Personal work in Macedonia
Macedonia is the most southern of the Balkan countries, sharing borders with Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia. Its long history reaches back to New Testament days. I walked the old Roman road that led to it – probably the very road travelled by the Apostle Paul.
Macedonia has been subject to territorial claims by its neighbours. In 2001 there was fighting between Kosovan Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian forces in the west of the country, around Tetova and in the area around Struga and Ohrid. In 2002 the Albanian community was granted equal status with ethnic Macedonians and this has improved the situation. So the scene today is one of a nation seeking peace and stability.
I had the privilege of visiting west Macedonia recently to spend time with Grace Baptist Mission missionaries David and Pauline Wilcox, and their two children Enoch and Heather. David and Pauline first moved to Macedonia in 1997 and lived for a year in Skopje before moving to Albania in 1998. They spent the next four years living and witnessing to the Albanian people before moving back into Macedonia in 2002.
They now live and work in Ohrid, on the shores of the lake of the same name. From the lake you can see the mountains of Albania. Ohrid is surrounded by villages, which are predominantly Albanian. The total population of that corner of Macedonia is close to 60,000 people, with 60% being Albanian.
David and Pauline are seeking to take the gospel to the Albanian-speaking people. Their hope is to learn the Macedonian language and extend their witness to many more in the area. Evangelism is kept low key, as it is presently against the law to proselytise people from another religion. Their work usually takes the form of building relationships and personal evangelism.
David systematically visits Albanian villages and looks for opportunities to open a conversation. I had the privilege of visiting the village of Dologzh with him and spent time drinking coffee with the village mechanic. David had recently asked the garage to repair his cycle and a friendship ensued.
Here was an opportunity to quietly share the faith and answer questions raised. We also visited the home of Nora and her family. Nora is 16 years old and is beginning to enquire about the Christian message. Another village is that of Kalishter, where Urim has accepted the gift of an Albanian Bible and various pieces of evangelistic literature.
From time to time, evangelistic teams from Albania come over to help the Wilcoxes. We met one such team of four young people from an evangelical church in Duras, Albania. They spent a week visiting the villages and talking with people about the Lord Jesus Christ.