Stolen! Blog 10.25.14

Hi everybody!

Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying over all the troubles we have been having over our container.  We want to give you an update about where we stand today.  We have good news and bad news.  Let’s do the good news first:

We received our container!  We took possession of the car and the stuff inside and we didn’t have to pay any bribes.  This was in no small part thanks to our Albanian friend Gjergj Proko, who had a friend at the customs office in Tirana.  His friend was able to get a couple approvals that we needed that we might otherwise still be waiting for.  We also had a helper at the customs office that was quite a blessing.  She helped us navigate through the process and was our helper in getting all of the non-car items received without having to pay the customs taxes (that are supposed to only be applied to resale items).  When she found out that we had gotten the two signatures we needed (two of the four steps that had to be completed to get our container cleared) she assumed that we must have paid money on the side to get them and told us that if we were willing to pay more than we would already be done.  Welcome to Albania.  But we were eventually able to get everything without paying any of the side bribes.  Praise God and thank you Gjergji!

Now for the bad news:  Our container was broken into and items stolen out of it.  They were smart and sneaky about it. It had to have been someone at the port because they put a seal back on it. So here are the items stolen:

First, they stole the license plates off the car.  This is a major bummer and it has created quite the adventure for us.  Because they stole the plates off the car, instead of having 6 months to register the car and pay the customs fee, we had to register it on the spot (without plates, you can’t drive in Albania, so we had to pay) and, as you can imagine, since we were forced to register it at the port to get our car, I am pretty sure we ended up paying more than if we had gotten to register it later.  So, after we were unexpectedly charged $2,000 by the US Customs for their services after they “randomly” selected our container to search, we once again were forced to pay an unexpected $2,000, this time to register the car.  But that is only half the problem.  We had to pay to clear the customs on the car, but we still weren’t able to register the car, because in Albania you must either be an Albanian citizen or have a long-term visa to stay in Albania in order to register the car.  We were supposed to have a full year to get a visa so we don’t have one yet.  Praise God that we had already started the process, because it takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months to get it.  So, we were forced to pay the two grand, but that only gave us permission to take the car, not to actually get license plates.  In a couple months when we get our long-term visa, we can then go get license plates.  So we have the car, but we can’t actually drive the car.  The police will take it if we drive it without plates.  So we won’t be able to drive the car for a few more months.

Second, they stole some of the new sheets, clothes, and baby items we had bought so that we would have them for the winter or the coming year.  Like I said earlier though, they were sneaky.  The items weren’t listed individually with the insurance or customs- there were too many items of clothing, or beddings, etc. to list one-by-one.  They were put into plastic containers and labeled “clothing” or “bedding” or “baby items.”  The thieves only took a few items out of a handful of containers so it was impossible to notice until we had our stuff back at home.  Meaning it will be almost impossible for us to file a claim or pursue any real action.  Smart.  Nothing of great importance, but the sheets and kids jeans and baby items will be either difficult or very expensive to replace.

Last, they stole items that we had brought as gifts for people in our church.  Which is a bummer.  We made the mistake of buying small gifts for people that were easy to steal.  Lesson learned but still a bummer.

So that’s the news on the container.  Thank you so much for all of your prayers.  It is so nice to have the car and the items in the container.  We are very thankful to God for His mercy in all of these things and thankful for all of you as so many of you have prayed for us during this process.  We love you all and thank God for you often.

Thanks and God bless,

The Kemps

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Prayer Request! Blog 10.11.14

Hi everybody,

Thank you so much for all of your prayers for our family.  We are so thankful for all of you who are praying for us.  This is far from an emergency but we want to give you an update on an ongoing prayer request.  The container that we shipped which has our car, a bed, a crib for Samantha (she has been sleeping in a suitcase), diapers, and all of our winter clothes in it has arrived in Albania.  That’s the good news.

