Jennifer in Macedonia August 30, 2019
Skopje UMC with the balcony restored and the walls whitewashed
Some time later Joash decided to restore the temple of the Lord. ~ 2 Chronicles 24:4
I never thought I would see the balcony open in our church in Skopje. For as long as I can remember, the balcony has been walled off by huge panels of Styrofoam as you can see in the picture below. It was that way when I first arrived in 2004, back when the Republic of Macedonia was often referred to as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” or FYROM for short. I asked Valentina,the pastor’s wife, how long the Styrofoam wall hadbeen there, and she said, “As long as I have beenhere! So, at least since 1983.” I learned that the balcony was closed in an effort to conserve energy during a time of shrinking attendance and rising oil prices. Eventually, a private boiler was installed in the basement and for several years someone would come very early on Sunday mornings to turn on the boiler and heat the sanctuary for the morning service. Space heaters were used for Wednesday night Bible classes and to heat the office.
During the spring of 2017, the church board began actively repairing and upgrading things around the church. They tore down the crumbling storage unit outside and paved a covered area to create three parking spaces. They painted the fence and installed two new gates. They even purchased two industrial sized heater/air-conditioning units so we could have air-conditioning in the sanctuary for the first time ever!
As winter approached, I heard whispers of an interest in connecting the church up to the state heating system so the church would be heated all week long, not just on Sunday mornings. Readjusting to the cold of winter after living in Cambodia had not been easy for me and I remember sitting in an unusually cold service in November and praying, “Dear Lord, please help them decide to connect to the state heating system.”
The board did decide to hook the church up to the state heating system, but then the unthinkable happened; the pipes burst! The following Sunday, I was even colder as now we were using space heaters to heat the sanctuary. All I could think was, this is what you get for trying to put new wine into old wineskins, or new hot water into old radiator pipes!
Unfortunately, a few projects such as upgrading the windows and increasing the insulation of the building had to be postponed in order to cover repairs to the pipes. Even so, the church has been able to replace the lights on the ceiling, open up the balcony, and whitewash the entire sanctuary. Now the sanctuary is pristine, well lit, warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. And the Styrofoam wall, which had witnessed Yugoslavia, FYROM, the Republic of Macedonia and now the Republic of North Macedonia, has finally come down!
The church feels so much lighter, brighter and full of hope with all the new changes. The other day, I was reflecting on the importance of taking care of our church buildings and I came to the conclusion that when people see a congregation that cares for its property, they can believe that the congregation will care for them too. That is my prayer for our church and yours, that people would see us as congregations that care.
With Gains come Losses
All the new and wonderful things happening in the Skopje church cannot make up for the loss we feel in saying goodbye to our intern- pastor, Dejan Vasilev. Dejan is in the ordination process and had a three-year, ten- month practicum in Skopje under our local pastor, Lazo Tancev. His presence and contributions to our congregation will be sorely missed.
However, we are very happy for him and for the congregation in Murtino. Dejan was installed as the head pastor of the church in Murtino on Sunday, August 4th. Please pray for him and his wife, Reveka as they step into this new role.
Superintendent, Marjan Dimov (left), Dejan Vasilev (center), and retired pastor Slave Azmanov (right)