Monthly Archives: April 2009

Remembering

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April 19, 1995

Perhaps you have days in your life when time seemed to stand still.  This was one for me.  I was a senior in college, majoring in music education.  And on this very ordinary sunshiny day, I left my apartment early for my student teaching assignment at Fisher Elementary school in Moore, Oklahoma.   Classes started around 8:30 and my supervising teacher, Marilyn Copeland, left me to teach classes on my own.  I was nearing the end of my 8 weeks of elementary teaching and the students no longer scared me.  🙂

The morning passed quickly and nothing out of the ordinary happening until a few minutes after 10 am when Marilyn’s husband came in looking for her.  This seemed a little out of place.  He worked downtown, what was he doing here?  I did not know where she was, I told him, and went on with the lessons.  It was not until lunch time that I learned about the bombing in Oklahoma City that day.  I was riveted to the TV during my short 30 minute break trying to wrap my mind around what had happened.

We can never believe it when tragedy strikes.  We could never have imagined what would happen that day or the pain that it brought on so many people.  But in the midst of tragedies, we find our greatest strength.  Strength that God put deep within us so that we could bear the sufferings we will find in this world.

Today, I am remembering the people who showed amazing courage and strength in the face of suffering, loss and pain.  I am remembering the lives that were lost at 9:02 am on April 19, 1995. And I am remembering that God still redeems the worst of tragedies and brings goodness and hope with each new day.

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.

21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

~Lamentations 3:19-23

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Gezuar Pashken! (Happy Easter)

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Today was a special day…. not only was there an amazing celebration of Easter here in Tirana, but today was the day my sweet friend Linda gave her life to Christ.

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There was a concert and Eater Celebration for all Christian churches in Tirana this morning at Mother Teresa Square.  We gathered in the center of town and walked to the square for worship.  It was amazing to see thousands of Christians from around our city unified under Christ.  Linda joined our family and went with us to the service.  I could see that God was stirring her heart as she was singing songs and celebrating with us.

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After the service our church had a picnic in the park.  After lunch, Linda and I were sitting together and I asked her if she knew the whole story of Jesus.   She asked my if it was a true story.  I told her YES!  She has heard the story but not remembered details.  In my very basic Albanian, I told Linda the story of God’s love for us, how we have been separated from Him by our sin, how He sent His Son to take our place by dying on the cross, and the hope we have in Him because HE IS RISEN.

I used simple words and short sentences and I stumbled a lot,  but she was patient and thirsty to know more.  As I was nearing a place that caused me to struggle even more, Sonja walked up and sat down.  She told me later she could see we were in a serious conversation and she almost walked on but as soon as she sat down, I asked her if she could translate a little for me.  I told Linda, that it seemed to be that God had been drawing her to himself for a long time.  Sonja helped me make my sentences and ideas more clear, and after talking for some time, I asked Linda if she wanted to ask Jesus to come in live in her heart.  She said yes, she really wanted to pray but she didn’t know how.  Do you remember feeling that way? I do!  I encouraged her that God hears our words and our thoughts, but that I would help her by saying the words that she could say after me.

Today, my sister, Linda, became a believer in Jesus.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12

When I was a little girl…

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Today I had coffee with a young woman I met a few months ago at the Worship Conference.  She was wanting to know if I could give her voice lessons (I am getting more and more requests).  As we were talking and getting to know one another, I asked her how she came to know Jesus.

“When I was a little girl,” she said, “I recevied a box from Samaritan’s Purse.  Inside was the story of Jesus.  I told my mom, look!  There is a God and he died for us and three days later he rose up from the dead!”

She began to pray the prayer of salvation that was written at the end of the pamphlet.

Everyday.

Her story doesn’t end there.  She struggled to find God in the Orthodox Church, which was the heritage of her family.  She went through rituals and said prayers and even asked to be baptized by the priest.  She made the request many times.   Her parents were opposed to her attending a protestant church in her town.  Her father had a government job during communist times and burned down many churches during the years that Albania declared “There is no God.”  After moving away from her home town, she found a church and began growing in her relationship with Christ.  Today, she is the worship leader at her church here in Tirana and her husband works with the youth.

Friends, never underestimate what a difference

your gift makes for the Kingdom of God.

