Saturday, September 7, 2019

Goodbye EE and Europe, Hello Charleston...For Now

Finally, back in Charleston!  Wow, what a trip!  The final Thursday night was special as the ELT snuck me away for a final goodbye dinner.  It was lovely and such a gift to exchange loving words of appreciation and blessing before we all part.  

Only sunset I got to see in Albania at my Farewell Dinner

The ELT and a few others shared a very nice Albanian meal together.

I worked all the way up till my flight at the airport last Saturday!  Andreas, one of the ELT members, has assumed responsibility for communication during the interim.  I was so busy during Congress I didn't have time to really spend with our team or meet with him.  I met with him at 11:00 in the lobby before our 12:00 bus departed and then again in the airport to pass on some info and show him some things that will help now that I'm gone.

While everyone else was sad to see taxis and buses leave for the airport, each departing group gave me a sense of relief and accomplishment!  I had assigned a group leader for each departing vehicle to make sure everyone who was supposed to leave was indeed on the bus and naturally was the group leader for the 12:00 bus I was on.  Our 30-seater was one of the larger groups.

My delayed flight to Ljubljana caused no problem, and I sat next to a French couple and had a very interesting discussion.  I was surprised how open the young woman was despite her saying several times that she is atheist.  She seemed interested and listened to what I had to say, and I hope that seeds were planted and/or watered.  By God's grace, I was able to find Helmut whose flight arrived in Zurich about 45 minutes after mine.  His wife picked us both up, and they dropped me off at friends who hosted me.

Thought I would try something Serbian.  It has ham and cheese in the middle.
I ate  all of it. :)

What was special is that this is the same family I stayed with for the 5 weeks in 2016, so it was like my time in Europe was closing full circle.  I was able to meet up with a couple of friends and celebrate with Helmut's family and host friends before leaving.

I visited the airport both days before leaving because of Charleston's evacuation due to Hurricane Dorian.  There was no way to change my ticket since both flights in/out of Europe were on schedule, but I'm so grateful to the Lord's provision.  By the time I landed in Newark, I had already received word that the Charleston airport would be closed Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning. I was grateful to be given free meal vouchers.  Hoping to use my credit card's flight insurance, I was again relieved that I won't have to as the hotel comped my stay since the bath water was brown!   The next morning, my first flight to DC was delayed because of maintenance, causing me to miss my next flight to Columbia, SC.  They again gave me a meal voucher, and alas, I made it to Columbia where my mom and sister had driven to pick me up.  It was over an hour drive to where we were going, but how thankful I was to be on South Carolina soil yet away from the storm.

It was perfect to spend the next couple of days with family in the country with no Internet and catching up, taking walks, fishing, and watching the US Open.  And now it is so nice to be back in Charleston, a bit battered, but having survived yet another storm.  I've got quite a To Do List, but the hope is to have two weeks' vacation before I go to New Wineskins in Asheville at the end of the month.  Am hoping to have time to process and reflect the past three years and pray for the future.  

Thank you for following me and praying for my travels and responsibilities during Congress.  It means the world to me and makes an incredible difference!

Table Legs

August 29, 2019

Many of the Africans remember me from last Congress because I spoke French to them. We always greet each other in French, which makes all of us happy. Yesterday when one of them asked how I was doing, I honestly answered “fatiguée.” He immediately used a metaphor to describe exactly how I feel.  

He said that all of us doing admin are like the legs of a table. As we serve the others, all the weight is put on us, and it holds whatever is on the table. That’s exactly how I felt and I’m sure all the others.  Just the day before, we were saying how heavy we felt, all the while smiling.  That's something else I'm thankful for: good attitudes, smiles, and laughter. 😃  

I can say it was from the fatigue of relentless responsibilities coming nonstop.  I am immensely grateful for those praying for us and for the high fives, hugs, and words of appreciation we’ve gotten.  To keep the metaphor, those who do so strengthen our “legs” so that we are able to hold everything up.  A little affirmation and appreciation go a long way!!!

How Do You Like Your Butter?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

I have to backtrack to last Wednesday. My Swiss colleague and friend Tabea taught me a little trick: if you put the little cold butter packet in your pocket while you get the rest of your food, it will get soft and be ready to spread when you’re back at the table. I like that plan because I like soft butter. Unfortunately, my brain was already in a million directions, and let’s just say I never buttered my bread that morning.

It was later that afternoon as I was greeting friends who were arriving when I remembered the butter! Yep, and I had had my lunch outside in the very hot temperatures! Yuck!

So the next day, I had just showered and was going to put on the same black pants. For my American friends, please don’t think me disgusting. It’s how we do it here in Europe.  Yet, I started to smell something bad and really hoped it wasn’t me.  Not feeling very hopeful, I brought my pants to my nose to confirm that they were indeed the culprit...specifically the left pocket where the butter had been the previous day. 

