Sunday, April 18, 2010

It's all about Perspective

Why is the type like this? Grrrr. Sorry about that.

So, I'm sweeping our front yard this morning because it's all dirt a
nd covered with leaves and blossoms that have fallen from our big orange trees. Because of the blossoms, it literally sounds like a buzzing bee hive as all the bees collect their nectar to make honey. God just loves putting us out of our comfort zones. :)

While I'm doing this, Kya is playing with our next door neighbor's boy. After a while, his mom comes over. She tells me something that is very normal here in Albania, but would be very hard to experience. Her husband has left for Greece for 6 months. He does this every year. Here half the year, gone the other half. He does this to work ad support his family because here it is so hard to find work, especially work that's enough money to live. She has a 3 year old a
nd a 4 month old. I asked her how she goes grocery shopping. She has no help. She's from a village. Normally here in Albania, your mom helps you, but her mom is in her village. They don't have a car like many Albanians don't. She said when the baby's asleep, she runs to the store really fast (literally). I just can't imagine. Obviously, I told her I'd come over and watch the kids while she goes, but I don't know if she'll accept my help. I told her I wanted to take her out for coffee sometime, but she said "Thank you, but no." The reason? Because men go for coffee, not moms. Moms stay at home. She is at home every moment. I told her I saw lots of moms going out for coffee, but I think because she is from a village, those traditions are more ingrained into her about the status of men and women. And sometimes I think I have very few friends and would like to get out a little more. Compared to the States, of course, but here, life is very different. Just try to imagine what that would be like to be trapped in a house with 2 small kids half the year every year with no car, no husband, and no help. We have so much to be grateful for.

Friday, March 26, 2010

So, last month (February) was a challenging month for us. We found out about the death of our good friend Kaulana. She died in a car crash while driving with only her dog. (which barely had a scratch when they found him) This was of course very sudden and unexpected as she was only 31 years old. Jamie and I served with Kelly, her husband, and Kaulana for years at Calvary Chapel Boynton Beach. We knew them very well and it was a privilege and honor to serve alongside them. I, Tim, had the opportunity at the last second to fly to the States for 4 days to attend the funeral service and spend some time with Kelly. I was such a God thing that I was even able to go. Anyways, here are some pics and video from the trip.

This is Kelly sharing at the service. He was holding up amazingly well.

A pic of me sharing. The service was 3 hours long and not one person
that was there could care less. It was a special, special service with the
majority of the time opened up for anyone to share whatever was on
their heart. People came in from not only all over the country but all
over the world. I felt so privileged to have been there.

Most of the people on stage we know well and have served with in
one capacity or another. Two of them are missionaries in different
countries and the came here at the last second as well. Being there
was so surreal and it was like a big reunion and maybe a little bit
of what Heaven might be like. (Minus the sadness and pain)

After the service started, some friends of mine where motioning me
to come up onstage. They wanted me to play some percussion with
the band during the worship set. It was totally unplanned and really
cool to be up there with all of our friends we knew so well but that
I have not seen in so long. (Thanks Tracy for thinking of me!)

It was really nice to get some Starbucks iced coffee! (my favorite)

It was also nice to swing by the beach and walk out on the sand.

Kelly and I met at this Cracker Barrel and talked for a while. I took a
picture because this is the first place that Jamie and I went to with
Kelly and Kaulana about 11 years ago. I believe they were just married
for about a year and Jamie and I were newly engaged. We hit it off
with them right away that night because after we ate we went out
and sat on the rocking chairs for about 4 more hours until midnight
just talking about anything and everything. Good memories.

This is Colby, the dog we had in the States. My aunt Shirley took
him now and he is in good hands now. What a good dog!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First of all, thank you to everyone who sent advice from my last post. I have pondered much of what all was said! Thank you for praying! It has kind of naturally limited itself in a healthy way. She comes over about twice a week now and asks when to come back. Then, she's been coming back on those days only. I've asked another girl to start having coffee with her sometimes (by your advice, Christina) and had already before asked her for help with cooking (like you said, mom and Rach). She is a good girl and has helped clean up the table after lunch every time without my asking. (I also really appreciated your letters Sherri, Tracy and Dad!)

