On May 2 Sandra flew from Budapest to Tirana. Curt left Boston for Italy that evening. He spent 14+ hours in the Rome airport before continuing on to Albania. They were happy to be reunited late on May 3. The Lord arranged for a warm and hospitable welcome from the Benussi family that gave the Lovelaces hearts full of peace. He put them to work immediately and kept them busy right up until their departure.
Sandra had begun the standardized testing sessions the morning of Curt’s arrival. It was a small group of children and most of them are part of the Homeschool Umbrella Program (HUP) that Sandra coordinates for GGIS, a Christian school in Budapest. She was well into the process when Curt joined her the next day. It was hard to decide who enjoyed his participation more, Sandra or the students. The Lovelaces always report that it’s a treat to be able to interact with the children on their travels. They explain that they are delightful representatives of the love, growth and joy that God expresses in the diversity of culture.
As soon as the testing was completed BHC’10 began. The first evening meeting was quite well attended with one couple traveling over an hour. The Lovelaces introduced themselves and their ministry to the interested nationals and expatriates. A meaningful discussion followed which contributed to building a relational base for the conference itself. Everyone was encouraged to return for the actual conference meetings and to invite others to join them.
The mini-conference began in earnest the following evening with another good-sized group. The Lovelaces laid a solid foundation for the material they would be presenting. As is their habit, Curt explained the biblical foundation and Sandra communicated the application process. Their presentation was well-received and another in-depth discussion ensued. The Lovelaces have come to realize that the Spirit creates a sense of security in these meetings which causes people to raise issues that are often unspoken. He also opens hearts to take in the conversations and ponder the ideas presented. They have become divine appointments for everyone involved.
Attendance was a bit low on Saturday, but that didn’t diminish the excellent opportunity to open the Word, share ideas, distribute literature, answer questions, address concerns, encourage hearts, offer support, and speak of the goodness of our God. Many materials, donated as samples, were displayed and described. They then became gifts to those in attendance. Several resources were given to the new library growing out of the efforts of the “Books for Reading Centers” ministry. The relaxed time over lunch provided precious times of fellowship. New friendships were developed and families were encouraged in their desire to raise the next generation “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Sunday is the day our Father calls us to a Sabbath rest. It is a blessed time to purposefully release the reins of our lives to His loving lordship. Believers around the globe make a powerful statement before the seen and unseen world when they gather before God’s throne in corporate worship, offering their bodies as living sacrifices. Romans 12:1 The Lord stretched the Lovelaces physically on this Sabbath day, but He refreshed them through a day of service in His Name.
An early morning bus ride with Ildiko Benussi and two of her children brought Curt and Sandra to Durres, a coastal town. They were welcomed into the church at the Albanian Life Centre by Pastor David Pennoyer and his family. The congregation was warm and worship was lively. Curt was the guest preacher for both morning services. Everyone listened to the message he brought about the biblical view of church life. Afterward many came by to personally express their appreciation for his ministry.
After the morning services, the Lovelaces enjoyed lunch with the Pennoyer family and their two young ministry partners, David and Lauren. The menu included the standard Albanian lunchtime staple made up of pita type bread wrapped around meat, french fries, tomatoes, onions, etc. This friendly and delicious lunch was followed by a trip to the seaside. God granted the most beautiful weather to introduce Sandra to the brilliant blue of the Adriatic Sea. The Bennussi and Pennoyer children enjoyed some of the waterfront activities while the grownups soaked in the ocean views and sunshine.
On the walk back to the ministry center young David treated everyone to Albanian ice cream. Sandra was blessed with an in-depth conversation with Lauren about her experiences with the Mission Nannies organization. The Lord was doing amazing things in and through His children wherever He calls them. Amen
The Sunday afternoon service took place in a suburb of Durres. The meeting was held in a small warehouse type area with two rooms connected by a small hallway. A metal roll-up door opened the space to those already waiting in the street to attend. Children gathered in the smaller back room as the main worship area and hallway filled up to the brim. With the door as the only opening, the air was stifling by the time things got underway. Pastor Pennoyer opened the service and the singing was enthusiastic. Curt brought the message to the enduring worshippers. Once again there was much love, joy and appreciation expressed for his faithful preaching of the word.
The Lovelaces’ time of ministry in Durres was a special arrangement from the Lord. Sandra was able to offer some specific encouragement to the pastor’s wife, Valbona, and deliver some gifts to their children. Curt was blessed by the opportunity to share the Word with brothers and sisters in a faraway place. In addition, Pastor Pennoyer was granted some much needed rest as he was struggling with some health issues. The Lovelaces were unaware of the physical trial and were thankful they were able to bless the Pennoyers and the believers in Durres in these ways.
Sunday’s bus rides were followed by Monday’s bus rides to and from Sauk, a suburb of Tirana. During a Science Fair the Lovelaces attended earlier in the week at GDQ, a small school in Tirana, Curt and Sandra were invited to visit the orphanage work Bethany Christian Services has undertaken under the auspices of the Albanian government. Their friend Ildiko was their guide as they made their way on the first visit of its kind they’ve ever made. It was an exciting reunion of sorts as Curt was a member of the board that piloted Bethany through their early days in New England. Another contribution the Lovelace family made was to host a young mother-to-be in the late 1980s. They were impressed with the loving and valuable outreach.
Bob and Cathy Watanabe are the American connection to the orphanage. They make their home in the main building with their four teenage children. Their welcome was wonderful and began with a tour of the facility with introductions to the life-giving programs they offer to the little ones they serve. There was also time for tea and a delicious snack for which some other mothers arrived. Once again Curt and Sandra shared their experience and expertise in the area of international education.
The Lovelaces were able to share resources of specific benefit to the older children of the ladies who gathered. The discussion of homeschooling on a family level moved into the area of international homeschooling. The conversation included both encouraging support and heartfelt caveats as mothers opened their lives to each other. Serious offers of energy were enthusiastically provided to support national families who wish to homeschool. It was a great day of building valuable bridges in the shadow of the Almighty’s wings.
The last full day in Tirana was spent ministering through family conferences. Curt and Sandra were treated to tea and treats at a downtown restaurant by Cesco and Sarah, parents of two lovely young daughters. Their interest in the testing sessions and results were driven by their desire to provide the best education possible for their children. Plans and prayers for future contact were shared in the sunny setting before needing to return to work. Throughout the Lovelaces’ stay, Cesco served as their personal chef since most of their meals were enjoyed at the café where meetings were held. They’re not sure they’ve ever eaten so well nor enjoyed it so much.
The next day the Lovelaces headed to the airport at 4am. Thankfully their flights were departing on time. With help from Marin Bennussi they made their way through the check-in process and then through security. They met for a brief farewell near the gates as Sandra headed on to Oslo through Vienna and Curt repeated his return to Boston through Rome. The Lord was especially gracious to grant the Lovelaces time together in the midst of such a long spring outreach.
Please ask the Lord to bless what the Lovelaces pray will be the inaugural trip to Albania by deepening the faith of those He allowed them to serve there. They were introduced to many interesting aspects of the culture as well as new found brothers and sisters in Christ.