June 2, 1999

Texas missionaries applying
biblical balm to wounded hearts

___SKOPJE, Macedonia--While NATO bombers fly noisily above Macedonia toward Kosovo, the Bible's message is quietly changing lives below.
___Three missionary families with Texas roots have been praying, listening and focusing the word of God on the shattered lives of Kosovar refugees while using donated money and goods to provide food, clothing, bedding and medicine.
___The missionaries, all serving under appointment of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, have asked Texas Baptists to provide clothing and toys for Kosovar refugees at Fort Dix, N.J., to be channeled through Raritan Valley Baptist Church in Edison, N.J. For specific details, call the church at (732) 287-5442 or send e-mail to RValleyBC@ aol.com. Earlier calls went out for clothing and shoes to be sent to a location in Skopje, Macedonia.
___For four hours recently, Texans Arville and Shelia Earl listened supportively as 18 members of an extended refugee family gathered around them in Gostivar, Macedonia, to share their stories of terror.
___Then, gradually, family members began to ask questions about Christianity.
___"That was a wonderful opportunity, because Muslims don't normally ask questions like these--and certainly not of Christians," said Arville Earl, who arrived in Dallas May 8 on a short home assignment with his wife at the missionary house of Wilshire Baptist Church.
___One family member asked the Earls for a Bible, saying he had searched for meaning in life but still had not found answers.
___"He was excited to get a Bible in his own language and began reading the book of John," Shelia Earl said. "What an open door! We pray the Holy Spirit will guide him to truth."
___The Earls moved to Gostivar from Skopje, Macedonia, less than two months before NATO bombs began to fall on Kosovo.
___"Many doors are opening, and the people seem to trust us in ways you would think would take months or years to happen," Arville Earl said.
___A man named Mejzin said he knew something was different about the Earls the first time he met them. "I want you to know," he told his new friends, "that if you have to leave your house you have another home to come to--ours."
___Meanwhile in Skopje, Texans Rick and Martha Shaw and Darrell and Kathy Smith have found the same response.
___The Shaws, using Bibles from the United Bible Societies, began what they believe to be the first regularly scheduled Bible study for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia.
___Over a period of several months, it has led to Rick Shaw baptizing at least two refugees and involving a growing number in church. A newly arrived refugee, overcome with gratitude, went to church with the Shaws on Easter Sunday to thank God for bringing him and his entire family safely out of Kosovo.
___"The Bible is a brand-new book for all the people in our Bible study," Rick Shaw said.
___"Eliza, a Kosovar refugee whom I baptized in December, loves this book. She has read the New Testament now three times, underlining passages and verses that she likes, doesn't like or doesn't understand.
___"Liria, an ethnic Albanian from Skopje, accepted Christ about three months ago. She finds the study aids included in this version, translated in Prishtina, Kosovo, very helpful."
___The missionaries, strained to the limit of their endurance by the overwhelming flood of refugees, have done what they can for them.
___"We can't do everything, but we can sit and listen to their story, hold a child, try to meet their physical and spiritual needs, and express our sympathy and compassion," Arville Earl said.
___"The hardest part has been to see the elderly suffer so much--not having a place to call home, seeing their children and grandchildren suffer, and many of them losing all their family at once," he said.
___"It's heartbreaking. At times like that, all you can do is be there and cry with them and ask God to comfort them."
___"We believe the best thing you can do for us," Rick Shaw said, "is to pray for God's sovereign will to be accomplished and that he will use (these events to) draw people to salvation through Jesus Christ."


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