For Phil and I, living in a place for 10 months is being “settled”. We consider Tirana home, and when you’re home your fresh eyes on a place naturally begin to fade. However, today I had an opportunity to have fresh eyes on Albania again.
I went with a good friend to visit a Roma family who lived near her and who she was good friends with. The mom of the family is one of the only Christians in their neighborhood, of thousands of people. She was a beautiful woman, small stature, brown skin, long straight black hair with small pearls braided into the bottom of her locks. She has 3 children, who look like they couldn’t possibly have a mom so young — they actually shouldn’t have a mom so young.
We had a lovely time together, in their pleasant little home. They had a sitting area which doubled as their bedroom, where we all sat and enjoyed each other. Marcella and I sat on the bed, while the family sat on the chairs beside us. The light shined through the ceiling where there was a hole the size of an apple. It seemed harmless until I thought about the cold temperatures and pouring rains that we experienced last winter. Those must be painful days for this family. As we sat and chatted, the sweet girls brought us frappes (espresso frothed with milk, ice cubes and sugar) — a personal favorite — and an incredibly generous gift of hospitality! I am continually amazed by the hospitality of the poor. They are such an example for us.
As we sipped on our frappes, my friend (who is learning Albanian so quickly!) was talking to the family about their day and night. We were laughing together as we all struggled to find the words in Albanian or English. It was a beautiful conversation, actually. Everyone was trying so hard to communicate. It was evident that everyone cared about the other. Precious.
After a while of broken conversations, the daughter put on some music and even starting dancing. Traditional Roma or Albanian style … I’m not sure which, to be honest. They are different, but I don’t know enough yet to tell them apart. As the oldest sister danced with her arms lifted to shoulder height, twisting her hands — her youngest sister started singing and comically danced like a man. One was lovely, the other was hilarious.
The singing and dancing ended, and we had to be going — as we were leaving I asked my friend some more questions about this special family. Apparently none of the children are in school. Sadly, most of the children in that neighborhood don’t go to school. They marry very young, 13 years old is common for the girls — 15 years for the boys. Alcoholism reigns. Poverty and violence cycle through generations.
This view was somehow new for me today. I felt myself having fresh eyes on Albania. But it also brings back memories of Liberia, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan …
I do believe there is hope for this family and others in their community. I said in the beginning that the mother is a Christian. And my friend is a missionary, along with a team of 10 others. They are living in this community with their children, learning Albanian, developing relationships, and sharing Christ at every opportunity.
Please pray with us that God will use these missionary families to bring the hope of Christ to this Roma community. May His Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven… May Jesus be loved as Lord and Saviour here. May our God provide for every need. May we break the chains of injustice and may the oppressed be set free… (Isaiah 58)