In just a matter of hours Tiranafest will commence. There will be thousands of Albanians that will hear the gospel for the very first time. Pray with us that God’s spirit will rain down upon that assembled body and open the hearts of those attending.
Last evening I was reading 2 Corinthians 4-6 (The Message) where it summed up life so well and how this truth needs to be heard and felt in the hearts of those attending the Tiranafest.
“Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messaih that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore . Now we look inside, and what we see is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives, God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him and who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (Paul, the apostle)
It is always a privilege to share our heart with others about Albania. This past Sunday we were at Dillon Mennonite Church, about 10 miles from our Green Valley home. It was extra special to introduce Cydil and Nathan to our friends and to explain their upcoming role of ministry and partnership with Planters and World Gospel Mission. This, also, was Dillon’s mission’s emphasis day and so there were various times of sharing and fellowship with everyone which we enjoyed very much.
Look at all of the minitries Dillon Church is supporting! It is great to see their missions heart!
Managing is a nececessity for all businesses and unfortunately there is no difference for Planters in Albania. Sarah’s summer trip focused mainly to set up details for two upcoming fall and winter teams. But thankfully there was more that happened than just business. Genti planned a baptismal service which is always a highlight. Witnessiing youth placing their faith in a lifetime commitment to God makes our hearts dance with joy. Seeing God working in these young lives encourages us to continue and to be so thankful for what God is doing in this post-Communist land.
Sarah joining with the Albanian staff, Arjan, Mandi, Sarah, Shpresa and Genti
We have finished up our time for now in Albania. It is always mixed emotions for us to pack up the suitcases for the return trip to Illinois. We were able to get most of the “to do list” completed. The trip home never gets any shorter. It was late Thursday (or better yet, early Friday morning) when we arrived in Green Valley. It was a big contrast from the balmy 65 degree temps we had in Tirana to the snow we came home to in Peoria. Right now, we will be going back towards the end of January. We have several guests coming and have some exciting things planned for January and February.
Or I should say, “Slider”. The path from the club to the village school is a 45 degree walkway for cows and shepherds that winds between mountain bushes. One of the many perils of not being a shepherd or a said beast with four legs is being an American with only two legs because without a doubt the American will fall and…enough said. I’ve included pictures of the children’s descent from school to our kid’s club meeting and then another picture of the aftermath of my descent with gravity. Other than the mud, I had to succumb to the jesting and laughter of the men at the bottom of the hill. The men were gracious enough to clean my stains from both mud and pride (much like the new TSA clearance rules for traveling). In this case it pays to be a cow.
Not always does modern technology smile friendly on “the older techie”s of this world. In fact, we were held hostage by the internet earlier during our stay in Albania. But thankfully, after much effort and attempts, we have been able to access the “outer world” and even to have a business conference call yesterday. We are making plans for hosting an event which will be over Valentine’s weekend for Albanian pastors. We are very excited and are looking forward to stepping out of our usual role. The photo shows David, Genti and Shpresa talking to Len and Lynne Benson along with David Lind, the pastor of Calvary Bible Church of Rutland, VT.
By now, most of you have had or will have your big Thanksgiving meal for 2009. Since Albania is several hours ahead of you we have had our quiet Thanksgiving meal in the shadow of highrises on a dark, Tirana night. You probably will be within view of little Pilgrim statues holding their iconic basket of gifts from the fall harvest. The closest proximity to us are candles that we hope we don’t have to light because of black out. Notice our ‘turkey’. It’s a chicken that rests squarely in a tin foil pan, a Kentucky casserole, and dressing made by our African guest are the only three semblences of a traditional feast. I might add there are very few festive moods to our Muslim background, no football games, no parades, no leftovers on Thursday night. Our only revel is in the fact that with little chickens there’s little over eating. From all of us to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving and be mindful of how good the Lord has been to us.Tiana, David, and CydilP.S. It’s easy to clean up when you eat the carry-out chicken directly from the pan.
A lot of you will be going to Grandma’s house this week. You’ll get to share in all the goodies: Food, tradition, and family. It’s a natural thing to want to be included in holiday family tradition. Grandmas make anything special, especially when families get together.I’ve wanted to visit Grandma’s house this week in the village of Vlashaj. Flora has garnished respect from me over the years because she lives on the high corner of the village and always monitored traffic, separating dogs from donkeys. She is a grandma, one who has made her family stronger in time of trouble, happier in times of sadness, and wiser when her knowledge guided the family through low spots. She will, without knowing it, stand over her family on this Thanksgiving.Age has taken its toll. Every day from her little chair by the front gate she would wave or shake her walking stick to let you know that we’d better say “hi” and give her a hug or you would fall under the rain of strong Albanian phrases. Sadly, these days she’s been reduced to the back kitchen to sit by the cooking stove and stays warm all day to help with her arthritis and diminished legs. I was brought over to her, she was told who was there to visit her and did the proper response that guests in Albania do, I bowed low, and then promptly gave her a hearty hug. The work that she’s done in the village, the commission handed her to steer her family and the guidance that came from a much younger frame allows me to give this lady respect.
It was a great time getting to share with several of the ladies in the village who recently have accepted Christ. Just to understand and to learn what struggles they are dealing with in their “new life” is so special. They commented that the peace and joy they have experienced in their walk is something they never have had before. I think we could have talked all day if we had the time. The picture doesn’t include Noci who left early to take care of her little boy who was at home.