For those of you following on Facebook, you’ll know it’s been a busy time for us the last couple of months and that we’re writing this from France, so I hope you didn’t mind the delay in our update 😉
After much prayerful deliberation, we’ve made the decision to move back to Scotland. We both love Kosova and the people here and will be sad when we finally depart (probably early July), but we both feel it is the right time to head back to Scotland. We’ve been blessed to have had this time post-Smile as a sabbatical to enjoy living in Gjakova and getting to know our Kosovan friends better. We plan on returning to Kosova to visit in the future, but we feel we would both benefit personally from further training and time at home. So in order to return to the UK, the two important things we’ll need (apart from jobs and a home!) would be a vehicle for our stuff and an EU passport for Ari the dog.
I began March with travelling to the UK for a job interview with the UCCF. The job was for a staff worker position working with the University Christian Unions in Glasgow. The job ticked the three boxes we’re looking for: ministry, paid, and continual training in ministry. When I applied they said that the interviews would be at their head office in Leicester between 9-11th March, but unfortunately didn’t tell me which specific day it would be until the week before. At this point, I’d already booked my flights back to Glasgow in order to get the cheaper flights. They also informed me that they’d like us to bring our wives too, but we couldn’t afford the extra £300 to fly Angela back to the UK too. As Angela wasn’t travelling with me, I had also booked to return on the Friday (12th) so as not to leave her too long on her own. This meant that my week consisted of travelling Kosova-Glasgow on the Monday, train Glasgow-Leicester for my interview on Tuesday, and flight back to Kosova from Glasgow Friday.
In addition, we were hit with a pretty fierce blizzard as we were driving to the Kosovan airport, resulting the vehicle spinning off the road into a ditch. You can see pictures here. I was being driven to the airport by our friends who now work for Smile International, Klodi and Shkelzen (Angela was not with us), as they were on their way to the airport to pick up Mike and Diana Seeney. Thankfully, we survived with a few bumps (I had a mild concussion) but unfortunately the Smile vehicle was not able to be repaired in Kosova. It has a twisted chassis (among other things) and because, as we were told last year, the Kosovan government will no longer be allowing right-hand drive vehicles to be registered, Smile flew our friends Gordon and Val Carr to Kosova to drive it back to the UK. Thankfully, both they, and the vehicle, survived the journey back through Europe and arrived in the UK where Smile have been able to get it repaired and MOT’d.
The day after my journey, I had the interview for the UCCF, which I thought went well even though I was quite tired and still shaken from the accident. Unfortunately, I found out at the end of March that I didn’t get the job so we’re back to the drawing board, looking to see what our options are for coming home.
Angela writing: Meanwhile, I have restarted my Albanian lessons, which I am really enjoying. My teacher, Klodi, is fantastic; I walk up to the Smile Centre once a week during Klodi’s lunch break for my lesson. Ari enjoys coming with me as he gets to play outside while I learn! I was asked if I could go into one of the local high schools to visit a couple of French and English classes, which I ended up teaching – which was fairly daunting but actually a lot of fun! I also love getting out and about with Ari, and love taking him up to Qabrati hill where we can both run about and play!
Sadly, we’ve lost two friends during this time. Our dear friend, Raymond Shaw, passed away in Holland, leaving behind his wife and 3 children. Raymond worked for the Child Evangelical Fellowship in Albania and Kosova and was a regular guest at the Smile Centre and became a great friend to us during our time there. My step-father’s father, Bill Moss, also died and was given a great memorial service at the church that he loved in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Please pray for the families of these two saints as they deal with the loss of their loved ones who have gone to be with the Lord.
We made the journey to France to visit Angela’s parents and obtain a European passport for Ari. We hitched lift with our friends, Alastair and Anke, who are missionaries in Peje, Kosova. They’re taking their motorhome back to Scotland to get MOT’d and visit Alastair’s family. They’re a great couple who generously offered to drive us to France as it could be on their way home (with a slight detour). So together we did 7 countries (Kosova, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia (& Croatia again!), Slovakia, Italy, France), over 3 days. We arrived at her parent’s caravan near Bourg St Maurice safely and continued to look for a car online to transport us back to Scotland in the summer. After much searching on Autotrader and many friends help, Val and Gordon in London were able to assist us in buying a Renault Laguna diesel estate. So between ash clouds(!), Angela was able to fly to England to pick up the vehicle and give it a run-around before heading back to France.
Angela says: In order to bring Ari home with us to Scotland, we need to get his European Passport (to avoid paying more than £2000 for quarantine if we brought him directly home), so we’ve been busy in France with his paperwork for that. He is now able to travel freely in Europe, but needs to wait 6 months until we can bring him home to Scotland with us. Because of this, we will need to leave him with friends in France from July – October/November until we can return to collect him, and we’re trying to find people to take him at the moment – it’s a really big thing to ask, so we’re praying that we will find a solution. This will however, give us the time to stay with friends and find some place dog-friendly to rent in Glasgow before we retrieve him from France.
Job wise, Angela and I haven’t had much luck as yet. As many of you know (and have hinted at!) I’ve had fulltime ministry at the back of my mind for the past couple of years and was intending on exploring that option post-UCCF job. Since I didn’t get that one, I’ve been encouraged to start exploring what my options are for further training and opportunities in fulltime ministry now. The more I read the Bible, the more “Reformed” and “Charismatic” I become. So I’m looking to see where I “fit” in ministry terms.
Angela again: I have been looking for an opportunity within the universities in either teaching or research (or both) in law. However, in order to keep all options open, I have also applied for a place on the Diploma in Legal Practice at Glasgow University, which, along with two years of traineeship, I would need to complete in order to become a qualified solicitor in Scotland. This would only be possible if I can to find sponsorship through a law firm, as the fees alone for the one year course are nearly £6,000!
We had planned to return home to Kosova before the beginning of May, however, we have decided to stay on for another week or two in France at the campsite in order to support Angela’s parents. Angela’s mum, Di, has been recovering well from her ACL (knee) operation 5 weeks ago. However, she has been experiencing severe back pain for the last 2 weeks and has been diagnosed with a spinal hernia. We are waiting to hear from the neurosurgeon about when/if they will need to operate on her spine here in France and how long it will be before she and Dougie can travel back to the UK. Their original intention was to leave the campsite on the 3rd of May when it closes for a month, but the owners have agreed to let us stay for as long as we need.
- Thank Christ for his provision of good friends who have enabled us to travel to France and find a car in the UK;
- Thank Christ for Angela’s folks, Di and Dougie, who have been housing us in their caravan in Bourg St. Maurice;
- Pray for continued healing for Di’s knee and spine, as well as for their travel plans back to the UK once Di is able to travel;
- Pray for the families of Raymond Shaw and Bill Moss;
- Pray for our God’s provision on our travel plans both back to Kosova and the UK;
- Pray for the provision of someone to look after Ari for us at the end of the summer;
- Pray for Angela and my ongoing job hunting for our future return to Glasgow before our savings run out!
Well done if you reached this far – sorry that it was such an epistle, but with every attempt to write an update, our plans changed at least a couple of times!