Well, here I am, talking about the center for gypsy kids again. We just moved into a new place. I'm happy about it. It feels like a new beginning. Maybe a beginning with the smallest speck of hope even. Only God knows.

Here, we're moving the furniture using our car. It was very... interesting. I (Jamie) was there that day and was the driver to take trip after trip with all of the belongings to the new place. The older boys came to help and to my surprise, they were a huge help. They always surprised me by loading the trunk as you see above. I would then tell them that it wouldn't hold the whole way to the new place, then they would continue to prove me wrong by making it secure enough and it held every time. This was kind of a beginning of a change in our relationship. I feel like for the first time, because they were given responsibility for something and could work with their hands, they felt useful and like men, which made them act like men and with respect. Something new! Very different from our past experiences together! Of course, they still had their moments of being teenage boys that day, but there was a small change that started then as I look back. They even wouldn't allow me to help them with the heavy stuff. I was pleasantly surprised.

Here's a little man with a lot of character. He's 9 and just adorable - most of the time. Here, he's helping us move the boxes into the new place.

There's not much to it, but it has a sink, running water and a bathroom which is great! I was even shocked to see screens on the windows! I've very rarely seen that here in Lushnje.

This is what it looked like after everything was unloaded and piled in the center of the room. It's covered with plastic because the painting was about to begin!

Here's Tim painting the ceiling with one of the older boys I had mentioned to you earlier painting the walls. It wasn't as professional as Tim would've had it being a pro in the States, but we know it was important that they were able to be a part of it.

Tracey (standing), a new Aussie on our team and Mona, the Albanian who's been a part of this ministry for 5 or 6 years now were helping out. The kids really liked the color and we could tell there was just something new going on and a good feeling in the air with all the new happenings.

I have done a couple simple murials on the walls and have one more to do. It's hard because I wanted to go and just be in their by myself and work for a good solid chunk of time to get it done, but the new place is right next to where they all live. So, anytime we go there, they see us and come and expect to go inside. Well, one time I went and tried to explain to them that I had to be by myself inside and work otherwise I wouldn't be able to finish it (if I had to watch them as well). They weren't too happy about that. They didn't understand and were getting angrier and angrier. Finally I said I was just going to leave. Then one of them started screaming at me. Thankfully, the older boy (picture above with Tim painting) came and asked me what was going on. I explained the situation to him and he understood and defended me and made them leave me alone. I am so grateful for this turnaround! A month ago, I was calling our pastor to come to my rescue from this same boy, now he's rescuing me from his own brothers and sisters! Only God could do it!

We start back up tomorrow. Right now, we're in a trial season of enforcing rules and consequences for actions. I think it'll be rough and very testing, but it's absolutely necessary if we're going to continue in this.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some Godly advice needed

A question:

(Jamie speaking) No pics with this post. I hope that doesn't deter some of you from continuing. : )

There is this girl. She's 16. She's attended the little ministry we have for gypsy kids for years now, but she's always stood out to me. She's quiet, shy and respectful. I have heard her mother and aunt who she lives with are prostitutes. There was always a desire within me to reach out to her more than the two times a week we meet with the kids right now, but if other kids find out, they get really jealous and angry. Well, now that she's 16, she's been coming to church so after church one day, we brought her back to our house for a visit. It was really nice being able to have some one on one time with her and I felt alright knowing she's old enough now to visit our house with a reasonable excuse for the other kids since she's 3 years older than all the other girls. After the first visit, she came back the next day... and the next. One day I had in mind to just spend time with my girls, but guess who came over unexpectedly. She stayed for almost 4 hours. I have to practically kick her out every time. I think you get the picture. Now every time I see her, she asks when she can come over, and even on days when I've said I would be busy, she's showed up anyways. The thing is, we came here to minister to people like her. I've asked her if she has friends, she said yes, but I've never seen her with one and wonder if she did, why'd she spend so much time here? Knowing what I do about her home life, even from things she's expressed to me personally, I could see why she wouldn't want to be there. But where do I draw the line? Others have told me to limit my time with her so she would come once a week, but I don't think I can do that. This is the reason we came here, but it affects my whole family, not just me. My ability to cook, clean, spend time with them, and do other ministries. At the same time, how do turn her away, leaving her only to go back to her home where there is nothing to live for? An honest question. Please, feel free to comment. I will prayerfully consider every piece of advice!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

