Sunday, March 19, 2006

BUYING A VEHICLE


The search and anticipated purchase of a new vehicle prompted my visit to the Annual Auto Exhibition in Skopje. It was an enjoyable diversion and, of course, another cultural-education experience.

Making an intelligent choice about appropriate transportation that falls within our price range involves more than just browsing. This requires stopping and talking, asking questions, and drinking an appreciable amount of very, strong coffee. There are differences between American models and European models of the same make, and the purchasing process is considerably more complicated.

Having discussed all the procedures for buying a particular car and having recited our biographical history for the tenth time in two hours, there is the inevitable question of what I am really doing here in this country. By now, more people are eavesdropping on the conversation. There are offers for more coffee or perhaps tea or juice as an alternative which I graciously accept, even though I cannot manage to raise the cup to my mouth one more time. Cultural lesson: One cannot carry on a meaningful conversation without having something to drink within reach.

Given the rather uncertain political climate in our part of the world, I am never quite sure how much to reveal about our work in the area of ethnic cooperation. But on this occasion, the mention of that subject caught the immediate attention of Marko, the young sales representative with whom I had been dealing. He asked if it would be possible for us to arrange another meeting during his break (more coffee anyone?). We did meet, and Marko shared with me that he had recently spent a year in Marseille, France, under the auspices of the European Commission. He worked with immigrants from North and West Africa. Imagine my surprise!!

Outside his own cultural and religious environment, and working with other people outside their cultural and religious environments, Marko’s world view was drastically altered. Now back in his home territory, he wants to become actively involved in helping to resolve ethnic tensions in Macedonia. He wonders if I can help him to become involved.

So where does this leave me? I am not used to having people, especially Macedonians, “volunteer” like this. This new opportunity presents me with a multitude of possibilities. God is leading me into ever-new discoveries. The next step will be to bring Marko into conversation with others from our multi-ethnic core group. Beyond that, we will anticipate connecting our core group with a high school teacher in a village near Tetovo, who has been trained in the Education for Peach Project.

Learning To Trust is moving consistently from vision to practical reality. May God be praised.

A MONTH OF EMOTIONS


This month has been filled with varied emotions for me. March 8th (Mother’s Day at the kindergarten) was a very special celebration. We had 37 mothers in attendance. One mother was ill, and there are 2 sets of twins in the kindergarten class. What joy there was when the children sang, recited poetry, and gave gifts that they had made for their mothers.

What a difference this little kindergarten has made in the lives of the forty children and their families. March 8th was a day of celebration.

Two days later found Habibe and me at Ifet’s home to pay condolences to his mother, Razmire, at the loss of her father. Her father had taken the bus into Skopje and was hit and killed by another bus as he was getting off the bus. He was 52 years old.

As is the custom, Razmire and her husband live with his parents who are quite a bit older than Razmire’s parents. Her in-laws are both disabled. Her father-in-law is blind and her mother-in-law has diabetes. Razmire takes care of them, as well as her three children. Ifet is her middle child and attends the kindergarten. Ifet’s older brother is in the 6th class, and Ifet’s sister, Fatime, just turned four.

Razmire’s husband does not have regular work, but he goes each day to the Bit Pazare (central market) to try to find work as a manual laborer. He is fortunate to make 1000 denars (about $20) a month. His parents get a small pension from their retirement, but this family of seven barely survives. They are so grateful that Ifet has a warm, dry place to go to school; a place where he is provided an education and loved.

Another tragedy struck this family two years ago when Ifet’s baby sister, Fatime, was diagnosed with lymphatic leukemia. Fatime has been on medication and has been treated at the local hospital for the last 2 years. This month she had to be hospitalized for about a week and was unconscious for part of that time. During the doctor’s visit this past week, Razmire was told that the state could no longer provide the medication for Fatime. The family would have to get the medication at the pharmacy, which meant that they would have to pay for it themselves. Razmire told us on Wednesday this past week that the medicine would cost 3000 denars per month ($60)!

When Razmire and her husband went back to the doctor to see what could be done because they did not have the money to purchase the medicine, the doctor said that the reason the state would not pay after two years is that the child would die anyway!!?? When Razmire told us this, I almost could not contain my anger. I could only imagine what Razmire and her husband had felt when the doctor said these words.

On Friday, Habibe and I took groceries to the family, and Habibe told Razmire that the cost of the medicine would be paid. (This is one way that Arville and I use our tithe money each month.) She cried and said to tell the people who made this possible “thank you”. So “thank you” for your support of CBF missions. It is because of you that we are able to be here to see the needs and make a difference.

Even after 26 years of living and working overseas, of seeing people survive insurmountable obstacles – like drought, lack of education, ethnic conflict and unemployment – I am still amazed at the indomitable spirit of people like Razmire to survive and make a better life for her family. I am so grateful to be here as a witness that God loves her.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

8 Marsi

Yesterday was "8 Marsi" (Mother's and/or Women's Day) in Macedonia. We celebrated at the kindergarten in Skopje. The children made flowers and cards for their mothers, and then they presented a short program of songs, poetry, and dance.


These children would not have the opportunity to start their education without the education they get at the "Future of the Family" kindergarten. They come from one of the poorest areas of Skopje. They have learned so much this year, and the teachers and mothers were very proud yesterday when they shared their joy for learning with all of us.

Our Granddaughter's Fourth Birthday


This is a picture of Anna Grace Breedlove on her 4th birthday. She is dressed in the doctor'suit - her birthday present from Peepaw and Baba (Macedonian for grandmother).