oh Kosovo

I’m trying to catch up a bit of Macedonia stuff and share a few more pictures.  Today, it’s Kosovo.  

We got to Skopje on a Monday, and that night we had a team meeting to figure out how to use our day off- Tuesday.  We settled on Kosovo, which is just over the hill from Skopje.  After stopping at the border to get our “UN MIK” (Mission in Kosovo) stamps in our passports, we saw some of the countryside on our way in.  This is a common sight: two speed limit signs, one for tanks and one for trucks.  We didn’t see very many tanks, but we did see a lot of UN and NATO vehicles from various countries.

We stopped by the local US base, and saw a little Thai restaurant close to base.  We ended up going back there for a late but delicious lunch after seeing Prishtina:Brian parked in downtown, a few streets off from one of the main streets: Boulevardi Bill Klinton. (He is a great hero in Kosovo.)  This is just one piece of evidence for the impeccable parking skill of our host missionary. The actual distance between vehicles was no greater than 3 inches.

We walked around, got amazing espresso, almost got hit by a delivery truck, and Jenni found some incredible but slightly-too-small shoes.  

There was evidence of bombing around, like this cafe that still hasn’t been rebuilt, and the exposed rebar on the balcony next to it.  Otherwise, it was a fully functional city.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had our late lunch and headed home.  On the way to and from Kosovo, we got the inside scoop from Brian about the last several years in the area.  For one, the conflict in Kosovo was actually a great money maker for Macedonia.  There were several bases there, including a US base and a German base, and thousands of refugees.  He said that the theme song was, “Welcome to the Hotel Macedonia.”  He told cool stories about how they got to minister in the refugee camps.

Another side note, learned in travel, is that there is a great need for local Albanian missionaries to the Albanian population in Macedonia.  This population is mostly Muslim, and there is no established Albanian church.  Please pray that the Lord of the Harvest would raise up Albanian laborers in Macedonia.

Life in Skopje and Shutka

After about a week in Negotino, the Macedonia team headed to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.  We lived with Brian, Colleen, Gabe, Sam, and Sara.  The story behind their awesome house is great.  Brian was visiting Skopje before they moved there from Bulgaria, and the landlords (who also live in one half of the house) had been waiting for someone that they liked to rent the other half of the house to.  They liked Brian, and when he said that the rent was too much, they lowered it on the spot.  The house is great for the needs of the Thomas family.  It has an upstairs rec room that is used for youth group and an extra room that they use for as classroom.  The right side of this picture is their side.

It was a little cramped with 9 extras and 14 people altogether, but I don’t think any of us would have had it any other way.  We slept mostly upstairs with a few random nights outside on one of the several balconies for a few people.  

We spent our day off in Kosovo.  I’ll post more about that later.  Every other day was spent at least partially in Shutka, the largest Gypsy (Roma) community in the world.  Brian and Colleen have helped to start a church there and train the pastor to lead it.  They do a soup kitchen for the kids three days a week and do a children’s service on Saturdays.  We got to help with the soup kitchen and do some manual labor around the church and the new home for the pastor, Tony/office for Brian.  

The kids hung around all the time, and sometimes we had to tell them to move or stay out of the area while we worked.  They loved to help, though, and would often pick up tools much too large for their little bodies and shovel, rake, etc.

This is the area where the kids play.  They would run to greet us as we got out of the van, eager for hugs and attention of any sort.  Part of our job was to clear this area so that they can safely play there without trash and weeds as high as their waists being in the way.  Also, the area behind this building was cleared right before we left by a backhoe that smoothed the land so it can be made into a soccer field.

The facts of life in Shutka are that many families are Muslim, and socio-economic status varies a lot.  There were many kids with shoes that were clearly 3 or 4 sizes too small. (A church in the States sent $500 to buy the kids shoes, so that was supposed to happen soon after we left.)  There were some really nice houses, and many not-so-nice looking houses.  Unemployment is high.  We heard the call to prayer often, and we learned that Friday noon is the time to pray- if you’re not going to go to prayer at any other time, you should go then. 

