Monday, December 14, 2015

The girl who makes me crazy

 She comes to me after the program to say goodbye Saturday, the girl who makes me crazy.
"Let's take a picture together,"  she says.
"Ok," I tell her and pull out my phone, kneeling down so we could be at the same level.
"No, no, no," she says, reaching for my hat. "You need to take that off."
"Oh no," I tell her - the hat stays on. We can only put our water heater on for a few hours at a time and - combined with sometimes being able to see my breath in the bathroom - that leads to not taking as many showers as I once did.
She concedes, but fixes my hat the way she thinks it should be. She is wearing the church's crazy wig and looks like a tiny rock star.
We take a picture and she tells me that her family is moving back to Greece the next day. She doesn't know if they will come back.
I suddenly feel like crying.
"I'm going to miss you," I say, and I mean it.
I'm going to miss this barely 11-year-old girl who knows how to command a room, who always tells me what I should do and what she thinks about what I am doing, who asks me to relay her requests in this sort of way: "Tell Luke to be at the church building at 9 tomorrow morning." Or "The staff needs to arrive before all the kids!"
Honestly, she's often right (though that last one is basically impossible - as much as it would be helpful). 
But it's hard to take orders from a fifth grader.
I'm going to miss her taking over the kids program when the adults stop paying attention for a moment.
I'll miss her showing up for Bible study 20 minutes early - when I'm still thinking about changing from comfy pants into nice jeans and making it impossible for me to actually do that.
A few weeks ago she was the only girl to come to Bible study and so we sat and chatted and drank tea in my living room for an hour. She told me then that her family might go back to Greece. They lived there when she was born. Maybe her dad could find work there now.
She told me then that she wasn't sure whether to follow her dad's example and be Christian (I haven't met him, but suspect he is Orthodox) or her mom's example and be Muslim.
In a place where you're born as one or the other, it would be hard to have that dichotomy.
I asked her what she believed and she said she believed in Jesus.
But she still wasn't sure what to be. "What do you think I am?" she asked me.
"It's more important what you think you are and what you choose to be," I told her - "but from what you believe, I think you are a Christian."
I'm not particularly going to miss the time several weeks before that when she told me I was arrogant for trying to lead the Bible study by myself and fought me on every step - neither of the girls who usually translate for me were able to come that day. But her silent apology in a gift of baklava a week later meant a lot to me. "You can tell me it was good at Bible study on Friday," she laughed.  
Yes, I am going to miss this girl.

Just when you think someone makes you crazy, you realize how much you care about them.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Whose are you?

Last week I took a public van by myself into the village to work on painting the living room in our new house there. Luke was already in the village doing the kids program, so I arrived alone on the main road and headed toward our house. As I was walking, a little old woman standing on the street was staring at me. I smiled and said to her "Hello. How are you?" She smiled back and the first thing she said was "Whose are you?"
Not "who are you?" but "whose."

Who do you belong to? 

That was a deeper question than I was expecting that day and it got me thinking. I told her that I'm married to Luke and we work with the church in the village. She asked how long I'd been there and I told her about us moving into the village soon. We chatted a little bit more. She encouraged me in my Albanian learning and went on her way. But her question stuck with me throughout the day.

Whose are you? 

She was asking me how I belonged in the village. It was one of those "one of these things is not like the other" moments for her, which is something I personally feel often. I think it's something anyone who comes to a strange place feels, particularly when there is a language barrier. But the funny thing is, I was walking through the village like I owned the place that morning and feeling an unusual amount of belonging.

Whose are you? also meant to me What right do you have to be here?

The first thing that came to my head when she asked me that was I belong to Jesus. But I thought that might be pretty confusing and might not lead to a second conversation with her, so I answered the question she was asking. Yet it was encouraging in my own soul... who do I belong to? And how do I belong here? The answer is the same: Jesus. 

Our progress on the painting: 

We are just renting it, but the salmon colored paint had to go.