Hi all! Good news- I arrived in Thesaloniki, Greece, safely on Tuesday and have really enjoyed the last several days in Negotino, a small town in the hills of Macedonia. It reminds me a lot of the Northwest, which is a little funny and a lot of fun. The weather has been perfect. I’m not sure what the temps have been, but after a first day of clouds and rain, we’ve had perfect August-like weather.
The missionaries we are working with, Brian and Colleen Thomas and their kids who are in country (Gabe, Sam, and Sarah) are a lot of fun. I got to ride here with Colleen, and it’s really clear that she is accustomed to being a long-term missionary. They named their kids with names that could be easily pronounced in this county. They started out working in Pakistan, then went to Bulgaria, and finally to Macedonia.
We have spent the last few days preparing for the Days of Hope event in the main park in the town. On Wednesday, we put up the tent (which looks a lot like a large circus tent complete with yellow and white stripes), and that has been our base of operations. Today was the actual event, and 680 people came through to get everything from medical services to eye exams to haircuts to food- cotton candy, popcorn, sandwiches, juice, and the most amazing chocolate-filled croissants I have ever had.
Our team was in charge of the games for the kids. Unfortunately, my cakewalk was not very popular, but many of the other games were. There were short church services going on in the big tent every hour complete with music and preaching, then people who wanted to pray could go into a prayer tent to talk to someone and have someone pray with them. There was also a place to sign up to receive humanitarian food products from the Convoy of Hope truck that will arrive (hopefully!) on Monday.
Thank you all so much for your prayers. We have definitely felt them. On Thursday (I think; all the days blur together a little), we had tilled soil in the flower beds around the town square for most of the morning, eaten lunch, and taken a little rest when I got up to get back to work at the tent. My whole body started to ache, and I breathed a quick prayer that went something along the lines of, “God, I know that there are a lot of people praying for me, and I know that You hear my prayers. So please help me to feel good enough to work really well this afternoon!” I didn’t think much about it until 5 minutes later I realized that I had no aches whatsoever. I haven’t had a problem since then despite more physical labor than I’ve done in the last six months!
We thought it was odd that we would work literally tilling the soil in flower beds in the square until we heard from the local pastor here that they have had people come to the church based on the exposure of having people out there. We have made friends with the city workers who have started buying us turkish coffee (which is really growing on me!) and coke or beer (I went for the beer at first, thinking it was ginger ale, before I switched. ;P).
There’s so much more to say. The thought of, “Oh, I have to remember this to tell them!” pops into my head on a regular basis. We have started a team quote book to record the many funny sayings, and I’m taking pictures occasionally, but we’ve been really busy (hence this blog post being on Saturday and not earlier.) Our days start with breakfast at 7:30 or 8:00am and end officially with a team meeting that usually ends about 11:00pm. Dinner is often between 7 and 8pm in town, then we walk through town and up the hill to the hotel where we are staying. It’s about a 15 minute walk, and it’s absolutely delightful. This would be a great place to live.
1. Health. As those of you from the Northwest know, allergies can be bad, and we’ve had a few teammates struggle with them.
2. The end of this event. Days of Hope officially ends with a service tomorrow after a presentation of The Puzzle, an excellent children’s drama, and a service for everyone. Pray that hearts will be touched and changed, that the local church here will be encouraged, and that eternity will be different because of it.
3. The rest of the trip. We feel at home in Negotino now, and we leave tomorrow for Skopje (which is definitely pronounced “Skope-ya”) which will be our base for the rest of the trip. We will be working in a Gypsy village a lot and helping at the church in Skopje.
1. Safe travel. One bag was late, but everything else was smooth.
2. A great team. We are loving being together despite some bumps here and there. We are learning a lot about ourselves and each other, and we still really like each other!
3. Great hosts. We are so blessed to work under Brian, Colleen, and Goran (the local pastor).
1. We are having fun with the Cyrillic alphabet and I am having fun learning how to read all over again (just because you can decode doesn’t mean you can read!).
2. We are 9 hours ahead of those of you in Pacific time. It’s 5:15pm right now here, so it’s 8:15am there. The time adjustment went well; turkish coffee helps with that tired feeling, too.
3. I don’t know when I’ll get to internet again, so assume all is well!