Wednesday, April 15, 2015

She's here!



Dear loved ones! 

We are happy to announce that our little girl was born on April 8th, here in Vita's homeland, Lithuania! 
Eleonora Louise is healthy and doing very well as it Vita.  Eva & Oliver are crazy about their little sister and enjoy helping take care of her and giving her plenty of hugs and kisses! 

Our love and greetings to you! 
Sean, Vita, Eva, Oliver & Eleonora

Eva & Oliver meeting Eleornora for the first time!

Did we say they are crazy about her?!?

5 is better than 4!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Saturday, January 18, 2014

a little late, but still our heart wish for you!

We had a wonderful CHRISTmas with Eva & Oliver as well as with our church family.  Celebrating Christmas in a nation that knew no religion (or practiced no religion) for nearly half a decade during the communist era, is always special.  This year more than before we saw fellow believers realize that Christmas is truly a bigger celebration than New Year's (the largest for most here).  Without Jesus we would not have a new year!

May 2014 be a year of deeper understanding of Jesus' love for you!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Perfection or Honesty You Cannot Buy



We have two kids – a girl and a boy. So in the eyes of many we have reached the perfection, and should stop having children. When I was pregnant with Eva, everybody wished me a boy. When I was expecting Oliver – everybody still wished a boy. To attain the perfect duo, I suppose. And here we are – raising both a girl and a boy. Now, Albanians love sharing their opinions; with friends and strangers alike. So I should really stop getting surprised when some grandma on our first encounter honestly advises, “Be careful now. Don’t make more babies.” I love to tease them by expressing my liking of big families. In response they shake their heads with a confident, “Two is enough.” And maybe they are right, after all. If we had a third child and brought our perfect status quo to an end, there’d be no way back.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What Is Your Address?



Our address is boring; street name (Pandeli Cale was one of the signers of Albania's Declaration of Independence in 1912) and house number. Yet apart from the post office, barely anyone knows it. Street name signs reappeared throughout Albania only last year. So no wonder we had earlier rented a house "at Piro's square accross from the professor's" (Piro was a certain dissident, executed right there by the communism regime, thus the unofficial name, and the professor is still living there).

The other day I was browsing through an advertisement paper and amusing myself reading the addresses of some major appliances' stores throughout the country. A few of my favorites read: "Main avenue, "Xhevdet Neprevishta" neighbourhood" (in Lushnje), or in Elbasan: "Qemal Stafa" str., apartment building next to the former military base." (Mind you, these are large cities.) More often than not an address is "somewhere close to something former." So learning an address for a newcomer like me the enlightenment is double: I learn both where a certain store, office etc. is and, for instance, where a flour factory used to be.

With the advent of democracy in 1990, city planning in Albania went off the hook. Years later (some) illegally built structures were demolished, and some cities regained their shapes, yet others (like the capital Tirana) remain a maze.

The street name signs are in place, but if you want to find us in Korca, forget our address. You'll have more luck looking straight above the cinema (former cinema, to be more accurate), just below the water depot, and behind a tall green house. Alternatively, ask where a known writer Vangjush Ziko used to live or mention our neighbour's from across the street name.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

it's a boy!

it's our pleasure to introduce to you the newest member of our the Mason family

Oliver Kostas, born February 11, 2012 in Vilnius, Lithuania:

4.1kg, 54cm

Eva meeting her brother for the first time!

Eva is smitten with her brother!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

soon, very soon!

we are in Lithuania (Vita's homeland) counting down the days until baby #2 is born.  within the next week or two, we should be welcoming our newest son or daughter to our side of the world!  we will keep you posted...


Friday, September 16, 2011

The Concept of Queuing

It’s been three years since I, Vita, moved to Albania, and still every time before making a trip to the post office or to pay bills I must make a resolution not to educate people on waiting in queue. As I am often taking Eva with me, being with a huge stroller I stand at a respective (in the eyes of a north-European) distance. More often than not people think that I am just lingering there for the fun of it…

Recently, as I’ve complained to a lady about jumping the line in front of me, she apologized explaining, “I thought men were waiting on the right, and the women on the left.” (Whereas I was lost somewhere in between.) How strange, thought I, and quickly started recollecting my recent queuing experiences. To my surprise, in most cases I could picture men crowding on one side, and women – on the other. Could it be yet another sign of Muslim-rooted gender separation? I inquired a friend of this phenomenon. And yes indeed, she confirmed that during the communist times women and men would form two separate queues. And at that time there was a lot of waiting in lines.

