Friday, June 8, 2012

A cup of cold water

Luljeta had her first doctor's appointment for the reconstruction of her face and eye. We waited hours for the doctor who was delayed in an operation. When he finally was able to see patients things got a little out of hand. Everyone wanted to be first and complained about the wait. An older Albanian man, who had waited longer than us, was furious. He complained to the nurse, the aid, and everyone in the waiting room. When his yelling hit an all time high, the Greek director came storming out of the exam room without his translator. He was livid! The Albanian man started in on him! Bad choice! Even though he could not understand Albanian, the Greek director was not too happy to be yelled at by this elderly Albanian man. So, he started talking to the man in Greek. I thought he had something important to say so I offered to be a translator. So, he switched to English. "I can see that you are an arrogant and obnoxious man! There is very little I can do to make your appointment come any sooner. Your attitude is wrong and you may be asked to leave if you continue." Wow. How do I translate that! UGH! Everyone in the room could tell in Greek or English he was not a happy camper. I spoke softly and gently to the Albanian with my hand patting his arm and said, "Don't be upset, we will all see the doctor soon. It will be ok. Don't worry. We will all wait here together. If you keep upsetting the director you will have to leave and not get the treatment you need. Please calm down." The Greek thanked me profusely and the Albanian looked a little timid. Everyone in the room was stressed and upset. I looked around thinking how can I defuse this situation. I saw in the corner behind a desk a water dispenser ... and the idea hit me. So I went behind the desk and started filling up water cups. I gave 'hot head' Albanian the first glass and then everyone else in the room. I had to 'sell' the water as everyone was embarrassed at first. 'It is good water, nice and cold! I know you are thirsty after sitting here for hours..." I then filled up more and more cups and worked the hall and the entrance area. I even found some takers among the nurses and staff. The room changed, people started laughing, talking, joking. The entire mood changed. I left the area for a minute to give Norm some water and as I handed it to him the verse came to mind - 'A cup of cold water in my (Jesus) name'. Ahhh. It hit me. I could not heal their scared body or deformed faces. I could not really comfort them in their enormous trials they had to face. A baby with a eye problem, a teenage girl with a large scar across her check, and my precious Lule with her deformed face, eye and head. I can't do much, but I can offer a cup of water. I found the old man later after his appointment and asked how it went. He was all smiles and said it was great. I said, 'God Bless you!' and he smiled sincerely. My heart is so full today as I look back and see how little I am and big God is! He has miracle water! Living water! Oh that people would receive it, oh that we would give it with love!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Facing Tragedy

I want you to know about a precious friend of mine named Lule. Her name means 'flower'. She brightens every room she enters. And yet, her life is surely not without trials. She was born with a tumor on her face and as she grew, it grew. Her parents were afraid of hospitals and doctors during communism, so they did nothing. The tumor continued to grow. Lule married a man from her village and they had 2 boys, Klevi and Ricu. The tumor grew rapidly during her pregnancies. It was time to remove it. As the doctor removed the tumor her right eye sunk back into her skull and the right side of her face and head were severely deformed. Now her eye can no longer see since it is covered with bone and skin and many of the nerves in her face were damaged in the operation. She wears sunglasses and her hair over the right side of her face so people do not gasp when they see her. She works long hours at a sweat shop sewing cuffs on pants 6 days a week. She said to me recently, "I use to think how wonderful it would be if for 5 minutes my face would be normal and I could look into the mirror and see myself. I would take a lot of pictures and keep them forever. Then, I could go back to looking like I do now, that would be OK. Just so I could have 5 minutes to be normal!" Two years ago I asked prayer for Lule's husband, Besim, that he would stop drinking. He had become a alcoholic and was abusive. Our prayers were answered! Besim stopped drinking. He would not drink even a sip! Their home life changed and things were really improving. Through the miracle of her husband giving up alcohol, Lule trusted in Christ. Many of you rejoiced with us in her decision! Jobs in Albania are very difficult to find. In addition, Besim had lost an eye, so he was handicapped. People with disabilities are not readily accepted in Albania. Besim could only find work in Greece cutting down trees. Two months ago, Jan 24, 2012, his chain saw slipped and severely severed his leg. He was working in the woods alone so there was no one there to help him. He fell there in the snow, and his body was found 2 days later. We do not know if he ever trusted the Lord as Savior. We are hoping that in those last moment of his life he called out to Christ. We will not know till we get to Heaven. It is hard to understand this type of suffering. In fact, I can not understand it. I am not going to try. I am just going to give it to God who is in charge. I am going to love my friend and hold her up in prayer. I am going to tell people her story. I am going to raise awareness for those widows and fatherless children whose lives touch me... and I hope in turn can touch you. I am going to ask you, Can you help? Can you pray? Can you give? We often invest in something for the future. You can invest in the lives of two little boys and their mom! I know that many people can not give funds, but can you pray that someone will? Can you pray that Lule could have plastic surgery? Could you pray that Lule and the boys will stay faithful to God? What an opportunity you have before you! It is so worth it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Be anxious for nothing by Bethany Brewer

