Everyone has a gate here in Albania. When we first arrived, the streets looked bare and deserted to me. All the side streets are lined with concrete walls and falling down metal wooden doors. But these are actually gates to people homes. It really is like walk through a neighborhood edition but everyone’s yard is hidden. On the outside many of them look run down and old. Surely no one lives THERE, I would say to myself. But if you can find an open gate somewhere, you can catch a glimpse into a whole other side of Albanian life. The obor (courtyards) are lush with greenery and plants. Trees are full of fruit in it’s season. Tiled sidewalks and driveways have replaced the concrete, pavement and dirt of the main streets. There are seating areas in the shade and tables for family gatherings. They are well kept and clean, a contrast to the dusty and trash filled streets of the city. These gates lead to another world inside the life and heart of an Albanian. Hidden from the outside world it is a place open to you by invitation only, unless you happen to be walking by when the gate is open and catch a glimpse of the inside. If you are uninvited you might be able to peek in, but you will be looked at with suspicion and wariness.
How this mirrors our ministry here in Albania! As you walk the street of Albania, you will find that no one smiles. Even if I am smiling at someone as I pass them on the street, they frequently stare me down with an expressionless face. Until I say “Mire dita (good day), Si jeni (how are you)?” The change is remarkable. This happened to me just the other day when I passed an old woman in a traditional black dress and white scarf. She was studying me (it is not considered rude to stare) but with a blank and expressionless face. But when I greeted her, the transformation of her face was remarkable. Her eyes lit up, she smiled a somewhat toothless smile and her entire demeanor changed.
The same is true when we meet Christ! We are transformed! What was blank and expressionless in us is transformed to His image. We become changed. Out hearts become the oasis from the world we live in because HE LIVES IN US! I am surprised and overwhelmed at how often I forget this simple truth and how I can tap into that oasis in my own being, in my own soul because He lives in me. His power is there, waiting for the greeting and welcome that I will give him. “Therefore I stand at the door and knock. Whoever opens the door, I will come in and eat with Him and he with me.” Praise God… I can open the gate!
This week we hired a “house helper”. Linda (pronounced “LEEN-DA”) has been the house helper for our friends Melodye and Peter Bowers for ( we think- based on our limited language) for six years. The Bowers have just left for some time in the States and we were able to hire Linda to come to our house during the time they are away as a trial run for having someone in our home to help with some of the cleaning. She also keeps Jadyn during these times while we are going to language lessons.
But Linda speaks only Albanian.
So we are having some interesting conversations to say the least. Sometimes we are able to complete the thought and sometimes we just have to give up. I was able to explain what I was looking for with Melodye translating for our first meeting. Since then we have been on our own! The night before she came for the first time, I was dreaming about all the things I needed to say to her in Shqip (Albanian). After we had a short conversation the first morning, it took me a half hour to realize that she was trying to tell me the dog was crying. We had put him in a back room while she is here- most Albanians are afraid of dogs.
We have language lessons on the days that Linda is here. When we arrive home, she gives us a full report and shows us everything she has done as well as tell us how Jadyn has done and what she ate, etc… Some we understand and some we do not. She is incredibly patient as we struggle to understand all that she says. We have reached a stage where we understand a lot of what is said to us, especially with a little help negotiating meaning. But we still speak a the level of a toddler. 🙂
Linda mops floors (this is a major task since the whole first floor is all tile), washes dishes, and cleans bathrooms. These are the main things I have asked her to focus on while Jadyn is down for her nap. When Jadyn awakes, Linda feeds her lunch and plays with her while trying as she is able to clean. She did all the downstairs windows on Monday while watching Jadyn. They have not been that clean since we moved in. 🙂
It is amazing how having a house helper makes you more aware of your own mess. I really want to clean up for her so she can clean the things that are really dirty and not just my clutter. It is also making me put a few systems in place for the boys so they have a place for all their things (backpacks, folders, homework, lunch boxes, water bottles). It is also making a HUGE difference for me since the dirt level here is about 5x higher than in the States. Please THANK GOD today for Linda and pray that we will have future opportunities to minister to her as well!