So, Jamie and the kids and I have been doing quite a bit of traveling
lately. As most of you are aware of, Albania is the first or second
poorest country in Europe. But, being here allows us to be right next
to some pretty cool countries. One of those is Italy. In October we
had the opportunity to go there for a family vacation which was
amazing. Then I(Tim) got to go back a week and a half later to
another part of Italy for an OM conference. The conference was
held at an OM base in northwest Italy about 45 minutes outside
of Torino(Turin). The pics and video below tell of my adventures
there which during that 12 day stretch was both beautiful and crazy.

I arrived in Italy at night so I didn't see what our surroundings
looked like until the next day. This is what me and my roomates
saw when we first opened our curtains. The pictures really don't
do it justice for how high and beautiful the mountains really were.

This is right outside the front of the OM base. It was located right
at the end of a valley with the surrounding mountains having peek
fall colors and a fresh covering of snow on the taller ones in back
which happen to be the Alps. During our conference breaks
many of us would come outside here and just stare at God's painting.

I had no idea but this valley we stayed in has a very rich history.
There were a group of people called there called the Valeccians
(probably spelled wrong) who I believe migrated there from
France in the 1100's. They were persecuted for many hundreds
of years by both the Roman Catholic church and army in Italy
for their faith.They were always either in hiding or having to
defend themselves and one statue portrayed them having a
Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. This picture was
taken at a place up the mountain where mainly the men and
boys would go during the Winter for maybe 4 months and they
would just spend time reading, studying, and teaching God's
Word. In some ways it was like one of if not the first seminaries.
This was a small room and whether it was here on in pne of
their churches, they always had a Bible opened. There were a
couple of other small rooms there for eating and also another
for keeping animals nearby to help sustain heat inside.

This was inside a cave where they used to meet for service. It was
also a pretty good walk to get there and you had to crunch way down
under rocks to get down into the cave. They said it could fit around
200 people. We visited it at night when it was late and cold and they
shared a very moving story with us. This cave was also very secretive
but when they met they would place boys outside to guard the area
in case the army would show up. Well, one time the army did come while
they were having service and they silently killed off all the boys who
were keeping watch. Then they threw burning torches from above
through the cracks into the cave. There was only one way out of there
so the people inside either were burned alive or if they came out the
army was waiting for them with swords to take their lives. All of them
died. We have all heard those kind of stories before and they move us
but to be there inside, at night, where it really happened was just an
unforgettable experience for all of us. In the video here we are inside
the cave singing worship songs and praying for the persecuted church.

At the OM base I roomed with two other guys. One was named David,
and he was from Sweden and working in Syria. The two of us got up
around five in the morning one day and hiked up the mountain. It was
dark the whole way up and even at one point we had to hold onto a rope
and lean over and walk across a stream of water flowing down the
mountain that was pretty steep. At this point where the picture above is
I had to stop because the side of the mountain got pretty steep and I
did not want to risk it with my worn shoes. Right above where I am
standing there was a big pointed rock where we were told that they took
the Valleccian women and children one time and through them all off of
the rock. It was called red rock because of all the blood spilled.