*My daughter's insight after our Land Rover was stolen in Albania.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7
"Well...I don't know what to do. How will we get to church? Who should I call?"
Groggily, I muttered, "Mom, what's going on? What is dad talking about?"
She softly whispered to me, "Our car is gone."
I sat up quickly. Not being a morning person, my brain usually takes at least a couple hours to start thinking logical thoughts, but with this sudden news I was wide awake and alert. When? How? I thought we just bought a new steering lock? Have we called the police yet?
Then I heard it in the back of my mind. "Be anxious for nothing." Not even this? Surely getting our car stolen I can be anxious, Lord! "but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests me made known unto God." Pray. Ok, God. I'll pray. Not too sure about the thanksgiving part though...
As I brushed my teeth, I started asking God... Why our car? Why not the Mercedes parked right in front of us? Or the truck across the street? Then he answered...You are my children. Maybe I am testing you. Maybe I want you to learn to trust in me. Whatever the reason, I am God.
Then, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" That's when I understood the thanksgiving part of the verse. Thank you, Lord for letting me earn treasures that will never be taken away. Priceless, Eternal treasures.
Dad and I went down the street to the guard of the Czech Embassy housing and he called the police. While we were waiting for them, he entertained us talking about mafia and his family in New York who are good honest workers and would never steal cars...even though there is a lot mafia in New York as well...
The police came and asked us a couple questions such as "Are you SURE you parked it here? Maybe you misplaced it." and "What is this number on this document?" "Ummm...That would be the license plate number." After that, I got my first police escort in their van and found out it's not quite as cool as it looks. Literally. No air conditioning and windows that don't open. "With thanksgiving." Thank you, Lord, for not having us walk to the station in the hot sun.
Once we reached the Police Station we were directed to the "Boss" and taken to his office with walls covered in Scarface Posters and a calendar that was turned to October. He asked us many questions such as "Who hates you?"... "What are you doing here?" and "Do you know where your car keys are?"
My dad signed the police report that included a line about our lacking fluency in Albanian, and then, much to my surprise, I was told to sign as well...which came as a bit of a shock since I'm a minor and did little more than accompany my father and translate some of the Boss's mumbled questions. After scribbling my signature- since I've been told they only accept it as a signature when it's illegible-we shook hands with the Boss who might have even given me a bit of a smile. I silently thanked God for helping me hold my tongue about his complaining of our Albanian skills, and for asking if we were quite SURE we didn't loan the keys to a friend.
Although I'm still sorry we are LandRoverless and doubt it will be found, I'm glad I got to experience the peace of God today...which indeed surpasses all understanding.

BY Bethany Brewer

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I cried today for a cat.

I cried today for a cat. Michello. We went to Luljeta's house today to deliver 50 lbs of flour for bread for the month and 25 lbs. of corn feed for the chickens. We do this often for those who live out in the village so they do not have to pay $5 for a delivery van that brings it only 1/2 way up the mountain. They then have to get it home in a wheelbarrow up and down the rugged mountain 'road'. Not an easy task.
We delivered the flour and corn and walked around the yard talking to the kids. Since we had been in America for furlough many things were new. Aulona showed me the trees she planted with her dad and we admired the extended fence that her mom finished. We even check to see if the chickens had laid any eggs - there were 5! As I looked around I did not see Aulona's furry best friend, Michello. In the past, there was always a 'story' about Michello and his cunning tricks. When I asked, I noticed Aulona got very quiet and let her hair cover her face. She spoke quietly and said that Michello has been gone 2 months and she thinks he is dead. Then, she rushed off to the outhouse to regain her composure. I followed, crying. I found her and wrapped my arms around her and we cried together. I don't even like cats, but I love Aulona. I meet her when she was a little girl of 7, now she is a teenager of 14. 'Precious' is the best word to describe her. On our prayer requests cards that all the ladies and girls fill out this is what she wrote - when she was 12!
" I want to ask God to make me a girl after His Own heart. I pray that I am an even better student as God wants me to be. I pray for all the believers, that they fulfill the desires of God and walk in the right road always."
As I watched her in church this morning singing with all her heart, I thought, this is why I am here. I am here for Alona, for Lujeta, for Lule and Julie, and Ilda ... I am here to love them, encourage them, teach them and to cry with them. God gave them to me and I love them so!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lule's prayer request

