Naomi, Rich and their family working with the Church in Gjilan, Kosovo
March 2021 Newsletter Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger(?) We’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the privilege it is to be here living alongside the folks from this little church community in Gjilan. It’s near impossible to place any kind of value on it, because the “benefits” are so often unquantifiable, and from a Christian point of view, it feels like they go beyond something that is tangible or immediate. The church does not necessarily look big or impressive (and neither should it), but is numerically small, and most of the people in it have relatively few connections with any other Christians, especially older ones who have gone before them through the ups and downs of life. We know of some who have had really tough times with family members who do not want them to be Christians; but even when that is not the case, for all of them life could just be easier if they decided to fit back in with the rest of the nominal Muslim culture. One recent example of this would be that the local believers have decided to be formally known as “Kisha Ungjillore Dardania” (Dardania Evangelical Church) replacing the word “Fellowship” with “Church”. This is a small, but bold change; and one result was that we couldn’t find any local business willing to produce the sign for outside the building. So, with these things and more in mind, it is a joy to see people pressing on, and a privilege to be with them. Sharing our lives and weakness and struggles day to day, and also the ways we have come to learn that God holds us.All of you support us in some way with this - whether it is with your love and friendship, or by keeping in touch, or praying for us, or financial support, or, as in most cases, a mixture of all those things.
Thank you - We’re really grateful.
Recently it has been good and helpful to start things now the building is usable, with various benefits such as structure to the week for the church, and a way interacting with the community. Here’s a spattering of what’s going on… Weekly bible studies Rich is due to lead one in a couple of weeks' on the Resurrection… he really wants to do this in Albanian, but we’ll see! Coffee morning open to anyone who wants to come. Already a small handful of neighbours have been along. Kids’ Group (roughly ages 7-11) run by Naomi - currently about 9 kids. Youth Group - a rekindling of the previous youth group which had fluctuated through lockdown and the building work. Monthly prayer meetings. Main Sunday meetings
Naomi has continued to meet with several friends from school (mums and also one staff member).In fact, since we last wrote, she went away to the mountains with our kids and two other mums with their kids. A great time for building the friendships and some deeper conversations. Rich has started walking some mornings in the week with a neighbour who wants to get more exercise. These have been enjoyable times of chatting in broken Englbanian about local history, politics and hopes and dreams etc… Rich continues to help Petrit with his work in the villages. Currently we’re giving out free seeds (carrot and lettuce) which the majority of people receive very gladly, and calendars. There’s no pressure for folks to take stuff, but most seem happy to take them even though there’s Bible verses on the calendar.Naomi may have a couple of opportunities to work with the kids' school on the horizon. Around the World One of the instructions Jesus gave his followers was to tell others around the world about the new life that they had found in him.We think that one of the clearest ways in which this happens is when churches work to do this in different places - it’s of course probably the main reason we’re here in Kosovo. Now, after praying for a small town for several years, our church in Gjilan has been able to take the step of hiring an apartment in the town which we hope will provide the base for ongoing work in the area. Currently a couple who worked in Gjilan for 10 years, are based there for the next few months. With such a small church, it probably seems crazy to start thinking about sending some people to work in another place, but everyone in the church is enthused, and it is helping them think more broadly about the cost of living as a Christian and what it means to share the hope we have, not just in our local area, but in other places. Please pray for us all as things develop.
And Finally for this Month...Car registration time has come and gone again. A dreaded time in my (Rich’s) mind, as I seek to understand and navigate the local ways of legally keeping the car on the road. This is the first time I dared to do it alone, but with an initial trip to the registration office I was directed to a helpful guy that spoke English. Then followed a morning of trips to:The local equivalent of an MOT service.The local Komuna (local council) where the system still means going to 4 different desks in one small office. a Car Insurance companyBack to the Registration Office, who told me I was three days too early and they couldn’t process it!