Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Matka Canyon

My first Monday in Macedonia took me to a canyon known as Matka with two of my fellow outdoor loving friends, Alojz and Kiko, along with a friend of Alojz. Matka is a canyon near Skopje the beauty of which is positively breathtaking.

Our adventure started with a trek beside the river which led us to a restaurant by the lake nestled in among the cliffs. From there we began our ascent up the mountain. Up, and up we climbed. The higher we got, the more we had to be careful of our grip to prevent slipping down the steep sides of the mountain, or starting an avalanche with the loose rocks. Every so often we stopped to look below us. The higher we ascended, the more incredible the beauty. From one spot, the lake far below formed the shape of a heart. We climbed to an outcropping of rocks to get a different perspective of the view. The sights and sounds that met our eyes were more incredible than words can describe. Down below were the lake and the quaint restaurant. Towering above and to the side were cliffs of jagged rock. Across the canyon was an old monastery, perched on the edge of the canyon, far from civilization, conjuring images of a more peaceful bygone era. On our left in the distance was a majestic snow covered mountain range. To top off the beauty meeting our eyes, the peaceful, almost ethereal, chanting of the music from the monastery floated across the canyon to meet us.

We reached the top and a wonderful surprise greeted us. As we climbed across a hollow, and into a meadow, we found an enclosed garden. With all the wonder of children exploring a new and mysterious place we ducked through a hole in the fence and looked around us in awe. The view I just described had only magnified and broadened. There were inviting picnic tables surrounded by beautiful bushes, and old stone ruins. Tunnels of greenery invited exploration. I almost expected a hobbit to emerge, or to find one sitting reading a book, enjoying his fifth meal of the day. Towards the back of the garden was the little church.

We rested there in the garden for several hours before completing our adventure on the way back by getting lost on the side of the mountain in the dark. Eventually we found our way by bushwhacking down until we got to a road. The darkness
brought out a different type of beauty. The moon was out, and the silhouette it created of the jagged mountains was incredible.
It is on days like those that I am reminded of what an awesome Creator made me. As I looked around me, at all this beauty I felt as though His presence was saturating every part of it. The mountains shouted of His strength, the lake, and trees of His beauty, and the breeze seemed to wrap me in His loving arms. As I gazed on His creation I spoke with Him, my Creator my Father, my closest friend. He reminded me of how He had called me to this beautiful country, that He had planned these days and moments of my life from the very beginning of creation. He deepened my understanding of how great His love is for the people here. And looking out at the beauty and awesomeness of it all, I realized with a very deep surety, that there is no question that if the God who imagined and created all of these things has ordered my steps and is watching over me, then I have nothing to be afraid of. Just as my heart felt incapable of even comprehending the awesomeness of what was around me, so I realized that the goodness of my God is beyond finding out, his faithfulness towards me never ending, more than my human mind can fathom.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

She Makes me Smile

Across the hall from me lives a delightful little girl who is three years of age. Her name is Naomi. About one and a half years ago when I first came to Macedonia, I had the privilege of staying with her family during my three week visit, and then again a year later. I had a wonderful time with them, and enjoyed the three children very much. Never in my wildest imagination did I think that I would one day be living across the hall from them.
Before Naomi and her family knew that I had made the decision to move here, Naomi picked up the telephone one day and was pretending to talk with someone. Her mother asked her who, and Naomi said, "Remember that girl who stayed with us, I'm talking to her." Naomi was referring to me, and her mother quickly got the camera and taped Naomi's phone conversation with me. I am sharing the youtube video here. Naomi says, "Bethany you will come, and we will drink hot chocolate together. I love you, good bye." Though they didn't know it at the time, Naomi was right, that I would come and we would drink hot chocolate together, I have photographic evidence that it happened.

And here is the proof that what Naomi said came to pass. :-)

Sometimes the "little" things mean the most. I thank God for the joy children bring into my life.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Monday in Skopje

I plan on making a series of posts describing what each day of the week is typically like for us here in Macedonia. Since I am in Macedonia, I will do things their way and start the week off with Monday instead of Sunday.

We take Monday off to rest and get things done around the apartment. We do our grocery shopping, which is a very different experience than in America. You don’t take the car, get your groceries and drive home. You walk to the store, and carry home everything you buy. Our weekly grocery shopping includes a trip to the green market where we purchase fresh vegetables, fruit and eggs, which proves to be a wonderful cultural experience. Early on we decided to stick with buying our vegetables from the same two older women in order to build relationships with them. Dressed in quite typical garb for the older generation of Macedonian women; skirts, sweaters and headscarves, they greet us from behind their tables of fresh vegetables with broad smiles. They discovered that I am eager to learn Macedonian, and have been very patient and helpful teachers, pleased that I want to speak their language. I point to the tomatoes and show how many I want. My friend says the sentence slowly and clearly in Macedonian, and I repeat it to her, “Сакам две патлиџани, те молам.” She smiles with glee and congratulates me on my success. Maybe next time I will surprise her and use a whole sentence that she hasn’t taught me. And one day I will know enough to tell her why I am so drawn to her country, and why I want to learn her language, because I have felt the love that Jesus has for her country, for her people, and ultimately for her. Until that day, I am pleased to receive her gift of a few extra carrots and a hug and pray that my smile will speak to her what my words cannot.

In the evening we go to a prayer meeting with Glasnost church, the young people’s church we are a part of. This is one of my favorite parts of the week, walking across Skopje with friends, praying together for the city, for our church, and for God to move in the lives of the people around us. I love it when God shows up and meets with us. The best part is knowing without a doubt that God will answer every prayer that we pray, and therefore these times have the power to bring great change.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Urgent Prayer Request

I am sorry for the recent lack of posts. Over the holidays I have had more limited access to internet, and have not found the time to make blog posts. I have several in process at the moment which will tell more about what I am doing here. In the mean time, an urgent prayer request has come up. One of the things we do here is to go to Veles, a nearby city, on a weekly basis and spend time with the four women in the church there. One of them has recently been having problems with her head. We found out today that she has a tumor and they will be operating tomorrow to remove it. We don't know many more specifics at the moment. She has a small son who was recently in the hospital for other health problems. Please pray for Daki, and her husband Mace, and their son Martin.