Tuesday, July 31, 2007

One Day Out (Justin)

Today we were supposed to go to Six Flags with family to relax and celebrate our last day here. Instead, Joni and I got really sick last night with a stomach bug that's been going around. So, please pray that it passes quickly! We fly out tomorrow (Wednesday) evening around 6pm.

However, while at home I found the following blog post ,written by Moldovans, that illustrates the costs of mass immigration from Moldova on Moldova itself. The post states that remittances from Moldovans abroad account for 27% of Moldova's GDP. The share of money spent from abroad has increased from 8% in 1999 to 27% in 2006.

This increase in consumption using foreign money is helping drive the bad inflation that we see in the country. Moldovans working in the country are receiving wages that don't change often, whereas those receiving remittances from their cousins working in Germany, for example, are able to buy more and more goods, which drives up prices and hurts Moldovans who don't leave for Germany.

The author, however, proposes a solution that historically has proven weak: the government can intervene by providing more grants and scholarships to keep educated people from leaving.
1. These grants will pale in comparison to what an educated person can earn abroad.
2. The increase in government spending will further widen the deficit, and in turn the external debt of the country to pay for them (unless accompanied by an increase in taxes, which would have obvious consequences).

I'm glad to be working on what I feel is the solution: bottom-up microenterprise development. The best thing the government could do is liberalize laws to allow businesses to start faster, with less red tape. They could find some ways (more legal and moral than anything) to encourage international agencies to enter and start helping entrepreneurs create jobs on their own.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Quote of the Day (Justin)

Joni's dad works in the electronics department of Wal-Mart. Last night, a woman who was visiting from Moscow came by and they chatted about life in the former USSR (Joni's parents lived in Poland for years). The woman said "I hate Moscow. Everyone there is a crook and a criminal." John told her that we were going to Moldova. She said "Oh, there are even more crooks and criminals there!"

Many of the "crooks and criminals" live in an area called Transnistria, which we will be unlikely to visit, but makes for an interesting read. The goal of our work is to create jobs so that the law-abiding, educated populace with strong work ethic won't have to leave the country in order to make a living. That is very essential to keeping social structures in place for law and order.

We're 2 days away, and trying to get our suitcases under the weight limit (we shed 43 pounds of stuff yesterday!). We'll hopefully be able to give a funding update tomorrow.

Prayer requests: Pray for us to make our very tight connection (55 minutes) in Rome. That would mean our flight leaving on time from Cincinnati, and ease of transition through the airport in Rome. (This is so we don't have to spend the night in Rome and pay whatever that would cost).
Pray also that we would remember to tie up all the loose ends we need to tie up here!

Thanks so much!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

$2 well-spent!

Earlier this week Joni and I visited Mckay Books in Knoxville, East TN's version of Half Price Books. We always hit the used book stores to look for foreign-language stuff, and we'd been stalking a Romanian-English dictionary for her. To our amazement, there on the shelf was a little Travel Guide to Chisinau for just $2!

The travel guide has all the history of the city, maps, tourist attractions, information about restaurants, customs, etc. Basically everything we needed to learn more ourselves, and to show our families. I'd post a picture but can't find it listed anywhere online. Divine appointment on a bookshelf!

From the book, we've learned that Chisinau has 3 McDonald's. That makes it pretty civilized in my opinion.

Progress: Several very big answers to prayer! Looks like all the disputes with the travel company and internet company have been resolved favorably. We've also gotten a large amount of our donated funds transferred to our account. So, we bought our travel insurance today.

Looks like the Moldovan folks have found a suitable place for us to live: the guest house of a Christian family that is used to hosting foreigners.
So, we'll be able to do some of our own thing, and yet be interacting with a large family there as they try to include us on their things. I'm pretty happy with the setup.