Her name is Lule which in Albanian means flower. She is truly a beautiful flower that many people would pass over. Her left eye is missing and the left half of her face is severely deformed. I met her over 6 years ago when her little boy would come to church with her and color on the walls during the service. She came for a while and then dropped out. We tried to encourage her to return, but she said she was Muslim and that was that. Over the past year her two boys have been attending children’s program and were angels in our recent Christmas drama. Lule has been coming back to church and ladies Bible study and now she is coming to English class each week with her older son. She is an intelligent bright young women eager to learn.
Today in ladies Bible study I asked the ladies to fill out an index card with their names, ages, number of children, and a prayer request that I could use during my quite time. I noticed during the lesson Lule was crying quietly, which is very unusually for her. After class Lule, who is new to the group, spoke to Lejla and I. “If I could say what my most important prayer request would be,” she stopped to draw breath. “I would ask God that my husband would not drink raki (Albanian vodka). He comes home so drunk that he yells and throws things. He scares the children so much. When he comes home like that the boys hide and cover their eyes and plug their ears so they do not have to see or hear him.” Drink is a huge problem in Albania specifically among the men. They get together after work and often someone brings raki. Meanwhile the wife sits home with little food for the children and worries about what will happen when her husband returns.
I was taken back that this precious young mother did not say her most important prayer request is to have her face repaired and her eye restored. She has accepted her appearance – she just wants her husband to stop drinking.
Norm and Fredi are going to begin coffee hour with the men of the women who attend Friday Bible study. Many of the husbands are unemployed and could come. This could be a very vital beginning in their lives. Please pray with us! Thank you!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The bus ride saga: Tirana, Albania – Thessaloniki, Greece

In some sagas you do not know where to begin. I would say this is one of those times. The simple fact that I am writing this saga proves that we are alive and well.
On the trip to Thessaloníki I had 12 hours to analyze our barefoot driver. He was a energetic man who did not like any vehicles in front of him. So, he would drive to their bumper, flash his light until they moved over and allowed him to pass. If there was a car in the on-coming lane, he would flash them too. This then created a center lane for the bus to drive – half in his lane and half in the on-coming traffic's lane. I guess it was effective!
It was a little odd for Bethany and I as we were the only women on the bus. There was around 30-35 Albania men, and Norm and Nathan. All the restrooms we stopped at were filthy Turkish toilets. I found this very discouraging on the return trip after my abdominal surgery!
At the boarder crossing into Greece there was a precious little 5 years old Albanian gypsy boy. He was standing at the door of our bus and one of the men told him to come up. He went down the aisle with his little hand out. All the men that could gave him money! He was so happy. We gave him some money too. He left the bus but did not think he properly thanked the generous men, so up he came again greeting every row with “Thank you” “ Have a safe trip” “Have a good time”...“ Bless you for filling my hands with money” over and over again.
The bus also made very unusual stops. I was confused when he asked a number of men to get off the bus and get their luggage. They all piled back on the bus bags in hand. Twenty minutes later while we were traveling on the highway I understood. He would pull over on the highway an let off a man here or 2 there. He would find a underpass that would lead them to their town and they would just walk all the way to their final destination.
The 12 hours also gave us ample time to decide if we really enjoyed loud Albania music. We all had ear plugs and head phones to try to create a buffer to the constant sound. We arrived in Thessaloníki around 8 PM and 2 Albania young men helped us catch the right buses and we arrived at our hotel 1 ½ hours later.

Thessaloníki, Greece – Tirana, Albania

Our return trip 8 days later was much different. To begin with we were surprised that it was a night bus. Then, we found out that our driver drives the 12 hours to Thessaloníki and then turns around immediately and returns to Tirana. He slept on the bus for around 4 hours while another calm driver took the wheel, then to our horror barefoot driver was back in the driver seat!

When we hit the mountains everyone started snapping seat belts to help keep us IN our seats! He was driving so fast on the mountain pass that the tires were squealing. At one switch-back he was driving too fast to make the turn. So he braked and screeched to a halt inches before hitting the communist era railing and going over the cliff! After coming to a grinding stop he paused a bit, then with a nervous laugh - backed the bus back on the road and continues our torture. This incident put a little fear in him and a lot of fear in us. His fear factor only lasted around 10 minutes, ours much longer! As I was praying, I was contemplating getting off the bus (3 AM) and calling Fredi Sufa to come and get us with his car! We found out later that that mountain pass is off limits for buses to travel. I understand why!

A few hours later we arrived in Tirana. When we got close to our house we asked to be dropped off early. Bethany was car sick since the mountains and feeling nasty anyway. It was so nice to be on foot! Home was never so welcome. Lela had cleaned the house and made us soup. We were home at last.

Monday, March 9, 2009

International Woman's Day March 8

It was wrapped in a sheet of newspaper. I opened the gift carefully so nothing would slip out. There, wrapped so humbly, lay a pair of socks, lipstick, and a bar of soap. Anther newspaper bundle was left on my seat in the Land Rover. I opened this one to find perfume, lipstick, nylons and some flowers. Included was a precious handwritten note.
These gifts are very precious to me. They are from my dear ladies who struggle every day just to put bread on the table. (most of them make the bread themselves – no bread machine!)
Wrapping things in newspaper was very common a few years ago when there were no plastic bags in the country. We would get fast food sandwiches, money and even a loaf of bread wrapped in newspaper. I still receive a pair of slippers or some dried fruit wrapped in newspaper. It is one of the things I love about Albania. So simple, no pretense. Using what you have.