Someone on the other side of the planet packed a shoebox full of goodies for children.  They sent the box to Samaritan’s Purse where a booklet about Jesus was added.  It was lovingly wrapped and shipped across the world and made its way into the hands of a little girl who had never heard the name of Jesus becuase, at the time she was born in this country, claiming faith of any kind was prohibited by law.

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I packed one of these shoe boxes once.  Our church collected boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  I went to the store and bought toothpaste, socks, soap, crayons, coloring books, and little toys.  I filled it up and dropped it off.  I have not thought about it since.  NOT ONCE.

Until today.

So is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.     ~Issiah 55:11

God is still busy doing His thing.

Changing lives.


Bread and Butter

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Yesterday, Linda and I were outside talk with my neighbor Bona.  It was Jadyn’s birthday and we were of course making a big fuss about how big she is, how smart she is, how beautiful she is… you get the idea.  About once or twice a week, I allow Jadyn to go next door with Uendi (Wendi) to play.  She LOVES to play at Uendi’s house.  Bona was telling Linda and I that the day before yesterday, she ate 5 pieces of bread with butter!

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“Five pieces!” I exclaimed.  “Why did you let her do that?”

“Well, she just kept asking me and asking me.” Bona replied.

I laughed and said “Oh Bona, you are like a grandma!  You can not allow her to eat so much.  You must say no.”

You may remember that I have had many challenges getting Linda to tell Jadyn no.

“Oh Bona,”  Linda said, “Jenny says Jadyn can have only 1 piece of bread, no more.  When I tell her ‘No more, Jadyn,’ and she says ‘Please, Linda, me shume (more),’  I say, ‘No, Jadyn.  Stop.  Mommy said no more.’  Then she says okay and goes off to play.  When she asks for more, tell her no.  She doesn’t obey me, but she obeys her mommy.”

Who have I trained more effectively?  Linda or Jadyn?

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Internet blues and learning to say no

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This is my neighbor’s daughter, Denisa.  She is a wonderful young lady.  Smart, sweet, helpful.  And persistent.

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In the last few months, I have been helping Denisa learn more about the Internet.  In the fall, she was selected as a part of a small exchange program with a school in Slovenia for a project called the Sound of Wood.  A group of students from each school traveled to each others countries for 5 days to tour, learn about each others culture and work on the project together.  As a part of this, Denisa needed to open an email account and learn how to use it.

So she began coming a couple times a week to surf the internet for the class project, write on the project forum page, check her e-mail and learn about Facebook.  The do have computers at her school but no internet connection.  From the beginning, I had told Denisa that I would help her get started but that when the project was over she would need to learn to go to the internet cafe to use the internet (50 yards from our house).  This frightens her from some reason.  I have taken her one or two times and I know she has been with her brother once when I was not available to help her and she had to finish something for a project.   Over time, she was coming more and more often, and I had to set limits on when she could come.  One day, when I was out for errands, she rang the bell four times asking Linda, is Jenny home yet?  When I did arrive home, she was at my door before I even had my shoes off and put my purse down.   She often wants to come just as the boys are coming home from school.

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This last week, I have finally had to put my foot down.  Since returning from Slovenia, I have helped her organize her photos (we loaned her a digital camera for her trip) onto her mp3 player and a CD.  I explained to Denisa, however, that the project is over, and she needs to learn to go to the internet cafe.  We have a Mac and one of my concerns is that she won’t be able to do it on her own on a PC… so I am pushing her out of the nest!  In addition, if you give them and inch, they will take a mile.  This could well be applied to all of Albanian culture.

I wish I had video.  When I told her no, she could no longer use the computer and internet here at my house, she turned into a child.

“Oh, Jenny, please.  Can I just check Facebook?  Only 5 minutes?  I will be quick.  Just a few minutes, please?”

This went on for several minutes.

I truly believe, very few people have ever told her no, and meant it. In Albanian culture, it is very common for a child to beg his mother for something, for her to say no, he cries, and she gives in.  Bona, Denisa’s mother, has commented more than once to her own children,  “Look, watch Austin and Tyler.  Jenny says no and they OBEY!”  Well…. not all the time but most and it took a lot of practice.  I wanted to give in to Denisa, but I know in my heart that she will learn more if she can learn the value of the word no and learn to stand on what she has learned and find her own way.  Pray with me that it will be so!