Today we are in Vukovar, Croatia. This city was the front line for the war in 1992. It was completely destroyed. It is slowly being rebuilt. All through the city, we can see totally demolished buildings right next to beautifully painted, restored buildings. I can’t explain the feeling that it is to be here. To imagine. To meet these people. This morning we drove out to a memorial outside the city that sits on top of a mass grave site. If you’ve ever seen the movie ˝Harrison’s Flowers,˝ this is the site where the sick and the dying were moved from the burning hospital in town and the bodies were dumped. It is now farmland and crops all around. If you drive down an old dirt road, you will come upon the memorial. There is an old man sitting in the dirt parking lot, next to his car, selling candles to light and put on the memorial for the dead. There is a tiny bush planted for each victim. There is one white rose in the middle of the bushes. There is absolute silence, other than the occasional sound of a bird. Every direction you look, it is absolutely flat, green farmland, blue skies, white, fluffy clouds…and silence. We sat there in silence for quite a while, the five of us. I miss my kids. Tonight we go to church here.
We haven´t had much time to be on the internet while we´ve been here. Now that I have a few moments to actually write a post, I am finding myself at a loss for words. Let me just say that I am having an incredible time. This place is wonderful. The people are wonderful. The food is wonderful. (A little TOO wonderful…)
On Sunday, we were able to go to an international church in Kosovo. I have never been a part of a worship service like that. There were many people from all over the world (most of them working for the UN). We sang every song in English and Albanian. I´m sure the jetlag probably made me extra emotional, but I just couldn´t stop weeping thinking about what Heaven was going to be like – people from all nations, praising God. There was even a gospel choir, filled with mostly Africans, wearing blue-green robes! (The gospel choir that I lead at our church in Dallas wears blue-green robes) I wanted so badly to take a picture, but due to the presence of the UN people there, pictures were strictly forbidden. I did get a picture of our group outside the church, though. Pictured from left to right are Robbie, Artian (a guy from the city of Mitroviče who took Chris fishing), Maria (the wonderful missionary who lives here and offered so much of her time to showing us everything), Chris, Nicole, me and Carlee.
Speaking of jetlag, I´ve got to tell what Carlee did. We left Dallas at 3 pm, flew all night and arrived in Zurich at 7 am. Because of losing seven hours, our “night” on the plane meant that there were only actually four hours of darkness. Of course, none of us slept a wink. We had five hours in Zurich, where we took the train downtown, walked around, had coffee then took the short, two hour flight to Budapest. After that, we got straight in a car (six of us with all our luggage in a tiny, European car) and drove for four hours. By the time we got where we were going and got settled in, it was 9:30 at night, we were exhausted and went straight to bed, knowing we needed to leave at six the next morning. Carlee wakes up at 11:45 pm, looks at her watch, which is turned upside-down, thinks itś 5:15 am and gets up to go get in the shower. She takes all her stuff down to the shared bathroom, where there is an American girl, getting ready for bed. Carlee, thinking “Wow, people stay up really late around here” just continues to get ready, talking to the girl about how weŕe leaving at six. The girl is sympathetic toward Carlee, knowing that itś only 11:45 at night and thinking she can´t sleep due to jetlag, she offers her some sleeping pills. Carlee declines saying “No! I feel fine, thank you.” Thankfully, she got her confusion all sorted out before she actually started getting ready, but she was so thrown by the twilight-zone-ness of it all, she couldn´t go back to sleep all night. So Carlee took a little longer than rest of us to adjust to the new time zone.
After three whirlwind days of ministry and fellowship in Kosovo, we are now in the coastal city of Dubrovnik on the southern coast of Croatia for a short break before we head on to Sarajevo. Itś beautiful here. Here we are overlooking the ocean:
I think I might need to put my bathing suit on and jump in, even though it feels like a frigid mountain stream to my Texas skin. But I need to be able to say I swam in the Adriatic Sea, even if I can´t say I read the “Brothers Karamazov”… right?
Well, I got the staples taken out of Grace’s head, a crown put on my tooth (yes, a gold one – no diamond), antibiotics for this silly infection that I can’t ever get rid of, bought all my travel-sized toiletries, got a European adaptor to plug in my curling iron, got a new memory card for my camera so I can take tons of pictures, called the bank to tell them I’m going to Europe so they let me use my card there, and finally finished up my work for ARM.
All that’s left is taking a metal detector to the back yard to find a missing gold cross, paying the bills in advance, putting money from ARM into our account, mailing my mother-in-law’s birthday present, finishing my list for the girls’ schedule, and PACKING!
I have a lot of feelings right now. Here are some of them:
I’m going to miss my Grace, who bites the bottom of an ice cream cone first and sucks all the ice cream out, getting chocolate all over her face, her hands, her hair…..
I’m going to miss my Sadie, who sticks her finger in your face and says, “You did NOT just say that! Oh no you di-int!!!”
I’m going to miss my Callie, who organizes her own Skate Land with all the neighborhood kids on our back patio. They skate around in circles to Amy Grant and Kelly Clarkson.
I’m going to love being with my good friend and doing ministry together once again.
I’m going to love being with my baby brother in the place he lived and knows so well.
I’m going to love being with the love of my life in the place that captured his heart.
I’m going to love seeing a part of God’s creation that I’ve never seen before and a people He created that I’ve never known before. I’m going to love showing the love of Christ to a people who have known suffering that I cannot imagine. Maybe my heart will be broken. Maybe my heart will become more like His heart?
I like milk. Especially whole milk. The whole-er the better. The only reason I even drink coffee is so that I can put about a fourth a cup of half and half in it. Cream (and butter, for that matter) just makes life extra good. The problem is that milk doesn’t like me. So here am I, continuing on in this extremely unhealthy relationship. I, pursuing someone I love who doesn’t love me back. Even worse than not loving me back, it hurts me. It’s like a physically violent relationship and I keep coming back for more. What’s wrong with me? I’ve never thought of myself as a victim before. It’s just so good and white and creamy and nothing goes better with warm cookies (or brownies or chocolate cake….or a big bowl of Count Chocula). But it hurts. It hurts so bad.
I’m about to jump. I’ve jumped before. In fact, I like jumping. It’s just that I don’t always like landing. I’d rather jump and stay aloft. When I was a little girl I used to pray before I went to sleep that God would give me a “falling dream.” You know, the kind where you’re sitting in a chair under the Big Top at the circus when suddenly all the chairs start rising to the top of the tent, slowly. As the ground gets further and the further away, the panic sets in. You just keep going higher and higher, with no way out of the seat you’re sitting in. The terror sticks in your throat and you are frozen with fear. Then, when you reach the top and the chair can’t rise any higher, it begins leaning forward, slowly, at a steady rate, until you can’t hang on any longer and you are propelled out. Down, down, down you fall, wanting to scream, but unable to force the breath out from your open mouth. The ground comes racing at you and just when you know that your doom is inevitable, you awake with a start, having landed safe and sound in your own soft, warm bed. Your heart is pounding, your eyes are wide open with fear in the pitch black night, you may even have some tears in your eyes. But it’s so great to be in your own bed!
I used to pray for falling dreams for two reasons:
- I loved that feeling of falling.
- It would give me chance to go sneak a cookie from the kitchen in the middle of the night while Mom and Dad were asleep.
So anyway, I’m jumping from the top of the Big Top next week. Gonna let myself be propelled into the Balkans this time and see if I wake up in my own bed or if I splat all over the other side of the world. Or maybe there’s a third ending that I can’t imagine right now. I’m excited about that falling feeling. Please pray for me.