Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Arville

Today, August 25, is Arville's birthday. I had to post a "Happy Birthday" greeting on our blogpage -- even though by the attached information you can figure out how old he is. HA!

1942 was a very special year!!

--Jazz greats created "Be-bop".

--Jitterbugging was in.

--FDR created Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WACS).

--To conserve tires, the speed limit was set at 40 mph.

--Gas rationing went into effect on a national scale.

--Cardinals downed Yankees to win the World Series.

--"White Christmas", "That Old Black Magic", and "Paper Doll" were popular hits.

--"Holiday Inn", and Disney's "Bambi" were hit movies.

--These folks share 1942 birthdays: Barbra Streisand, Roger Staubach, and Aretha Franklin.

--Arville WAS BORN.

Happy Birthday, Arville. I love you!



Arville with his mom & dad and older brother, Terry.
(Arville is on the left in both pictures)

Elementary School Picture

With Amy in Tours, France (1980)

Family Pictures During Furlough times

Dwight, Derrell, Mom, Arville & Terry

Arville With Our Grandchildren

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pictures of Our Anniversary Celebration

For our anniversary dinner, we celebrated at the "Sofra Restaurant" with Agim, Habibe, Sara, and Jehona Iseni and Darrell & Kathy Smith (our colleagues). This is a traditional Albanian Restaurant with a balcony overlooking a beautiful, old, stone-paved courtyard.

Habibe & Agim gave us these beautiful roses and Sara made this picture of us so that I could put it on the blogpage. It was a great night of celebration. As is custom here - we dined for about 3 1/2 hours! I really like the relaxing dinners (especially in the summer when you can eat outside). This is a tradition we plan to continue when we move back to the states. HA!

Habibe and Kathy

Jehona and Sara

Agim and Darrell

One last picture of us (Thanks, Sara)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


AUGUST 16, 1969

I am not a poet so I don't have some wonderful prose to write about what a lucky woman I am to have married such a wonderful, caring man as you.

I am not a musician so I couldn't compose a song and sing it to you about all of your wonderful attributes - like patience, kindness, goodness, steadfastness (that is still such a good word), and humility. You are everything I aspire to be and more.

So I decided to write this blog entry for you instead and to wish you a very happy 38th wedding anniversary in front of the whole wide world.

Oh my!! When I was "30 something" I thought that couples who had been married 38 years were ready for a retirement home. HA! Can this possibly be that we have been married 38 years? I don't feel like it. I love you as much (even more) than I did that August day that I walked down the aisle of Northside Baptist Church in Longview, Texas --- and said, "I do".

After writing the last two blog entries (Saying "Good-bye" and The In-Between Times) I marvel at all the things we have been through together.

How VERY blessed I am to call you my husband, my love, and my very best friend.

I love you and wish you a Happy Anniversary,

The In-Between Times

These past few months I have been thinking a lot about the "in-between" times of our lives. I guess since Amy & Christopher have been doing a lot of waiting (also a lot of filling out of papers and documents, too) for the next stage of their adoption process to bring little Nathan home from Ethiopia, some of this thought process comes from watching what they are experiencing.
But it comes from things my other 3 grandchildren are going through or have experienced recently, too.


Just last week, Elijah lost a tooth. He put it under his pillow with a note to the "tooth fairy" and requested an amount that he thought his tooth was worth (an entrepeneur at heart -- might as well ask, huh?) The tooth fairy came, signed the note that Elijah had left for her signature, and left him a dollar bill. When Elijah told me his story the next day, he mentioned that he thought he heard her signing the paper, but that he kept his eyes closed so he wasn't for sure.

He is still young enough to write the note and believe that the tooth fairy would come and get his tooth (and leave the money), but he didn't want me to know that he thought about opening his eyes to see her. The in-between time of wanting to stay young and growing up!!


Tomorrow Anna starts to kindergarten!!! She had a great summer at day-camp in Jasper and made lots of new friends. When they were moving from San Antonio to Jasper, Anna was the one who took it the hardest. She didn't like going from the familiar that she knew in San Antonio to the unknown of Jasper.

This summer was the "in-between time" for Anna. She was in-between the heartache of leaving what she knew as "home" and growing up, making new friends, and going to school. Anna, we hope your first day of school is everything you want it to be --- and lots of fun, too.


I was talking to Sophie on the computer phone the other day, and she said, "Baba, I'm a big girl baby!" Isn't that a perfect description of being "in-between"??

She wanted to tell me that she was still her mommy's and daddy's baby, but that she was becoming a "big girl", too.

She is potty training, getting taller as I write, and talking incessantly (and what a vocabulary that girl has, too). She is becoming a "big girl", but she is still "in-between".

The In-Between Time: where life happens - where relationships are made and strengthened -- the NOW. What do I do with my "in-between" time? Am I as excited about it as Elijah, Anna, and Sophie are?

