Monday, June 29, 2009

Where Is Home?


People often ask us, “Where is home for you?” The question catches us off-guard every time we hear it because we don’t know which home they are asking about. Most often the response they are looking for is “America” or, more specifically, the state from which we come.
Even that question is difficult for us to answer without going into detail because our legal US address is Texas, our children and grandchildren live in Indiana and Missouri, and we own a house in Georgia that we have not lived in yet. Other times they just want to know our address in Skopje.
Pictures of Kruja, Albania

For the past 15 years (as of June 2009) that we have worked with CBF, we have made our home in Tirana & Kruja, Albania and in Gostivar & Skopje, Macedonia. All of these places became “home” to us very quickly. Perhaps we have had so many homes because, for us, “home” is more a state of being in relationships than it is a place or a location.
Old Market Area in Kruja


Our Apartment in Skopje (with the green awning)

Jim Smith, Associate Coordinator for Missions with CBF, made a comment some time ago about our having lived in so many places (48 to be precise). His words reminded us that whereas we have had so many homes, there are people to whom we minister who have not had a “home” – in the sense that “home” means security, safety, and hope. But because of your generous support of the “Future of the Family” kindergarten and its ministries, there are many families who have found a sense of “home”.

Afternoon Kindergarten Class with Habibe on Picture Day
June 2009 completed the 5th year of this ministry, and the lives of 200 children and their families have been affected in the most positive ways possible. These families have the assurance of a good educational beginning for their children, the security that their children are receiving nutritious food each day (something that many of the families could not provide themselves at the moment), and the safety of an environment that enables their children to develop and learn in an atmosphere of love.


The “Future of the Family” kindergarten has additional ministries that reach out to these families in times of grief, illness, rejoicing, and need. Since Albanian and Roma children attend the school, the majority of our families are Muslim. So in essence, we are offering pastoral care to a Muslim community, being the presence of Christ to these families. Because of the kindergarten ministry, we are able to visit in homes that otherwise would be difficult to gain access.



So where is home? We sometimes answer: “America” or “Indiana, Georgia, or Texas” if asked which state. But also home is with Ismire -- rejoicing over their new baby boy, with Razmire -- comforting her dying father, with Endrit -- delivering firewood for winter heating, and with Elmira -- visiting before the wedding of her oldest daughter.
Home is sharing a cup of tea with a mother who just wanted to thank us in person for the school and all the wonderful people in America who have made her life and her child’s life so much better.

A cup of tea anyone?


Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Alan

Arville and Alan - June 2008

Alan, we wanted to wish you a very happy birthday tomorrow (June 23). It is hard to believe that you are going to be 3??? years-old. Okay, so we didn't tell everyone how old you will be because you might not want us to and because everyone could figure out how old we are, too (well approximately anyway). HA! So instead, we are just putting this picture of your cake from last year's birthday celebration on the blogsite!!

Alan and Layla - last year on his birthday

Layla told us that you were going to be making the very most of your birthday by extending it over the week. We really like that idea --- they go by way too fast as it is. And this way, you will have the benefit of seeing more friends and family, visiting with them longer, and eating all that wonderful food that Layla has planned. A little bird told us that you were going to have a great steak and veggie dinner for one of those times. Sounds good!!

It sounds like your party on Saturday night was lots of fun and we hope you will have another good time tomorrow night on your actual birthday. The party (again at Aunt Sharron's this year) over the weekend sounds especially fun. Have a great time and give them our love.

So this year, Alan, we didn't embarrass you with pictures from your childhood - like we did last year. Bet you are glad, huh? That is why we put photos from your birthday party last year with this blog writing.

Seriously, we hope that you have a very Happy Birthday, Alan!

(This was our favorite photo from your last bd party)
We will be celebrating with you - in spirit - anyway.

We love you,
Mom and Dad

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Arville on the park bridge near downtown Skopje

Arville wrote this story about his dad that he wanted me to post on our blog for this weekend. As I was typing the story he wrote, and then the next day looking for a new journal book to write in myself, I ran across another story and another Father's Day gift.

So I have included both Arville's story about his dad and the one I found in a journal from Father's Day 1997 --- that is the reason for the title: Two Father's Day Messages

The Storyteller by Arville

My dad enjoyed telling stories, and he was good at it. Most of the stories he told were factual (with an imaginary tale thrown in now and again just for fun). Even if we did not know all the characters in the stories, those of us who heard them were made to feel that we did. We felt as if we were right there - in the story itself - with all the dramatic and/or traumatic events that happened.

I remember that Dad made a cassette for our children one time while we lived in Africa, and Amy & Alan played the thing until they had it memorized. I guess that it was a good thing that they memorized it because they wore it out listening to it so many times. So his storytelling capabilities stretched all the way around the world.

