Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Road trip to Vajta, Hungary~~~

June 23, Lirak, Suela, Urim and I headed for Vajta, Hungary, to attend the Calvary Chapel Leadership /Eastern European missions confernce

Thank you all so much for your prayers...We knew that we were bathed in prayer the entire trip. We left Prishtina at 6am...drove to MalishevĂ« to pick up Urim and we were on our way at 7:30.   We got lost in Macedonia...and lost 1.5 hour of time...but we were not discouraged.  An angel in a small red car said..."follow us"...we will show you to the Serbian border. We stopped to pray for God's favor.  At the Serbian border...Lirak and Urim were not allowed to enter...they are from Kosova and they can not cross into Serbia there. So...we turned around and drove back to Kosova...to try another border crossing from a smaller town.  Road construction in Gjilan...and we were lost again...in a maze of winding narrow streets...in Kosova. Another angel in a small red car...said..."follow us, we will show you the way" (the angel did stop for bread ;-))  We stopped for lunch, sent an email to CCBCE in Hungary for prayer and that we were now 5 hours behind schedule.  We prayed all the way to the border...that Lirak and Urim could cross.  Out of Kosova...no problem. At Serbia, the border police told Lirak and Urim to come out of the car and follow him...Suela and I were told to park and wait.  We prayed for the boys...God's favor, the mighty name of Jesus, that the Holy Spirits would flow out of Lirak and Urim.  Then Suela and I looked over and Lirak and Urim were laughing...what...???  The border police asked Lirak if it was true that men from Gjakova wear red underwear?  Lirak said yes, there was a comment about being searched to see if it was true, and Lirak replied "only by a female officer"...and Suela and I were praying thinking they were being detained.  They were each given a special document so they could cross. 
Right after crossing into Serbia, we could see a big storm ahead of us.  GOLF BALL SIZE HAIL...ON THE HIGHWAY...NO PLACE TO HIDE.  But the wings of God's angels...kept the  hail from breaking the windshield. Each time one hit...it just sounded like the windshield would just explode. There are some new "character dimples" on the roof and hood of my car.  We were able to drive after about 20 minutes...then were in heavy rain. We saw on the news about an hour later when we had to stop and get out of the car...there were cars washed away with the rain....and hail stones larger than we experienced.  As we got close to the border...we were not certain of the signs and stopped to ask again for directions...an angel in a green van..."follow me".   (all of these angels, spoke either albanian, or serbian or english)  We finally made it to Belgrade at 9pm...We were hoping to be in Hungary by 9pm.  At the Serbian border...it took 30 minutes to search my car...taking out all the mats, looking under the car, in the engine, door panels...everywhere.  We were allowed to pass. At the Hungary border...my car was really searched again, all bags out, searched through, interrogation as to why we were going to Hungary...note to self..."Bible conference" makes no sense in this part of the country...even if the guards speak English. It took us over an hour to cross this border area..but we were finally into Hungary.  We had great signs...until we were in the smaller rural area. We made it to the small town that CCBCE was very close to, and were lost.  2:30 in the morning who do you ask...?  Another angel walked by, 2:30 in the morning...and he gave us directions to the school.  We made it to the gate of the school. LOCKED...!  21.5 hours...so close but so far away.  We rang the gate buzzer for 15 minutes...no answer. I told Urim...honk the horn. Lirak replied..."ms Kathy...it will wake people up"  I replied.."do you want to sleep in the car...?"   Even with the horn...nobody came. Lirak climbed over the fence and pounded on a door in a house next to the gate...finally someone answered and asked him if he climbed over the gate?  Yes...!   At 3:30, we were in our room.  It didn't take long to fall asleep, breakfast at 8.  This was a 22.5 hour long day.  We discovered on Monday...that all the staff, everyone at CCBCE were praying for us.

One very amazing fact...at every Serbian border crossing, the man in the Serbian police uniform was an Albanian man...God's favor...!  Every Angel...was able to communicate with us...and led the way to where we were going...!

We laughed...God provided scriptures and we prayed His promises the entire trip.  The motto of our trip..."Continue straight"....even if the road curves...continue straight.  And we are all still friends...! 

Next time I come...we are taking a short cut...!  (anything is shorter than 21.5 hours) From Tirana to Vajta...1500 km...! and 2 tanks of gas~~~70€

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Road Trip~~~

I have been in the planning stages of a road trip to Vajta, Hungary to attend the Leadership Missions Conference at CC Bible College at the end of June.  I have made the trip before by flying to Budapest, staying the night and then taking several trains to Vajta...of course it was an adventure transferring to the different trains. The conductor always provided another passenger for me to follow to get off and get on the next train.

