Skopje, Masedonia

Chris Rolfe

Missionaries in lockdown

Ian and Katie Moore’s mission work in Macedonia came to a halt, so they refined their vision for reaching their local area.

Schools were shut, home gatherings were banned, UK mission team visits were cancelled. Like the UK, Macedonia went into lockdown last March, forcing Elim missionaries Ian and Katie Moore to rethink their outreach work in the city of Skopje.

The couple had spent the previous two years engaging in street evangelism and supporting churches in and around the city since moving to the country in 2018.

Lockdown brought this to an abrupt halt. But looking back on the past year, Ian says they value the space it created to listen to God and refine the vision for their missionary work.

"It gave us an opportunity to re-evaluate what we do, why we do it, and ask if it was effective.

"Our aim here is to share the gospel, build locally and empower the church; and God really brought that back into focus." 

Ian and Katie felt God calling them to focus more closely on the area they live in.

With normal activities curtailed, Ian began to answer this call by prayer walking the area with fellow missionary Scott Jackson.

"We drew a map of our suburbs and prayer walked every street. Most days, we would do half an hour then colour in the map where we’d been to keep track."

Katie, meanwhile, found new opportunities to connect with their neighbours.

"We’d seen the NHS rainbows in the UK. We don’t have that here, but we decided to get the kids to paint some anyway.

"We’ve got 32 apartments in our building, and we gave everyone a rainbow with a note saying we were praying for them, hoped the picture cheered them up, and to let us know if they needed anything or had any prayer requests," she says.

"We were asking, what can we do? In our neighbourhood in particular that’s always been our passion – when you love Jesus, you love the people around you."

The couple decided to use the extra time created by lockdown to study the Bible and invited their church to join them. 

"We thought when everything else shuts down if we don’t use that time to spend with God, do we really value him? Everything else had been stripped away, but he hadn’t.

"We started reading the Bible together on Zoom for 15 minutes every weekday, taking turns to read each chapter. There were six or seven of us connecting regularly. It set us up for the day." 

When lockdown eased, Ian and Katie were thrilled to be able to relaunch their outreach activities.

Ian regularly takes a small team from Skopje to join a partner church in the nearby town of Stip to do street evangelism.  

With one of his aims to empower local believers to share their faith, he is encouraged to see them grow in boldness as they speak to people and answer questions.

"We approach people and say, 'We’re from the church, is there anything we can pray about for you?'

"At first, the team were saying they didn’t know how to share their faith, but it’s been amazing to see the growth in them over the past few weeks," Ian says.

"We went out last week for about two hours and I basically did nothing. It was great. For the first few weeks they’d say, ‘Ian take the lead’, because I allegedly know what I’m doing. But last week they were just going and talking to people themselves."

The couple is also keen to help people understand what God is saying to them personally, and fulfil the mission he has for them.

"There’s a danger sometimes that foreign missionaries come in and say, ‘you should be doing that’. Instead, we want them to figure out what God is asking them to do, then to be part of helping them to follow the dream God has put in their hearts." 

Ian gives the example of a former drug addict who felt called to help others at the rehabilitation centre he once attended.

"We supported him to minister there one morning each week, and have had some great opportunities to pray for people and talk to them," Ian explains.

Ian and Katie are also thrilled that they can once again invite people back into their home, albeit in much smaller numbers.

"We want our home to be a place where people come and meet with God. We had the privilege of seeing someone led to Christ in our living room in England and that’s the sort of thing we want to see happen here too," says Ian.

"Last January, we felt God say there would be an increase in opportunities for us to use our home in this way.

"It’s been wonderful recently to open our home, perhaps not in the ways we expected with larger gatherings, but still as a place where people can be welcomed and experience something of the kingdom of God."

Meet the Moores

Ian and Katie Moore and children, Kristen and Josiah, have been working in Macedonia alongside the Oaza Elim church since February 2018.

Originally from Warrington, the couple’s priority for their mission work in and around the city of Skopje is to raise disciples, empower local churches to hear what God is saying, and share the gospel.

They focus on prayer, discipleship and evangelism in particular. The couple work with fellow missionaries, local Christians, and the Macedonian House of Prayer to share their faith, seek God’s heart for their city and connect with their local community.

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