New Year, New Ways to Grow

2016 is well underway and we’re already learning and growing a ton. This maybe be our only full calendar year in Albania and we’re excited for a slew of new opportunities, new visitors and new lessons to be learned.

We’re not really New Years Resolution kind of people (not that there’s anything wrong with those people), but there are some ways we’re praying and working to grow:

Nathan is praying to grow in his positivity, perseverance, and perspective (holding on to God’s perspective).

Elena is striving in new ways to see God’s perspective as well, to seek Him more in prayer, and pursue His purposes and glory above all else.

Although these seem like basic “Christian resolutions”, the stories behind them are heartfelt and real to us. We’re seeing our need for our Savior more and more, and see ways these qualities will bear fruit for a lifetime. There are cultural challenges that necessitate these, language frustrations that reveal these, and also normal life “I’m less holy than I thought” situations that show our true need for Jesus’ help always.

We have a list of hopeful guests and visitors this year – if you want in on this Balkan action let us know!

We’re really thankful for your prayers and support. It’s not easy living and ministering cross-culturally, but it makes a huge difference knowing you’ve got our backs.

Thank you.


Here are some pictures from January



We got to have beer and pizza with a great couple who had us over for New Years as well. They don’t speak English but they are patient and gracious with our sparse Albanian.



A beautiful old bridge around 20 minutes from our place.


We celebrated the return of one of our students who had been kept in police custody for just over a month on false charges. We had a large gathering of our Connection Groups, then ate great food and danced (hard). Elena may have done a backflip during a lull in the dance, which no one (even us) saw coming.

p.s. here are the books we’re reading. Because I’m sure you’re interested.

Nathan is reading The Cross of Christ by John Stott, Calvin’s Institutes (slowly), Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts (also slowly), Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp, and the NT in Greek!

Elena raced through The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy and is currently working on Journey to the Center of the Earth by Verne.


New Year, New Ways to Grow

Amazing Firsts

Hey all,

We’ve had an amazing set of firsts since our last post.

We’ve had our first American houseguest, Cornerstone Ames’ very own Troy Nesbitt! Nathan also got to be part of Cornerstone Shkodra’s first teachers’ meeting, and that night Nathan and Elena hosted one of the two connection groups the church has started.



The outreach project just finished last week, and over the course of the three weeks and follow up 20 students expressed trust in Christ – AMAZING! The team is doing follow up to make sure they understand and help them begin walking with Jesus. A lot of pressure can come early on, but we hope opportunities like connection groups and fellowship in the church provide support, encouragement, grace, and good doses of the Gospel to our new brothers and sisters.

Cornerstone Shkodra celebrated our two year anniversary with a guest message from Troy and a great meal. Troy talked about birthdays from John 3 – talking about our first physical birth but also our second birth in Jesus. It was a great birthday celebration!




That following Sunday we took around 40 students to Tirana to celebrate Cornerstone Tirana’s 20th anniversary with Troy and Brent Haverkamp – an elder at Cornerstone in Ames. It was a blast and an awesome opportunity for our students to catch a big vision for their lives, for the church, and for our city.




Last but not least, Elena and I have a new addition to our family – a new puppy named Iliria. She’s a rescue dog from a group here in Shkodra. When we got her she was quiet, scared, and had a bad case of worms. Now, a week and a half later she’s full of energy, and getting better every day. Puppy training brings a whole lot of work and stress to our lives, but in return we get a whole lot of love and cuddles. Its a trade off that is good for us right now.12308169_10208258085868031_1343348628470846605_o


Amazing Firsts

Fall is Here

Hey all,

The fall ministry season is here and in full swing.

The university has been going for about three weeks now and we’re a week into our Fall Outreach – a three week sprint of games and activities to draw students, particularly freshmen, into the ministry.

Elena and I each have a team we’re on led by a student leader. The teams meet up during the week to (hopefully) discuss articles from a magazine CRU put together. About twice a week there are big events like games at the castle, photo race, or frisbee. I.E.MinuteToWinIt.10.2015.115 MinuteToWinIt.10.2015.142 MinuteToWinIt.10.2015.158

It’s a pretty different model of ministry for us, but we’re glad to be working with students and getting the chance to meet English speakers.

Elena got to help kickoff the outreach with an event for ladies called “Dress for Success.” She designed T-shirts and flyers and set up a photo booth to help ladies feel connected and inspired.DressForSuccess.10.2015.102 DressForSuccess.10.2015.108 DressForSuccess.10.2015.81

Elena continues to take amazing pictures of everything around us, whether events or just amazing scenes of life in Albania and the landscape.

Cornerstone Albania is doing a three week series called “Foundations” that I totally borrowed (stole) from Salt – The Bible, Community, Mission. I hope focusing on these three will help the church grasp things that have been part of the church culture already, but highlight the need to intentionally center on good expositional preaching, to value the church as the Bride of Christ, and to see ourselves as a missional community to love and impact our city.

Then, we’ll start going through the Gospel of John which we did not steal from Cornerstone in Ames. I promise I thought of it last Spring. (I may or may not have peeked at Jeff Dodge’s teaching schedule, however). I’m so pumped on John. Before we came I was running through all of the passages on eldership, church structure, the authority of scripture etc. that I thought I might need, and was convicted hearing a message on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. My brothers and sisters here don’t need my wisdom or experience as much as we all need more of Christ. We’ll talk about the leadership of the church or the best ways to be the family of God in this culture, but more than that I want us all to continually be renewed in the good new of Christ’s death on our behalf and His victory we get to be swept up in.

I’m loving preaching. I’ve gotten to speak four times at Cornerstone so far and I’m excited to see God continue to grow me and be faithful to grow the church through His Word.