We are having a few problems though.  First, it arrived in the port city of Durres weighing 3,000 less pounds than when it left America according to the shipping documents.  Which means either (a) stuff is missing or (b) there is an error in the shipping documents or (3) the port authority mis-weighed our stuff.  As of right now, we think there was just an error in the shipping documents.  According to our contacts on the American side, the weight isn’t usually important and so it is often rushed through.  If it is the documents, that leads to our next problem:

Problem number 2: the Albanian port authority is already threatening to charge us between $500 – $2,000 if the documents changed from the ones originally given to us.  But that is only part of it because:

Problem number 3:  the customs agent in Tirana is going to fine us or worse when we show up with 3,000 lbs less than what the documents said we shipped.  This is also only part of the problem we face with the customs agent in Tirana because:

Problem number 4: we just found out yesterday that we will have to pay a customs charge on all of our belongings if we don’t go get certain documents.  This is a big bummer.  The customs charges in Albania are very high.  If we don’t have what they want then they will charge us for all of our clothes, bed, etc. as if they are brand new and we are selling them in a store.  As of right now, we don’t even know if we are capable of getting all the documents if we had all the time in the world.  Which leads to the last problem:

Problem number 5: if we don’t have everything done in the upcoming week, the port authority will start charging us hefty fines every day for “storing” our stuff.

If you are following along, that is three potentially rather large fines that we face.  If we had 10 or 15 thousand dollars to throw around, all of these problems would magically go away, but for now we are trying to navigate all of this without paying all of the “fines.”  Welcome to Albania.  None of this was “our fault” or in our hands, but in Albania there seems to always be “problems” until you pay the expected bribes and then they go away.  This has been a lot of work and fairly frustrating so far.

Please pray that we would be able to get our car and especially the winter stuff without paying the large fees.  Please pray that we would be able to get our things soon.  Please pray that we would have Christ honoring attitudes as we work our way through this.  Please pray that we would be able to get wise help through the rest of this process (the shipping company in Albania that we paid is about as helpful as a bottle of sand in the desert).

Thank you so much for your prayers.  We love you all.  Blessings!

The Kemps

Updates! Blog 09.29.2014

Hi everybody!

We have been in Tirana for almost 4 weeks now and we are starting to get back into the groove of life here.  Our family is busy: back to school, back in the office, language learning, and ministry.  The goal of the blog is to be story based so you can see what is going on here, but we have gotten plenty of questions about how things are getting started or about the prior prayer requests so we want to share with you some updates.  Here they are in no particular order:

How is everybody’s health?beautiful people

Good.  We have already gone through the “welcome back” tummy bugs and are mostly on the other side.  Other than that we are pretty healthy, praise God!

How is Juli doing?

Juli Cela was our brother who lost his legs in a bombing.  He is doing really well.  He and his wife were granted visas to go to the US and prosthetic legs were provided for free!  He is back in Albania now and learning to walk on the difficult terrain in Albania.  His faith has grown so much during this time of dependency on the Lord. We are so encouraged and humbled by the faith displayed by him and his wife.

How can we be praying for Juli and Erjola?

Lord willing wJuli and Joelie are going to be posting a video with them in the next couple weeks sharing what God is doing and has done in their lives and what their prayer requests are.  It will be posted here in a future blog.  However, their main request right now is for work for Juli and Erjola.  It is very difficult to find work in Tirana right now and employers are very unlikely to hire Juli, even with the prosthesis.  They will need work very soon though.  Last week they met with the minister of labor and are hoping that office will get work for them.  Please pray they can both be employed soon.

Has the car and the container made it to Albania yet?

Not yet.  We had a ton of trouble getting it out of America.  The US Customs office “randomly” selected our container for search and pulled it off the boat to Albania.  That was a bummer.  A couple weeks later than we thought and a couple thousand dollars in customs fees later our container is now on the way here.  It should be here between mid-October and early-November.  Thank you for the prayers.  They were definitely needed.  Please pray that the container arrives soon as we put the babies’ winter clothes and blankets on the container and it is already starting to get pretty cold at night.

How is the church?

Great!  We have loved being reunited with our brothers and sisters here.  Our church has grown the most natural way- there are 5 new babies since we were here last!  It has been great to see and meet all the new people here.  We all have a lot of growing to do together, but it looks like things are going well.

How can we be praying for the Kemps?

There is a page listed above this blog with prayer requests.  You can click there for our most recent prayer requests.

Thank you so much for your emails, calls, and prayers.  We are so thankful for God’s love shown to us through all of you.  We would love to know how we can be praying for you.  If you have read this far into the blog, shoot us an email letting us know you read it and what your prayer requests are.  If you need our email address, it is listed on the “Contact Info” page shown above.

Thanks and God bless,

The Kemps

We are here! Blog 09.09.2014

Hi everybody!20140901_092609

We are now safely back in Tirana, praise God!  It was an adventure, but we made it here with all of our children and luggage in tow.  Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying!

