Macedonia; land of paradox and dreams
The present Republic of Macedonia occupies one third of the Bible’s Macedonia (much of the latter lies in present-day Greece).
It is indeed paradoxical that the nation of Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia from 336-323 BC, should now have to endure being called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The Macedonian media are preoccupied with joining the EU and NATO. But some Macedonians fear that if this happens, wealthy Greeks, Kosovars and Albanians will quickly buy up Macedonia’s natural resources and industrial capacity – leading to an even greater loss of identity.
Macedonia is a beautiful country, rich in natural resources and with great possibilities for tourism. It has potential for water, solar and wind power and is rich in timber and mineral resources. Agricultural produce is varied and abundant, and the land suitable for grazing cattle and all kinds of livestock.
Yet, paradoxically, half the population live on a dollar a day. They are unemployed and so poor they cannot even afford a newspaper.
Since the fall of Communism, Macedonians are often told by Macedonian Orthodox dignitaries and politicians that Macedonia is a holy land.
Because for a thousand years it was part of the Byzantine Holy Empire, people have been brainwashed into thinking the nation has survived as a result of priestly blessings inherited directly from the apostles.
Orthodox liturgy is televised every Sunday on the state channel. Its priests and choirs sing the liturgy, say prayers and celebrate Eucharist, but the gospel message is absent and superstitious ritual prevails.
When a young Southern Baptist missionary couple, Brian and Mandy, opened a coffee bar in the town centre of Ohrid in Spring 2007, the local bishop sent his men to stone its windows at 3am the same night!
The present evangelical scene
God’s kingdom is advancing in Macedonia. The Word of God has recently been translated into the indigenous language and there is Christian literature, including at least three evangelical magazines. A good number of evangelical books have been produced. There are only two bookshops, but many churches have their own bookstalls.
The fastest growing church in Macedonia is evangelical with a Pentecostal background. It now has Christian fellowships in almost every town and in some villages, excepting Western Macedonia with its predominantly Albanian population. The Muslim population is the hardest to evangelise.
Macedonia badly needs better trained local preachers, pastors, teachers, writers and conference organisers to unite and enthuse Christians, and help them bring the gospel of Christ to the people. As one English pastor recently remarked, Macedonia is indeed a land of dreams – of what could be.
Based on information supplied by Branko Trajkovski, whostudied at London Theological Seminary and now lives in Elshani, Macedonia.