We've learned a second language and a second culture (and still learning). What its like to live as a foreigner in a strange land. We have learned that our kids are more easily adaptable and content than their parents.
We've seen live cows, lambs, and chickens slaughtered for food before our very eyes (that was different). We have experienced the taste of Turkish coffee, raki, sufflaqe, and qofte and found them to be quite delectable. But, we are often reminded how we miss the familiar tastes (and smells) of an American cheeseburger with fries and a chocolate shake.
We have relished the beauty of Albania's majestic snow-capped mountains. And, have floated in the turquoise blue water of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.
We learned that flexibility has taken on a whole new different meaning. And, that daily calendar plans really don't work much here. Spontaneity is the norm.
We learned that we needed to make our home our refuge rather than the always open door policy we originally came here with. We know what its like to be shivering cold and miserably hot... living in an uninsulated home. And, we now know what its like to go months with a broken plumbing system and daily power outages.
We've seen what community really looks like and participate in the daily lives of our neighbors. We have made some good friends (both foreign and domestic) that we cherish and will likely never forget.
We have heard the wailing and cries of new widows. But, we have also seen great joy and beauty at the marriages of newly wedded brides and grooms.
We've learned that missions is not all warm and fuzzy. That discipling can be very messy, unorganized, and takes a lot of time. And, that there is really no one right way to do it.
We have seen injustices, corruption, violence, neglect, abuse, and discrimination. And, it is horrifying. We've seen the ravages of communism and a nation who is now struggling to find its identity in a free democracy.
We have learned what living in poverty looks like up close and very personal. We've seen little Roma children with distended bellies, rummaging through trash, and eating food scraps from dumpsters. We've seen, felt, and experienced the very real hurts, pains, and anguish of those we are serving. Seeing Roma mothers who can't afford to care for their children and hand them over to a children's home. We have seen what hopelessness and despair looks like. Watching men without work wasting away their lives on alcohol, drugs, or gambling.
We've seen that God changes us, our views, our priorities in life, and how He can easily change our direction. And, knowing how vital it is to yield to the Spirit and rely on God because we genuinely and truly need Him to get us through each day.
And, even though life can be challenging living and working in Albania, we still seem to love it here. Somehow through these first few years we have never felt forgotten or abandoned. We are affirmed each day by God and by the encouragement and faithfulness of those that support us.
This is where God needs us at this moment in time. It's not always delightful. But, we are in awe at how God is working in the lives of those who don't even know they are being touched by the very hand of God. And, that is a cool sight to behold. And, we want to see more.
It is our desire to see people rescued, redeemed, renewed, and entirely transformed in Christ. And, it is this that motivates us and keeps us in this great race.
Thank you for these first three years. We wouldn't have changed the story. These are three years we would never take back.
And now, we eagerly await to see how God will write the next three years...