We are in an apartment complex in Vlore. The Adriatic Sea due west. The windows are open, but it is dang hot. There is a box of Albanian chocolates on the table. Friends are surrounding us as we all take turns to pray. I'm sitting on the floor with my sweaty back against the wall. Blue was a bad choice today as there is a dark blue outline of my backpack on my back. This apartment is surrounded by twenty and thirty-somethings. The cutest little girl is running around, discovering new things as we pray.
We all are taking turns praying for the city of Vlore. For this young church family. This room has a Light to it. It is like a piece of heaven in here. This room has hope in it. It has opportunity. You see, outside of this house. There is darkness. There are approximately 250,000 people in the city of Vlore. There are only 3 churches. 100 people go to those 3 churches. Less than 1/2% go to a Christian Church. Even fewer truly abide in Jesus for freedom.
After prayer we head two buildings over... to the pastors apartment, to have a traditional Albanian dinner. We play games like Just Dance and Dutch Blitz. Everyone is so goofy and so joyful. This room is full of fun. Did we really just meet these people?
So how did we end up here? You knew we were in Tirana, and Tirana was a great place to start our Race. We landed. Had some great moments. Thoroughly enjoyed the conversations, the faces, the adventures. We were there for like 4 days, even though it felt like 24.
The Lord put "the south" on our heart. We weren't sure exactly what that meant. We just prayed about the idea of going south, and then the city of Vlore was put on our mind.
Vlore ended up coming up a lot in conversation with others, and many missionaries or pastors we met in Tirana just kept saying... "everyone goes south in the summer". After a few more circumstances.. like the fact that we found out the day before leaving to Vlore that.... The room in the hostel (In Tirana) was named Vlore. The whole time we were staying in Tirana... we were actually staying in Vlore!
Back in Atlanta... during launch. As we were praying for the Lord to guide us during Unsung Heroes month, Kathyrn told us that she literally heard the prayers of those somewhere in Albania praying for partnerships with us. Our night in Tirana.. Paul heard the Lord tell us that We WERE to leave the next day. and that they were waiting for us.
These 2 things were pretty crazy to hear. We are all still learning how to interact with the Lord on such a level. I am still battling doubt in those moments. But guess what.
Cameron had facebook stalked a pastor dude who happened to be involved in Vlore a few days earlier. The pastor guy then contacted us back saying... Yes come and we will give you a place to stay and talk about your mission. It really was THIS Simple. We told him how many we had, and that we love Jesus and are trying to meet missionaries. And the pastor guy just said "see you tomorrow". Cameron and I were like.. uhhhh? I mean it. This was very brief dialogue hahahha
After quite the adventure of getting to Vlore the next day. We were welcomed by Family. They gave us dorms to stay in within our budget for a quarter of the price. That one guy had a lot of friends, amazing people who love Jesus. They have a unique mission here, and they just welcomed us into it. When I finally got around to telling the pastor what we were doing here. He said.. "well you have been listening to the Holy Spirit because we have been praying for partnerships for the last 6 months."
The greatest part so far has simply been to embrace the relationships with them and just see their heart for our Jesus. Especially in such a dark place. They showed us around town the first night a bit. They have honored us as guests so greatly. It is as if they truly were waiting for us. Cool thing is, they would treat anyone like this. They are obviously a great contact for the World Race, but they also have a van... and they know a lot of other Missionaries scattered in southern Albania... So they are preparing an itinerary for us where they will contact any Christians they know who are possibly in need for a partnership with our organization!
How awesome is this? I wish I could give you all the details. I mean it has been crazy. There was so much mystery in where to go in southern albania because we felt the calling but know nothing about the Country. Then to get a specific place. Then to have a crazy journey to get there. Then to arrive and feel like FAMILY is there waiting. To spend time with these people. Right now as i write this and spend time with Jesus, my 2 new Albanian friends are sitting at the table with me laughing and putting each other in headlocks. Matter of fact I just found out they paid for my expresso and orange juice that I just drank, and I haven't even been very involved in conversation with them as they understood that I need to do this this morning!
There is excitement here. We are going to check out a camp on top of the mountain next to us. Today is Kathryns birthday. Wish her a happy bday on her blog! One of these days we will head near Dhermi (google it!) to another church camp and tent on the beach. Next monday is Futbol night where apparently I have a place on the team. I cannot wait to play with my new brothers!
The Lord's provision and faithfulness, Fellowship, and Opportunity (as we are going to continue to find contacts as is our mission).
Pray for Vlore.