We have some good news.  First, we are bringing back the blog!  As you can see, there have been plenty of changes and more will come in time.  Lord willing we will be able to post some video blogs soon too.  

Our second bit of good news is that we received word that our container has finally cleared customs! We are shipping a car and some other household items from America to Albania but US Customs pulled our container and has been holding it.  But praise God they finally released the container and it may ship as early as today!  Thank you to all of you that have been praying for that!

We will be settling in to our new home over the next few days and remembering how to live life here (and learning how to live life with two brand new babies!) but we hope to write again soon.

Thanks and God bless, 

The Kemps

Week Twenty-Six

Half-way point of year 1!

Week twenty-six is the halfway point of year one and what a year it has been so far.  A rollercoaster analogy belongs around here somewhere.  But anyways, the last six months have had many memories that will last with our family for a long time.   We thought this would be a good place to remember our favorite moments so far.  So, as a family we took a vote and decided what our top 3 moments of the last six months were.  Here they are in no particular order:

#1- The poo on the hand story.  If you missed last weeks blog this won’t make much sense, so make sure you read the week twenty-five blog.  Yuck!

#2- Ilir driving us to the hospital when Eve was sick.  It happened before we left for France.  Eve was feeling real sick and was in quite a bit of pain.  We went to see the doctor and with how acute the pain was, he recommended we get to the hospital to see a surgeon right away.  We didn’t have a car yet so we called Ilir (our favorite taxi driver) to take us across town.  It was midday so there was plenty of traffic.  We didn’t even tell him what was going on but he knew Eve needed to get there fast so he started driving crazy.  He drove on the wrong side of the road most of the way.  He weaved in and through cars.  He went through tiny side streets driving way too fast.  It was hilarious and scary and endearing all at once.  Eve thought she might die from the car ride without even getting a chance to go to the hospital.

The story climaxed as Ilir ran what seemed like his 100th red light.  This time he ran a red light right in front of a police officer.  The police officer (on foot) waved for Ilir to pull over.  Ilir started yelling at the police officer out of his window.  The police officer yelled back.  We aren’t sure what they said, but there were a few intense moments and then Ilir through his license and paperwork at the officer and then drove away.  We sat there stunned.  Was the cop going to chase us down?  Would Ilir get his paperwork back?  What was going on?  Well, it all worked out, but it was an experience we will never forget.

#3- Mattress shopping.  Right after we had gotten over our jet lag, it was time to look for a place to live and a mattress.  We weren’t going to buy many things (many places here are furnished), but we definitely were going to buy our own mattress.  Our brother Avni offered to take us to the mattress store.  He had just bought a new mattress and was really happy with it.  He offered to take us to the shop and show us which one he had purchased.  That sounded good to us so we went with him to the mattress shop.

When we got there we were a bit confused.  The store was a tiny little shop that was no more than 10 feet wide (if that).  It looked like one of those “As seen on TV” shops with an eclectic assortment of different items for sale.  There was a steam mop, some shoes, and some other items.  When we got to the back of the shop, Avni stopped us in front of two items that looked exactly like rugs.  They were rolled up just like rugs.  They were standing up just like at a rug store.  They looked to be the same thickness as rugs.  And just as we got up to see them, Avni received a phone call, excused himself and walked outside.  So there we were, looking at these impostor rug mattresses and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.  Scott asked if there was an upstairs or a downstairs or something we were missing.  Nothing.  Just two rolled up mattresses.  We now know that the mattress expands when you pull it out of the plastic and lay it out.  But still, we were expecting to go to a mattress store where you could lay on an assortment of mattresses, feel how hard they are, etc.  Instead we are standing in front of two rug things with nobody to help us.

It was pretty funny actually.  We spent much of the time laughing.  When Avni returned he asked us what we thought.  We can’t remember what we said exactly but it amounted to, “Um, where are the mattresses?”  Avni ended up taking us to another store where we bought the same rolled up mattress we saw at the first place, but only after we saw it layed out and got to sit on it.

Anyways, it was a silly moment of culture shock that we won’t soon forget.  And yes, our mattress did roll out and expand to the right size!

So there are our favorite three moments over the last six months.  Our friends here mean more to us, our ministry far more important, but these three events will last with us forever.

In love,

The Kemps

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11, NASB)

Week Twenty-Five

Um, yeah, that’s just gross!

