and Dancing with the Stars.) We had an amazing week with them. During their time here we had our big Moldovan Christmas (Moldovans are traditionally Russian Orthodox and they actually celebrate Christmas on Epiphany- January 7th). We also unloaded a massive container from the U.S., visited three orphanages where we took Christmas gifts, performed skits, and shared love. It has been a whirlwind start to 2015. We wouldn’t change a minute of it.
We would love to be able to communicate clearly through words and photos how amazing the Christmas season was here in Moldova, but as the saying goes, "you just had to be there". Here’s just a little bit about what we experienced here:
•On Christmas night, we had a huge celebration that included music and skits performed by four different groups of our kids. Brian was even part of one of the teams and had a few lines in his team’s skit. We then swapped "secret angel" gifts which was so much fun because we had the chance to do little gifts for our secret friends leading up to Christmas as well. We enjoyed delicious food and stayed up way too late.
•The second Christmas which is usually celebrated January 7th was actually celebrated a few days later because of scheduling issues. Again, there was music and wonderful food. This time, however, we all opened our gifts from America. The gifts for our guys and girls from Stella’s House and Simon’s House were all organized by two of our wonderful friends at Centerpoint Fellowship Church. We appreciate their amazing effort and sacrifice to make these gifts possible, and we are very thankful for the many individuals, families, and small groups all over the Montgomery/Prattville area who sponsored one of our kids and spent their time and money buying gifts for them. These young people were all so excited and so thankful for their gifts. To see their faces as they opened the boxes was priceless. For the past few years, we have been on the American side of this process. One of our favorite things every year was organizing the Christmas box project, and we never thought we’d have the chance to be here to see the kids open their gifts. Just to see what a blessing these gifts are to them is the best gift we could have received.
•The next day, we celebrated with the kids at Providence (the home for younger children, not an orphanage exactly, that is run by Stella’s Voice). They performed some songs and skits, and our crew from Stella’s House and Simon’s House did as well. Then Santa handed out their gifts. Their reactions were amazing. These were the first gifts that some of these sweet children had ever received. A few of the kids ran up to Galina (who runs Providence) and asked her questions about
their gifts, but we didn’t quite understand. She told us later that they kept asking her if these gifts were actually for them to keep. They couldn’t believe that all of these things were actually theirs.
•On the big containers from both America and the UK, there were gift boxes for kids at other orphanages. These boxes contained some really cool toys, clothes, and candy, but they also included very basic toiletry items. We took these boxes to two different orphanages in the Straseni region. The first was Straseni Orphanage which is where many of our guys and girls lived for many years of their lives. The next stop was a place called Scoreni which is an orphanage for children with behavior issues and emotional disabilities. The kids at these two orphanages loved their gifts, and the team had a great time seeing their excitement over receiving these items. These were great visits, but the third orphanage we visited was by far the most memorable.
•To tell you about this third place, we must start by telling you the very short version of Ulizana’s story. Ulizana is an amazing, talented, and brilliant young lady who is currently spending most of her time working with the Stella’s Voice ministry in the states. We felt so blessed to have her visit here during Christmas. When Ulizana was very young, her Mom couldn’t take care of her, but she didn’t want to leave her in an orphanage. With the best of intentions, she decided that Ulizana would have better care at a hospital for kids. So Ulizana spent many of her early years in a hospital for very sick children. She didn’t have tuberculosis, but she was given the medication for years. She recalls that when she was taking the medication, she had a very difficult time learning in school, and it seemed impossible for her to remember anything. On top of that, some of the workers there didn’t treat the children very well. She describes the hospital as being worse than the orphanage, and that’s saying something. Once she moved to the orphanage, she worked really hard and caught up in school. To meet her now, you would guess that she was always the kid who was the best in her class at everything. It’s only by the grace of God that her life has been transformed. Just a few weeks ago, we went with Ulizana to take gifts to the children in the hospital where she spent so many years. This was her first trip back there, and the workers there (many of the same people from years ago) were amazed by her. We were honored that she allowed us to be a part of such a big day for her. Of course, we gave out more gifts to the kids there. These children were the most excited about their gifts. It turns out that no one had brought gifts there at all this Christmas until Stella’s Voice arrived. Theses boxes contained some really great gifts, but they were excited about even the simplest things. It was awesome to just watch their reactions to these things, many of which we would consider stocking stuffers in America. The coolest thing was getting to see Ulizana go back to this place and be part of blessing the children at this hospital.
•In addition to seeing lots of kids open gifts, we were blessed to receive gifts from home. That was such a nice surprise. We received a suitcase full of wonderful goodies from our church family at Frazer. They do so much for us already, these gifts were an amazing and unexpected blessing. Our friends who organized Christmas boxes sent boxes for us as well, and we appreciate those so much. On top of that, we received gifts from family and lots of Christmas cards. We’ve always loved getting Christmas cards in the mail, but this year they seemed extra special. Also, on the container from America, we received furniture for our apartment. For the past 6 months, most of our stuff was still in our suitcases because we only had minimal furniture (a mattress and a kitchen table). The ministry sent us some furniture, and we have plenty of storage and a comfortable bed. So we were very, very spoiled during Christmas.
There is so much more to tell, but we know that no one wants to read a short novel about our past few months. We can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and your financial support. Without both types of support, we’d never have a chance to serve God, Stella’s Voice ministry, and these amazing kids. Thank you so much for all that you do for us.
Wishing you all the best,
Brian and Kathryn Jones
Team Jones in Moldova
**There were pictures in the newsletter but for the life of me I could not get them to post. I will try again later.