It feels like eons since we last wrote, yet we're only a month into the Spring semester. So for those of you who are feeling the mid-winter blues or suffering through the storm with the deceptively cute name (Nemo), grab a cup of coffee and read a little pick-me-up from across the Atlantic.
We are coming back to Kosovo! We look forward to seeing many of you face to face come June, but it will be a whirlwind of a summer, because we have made the decision to return to Prishtina in August for a second year. I will continue teaching at Prishtina High School, Elizabeth has another writing project on the horizon, and we'll continue working with Mark and Celeste Yocom at Calvary Chapel Prishtina.
The church has been a wonderful surprise these past few months. Initially, we were drawn there to fill a need. Mark asked if I could come in to do music for them occasionally (they had no one who could play an instrument). As we went for a couple weeks, we felt impressed by the Holy Spirit to build into and encourage Mark and Celeste in their ministry to the people of the church and the surrounding community. It is a very small collection of people, but we so value the Yocom's spirit of service and perseverance in the face of a very difficult field of ministry. Since moving into a new (and bigger) facility in January, we've had the opportunity to join them in weekly Bible studies, visit chapel services at Camp Bondsteel (the US military base), and join their ministry team meetings for mutual encouragement and prayer. We're not quite sure what God is up to yet, but we know he's got some tender-hearted, Kosova-loving people right in the middle of it. We're looking forward to watching this ministry grow.
Life and Food
January has been unusually mild here this year, with rather sudden shifts from freezing precipitation to 50 degree sunshine. For a couple days there, you could almost think it was Spring. The weather patterns echo the school days, with confident ease one day and mild insanity the next. Somehow, we've maintained a kind of rhythm in things, anchored down by Elizabeth's delicious ventures in cooking guided by a now favorite blog: the Global Table Adventure. Needless to say, I've been greatly enjoying her efforts.
The Spring has brought a new side to life. The everything-is-new season has finally passed (mostly), and we find ourselves relatively comfortable in our Kosovar existence. We share moments of laughter when we remember that back in Illinois, people actually use shopping carts at the grocery store to take their stuff out to their cars. That world seems so far away. No doubt we'll slide back into it over the summer when we return to Springfield, but right now it feels distant and unfamiliar. Foreign life seems to suit us just fine, with all its quirks and awkward language missteps. Be careful trying to call a woman "strong" in Albanian; you might just call her "sexy" instead!
As we look towards next year, there are a couple of things we want to make you aware of. The first is that the financial policies of Prishtina High School have been in flux. While we initially expected that I would begin to receive living stipends next year as a second-year teacher, necessity has demanded that the school withdraws stipends and salaries next year, requiring the teachers to live fully self-supported. This means that we will be looking to raise around $15,000 for next year to cover our cost of living and allow us to continue this incredibly needful work. We hope that some of you will consider partnering with us through monthly gifts or one-time contributions as we attempt to make that goal a reality.
Keep your eyes on the lookout over the summer! I'm already brainstorming on possible artsy gatherings where we can share music, readings, and stories of life and work in Prishtina. We would love for you to join us when the time comes. As for this year, we are incredibly grateful for the gifts (and people!) that have helped sustain our efforts through this first year. Because of the suddenness of our departure, we did not have the time to form a comprehensive fundraising effort, and your gifts have made all the difference in allowing us to work as we are.
Even so, this current year is still coming, in part, out of our own savings. We are blessed to be in a position to do so. But as you think and pray about the coming year, we hope you will consider partnering with us even now. We firmly believe that your involvement is an integral part of what we do here. We want you to hear the stories and know the fruits of your investment. So as we move forward, please feel free to contact us directly, ask questions, and share with us what God has put on your heart. We're grateful to be connected to you. If we could send hugs in digital form, we would.
Forgive all the money talk. We'll do our best to keep that to a minimum. As for future blog posts, we're curious if you have anything you'd like to hear about? Lifestyle quirks, the "typical" school day, unusual students, emotional challenges...whatever suits your fancy. Let us know what's on your mind, and what you'd like to have on our minds (at least for the length of a blog post). We truly hope each and every one of you is well, in spirit and body. Grace and peace, as always, from our corner of the world.
Sam and Liz