The Big Day
Friday arrived and Grandpa Joe and Grandma Kay came for dinner as usual. Rebecca and Joshua had lots of questions for them.
Rebecca remembered to ask if the Macedonians really worshipped God.
Grandpa answered. “There are several churches in Macedonia where God is worshipped, but most Macedonians don’t really know God. They say they are Christians out of tradition.”
Joshua was next to ask. “Grandpa, do the Roma call themselves Christians?”
“Almost all the Roma in Macedonia call themselves Muslim,” Grandpa told them.
Samuel and Peter had questions too. Samuel wanted to know if the missionaries in Macedonia lived in huts. Peter wanted to know if they had ice cream in Macedonia. The answer to Samuel’s question was no. The answer to Peter’s question was yes.
“Grandpa Joe,” Rebecca said and waited for his attention. “The Roma don’t have their own country. They left India and split up and live in lots of different countries now, right?”
“That’s right, Rebecca,” Grandpa Joe encouraged. “You’ve been doing your research.”
Rebecca continued her question. “Are there Roma in America? Do they have Roma in the Congo where you were a missionary?”
“Well, Rebecca,” Grandpa began. “The Roma mostly live in Europe where Macedonia is. The Congo is in Africa, which of course you know because your mother grew up there. There aren’t many Roma in Africa except in the countries closest to Europe. There are Roma in America, though.”
Joshua had a question this time. “So the Roma just wandered around until they found homes?”
“In a way, yes,” Grandpa Joe answered. “For a long time the Roma just wandered the world. Many people don’t know that today they mostly stay put. Most people know the Roma as Gypsies, but that’s not the nicest word to use. Shutka, the village we are going to, is the largest Roma settlement in the world. That means more Roma live in one place there than anywhere else. There are about forty thousand Roma in Shutka.”
“Shootka,” Joshua repeated to himself.
The night ended with cake for dessert. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Kay got seven hugs each and said goodnight.
Saturday. Sunday. The weekend flew by. The shopping list was checked off. The packing list was checked off. Everything was ready for the big day.
Monday morning came and the house was buzzing. Baby Anna slept through the excitement. Grandma Kay was the first through the door. Grandpa Joe followed with a loud call, “We’re here!”
The suitcases were all set by the door. The family gathered around. Dad prayed for everyone’s health and safety. He prayed that Rebecca and Joshua would be a blessing to the Taylor family. He praised God for His faithfulness. “Amen,” the family chorused when he finished.
Rebecca and Joshua hugged their little brothers and their mom. Dad carried out the suitcases to the car. Mom held her hand over her heart as she watched Rebecca and Joshua climb into the car with their father and grandparents. It was an hour before Dad returned with an empty car.
“Are Rebecca and Joshua on the airplane now?” Samuel wanted to know.
“I want to see the airplane,” Peter started repeating, running to look out the window.
“I don’t think they are up in the air yet,” Dad said gently. “I couldn’t stay with them until they got on the plane. I stayed with them until they got their luggage checked.”
“What does ‘luggage checked’ mean?” Samuel asked.
“That just means they take the suitcases to put them on the plane,” Dad explained. “The man at the counter was surprised that Joshua was only eight years old but had traveled overseas before. He acted like an old pro.” Dad shook his head, chuckling.
“Well, Dad, now what do we do?” Mom asked with a sigh.
“Well, do you think you’re up for going out for ice cream?” Dad offered. “Or, would you like me to take the boys and you girls can relax here?”
“Ice cream sounds great,” Mom decided.
“Ice cream! Ice cream!” Samuel and Peter called out, jumping around the room. Rebecca and Joshua weren’t going to get ice cream, but they were just as excited. They were getting on the plane and settling into their seats. Rebecca sat next to Grandma Kay and Joshua sat on the aisle. Grandma Kay held Grandpa Joe’s hand as the plane took off into the sky.
After Rebecca and Joshua were served dinner on the plane, they started talking about what they thought it would be like in Macedonia and what they thought the Roma would look like. Joshua was the first to make a guess. “I think the Roma women will have their heads covered because they are Muslim. A lot of Muslim women cover themselves when they are outside.”
Rebecca disagreed. “I think they will look like the pictures we have seen of gypsies. The women will wear long, flowy, colorful skirts and will wear big gold hoop earrings.”
“I guess we’ll know soon,” Joshua said.
“I guess we will,” Rebecca replied.
Eight hours passed and while everyone on the plane slept, the plane started to land. Their plane didn’t land in Macedonia, though. It landed in Germany, another country in Europe.
“Why did we stop here, Grandma Kay?” Rebecca leaned over and asked her seat neighbor.
“There are no planes that go from America to Macedonia,” Grandma Kay explained. “There are planes from Germany to Macedonia though. One more plane ride and we’ll be there.”
“We get to go on another plane, Joshua,” Rebecca told her brother. She knew he would be thrilled. They had been on planes several times before, but planes always excited Joshua.
The grandparents and grandchildren sat together waiting to get on board their next flight.
“Grandpa Joe?” Rebecca turned to her grandfather.
“Yes, Rebecca?” Grandpa Joe looked eager to help.
“Could you teach us some words in Macedonian?”
“Well, I do know a little. I try and learn as much of the languages as I can in the countries I visit. And I’ve had to travel to lots of countries for my job at the missions agency. Here are two good ones to know. The first is zdravo, rhymes with bravo. That’s how you say hello. You try and say it.”
The kids tried to sound like Grandpa Joe. They said zdravo to each other and shook hands like they were really meeting each other and saying hello.
“What’s the second one, Grandpa Joe?” Joshua asked eagerly.
“To say thank you to someone you say fala. Like “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la…” Grandpa Joe started to sing to teach the kids how the word sounds and to help them remember it.
Rebecca got out her notebook she had packed and took notes.
“Do the Roma speak Macedonian?” Joshua asked his grandfather.
“They know the language,” Grandpa Joe began, “but in their homes they speak Romani, a whole other language.”
“Can you teach us some Romani?” Rebecca asked.
“No, I haven’t learned any of their language. The Taylors will be happy to teach you though.”
“Okay,” Joshua said and got out his notebook too. They wrote in what they had learned about the Roma.
People group: Roma
The family boarded their flight to Macedonia. Rebecca and Joshua looked around and wondered how many of the people were from Macedonia and going home and how many people were visiting like them. They sat quietly looking out the window as they took off from Germany and landed in Skopje, Macedonia.