Sometimes when someone tells you about a place where they’ve had a wonderful experience, you aren’t sure if their experience was swayed by their personal circumstance or if it truly is an objective review of a place’s culture and setting. That’s how I felt when one of my (Cassie’s) friends told us we were going to LOVE Moldova, the teeny-tiny landlocked country in between Romania and Ukraine, and the poorest country in Europe.
After FOUR days of continual air travel with a ridiculous number of delays and cancelled flights (with an overnight in Raleigh, a 12-hour layover in DC, an overnight flight on our way to Germany, and then an overnight in Munich) we FINALLY arrived in Moldova. As we drove out of the capital city of Chișinău (which sort of sounds like “kiss you now” in Romanian), we too fell deeply in love with this gorgeous country. This country truly is a special place.
Moldova might not have an ocean, but in summer, it has seas of yellow sunflowers. We were overwhelmed by the beauty as we drove past miles upon miles of giant sunflower fields. It also has delicious fruits and vegetables that put our too-early-to-be-picked-to-then-export-to-the-U.S. fruits and vegetables to shame. But beyond those superficial reasons of taste and beauty, we met inspiring people. We saw incredible work being done. We met people empowered to change the course of their lives and their children’s lives. We saw sex trafficking survivors living restored lives. We are better people because of the people we met and experiences we shared with them in Moldova.
In Moldova, we were working with two organizations to produce three videos for each organization.
The first organization we were working with is Moldova Mission. Moldova Mission is a nonprofit organization that was created to bring hope, faith, safety, purpose and, ultimately, to elevate the quality of life for Moldovan children and future generations. One of the ways they do that is through a summer camp for youth in the southern part of the country, in a city called Cahul. By bringing together kids from broken families who might be at risk for human trafficking, they provide them with a safe and fun atmosphere where the truth of the Gospel is taught and transforms their lives. By partnering with the local church in Cahul, the kids who decide to accept Christ in their lives can grow in their walk with God and be discipled year-round.
Watch the video we produced to see their work in action!
Below is Ian’s story, just one of the many kids whose lives was transformed from this camp.
Human trafficking is a problem in Moldova, just like it is all over the world. After escaping her traffickers, Nadia wants to prevent human trafficking and help young women who have returned home after being exploited. With Moldova Mission’s new campus in Cahul, they will be able to help her do that. Watch Nadia’s story below to find out how!
After our week serving with Moldova Mission, we documented the work of Invest-Credit, a Moldovan-run micro finance (and self-sustaining) organization that gives small loans to help Moldovan entrepreneurs launch or expand their business. We saw the first-hand impact these loans have on not only the businessmen and women who receive the loans, but also the impact it has on their families and employees. Among the hard-working loan-recipients and clients we visited were a seamstress, greenhouse farmer, open-field farmer, beekeeper, fence maker, retailer, and a driving school business owner. We visited clients both in the rural area of Cahul as well as the more urban setting in the capital of Chișinău.
Below is an overview of Invest-Credit, which provides you with a little historical background of why micro finance is so important for this country, which only received its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The work they’re doing is incredible, and we highly encourage you to watch the videos we produced for them!
We had the pleasure of meeting Mihai, a greenhouse farmer who has been a client of Invest-Credit for the past 10 years. The first loan he took out was for $2,000 and since then he’s taken out three or four more to expand his now booming agriculture business. His gratitude was apparent not only during his interview, but afterward when he invited us to eat watermelon on his patio with his family and gifted us a 10-pound bag of green peppers and cucumbers from his farm. It was such a joy to capture his story, and we are thankful we can share it with you!
After our work in Moldova was complete, we decided to take a side trip to visit some common tourist destinations since we don’t find ourselves in Europe that often! On our trip, we visited Germany (Munich, Stuttgart, Triberg and the Black Forest), Switzerland (Zurich), Hungary (Budapest) and the Czech Republic (Prague).
Of course we loved all the places we visited, each for unique reasons. All of them, though, had the flaw of secondhand cigarette smoke, which was appalling, perhaps Europe’s worst quality.
We went to Stuttgart for one reason, to visit our friends and supporters Dennis and Amy. Unfortunately, Amy was visiting family in North Carolina when we were there, but Dennis still welcomed us into their beautiful home and introduced us to his village just a short train ride outside the city of Stuttgart. We wandered their quaint village taking pictures and enjoying Germany, probably our favorite country on our four country side trip. Germany is environmentally conscious, with lots of bikers and impeccably on-time public transportation as the main form of getting around. Everything in Germany seemed straightforward and efficient. Parks and green spaces abound and the cities we visited were always clean. The people were really nice too, and frequently volunteered help if we looked like we were struggling to figure something out (like using the machines to purchase our train tickets)! Jordan enjoyed the best beer in the world, at some of the cheapest prices we’ve ever seen and we developed a life-long hankering for soft pretzels!
