“And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Ruth 1:19-20
Today we were scheduled to visit the second-hand shop that Beginning of Life (BOL) runs to help support their numerous programs. As we drove to the store, we passed what looked like a very large yard-sale, with clothes, books, and other household goods laid orderly along the sidewalk for passer-bys to purchase. However our guide Sergei then explained, that no, this wasn’t a yard-sale. People, mostly the elderly, were selling their personal items because they didn’t have enough money to survive. These large apartment sales happened right after the fall of the Soviet Union and started again during the Recession in early 2000.
Mostly the elderly sell their goods because, in an attempt to provide job opportunities to younger generations, working past age 60 is prohibited. However, that means that the elderly with no children to support them, have no way to generate income (legally) for however long they live afterwards.
“the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”
But it wasn’t just the Recession that got Moldova to where it is today. Throughout my time in Moldova I have been struck by how history and war, world war, is not just a story in a textbook here. I can walk around and see architecture from the Soviet era. I can see what looks like the remnants of structures destroyed by invading forces. And I have spoken to people with memories of the Soviet era: who have tried to explain how it took away free will and have left older generations afraid and deferential to (corrupt) authority, but how it provided a home to each and strongly supported education (neither of which are guaranteed today).
And it seems to me that the result of Moldova’s chaotic history is that there is not enough.
Sometimes there is only rice to eat.
Sometimes there is only a well.
Sometimes there is no heat. And it gets so, so cold in the winter.
In the Book of Ruth, Naomi goes to Moab with her husband and two sons. Some time later, over what seems a fairly short span of time, she loses both her husband and sons. And as she returns, laments her losses and her bitter portion. Not only is she grieving the loss of her family, Naomi is returning to her homeland destitute. A widow, with no children to support her, she will be at the mercy of her distant family.
Thousands of years later, the story for the Moldovan is not so different. As a working-age adult, it is incredibly hard to make a living. The elderly and the young that do not have family support find themselves in Naomi’s place. And when it comes to the young, the orphans, the neglected, it becomes very easy to see how trafficking in persons can take root and grow like an invasive species.
A stark picture.
However, for BOL, the hope is in this upcoming generation, both in preventing trafficking and in changing the politics in the country. BOL utilizes Social Teachers in the schools to teach students about human trafficking, the tactics traffickers use, and the skills to avoid risky situations. They also have the Dream House, which takes in social orphans (e.g. children that are left on their own when their parents live and work abroad because there are no jobs) and Place of Change which runs after-school trainings on avoiding building character for middle-school age students.
BOL’s long-term strategy for changing the political system is through Way To Success: a youth leadership development program. Their hope is that through pouring into youth and developing leaders with integrity, they will be able to create a positive change in the politics and governance of Moldova. Please join our team in prayer that God would raise up a new generation to restore this land.