Tom and Helen Harflett : Macedonia Report
Another sunny September day in Stip, in southwest Macedonia and Vance Golomev, assistant pastor of Stip Evangelical Church opens up the church, as he does every week day. He prepares to welcome whoever may come through the doors. Before long Robert arrives, followed later by Kiere, Toni and another Kiere. There’s some cheerful banter as the coffee is being made; followed by sharing and prayer.
These young men in their twenties and thirties are four of the eleven ex-drug addicts who have come through the church and have been ‘clean’ for several years and growing in their faith and experience. Most of them have spent time in prison and might well be dead by now had they not met Jesus and been nurtured in the church by Vance and the pastor, Petar. Most of them have attended YWAM’s Discipleship Training School. They visit their addict friends and often bring them along to the church where they find a warm welcome.
We have now visited Vance and his family four times and contribute to his support. It is encouraging to feel we have played a part in Vance’s ministry to drug addicts. This year we were delighted to find Robert and some of “the boys” setting up a workshop in the church to repair furniture. This being Tom’s expertise, he was able to advise and encourage them.
We also visited the areas around Skopje devastated by the August floods. The storms were unprecedented and people described water just falling out of the sky in torrents. Villages to the North East were overwhelmed as water ran off the surrounding mountains. Fish from a nearby lake were washed over the streets and added to the stench of decay. The government acted quickly and have since removed thousands of tons of mud from the streets and homes but there is still devastation everywhere.
We went with a small team from Agape and a Romanian church to distribute cleaning equipment to some of the homes. They visit regularly and have good relationships with the local community. Families continue to live in their damp, broken homes surrounded by piles of ruined furniture and household appliances. Cars lie abandoned and useless in the streets.
The locals are keen to tell us of their frightening experiences. The fortunate ones live in two storey homes and were able to escape upstairs with some of their belongings. The less fortunate lived in smaller, single storey homes and had nowhere to go. They show us a hole in the ceiling of one home. The family had climbed through the trapdoor and then one of the children had fallen through the ceiling into the water. Fortunately they had managed to rescue her.
It’s going to take a long time for life to return to normal in these villages. Animals were drowned, crops destroyed and most of the victims are very poor. Meanwhile and for the foreseeable future, Agape and their partners will continue to visit, offer support and distribute food and goods.
Macedonia is a beautiful country and we combine our visits with a holiday on Lake Ohrid, the oldest lake in Europe. This was part of a three week trip visiting some of TEN’s partners and projects in Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Albania. It was an amazing opportunity to see what God is doing in the Balkans.
Our last visit before flying home was to a recent church plant in Struga. The pastor is Emile, who was one of the first heroin addicts to come to faith in Stip. He told us he would not have survived without Vance’s support. God is good!
Tom and Helen Harflett, TEN Ambassadors