Generally speaking, all the stories came out of real life experiences (including the stories that were embellished with imagination). The realism was there, and we could all identify with the situation and circumstances. I think this is a necessary quality for a good storyteller.

However, Dad was not one to boast about being especially gifted at weaving a tapestry of words. He never thought in those terms. He just like to tell these real-life stories --- perhaps that was what made him so good at it. Running through all the stories was a thread of character ... his character which expressed itself in a down-to-earth simplicity, a basic honesty and integrity and an aversion to deceit or disrespect for other people.

As I recall those stories from time to time, I hear his voice as if he were telling the stories all over again, and I have to smile. But something else that I remember from times past is that someone would say to me --- when I made a remark or shared one of my own stories --, "That sounds just like something your daddy would say". That always make me very proud.

Thanks, Dad, for all the stories and memories,

I (Shelia) found a journal that Amy and Christopher had given Arville on Father's Day in 1997. Just to refresh your memory, we were in the states on a "forced" home assignment because of the evacuation from Albania after an uprising in the country in March of that year. We made the decision to come to Macedonia during those summer months in 1997.


Background to this poem:

Now growing up, Arville obtained an unusual nickname -- another example of the storytelling that his family was used to. This nickname was that of a cartoon character by the name of Sut Tattersall. One of his uncles thought that if a caricature of Arville was drawn, he would look like this cartoon character.


The Journal

At the beginning of the journal, Amy wrote this poem for her dad:

This is a story that begins like this...

There was a little boy with his pole and his fish....
This little boy was as cute as could be - despite the fact that he had mud to his knees.
The world was enormous in the eyes of this boy,
The simplest pleasures brought him such joy.
The thrill of a root beer was as good as it got OR
coming home with a raccoon that he just caught.
He has made his family proud time and time again,
in the way he shows love and is a true friend.
His name is Arville Earl in the eyes of the law, but, round these parts, he's called
Arville's comments in the margin of the poem:

Amy will never know (except that now she will because I am printing it in our blog - HA!) quite what the poem represents to me. The meanings and emotions that it touches are at a level that defies verbal or written explanation. It will be one of my dearest treasure.


So see, Arville, I guess you are an example to your children in some of the same ways that your dad was an example for you. It seems to me that this character thread continues from one generation to the next in your family. I am so grateful that you made me part of that family - almost 40 years ago!!

I love you and wish you a very Happy Father's Day,


Friday, June 19, 2009

Annual Zoo Trip at the Kindergarten

As part of our zoo trip tradition, the children had hamburgers and juice before leaving for the field trip to the Skopje Zoo. Here are some pictures of them enjoying their meal together.

The mothers left (went outside the fence) but some of the children were so excited they had to go say "good-bye" an extra time. Got some cute pictures.

Then our Taxi Buses arrived and we loaded up for our LONG trip (across town) to the Zoo.

Here is a photo of one of our taxi drivers. He goes with us every year.

Arriving at the Zoo:

The Animals were fewer in number this year and they were doing some renovations to the park, but the children didn't know the difference since this was the first time they had ever been.

There were lots of kids at the zoo the day we went. Here is another class of older children who were there with their teachers, too.

This is a typical picture of Habibe and Arville talking together.

The lions were hungry and it was time for lunch when we came into the lion house.


The kids remembered me telling them stories of the buzzards that were in Burkina Faso (Africa). So they were all interested in seeing these exotic specimens because they can be found in Africa, you know. It doesn't matter that they have buzzards in Macedonia, too --- since I told that story -- you won't be convincing these children that they are not exclusively African birds.

Looks like another serious conversation between Agim and Arville this time.

Is this another wild beast???


Halfway Point in our trek through the Zoo:

Jehona, Advije, Belinda (Advije's daughter) and Arville find a spot in the shade to wait for the children to get through seeing the hippos.


Then the children played and ate a cupcake and drank a juice. The playground was being remodeled, too - so they just improvized games to play on the little walk-bridge.

Mevlude wouldn't leave Arville's side all day long.

So Belinda joined them.

And you see what our children have learned to do this year --- put their trash away in a proper place!! instead of throwing it on the ground.

Belinda was in one of our beginning classes at the kindergarten and Mevlude was in this year's class. Just love this picture of them together.

Playing games together.

Before it is time to go.

On the way out of the park-----

Back in the Taxi Buses:

Yes, I know, there are no seat belts for any of us (except for the driver and you will notice that he is NOT wearing his) --- we still need lots of traffic and driving laws in Macedonia.

Back across town and to the kindergarten all in about 4 hours.

Hope you enjoyed our day at the Zoo. See you next year!!