Fall is different in Albania than Ames. There are fewer brilliant Fall colors, fewer Pumpkin Spice flavored things (none. they don’t even know what to do with pumpkins), fewer familiar signs of fall, and fewer familiar faces to enjoy the season with. On the bright side, we’re learning to love our brothers and sisters here, we got to see some beautiful Fall colors in the Alps, and we may actually have a couple of Thanksgiving celebrations in store for November.


Prayer Requests

  • God to work in students’ lives during the outreach, drawing them to Him and community
  • Unity with our Albanian team mates
  • God’s help learning Albanian (we started classes!)
  • Patience and trust in God’s timing as we continue to grow with the church
  • The Spirit to be present during our weekly church gatherings
Fall is Here

Questions and Answers pt. 1

Here is a list of answers to what, I’m sure, are your most pressing questions.

  1. Yes, Elena has bought multiple plants from multiple locations, and has dreams for more and more.
  2. No, Nathan has not yet found his favorite coffee shop, but he’s exploring!
  3. Yes, Nathan has found two different ways to make coffee at home.
  4. Yes, we have found (and consumed) Nutella already.
  5. Yes, we are enjoying the city-wide afternoon nap time.
  6. Yes, afternoon nap time does mean all kinds of shops randomly close down some time after 12 and may or may not reopen for the day.
  7. Yes, there are still all kinds of random men yelling at each other across the street during nap time.
  8. No, the dogs fighting, barking, and chasing cars in the middle of the night outside our window haven’t woken us up too much.
  9. Yes, we have made friends with certain shop keepers who are gracious with our sparse Albanian.
  10. Yes, we did appreciate the verses left in our apartment from the summer team gals.
  11. AND Yes, Michael Collins, we did appreciate the gum wrapper art you left in our place.
  12. Yes, we are learning all the vital survival phrases, like “cow dad cow” which actually translates to something like “for generations.”
  13. No, our internet and hot water are not that reliable, but it’s a work in progress.
  14. Yes, our water is free because our building hasn’t gotten water meters for some unknown reason.
  15. Yes, Nathan may have already given himself a stomach bug from eating street food.
  16. Yes, we are loving it here.
Questions and Answers pt. 1

Home Sweet Home

Hello all,

We officially live in Shkoder, Albania! Don’t try to look us up in the phone book – we literally do not have an address. Our building does not have a number. Neither does our apartment.

That’s just how things work around here.

To apply for things like internet, that usually require an address of some kind so the guys installing it can actually come to your house we needed to tell them the neighborhood (by the theater) and give them a number so we could guide them our way.

When we found the workmen they were casually drinking a coffee across the street and said they’d be up as soon as they were finished. It’s strange to take so much joy from simply getting an internet connection. That was just one slice of a long, good day.

Elena and I spent the day drinking coffee with the Albanian team we’re working with, seeing bears, monkeys and owls at a sketchy zoo, exploring little disorganized trinket shops (so I can try out my Albanian and Elena can make our house wonderful), and spending an awesome night again with the team eating dinner and playing an Albanian version of “Spoons.” It feels like we’ve done so much in just one day, and yet we’ve had good time to rest, refresh, and “have a coffee.”

It’s hard to describe the pace of life here, hard partially because we don’t really know what life will be like when the semester gets started. It’s also hard because there is so much texture to describe, so many layers of joys, frustrations, tastes, smells, sounds, and a good dose of jet lag. Albania is like other places I’ve been before – the markets remind me of corners of Jordan, the stray dogs remind me of Latin America – and yet totally new and beautiful.

Today I had incredible joy using the word “little” with an Albanian plant shop owner, which I just learned this morning. Elena now has three plants to start her collection, and is feeling more at home in the city and with the team. Already her uncanny ability to map out the city in her head is coming in handy. With her skills in navigation and mine in cross-language banter I think we’ll make a life of this yet!

Keep your eyes on Elena’s facebook page for more pictures of our place and the city. 11150968_10207758419976696_3600589921765350300_n 10669044_10153715083714789_5430094283555212462_o

Answered Prayers

  • We’re already feeling at home!
  • We’re loving Gusti, Visa, and the team!
  • We’re making progress in Albanian

Please continue praying for us

  • I’m preaching twice in the next few weeks – on September 20th and October 4th.
  • That we’d continue to understand more and more Albanian by the day
  • That God would give us good connections with community people in Shkoder

We love you all and are so thankful for your friendship, support, and prayers!

Home Sweet Home

Days Away

Hello all,

We’re finally just days away from getting on the plane and starting our new adventure in Albania.

It’s been weeks of goodbyes, third-to-last and second-to-last farewells and now we’re on to final last-for-a-whiles and farewells.

We had an incredible time at the Salt Company kickoff last week where once again God both brought crazy amounts of people and held off the rain.

Then, we had an incredible time at the first Salt Company of the year at Cornerstone. Afterwards we went out with the Salt staff where we had a few near-tears goodbyes.

We’re still a couple of days out, but our bags are packed and we’re ready for a big weekend of both seeing a bunch of family and trying to stay sane, healthy, and calm for our move.

If you’re around Cornerstone Church in Ames on Sunday we’d love for you to come say goodbye in person. If you can’t see us there, feel free to email or facebook us your goodbyes! You can always stay up on our adventures right here.

If you’re praying, here are some things to keep on your radar:

  • A great time with family this weekend
  • Health as we travel (I’ve got a cold and Elena’s got stress/travel stomach issues)
  • Culture shock as we hit a great and unknown new place

We love you all, we’ll miss you dearly, and we’re ready to be with our brothers and sisters in Albania!

Days Away