A little over 4 years ago, my husband and I, and our 5 month old daughter, stuffed 6 suitcases full of our belongings and moved to a tiny country in Europe called Albania that I’m pretty sure you have never heard of. We hadn’t heard of it either until about 2 years before that. But when we heard that less than 1% of people in Albania know Christ and that there were very few missionaries or churches, it became a clear call on our life. Albania is poor, is rising out of the ashes of communism, and is a plentiful harvest for the gospel of Christ.
Fastforward to now. We have added two little ones to our family, we have spent countless hours learning and speaking Albanian, we have watched our church plant grow from 20 boys to a multi-generational congregation of over 100 people, and we have seen God work in a way that amazes our minds and encourages our hearts.
So what is a day in my life? The life of a missionary mom? I’ve sat here a long time trying to break down my day and find some sense of “normalcy” or “pattern” and it kind of makes me laugh. The reality is that at any given moment anything can happen. And obviously this is true anywhere. But, it’s almost as if I wake up in the morning expecting my plans to be thwarted, rather than being surprised and disgruntled when they are. At any given moment my power can go out, or a group of students can ‘stop by’ for dinner, or someone can knock on my door asking for money for food, or my neighbor can come by asking me to buy her a house. Even more extreme, I’ve brought home a newborn baby that was abandoned at the hospital, I’ve had my house broken into and money stolen, I’ve spent days at houses of mourning and funerals.
However, there are obviously things I do every day. And they may look a bit different than they do in America. As I’ve thought about it, I’ve broken it down to the three things that every day includes and those are: food, discipleship, and family. So here is what those three things look like in a different country and culture and language.
Food. We live in a city of about 30,000 people in the foothills of Albania. We walk everywhere. I rarely get in my car to “run errands.” The city is full of open air markets, family owned stores and hole in the wall shops.
I remember wondering when I first moved there, why everyone went shopping every day. Like, why not just get enough for the week? I soon realized that this is because you can only buy what you can carry. And that’s not much if you’re trying to keep your bag of eggs from swinging into the apples! (While you push your 3 children in the stroller of course!) This also takes time because no place is a “one stop shop.” You walk from the baker to the butcher to the produce stand, etc. Fitbit anyone? Before moving to Albania, I was also under the impression that I “cooked from scratch.” Um…nope. Definitely had never made my own maple syrup or teriyaki sauce before. I’ll never look at an English muffin or a bagel the same way again. Food takes longer. No washed spinach in a bag, no baby carrots, no prepackaged Trader Joe’s vegan burgers. While there was definitely a learning curve during the first few months and even years, I feel that we have now gotten into a groove and when I go home to America, I spend a a very overwhelmed 10 minutes at the grocery store looking at all the different kinds of salad dressings and barbecue sauces!
Discipleship. This comes in all forms and fills a majority of my day. I have a bible study of about 15 young girls that have been in my home and in my life for years now. I have watched them come to Christ. I have watched them grow. Many of them have become my best friends. We have gone through books of the Bible together. We have talked about the sovereignty of God while we wash dishes. We have prayed for their parents and rejoiced when they come to church and begin reading their Bibles. We have cried and laughed and sometimes fought. They are in my home every day. They love my kids. They share my life. They laugh at the way I do things. They make fun of my Albanian. I am so thankful for each and every one of them. And they are becoming pivotal, game changing members of our church plant. These girls and their families are a huge part of every day and my life is so full and blessed because of it.
Family. My sweet little family. This means taking my girls to preschool a couple days a week where they are learning Albanian. This means helping my husband as he communicates with people back home. This means spending time together and keeping each other a priority. This means bringing people into our home to model what a Christ-like family is. This means sharing our lives and being hospitable. It means spending time together in the Word each day. It means laughing and loving and growing with our babies, who are growing up too fast.
We are so thankful for and blessed by our lives here in Albania. We are privileged to watch people come to Christ. We are amazed at what God is doing. We are tired and overwhelmed. We are energized and inspired. And each and every day, things that used to be so bizarre to us, are slowly becoming “normal” and each and every day I’m getting used to the reality that in “a day in my life” anything can happen.
If you want to learn more about the ministry Cory and Kristine Cramer are doing in Albania, you can check out their Website Thrive Missions.