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

Scenes from Month One

I know you all are expecting some really accurate photojournalism of life in Albania and I promise you, as a photographer I am dedicated to this.  You know, sometime. But at the moment, we are taking the culture in with phone pictures of things that make us giggle. And we figured you might want to giggle too.

You can scroll through the full-size gallery by clicking on any image.

I will leave you with one last surprise we met as we happened upon our local roundabout.

Just a guy and his bear.
Just a man and his bear.
Scenes from Month One

The Blog Post That Got Messed Up

Its been a little bit since we blogged. We had about 2 weeks to get settled into our place and start regular meetings with the team here to plan for the year, and then this past week we hung out in Tirana. Sickness has made us have to slow down. We haven’t experienced any serious long lasting sickness, but it seems every other day one of us is struggling with some head, tummy, or throat issue. We are looking forward to being at 100% 7 days a week instead of 3 or 4.

I started to write that so far, 3 weeks in, we are still smiling, still laughing, still taking everything in stride. And then that night I had a real moment where I wasn’t. We had gone out for dinner for our date night and talked about all the good things and some of the frustrating ones, but even then we were still encouraged with where we were. And then the pins began to drop. I came home to find that all the photos I was putting into this post had not uploaded and had error messages. I tried to re-upload them and the internet wasn’t working. Then when the internet was back on, the upload failed again. And again. And then I remembered that I hadn’t been able to download zipped files correctly either, and I wanted to throw the computer across the room. (Just a side note– technology and I don’t get along).

Then I went to check on the laundry, where I was (foolishly) trying to get some denim stains out of my white canvas purse (said purse also has leather parts). I had done this before on a quick laundry setting, but it hadn’t pulled all of the stain out so I tried again on what I thought was a stronger and better setting. Did I mention our washing machine is in Italian? I pulled it out to find the denim stains replaced with tan leather stains, the leather bottom depleted of all life and color, and the leather straps starting to twist and stiffen. And this was the last pin to drop.

I got so upset at being THWARTED in everything that I just went and laid on the bed and cried. The crying didn’t last very long because, well, its just a purse, but it was one of the first times the struggles of living overseas had built to an emotional point. But thankfully God gave us (me) perspective pretty quickly and I could see some of the silliness of it all. I actually found a way to fix the leather bottom by conditioning it with oils and just accepted the new (not white) color of the canvas, and then this morning the stiff leather strap snapped in half. So there’s a new challenge 🙂 Said purse before and after:


Looks like someone needs to learn how to use a washing machine. Oh, and an oven (which is only half installed, btw). And a car (whose button decals have rubbed off and the manual is in Italian). And maybe even a microwave (which has no words, only symbols).

Pray that we will still be able to laugh these things off and not let them burden us as we continue to adjust to life here. Pray we would lean on God in those moments, not on our own ability to fix ourselves and the problems. Pray that God would get us to 100% health very soon. Thank God with us that we are loving this place and these people!


The Blog Post That Got Messed Up

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

Hello Friends!

Congratulations. You have found the correct website. This is where we (the Kaloupeks) will be posting news, updates, and stories about our time abroad. Feel free to interact with our posts and send us emails as well–we will miss you lots and need encouragement along the way! Okay, lets do this.

Hello Friends!