By Dr. Barry Moak
Six years ago John Moore, pastor for missions at First Baptist Church, Abilene, Texas, asked me to join him and a group from FBC on a mission trip to Aldama, Chihuahua, Mexico. It was a life-changing invitation.
It re-ignited an interest in missions that is growing into a passion. It was in Aldama that a Mexican doctor told me “one trip to a mission field is a vacation; it is returning to serve again that makes it missions.”
In 2011 I joined John on another trip, that time to Macedonia. The beauty of the country and its people is infectious. I wanted to go back as soon as we left and then God called Jeff and Alicia Lee to Macedonia to serve as field personnel for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. It was then that I made a commitment to return and do what I could to support and assist the Lees in their life’s work.
The return trip was no disappointment. The mission was very different this time with the loss of the “Future of the Family” kindergarten, but no less important. Our task on this trip was to learn what was coming from FBC, Abilene’s investment in the Lees’ work in Macedonia. On day one Alicia gave us a bound, 20-page agenda and guide for our 10 days in and around Skopje.
Ambitious, challenging, exhausting; as well as fulfilling, amazing, and inspiring.
Among the things on our schedule was a visit to the museum and chapel dedicated to the life of Mother Teresa, a native of Macedonia. It was there that I discovered a theme for our visit and for the investment in Macedonia. Among the artifacts on display there are several journals and writings of Mother Teresa. One of those grabbed me and has not let go. It was a simple list in her handwriting.
Each item on the list began with “Jesus is…” and included many things you would expect, like “Jesus is the Word made flesh”, or “….the Bread of Life” or “…the Truth to be told.” Others were Biblical, too, like “Jesus is the thirsty to be satisfied” and “… the naked to be clothed”. Still others were quite unexpected, yet profound; “Jesus is the drunkard to be listened to, … the retarded to protect, …the drug addict to befriend, …the prostitute to remove from danger.”
I learned in Macedonia who Jesus is! Jesus is the Savior of the World.
None of us deserves salvation, but we all deserve to be loved and to experience the grace of Jesus Christ; and that is what the Lees are doing and we have a part in as we support their work in Macedonia.
Jesus is the Roma; a once nomadic people group who are outcasts all across Europe. In Macedonia they are desperately poor with little access to health care or social services and today they are being reached by our ministry.
Jesus is the Macedonian woman who has had multiple abortions. She has felt despair and has not known of another way to limit the growth of her family whom she can barely afford to feed. Our partners in Macedonia are reaching out to her and others to offer a better solution.
Jesus is the intellectually challenged adult at Poraka Group Home who, for the first time in his life, feels self-worth and self-esteem as Jeff and Alicia visit and advocate for him and his housemates.
Jesus is the child at the “13th of October” Orphanage; left there by family who cannot provide for her, yet cannot bear the shame of having her adopted by a family that can. Her face shines and a smile crosses her lips as she sees the new dress and feels the embrace of the Americans who come regularly to share a day or an afternoon with her and her friends.
Jesus is the young girl abducted and sold into slavery by a criminal ring operating in Skopje and surrounding towns. As the Lees volunteer with Open Gate, an almost unheard-of non-profit Macedonian organization affiliated with La Strada, an international agency that battles human trafficking, they are reaching out and giving hope to those trapped and abused in these situations and to the families seeking so desperately to find them.
Jesus is baby Daniel, a 15 month-old hospitalized in Skopje since birth with a severe form of muscular dystrophy that has left him unable to breathe without a ventilator and unable to swallow. He is separated from his family who live and work three hours away and visit only on Sunday – but he has another family at the International Church of Skopje, where we worshiped on two Sundays and were privileged to join for a baptism service at the home of the Dutch ambassador.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life being shared every day by our missionaries in Skopje, Macedonia through their witness in the relationships they build, the children they love, and the adults whose human rights they defend. It is a joy to support their work and to serve alongside them.
For more about Alicia and Jeff Lee and their ministry, read this recent profile via CBFblog titled “Confronting Poverty and Injustice — CBF field personnel in Macedonia face challenges, focus on reconciliation”