Ryan, Matt, Summer, Wes, and I all crammed into my little Honda Accord a couple of weekends ago and road-tripped our way to Durham for our second and last Macedonia team meeting. Our entire team was there this time and we were able to Skype with Brian, the missionary from The Summit who lives in Macedonia that we will be working with.
Our meeting really got us excited about going!! As it turns out, the football camp that had started out as an afterthought since we just happened to have three former football players on the team has turned into one of the main parts of the trip. It's awesome to see how God has gifted Ryan, Matt and Wes with their football abilities not only to provide them with a college scholarship, their education, and a platform to be a Christian example among their teammates, but also how they are able to now use that God-given ability to minister to people in a huge way across the world! Just when they thought that football chapter of their lives had come to an end... :)
Initially we were supposed to work on a project with the Red Cross in the mornings and then do the football camp and English classes in the afternoons. But once Brian started talking with the Red Cross Director, who has lifeguards stationed at all of the beaches in Ohrid, about us coming, the director actually recommended having the Red Cross lifeguards block off their main beach so that we could conduct the football camp all day! Brian mentioned that one of the biggest ways mission teams can help their ministry is to do things that bring in lots of people, so we hope this will do that. So exciting!!
It sounds like there may be a bigger turn-out for the football camp than we initially thought, so since we may be doing it all day, some of us girls may even help some and then we will probably utilize the opportunity of having so many people in one place to conduct informal mini-English sessions every couple of hours on the side, encouraging the people we meet to meet up with us later in the evening at the coffee shop for more formal English classes.
The Red Cross does have a project that we can still work on, so we may have a couple people go and work on that for a couple hours at a time. It sounds like there will be a lot for us to do! In addition to the football camp, English classes, and Red Cross project, we hope to be able to minister to and encourage Brian and Mandy and their family as well. They have two little kids, so maybe Summer and I can babysit one night so they can have a date night or something. :)
While our whole team was together, we were able to get a group picture! Please continue to pray for us as we prepare to leave for Macedonia in 23 days!
On another note, we are finally moving! We found an awesome condo in Dunwoody, right between Ryan's office in Buckhead and mine in Alpharetta (we'll both have about 15 minute commutes) and moving day is set for Saturday! woohooo!!!! We found it a couple months ago, but it was not available until July, so we have just been waiting until we were able to move in. We will definitely miss Buford and being close to family and close friends, but it will be nice to gain two more hours back in our day and have more time together, be able to actually cook dinner every night again... ahh, can't wait! God is good - it amazes me how He constantly provides all of our needs! :)
...or in English, that's Ohrid, Macedonia.
Ryan and I will be heading there on July 22nd on a mission trip with a team of ten people from our church, The Summit Church, in Durham. We are SO excited to be a part of this team!
While Ryan and I from early in our marriage have tried to make it a priority to constantly recognize and serve in the mission field that God has placed us in (our friends and family, our work places, our community, etc...), we have also prepared ourselves for a time when God might open the door to an opportunity for us to serve Him and share God's love and His word with others someplace away from home. As Americans, we have been so blessed with so many freedoms and luxuries in life that we take for granted every day. It is easy to forget that there are people groups around the world that do not have "churches on every street corner" or people who have a relationship with Christ and can share God's love and His hope and truth with them or small groups to meet with to study God's word and gain encouragement from.
So, when this opportunity came up for us to travel to the town of Ohrid, Macedonia to work with a family that lives and serves there as permanent missionaries, we spent a couple weeks praying and seeking God's direction on this opportunity and ultimately felt that He was opening the door for us to go.
We hesitated at first to go on a mission trip through the Summit, only because having just moved back to the Atlanta area, we thought maybe we should wait until we found a church here before going on a mission trip. But we LOVED our church in Durham - it's heart for missions and taking the gospel around the country and around the world is contagious. It seemed that every few weeks we as a congregation were praying over families who were leaving jobs and families to uproot and move their young families overseas into full-time mission work to plant churches. The Summit has a goal to plant 1,000 churches in 40 years around the world in areas where the church is needed most. Our church has sent many missionaries to closed countries, to U.S. cities...all over. And while they are very focused on "sending", they are just as focused, if not more, on serving the Raleigh/Durham community. We just felt so blessed to be a part of that church and our small group for the past two and a half years, so although we no longer live there, we are extremely excited to be going with The Summit.
Secondly, we were hesitant because we didn't want to serve on a mission team with people we would never see or keep in touch with afterward since we just moved away from RDU. However, my brother Matt, his roommate Wes (both attended the Summit with us), and a friend Summer (from Buford) are all a part of our team going to Macedonia, so we're also super excited about serving alongside each of them. On a side note...during our time in Durham, I had spent months praying for Matt to recognize his need for God's guidance in his life as it was his nature to always be in control and have total dependence on himself rather than be able to depend and trust God with his life. And after months and months of praying and feeling discouraged that God was not doing anything, Matt shared with Ryan and I that God had been working in his life over the past few months (those same months I had been praying!), had been humbling him and showing him his need for total dependence on the Lord to take and direct his life (exactly what I had been praying for!). Over the past year, it has been amazing to see the way that Matt's life and heart have changed as he completely seeks after the Lord's will for his life. Together, Matt and Wes, along with their friend and teammate Adam, pursued their walks with the Lord and spent time in Bible study with Ryan on a weekly basis until we moved. After we moved back to Georgia, Matt is actually the one who found out about this mission opportunity to Macedonia, pursued more information on it, signed up for it, and then asked us if we would be interested in going.
Another kinda cool story...one day right before the application deadline when Ryan and I were praying and seeking whether or not God had us going as part of this team to Macedonia or not, we were reading through Acts together and came across this passage:
"...During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them". Acts 16:9-10
Crazy, huh? We didn't take this as a "sign" or base our decision off of just this passage, but it was pretty cool reading this as we were trying to make a decision.
So now that I've given you the "how" and "why" of us going, let me give you a little background on where we're going, who we'll be working with, and what we'll be doing there...
Macedonia is a small country north of Greece, surrounded by Albania, Kosovo, and Bulgaria on it's other sides. It's part of the former Yugoslavia and has only been independent from a 500-year Turkish rule since 1991. Ohrid, the town we're going to is in the southwest corner of Macedonia, near Albania and is made up mostly of Macedonians, but also many Albanians. At one point centuries ago, Ohrid was actually known for its many churches (Paul traveled through this area on two of his missionary journeys when the early church was established...how cool is that??). A family from The Summit has been living in Ohrid as full time missionaries through the IMB (International Mission Board) for the last several years trying to build relationships with the people there and have been preparing to plant a church there. They have established a coffee shop where they talk with people and provide Christian reading materials in the Macedonian language. Several have become believers in Christ and have been meeting with Brian and Mandy and their team for Bible Study and from what we understand, they are in a position to launch the church very soon.
As the Macedonian people are very interested in and curious about American culture, our team will be spending the mornings working on a project (project specifics TBD) with the Red Cross and will spend our afternoons teaching English workshops while Ryan, Matt, and Wes head up an American football camp with our team leader Doug and Brian, the missionary who is making all the arrangements and plans for our team.
I can't say enough how excited we are to be going to Macedonia!!! As we plan, pack, and prepare for this trip, we would so appreciate your prayers! Please be praying for Brian and Mandy and the group of believers that they have been meeting with and for the church that is soon to be planted in Ohrid. Please pray for our team - we will be traveling to Durham and Wes will be flying in from Texas this weekend to meet with the rest of our team and talk with Brian over Skype. Please also pray that God would prepare our hearts to be His servants during the week of July 22-31 and that God would do awesome things in Macedonia through our team.