Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Time of Reflection

As I look back on the time I had in Macedonia and Albania, I’m reminded how very blessed I am. Although things aren’t always “hunky dory” in my life, I can honestly say I am beyond fortunate and my lot is easy. I don’t have to beg for food, I have access to clean drinking water, and I don’t have to worry about a shortage of money. Not only that, but I am safe and secure in the arms of my Savior, Jesus. And that is enough, right? Even if all other physical conveniences fail, I have Him. I have my faith. Being immersed in a culture for 10 days with hardly any presence of The True Living God was heartbreaking, and eye opening. Who am I to sit on the sidelines, under the wings of “The American Dream”, and simply be indifferent to a lost and needy world? This question and more like that, have flooded my mind since returning to the States.

A highlight for me was getting to experience true Albanian hospitality in the home of Dave and April's house helper and her husband. I must note that during our time in Albania, Steve and I both felt an overall sense of kindness and friendliness in the people. Even with their state of poverty and lack of hope, their openness to us as Americans was intriguing. So, our last night in Albania we got to experience firsthand that very kindness and friendliness. Dish after dish of rice, pork, beef, cheeses, and olives were served to us over almost a two hour time period in their little living room. You could see the pride and honor in their eyes as they hosted their American friends’, friend’s. :) I wanted so badly to be able to converse with them and tell them how kind they were and how welcoming they made us feel. But alas, Steve or I couldn’t speak Albanian! ;) Sure, we learned how to say “falemnderit”(thank you) and “mire!”(good), but it’s just not the same thing. But, I must say it was fun to see Dave and April conversing with them, laughing, and translating for us. This is a memory I won’t easily forget.

My “Adventures in Albania”(and Macedonia!) was truly a wonderful experience. It was beyond anything I could have imagined. In fact, it still seems so surreal that just five days ago I was walking on Albanian soil. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to see another life, another world, and a new perspective. I don’t know what God has for us next, only that it is good, and He is good.

So, falemnderit to all of our financial and prayer supporters! We could not have done it without your love and prayers. This trip will always have a special place in my heart, and I hope to return to Albania again very soon. :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Albania Day 1 in Photos

 Exploring the Market
 This photo speaks for itself. Yikes!
 Lori's got mad photography skills :)

 Steve enjoying Turkish coffee
 Trying to learn some Albanian
 The kids with their Albanian housekeeper
 View from Dave and Aprils apartment
 View from the Spencers front balcony and of their driveway
Yay we made it!
 Praying at a Mosque
 A Roma Gypsy
The Albanian flag

Monday, March 25, 2013

Finally, some photos!

Outside of our hotel.
Sightseeing in Struga, Macedonia

Today is wet and chilly so I finally had some time to post a couple of photos(by Lori) of our time here in Macedonia. I don't know how often I will be able to post photos since the internet connection is VERY slow. But, as you can see the landscape is beautiful.

Here are some updates: The little kids have been learning about love, joy, patience and self control. They have a lot of energy and sure keep Lori and I on our toes. :) Mark has been feeling a bit under the weather with a sore throat so please pray for him, as well for the health of the rest of us! It seems like the jet lag is really starting to catch up with us and we have been struggling with lethargy and just feeling "out of it". The teens have really connected with Ben and Steve, so thanks for your prayers regarding that! Today the teens successfully launched the rockets they have been building with Steve. The whole team watched, and even some locals gathered around to enjoy the show.

It still seems like a dream that we are in a completely different part of the world. "The Call To Prayer" ia broadcasted five times a day from the local Mosque, and you realize how far away from home you really are. The Iman(Spiritual leader of the mosque) chants "Allah akbar", which means "Praise be to Allah" over a load speaker. We can hear it from inside our hotel room. It's strange to think this is "normal" here, and you realize how much of a minority a Christian is in a country like Macedonia.
Noah and Mark, getting ready for the rocket launch.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


"Kali" means horse in Albanian, and is pronounced Holly but with a K. So, Noah has been calling me "Kali!" "Kali!" which has been quite humorous...not to mention absolutely adorable since its no secret that I have become his favorite ;) He cries and asks for "Kali!!" even when Dave or April are holding him.

We underestimated the time it would take to get to Macedonia by bus...3 hours turned into 5. As we entered Macedonia, we had to go through border patrol. A woman came on the bus to verify all passengers had valid passports. Then, she left the bus to get them stamped, and on we went. The whole process took about an hour. Once we crossed the border it was only 15 mins to the hotel.

The hotel is lakefront with beautiful Albania mountains as the backdrop. Again, we hope to post some photos soon.

