Tales from the Macedonian Mission Field - June/July 2021 Update
I pray that this newsletter finds you well. Since the pandemic started last year, has it felt as if life has been like the ocean, with the waves of the sea going up and down? Whilst we would probably recognise that life can be generally like that anyway, it's completely different when it is happening all across society at the same time, and in every element of life. Do these moments cause us to re-evaluate and ask the question...where are we putting our trust?
Reading through the Old Testament and Israel's journey through the wilderness, we don't have to read far into it to find Israel complaining to Moses about the lack of food or water. It occurs to me that even if they had been going through a barren wilderness, if their water jars and baskets still had plenty of water and food in them, they probably wouldn't have complained (as much). So, I'm thinking, maybe it was the case that their supplies were dwindling to the very last elements. God always intended to supply for their needs, but He was looking for them to trust Him. How is it any different for us? When we are in need in some way, maybe financially, maybe materially, maybe job-wise, maybe relationally or in some other way, will we trust God to provide for our needs or will we grumble and complain? If you are anything like me, then you will recognise yourself when I say I've had to repent many times for grumbling and complaining when things don't go exactly the way I want them to. Let us be a people who press into God, who stand upon what He says in His Word, who remember what He has done previously, and who seek to look at our situations, not through our earthly eyes, but heaven downwards.
Since my last newsletter, Macedonia has removed most restrictions. Some still remain, such as wearing face-masks indoors, but apart from that, nearly all others have been lifted. With this has brought a much greater sense of freedom in being able to meet up with others in the community, and in each other's homes. However, the other side of that, is recognising the season of summer is upon us, there is a lot of movement and fluidity as people are coming and going from the city to escape the heat. Either going on holiday, or working from another family home in a cooler part of the country. It is regularly between 35-41 degrees most days, which makes spending time outdoors very hard as the oppressiveness of the heat is keeping most people indoors during the day.
This has led to a change in our approach as much more time is spent outdoors now in the evening engaging with people. Most outdoor venues and parks are completely empty during the afternoon, but during the evening, they come alive. The parks are filled with people and families until 10-10:30 at night, as are the coffee bars.
Our mission in Stip continues. We continue to reach out and speak to people where we can (although, similar to Skopje, it is much quieter during the day because of the heat). We have also increased the amount of time that we are investing in each other as a team, in prayer worship and in having a Bible study every week.
Below is a photo of us as a team, and with a lady who we are able to see and speak to on a regular basis.
Young Life Macedonia
This time of year, is also the season of the youth camps. Whilst they were cancelled last year, they are back in full swing this year. In July, I was able to join the team at the Young Life Skopje day camp for the week as the prayer coordinator. We had been praying for 30 kids to sign up, and in typical fashion, God went even further, with 41 kids that came to at least 1 day of camp. It was a blessed time, where kids from across the ethnic spectrum of Macedonia came and enjoyed the fun, games, workshops, and where they heard a different aspect of the gospel message each evening and had time to process and ask questions in their small groups. Two thirds of the camp attenders were first time connections with Young Life, which is amazing.
Below is a photo of most of us together as a team.
Ohrid Agreement - 20th Anniversary!
August 2021 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Ohrid Agreement which marked the end of the armed conflict between ethnic Albanians and ethnic Macedonians within Macedonia. Several church leaders have been involved in working in the reconciliation effort, including speaking to the Prime Minister, and leaders in the Albanian community. Whilst this is internal within Macedonia, it's a part of a much wider reconciliation effort between the nations of the Balkans. Through being on the Macedonia House of Prayer team and other networks, I have had the privilege of being about to join several of the prayer calls between believers and leaders across the Balkans.
For the increasing number of people that we are in relationship with and able to share the gospel with them.
For those growing faith of those who are new followers of Christ.
For the Young Life Skopje camp, and the number of kids who were able to engage with it.
Please pray for increasing openness and open doors with people to hear the Gospel and who want to start gospel communities.
For a real hunger for increasing depth in relationship with God and the Bride. Church leaders are reporting that since the start of the pandemic, far from it leading to more people engaging with the Gospel and the Church, there has actually been around a 50-60% decline in church engagement.
Please pray for those who are new in the faith. For God's protection over them, especially as they take those early steps in their faith. Pray for increasing awareness of God's love for them.
Please pray for the reconciliation work that is ongoing. For God's protection of it, and that He will give an increasing number of open doors for the church leaders speaking to the political leaders about the message of the Gospel.
Thank you for reading my newsletter. As always, I love hearing from you and how things are going in your life. Please keep in touch.
Much love, and Christ's richest blessings.
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