This winter I served in Moldova where I got to fit needy children with a new pair of shoes and share the Gospel with them. I went in not knowing what to expect, sure I had prayed and I researched the country but I still didn't know what would happen or how the children and people from the country would receive us.
During the week we spent in Moldova, the south team – the team I was on – gave out over 1300 pairs of shoes, and that is from one team alone. I believe collectively we gave out around 3,000 pairs of shoes. From the various orphanages and churches we visited, there were two children who engraved their names in my heart.
The very last day of our trip, I had the honor of meeting Natasha, a little girl no older than 5. As a Hispanic girl, I have the habit of calling all little girls "mamas." I made the mistake of calling Natasha mama, as I pointed her to a chair where I would fit her with her new shoes. She replied to me, "Nu. Nu mama" telling me matter-of-factly that she had no mother. At that moment I almost broke down crying, I felt so awful for the mistake I had made, I didn't want to hurt her, but she just sat and waited for me to take off her shoes. So I smiled at her and went to find her a pair of shoes that fit; and when I found the right pair of pink shoes and let her chose her favorite color socks, and put them on her feet, she finally smiled back at me. Natasha jumped out of her chair and jumped up and down trying out her new shoes. So I joined her, I took her little hand in mine and jumped with her. I carried Natasha, jumped up in the air with her like my little cousins love to do. I raised her up and jumped and she just lit up with laughter, she was finally laughing and smiling. I jumped with her until I ran out of breath, but at least she left with a smile on her face and no longer looked nervous or sad. For a moment I was able to bring her joy, I pray that when she is older she will be able to find and accept that joy only Jesus Christ provides.
That same day at a church I met Tremolino, he is a gypsy boy of around 15 from the city of Vulcănești. I didn't fit him with shoes but I did speak to him and his friends. I sat down in the bench in front of them while the team finished fitting some shoes. Tremolino introduced himself and his friends to me in English, and we all laughed at our language barrier. I wanted to know more about his culture, about the people he came with, because it was obvious that he came with the community which he is a part of. They all desperately needed new shoes, a lot of their shoes were falling apart or just inappropriate for the weather. The team and I were able to share the Gospel with all of them, through Gospel bracelets and a translator, but I really wish we were able to spend more time with them. My heart especially breaks for Tremolino and his community, since one of the translators was telling me about how rare it is that the gypsy community opens themselves to outsiders and how people don't really care for their community. It broke my heart to hear that, Tremolino and his friends were kind, desperate for shoes, and really just like most teenagers, they don't deserve to be treated like outcasts.
Moldova, and the people I met there, changed the way I saw missions. I knew of the importance of sharing the Gospel around the world, and of the work that God did through natives, but now that I got to be a part of that I understand the importance. Before this trip I used to say, international missions are great but I can share the Gospel here and I don't feel the need to go, but now after finally obeying God and going out of my comfort zone all I want to do is GO. God has broken my heart for the outcasted gypsy people, for the pastors and the community of believers in Moldova who strive to impact their communities with God's grace. I want to go back, but if God wants me to stay then I know that like the early church, God sent me further out so I could come back home with greater understanding for the importance of spreading His promise and love HERE.
Alejandra Verastegui is a student at UT San Antonio and served as a Go Now student missionary in Moldova over Christmas break.