Hope things are well with you all!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I'm Here Too! (Joni)

I just wanted to put a little post on here, seeing as this blog is supposed to be from Justin AND Joni, but I haven't posted anything on here yet! Please rest assured that I DO plan to post on this blog quite often. I intend to be the color commentary of this blog, posting stories and pictures, while Justin provides the facts and information. Since we're not in Moldova yet, the only trip-related stories I could tell you would be about my not-so-pleasant 3 hours on the phone with Travelocity trying to get our plane tickets! But that is over, we have our tickets in hand, and I won't bore you with that story. But look forward to my tales in the months to come! Our departure is just a week from tomorrow! Pray for us!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

More Travel, Praise, and More Frustrations (Justin)

Update: As of yesterday we are at $8,150! That's just $350 away from our goal of $8,500! Praise God, it's hard to believe! Since we'll actually be needing more than that, it'll be great to go over the $8,500 mark and know that we're going to not run out of funds while there.
Thanks to all who have given!

Praise God for the confirmation and for great friends and supporters. I hope to live up to what we've already attained (Philippians 3:16).

We've spent a week in Cincinnati and are now just outside Oak Ridge, TN visiting more family.

Frustrations: The well-known online travel company we booked our flights with have accidentally charged us additional fees. After a couple days on the phone with them, they agreed to reverse the charges. However, there is no sign of this on our bank account yet.

Similarly, the internet service we used in Waco was supposed to reverse charges for their last bill for us. Instead, they've decided to charge us again, even though we have canceled. These hits on our bank account make it difficult for us to close it or minimize it like we'd hoped. These things will be hard to deal with from Moldova, so I'm praying the hits quit coming.

Pray that I have patience and quit losing sleep over these issues. Hope everyone is doing well!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Fundraising Update (Justin)

Hey friends,
I got word this morning that we have $6,340 of the $8,500 that we're needing. So, we're 74.6% of the way! Thanks to everyone who has so generously donated!

If you have not donated yet and would like to do so, the info is on the side of your screen (i'll reprint it for those who are using Google Reader):

The mailing address is:
Business Professional Network
P.O. Box 230399
Portland OR 97281

Be sure to attach a note or letter to the check designating that the donation is for "Justin and Joni Tapp to Moldova."

You can also help us by praying for us! We'll update this blog with requests regularly. Thanks so much for your support!

Friday, July 13, 2007

On the road (Justin)

Hey everyone, just wanted to give an update on where we're at and what we're doing. We had a few days without internet and cellphone in rural Kentucky so today is the first time we've been able to get online for a while.

We made it to Kentucky just fine, everything was still in tact! Thanks to the Callahans for helping us tie everything down, and to the Striplings for giving us a place to sleep the night before we left Waco!

We spent a couple days at my parents' house, and now we're in Chicago visiting with Joni's immediate and extended family for the weekend. Sharing a hotel room with her parents this weekend.

Update: We finally have our plane tickets! After a several-day ordeal including several not-so-pleasant phone conversations with online ticket sellers we finally got our flights! Cost a bit over $2,000 for each of us, but we got the best deal we could.
We'll be leaving Cincinatti on August 1, and arriving in Chisinau, Moldova on August 2. We'll leave Chisinau on December 23 and arrive back in Cincy on Christmas Eve.

Please pray for our funding to come through. Last week, we were officially about 25% of the way through, with pledges of over 50% of our funding still yet to be deposited.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Welcome! (Justin)

Welcome to our new blog home! We hope to keep you updated on our journey. Check out the info to the right of your screen about what we're doing.

Tomorrow, we pack up a U-Haul to leave Waco. The past few days have been filled with selling, donating, throwing away, and saying goodbyes.

Important info to pray for: Our visas and work permits. Joni and I both will not know the status of our work permits until we arrive in Moldova and go to the government ourselves. A typical visa is 3 months, but we will require 6 month visas for our work. Please pray that these come through! God is good!

What I've learned today: You really have to shop around to find a bank that offers a low percentage rate on international ATM transactions. Most of the large banks charge a flat fee (from $1.50-$4.00) plus 2-3% on the exchange conversion to make a foreign ATM withdrawal. This is critical, because we will be reliant on ATMs (and can only withdraw $200 at a time) and the fees pile up quickly. We don't want our donated funds just to go to banking fees! I think we finally found a bank today that offers a decent rate (Extraco).
I also learned it may be relatively easy for me to open a Eurodollar account in Chisinau.

We've been getting solid donor support so far, which is very encouraging. We're just over the halfway mark. Thanks to everyone who is supporting us! We feel very honored and humbled!