There he is! Alexander of Macedonia!
When I arrived in Skopje yesterday after three hours in a bus on windy mountain roads, I was pleasantly surprised to immediately meet friends in the lobby of my hotel. Then came the unpleasant surprise that the hotel had overbooked, so instead of a double with my good friend Fifi, I was put in a five bed dormitory room with four strangers. But of course, I realized that God’s people here in Europe all know many of the same people, so even if we didn’t have a previous connection with each other, we know the same people, and were able to expand each other’s networks a bit. So that helped me to reset my attitude from annoyed to interested in meeting my new roommates, each of whom was here for the very same purpose: attending the European Trumpet Call.
So, soon after arriving, I took a walk downtown with Lars and his family. Lars is Norwegian, but he has lived in France for many years. He has a French wife and has raised a family in France. Joining us was their friend, Monica, and also with Gerda, who were two my four unexpected roommates. Both Monica and Gerda had requested single rooms, so we were all in the same predicament. Lars and I had been to Skopje before, so we showed them Skopje’s major cultural overkill in the form of too many statues too close to one another, and some of them much larger than usual, like the statue of Alexander the Great—or Alexander of Macedonia, as he is known here.
Lars had a leaders meeting to attend for the conference, so he left us to our sightseeing. Gerda noted that she had not eaten since breakfast, so we went to a good cafeteria under the shopping mall in the center of town. This is a place where you can get real Macedonian dishes at a very good price.
As we ate and talked, a man at a table nearby overheard French, and asked about where we are from. We told him: Brigitte, Stella, and Monica (Lars’ wife, daughter, and friend), from France, Gerda, from Germany, and me from Italy. As we finished our meal, we spoke about the conference and about prayer. I noticed that the man listened intently to our conversation. Then he asked if we had tried ajvar, a Macedonian salad made from roasted peppers, garlic, eggplant, and colored red from paprika. So he ordered us a plate of it. We all tried some, and it was delicious. He said that sometimes it can be quite spicy. I told him: “Fa-la,” which means thank you. He corrected with a much longer phrase, saying that fa-la is actually Albanian (or Serbian? I don’t remember now). Nevertheless, I have found that whenever I say fa-la in Macedonia, people understand that I’m saying thank you. Having by far the youngest brain among us, and being also the least travel-weary, Stella took a mini-lesson right there, learning a few useful words and phrases.
Stella used those words at our next destination: a Christian-owned ice cream shop. We enjoyed our dessert, and now the conversation became mostly French. I was so tired by now, from travel and walking, that I just listened to it like the lovely sound of water in a rocky stream.
When we got back to the hotel, I went to our room, where two other women had joined us—both of them from Germany. So then, after a brief period of including Monica and me, the conversation became German. That was fine with me, and I went to bed with the murmuring of German, and fell instantly asleep.
This morning I woke up feeling very rested, having slept an astonishing eight hours (astonishing for me!), and got a coffee in the breakfast room. Despite having had a good night’s sleep, I woke up in a bad mood, thinking about what a terrible hotel it was for overbooking, and the dormitory room had no way to close the bathroom door because of not having a handle.
But during my prayer time, God gave me Colossians 3:1: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” (emphasis mine). OK, thank You, Lord! And I reset my mood from annoyed to grateful. You know, I’m always happiest when I’m grateful. I just need to remember to stay grateful.
The breakfast room filled up very fast, and Gerda, Katerina (one of our roommates), and Jillian (a friend I hadn’t expected to see here) all sat with me. Katerina had been feeling ill last night, so I asked her if she was feeling better. She had better color in her face this morning. She shrugged and said, “Somewhat better.” I told her that I would like to pray for her, and she said OK, but suggested that we wait until after breakfast.
After breakfast, Katerina was able to move into her single room, and in the meanwhile, I moved out of the dormitory room and left my suitcase at the front desk until my room would be ready. I told them that I would move into my room during the lunch break. Then I saw Katerina, and she invited me to her room to pray. What I had thought would be a ten minute maximum prayer turned into a few hours, as I followed the leading of the Holy Spirit. So I missed the morning session, but that was another reset. I reset my schedule and priorities for the morning to do what God was leading me to do: pray for His daughter.
Katerina, three other friends who had just arrived, and I had lunch together in the hotel. Then we went to change money and shop for things we had forgotten. I needed toothpaste and mouthwash, having only packed the last bit of a larger tube. That happens when you have one trip right after another. I had neglected to check my supplies. Then it was back to the hotel for a rest before the evening session. And I found that Fifi had arrived. I laid down and put my feet up as we caught up on each other’s travels and life. Fifi’s travel schedule is pretty crazy, like mine, so we have a lot in common.
Halfway to the conference center (a fifteen minute walk from here), it began to rain—and not a little bit. It rained buckets. I had a small umbrella, which I shared with Fifi. But we both wound up getting soaked anyway. At the conference center I met many more friends—some that I had met in April when I had gone to Albania and Kosovo, and others that I had met years before, but had not seen since. The evening session was worth getting wet for, and the walk back to the hotel was mercifully dry.
Then I did a dumb thing: I checked my email just before going to bed. I got a message from my accountant, telling me that she needed some information that’s got to be turned in by June 30. Of course, it’s information that I have back in Milan, but I won’t be back until the 29th. Normally, I try not to let stuff like this bother me, but at about 3 AM, the bars must have let out, and a big bunch of people were congregated under our window, talking loudly. I tried to roll over and sleep through it, but then the message from the accountant started to add its voice. So I got up and took my Bible into the bathroom (so as not to disturb Fifi). And I repeated to myself God’s earlier message to me: “Set your mind on things above.”
But after praying and giving the worry to God, I opened my Bible, which “randomly” came open at Isaiah 33, and I read:
Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them. Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar. In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror: “Where is that chief officer? Where is the one who took the revenue? Where is the officer in charge of the towers?”
Isaiah 33:15-18 (emphasis mine)
Needless to say, this was powerful reassurance (with a Rapture scenario included—“dwell on the heights”!). So once again, I reset my mind from anxiety mode to rest. God is good!