Now who would have thought that there is some logic in the absence of a queue (despite the wide-spread queue jumping)!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May Newsletter 2011

please click on each page to view them in a readable size!








Monday, January 31, 2011

January 2011 Newsletter

(click on each newsletter page to view a larger readable version)


























Friday, January 14, 2011

would you like to support the translation and printing of a Bible in the Albanian language?

My wife and I have a dream: to see the "Jesus Storybook Bible" translated and published in the Albanian language.

This Bible for children is unlike any other Bible we have seen. From the amazing illustrations/pictures to the wording, it is simply brilliant. Beyond those, it is not simply telling Bible stories but each and every story, both from the Old and New Testaments, points to the main story of the Bible...our Savior and Lord Jesus!

Since I was introduced to this Bible a couple years ago, I have said it is my favorite Bible! We read this to our six-month old daughter and believe it would be an amazing resource for Albania.

Here is a description and a link to the website:

The Moonbeam Award Gold Medal Winner in the religion category, The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. At the center of the Story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David---every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle---the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the Story unfolds, children will pick up the clues and piece together the puzzle. A Bible like no other, The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God's great story of salvation---and at the center of their Story too.



Here is a link to what some think about this Bible: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2009/12/28/what-the-bible-is-not/

I have been in contact with the author as well with the owner of the international copyrights who is based in the UK. If anyone is interested I would love to discuss how we could partner to get this published in the Albanian language.

We have no experience of translating or publishing a book and our interest is not about anything other than getting this out as a resource for Albania. We strongly believe this is the BEST Bible for children we have ever seen...in all aspects.

Please take a look at the websites above and see for yourself how great this Bible is! Send us an email if you would be interested in partnering with us to get this published in the Albanian language!


Prayerfully hoping to see this published in Albanian,

Sean & Vita Mason
Mission Emanuel Church-Korce

Thursday, January 06, 2011

a belated Merry CHRISTmas & Happy New Year!


We hope you are all doing well and recovering from all the end of the year festivities! More so we hope that Christmas brought you deeper meaning in life through a greater understanding and awareness of Jesus who came to earth for us all. We hope too that through Him you have found greater hope for this new year!

We spent the 4 Sundays of December celebrating Advent with our church. Each Sunday we celebrate a unique theme to Christ's coming to earth. On December 24th, as a church we were blessed with the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with the residents at the local home for the mentally and physically disabled. Our church although though we have very little income was able to gift to the center a brand new clothes dryer. Although the center is run by the Albanian government, it receives only a small portion of all the support they need. We as a church have been learning to give generously as Christ gave so generously to us. We are learning to give even when we have little. We are learning to recognize the needs around us and give to those. We as a church do not want to exist for ourselves but to bless others and make a difference in the city of Korce. Finally, on December 26th we had our final Advent/Christmas service where the youth of the church lead us in Christmas songs and shared with us a drama they had prepared. After service we celebrated Christ's birth together by eating "petulla", a typical Albanian deep-fried desert, sort of donut like, served to friends and family at the birth of a newborn.

The New Year quickly approached and in Albania it is always the larger of festivals of the year. Of course it is a great time with family and friends and worth celebrating, but we always try to make our greatest celebration Christ's birth, whom without we would have no new year.

We wish you a happy new year and that more than ever before you would experience Jesus, the one who came to be God with us.

Much love and thanks to you for your prayers and generous support!

Sean, Vita & Eva Grace

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Place of Worship

The Orthodox like building churches. Big and small alike. The newest one in our city is a Church of St Panteleimon (Kisha Shen Pandelimoni). I was curious, who this saint was, and found out he was a Christian physician of IVth century, martyred for healing the sick by calling on the name of Jesus Christ. Great, I thought.

