JUNE 12 - July 01, 2019
JUNE 12 - July 01, 2019
Two English Languages camps done! It was amazing! Great kids...wonderful local hosts...a fantastic ministry team from Alpha Omega Church here in Peshkopi...a gorgeous country...and a special team from Latvia and America. It was truly international, multi-lingual, and cross-cultural, and we are grateful to have been part of it once again.
To our Senders - Thank You! To all interested in this growing ministry in Peshkopi, continue to pray. It is growing, thanks be to God, but there are many challenges to deal with. Pray for Pastor Ermal and Sarah Lushi. Pray for the Interns, Endrit, and Denis and Ela. Pray for the American missionaries, Dan and Dawn Hall, and their children Isaac and Elizabeth. Pray for Alpha Omega Church. Pray for the people of Peshkopi. The Gospel of Jesus has taken root in this place! It's a wrap!
Today, Thursday, has been warm…as in hot! It hasn’t been unbearable, but we’ve definitely been aware of it. The air was heavier, and the body movements of active kids had a distinct outcome (if you know what I mean). But, it’s all good! They were engaged with the Moses story, and they heard that Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised Land is a “preview” of Jesus leading all his children into the kingdom of God. Their ears were open. The rest belongs to God.
Speaking of promise, that was the focus of today’s part of the story. God promised to set His people free from slavery and bring them back to their own land. God promised to use Moses to head up the project, and God promised to lead them, day and night. Would God keep His promises? That’s the question that started the day, and by the end of the day the kids discovered that the answer is clear. Yes, God keeps His promises! This good news was punctuated time and again by robust singing – think “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, let my people go!”
Tonight, we had a special celebration dinner with our “Lamerican” team – Arta, from Latvia, plus the rest of us Americans, Jill, Jim, Norine, Deborah, Suzy, Carolyn, and myself, and our fantastic Albanian partners – Pastor Ermal and Sarah, Endrit, Denis and Ela, Sara, Heri, Reald and Rebecca, and a few others, including American missionaries, Dan and Dawn, and their children, Isaac and Elizabeth. Along with this bunch, we were joined by representatives of World Vision, who partnered with us in helping to defray the cost of housing for the team and food for the two English language camps. That was huge! It was a nice evening.
The week is not over. Tomorrow, like last week, our camp will move for the day to a beautiful spot down in the valley by the Drin River for a picnic. It promises to be a lot of fun, a wonderful way to solidify relationships, and a great conclusion to Camp 2.
Yesterday, Tuesday, we continued the story of Moses, exploring the concepts of trust and failure/sin. These are big thoughts that we try to break down into smaller "bites" so the kids can understand. They are getting it.
Today, Wednesday, the story continued with the Burning Bush and Moses' powerful staff. These experiences are a bit more complicated, but the students are wrestling with it and the notions of trust, mistakes and sin, and God's presence and power are taking root. All of this is supplemented by some great music, led by our intrepid Latvian musician, Arta. She's great, and the kids love to sing loud! The Albanian interns are great, too, and they help to lead some very creative games, sports, and crafts. A more fun and caring group you cannot find!
In the afternoons and evenings, we're enjoying a variety of excursions and team dinners. These have been two jam-packed weeks, and we only have a few days left. Amazing! As you can see from my pic below, there are moments when we find ourselves in confusion, reflection, or some kind of funk. They are few and far between, thankfully, but we ask our Senders to pray for our daily strength and health, and that we would be effective ambassadors for Christ.
Camp 1 seemed to fly by, and it was a great week. Camp 2 began today, and it's already shaping up to be another great week. It's always an adjustment to transition from one group to another, who are a bit older, but we will do just that, and enjoy all that the week brings.
We continue to use the Moses story with this camp, too. It's full of action, mystery, and life lessons, and is a great tool for teaching English.
Well, I'm behind by a couple of days already! Today is already Sunday! Uffda! Our Moses journey has taken us from the burning bush, through the Red Sea, the giving of the Ten Commandments, and the journey to the Promised Land. Along the way, I introduced the idea that the Moses story is a "preview" of what God has done for us through Jesus - leading us out of bondage to sin and death and into an abundant life lived by faith in the promise of an eternal life with God. We finished Camp 1 with a great picnic at a beautiful spot down in the valley by the Drin River. It was a lot for the kids to take in, but a great week for all of us!
On Thursday evening we took a local excursion about a half hour away to visit two very old Orthodox Christian churches that date back to the 1200's. Amazing! They had certainly aged, but we saw iconography on the walls and ceilings, and remnants of once-beautiful, rustic places of worship looking out over the gorgeous Drin River Valley.
On Saturday, our team and Albanian hosts/translators went on an excursion into Kosovo, visiting the city of Prizren and watching some wonderful traditional Albanian dancing that we were not expecting to see. It was a great day filled with seeing new sites, fun conversations and good humor, and amazingly beautiful mountain scenery that rivals anywhere else in the world. Very nice! Our American/Latvian/Albanian group truly has become a unified, cohesive team that works together to make Christ known.
