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An enjoyable and educational time in Macedonia

by Rev. Nancy Pullen, Pastor of Fonda-Fultonville and Salem-East Stone Arabia UMCs, New York

Although we may not often think about it, the United Methodist Church is international, with churches all over the world. Last fall, I learned of an opportunity to spend some time in the Republic of Macedonia, visiting some of our churches there. It turned out to be an enjoyable and educational time.
Primetimers at special needs school
One day we participated in a Meals on Wheels program sponsored by the church. We rode in the delivery van and met some of the food recipients. I considered it a special privilege to be welcomed into their homes and got some background on how folks actually live in the community. As part of our own volunteering, we sorted beans and peeled potatoes for upcoming meals. Later we ate the beans in a delicious stew.

The Republic of Macedonia is a country about the size of Vermont, located on the northern border of Greece, between Albania and Bulgaria. It has been a mission field of our denomination for about 150 years and has several United Methodist churches. We visited a small corner of the country, hosted a United Methodist missionary who directs Christian Education for 12 churches. We worshipped with 3 of those churches and visited 7 others, meeting pastors and lay leadership.

The missionary, Carol Partridge, makes the church in city of Strumica her home base. Since she was our leader, this city was our base of activity too. We visited Orthodox churches and monasteries in and around the city and learned about life in the area.

Part of Carol’s work is teaching English as a second language in local schools and with youth at the church. Some of us visited a local public school and talked with the students. Others, including myself, visited a government-run residential school for special needs children.

We also walked around the city, shopped in local stores and at flea markets, ate in local restaurants and generally got a feel for life in Macedonia. For a few days we traveled to a resort area on a beautiful lake and at the end several of us spent 4 days in the Greek state of Macedonia as just plain tourists, following Paul’s mission work and learning about Alexander the Great.

When I travel like that, one of the results is a greater understanding of other people and of my place in this big, complex world. I hope this informs my ministry in Salem and in Fonda-Fultonville.

Shalom for now,
Nancy