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A group of Floridian women landed in Albania this weekend and 12 hours later were hiking the hillside village of Vlashaj to get acclimated to their new community for the week and acquainted with some of its female citizens.
In one day we visited six homes and heard six stories. We heard stories of years of menial labor (37 years of digging fields, in one case), years of work abroad to support one’s family while missing her children’s formative years. Years of living under the roof of an in-law who hurled curses and inflicted beatings. Stories of mothers whose children are their sole source of love, security, and identity but have moved away, leaving them to bear burdens alone. Stories of children forced by economic circumstances to take on more responsibility than most to help the family.
We met women who have a palpable excitement over the opportunity to have a break from everyday tasks, from caring for elderly parents, for a reprieve from an air of hostility in their own homes. We were asked, “Can you make the retreat not just one day but 7?” Others said they were looking for fellowship and fun and to meet new friends. Another said she wanted to spend time with women in prayer. 100% of them said they had never done anything like this before.
We were in homes of plenty and homes of want. In each home we were welcomed and served. Acquaintances were made, family photos and testimonies shared, tears shed, and prayers prayed.
We came back to our little team apartment above the ministry center better understanding where our hosts are coming from. We were amazed to witness Spirit-driven conversations, how He weaved together pieces of our personal stories into mutually relate-able experiences that transcended cultural divides.
We can’t wait for more days like these! Thank you, Lord, for this privilege! What a JOY! Oh friends, hearts are soft. We are expecting great things.
Because of the reputation of my father, I was warmly received by this gentleman whom we passed on the road…
You might recognize him from his portrait I captured here He didn’t recognize me… you can’t tell but he’s nearly completely blind (and 93 years strong).
re-posted from the Waggoner’s blog
[hr]Most of you will remember one of our youth from the very beginning of the ministry in Vlashaj. No one had seen him for a while in the village ministry, but to my delight, Jamille (not his real name) attended our meetings this week, and it was a great time to reconnect. He has run the full course in Albania – graduating from the University and immediately going into unemployment. His story is not uncommon. Please pray for Jamille that his degree would open doors for a career.
[hr]Today some of the village ladies will see the fruit of their labors. The international craft bazaar is going on at the Sheraton Hotel in Tirana. The jewelry and cards made by the women from Vlashaj are being sold alongside donuts, paintings, and lots of other goodies. An earlier craft sale at the US Embassy netted about $200 and hopes for today are to top that amount.
Thanks to Lynn, Len, and Vera for managing the booth!
[hr]Not too far away from our apartment in Tirana is a major city round about. Last week we noticed a new addition to the landscape in the center of the round about. Someone in the van piped out, “It’s the American flag!”. Of course, the next day we walked back with our cameras to show everyone the new design. We find it so great that another country shows our country so much respect. Thank you, Albania.
Editors Note: The monument in the middle of the roundabout is in honor of Woodrow Wilson. After WWI several countries had their eyes on absorbing Albania into their territories. President Wilson spoke up for the autonomy of Albania and included them as their own nation state in the League of Nations (pre-cursor of the United Nations).
[hr]It has been on the list for a long time to make some better accommodations on the second floor of our Tirana guest apartment. Now with Cydil and Nathan making plans to live there we have decided to get some work done. Today we had the floor cut out to make way for a spiral stairway to go back and forth from the second to the first floor. Also, we cut out a doorway to make the kitchen accessible from the living room. When it is all completed it will make hosting guests much easier. In the photos we didn’t capture the dust that flew when the jack hammer was working. I’ll just say that the workman was grateful when I handed him a mask to wear.
[hr]Today our guests arrived in Albania from Vermont. We were so thankful they were able to make connections out of Boston in spite of all the complications from storm “Sandy”. We have several work projects that will keep them busy. It’s too bad they had to arrive with temps in the 70’s and plenty of sunshine. Let’s just hope it can stay this way for 2 weeks.