So as I sat on a plane in Slovenia getting ready to fly to Macedonia I thought, this is my favorite part of my job, going somewhere totally new and not knowing what to expect. When I arrived in Macedonia I was surprised how much it reminded me of Slovakia. Even the layout of the airport felt familiar. I was in Macedonia for the Southeastern Europe Field Conference in order to interview people from all over the region while they were all collected in the same place. The Southeastern Europe region is made up of 12 countries: Macedonia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Romania, Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Herzegovina, and Croatia.
Everyone we interviewed that week had a good story to tell, but there were a few that really captured my attention. For example, we interviewed people that had come from a Muslim background and they still had not told their families that they converted to Christianity out of fear of shaming their family or being disowned. I cannot fathom my family disowning me for anything I had done or could do. Losing my family would not just mean there are 3 less people in my life, but it’s like losing my history, security, friends, love, and identity. My family helped shape who I am. When I heard some of these stories I felt fortunate to have a family that loves me no matter how different our opinions may be. Those who accept Christianity knowing the consequences inspire me. It made me wonder what price would I pay for my faith? Could I give up my family to follow Jesus?
Other than our interviews, most of the time at the conference was spent in seminars. I enjoyed some of the seminars, but I preferred the time spent getting to know people. At the end of the conference there was a unique moment during the talent show when each country representatives sang a folklore or their national anthem. Romania sang their national anthem, which was adopted when they formed their independence from communist rule in 1989. It was strange to think of communism, as something so real when before it seemed so distant and foreign. The Romanians were so proud to be able to sing their national anthem. It was quite amazing to hear about the turmoil that some of these countries have faced and are still facing.
I listened to one of the Kosovo believers talk about the struggle of not being recognized as a country. My ignorance of this big world continues to amaze me. We continued our conversation as we went into the city of Strumica to get some b-roll footage (alternate footage that intercut with the main shot in an interview or documentary. For example, if the interviewee says I love PB&J sandwiches and then there was a separate shot of PB&J sandwiches that would be the b-roll footage). One Kosovo guy I talked to was an English major and also had started a Political Science degree. He told me that he hopes to work for the Kosovo Embassy one day. I foolishly asked him if he wanted to leave Kosovo and live in a more, well, stable country. He said he loves and respects his country and wants it to prosper and that is why he wants to work for the UN, in order to serve Kosovo and help make a difference in his country. I was fascinated with the respect he and the other Kosovars had for their country. I believe that too many times people complain about their country, but never make any effort to change anything. I wondered if due to Kosovo’s recent struggle for independence is why they had such national pride. I found that to be very admirable.
At the end of the conference I was glad to be getting out of the hotel and going to Bulgaria, but sad to leave these amazing people I had just met. Everywhere I have gone and everyone I have me seem to affect my life in a way that I will never be able to recover from. For that I am thankful.