Wrestling - Moldova
Yesterday was our big culminating international tournament. We started morning with Stephen waking the boys up at 7:45am when we were supposed to be leaving. They sleepily answered the door and said, "I thought you said 8:45?" Which then of course turned into a running joke all day.
We took off to the school and led a giant caravan from Comrat to The tournament site, which was about 30 kilometers away. Our bus was packed full of wrestlers with standing room only left. We held the tournament in the city of Guidar at the Majestic Park. We had 160 wrestlers competing in the tournament that lasted all day. There were tons of people in attendance throughout the day, with the majority been the very excited fans from Guidar. We also had a local newspaper reporter and television crew there doing stories about our tournament and camp.
Our American wrestlers wrestled really well and both medaled in their respective weight classes. The wrestlers from Guidar dominated the tournament again this year and were very impressive to watch. It's a joy to see the fruits of Valeri's labor in the Lord in that village. One of my favorite parts of the tournament day is the opportunity to fellowship with all the wrestlers and coaches we have been building relationships with all week. It was great to see our whole team interacting with kids and coaches and families of wrestlers. The tournament gives is the opportunity to be in community with them in what is an everyday activity, cheering for them and for their teammates.
The other major opportunity we have is to share God's word with the crowd in attendance. Stepehen Wurster shared his testimony with the crowd. He was able to share his story of how God literally saved his life in a way that left no other explanation. He shared how that really impressed upon his heart that God had a purpose for him here on this earth and he was going to seek to live that out. The message really resonated with the wrestlers, who are often desperately searching for purpose in their life, especially when they don't do well in their wrestling endeavors, or when wrestling is over for them. We were especially thankful for being able to share because their was some serious resistance. The local priest had told the mayor not to let us speak at all, so it took some negotiating to be able to let Stephen share. The funniest part was to watch the mayor and his guys during Stephen's testimony. They kept tapping their wrists to indicate that time was up and we needed to hurry. Stephen Barrett said they did it after every sentence he translated. Despite their efforts the word of God was proclaimed and we praise God for that!
The non-spiritual highlight of the day was finding actual toilets to use at a kindergarten nearby where we had lunch. The park bathrooms gave us all a serious lesson in adjusting to culture and not complaining (and also hygiene). It was quite an experience, so when we walked into the school and o spotted toilets I did a happy dance and practically ran to them. God provided big time!
At the end of the day, all the medals, sport diplomas and t-shirts were handed out to the winners and lots of photos were taken. The goodbyes immediately began since some of our teams were going to start their drives that night. It is always hard to say goodbye because you have essentially built a little family over the last week. Everyone had our their Google translate and the kids had a great time sharing stories, memories and saying their goodbyes in English to us.
When we got back to town we celebrated as a team with one last meal at Andy's pizza complete with milkshakes of course. On our way home we stumbled upon a massive outdoor concert in the city center. As we walked by, we asked who was playing and apparently it was the hottest DJ in Russia. We all got a good laugh at that and can now cross that off our bucket lists.
This morning we were greeted bright and early by knocks on the door from Coach Valeri. He had come to say goodbye and to bring us honey harvested from his own bees! It was a very sweet gesture and we are all so excited to try it. After that we packed up the bus and went to the school to say the last of our goodbyes. The teams from Ukraine were the last left at camp so we were able to spend some time with them and say goodbye. We also got to say our thanks yous and goodbyes to the staff at the school who took such good care of us all week long.
We are boarding the bus now to head to Chisinau. From there our travels will take us different ways. The Korluiks will be attending and speaking at an AIA event at a school this evening before heading home to Kiev in the morning. Alexandra Fitzpatrick will be heading home to the states and the rest of our team will continue on to Central Asia.
We have absolutely loved our time here! God has richly blessed us in so many ways and we cannot wait to continue serving Him together. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your faithful prayers and support. And a big thank you to all our ministry partners here in Moldova and Ukraine who faithfully serve God here daily.
-Ashlee for the team
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