This year...I am driving. The flights and train fares are nearly $400, I can drive 800km in my car for about $60.  From Tirana to Vajta it is about 950km (625miles) each way.  I had to purchase international insurance which was about $25 for 2 weeks, as well as an international permit for my car, about $5.  I will drive to Prishtina the first day, 3 1/2 hours, and spend the night...then it will take another 10 hours to Vajta.  Lirak, my dear friend, will help with the driving.

Now for the route to Vajta.  Initially, I had decided to take the shorter route from Tirana, through Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina into Hungary.  Due to transit visa expenses for my friend Lirak we moved on to plan B...through Serbia.  Lirak, being from Kosova...has to have a "transit visa" for each of these countries, which takes a long time and a lot of money. The new route goes from Tirana, to Prishtina, to Macedonia, the entire length of Serbia into Hungary. In the past I would get out my paper atlas and plan the route. The paper map I have from the US is 7 years old...and to be honest...the roads in eastern Europe have significantly changed.  So...I moved on to Google maps which for the most part worked pretty well.  I received some counsel from other missionaries that travel the route from Macedonia to Hungary often.  Great tips and encouragement for the trip. 

Interesting facts regarding this trip:

  • It is not possible to enter Serbia from Kosova.  Serbia still does not recognize Kosova, and if you are in Kosova without going through Serbia first...you are in the country illegally. So...that is why we must drive south to Macedonia to enter Serbia. But...on the return trip, we can save 250km of travel, because we can enter Kosova from Serbia, not having to go all the way south to Macedonia.
  • There are required items that must be in the car: reflective vest, reflective triangle, first aid kit, tow rope, and safety helmet. I understand all the other items...safety in the event you break down on the side of the road.  What is the helmet for...?   Hmmm....???
For the very last part of the trip, Google maps was not very specific about the directions to the Bible college campus.  I asked one of the staff at the Bible college for specific directions from the closest city.  He sent me GPS coordinates.  Really...??? Clearly this is a sign of our technology saturated society.  My cell phone only sends text messages and rings.  My car does not have GPS.  My friend Lirak has been a student at the Bible college...so I will rely on him for directions the last 50km. 

Stay tuned....always an adventure!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Brethren" from afar...

Today at Kisha i Kalveri, there was an international presence: 4 visitors...one man each from Hungary, Serbia and Macedonia all traveling together sharing the Gospel, and another man from Canada who was a journalist.  The teaching was in Serbian...translated into Albanian...it was about the Love of God and being obedient to His commandments.  

It was a challenge for me to not listen to the "Serbian" and focus on what the translator was saying in Albanian.  I could follow what was being taught, as I was aware of the verses in 2 Chronicles 17:1-10.  

It was a great blessing for our fellowship at Kisha i Kalveri. 

Besides the teaching...God showed my heart that there are Serbian "brothers and sisters" that have a heart to share the Gospel in the Balkans...and were willing to come and to encourage the believers in our fellowship.  From my experiences while living in Kosova, my perspective of Serbians was quite biased. God continues to work in my heart...to see people the way He sees them, and to love others in the same way He loves me.  

What an amazing surprise...! 

Monday, June 3, 2013


Since I moved to Albania last November, I have been exploring the process of getting my car registered in Albania.  In my mind I did not even consider the fact that I was now "importing" a car.  This was something new for me.  The first path to registration, through the organization that supports missionary and Christian ministry work, ended with some disappointing news last week, after 10-12 hours of obtaining documents, notary expenses etc.  Since I am serving with a medical ministry my car is not eligible for the waiver of customs fees.  

Last Thursday I went to the customs office, for 3 1/2 hours.  I returned to the customs office on Friday with another Albanian gentleman, and 5 1/2 hours later had my import documents.  There was a nervous moment when the office staff learned that I had moved to Albania last November, 7 months earlier. This meant I would need to pay a penalty fee of $500 USD, above the $720 USD customs fee.  OUCH...! 

But GOD...!

In the process, one of the office workers discovered a passport stamp from Kosova, for Jan 2013...and guess what?  NO Penalty Fee...!!!  Also, when the staff learned I was a missionary...they did not charge me the "foreigner" rate, but the "kosovar" rate.  I never heard what that saved me. 

Today I completed the registration process, paid taxes, had the car inspected and now have Albanian license plates. Another 3 1/2 hours of time.  The fees were very inexpensive...compared to what I had to pay for customs fees, less than $100 USD. 

It is clearly a "man's world" at the customs office and the registration center...I was the only woman I saw the entire time. I am very thankful for the Albanian gentleman that helped me through this process. 

Always an adventure...