by - April 07, 2014

At 8:00 am I began getting delayed flight notices.  First 1 hour.  Then an hour and a half.  By the time we made it to the airport it was 3 hours.  Well past our connecting flight in D.C.  So now our whole flight schedule has changed.  Instead of Dallas to Dulles to Munich to Tirana, we are flying Dallas to Frankfurt to Vienna to Tirana and will arrive 3 hours later than our intended time...which worked out well because our hostess has meetings now that she could not rearrange that were going t make her late.  It is funny to me they can just switch around flights around the world in just a few minutes.  For me now, rerouting means instead of going to the Wal-Mart on Coit, I'm going to go to the Wal-Mart on Spring Creek.  But today, instead of flying through Germany, we're going to fly through Austria.  It's good the only thing I have to do is get on the plane and sit there.  

We mad it to Tirana safely and soundly.  Our partner took us to lunch and then we drove, kind of fast, to the north.  Shkoder is a university city in northern Albania.  We drove directly to the church where the first meetings were held.  So in the clothes we left Dallas in over 24 hours before, my co-workers began a meeting for young men of the church.  I went and talked with some ladies about the Hope Center and had a coffee. A church there has a dormitory where we slept and classroom space where we held two days of training on counseling through the bible, Seeing Yourself Through God's Eyes and some basic counseling skills to help the people here who are staffing the Hope Center, working in their churches and doing ministry in Albania and Kosovo.  

I was the first one up our first morning of training.  It takes a while for my hair to dry in foreign countries. I also was not smart enough to figure out the shower.  So I took a freezing cold shower, I had to in order to get the airplane stink off of me.  I might have cried a little bit. I'm not a bawl baby, but it was a little stressful and at the end of many hours of travel. Later that morning at breakfast my co-worker mentioned how grateful he was for that hot shower.  :(  I began to really look forward to the next morning.  The bed was great, the pillows were fluffy and with a melatonin I've slept well each night.  

The trainings all went really well.  We did 4 straight days of 9-5 in 2 different cities.  I'm so blessed and encouraged by the Church we meet in these places.  Many of them have to keep a low profile as christians, many of them grew up in a communist country where it was against the law to be a Christian. Even now, that there is some freedom, their governments are athiest and their freedom is not like ours.  It is an honor to work with them and hopefully help them as they continue to minister.  The resources available through the ministry I work for are translated into their languages, and are making a real impact in their lives and ministry.  I know the feeling, and I love being a part of it.  

In the evenings after the trainings we had opportunity to look around the towns a little, visit a castle, and visit the Adriatic Sea on Saturday in a town where it is said the Apostle Paul preached the gospel.  I might have cried a little bit again.  Maybe I am a bawl baby. It is just really moving to me to be in these places.  We met and are now working with a couple who are missionaries in Thessaloniki, Greece, as in "to the church in Thessalonica."  I truly love the reach of this ministry and how through Hope For The Heart people are experiencing how God's word changes life.  Case in point...

I'm on an airplane again.  I had cereal in Albania for breakfast, a turkey sandwich in Germany for lunch, and will have dinner tonight in Rome.  Then in 3 days I will travel back to Sri Lanka to spend a week with our friends there talking about Purpose in Life, Decision Making, Seeing Yourself Through God's Eyes and Hope. I am really looking forward to this conference, and pretty nervous about it. It's a big prayer request. There was not enough time to fly home, and then fly to Sri Lanka. So I am taking a few days off work and have planned a little personal vacation time in the closest touristy place to Albania I could find. When Jessica and I went to Ethiopia we landed in Rom overnight to refuel. I thought that would be the only time I would ever be in Rome. We never got off the plane, but I wrote in a blog then "I'm counting it. I've been to Rome." ("In-Between" from July of 2011) Now, I am really going there. Only God. This is not the life I would live if He hadn't loved me enough to slow me down and back me up from where I was heading. I don't mean the travel aspect of all this. I know for many they would love this. I really like seeing things and having new experiences, but this is also probably the hardest thing for me to do. It takes all the courage He will pour through me to do this sort of thing. Which is the awesome part about all of this. I know its just by His grace. His timing is perfect. His plans are good. He is trustworthy. And I'm headed back to Rome. I will share with you the view through my little iPhone camera. I will keep my wits about me, my Krav Maga lesson in my mind. No dark alleys, not too much pasta and a lot of gratefulness. Some people have said they are jealous of this travel. And, just being frank, I might say I am jealous of a few things in their life, which is a waste of the lives we have. Love where you are. Live it to the full and be grateful. I am thankful where I am now allows me some opportunities I never asked for, even prayed against, but He keeps providing, and now I truly enjoy and share through this blog and pictures places I never dreamed of serving and visiting. If you are in Rome enjoy every minute. If you are fixing dinner for your children praise God for it. If you worked a job today, and are thinking of taking a walk this evening around your neighborhood, don't take it for granted. Don't waste where you are, wanting to be where someone else is. And if you are supposed to be somewhere you are not...get there.

When we walked out onto the shore of the Adriatic Sea to pick up some rocks, I walked up on this one with my initials.  My co-workers pointed out if I had come up on the other side of it, I would have read "SH".  But, I didn't.  It was facing this way.  So, I'm going with it was for me. :)  

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