When you're living abroad, you have to make a giant shift in your perspective. Sometimes, it's the small things, like breakfast. Other times, I find myself asking and re-asking myself questions like, "Who is poor?" or "What is honoring?" Here, honor is believed to be an innate quality, so you cannot earn it, but you can very easily dishonor someone by your actions. It's one of those things I still can't get my mind around, though it has fueled rivalries and wars for centuries in this corner of the world.
And what about poverty? I've lived in rural India, where people literally have the clothes on their back and nothing more. I remember coming back home to semi-suburban Illinois and hearing people talk about buying rugs. I was horrified. What a frivolous purchase! And then I got over it and went to Wal-Mart, because I'm an American, and that's what we do, isn't it?
Most people in Kosovo would be considered "poor" in America. In fact, even Sam and I would fall below America's poverty line. The other day, I discovered that the average McDonald's worker makes more than we spend on the two of us per year. Isn't that insane? But get this: our Kosovar friends would consider us wealthy. They tell us we live in a fancy neighborhood, though it looks just as dirty as every other neighborhood to me. And, of course, we have a plane ticket to America, so we must be very rich indeed.
And let's talk work ethic. The stereotype about Americans and Europeans is generally true: Americans work hard, and Kosovars play hard. While Americans rush to the office with their venti quad-shot lattes, Kosovars sit at cafes for hours with their friends, leisurely sipping a doll-sized macchiato. Many households rely on one breadwinner (because jobs are so scarce) and the rest of the family just hangs out. As I work from home, I can hear our neighbors downstairs playing with their grandchildren and entertaining guests. They're always inviting me to come down for tea, and seem incredibly confused when I decline. What else could I be doing? They've seen my carpets: I'm definitely not vacuuming. And it's not yet time to cook dinner. Surely I have plentiful time on my hands! I don't yet know enough Albanian to explain myself, so we shrug at each other, and I make a little typing motion with my fingers. They must think I'm some kind of crazy workaholic, who is an equally terrible housewife. But such is the life of an American in Kosovo.
Take this week, for example. One of my dearest friends here had just gone back to America, and I was feeling pretty down. I wasn't working on my book (America, on my right shoulder: "just get back to work!"), and I wasn't going out (Kosovo, on my left: "be with people!"). I was just sitting...and well, I was editing something for a friend, but it was just a little thing to me. Back to moping. Okay, it turns out it was kind of important. It was a manuscript for my Kosovar friend Arijeta's adaptation of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." She's having it approved by the C.S. Lewis company before she to translates it into Albanian and has it performed at the National Theater. (Yeah, she's pretty amazing.) I agreed to edit it because I knew it wouldn't take me very long, and I thought it would be interesting. Of course, at the end of my moping week, I got the most wonderful email from Arijeta, thanking me effusively for the work I'd done for her, and praying that I would have a burden removed from me as her burden of editing had been removed from her.
I was stunned. While I thought I was doing nothing, Jesus orchestrated one of the most helpful moments of my time ministering in Kosovo. In Him, I was my very best, even as I was feeling weak. I have high hopes for this play, which will present the gospel message to hundreds of Kosovars. And I'm incredibly proud to have been a small part of it, just as I am always a small part of what God is doing. It's a good place to be, in the hands of the one who sees us for who we really are and what we are truly capable of.
May you see yourself through God's grace and love. And may you be blessed, wherever you are.
Elizabeth (and Sam)
-For Sam as he continues to teach, and for Prishtina High School, as they navigate the loss of several teachers (most of whom went home for health reasons).
-For Calvary Chapel Prishtina, as we minister there. Especially that God would help newer Christians grow into a mature faith, and that He would bring new people into the church.
-For Arijeta's play and all the people who will hear the gospel through it. Pray for open hearts!
-For our upcoming visit to Germany (March 31-April 7). Pray for rest and encouraging times with friends.
As always, support can be sent to
Sam & Elizabeth Steere
3601 Ginger Creek Dr.
Springfield, IL 62711