And then I kept on reading the recounts of his death: "Pantaleon's flesh was first burned with torches, whereupon Christ appreared to all in the form of Hermolaus (another saint) to strengthen and heal Pantaleon... Then a bath of molten lead was prepared; when the apparition of Christ stepped into the cauldron with him, the fire went out and the lead became cold... He was thrown to wild beasts, but these fawned upon him and could not be forced away until he had blessed them... An attempt was made to behead him, but the sword turned into wax and melted, and the executioners were converted to Christianity... It was not until he himself desired it that it was possible to behead him, upon which there issued forth blood and white liquid like milk."

In case you were interested, his head is located on the island of Andros, Greece, at the Panachrantos monastery, and, on occassions, is taken to other monasteries for veneration.

If you are looking for his icon to kiss, kiss one of "a beardless young man with a full head of curly hair."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eva is almost 4 months old now. She is a bundle of smiles and laughter. Already, she has become quite the international traveller, well in this part of the world it is not that difficult. She loves "talking" with people and being outside. (This pic is taken in Meteora, Greece. My parents and one of my sisters came for their first visit to Albania, so during the end of their trip we took a short tour through Northern Greece.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Story of a Woman

We all love hearing big success stories; water turning into wine, dead being resurrected, mountains moving... The big stories of the little people are brushed off. I’d like to share with you a vivid illustration of Albanian Gypsy culture, and an impressive example of courage and faith.

A lady, who I’ll call Ada, is in her early thirties, like we, but her life has been very unlike ours. An older sister to two brothers was born and grew up in Kor├ža. The smart girl truly enjoyed going to school, but when she reached 15, the parents decided to marry her off to a man almost twice her age. As it is common here, Ada moved in with her new husband and in-laws. Way too early she learnt the joys and hardships of the adult life. Barely 16, she gave birth to a baby-girl. Almost ten years later she had a son. A typical life of a poor Albanian Gypsy woman: marry early, raise kids and toil at home for the rest of your life. If you’re lucky, the in-laws treat you decently. But Ada wasn’t lucky. For an unassuming outsider, her husband creates an appearance of a quiet and nice person, yet his addiction to alcohol marred the life of the woman and her children. When he gets drunk, he turns violent.

Ada has been quietly suffering for years, as everybody in her family and neighbourhood would bluntly echo that we all must carry our own burdens. Years went by, Ada found Christ and peace in her heart, yet the abuse both towards her and the children only increased. As soon as Sean heard of her situation, he started encouraging the lady to find a place of her own, and promised the church’s support. It took over a year to work up the courage. She wasn’t wary of any revenge from her ex-husband. She had to fight a bigger monster called Culture. “What will people say?” too often towers above the wellbeing of your own children. In the people’s eyes, a woman leaving her husband commits a bigger crime than a husband, who instead of providing and caring for the family, wastes all the money on alcohol and constantly beats his wife and children.

First Ada moved in with her parents. They let her stay, but didn’t let her forget the shame she had brought on the family. Later, Ada’s brother with his family also moved into the two-room flat, and the living space became tight. Albanians don’t typically care about private space much, but the reproaches never really ended. “You just have to suffer,” they would tell her. “Everybody gets their share of suffering in life, and you must endure yours.” Even though both Ada’s in-laws passed away in the last year or so, and she had divorced her husband even longer ago, the culture wouldn’t let her get loose from the past.

Finally, Ada took her two children and moved out to a small two-room flat, leaving her parents and brother’s family more room, and getting more peace of mind. Working six days a week as a cleaner Ada makes a mere $120 a month. When I tried to convince her she should cook some meat for her anaemic daughter, I received a blunt reply, “Who can afford meat?”.

Ada’s determination is impressive. She has to fight the silent fight not only with the culture monster, but even with her own family in order to… protect her children from the abuse and provide them a safe and stable home! It’s difficult to be a single mother anywhere in the world, let alone in such a male dominant culture as Albania. Even more than Ada’s strong will I admire her trust in God – when she is stressed, tired, worried, when things seem hopeless, she chooses to rely on God and throw all her burdens on Him. She has some relatives in Greece and would love to emigrate. And I cannot blame her. Who wouldn’t want to escape the clutches of poverty and sometimes merciless culture? And unfortunately, her story is not really unique.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Eva Grace - born June 30th


We are so happy to introduce to you our first child, Eva Grace. She was born on June 30th here in Lithuania. Vita and Eva are doing fine, just adjusting to a new way of living together!


