I’ve sat down to write this blog about 6 times now. I’m still in disbelief that this is somehow September!
We’ve spent summers in Serbia before (2017, 2018), and we’ve been to Croatia before (same years), but for some reason, coming home this time to Novi Sad really sealed the reality that this is where we live now. I know, I know… it’s obvious to everyone else, but we keep finding ourselves surprised by our new normal. Even Anorah said, “It’s weird that we’re not flying back to America after this.”
School started today, and that was another landmark for us. Everything is different here, of course. The girls are in a private school called “Clever School” that offers Serbian/English and Serbian/Russian programs, so they are taking half of their courses in English and half in Serbian. We felt like this was a great first step for them to make friends, learn Serbian, and still get the education they need. We may pivot to homeschool or maybe even public school at some point (not sure what the rules about that are, yet), but for now, they’re enrolled in a “Cambridge Program” in class 2 for Vienna and class 3 for Anorah. Annabelle is currently taking three classes through the University of Nebraska High School (online) so she can remain accredited in case she wants to graduate from Bennington High School or attend an American public university. Since we can’t see into the future, we’re doing our best to make open-ended decisions that allow for as much flexibility as possible over the next few years.
As I mentioned in our last post, the fall promises new rhythms – Lifegroups, a women’s group, and regular worship/prayer nights in addition to weekend services at our three Lifegate campuses here in Serbia. We’re looking into the best time to travel to Skopje, Macedonia, and there are several other things on the horizon, including hosting teams from America (one is coming in November!) and possibly receiving a couple of Lifegate Co-Lab residents for Summer of 2023 (very much in the “early discussion” phase). Depending on permits and financing, construction on the new Novi Sad campus should begin sometime in the next 9-12 months, so that’s exciting. All of this in addition to twice-a-week Serbian classes for Kurt, Annabelle, and myself, Kurt’s work here, and continuing to partner with our team and facilitate communication with Lifegate’s Central team in Omaha.
This summer has been a huge growth experience for all of us. I think traveling (of any kind, but especially in foreign cultures) really exposes things in each of us – similar to the way a fast does. We get shaken out of our comfort zones, routines, thinking frameworks, and preferences, and if we yield to the Lord in these times, He is faithful to show us what is of Him and what needs to be set aside. There are so many things we unconsciously cling to for comfort and reassurance, and while those things aren’t necessarily bad, sometimes they take up more space in our hearts than they need to.
I think about Hebrews 12:26-29 (paraphrased) where God says He will “once and for all” shake the systems of the world and the unseen powers of the heavenly realm, so that “only what is unshakeable will remain.” In context, this speaks to God’s righteousness and judgement, but it also speaks to an ongoing process in each of us as we are transformed into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). The author of Hebrews goes on to write, “Since we are receiving our rights (our inheritance) to an unshakable kingdom we should be extremely thankful and offer God the purest worship that delights his heart as we lay down our lives in absolute surrender, filled with awe. For our God is a holy, devouring fire” (emphasis mine).
Our family is operating in 3 cultures at once – our American culture (what feels hard-wired because of the part of the world where we grew up), our new Serbian culture (to which we are acclimating), and the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven, which supersedes both. And it’s a lot. lol But as we lay down our lives, we know He is working something in and through us that is far beyond anything we could ask for or imagine. ❤
But, also, it’s SO GOOD for us, right? Like a fast. It’s painful and difficult sometimes, but so, so good.
This past week, we took a little family vacation to the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia – just to unplug and regroup and reconnect as a family after a busy, transition-filled summer. It was so good to just take every day as it came, see an ancient part of the world (4th century AD in some cases!) and enjoy one another. We realized we need to do this every so often – Kurt and I in particular – so we can continue to remind ourselves that we are a family team doing our best to obey God and repositioning that focus as our highest priority.
Some things to pray about if you are the praying sort:
- We have some work to do for visas. Kurt finally got a step-by-step instruction list of a LOT of paperwork in order to set up his firm and register our family under his business visa, so we can stay longer and not have to leave the country every 90 days to renew our tourist visas. Pray for clarity, favor, and grace as we continue to work on this process.
- Pray for schooling for the girls and this massive adjustment from all they’ve known. Pray for us to have a supernatural ability to grasp the Serbian language and not feel fear when attempting to speak aloud. (I can write fairly accurate sentences, but when I’m on the spot, I always default to broken English lol)
- Pray for continued provision and favor. We set aside some of our own money for things like vacations and personal expenses, but the up-front cost of moving here was significantly more than we’d planned in terms of buying a car, paying 6 months of rent up front, and registration/tuition fees for all three girls. We were able to cut our monthly living expenses back from $5k/month to around $3k/month, but prices for everything have gone up all over the world, and gas/utilities are very expensive. So we’re continuing to trust God for provision along the way. He’s been SO faithful and you all have been SO generous. So thank you!
- I (Emily) have had some personal adjustments to make in terms of making sure I’m continuing to care for my own mental health, and while I’m functioning so much better than I was in the US, my C-PTSD/MDD didn’t just vanish when we moved here. So please continue to pray for God to move and heal and help me find avenues to support ongoing care.
We love you all, and I’ll try to continue to keep you all updated as we go! We couldn’t do this without you – we wouldn’t want to! So thank you for your ongoing support and prayers. We feel each and every one. Thanks for joining us on this journey. I don’t mean that in an abstract way – I mean we really feel you coming along side us. And we hope someday soon you can literally join us in Serbia. You won’t regret it, I promise. 🙂
Blessing and love from our home to yours!
Kurt, Emily, and the girls
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