Sunday, July 25, 2010

Closing Thoughts from Albania

The Team
Its been a bit more than two weeks for Younger Daughter and team members on their mission trip to Albania.  They are flying home tomorrow.

From the blog updates and the photos, it seems to have been a wonderful trip.  A chance for busy and media affected American kids to unplug from the rush of life here at home, and experience a more simple life, devoid of text messages, cell phones, the Internet, and the rest of the cultural delicacies they are inundated with each and every day.  Maybe two weeks in rural Albania is the best thing that could ever have happened to them.  I like God's timing.

We are guessing that the last post on the Albania blog was written by Younger Daughter:

The Camp
"Earlier this week Emma and I were talking about leaving and she described it as "bitter sweet". I couldn't agree more! We are all ready to be back in the states entering into our daily lives. It's the simple stuff like laundry, flushing toilet paper down the toilet, and easily communicating that we are ready to enjoy again.

However, the culture and mostly the people will be the thing we will miss the most. Maybe its just me, but I feel like our work is not done here. Let's stay another two weeks!! We have developed relationships with people here so quickly that it is frustrating to leave after becoming so close.

This trip has taught me more that I had expected. The most important thing that i have learned is how important it is to cherish and grow in our relationships with one another. So as us girls sit here painting our nails and talking, we are reminiscing about this trip and what fun we have had. Emma is sitting on the windowsill looking out on this little town Erseke with the sun shunning. Devon and Gaby are cuddling in the bunk across from me. Gaby is tending to her allergic reaction and laughing as usual (pray for her rash and throat). Darby and Marisa are sitting below me finishing up their nails singing along with the music. As for me, I am just taking it all in on the top bunk by the window.

So for our last day in Erseke Albania, we are headed out to lunch and back to camp to say goodbyes and play. Tonight we are going across the street to the church for dancing and community time. In the morning we will be on our way by about 930 am for Tirana, which is about a 5 hour drive.

Tomorrow and Monday are going to be very long and exhausting and I am sure we won't all be in the best of moods. But us girls plan to head into London for breakfast since we have the longer layover. Pray for us! Thanks for all your love and support.

From all of us on team California, Mirupafshim."
 Color me a proud Dad.

Friday, July 23, 2010

When You Are Old - Yeats

Sometimes, the words just speak for themselves:

                When You Are Old
    WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep,
    And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
    And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
    Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
   How many loved your moments of glad grace,
    And loved your beauty with love false or true,
    But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

    And bending down beside the glowing bars,
    Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
    And paced upon the mountains overhead
    And hid his face among a crowd of stars.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)                   

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Young Lives - You Were Made for This

She could have spent a week at the beach. Or at a spa, or shopping, or laying in the sun.
But my wife chose to do this for a week.  I admire her so much, I don't know how to express it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Update from Heather in Albania

A week ago we put Younger Daughter on a plane to Albania, via London.  After 7 days we have a wonderful update from a remarkable girl.  Ok, I am biased.  Sue me.

There she is to the right in the orange shirt and shorts, in a photo taken earlier this week.  So far from home, but so close in our hearts.

Update from Heather!

Hey Friends & Family:
Heather here! Hope you all are doing well back in the States. Your prayers and thoughts have really reached us here in Albania, so please continue to do so. This past week has been eventful and for the lack of a better word, amazing! When we arrived in Erseke, we all were too exhausted we didn't have time to soak it all in. However, as this week has progressed, we ALL have had time to adjust and enjoy this different but fascinating country.

As a team, we are working at a camp that the Stoscher family owns. The camp is a 15 minute walk (exactly) from the Stoscher's home. This past week and the next, junior high students from across Albania attend the camp to have fun and learn about God. For me, I started the week with the job of "accommodations" which involves cleaning throughout the camp. In the late afternoon, Emma and I would head back to the church for the neighborhood playground/devotion time. The Brits (which I am sure you have read about from Emma or Devon) run the program with games and a group devotion for about an hour and a half every week night.

I absolutely love helping out during this time. The kids are so kind and welcoming although you have almost nothing in common with them. After just one afternoon with them, Emma and I had several kids run up to us and give us HUGE hugs when we first arrive at the church. Although the communication/ language barrier has been the most difficult aspect of the trip, that doesn't stop us or the kids from connecting. Wednesay night we all attend the community "walk about" (which Emma mentioned). It was such an interesting cultural experience to be amongst the entire community. During the "walk about", the Brits started to dance and form a circle. The Americans (Team California & Seth from Seattle) joined in and we created a GIANT circle. The Albanian people looked as us like we were crazy, but also found us amusing. I am sure they think we are just weird foreigners. :) After a bit of dancing, we all headed over to a tennis court size carpet soccer field that is considered to be "indoors". We then played an intense but FUN game of soccer from 11:15pm-12:30am. (We all woke up sore and exhausted the next morning).

Thursday and Friday I worked in the kitchen almost all day peeling, washing, and cutting all types of food. I have never experienced so many flies in one area before in my life. During the afternoon, I helped with the crafts at the camp. We made bracelets, bracelets and oh, more bracelets. Every night, the children gather after dinner into the hall for a group meeting of singing, skits and a talk. Our team stays for the songs (all in Albanian or Sheep as the language is called here) and skits. The children are so passionate and excited about singing to God and presenting their skits to the entire camp.

Although we have no clue what is being said, there is a feeling of love and God's presence in that hot and sticky meeting hall. Last night (Friday) was the last night at camp for this group of kids. We had dinner and they gathered in the hall for a slide show and skits. Outside by the trampoline and ropes coarse, us Americans and the Brits set up a bonfire to celebrate the last night. We lit the fire and all the kids came out from the meeting hall in tears. The entire camp gathered around the huge fire and sang and hung out for about 25 minutes. Almost every single of the 130 kids at the camp were sobbing. I think this emotion struck all of us and proved that this week is so important and memorable to them (Just a reminder how important our presence is here).