More to come…

Thanksgiving on June 11


sunset 1

 

 

sunset 2

11 (of the many) things I’m thankful for at 11pm on June 11:

  1. This sunset in Negotino.  We caught it on our way to dinner one night, and stopped to take pictures and enjoy it.
  2. The faithful correction and instruction of the Holy Spirit.  I am so thankful that He knows my heart and knows when my human weakness feels overwhelming.  He knows when I need to be questioned on the “why” of doing things and graciously provides conviction without condemnation.
  3. A family to move home to.  My mom left me a message the other day just saying that she’s glad I’m home.  I have listened to it several times and almost cried.  
  4. Sher being home and time to spend with her before she moves south for a bit.
  5. The sovereignty of God.  I am quite (!!) curious about what the future will hold and what God’s plans are for me and the rest of my life, but I am not freaked out or frantic by His grace.  He has never ever dropped me or even pretended to before, and He is my hope within the veil.
  6. Friends who are glad to have me back in the area, pray for me, and support me with what I need to hear.  Tonight, it was, “it’s ok to relax a little.”  Hard to hear, but probably needed.
  7. Friends and roomies who are sad to have me gone from the King Isa house in Tempe.  No, we never actually called it that, but since our network was called King Isa and I’m blogging, it seemed appropriate.  
  8. The promise of wisdom (see James 1).  The all-wise God promises not to scold me when I ask for His wisdom, and that’s cool.
  9. Grace.  I need a lot of it in lots of different ways, and God provides it with just as much diversity as I need it.
  10. The beautiful cherry blossoms on the walk to the park on Queen Anne tonight.  I wish that I had a picture to post; they were picture-perfect.
  11. Jesus.  To explain, these are some of the lyrics to the hymn “Before the Throne of God Above:”   

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart

Behold Him there! The risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless, Righteousness
The Great unchangeable I AM
The King of Glory and of Grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God

Days of Hope in Negotino

[Sorry to be so long in posting this next bit about Macedonia.  Since the last post, I have traveled 1,600 miles in trusty Squishy with trustier Amanda and made it back to Seattle safely.  Yeah! Thank you for praying!]

The tent was set up for the Days of Hope events of the first week we were there.  The Puzzle was done by a team of teens from Skopje for kids two nights in the tent, a film was shown for adults, and a concert was held there in addition to the Sunday service and the Saturday services.

Saturday was the main event.  It lasted from 10-2, and there were all sorts of activities around the field.  I think I posted some of this earlier, but twice won’t hurt.  There were services going on constantly in the big tent, and everything else was spread around the field.

These are the tents for the medical help, eye exams, haircuts, and face painting.  The red umbrella is the shade for the cotton candy and popcorn.

row of tents

There were also games for the kids, which we ran.  This picture shows most of the games from where I spent the day- in the unsuccessful cakewalk.  Oh well.  Apparently soccer balls (at the ring toss) are more popular than cakes.  I even handed out wiki sticks as consolation prizes!

row of games

Security for the week was provided by a security company from Skopje that is headed by the guy on the left in this picture.  He is a believer, and they provided security for the field for free for the week.  We joked about how we should use this picture with parents who are reluctant to let their kids serve Jesus overseas.  They were friendly and very gracious.

safe on the mission field

We heard bits and pieces of testimonies from this day, and I look forward to hearing more later, whether on earth or in heaven.  The way I see it, we got to do “backstage” work to allow the local church to minister to their community in really practical ways.  It was a privilege to be there and support our brothers and sisters in sharing Jesus with their neighbors.  We didn’t do a whole lot of “ministry” in a traditional sense on this day or on this trip in general, but we did get to do a lot of practical, had-to-be-done work to set the stage for Macedonian ministry.  

At our game stations, we were partnered with a Macedonian to translate and talk to the kids (since our Macedonian vocabulary was growing but still quite limited).  It was a fun way to get to know some of the teens.

When I spoke at XA for the last time (less than 2 months ago! wow!), I spoke on koinonia, a Greek word with a lot of depth (from what I can tell) that can be translated “partnership, fellowship, vested interest” and many other ways.  Days of Hope in Negotino was a perhaps unconventional example of koinonia.  We partnered with Macedonian believers and our Father to reach out to a community full of people who need Him.  They needed us, we needed them, and Jesus chose to use all of us to love people.  His vested interest in them was poured out through us.