For all of you who like statistics:

weight: 3.676 kg
length: 53 cm
date of birth: June 30, 2010
time of birth: 2:35 am

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

waiting...


We are in Lithuania, which means we are on the brink of holding our little gift in our arms! We are waiting axiously, although the baby seems to be quite comfortable and content to stay in there. Just a couple more weeks to go...
Vita and the baby have been doing fine. Thankfully, both have been very healthy throughout the entire pregnancy. We will let you know when he/she is here!

Much love and thanks for your prayers and support!


Friday, April 09, 2010

a boy or a girl?

All around the world, people have multiple ways of determining whether a woman is expecting a boy or a girl. Of all the versions I heard so far, my favourite one is this: "If you are expecting a boy, you become more beautiful during pregnancy, if you are expecting a girl - well, that makes you more ugly." It makes me wonder whether this superstition is related to the preference given to boys in Albania.

Friday, December 18, 2009

December Newsletter

click on the images to view the newsletter in a readable size:




Tuesday, December 01, 2009

a special "newsletter" (a must read!)

Greetings!

Although you will be soon receiving a "normal" newsletter from us, we wanted to ask you to take a moment and read the attached newsletter and consider it prayerfully. One of the greatest things that Vita and I try to do here is champion the local Albanians we work with. Zhani & Vasilika are two of those Albanians!

Thanks for taking a moment to read and respond!

Much love,

Sean & Vita Mason

(click on the image below for a more readable version)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Small Venture

The sun finally showed up after a week of constant drizzling, and the blue skies were more than inviting. “Here’s a day to be spent outside”, decided I and undertook a task I had long been thinking about – cleaning a little square in front of our house. (Notably, there is a container to be found at the corner, yet the rubbish has a unique tendency to bypass it.)


With a bucket in hand and selfless thoughts of preserving our beautiful Earth, I commenced scanning the little grassy area to and fro. With the bucket No. 10 I stopped counting. The funds were not spectacular. And my dog kept on finding delicacies of bony substance even after the mission was over.


Some neighbourhood kids were hanging around. I shyly lifted my head to greet them and carried on my humble venture. As it is proper for a solitary hero, I didn’t request help. Yet out of the blue comes one teenager, takes his jacket off and eagerly starts piling all the trimmed grape vines. Later, his friend shows up and adds to the company. The professor living across the street (the only person I had earlier observed cleaning somebody else’s mess) joins the crowd as well. Now we attract not just the looks, but even the comments of the passer-by’s. Eventually even a local “bad boy,” who doesn’t do much throughout the day except for lingering and the selected corners of our block, grabs the shovel and gets to work.


I left smiling. Looking from our window, the square doesn’t seem any cleaner, yet unsolicited help made my day. I should venture out more often.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

August Newsletter


Sorry it took us so long to post this online!



Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Tree or Not a Tree?

They go by mules (enjoy the thistles, buddy!)

The mules go by packs

The stronger ones carry the logs

And no tree can resist a chainsaw

But can a sign "Holy Forest" do the trick? (As it did for this oak grove.)

Welcome to Mashkullore

Mashkullore in Albanian - masculine

The town on the road to a UNESCO heritage city of Gjirokaster tells more about the Albanian culture than you can imagine! Literary descriptions aside, let me share a few observations. Some weeks ago, passing by a posh new outdoors cafe in down-town Korce, I counted the customers. Roughly 50. Not a single woman. Not an uncommon view. (Korca has only one waitress.)

Woman at home, man at a club. A friend talks about the flat that her son (4 years old) is to inherit. Her 14 year old daughter didn't make it to the list of the heirs. 

Since the toddler years, the girls are being taught to serve; the boys are being taught to be served. 

A pregnant unmarried girl risks to be kicked out of the house and never accepted into the family again. Who would think there was also an impregnator involved? 

Never in my entire life had I seen such crowds of guys going for walks down the boulevard! They certainly outnumber the girls. 

Teenage girls don't go for an ice-cream without their parents' permission. Teenage boys are safe to wander out and about as they please. 

Abused wives are not welcomed to return to their parent's homes - divorce is a shame and the wife is always the guilty one.

Welcome to Mashkullore!

(I am not a feminist. And certainly there are many exceptions! But if you try to tell me my observations are untrue, you'll risk to achieve the opposite effect.)