Lynette Hoppe on the Advantages of Having Children in a Foreign Land
When I disembarked from the plane onto Albanian soil that day in March 1998, I was unprepared for the touch of icy wind and the lightly falling snow that greeted me. Clasped in a baby carrier at my breast was my three-and-a-half-month-old baby, Tristan, who was just recovering from an ear infection.
Expecting the first signs of emerging spring in Albania, I was not prepared for wintry weather. Thus, I had no warm coat or cap for Tristan, and had only a lightweight blanket at hand with which to wrap him. As we crossed the landing strip and headed for the terminal, a solicitous fellow passenger wound a scarf around Tristan’s head.
That first night in Albania was miserable. The temperatures were far below normal, and the dampness and chill in a room barely improved by an electric space heater made for little sleep. Anxious that Tristan not catch cold, I bundled him warmly, pulled a cap on his head, and settled him in the bed between my husband, Nathan, and myself. Tristan was fine that night, but I shed many tears.
As I recall those first, uneasy days in Albania, I have to laugh a bit. My nervousness stemmed from a combination of new motherhood, uncertainty about health care available for an infant, the newness of Albania, and the miserable, never-ending rain and cold weather.
Nonetheless, despite my fears, I never questioned the rightness of our coming to Albania, nor the timing of our arrival. And I have never regretted raising a child in Albania, not only because Nathan, Tristan, and I are a missionary family, but also because I have found that children are an invaluable asset in missionary work.
Albanians love children, especially babies, and they are very demonstrative with their affection. Tristan, who is almost two years old now, has barely passed a day in Albania in which he has not been kissed, had his cheeks pinched, his legs shaken, or his nose tweaked. Being almost two, he most adamantly dislikes the pinching and prodding, but this seems to serve as little deterrent to his admirers.
Tristan has served as a bridge in so many relationships. Just by being a child, he invites a greeting and attracts attention. This has helped Nathan and me to meet so many more people than we might have otherwise, had we been childless. It has opened doors into our neighbors’ homes and has eased some of our awkwardness with the language. During the Kosovo crisis this past spring, when Nathan was making frequent visits to refugee homes, he often took Tristan, who served as a wonderful focal point and eased the language barrier.
Although my primary responsibilities as a missionary relate to being a homemaker and a mom, I do spend about fifteen hours each week working in the publications office of our church. A graphic designer by profession, I have been able to assist in producing calendars, brochures, logos, newsletters, and other printed materials needed by the church. I thoroughly enjoy this work, but it would be impossible for me to participate in it were it not for the help of a very fine Albanian woman, Shpresa, who has looked after Tristan since he was four months old.
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