The Tent in the Center of Town

I really shouldn’t be taking time to blog right now, but I’ve been up since 5, I don’t need to leave for church for hours, and I’m in dire need of a break from packing, so I thought I’d post a few pictures.

This is the tent on our first morning in Negotino. The mayor allowed the church to use the large football (soccer) field for free, and our first task was to set it up. We learned how to tie knots, cross poles, and add walls.

The tent pre-set up

This is the tent filled with people on Sunday during the baptismal part of the service.

The tent on Sunday

The tent from a point on our walk from the hotel down the hill.The tent in the center of town

Excerpts from “Tent in the Center of Town” by Sara Groves:

There’s a tent in the center of town
The people have gathered around
Cause they think they’ll go there to see lions and bears
In the tent in the center of town

But it’s all about the winning of soul
Say the signs on the telephone poles
They say if you are blue Jesus is calling you
To the tent in the center of town

The preacher is preaching his best
And he barely takes time for a breath
Their hearts are complete in the bearable heat
In the tent in the center of town

The gentlemen give up their seats
To the women who’ve been on their feet
But it’s standing room only when the Holy of Holies
Enters the center of town

There’s a tent in the center of town
Where the people can gather around
Who wouldn’t step foot in a church
But who aren’t afraid of a good news crusade
In the tent in the center of town

They say they’re drawn in by the stripes on the awning
And the beautiful music inside
But they’re drawn by the Spirit that’s pouring down
On the tent in the center of town

And revival hits like a wave
And hundreds are joyously saved
And the thief and adulterer lay it all on the altar
In the tent in the center of town

The time has come to move on
To the next hurting throng
And they hope as they tear it apart
The tent will live on in their hearts

I once was lost, but now I’m found
Because of a tent in the center of town

We saw some of this- standing room only, the pouring down of the sweet Spirit of God, and the preacher barely taking time for a breath (and talking over the translator!). We continue to pray for some of it- revival like a wave, and hundreds joyously saved. We heard a few testimonies, but Brian said that there were many of God’s faithful work through the weekend and the events in the tent.

Please continue to pray for the church in Negotino that the tent (and more importantly, God’s work there) will grown and continue.

Home again!

You know you’ve been traveling overseas when you unpack and find kleenex and tp in every pocket- just in case you need it- because you probably will.

The South Africa team and the Macedonia team were booked onto the same flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix, so we had quite the reunion in the airport yesterday.  We arrived home around 7, got luggage, and said our goodbyes.

There’s so much to be said, and depending on the state of my head over the next few weeks, I hope to post some of the cool stuff that happened and the lessons I learned.  Overall, though, it was a great trip with a solid team and fabulous hosts.  Macedonia is an amazing country, and of all the countries (Kosovo, Greece, and Germany) we visited, albeit briefly, I’m really glad that we got to spend most of our time in Macedonia.

I have today and tomorrow here, then I’m headed north in Squishy with Amanda.  Please pray for safe travels as well as adjustment to this time zone…I woke up this morning at 1:30am (10:30am Macedonian time) wide awake, despite being extremely tired.

I’ll leave you with a picture of a few kids from Shutka.  The boy just to my left is the one who would yell my name and grab my hand.  I hope to post more soon.

Almost goodbye

It’s almost time to say ciao to the Thomas family, Skopje, and Macedonia. 

Have I mentioned that I don’t like this part?

The closer we get to leaving here and finishing this trip means not only those goodbyes, but the coming-all-too-quickly goodbye to my Arizona family.  That fact has come up in my mind and in conversation over and over again lately. Oh well.  Back to being where I am right now…which is the Thomas family living room in the middle of Skopje.

It’s been an incredible experience to be here in Macedonia, to live with the Thomas family (a brave bunch to have an extra 9 strangers crash with them for over a week!), and to watch the lives of ‘real missionaries’ up close and personal.  It keeps sinking in more and more that the principles of the Gospel are so steady and rock-solid and yet expressed in such creative ways in different cultures. 