Today, Sunday, we worshiped at Alpha Omega Church in the morning, and, as requested, I preached the sermon. I'm a little rusty, but it went fine, with the skillful translation of Pastor Ermal Lushi, our host pastor. The afternoon was spent setting up rooms for Camp 2, followed by a team meeting to coordinate our efforts in the hope/trust that the week will get off to a good start. That was followed by a fantastic dinner, hosted by the American missionaries, Dan and Dawn Hall. Yup, a great week has finished and a new week has begun. On to Camp 2 with the middle/high schoolers!
Yesterday, Tuesday, we heard about Moses' mother placing her child in a basket and setting him afloat in the Nile River in life-saving effort. It was an act of trust, and it worked! But, it cost her. Moses would not be her son to raise, but instead, he would become a child of Egypt. Trust has consequences! But, God was involved, so the consequences took an unexpected turn.
Today, Wednesday, we added to the story of Moses, learning that even after he killed another man, God chose to use him to accomplish God's purposes in setting the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt. God called Moses to action through a burning bush. And even though Moses was reluctant to trust God, God sent help to Moses by way of his brother, Aaron, and a unique staff that would serve as a tool of God's power.
Trust...it's just so simple, right? Hold on! There are consequences! Like Moses, we often find ourselves reluctant to do what God calls us to do, hesitant to follow in faith, and feeling inadequate to the job before us. That's the truth of the matter. Yet, God is present, guiding us and providing daily strength for His people.
We are bringing an important story to the children of Albania. It truly is a divine drama! And, they are hearing it...open ears, open hearts, and having a lot of fun along the way.
Yesterday, June 16, was Sunday, and we joined with other brothers and sisters in worship at Alpha Omega Church here in Peshkopi. Pastor Ermal Lushi preached from Matthew 13:53-58, where we are told that the people of Jesus' hometown, Nazareth, took offense at him. Then Ermal challenged us with the same question: "Will you take offense at Jesus?" My immediate internal reaction was: "Of course not." But, upon further thought, I realized that the question was getting at my words and actions. Will they show that I believe in Jesus and revere him as Lord and Savior, or will they show that I take offense at him. It was a powerful way to begin serving for two weeks among some precious children here in Albania, many who have never heard of Jesus.
Today is Monday, and the first-week English Language Camp has begun. I can hear the voices of children in the room next door even as I write these words. They are laughing, hearing the beginning of the story of Moses, answering questions, exploring, and singing their hearts out. A great beginning! Our team does not take offense at Jesus. Instead, we believe and proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in the midst of this culturally Muslim community.
When Christians think of mission, they traditionally begin with Jesus' admonition in Matthew 28 to go into the world and make disciples. It's often referred to as the Great Commission, and we in the Church have taken it seriously.
Fast forward to East European Missions Network (EEMN). Simply put, that's why EEMN exists...because of Jesus' Great Commission. And that's why our team will embark on a short-term mission this coming Wednesday, June 12, via planes, cars, and vans, all the way from our various homes in the U.S. and Latvia, through Europe, and into Tirana, the capitol city of Albania. From there, we will travel several hours northeast, to the town of Peshkopi (pic above) in the beautiful Drin River valley nestled under mountains, where we will spend two weeks with our hosts, Pastor Ermal Lushi and his wife, Sarah, and Dan and Dawn Hall, the American missionaries. We will make Christ known there by our friendships and relationship-building, and as we teach English to middle and high school students using the story of Moses. And if you want to dig a little deeper, you will notice that the good news of Jesus came to this beautiful region a long time ago - see Romans 15:19 and 2 Timothy 4:10. Illyricum and Dalmatia can be generally viewed a synonyms for the region of Albania.
Those of us on the Albania Team are "Goers." We will be part of the amazing global mission work that the Church has engaged in since the beginning (see the NT book of Acts). That said, we could never be "Goers" without the vital partnership of our "Senders" - family, friends, congregational members, and others, who pray for us and help to financially support this effort. "Senders" are as important to making Christ known as "Goers" are. As one touch-point to illustrate this idea, see Acts 13:1-5. Please take a moment to read these simple yet amazing words. The Holy Spirit was involved. "Senders" were involved. Prayer and encouragement was involved. That's what our "Senders" are doing! Thanks be to God...and to them!
Stay tuned for daily blogs while we are in mission.
Phil Lee, on behalf of the EEMN Albania Team
Pr. Phil & Carolyn Lee are the EEMN Albania Team Leaders. After serving as team members in 2017 they grew a true affinity for the people and for the stunning land of Albania. After faithfully serving Deny Park Lutheran in Seattle, Pr. Phil & Carolyn now spend much of their time serving in Arizona at Shepherd's Canyon Retreat Center for pastors, spouses, and ministry leaders in need of emotional and spiritual support.