After we had been there a week the whole group attending the
conference went to Torino for the weekend for an outreach. Torino
was about 45 minutes away from where we were staying and we
found out is actually one of the most Satanic cities in the world. I
believe it is the fastest growing "religion" in Torino with over 40
thousand registered Satanists. Anyways, we actually didn't have
any run-ins with that and we spent the weekend evangelizing at
a big outdoor market. This place was a big hangout for foreigners,
and especially Arab people. The picture above is my "bed" one
of the nights I spent at a church. I could have slept on the tile
also but it was too cold.

The girl in the blue jacket was German and she worked in
Morocco. She spoke Arabic and was very useful in speaking
with the many Muslims that were there. This little canopy
was where we had our station and gave out books, Bibles,
and literature in many languages.

So theses two pics(above) are from when I took an unexpected
trip. The last day I was in Italy I got a call from our field leader
in Germany asking me to come to Germany and pick up a
vehicle for our team here in Lushnje, Albania. Our van here
has pretty much died and so I rode up to Germany with some people
traveling from Italy and transferred the car documents into my
name and then drove it back to Albania. (See story below)
On the way, I was stoked to stop at a gas station in Germany
and find two food items I miss from the States. I was kind of
a Mountain Dew-a-holic back in the States but in most of
Europe it is nowhere to be found. Subway was also a great
find. I got a turkey and meatball sub and ate them very slowly!

So, my drive back turned out to be quite an adventure. I
started in Southern-Central Germany and drove through
Switzerland and through all of Italy to the Southern most
tip to a city called Bari where I got a ferry to take me over
to Durres Albania. But on the way, I made a very, very wrong
turn. I had been given an atlas in German but I was mainly
using some directions that I printed out. Everything was
going ok until after I passed through Zurich, Switzerland.
By then it was starting to get dark and I was driving by
myself and I knew I had around 2 hours to reach the
Italian-Swiss border. The only problem was when I reached
the border about 2 hours later I passed through and I
noticed the signs did not change into Italian! I got a knot
in my throat as I felt something was really wrong. I pulled
over and asked a guy where I was and he said I was in
Germany!! I did not even know where in Germany as
I had no idea what direction I had headed in. I tried to
go to the next exit and turn around but I couldn't and
that led me going down another road somewhere. Then
I tried again to get off another exit on that road and
the same thing happened again. And to make things
worse, when I was getting more lost on these roads
I entered into France!!! I finally asked someone and
found my way back to (now) the French-Swiss border.
I had a bunch of things inside my car and when I got to
the border they would not let me through. The told me to
pull over and proceeded to search my entire car inside
and out. The took all my bags apart and even had a dog
sniffing the entire vehicle, even the engine! An hour and
a half later they let me go but now it was late and I knew
I needed to drive late into the night to make up for lost
time. This video was me sleeping outside of Milan, Italy
on a rest stop. I got about 3-4 hours sleep and then had to
hit the road again. The humbling thing is that usually I am
very good with directions while driving but not this time!
Thank you God for your provision and protection.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Prayer Makes Such a Difference

What a difference. This second year has certainly been different than our first - which is to be expected. First of all, I would like to say an enormous THANK YOU to all those who have prayed for us. A specific answer to prayer to mention is Kya and school. She struggled all year long last year with not wanting to go or throwing terrible fits when we left her there. We kept taking her there, though, because if she didn't go, she would have almost zero interaction with other kids her age and be around adults 24/7 and we knew it would be the best way to help her learn the language. When the summer was ending, we weren't sure whether or not to put her back in because of the traumatizing first year. We prayed for sure and asked all of you to pray as well. Well, WHAT A DIFFERENCE! She is like a totally new kid! I don't think she has cried once this whole new year. She has so much joy and the teachers tell me how happy she is and well she's doing. She goes on her own and gives everyone (the other kids and teachers) hugs afterwards and tells them, "Mirupafshim!" which is "goodbye" in Albanian. She's also been speaking more Albanian for sure this year in school and out. Initially we heard how they would pick it up so much faster than we would, but that was not the case with Kya. Even by the end of the last school year, we were surprised at how little Albanian she understood and knew. PRAISE GOD! He is ALIVE and answers prayer! All I can say is she really is like a whole new kid. My heart is full when I see her at school so full of joy. THANK YOU prayer partners. THANK YOU, MY GOD!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

This is a happy day at the Center for gypsy kids we have here. It's with the Florida team from summer time. However, what you will read about here is another type of day.
Read on to find out what went on in my (Jamie's) head yesterday when coming home from the Emmanuel Center.

