Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hello to our beloved friends and family,

We hope all is well with you and yours!  We are sorry for the long delay between our newsletters.  As time progresses, we seem to have less and less free time.  This is not so much because the work load is increasing, but that we are becoming more and more aware of all the work that needs to be done. 

We  mentioned in our last letter that we have two sons who are facing serious challenges to their health.  We had received permission to return home to be with them, and we made that trip from March 28th-April 10th. While we were there, we learned that Corey is improving, and since our return home, the news is even better.   We are grateful for his progress and thankful to God for good doctors.  Although Josh was not able to see us while we were home, we understand that he is also improving.  Thanks to all who offered prayers for our sons.  We sure appreciate it.

One of the things that we are learning here has to do with human character in the face of adversity.  We will probably never fully understand, because we didn’t experience the same things firsthand.  We realize that, because Albania was under Communist rule for 50 years, the mindset of the people is a bit different from what we are used to.  We’ve listened to long stories about what life was like for individuals and families during this time in their history.  It is unimaginable, to us, that a government would impose some of the restrictions and punishments that the people suffered here.  There were also wars, invasions and revolutions.  Modern day America has not experienced such a time. In Albania, we see and hear the residual impact of those collective experiences.  Everyone knows someone who was imprisoned for their religious or political views.  Some were executed.  The result was a profound fear in the hearts of the people, and a healthy distrust for anyone they didn’t know well. 

We have a little (little meaning really short) sister who was baptized in
December.  Her name is Luciana.  She is about 57, divorced, and lives at
home with her parents.  As a young schoolgirl, she found a Bible somewhere.  She took it home and read it, a lot.  She apparently carried the Bible to school, or spoke of it there.  Her teacher reported this to the authorities and her father was put in jail. 
Luciana said she threw the Bible away and didn't read it again until freedom came to Albania.  Try to imagine how this would have impacted your life.....just to be restricted in your belief in God.
We’ve wondered about the work ethic here.  At times, we see them as extremely hard working.  At other times, we see a crew of 3 digging a ditch.  One man has a shovel and is using it-two men stand by and watch him work.  We suspect that the roots of this behavior would be found in the mindset of the days of communism, when ‘helping’ someone with their work meant you were taking their opportunity to work away from them.  Similarly, those who throw trash on the sidewalk feel justified because that insures that another person will have work-the work of picking up the trash.
 With unemployment at 40% or so, there are many waiting whenever an opening comes up.  So we have our friend, Gazi.  He has 3 children, and was out of work when we met him in November.  He and his family were baptized in December.  They have never asked for anything from the church, and we’ve felt that the extended family has helped with the day to day needs.  His wife, Lindita, has work, but they are paid so little that one income is never enough.  Gazi was finally able to find work in a distant town. 
Lindita, Kleo, Erjon & Gazi
His workday includes a long furgon ride just to get there, and he is required to be there 7 days a week.  When he asked if he could have Sunday off to attend church, he was told that if he took even one day off he didn’t need to return to work-he would be automatically fired.  So their jobs are close to slavery, in many ways.  We wish we could help, but it’s complicated here.
When we offer suggestions to individuals about finding work, or preparing to better your career skills, we get the same answer.  You can’t get a job here unless you know someone.  When we talk to them about starting their own business, we get blank stares.  They have absolutely no faith that they could ever pull that off.  One of the things that will be offered this summer is a Self Employment Workshop-and we hope it will be well attended.  The class is sponsored and authored by the Church.  Here is a quote from the Introduction:
  “To get the most out of this workshop, remember that you are responsible for your own spiritual and temporal well-being.  Blessed with the gift of agency, you have the privilege of setting your own course, solving your own problems, and striving to become self-reliant.  This can be accomplished under the inspiration of the Lord and through the labor of your own hands.  Others stand ready to assist you in your efforts to become self-reliant.”
We are grateful for the careful, steady, inspired leadership of the Church and its programs.  We hope that by offering these resources to the people here, that change can come to Albania, one person at a time.  It will take time and patience, but there is hope.

Each morning we observe boats of many sizes moving about in the port area.  They range in size from big freighters and huge ferries to small fishing boats manned by a single fisherman.  These men brave the waters of Vlore bay almost every day, and fish for food and for income.  Last week we had heavy winds here, and we were surprised to see one of the fishermen out in the water.  He was wearing his hip waders, standing up in the wooden boat, and rowing with all of his strength to move the boat only a few inches into the wind.  The waves were bashing the bow of his boat, but he pressed on. 