The first day of conference went well. Here are some of the things we did: Ben and Steve shared their testimonies with the teens and Steve started showing them how to build a model rocket(he brought a kit from home).The teens seemed to really enjoy it as they have never done anything like that before. Holly and Lori did a puppet show on the fruits of the spirit, explored outside, and worked on a craft, sang songs and played games with the younger kids. Mark was busy leading the adults in worship all morning and spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening providing counselling to many of the missionaries. They seemed eager and thankful to have a licensed counselor to talk to, especially since Mark used to be a missionary himself.

In The afternoon we walked around the local town, Struga, where we window shopped and took in the sights. After dinner we had some more free time to just spend time together talking and getting to know the Albania Christar team.

The weather was beautiful again skies and a little brisk. Some of us are still feeling some jet lag and struggle with falling asleep at night. But other than that we are healthy and doing very well!

P.S.- We are actually 5 hours ahead. April informed me that they will be 6 hours ahead starting March 31, which is when their daylight saving time begins for them. So, sorry for any confusion :)

Friday, March 22, 2013


Today we are enjoying blue skies and temperatures in the 50's! We are feeling much better after finally getting some shut eye following a mainly uneventful flight. Thank the Lord all of our luggage followed safe behind! To say it was exciting to see Dave and April and the kids for the first time in 18 months is an understatement! It brought tears to my eyes as Caleb jumped into Steve's arms. This whole trip thus far seems like a dream. Are we really half way around the world? It seems so surreal.

To start of the day, we learned some basic Albanian language like numbers and "good morning" and "how are you?" from Dave and Aprils language tutor. It's obvious the language is extremely difficult to learn and very complex. After the quick language lesson,we went on a quick tour of the capital, Tirana. We walked streets filled with buses, cars and crowds of people; explored open air markets, and tiny shops filled with tourist paraphernalia. It was heartbreaking to have "Roma" children grab onto us begging for money. They were relentless...following us, pulling at our clothes, one boy literally hung from Steve's arm, as well as kissing Mark on his sleeve. The people are over all very warm and hospitable. It is no secret that they love Americans. It is so cool to see Dave and April interact with the Albanians and observe how well they are already communicating with them.  

We are lucky to have Lori be "photographer" for us and hope to post some pictures on the blog soon.

I have to cut this short because we are loading up to depart for Macedonia. We will be traveling via coach bus with the rest of Dave and Aprils team. It will take approximately 3 hours to get to the hotel. 

Next post I'll be reporting from Macedonia, Lord willing! Thank you for all of your prayers! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Leaving on a Jet Plane!

Hello friends, family and supporters! I debated on whether or not to start a blog documenting our trip to Albania and Macedonia, as I have never done this before. But, I decided to write on behalf of our "team" consisting of myself, Steve, Ben, Mark, and Lori. We represent Washington Ave Bible Church proudly! :) Well, here goes nothing!

The day has finally arrived. Packing is done(almost!) and we are ready more than ever to GO! We leave for Dulles at 6:30 PM and our flight departs at 12:30 AM. A 10+ hour international flight will be a first for Steve, Ben and I, but we are very grateful we will be attended by seasoned world travelers, Mark and Lori. :) We have a two hour layover in Istanbul Turkey before taking a short flight to Albania's capital, Tirana. We will arrive around 8 PM Albania time. Dave and April will be picking us up at the airport. Pray that all our luggage arrives as well...there is at least 9 pieces of luggage between the 5 of us! Also, please note that Albania is 6 hours ahead of EST.

Since there's not much to report right now, it would be great if you could be praying for the country of Albania in these specific ways:(excerpts taken from "Operation World")

-Albania emerged from communism in the 1990s but remains one of Europe's two poorest nations.
-After the communist ban was lifted in the 1990s, Albania enjoys religious freedom cherished by many.
-Albania has a long road ahead to recover from the devastation of Communism. Pray that Albania's government and business cultures might be positively impacted by the influence of believers.
-Islam is the largest religion in Albania(some say up to 70% Muslim). Pray for Albanian Muslims to encounter the Living Christ.
-There are many towns and villages without an evangelical presence. Pray for the Good News to continue to spread.
-Pray for these least reached minority groups:
>The Bektashi: beliefs are more influenced by folk religion and the occult. As many as 600,000 Albanians are associated with this movement
>The Vlach(related to the Romani Gypsy): This people group are looked down upon by many.
>The Gorani, Golloborda and Cham: Culturally Muslim and quite isolated.
>The Rufai: Another mystic group, similar to the Bektashi's.
-Over half of all Albanians live outside of Albania. Pray for the Albanians living in Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and even further afield. Their spiritual need is very great.
-Pray for accuracy, timely completion and for widespread use of the Scriptures.
-Pray for translation of useful Christian books and literature and for their impact.
-Pray for growth in Christian Radio and that there would be wider coverage so that people in more isolated areas may also be blessed.

Thanks for reading, and please bear with me as I'm not sure how often I'll have access to internet.