I can learn from my past and appreciate my history (story), but I can't live there. I can look forward to the future and be excited about new possibilities -- but I'm not there yet. I need to make the most of this wonderful time called the "in-between" of my life.

These next 2 or 3 years (before retirement) are part of that "in-between" time for me. My hope is that when I look back on this time, I can say that it was a time well-spent.

Saying "Good-bye"

Mary Beth Gilbert

At least for the past 34 years, we have said "good-bye" to a lot of people. In 1975 we moved to another state (Missouri) from Texas; and that was just the beginning. We moved away from the "familiar" that we had known since birth to an exciting, but uncertain, future -- miles away from family.

Then in 1980, we moved to France for a year of language study -- and then on to Burkina Faso (at the time it was Upper Volta) -- even further from the familiar & family -- and into another "unknown". All of these places became "home" though --- and very quickly!

In 1988, we put our son, Alan, on a plane to return to the States for college (without us), we thought we could not bear it. It was a hotter-than-usual day for August in the Burkina Faso airport. We weren’t sure whether the sweat was from the heat or the stress, but we remembered the words of a veteran missionary of 34 years. She said, “You will have God’s grace the very minute you need it – maybe not a minute before – but most surely not a minute too late”. We were really beginning to understand what saying, "good-bye" was all about.

Then in 1992, with mixed feelings, we left Burkina Faso and moved back to the states for a short time. Again we said "good-bye" to what had become the familiar and family. We moved to a very uncertain time in our lives: no job & therefore no income, still away from part of our family, the beginning of seminary for me (finally graduated in 2005!!), our son graduating from college, and our daughter a junior in high school. We dealt with many emotions -- but what hit all of us so hard was the fact that it seemed we would always be saying "good-bye".

In 1994 we left our recently married son and his new bride in Kansas City, put our daughter in college in Texas, and moved to Albania to begin a new ministry. Oh my, here were those words again, "good-bye". I didn't think they could get any harder to say - and live. However, our grandchildren were born -- and it DID get harder to say, "good-bye". In fact, one time Anna (age 5 now) said, "I don't want to hear those words anymore. That's a bad thing to say." (Out of the mouths of babes!!)

Habibe refuses to discuss the imminent "good-bye" when we go on our last Off-Field Assignment and don't come back to Macedonia. I am like her -- I can't bear to think about it right now.

Habibe & Mary Beth in Ohrid, Macedonia

I say all of this so that you will know how much I hate "good-byes" and how difficult they are for me to say. I have a lot of experience in this field. However, I also say this so that you will know that when I say, "It was hard to say 'good-bye' to Mary Beth at the end of last month" -- that I mean it. We have missed her so much. Arville said yesterday, "I am finding traces of Mary Beth everywhere I go this week." We aren't the only ones that miss her.

Sara, Mary Beth & Jehona

Mary Beth, thank you so much for all that you did this summer, but most of all for being YOU! You ARE greatly missed. Tim & Karen, thank you for sharing Mary Beth with us. We know that you know how special she is -- but parents NEVER get tired of hearing someone else say good things about their children, right? Mary Beth, we loved having you as part of our family these few months - even though it did hurt to say "good-bye". (Aunt Shelia)

Team Meeting in Prague

We had a good meeting in Prague (one of our favorite cities in Europe). This was our third trip to Prague, and we enjoyed it as much as the very first time we saw it. Here are a few pictures from outings we took into the city:

Arville & Mary Beth

Our team meeting went very well. We made plans for future ministries, shared from what we had been doing since we met last, and were inspired by the resources that were made available to us from the Atlanta office, as well.

ROB NASH and his wife, Guyeth, were with us the first part of the week and brought the devotional/inspirational times each morning; and then on Thursday and Friday mornings, Connie McNeill shared with us on the subjects of "grace and mercy" in a very special devotional time.

Here are a few pictures from our activities of the week:

Darrell & Kathy

Bob & Janice

Taking A Break

Arville, Bob & Jim Smith with Karen Morrow

Becky Smith

Children with Childcare Workers

Is this really our "Member Care" team???

Below is the LIST OF ALBANIAN-BALKAN TEAM PROJECTS - UPDATED 2007, PRAGUE. These are ministries that are funded through designated giving and are, for the most part, in addition to our regular field budget expenses. We are hoping to have many folks from our supporting churches/organizations in the States to come work alongside us as partners to fulfill the goals of these special projects. The projects are listed under each couple's names.


In just 20 years, Greece has been transformed from a country out of which immigrants depart to a society toward which they rush. In the 1980’s, out-migration of native-born Greeks was high and immigrants comprised only 2.5% of the country’s population; by 2004, the number of foreign-born residents had reached nearly 11% of the total. This swift increase has generated massive social and personal challenges for the Greeks, the immigrants themselves, as well as the surrounding Balkan and northern African countries from which most immigrants come.