We watched for a few minutes and we could see that he was making progress, slowly but surely.  He had a job to do, and bad weather was not going to stop him from doing it.  This morning we saw the same man in calm waters, still in the same waders, still standing up to row his craft-but much more relaxed.  We hope he has a good catch today.  We know that he has a family at home depending on him.
For many of the Albanians, America is the “Promised Land”.   Some of the young ones have dreams of coming to America.  They think they will be able to find work there and that the wages will be much better than they are here.  They think that it is a land flowing with milk and honey.  When we try to explain that there is also poverty and unemployment in America, they do not believe us.  It helped me remember a story from my own family, one about my grandparents in the 1950’s.
It was about 1950 when my Grandfather, Arthur Johnson, was diagnosed with diabetes.  Prior to his illness, he had worked hard to provide for his family on the farm that he’d inherited from his parents. 
During the Great Depression, the Johnson family was blessed by God and their own labor, with eggs and milk, meat and garden produce, as well as wild berries from the woods and fish from the river. 
As Grandpa’s health continued to decline his ability to work ended.  Faced with insufficient income, they took stock of their resources and came up with a plan.  The farm land was rented out to a neighboring farmer, and this brought in some income annually.  My grandmother had never learned to drive, and had never worked outside her home, but she was not without resources. 
My Dad with his parents, Ruth and Arthur Johnson
The farm was near a chain of lakes, and the
fishermen would pay for fishing bait.  My grandparents had an old manure pile, loaded with redworms.  It was here that my Grandmother found an answer for their predicament.  whe placed an old stool next to the pile, and began packaging redworms, 50 to a box, for sale to the nearby bait shops.  My uncle drove her around to make her deliveries. 

When I think of her humility, and her determination to provide for her family in any way she could, my heart is filled with gratitude.  Perhaps you have stories of ‘can do’ thinking in your family as well.  We owe our grandparents a lot for the attitudes that we have about work and about possibilities.
So, what does this have to do with Albania, and the lessons that we are learning here?  While visiting with a new member of the church this week, I asked her about the attitudes toward work and opportunity here in Albania.  Her response was this.  ‘They say that it has been 22 years since the end of communism here, but the first 12 years were chaos.  We have only had, really, about 10 years of democracy here.’  She and I both agreed that it is early in the history of democracy for Albania.  Many of them have already left for America or other countries, seeking the same independence and opportunity that our ancestors were looking for when they first migrated to America.  It is our hope that opportunity will come to Albania-for all Albanian people, so they can stay here and build up the land that they all love so much.  May God help them to do it.  May we stand ready to assist in any way that we can.
We love this mission!  There are challenging days and circumstances, of course.  We miss our family every day, of course-but, overall, this is a great, growing experience for us.   We are thankful for these good people and all we are learning by being here.
We mentioned in our last letter that the Mission has undergone a name and area change.  We started to give you our new mailing address, but didn’t finish it.  It is the same as before, except for the name:
Elder and Sister Volz,Adriatic South Mission,P.O. Box 2984 Rr. Qemal Stafa, Vila 1,Perballe Postes Nr. 22, Tirana, Albania
We would love to hear from any of you, either by regular mail or by email.  The letters are one of the high points of our day.  Take care and have a wonderful day! 
Clark and Nora Volz


  1. Our hearts are bursting with gratitude that you are there helping our beloved Albanians. Your grasp and understanding of their history and present circumstances truly is impressive. Thank you so much. So glad that your sons are doing better! Did you see Daymon and Sue while you were home? They were just out here a few weeks ago for EFY meetings. We always look forward to those visits! Happy Mothers day to you, Sister Volz. If you happen to be in Durres, you'll want to meet Sonila Muca Wood and her husband Michael. They are visiting Sonila's family right now in Durres but live in Germany. Michael is Suzanne's brother. If you happen to see them, please give them hugs from us. Love, LaVar and Frances Leonhardt

    1. Thanks so much for the good wishes. We will be starting a round of Family History Workshops this weekend. We will be presenting in Durres on May 25th. Will Michael and Sonila still be there? We would love to meet them. Meanwhile, please give our best to all the Leonhardt family. We are grateful for your support. How's that grandson doing in Bulgaria? We have another Midland Missionary headed over there soon. We are 'Mission Neighbors' now, since Macedonia has become part of the Adriatic South Mission (our new name). We also cover Kosovo and Montenegro. Exciting times!

  2. What a wonderful blog. Thank you for sharing your love for these people through these words. I know the work can be frustrating at times, we're finding the same problem here in Tonga. But your love shines through in your language, and it's uplifting for us too. Just got to remember that we're all Heavenly Father's children, and even if we're not all on the same yardline, at least we're all headed in the same direction! Keep these blogs coming!

    1. Thanks, Jim and Bea--we think of you often and we sure hope things are going well in Tonga. We have told the story often-that the call we were expecting came to you two instead. We are so glad-because the two of you are exactly what Tonga needs. We love you so much and admire your strength and testimony of the gospel--hang in there on the difficult days and remember that we all learn during the struggle. Keep up the good work and we'll keep you in our prayers. Thanks for all the good you are doing!