My story unfolds quite differently than I imagined as a young teen. Experiencing more sorrow, countless failures and setbacks than I would have chosen. Yet, my heart’s testimony would change nothing, except my desire to love and trust God more in the dark and hard places.
I met Christ as a young adult, and unfortunately received little guidance in living the Christian life, Bible study, cultivating a relationship with God, and worse, who God really was in my life. Resulting in many years of on again, off again times with God and a very messy life. Sadly I ended up navigating divorce, single parenting and sexual abuse alone.
When I met my current husband, I learned what being a Christian meant. He bought me my first Bible, guided me through scripture reading and memorization, establishing us in regular church attendance and membership while introducing me to other Christians for fellowship. He supported and encouraged me daily in my growth and walk with the Lord.
a heart to serve
When our children were ten, seven and three years old, my story included hearing the call for missions. A specific mission organization recruited our family for orphanage work in Albania. After counseling with our pastor, our home church sent us out fully financially supported to the foreign field of Albania. In 1993, shortly after the entire Communist Eastern bloc became open to the West, many expressed hunger for the gospel message.
We simply sold our home, and most everything we owned; packed the rest along with supplies into a shipping container and bought a one-way ticket to Albania. Fueled by enthusiasm, but ill prepared for life in a third world country.
Upon arrival we received one room for our family of five, in a three bedroom apartment on the orphanage grounds. Another family of five shared the second bedroom and the third bedroom housed a constant flow of “guests”.
We shared one bathroom, a small living area and efficiency kitchen. The reality of living in a foreign country, with no training or language skills, filled my mind with doubts and my heart with fear.
Facing limited food sources, water availability twice daily, and electricity rationed to a few hours each day, we suffered severe culture shock. God revealed Himself to me as my high tower, refuge and strength as my timid trust grew bold.
walking by faith, pillar of my story
So began our eight year mission journey. Eventually, God provided funding for the purchase of a church building and the congregation expanded. Composed largely of university students coming from small villages all over Albania for education; building relationships with these students allowed us opportunities for travel to many villages, sharing the gospel as we met family and friends.
What began as a heart filled with fear and doubt, God transformed into a testimony of His power and glory. Speaking through my story in miraculously protecting me from a bullet coming through our ceiling during a civil uprising in the Albania, subsequent airlift by Navy Seals to Italy and finding my way through Italy with our three children while my husband stayed behind with the church.
Leaving Albania in 2001 due to family needs, we left thriving churches in three cities, pastored by capable Albanian men trained in our ministry. By God’s grace, the “Bible Baptist Church of Tirana” remains a thriving force for Christ twenty years later.
Reflecting on my story during those years, amazement at God’s faithfulness to us in every way from providing housing, food, vehicles and friends to extraordinary opportunities for sharing the gospel and building relationships, testifies of His great love for His people.
a change of plans
Our temporary return to the states in 2001, soon became permanent, as God’s plans changed for our family. Bringing on reverse culture shock for all of us, confusion for the children who had now spent more time in Albania than they had in the US, grief at the sudden change, loss of friends and church family.
Unfortunately we were forced to go through these things while being passed around from home to home for 3 months until we could rent a home of our own.
Taking a toll on our marriage and family; a few months after moving into our rented house, our oldest daughter, then 18 years old, left our home one Saturday morning; we heard nothing from her or knew where she was for 3 long years. Our son struggled with multiple troubling issues and our youngest daughter struggled with anxiety and loneliness. She eventually became quite ill and was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder.
serenity in suffering
God in His sovereignty chose hard paths for my story including relationship issues, betrayal by friends and family, death, sexual abuse, job loss, financial setbacks, physical and emotional abuse, the death of my first granddaughter, and serious health issues for my husband.
Yet, I can testify of God’s faithfulness. He never left me; in the darkest times, His voice comforted me, guided me and healed me. In the midst of suffering He revealed Himself to me, His presence, His love, held me.
If I could turn back time, I would change nothing, except for trusting Him more fully sooner. Now I know my suffering shaped me and I rejoice in God’s good purpose within the suffering. For from suffering God forges glory. “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2 KJV)
God’s work through suffering conforms us to the image of Christ that we might glorify Him.
Though God did not remove my suffering, He gave me something better, Serenity in Suffering, the gift of His presence. Which fueled My Vision for this blog, my writing and resources.