So week twenty-five will not soon be forgotten and here’s why:

Late Wednesday night Scott drove John home from our Wednesday night Bible study.  It was around mid-night and as Scott walked in the door he noticed something: on his hand there was a big glob of some nasty looking mud.

Outside of our house is a small street (there are pictures posted of our street on facebook) that leads from the main road.  It is a often muddy because it is a steep dirt road.  When Scott had walked across it, his foot had sunk a few inches into the mud, and unbeknownst to him, some of the mud had splashed up on the backside of his hand.

Having just noticed it once he came into the house, and seeing that it looked more like poo than mud, Scott thought it would be funny to play a little prank on Eve.  So when he saw her he put his hand up close to her face and said something along the lines of, “I bet you can’t guess what this is.”

Of course both believing that it was just mud, it was a good laugh and then forgotten about.  Unfortunately it wouldn’t be forgotten for long…

The next day the street still looked like a bunch of water was running down it.  Almost like a water line was broken or something.  Well, later that day we all found out that the sewer line that runs down the hill from the hospital was broken and it was sewage that is running down our street.  So although unlikely to actually be poo, it was something pretty close to it.  Umm… ewwwww!!!!

Well, to say the least it was a gross experience when you look back on it.  It’s funny though.  Because at the time, since we didn’t know how bad that brown stuff really was on Scott’s hand, it really wasn’t that big of a deal at the time.  But now when we look back on it, its quite a sickening thing.

Of course the parallels to sin abound.  Sin is quite like that poo/mud combo that was on Scott’s hand.  It didn’t seem like that big of a deal before our eyes were opened to just how disgusting it was.  Sin is disgusting and putrid and it covers everything we do.  Of course before God opens our eyes to how disgusting it is, we actually enjoy it and promote others enjoying it too.  We think that nasty stuff is good; it feels good.  And so we go about our lives covered in the poo/mud and its abominable.

Of course what’s even more unthinkable is when Christians keep covering themselves in the poo/mud.  Our eyes have been opened to its disgusting and putrid nature and yet we keep putting it on ourselves.  Why?  I don’t know.  It’s illogical, really.  But sin has a power over us in our flesh and we succumb to it.

Anyways, as disgusting as this incident is, its a great reminder to our family just how gross sin is in the eyes of God.  We hope it will bring God glory in our lives and your lives (cuz honestly, if it doesn’t, well, then its just flat out gross!).

In love,

The Kemps

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11, NASB)

Week Twenty-Four

Call To Leadership!

This week was a return to preaching for Scott.  Rather than talk about all of the details of the sermon, this week we’ll just share some of the keys with you.  The topic was the home and what a Godly home looks like from Eph 5-6.  Here are the top 8 points:

#1- Marriage is a picture of Christ and anything that mars marriage and the Christian household works to blaspheme Christ here on earth.

#2- The husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of His church.  The husbands headship exists for the purpose of pointing people to Christ.  Anything that works against male headship in the home, works against Christ.

#3- Male headship existed before the fall and was not created by the curse.  Rather, the curse is the reason a woman will desire to usurp her husband’s authority and yet creation order will not be overturned and male headship will continue.

#4- Just as the husband seeks to see Christ as all in all in his own life, the husband’s headship is designed for love and discipleship as he builds up his wife in Christ.  Just as the husband wants every part of himself to bring glory to Christ, the husband desires the same for his wife, because she isn’t just his, she is him.  She has been joined together with his body in this mysterious one body union that points to Christ and the church.

#5- The husband is the primary person responsible for teaching and instructing children in the Lord.  The trajectory for the teaching and discipleship of the children is the responsibility of the husband.  For the husband to pass this responsibility off to anybody else is sin, plain and simple.

#6- The husband is also responsible for the slaves and anybody else that resides within his home or sphere of control.  God’s purpose for men is that they would influence all of those under his control, and point them to Christ.

#7- The wife is to submit to her husband in all things as worship to Christ.  It points people to how Christ submits to God.  A woman that does not submit to her husband perverts the image of Christ on earth and she has a worship problem, first and foremost.

#8- Divorce is a ridiculous notion for the Christian marriage.  Husbands, don’t divorce your wives; go home and love your wives as Christ loved the church.  You can’t have your wife running around without her head.  We don’t need headless women.  We need loved and discipled women.

Thanks for reading.  May God bless you and your household as you seek to honor Christ in your home.

In love,

The Kemps

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11, NASB)