Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Headed For Prague




I will not be posting to our blogsite for a few days because we will be traveling. We (Arville, Mary Beth & I) are going to Prague, Czech Republic for our team meeting. Today Mary Beth is saying "good-bye", we are packing suitcases, and getting things arranged to be gone for ten days.

I will post pictures/blog entries about our trip when I return - unless I am able to get on-line to do some posting in Prague. How cool is that??

Shelia

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Finished More Watercolors

I thought I would post some pictures of the watercolors I have just completed. These 2 were commissioned. One goes to Carolyn who was here in June for a volunteer trip. She wanted one of our kindergarten children, holding red poppies which are so prevalent here. The other one is a picture of a Greek village for a friend of Mary Beth's (won't say who because she hasn't told the friend yet). I made photos of both of these and then watercolored them.

They are both in Mary Beth's luggage to go back to the US next week.


"A Greek Village"


"Belinda"

Fun Time in Struga and Ohrid


This picture was taken in Struga, Macedonia. The Albanian and American flags flying together is a symbol of what Struga and Ohrid look like in July and August. Albanians from the US and other countries come to Struga during the summer. They come to visit family, to attend weddings, and to take vacations. There were cars from New York, New Jersey, and even Alaska. We were told that it is cheaper to ship their cars to Eastern Europe for the summer months than to rent a car once they get here.

We went to Struga and then Ohrid on Sunday afternoon and came back on Monday evening. We wanted Mary Beth to see another part of Macedonia before she returns to the States.

Here are pictures of Struga, Mary Beth, Sara & Jehona with friends, and Arville at the bridge:











Here are pictures of Ohrid:











Habibe and Mary Beth in an Art Gallery




Statues of Cyril and Metodius (the Two Men Who Developed the Macedonian Alphabet)

There is even a McDonalds in Ohrid !!! It is just take-away so we opted for a pretty, little Macedonian Sidewalk Restaurant to have a leisurely lunch.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Living in Other Cultures






Often, Arville and I are asked about the things we miss by living overseas, and the first thing that comes to our minds is that we miss seeing our children, their families, our extended families, and our friends in the States whenever we wish. But lately I have been considering what we have gained over the years by living in other cultures and learning from the people we have known.

This past week, Mary Beth taught me how to download music onto my I-Pod (which isn’t altogether a good thing – ha!) and I discovered something very interesting about my music tastes. I am very eclectic when it comes to music that I like. I listen to all kinds of music: classical, rock ‘n roll, folk music, African music, French songs, opera, jazz, Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, etc. But, I have more country and western music than anything else. Yes, I admit it --- I am crazy about country music.

I say this so that you know I like Alan Jackson’s music. I have quite a few of his albums. I purchased a cd of his a couple of years ago; it came out after 9/11. There are songs on this particular cd that talk about family, love, and even learning to drive on a tractor and in an old car (you know you can make a country western song from almost any subject, right???). One of the songs on this album asks the question: “Where were you when the world stopped turning”? It sounds good on the surface, then you get to the chorus. It says,

“I’m just a singer of simple songs, I’m not a real political man.
I watch CNN, but I’m not sure I can tell you the difference in Iraq & Iran.
But I know Jesus, and I talk to God.
And I remember this from when I was young.
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us.
But the greatest is love.”

So when asked about what we have gained by living in other cultures, I think one of the advantages is that we have more of a worldview--- a view that doesn’t include thinking that God loves Americans more than He loves other people. We actually do know people from Iraq and Iran, and we have developed the understanding that Jesus taught us to love not only those who love us, but also our enemies—and not all Iraqis and Iranians are our enemies.

To love others, one has to know them first. So I take Jesus’ words to be a directive to me personally to try to know, understand, and even love people who might have a reason to hate me. I have to ask myself if I felt the same kind of pain when I saw the Muslim, Kosovar Albanians being herded across the border of Macedonia and Albania, the massacre in Mozambique, the plight of Ethiopia, the kind of horror that the Palestinians and the Israelis live with on a daily basis---as I felt on that dark day in America, September 11.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Our Partners in Ministry

INVOLMENT IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS

Mary Beth's dad, Tim Gilbert, sent this quote the other day. It said exactly what I had been thinking about all the people who have come to be part of our ministry over the years. We have heard so many say, "This experience has changed my life forever."

That is another way of saying what is expressed by Joan Puls in "Every Bush is Burning":

"We live limited lives until we 'cross over' into the concrete world of another country, another culture, another tradition of worship. I was stretched and challenged in so many ways by travelling and encountering people....History comes alive and what is foreign becomes familiar. Vague images take flesh and understanding and appreciation grow. I have left forever a small world to live the tensions and tender mercies of God's larger family."

Slideshow of Our Visit with Razmire & Family

Our Visit With Razmire

Last Friday, we visited Razmire and her family. Razmire's son, Iffet, attended the "Future of the Family" kindergarten 2005-06 school year. Razmire's daughter, Fatime, is the little girl that Arville and I have been helping with her leukemia medication for the past year.

