Saturday, February 2, 2019

Visiting Vlorë

I can't even tell you the thrill it was to wake up in Vlorë this morning, where Caleb, Haley and Charlie moved in September last year to serve with JV.

I've been praying for Albania for years, after friends of ours moved there at the same time as we moved to the Czech Republic in 1993.

But now, I'm praying for it with a different kind of heart because our family lives there!

We went out walking in their city this morning, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of this brand new place that I'm seeing for the first time!

Yes, palm trees surprised me, as did the warm day in February! All the new buildings going up were a surprise too, as was the place where we were headed to.

Charlie's new thing - holding on to daddy's hand while they walk!

A few years ago Vlorë was given a grant from the EU to build a huge promenade. This 5 km-long paved area, with easy access into town and to the beach, is the most modern part of this coastal city. Lined with palm trees and typical Mediterranean plants, it sits at the water's edge, a perfect urban-sea space!

The wind had kicked up pretty fiercely, though the temperature was still in the 50's, making it a warm, breezy day to enjoy on the promenade.

And what are Caleb, Haley and Charlie doing in this city?

They are part of an evangelical church pastored by the man who is also the JV country leader for Albania. If I understood correctly, this church has the only youth group in a city of 250,000. Caleb and Haley are part of that local church ministry, and also lead the JV camp ministry for Albania. This summer Caleb will lead their group of four interns as they have three camps -- two English camps and one Edge sports camp.

His new skateboard from his Albanian teammate surely will come in hand during camp season!

Being here reminded me of what it felt like to move to Czech all those years ago. Back then it was all so foreign, so different, so unknown. Of course today I don't feel that at all. Nor do I feel it in where we now have staff, because it's "known", even when I'm in those places for just short times.

But to be here in Albania for the first time! I can tell you, it's a thrill and makes me excited for Caleb and Haley and what's ahead for them in this new place.

Charlie was very happy to have his Papa here, and wanted to connect even when being pushed in his stroller!

He's such a happy boy here in Albania! I know that's mostly due to parents who have a great outlook on everything, finding joy in the smallest of events and accomplishments.

As we walked they talked about life here in Vlorë - of the people that they're becoming friends with, the church that they're a part of, and the spiritual climate that's present here after years of being cut off from the rest of the world during Communism.

Young people are definitely open, curious and searching for meaning in their lives. As we walked, I couldn't help but think about who Charlie's friends will be and how they, through the impact of him and his parents, may be the "young Josiah's" of this country.

Here in Vlorë there is a university which means there are even more young people to reach with the Gospel.  I'm sure in the years to come we'll hear stories from Caleb and Haley of lives transformed by the redemptive power of Jesus. How I look forward to those stories.

As we were heading back to their apartment, an older gentlemen stopped them on the street to chat...something that is not an unusual occurrence here.

Caleb hung in there with the best of his language ability, working to understand and communicate with the man...who held on to his hand, as they often do here, when having a conversation man to man!

Oh how we're enjoying getting time here in the world of Caleb, Haley and Charlie!

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