May it be filled with abundant joy, irrational peace, vivacious faith, and exuberant grace!
Elizabeth and I had a simple, home-y Christmas here in Kosovo, cooking delicious food together and digging into improvised stockings made from oven mitts around our three-foot-tall, two-Euro, fake Christmas tree from the grocery store across the street. This closed out well the season of celebration that was replete with many gatherings of school colleagues and church friends throughout the weeks preceding. A beautiful first Christmas of our married life together.
On the 28th, we headed off to Sweden for the week, thanks to the industrious travel-planning of my wife. Despite a rather foreboding 6-hour delay on our first flight (due to heavy fog), and an originally unplanned touch-down in Sofia, Bulgaria (due to "technical issues" and refueling), we managed to arrive safely in the city of Malmo in southern Sweden at 1am on the 29th, sharing a rather fascinating taxi ride with a Malmo-nite originally from Kosovo.
We arrived back home on Friday evening refreshed and renewed, if a little bit sad to leave the Swedish city-scape behind us. This Sunday, we began a new season at our church, celebrating the first service at a new (and much bigger!) facility. Back in November, we distinctly felt God calling us to serve Mark and Celeste Yocom, who pastor the Calvary Chapel Church here in Prishtina. They have been faithful in their service to this community over many years now, and through a serendipitous connection (Mark and my Dad were roommates in Kosovo back in the day), we felt drawn to bring support and encouragement to their ministry. It is a small, but compassionate group of people who are committed to the pursuit of God and the truth of His word. So I have been helping to lead worship on Sundays (attempting to improve my guitar vocabulary) and we are intending to serve in other ways as the year progresses.
Teaching has been insanely stretching, stressful and often overwhelming. I am hoping that this shift in schedule will ease a little of that first-year-teacher burden. But I also trust that the encouragement of my colleagues and the love of my incredible wife will continue to uphold me as they have thus far. Even more so, I trust that the Father who called me to this place will strengthen me for the task ahead, knowing full well that "the testing of [my] faith produces perseverance." And I will "let perseverance finish its work," for what my God begins he is faithful to complete.
Many, many well-wishes and prayers from our side of the world to yours. Every note or email or facebook "like" is a great encouragement. Gigantic thank-yous to all of you who have supported us through your prayers and financial gifts. You ease our burdens and inspire our hearts. May you be blessed a hundred-fold.
On this, the twelfth day of Christmas, I am reminded what my true love gave to me. Grace. Peace. Love. Joy. Trust. Life. Promises beyond a lifetime. May they be yours as well this season, and may you remember from whence they come. Much love to you all.
Sam (and Liz)