On the way, we met several families whose children have attended the kindergarten, and they wanted their picture made with Mary Beth, too. It took us about 30 minutes longer than we had planned to reach Razmire's house because we kept seeing people that we knew and had to stop and visit.

Razmire has a new baby boy named Skender. Habibe, Mary Beth and I took gifts to the baby and visited with Razmire and her family. Razmire served us some very delicious coffee, and we talked, laughed, and shared together for about an hour.

Fatime had a good report from her last visit to the hospital. She was in great spirits, and she especially loved meeting and playing with Mary Beth. Mary Beth had brought her some "flavored lip gloss" --- so they became instant friends!

We all held the baby. Is there anything sweeter??? After about 30 minutes of this, Skender was fussy, so Razmire wrapped him tightly in a blanket and strapped him into his cradle. What a beautiful cradle!! It was the same one that the other two children had used when they were born. A cousin was visiting (he is now 14 years old); and Razmire said, "We all rocked you enough in your cradle when you were little, so now it is your turn." So she assigned Arijon the task of keeping the cradle moving. That is exactly what he did!! We knew now why Razmire had strapped Skender into the cradle!! He really loved it though and fell asleep instantly.

I couldn't help but think about how much Razmire loved all three of her children, and how much pain she has been through with Fatime's illness. She is able to take life one day at a time. Before we left, she pulled me aside and thanked me (for the millionth time, I think) for helping them with Fatime's medicine. Then amidst the tears, she said that she knew God was in bringing us together. I told her that I felt the same way, and that I considered it a privilege to be able to share in a small way in her life. What a special moment for me!!

When we walked down the little path outside their courtyard, we could still hear Fatime saying, "Come back again tomorrow!!" I wish that those of you who have a part in this ministry, those of you who make it possible for us to be here, could have been with us on this special visit with Razmire.

SlideShow of Our July 4th in Macedonia

Ponderings About the 4th of July

Arville and I have lived and worked overseas for the past 27 July Fourth celebrations (a few of those we were in the US when July 4th rolled around). We have always made it a day of fun, picnics, and good food. It seems to take on a new significance when celebrated with folks from other countries (yes, we even celebrated with some British friends several years).

In Macedonia, we have realized the significance of the freedom of separating religion and government. Yesterday, Mary Beth and I were driving back from taking the Smiths to the airport, and we passed a new Orthodox Church that is being built near our apartment. This church is not necessarily for the purpose of worship. There will be few who actually enter it for that reason. It is a symbol that Macedonia is an Orthodox country. On the outside of the church, at the entry door, a Macedonian flag is flying.

Lest you think that it is only the Macedonians that link church and state, you only have to pass a mosque (2 streets down from this Orthodox church) to see an Albanian flag stationed somewhere nearby.

What does it mean - this separation of church and state? Why is it so important to not mix politics and religion? One only has to experience the separation of people, the hatred for the "other", and the wars in our region to know why we are proponents of separation of church and state. When these two are linked together, the ground is fertile for one to think he or she is superior to the other nationality or faith. The next step is taking the freedom of choice (both political and religious) away. Reconciliation can happen only when one has the freedom to be Macedonian -- whether he or she is Orthodox or Muslim.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

GRATEFUL FOR MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES

Arville says that he now knows I can find any excuse to post on our blog.

We have been preparing our budget proposals for October 2008-September 2009. We were looking back at all the contributions to our projects that have been made over the past year, reviewing our ministry accomplishments, and dreaming about what might be done in the next few years--and then we realized that none of this could be a reality without the involvement of folks just like you.

This posting is especially for you who have had such a significant part in our ministry in Macedonia over the past year. Thank you so much for all you have done to help these families know what it means to be loved and to have hope for the future.

Project Contributions were made to:
CBF Global Missions, P.O. Box 450329, Atlanta, GA 31145-0329
Under the following Project Numbers:
Benevolent Fund #80087 (Part of the Kindergarten Program)
Orphans - Dobri Dol # 80085
Albanian Village Project #80081

THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE

Sunday, July 01, 2007

WE HAVE OUR WORK VISAS !!!!!

We wanted to make a quick posting to let all of you know that we now have our WORK VISAS for one year. It is not like we have been sitting around waiting on these to become a reality (see Blog postings)--- but now we won't have this hanging over our heads every day.

UPDATE:

- Mary Beth has 2 1/2 weeks left with us. We have enjoyed having her with us SOO much this summer. The time has flown by (as we knew it would), but we have been able to accomplish so much. We are thankful for every minute we have been able to spend with her.

- We go to Prague, The Czech Republic, for Team meeting - July 19 - 28. Mary Beth will go with us. She will be one of three who will take care of the children during the meeting.

- Look for other posts to follow (before we leave for Prague) -

1. Trip to Struga, Macedonia

2. July Fourth Picnic in the Mountains

3. Darrell Smith's Parents Visit Macedonia

4. A Visit with Fatime & Baby

5. Widows Sewing Group

6. Saying "Good-bye"