I wanted to share thoughts from a recent journal entry remembering a border crossing between Kosovo and Macedonia many years ago.
The story that came to mind the other night as I thought about our unknown future happened in Kosovo in 1999. The group I was with had left Pristina, Kosovo to travel back to Albania via Macedonia. On our way to the Macedonian border, in the middle of a mountainous route, the van ran out of benzine (gasoline). Prior to this, the gas stations along the route were either closed or ‘unfriendly’ toward outsiders. We pushed it about 1.5 kilometers to the top of the pass, then coasted the next 15km down the winding, mountain road, and then rolled to a stop at the checkpoint. We pushed the van through the checkpoint, past the NATO soldiers from Poland, and then waited on the Macedonian side.
None of the passing vehicles (not that there were that many) had any extra gas – and in fact most of them were diesel. Dusk was approaching, and because of the situation in the region at that time, it was not recommended for anyone – let alone a foreigner – to walk the 5km to the nearest gas station.
The ten of us waited and prayed and waited some more. I recognized an approaching car – actually, it only looked familiar because old Mercedes-Benz sedans were rampant in the region. Even so, as it passed through the border crossing I tried to glimpse who was in the car. I recognized the driver! He was the chauffeur for an acquaintance in Albania. I approached the car and driver, and I saw the glint of recognition in his eyes.
We exchanged pleasantries. He had just dropped someone off in Kosovo and was returning to Albania via Macedonia. Then I told him our situation. He said that he would take me to the next gas station. One of my traveling companions and I grabbed the gas can and hopped into the car. As we neared the station something seemed odd, and as we got closer we saw that this gas station had had its three gas pumps stolen.
While the driver spoke to the attendant in Macedonian (yes, there was an attendant even though there were not any pumps), I got anxious. My mind raced to find an appropriate cultural language to ask him to continue and not to turn around (even though we were already 10km out of his way). Yet before I could speak, he put the car into gear while telling us that he would try the next station the attendant had mentioned.
I sat on the edge of my seat watching the odometer and wondering how far he would drive before turning around. About seven or eight kilometers up the road we approached another station, yet it had no lights lit – it was closed. Again, anxiety started to rise. However with the wave of a hand and a smile the driver said that we would try for another station.
I realized that I had a choice: either I could on the edge of the seat and anxiously watch the kilometers tick by on the odometer, or I could sit back and enjoy the view of the star-studded night sky because this guy would drive us as far as we needed to go.
The stars were beautiful – wow!
Eventually we came to another station. The attendant started to wag his finger. I thought they were closing. The driver talked to him and found out that they were out of diesel, which was the fuel the current car needed. However, they had plenty of benzine, which our van back on the border needed. Further, after we had filled the gas can, he said that he would stay open and wait for us to drive back with the van to fill the tank.
Provision, faithfulness, answered prayers – alleluia.
I needed to tell and to re-member that story in our current circumstance with uncertainty for our future and next steps. Anxiety rises as we think of needing to search for housing, doctors, childcare, and community. I needed to re-member that story, along with others not written here, because they testify to God’s faithfulness and provision.
We need to search and seek, yet we also need to wait. “Actively waiting,” I call it, which is like looking for cars crossing the border and moving when the time is right.
And while actively waiting I have a choice of how I can live in the time of uncertainty and unknown: either anxiously or with joy and awe at the world around me.
Lord, please help us to live with joy!