Communist-era tenement just around the corner from our home.
In just five days from now we will be officially moving into our long-awaited permanent home here in Albania. We will have our own furniture, our own beds, and something we can now finally call home. To say we are full of excitement is quite an understatement. We've been living in a borrowed small 2-bedroom apartment with one bath, one small living area, and a tiny kitchen. Two months prior to our arrival in Albania we were without a home as well, living in hotels, MTI, and at Grammy's house. We've been without a home and living out of our suitcases for nearly six months. As a family of five living in this environment it has certainly presented its challenges. In some ways we've grown closer than ever before, while many times we wanted to pull our hair out. Nevertheless, we are forever thankful for what we have. We're grateful for those who have helped provide for our needs, including the small stuff, even something as simple as a pot or a pan.
But, there is another side to this story. Each time we drive our minivan through the congested and polluted streets of Tirane, I am reminded how fortunate we are to have a reliable vehicle. Each day I walk Drayton to his preschool through narrow alleys with apartment buildings that look like they are about to topple, I am reminded how fortunate we are to have a nice home. Even though we gave or sold over half of our belongings to come to the mission field, we still live like kings and queens compared to most Albanians who live below the poverty line. My language helper recently told me that most Albanians scrape by with less than a few hundred Leke per day ($3 dollars).
More importantly, I am reminded by the words of the Apostle Paul who had faced imprisonment, hunger, and persecution about being content:
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Lord, even though we are excited about finally moving into our home, teach us to remain thankful for what we already have and yet humbled by what others don't have.
It's been a couple of weeks since we last updated our blog. This has been somewhat intentional because there has been nothing new to report. At this point in our ministry we are solely focused on three things: learning the Albanian language, developing relationships with those in our community, and seeking specific ministry opportunities. Our lives have consisted of language lessons, personal study time, and interaction with others. This will likely be the case for the next year or so.
We did, however, pass our Level 1 Language Assessment this week. The assessment included the invitation of a local Albanian into our home, showing hospitality, and having a short conversation with one another. This was then followed with instructions to take a taxi or bus into town and meet our language coach at an unknown restaurant. We then had to ask for a menu, order food, and pay. Next, we went to a local market to ask for the price of certain food items, then purchase these items to bring home. All of this was spoken in Albanian of course and our language coach made his observations. The good news is that we both passed and we now move on to Level 2 Language Acquisition.
Level 1 primarily involved survival language learning (i.e. introductions, greetings, basic common words, numbers, days of the week, how to ask the time, how to get around town, and make purchases). Level 2 will involve lemuch more complex language skills (i.e. grammar, conjugating verbs, sentence structure, etc.) We look forward to moving on to the next level in our language development as we continue to equip ourselves to one day share and show the the love of Christ to many.
On another note, we move into our home in just a few weeks. Preparations are already underway. The landlord has repainted the exterior of the house with blue paint. We now call our home the Smurf House. And, roof repair has been completed. We will likely begin painting the interior soon and some of the flooring will be replaced. There is also a host of other smaller items still needing to be repaired. If all goes accordingly we will move into our home the first week of June. We would by lying if we didn't tell you we can't wait. Although we have been very appreciative and thankful for the apartment we now live in, it is small for a family of five (800 sq ft) and we can't wait to move into a bigger home where we can stretch out a bit and Greg can wrestle with the kids on the floor.
On a closing note, please continue to pray for our language studies and acquisition. Please pray we continue to meet new people and build relationships. And, please pray for our health, family unity, and spiritual vitality.
Today marks the first full week we've been here in Albania. It's been an amazingly busy week for us: getting to know our neighbors, fellow team members, orientation, getting around the city, language learning, shopping for much needed items, and finally applying for our residency permit (Leje Qendrimi). The first few days were quite a challenge to get acclimated to the vast time difference (7 hours). Finally, we now seem to have adjusted to our sleep schedule. We also learned that Albanians eat their meals later than what we are used to in America. They eat late breakfasts, late lunches (2-3pm), a snack (5-6pm), and late dinners (9pm). The food here is good. They eat a lot of chicken, bread, and lamb.
Coleman and Morgan have enjoyed school at GDQ. Coleman has integrated well and met a few friends that he really seems to relate well with and share many common interests. Morgan has also enjoyed school and met a few new friends. However, most of her friends are right here in our neighborhood (lagje). And finally, Drayton, has fully immersed himself in with the neighborhood kids. Everyday he enjoys playing soccer downstairs in our "cul-de-sac" with a dozen or so Albanian and Roma boys.
Marcella has enjoyed meeting with the ladies of our team and has spent some fruitful hours about town getting to know where the best grocery markets and shopping areas are located. Greg too has met with the men of his team and has been shown around town by his Team Leader, David, while at the same time getting documents signed and notarized.
We signed a one-year lease agreement on our new home this week. Along with our residency permit, a signed lease is required in order for us to obtain our container when it arrives at the end of March. We will be moving into our new home at the end of May (see picture above). We look forward to receiving our container and moving into our new home within the next couple of months.
Thanks again to all of those who continue to pray for us and support us financially. Without you we would not have made it here. We look forward to seeing what the week ahead will bring and keeping you up-to-date.
We spent the last two days traveling from the US to Albania, spending one night in London. Yesterday, we finally arrived in our new home in Tirana. While flying on the plane from London I was immediately struck by the Albanians desire to learn more about truth. What is truth? Two men seated in the row in front of us were having an intense conversation about God (Albanian: Zoti). One gentleman in the row next to us was reading a book entitled, "The Rules of Life: A Personal Code for Living a Better, Happier, More Successful Kind of Life". Albanians, after having been oppressed for many years void of religious expression are hungry to know what Truth really is.
After having been picked up at the airport by our Team Leader, we made our way to our neighborhood, but first stopped and had some coffee (kafe) with some local Roma. By the way, never say "cheers". It's a bad word in Albanian. When we finally arrived at our apartment, we were greeted by our landlords, Lana and Nick. They have kids about our same age and our kids have already made good friends with them.
Overall, it's been a wonderful experience so far. We have met many new people (mostly local nationals). We're trying our best to learn small phrases and words as we adapt to this new culture. However, we are a tad bit tired from the jet lag, and because the apartment has no central heating, we are trying to make do with the two space heaters we have to stay warm while at the same time trying hard not to trip the circuit breakers. Today, we unpacked, relaxed, and took a walk in the neighborhood. The kids have been playing non-stop with the Albanian kids and Marcella and I are preparing for our official orientation and tour of Tirana tomorrow while the kids start their first day of school at GDQ. We also have our introductions to our language helpers tomorrow and our first lesson plan.
Please continue to pray for a smooth transition and rest as we learn to serve God and others here in Albania.