Some less familiar with the social landscape here might see a video like that and think of the myriad revolutions and uprisings we have seen throughout the Middle East over the past couple of years. While political fervor may be intense at times, I assure you that we feel very safe and at home in this eccentric little country. The face of Kosovo is not what you see in these protests, but rather the glowing smile of a family-loving man or woman sitting across the table from you slowly sipping a macchiato.
Last night, Elizabeth and I welcomed our first guests into our new home. My parents arrived from Baku, Azerbaijan! It is an incredible joy to have them here for a few days. We've already nursed the nostalgia of Kosovo by walking around Prishtina together (For those of you who don't know, they lived and worked here for several years). We look forward to the visiting time of the next few days.
Life in Prishtina has been hectic, but rewarding. When I first arrived, I took a week to observe the interim teacher who was filling in for me, then hopped on the roller-coaster, beginning to teach full-time ten days after getting off the plane. My degree in music was the perfect preparation for teaching two sections of Geography, Freshman English and 8th-grade History. And by perfect preparation, I mean I have ample experience playing to unresponsive crowds and constantly improvising over the unexpected.
In one month (Gosh, has it been that long?), I have already had several days where I was convinced that I was the worst teacher ever. Then, the next day, I felt like Superman in the classroom. While the day-to-day can be a little choppy at times, I definitely feel upheld by a grace not my own, and the overall sense is that I am right where I need to be during this season of life.
My favorite part of teaching at Prishtina High School is the people. The teachers and staff at the school are an incredibly committed, diverse and compassionate group of people who have welcomed both Elizabeth and I wholeheartedly into their little community. Many of them have very purposefully come around me, helping to encourage and support me as I discover - on the job - how to really be a teacher. As for Elizabeth, she has won them all over with her glorious baking.
The larger community around us is currently celebrating Bajram. Bajram is a Muslim holiday that memorializes the grace of God when he provided the ram in the thicket for Abraham. As the Muslim faith tells the story, it is the life of Ishmael that is saved. In the Christian tradition, it is the life of Isaac. But either way you tell the story, it is one that shows the mercy of God, and his generosity towards those he loves. Tradition here is to slaughter a ram for your family and feast together, remembering the provision of God. But in addition, they imitate the act of giving by sharing a portion of the food with those who might not otherwise have enough.
So today, may you remember the gifts in your life. May you remember the needs that you do not have, the wants that you have the luxury of fulfilling, the desires that have been met through the simple and awesome grace of God. And with whatever grace has been extended to you, may you extend it out to someone else. Someone in need of grace. May you give for all that you have been given, serve for all you have been served, and love for every ounce of love you have received. And may you know that a God of compassion is one worth imitating.
Grace and peace to you all. Thank you for your prayers, your love and your support. Till next time...
Sam (and Elizabeth)