Tuesday May 4th: This morning I had the privilege, along with Kate, of going for a visit at Lavorka's house. Her husband Slave is the pastor here at the Strumica Bible Club. They have two children, daughter Ruta, age 4 who was home with mommy and Jonathon age 8 who was at school while we were there.
Lavorka is Croatian. Her family (9 sisters! plus her parents) lives in Croatia. She missed them very much and admits it is difficult for her to be separated. Living in Strumica and being a part of a different culture has taken some getting used to.She has been involved with Slave in the ministry as she often translates at the Bible Club. But she said sometimes that can be a challenge as Macedonian is not her first language. She has studied theology and is very smart, very well educated, and speaks English very well.
We had a very interesting discussion about the culture here and the role women play in it. Women, as I have mentioned before, are thought of as 2nd class citizens... something that is so ingrained that the women themselves often do not even recognize that being treated like they are not of equal value is wrong.
In the past, many women married at age 17-18 and would have no identity other than wife and mother. Today many women are postponing marriage as they pursue higher education. It is quite the norm for couples to live together without the commitment in marriage… often until they have produced a child. Sometimes if a woman has not become pregnant within a year of living together, she is ‘dumped’ by the guy.
I gave Lavorka the books I brought: Captivating by Stacy & John Eldridge, (thank you Laura) who she had heard of, but had not read, and The Power of a Praying woman by Stormie Omartin (thank you Melody) which it turns out, she had in her bookcase! But, she said she thought she knew of someone who could make use of it. I pray that is so. I also look forward to seeing her again while we are here.
We chatted for an hour or so and then Kate and I hoofed it back to the sports plex and the demo-crew. Lunch was at a Burger King. Not OUR type of Burger King but it was called King Burger!! We all enjoyed some different food orders.... soup, gyros type sandwiches, pork kabobs, and fruit pizza.
After lunch we joined Ryan and the coaches for their weekly bible study. It was amazing to hear some of the men’s stories. There is Tony, who became a Christian a few years ago, as a result of a previous mission team being there. They had connected with him at his donut shop. Now he is very involved with Slave and Ryan in the ministries. Another man, (shoot, forgot his name) but he is a native Macedonian, who spent a major part of his life living in Australia. One day a family member back home told him about this pastor who had a TV evangelism program, broadcasting out of Strumica… because of this he became a believer and not long after returned to Strumica to live and was determined to find this TV preacher… this preacher was Slave. Now, this man is one of the coaches with the sports ministry.
It is important to mention that TV evangelism in Macedonia does not have the tainted history as our American shows do. It is relatively new here and very well received. Many people are being reached with the gospel through listening to Slave on the TV.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the Strumica Bible Club is the largest church in Macedonia now! Most churches average maybe 30 members. Strumica Bible club is now seeing between 100-130 each week and more and more new people show up each Sunday. God is at work!!
(The first morning here, Slave shared a story about a tree that grows in China. During the first few years it grows maybe only 1-2 inches, then in it’s 5 or 6th year it will shoot up like crazy. It has been putting all it’s energy into putting down roots… deep so that it can support the growth of the tree that is to come. Slave said this is what has been taking place here. They have been establishing the roots, the connections with the community. Then they can bring this community connection back into the life of the church. It’s a beautiful circle that is a Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Church Model.)
After the bible study it was back to the sledge hammering! worked till 4;30 and tired and grubby, walked back to the hotel for showers and dinner.
We enjoyed a veritable feast at Bonnita, a great pizza place. Actually they served much more than just pizza. We all ordered something, not realizing that EACH meal was really enough to serve 6 people. Um.... can you say FULL? But it was great! We passed and we shared and we enjoyed. Actually 'we' was the team minus Wendi and Mike. Exhausted from lack of sleep and intense labor they each opted to stay at the hotel and turn in for the night. I don't blame 'em. I was tempted myself.:)
Our team is awesome! The commitment, dedication and enthusiasm for the vision of the sports ministry is inspiring. Yes, the work they have been engaged in has been labor intensive for these first few days and sore muscles, bruises and small cuts have emerged but the hearts of the team members are huge, willing to go the extra mile in the effort to reach others for Christ.
What good is it dear brothers and sisters if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? James 2.14
Faith without works is dead.