Of crucial importance to the mission of CBF is the reality that ethnic Albanians make up the largest single group of these immigrants to Greece – accounting for more than 63% of the total. Approximately half a million of these Albanians now live in the capital city of Athens. The swift increase of Albanians in Athens has severely taxed the Greek government, both in its institutional resources and its willingness to help. Combined with historic animosities between Greeks and Albanians, the presence of a powerful criminal element preying on the immigrants, and the pressures on Albanians to deny their ethnic heritage, this situation presents significant ministry responsibilities and opportunities among people previously un-reached by the impact of the Gospel of Jesus.

In the providence of God and through the leadership of the Albanian/Balkan Team, CBF has recognized this need. In 2003, Bob and Janice Newell were commissioned as Field Personnel whose chief purpose is to care for Albanian immigrants in Athens. After two years of Albanian language and cultural acquisition, the Newells arrived in Athens in late 2005 and began Greek language and cultural acquisition in January, 2006. By January, 2007, they finished their full-time, formal language and culture preparation and began ministry among the large numbers of Albanians in the ancient city of Athens. This project will continue to call upon and tap into the genuine interest among many groups in the ministry of the Newells; in addition it will sustain the successful launching of The Albania House in Athens.

The Albania House in Athens is envisioned as a hospitality and culture center for Albanian immigrant families in Athens. Consistent with the Albanian tradition of besa (trust) and the pervasive influence of hospitality among Albanian people, its facilities and programs will welcome Albanian immigrants, affirm their ethnic identity and provide a warm, trustworthy setting in which they can learn about Christ and His church, receive practical care, as well as network to enhance their experiences in the new setting. The Albania House will be operated by Christian principles and as a Christian witness.

Kindergarten Educational Development (Project #80548)

Many children in Skopje and other parts of Macedonia do not have an
opportunity to attend kindergarten due to a lack of funds. In most
cases, their parents are unemployed and often illiterate; the families
do not have enough to eat, and the children often do not even have
shoes. These children enter first grade at a distinct disadvantage
socially, educationally, and emotionally. This project will start a
kindergarten for children, ages five to six. It is hoped that 30 to 40
children per year will be helped by providing a nurturing environment
and a free kindergarten education. Volunteers will be enlisted to come
and work with the children and teachers, interact with the families, and
provide materials for the facility.

Village Water Development Needs Assessment (Project #80547)This project involves an assessment of the water needs of an
impoverished village. Many villages in Macedonia and the surrounding
region are without the basic necessities of a dependable drinking water
supply or a system for waste removal (or both). In addition, a number of
village farmers are not able to reliably produce their crops due to
insufficient rainfall. In such cases, some form of irrigation is
necessary. Once a village is selected and a project is decided upon,
consulting engineer(s) and/or an on-site project manager will likely be
required. A portion of these fees and support are a part of this project

Novo Selo School Renovation Project (New Project – No Account Number as yet and no funds contributed)
This project is in the process of being written up for submission for approval by our team. It will be a similar project to the Barak School Renovation Project but the location is different. Novo Selo is an Albanian village in the western part of Macedonia.


BENEVOLENT FUND (Account #80087)
Since beginning work with the kindergarten in Skopje, we have encountered many unemployed persons, children with serious health needs, a lack of food and proper nutrition, medical needs that the government will not cover, and an overwhelming need for basic necessities (like water, fuel for heating and cooking, etc. – especially during the winter months that are severely cold and wet). This project’s purpose is to assist in providing some of those basic necessities to the poorest families. The focus of the project is to help the most neglected of our city, especially those who cannot help themselves, in particular the elderly, the invalid, the disabled, widows and orphans. The completion date for this project is September 2009.

This project also includes the on-going ministry of providing food and clothing to people who need this kind of emergency help. We hope to work with other humanitarian organizations, schools, hospitals and clinics, and especially Kathy Smith in helping to meet some of these needs, as well.

Barak School Renovation Project (Earls) – New Project – No Account Number as yet and no funds contributed

We will work with the Barak (Kongresi I Monesteri School) in Skopje. This is one of the poorest schools in Skopje – and has the greatest needs because no one else is working with this particular school and the families.

This school was scheduled for demolition several years ago, but then the school district lines were redrawn by government officials. This change meant that the poorest children in Skopje would be left in this facility (which was built in 1947), and no repairs would be made to the building. This decision separated Barak School from the Liria School. The Liria School was renovated and repaired, but since only poor children from poor families attended Barak School, no one seemed to care about these children anymore.

We will work with partnering churches & individuals who can give some of their time and their funds to help with building repairs and renovations, ESL classes, sports activities, toilets, school supplies, textbooks, winter clothing and shoes, and classroom supplies. This project will have a lasting effect on the community and the families that will be the recipients. This project will be completed by October 2009.