Thankfully Helmut had found a professional laundry closeby where you can have your clothes washed and pressed for only 300 Lek per kilo ($3/kg).  That’s good news because I packed for 2 1/2 weeks in only a very small carry-on and would need some washing.

No idea what all those words mean, but I understand Laundry.  Communicating was a bit pathetic,
but I managed to drop off my clothes and pick them up at the appropriate time and pay the correct amount. ☺️ 

I was happy to be able to wear my black pants again this morning, but would you know that there’s still a slight smell!  😳 I know that they’re clean, but I’ll be glad when I can put them through an American washer again. I’ve also learned a lesson: from now on, if I want my butter to be soft, I’ll hold it in my hand. No more pants pockets!

Note: I have good news: the American washer did the trick!  Smell is gone! 😅

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Can't see the yellow star, but this is Egypt's flag.  Sadly our 5 delegates
did not make it because of their Visa being denied. :(
We had 4 delegates from Finland!
The bottom is actually yellow: Germany! Andreas (ELT)
attended with his wife.
I end this long day full of emotions.  The stress of arranging 250+ departures two days from now has been replaced with more personal sentiments.  Our European team finally met together tonight.  Helmut announced his resignation along with the entire ELT.  He has decided to step down to take care of his father who has cancer, and the ELT agreed to end together.  

It stirred up questions and discussion as well as thank you’s and appreciation.  Goodbyes are not easy, but I’m so grateful to have been able to express my own thanks to this group of men (and one wife who was present).  I sincerely thanked them for their acceptance.  That even though I’m a female, an American, and had very little experience with EE, from the very beginning, I’ve always felt very welcome and like a part of the team.  I’m touched by their heartfelt thanks and as one man who I only met for the first time here put, “a lot of agape from all of the men.”

We had a new board member join us for Great Britain this year.

Middle is yellow: Team Romania had 4 delegates!

Team Switzerland had 2 delegates, plus the 3 ELT members who are Swiss.
The tears are welling, and I’m choking up as I face the facts that this is the end.  How grateful I am for the past three + years serving these nations with the ELT.   It’s been full of challenges at times, but worth any stress or pain along the way.  It's also been full of joy and purpose.  As the EuroMENA nations were announced at last night’s opening ceremony, I felt like a proud mom, grinning as I stood to take a picture of each flag representing each nation.

Yay, Austria!  Walter represented this nation.

Our newest Multiplying Nation: Czech Republic
brought two delegates!
I wish you could meet these leaders whose hearts burn with passion for Jesus and who long to multiply disciples in Europe.  Each one endures much opposition through their dedication and trust in the Lord.  Let’s give thanks and pray for each one.

Middle is yellow: Hungary.

Bottom is yellow.  Ukraine brought two delegates.

One Week Down, One Week To Go!

Note: The next few posts are backlogged.  I somehow found time to write, but was unable to post till today, finally back in Charleston!

August 24, 2018

Did you know that Tirana Airport is named after
Mother Theresa who was Albanian?

So many times the past few days, I wanted to blog. I could’ve written so many stories, but time and brainpower are in low supply.  I have been given the role of transportation coordinator, which has proven to be quite involved and extremely stressful. Let’s just say that I will think twice before filling out any transportation logistics for future conferences.  

I went to the airport the first day to scout things out and was able to rely on two of
our Swiss members to greet for the rest of the Congress.

One little typo has huge implications.  We had a very busy staff person go to the airport at 2:40 AM for a no-show because someone had written the wrong date!  Not to mention the work of ordering and canceling taxis every time someone’s flight changes or decides to leave earlier or later which involves a lot of arithmetic and communicating with multiple people.  This is my life right now: nonstop and never-ending.  

Still, it’s a blessing and honor to get to serve such amazing people for an organization that does such important gospel work. I’m also privileged to have wonderful colleagues who are a tremendous support. Tabea and Michel stepped up and covered all airport shifts between the two of them which freed me to do all of the coordinating with taxi service, hotel, payments, etc.  Helmut even went to the airport one night to pick up the 2:40 group so that our leader didn’t have to go back again and miss another night of sleep.  The team from Asheville are great and are working relentlessly.

The Amazing Michel (left) and Tabea (right) with
one of the hotel shuttle drivers.

It’s hard to imagine continuing at this pace, but we’re all taking one day at a time. I keep returning to the prayer that came to me as I wrestled with feelings of incapability the first night.  It was actually John the Baptist ‘s prayer: more of Him, less of me.  Somehow, the letting go has allowed me to embrace His strength in my weakness.  As I often feel, I truly believe the prayers of others are helping to sustain us.  Thank you!