It will be Thanksgiving soon for our friends and family at home in the USA. I know you are all probably sure of what I am thankful for today. I think this post will surprise you some though.
Our journey into Eastern Europe and the time spent with the people here have impacted us a great deal. One man, in particular, our driver and translator, Mitko (Meet Koe) has opened our eyes to this country and all that we have to be thankful for in ours. Mitko is a soft spoken, gentle, kind-hearted man. When Mitko talks you want to listen. As we travel and dine with Mitko, he shares about his country and his life. He talks of a childhood, where his favorite memories were time spent on his grandparents farm. He paints a beautiful picture of a loving God-fearing couple. He tells how his grandfather used to pray before meals, much the way that Marty and I take time to bless our food and give thanks to God for providing it. Then, he says that communism robbed most of this country of their faith. "Most of us are athiests, now."
You see, there are many in the USA, today, who would like the government to provide them with things free of charge. Mitko would tell you with great certainty that nothing comes free of charge. It has been an honor to see this country through Mitko's eyes. Mitko's grandparents and their neighbors were forced to leave their homes, so that the government could tear them down and build apartments. People were allowed only to own one one-bedroom flat/apartment and no more, regardless of the size of their family.
It is amazing to hear Mitko talk of his nineteen year old daughter and how she is going to University in Italy. On one hand the Dad wishes for a more traditional life for his daughter and on the other you can hear the pride in his voice. You can also hear the awe. At one time not too long ago, Mitko would have needed a special pass or permit from his government to travel within 10 miles of the border. Only the most trusted citizens were ever allowed outside of the country.
Mitko never mentions the end of communism without telling you exactly how long it's been since it ended. 22 years ago the communist reign ended here in Eastern Europe. Mitko doesn't estimate. He never says around 20 years ago, it's always 22 years, like he's counting the days since he was set free. That's exactly how he describes it, too. This new life without communist rule has been a struggle for this nation, but they are finding their way. They are enjoying their freedoms. They do not take these freedoms lightly. They value the ability and privilege to be able to work hard and carve out a place for themselves and for their children. Mitko often says that when under the communist reign people never had to think for themselves and so, even your thoughts are a new freedom here. Deciding where to go and when to go and what job you will work, all freedoms that we take for granted.
I want to remember to be thankful that I was born free. I know nothing different. My prayer is that we will not allow that to change for our country. That the few who would like to push us into socialism would realize that nothing in life is free. You will give up liberties that our forefathers fought and died to provide for us. We never want to be a recovering communist nation. So, today, I am thankful to be an American Citizen and I love the land of the Free and the home of the Brave.
We're praying for Mitko, that he would fall in love with Jesus. He is already such a blessing and a wealth of knowledge. He has seen so much and lived through so much. There is wisdom oozing out of him. Believe with us for Mitko's salvation and the restoration of his family and his country to the Kingdom of God.