This morning (Saturday), the entire team except for Isaac and I, went out on hike for about 2 hours. Isaac and I went back to the camp to help Seth on the roof (they are building a new roof on part of the camp). We installed fiber glass as insulation for the building in the heat of the morning. Never been so itchy and uncomfortable before! Then we all meet back at the house and went to a fabulous meal in town. Now, we are resting and waiting for a thunder storm to clear so we can head back to camp and go on the ropes course. Tonight, there is a yummy dinner and some traditional Albanian dancing on our schedule! So excited!

I can't tell you all how much fun I am having here. I have never felt such a sense of community and simplicity before and it is so refreshing. We have befriended almost everyone we meet from other American's, the Brits or the Albanian's. We all have found friends outside of our group and its so wonderful how close people get in such a short amount of time. I can't believe we only have about a week left but I am going to enjoy every minute of it. Shout out to Kel, the parents, Ella and Lib.  Missin you guys and my bed!

Mirapafshim (goodbye in Albania)
If you want to see photos and other updates, go to the Albania Blog, here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Allison Krauss - Simple Love

A friend just sent me this video.  Now I am a complete mess.  This is beautiful.  Simply beautiful.

(And now, in November 2012, as this song came on Pandora at my office, I am thinking that the lyrics of this song reflect my prayers that my might life might reflect this kind of fatherly, simple love)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Off to Albania, The Family Tradition Continues

This afternoon, we put younger daughter on a plane (ok, really a church van, that was going to the airport) to that wonderland of eastern European vacation spots, Albania.

For those of you who have suffered along with this blog for more than two years, you may remember that this is Daughter Number Two to pick this lovely location for a summer mission trip.  We are completely pleased.

Daughter will be traveling about 5,700 nautical miles from home; LA to London to Tirane.  But maybe she will be doing a whole lot more traveling than that.  It’s not just about a different culture, or people who speak a different language.  Maybe it’s about exploring the world, and really about learning about two crucial things.  Thing 1: God’s love for ALL of the entirety of the world, including this place called Albania.  Thing 2:  Understanding more about God’s love for each of us, and what He may be doing inside our souls.

I am amazed by this girl.  When most of the kids her age are obsessing over the demise of Lindsay Lohan, or completely absorbed by their little local social circle, or finding ways to waste hundreds of hours on Facebook all summer, this girl wants to try something else.  Can she articulate to others her motivation for traveling more that ¼ of the way around the globe, just to hang out in a little country without the ability to flush toilet paper for two weeks?  It’s no Hawaiian vacation.  What is going on here? 

Maybe, just maybe, it’s what people refer to as “that still, small, voice” , calling her to serve and make a difference.  Even if it seems like a small difference.  Playing games with kids, sharing a laugh, going to church where you cannot understand a word but strangely get what is going on, making a meal, cleaning up.  Little things.  Little things that make a lot of difference.  You will never know how much your just showing up means to the folks where you are going.

But strangely, mysteriously, God’s economy is often not based on grand events, or things that change the world in a day.  His sense of what is important is usually found in the small events of life.  A smile, a hand up, really listening to someone, loving when it’s not easy.
And so, my prayer for this group of teens and leaders:  
God, go with all these great kids and leaders.  Give them a real sense of purpose.  Help them to understand what is going on, even when they have no idea what people are saying around them.  Build solid relationships of trust and service.  Keep them free from mishaps and injuries and funky germs.  But most of all God, give them lots of laughter, because it seems to me that so much of what your Kingdom is about is found in laughter.  We laugh because we know You are there in the laughter, and you love us more than we could ever imagine.  It’s amazing.  And for our girl, give her peace and joy deep inside her soul.  Fill her with enthusiasm, even in times when she would rather be napping.  Fill her heart with laughter.  Amen.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

This 4th, This Land, Our Freedom

Tomorrow will be the 4th of July.  BBQs with friends, flags and bunting, a parade down Main Street.  Bikes festooned with red, white, and blue streamers.  Fireworks just after dusk.

But there is so much more going on here - and it really takes place in the ordinary of everyday.  Its the making of freedom, the slow forging of liberty.  Its the way we live our lives.  We get up, get dressed, go to work, care for the elderly and the less fortunate, and in the process, we make, hopefully, something good.

Today I came across a piece by my favorite columnist, Peggy Noonan, and it talks about words that were edited out of the Declaration of Independence: 

And so were the words that came next. But they should not have been, for they are the tenderest words. 

Poignantly, with a plaintive sound, Jefferson addresses and gives voice to the human pain of parting: "We might have been a free and great people together."

What loss there is in those words, what humanity, and what realism, too.

"To write is to think, and to write well is to think well," David McCullough once said in conversation. Jefferson was thinking of the abrupt end of old ties, of self-defining ties, and, I suspect, that the pain of this had to be acknowledged. It is one thing to declare the case for freedom, and to make a fiery denunciation of abusive, autocratic and high-handed governance. But it is another thing, and an equally important one, to acknowledge the human implications of the break. These were our friends, our old relations; we were leaving them, ending the particular facts of our long relationship forever. We would feel it. Seventeen seventy-six was the beginning of a dream. But it was the end of one too. "We might have been a free and great people together."
 A free and great people. And interestingly enough, all these years later, Britain and the US are again "a free and great people together" in so many ways.

This 4th I am thankful for my country.  But more than that, I am thankful for those men and women, now stretching back more than 234 years, who have lived and died and sacrificed to make this land one of the best places to live on the planet. 

May we not waste this legacy and heritage.  May we use it wisely in future years to bless this planet.
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