I have learned a lot on this trip so far, but it really boils down to learning to love Jesus more.  I am more awestruck today than yesterday, more aware of my humanity, and more grateful than ever for the power of the cross. 

I think the whole team has hit that invisible-yet-oh-so-clear point of tiredness physically, emotionally, and mentally.  If we are dependent on ourselves and our own strength to love one another and the people around us at this point, we will blow up and fail miserably.  The good news is that this provides a perfect opportunity for a lot of grace.

And this is life- to know the only true God and Jesus, His Son.  It’s the only way to go.

P.S. Today, I got everything needed to make Turkish coffee (which has grown on me a lot) at home, coffee cups and coffee included. 

Also, please pray for the ASU XA South Africa team.  They are currently in Cape Town, where there are being accompanied by Mike and Michelle Tessendorf.  From what we’ve heard, they are in no danger.  Prayer never hurts, though. 🙂

Shutka: a puppy named Angela and a gypsy child’s prayer

And this is the grace and glory, respectively, of short term missions.

This has been quite the week in many ways.  We got to work on the last part of the Convoy of Hope project in Negotino for a day this week and bagged hundreds of kilos of rice and beans for distribution to the community.  Last Saturday, families signed up for the humanitarian food aid, and we bagged it so that it can be given out. 

We also worked on an office space for Brian in Shutka and helped at the church property out there in between lunches at the soup kitchen and playing with the kids.  We did balloon animals, step routine, puppetry- today was on forgiveness- and carnival games.  One little girl finds me each time we arrive and attaches herself to my side.  Today, Brian called me ‘Angelika,’ which is one way to translate my name into Macedonian, and one of the kids corrected him and told him I was ‘Angela.’  I was amused.  I also found out that they named some new puppies for me and several other teammates. 

I learned that the ‘teacher look’ is international and crosses cultures.  It’s come in really handy as the kids in Shutka are generally undisciplined and need encouragement to follow the directions they’ve been given. 

Today, I was incredibly humbled as the 9 of the ~50 children at the children’s ministry service in Shutka this morning were assigned a team member to pray for.  The most precious moments on several trips have been when the local church prayed for the team, and today ranks pretty high on that list.  There’s something about hearing a child pray in his heart language, asking Jesus to bless you, that is incomparable.

Tomorrow we get to go to church in Skopje in the morning and Shutka in the evening.  I can’t wait.

I am feeling the wrecking that God is doing day by day and moment by moment.  I’m reading more of The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which is compounding what I’m seeing and experiencing.  My heart is full of thoughts and ideas and questions and ache.  

May His kingdom come more and more, and may His will be done on the earth as it is in heaven.  May we be faithful to the call to ‘come and die.’   

Welcome to Skopje!

We’ve arrived!  We got to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, today after unloading a large (semi) truck full of supplies from the weekend, including the very large, very heavy tent.  It’s a beautiful city, and we had dinner at a monastery that dates back to the 11thcentury.  We also passed Roman ruins on our way here this morning.  It’s odd to be in a place with so much history! 

We are staying with Brian and Colleen in their house with their kids, and it’s a cozy but fun fit.  We got to meet a few of the youth from the church here tonight at youth group, then went to McDonalds and the local grocery store.

Upcoming: trips around the countryside and into old town Skopje, more work with gypsy kids in one of the villages, and possibly a visit to a far-flung village that needs some encouragement.  We’ll help with a soup kitchen and around a relatively new church building in a village as well.

I wish I could process, let alone post, what God is doing on the inside.  Maybe later.   For now, please keep praying for me and our team.  We are now over a week in, and I think that the 24-7 team contact/no privacy may be taking its toll on some of us.  Also, please pray that we will serve Brian, Colleen, Skopje, and the villages well.

Side note on the wine: It came out of a box that said Liptonice; even I know that box wine is cheap.  Also, one sip assured me that it was nasty, and I was glad for my water bottle to wash away the after taste.  Finally, Colleen explained that they use cheap wine to keep people from being tempted by it.  There was no temptation here. 🙂

More amazed every day,

Angela