Triberg, Germany and the Black Forest
Traveling to Triberg on the Deutsch Bahn train was like traveling through fairy tale, passing beautiful rolling fields dotted with small villages and castles perched on hills. Triberg itself is a tiny town that boasts the largest Cuckoo clock in the world, but we found that underwhelming after our day hike through the nearby Black Forest. The forest is so thick that sunlight can hardly penetrate to the ground, which is how it gets its name. We found hiking through the forest to be incredibly relaxing, passing by gorgeous waterfalls where we had a picnic lunch. And of course we had to try Black Forest cake as well!
Switzerland had all the great qualities of Germany, the only downside was that it was insanely expensive! Thankfully, we knew this ahead of time and prepared ourselves by grocery shopping in Germany and eating many meals from our rations, which were actually pretty delicious (Nutella-covered bananas and bread for breakfast, German-style paprika salami, cheese and rolls for lunch and lots of apples for our serving of fruits). I hate to admit that we never had a fancy fondue dinner out, but something deep inside of us felt like it was wrong to pay a minimum of $50 per person for dipping meat into really, REALLY stinky cheese. What we didn’t spend on food, we spent renting bikes for exploring. Actually, the bike rental was free, and that’s precisely why we decided to spend a full 12-hours biking 60 miles in one day! Pedaling beside the crystal clear, refreshingly cold alpine lake with the Swiss Alps as our backdrop was definitely one of the highlights from our entire vacation. When we were thirsty, we filled our water bottle from fountains along the way. When we were famished, we gave into temptation (and got our calories in) by stopping in a discount grocery store and buying (and eating) an entire box of ice cream Mars Bars. When we were hot, we dove into the turquoise water and swam. When we were nearly done putting in our 60 miles and thought the day couldn’t get any better, we then stumbled upon the hip local hangout where arts and culture abound. Behind the cool-in-itself 550-yard-long railway bridge which has now been transformed into the Viadukt’s boutique shops and local farmer food market, we stumbled upon Frau Gerolds Garten in Zurich-West. Here, businessmen and women, artists, bankers, and foodies gather for a common cause: food. Well, two common causes: food and beer.
After taking an overnight train and resting our very sore legs from our previous day’s 60-mile bike ride, we decided the best way to stretch them out would be to walk miles upon miles exploring the HOT cities of Buda and Pest (separated by the Danube River but connected by a few bridges). A bit dirtier than we expected, Budapest’s architecture makes up for its littered streets. This destination must be an architect’s playground because everywhere you look, there are incredible buildings that have no historical importance, they are just the buildings that exist and house everyday people. Then you get to the real tourist destinations, which should be on the World Wonders list. It’s a tie whether the Hungarian Parliament Building or Matthias Church would come in second for the most impressive man-made building we’ve seen, only second to the Taj Mahal. We got to see the huge Hungarian Parliament Building (the largest building in Hungary) in many different lights: at dusk, lit up at night and in the early morning light. Across the river on the Pest side was our other favorite, the Roman Catholic Matthias Church. The roof is covered with the famous Zsolnay ceramic tiles, which make the church even more beautiful and colorful.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a blur of gorgeous architecture. Around every corner is another baroque church or gothic castle, arch, bridge, tower, or even a mini Eiffel tower! We spent our days wandering the cobblestone streets, photographing every inch of the way. Cassie has always wanted to visit Prague, since her mother’s family is Bohemian Czech, and so it was a dream-come-true for us to explore this city together. One of the things we enjoyed over and over were the hot (horky) trdelniks, made by wrapping dough around a metal pole, cooking it over hot coals, and rolling it in your choice of sugary toppings. And of course Jordan enjoyed the traditional Czech pilsner beer, second only to the lager in Germany.
Since being back from Europe, we’ve been able to get all of our Moldova videos edited (which I guess is obvious since we just shared them with you!). We’ve also been working on some filming projects stateside for Cassie’s sister’s church in Charlotte. It’s been a joy to dive deeper into their church’s community as we’ve interviewed nine different adults and couples from the church as well as 17 kids for a grand total of 10 video projects! Now when we walk into their church, we feel like we know so many more people in a much deeper way, making us feel like their church is a second home to us just as it is to Cassie’s sister and her family. This project has been a blessing to us, not making us feel like outsiders who never can break into the community since we aren’t permanent to the area, which can be a difficult aspect to our current lifestyle. Instead, we’ve felt more welcomed than ever, and it’s also been really encouraging to hear so many stories of how the church has come together to help so many of its members overcome difficult times and growing its congregation in their faith. We look forward to sharing some of those videos with you when they’re finalized!
P.S. We’ve now added a new section to our website, so in case you’re interested in supporting us and also want to cover your walls with our art, we’re now offering our photos for sale! Any photo, any size, any way — email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the photo and size you’re interested in! Prices start at $30 for signed matted 8×10 prints, plus shipping. Click here for the full prints price list and feel free to peruse through our blog photo galleries for the perfect image for you or a friend!