THIS IS NOT WORKING!! Why in the world did we give up our lives for these kids? It was for nothing!! They don't care! They don't respond! They don't respect us one bit! They mock us! Why are we here? I'm so ready to close this down! I am going to those boys' fathers and going to have a word with them about how their boys behaved and what little respect they have showed us! What a waste! We are some of the few people that treat them like human beings, we come and give them food, they get clothes sometimes here, when we see them on the street, we shake their hands and treat them with dignity, we visit their homes. Why in the world did we give up our lives for them?

Then, Jesus whispered in my heart, "You didn't do it for them, you did it for Me."

Yes, that's true. And it did help calm me down. Although, the frustration continued. What a terrible day - actually, the worst yet - there at the center for gypsy kids. I was actually getting somewhere with the younger boy who is 6. He was writing his name, but it was totally backwards, so I was showing him how to write it forwards, and he was really improving. Then, I was teaching an 8 year old girl how to write her 6s the right way and she was also improving. Then, the older teenage boys went out of control. They were so incredibly rude and disrespectful, when I went home, I was ready to call it quits. The Albanian woman who helps us wasn't able to make it that day, so it was just me and Jess (the Aussie lady who's on my team). It was a joke. They were stealing keys and trying to break into other rooms. They were climbing out the window (we're on the 2nd floor), making fun of our accents, physically pushing me out of a room where they weren't supposed to be, knocking over chairs, being extremely loud yelling and knocking things over (which we're in an apartment building and other people can hear us easily). I was demanding that they leave, but they wouldn't. I felt powerless. Finally, we had to call our pastor to come over to help us. Then, when they heard he was coming, they left, making an enormous ruckus as they went. That was a bad enough nightmare and it took a while for me to calm down. Then, after the meeting, I asked a couple of the older girls who are 13 and 14 to come with me to show them something. I wanted to show them a painting I did and ask them to paint with me sometime (the 14 year old is always painting and coloring at the center and I know she loves to). The 14 year old's mother and sister are prostitutes and she hasn't come for months. Suddenly, she's coming again and I want to really form a relationship with her. I really don't want her going down that path. Well, after I showed them, we were trying to make plans for when to paint together, then a couple other kids from the center saw us and asked what we were doing. When they found out, they were all jealous and mad and called me stupid and yelling at me and wouldn't listen to a word I said. I was mad, then too. I had already been telling one of them that I would go to her house and do something special with her and she was happy about it. I asked them why I couldn't do something special with them and these 2 girls, but they wouldn't hear it. I was fuming by the time I got home. I was just thinking, Why in the world do we do this? These kids don't care one bit. All they want to do is take and misbehave.

I hate to say that that's the end of this blog post. There is no resolution... yet. The truth is, sometimes I have no idea what to do. I feel completely inadequate, like my language isn't good enough yet, just powerless. I have sought God about what to do with these kids, but when I feel I have a clear direction, it seems to shut down or the doors close. I don't know. I feel confused sometimes. If you remember, please, please, pray with us for this ministry. It is the most difficult by far. I know that God loves these kids by Jesus' example. Looking at His life here on earth, He loved the most rejected, the most looked down upon. It's one of the things I REALLY love about Him! This ministry also defies society's thinking in that way. Anyways, it's not like I expected this to be a piece of cake, but it reminds me of labor. I knew going into it, it would be extremely painful... and it was! But, knowing it would be so painful didn't make it any less painful if you know what I mean. Knowing this would be so difficult, doesn't make it any easier. That's all. I love you all and thank you for reading. It feels good getting my true feelings out there sometimes. -Jamie