What a week!
Our journey began in sadness. We left Fresno with tears in our eyes as we said good-bye to those we love. Saying good-bye is always difficult. Thank you so much to those of you who came so early in the morning to see us off (even chased down wallets). We will miss you all over the next two years and we will be praying for you all. Thank you to so many of you who have made this possible. It is amazing to see God work through so many people. We have been truly blessed and we are so thankful to God for you all. May God get all of the glory, honor and praise for all that happens over these next two years!
God was with us every step of the way. When we left the Fresno airport, little did we know that our luggage probably would not have made it with us if not for somebody close to us working on the inside. Not that we had anything bad in our luggage, but there were plenty of things in them that could have stopped our luggage in Fresno and it would have been stuck there from the start (thank you, you know who you are!). God is good though and all of our luggage made it on board. We had a very tight schedule and had little time to stop to eat at any of the stops. Our connection in San Francisco was so tight we walked up to the gate as they were calling our name for the final call (praise God we made it). There was confusion about whether or not we would have to pick up our luggage in Munich and put it through customs (which we had absolutely no time to do), but we didn’t and all of our luggage safely made it to Tirana (thank you God for travel mercies). As we got on our last flight from Munich to Tirana, we were all tired and the kids slept the whole flight. By God’s grace, we arrived safe in Tirana and our friend Altin Zefi was waiting for us. After a days worth of traveling, 4 airports, a missing wallet, little sleep, way too many in-flight movies, too many tears to count, and our great God carrying us the whole way, we made it to Tirana.
Is jet lag a myth… absolutely not! The next few days were a blur. Jet lag had us up as late as 4 in the morning and as early as 2 in the morning. It is funny how God made our bodies like little clocks in so many ways. The first few days we were without internet and without a phone, but it was nice to be able to rest and get back on a normal sleep pattern. It made our first weekend a bit of a challenge but we were so excited to get to go to church in Albania!
So there we are. We speak almost no Albanian. Too tired to think. Only short thoughts. Surrounded by Albanians. In a foreign place. Waiting. And then the singing begins. It is amazing the flow of energy that comes when you are surrounded by people praising the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “Shout to the Lord, all the earth let it sing, power and majesty, praise to the King. Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your name. I sing for joy at the works of Your hands. Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand. Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.” It doesn’t matter they were singing in another language. It doesn’t matter that there were no instruments. The longitude and lattitude- unimportant. The body of Christ was singing to our great God. It actually brought a tear to my eye. Our great God has brought us here to be with these people, in order that we minister to them, until the appointed time when we have completed the work He has set out for us. Nothing I have in this world- none of the luggage or the few items we have left in them, none of the relationships we had to leave behind, none of the things that are yet to be accomplished- are of any comparison to the surpassing greatness of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ and being His slave. We went to two church services at two churches, met so many sweet brothers & sisters in Christ, had two sermons translated for us into English, and felt so welcomed by all. But all told, that song still rings in my ears. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, Bless His holy name.
Big steps. That’s life in the States. You make a list of ten things to do, and get fifteen done. Its the American way, really. We are go, go, go people. Everybody has a microwave, because cooking takes to long. We have the biggest washers and dryers on the planet, because doing laundry takes way too long. The speed limit is too low. Meetings at work too long. The Walmart around the corner with eleventy-billion items isn’t quite big enough so now we shop at the Super-Walmart. And on and on. That is not life in Albania. Everything takes longer here. Little steps. We had to get a SIM card at one place and then spend an evening driving across town to go get a phone at a another place that wasn’t as ridiculously expensive as everywhere else. All that to have a phone that wouldn’t acually work until three days later. Praise God though, we have phones! After a few days the internet was turned on (praise God for Skype and all your beautful faces). And even though so many of the Albanians have left town for vacation, we were able to pick out a place to live. Places are small in Albania and they all have a ton of quirks (properly working toilets- a gift from God, 24 hour water and electricity- a myth, an affordable way to heat or cool down your home- non-existant). However, we found a place in our budget that has 3 bedrooms, a space for homeschooling, an extra bed in case we get visitors, has a nice view, and is right next where the kids have made all of their new friends!!! Our God is so big and so strong and so mighty there’s nothing our God cannot do! We are so happy that we were able to be close to all the friends of the kids. They are so happy. And, the owners agreed to put piping in for a wood stove!!! That will be like gold in the winter. In Albania, insulation in a home is EXTREMELY rare. We have been told by many people that during the winter it is often warmer outside than inside (30’s or 40’s fahrenheit). The wood stove will be a HUGE blessing.
Praise be to God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We know these things are unimportant in comparison to the work of God in bringing sinful people to Himself. We recognize that we too are dreadful sinners and we deserve none of God’s blessings. These blessings are but temporary, they are nothing in comparison to receiving Christ’s righteousness. Thank you for taking the time to pray on our behalf. Thank you for your notes of encouragement. Thank you for your many love gifts. We hope that God blesses you with every spiritual gift, that you may be fully equipped to serve Him who purchased us with a price.