A Visit to the City
When Joshua woke up to the bright sun shining through the curtains, he saw Rebecca already dressed and reading something.
“What is that?” Joshua asked.
“It’s a note from Mom and Dad. I found it in the bottom of my suitcase. There are pictures from Peter and Samuel. You must have some too hidden in the bottom of your suitcase.”
Joshua dug down to the bottom of his suitcase and pulled up a pile of papers.
“These are so fun. Let’s ask to write an email to tell them thanks.”
Rebecca and Joshua quietly opened their door out into the main room. The grown ups were all awake and sipping tea or juice.
The kids showed off their letters and pictures and got permission to write an email.
“What do we get to do today?” Joshua asked eagerly.
“Well, we do have something planned. How about a bus trip into the city?”
“Yes! I’ve never been on a bus!” Joshua jumped up as if they would leave that moment.
“Well, good,” Mr.Taylor laughed. “Your grandpa and I will stay home and get some work done. Mrs. Taylor will give the rest of you a bit of a tour.”
Mrs. Taylor picked up where Mr. Taylor stopped. “We should get going in about half and hour. We’ll eat breakfast and then walk up the hill to the bus stop. I have bread ready for our breakfast so we can eat as soon as everyone’s ready.”
The family gathered and blessed the food and began to pass the fresh bread around the table. They were rolls shaped like crescent moons and filled with jam.
After breakfast the men volunteered to clear the table. Grandma Kay and Mrs. Taylor got kisses as everyone headed for the door. Susanna got to ride in a backpack. She giggled from her perch.
The group walked up hill to the bus stop at the end of the street. There was no way of knowing it was a bus stop. There were no signs, benches or other markers. There were two men waiting there as well.
The first bus that came zoomed past without stopping. Mrs. Taylor let them know that bus wasn’t the number they needed. The next bus slowed to a stop with a loud screech. Mrs. Taylor ushered the kids and Grandma Kay in first and then followed. She paid the driver and joined the others in a row of seats along the wall of the bus. Mrs. Taylor handed Grandma Kay a ticket.
“May I please hold my ticket?” Rebecca asked.
“You don’t get a ticket. Kids get to ride free. You won’t have to pay for a couple of years yet.”
Rebecca looked around at everyone else holding their ticket. She hoped she really didn’t need one as Mrs. Taylor explained that sometimes policemen got on the buses to check for tickets.
Each time as a stop neared people stood and made their way to the doors. They had to hold onto the seatbacks to keep from falling. At each stop several people would get off and others would get on.
The children watched the people on the bus. They watched the teenagers and the old men. They smiled at the other children, who didn’t smile back but stared instead.
Finally Mrs. Taylor said their stop was next.
“It’s too dangerous to stand up before the bus stops. There are others standing so the driver will stop for them to get off. When the bus stops, head for that door there.” Mrs. Taylor pointed to the middle set of doors. The bus had three sets.
The bus screeched and stopped and Mrs. Taylor acted as mother hen and kept everyone together and got them out the door.
“The drivers aren’t very patient here. I got you out first to make sure they didn’t close the doors on any of you. It happens sometimes.”
Rebecca’s eyes were wide thinking about getting shut into the bus with her family already on the outside. She was thankful for Mrs. Taylor’s knowledge and experience.
The kids had been so focused on the bus that they hadn’t noticed the tower looming up next to them. Joshua was the first to notice.
“Can we go up there?” He pointed to the walls of an old stone fortress which sat on a hill in downtown Skopje.
“That’s exactly where we are going.”
The children felt like soldiers marching across the drawbridge. They stopped to look down into the moat which no longer had any water in it. The children ran their fingers along the stone wall as they passed through the huge gate.
“You are free to run ahead if you like, kids. We’re going to head down this path here.” Mrs. Taylor pointed along a walkway.
The kids ran until they reached a circular tower.
“Let’s go ask if we can go inside,” Joshua said.
Rebecca was the first to turn around and dart back to the adults.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Taylor,” Rebecca started when she got their attention. “Can we go in that tower down there?”
“You can go in carefully. Stay inside though. You can walk right out through the doorways in the tower out onto a ledge, but don’t. There are no railings to protect you from accidentally falling. From inside the tower you can look out over city.”
“Should we wait for you, Grandma?”
“Yes, why don’t you.”
“Okay.” Rebecca smiled at her Grandma and thought about how neat it was they were here together all the way in Macedonia.
“Joshua!” Rebecca called to her brother. “Let’s go along these stepping stones.”
The pair counted as they skipped from stone to stone up to the wall. Joshua thought of a question and turned back leaping from stone to stone.
“What are those little windows for in the wall? They are hard to see out of, but I know I’ve seen pictures of castles with those same things.”
“They aren’t for looking out. That’s why they are so small,” answered Mrs. Taylor. “They are called arrow slits. They are for shooting out arrows. They are small so arrows can’t shoot back in. This fortress is nearly 1500 years old. Over the years it’s been rebuilt and added to. Let’s go up in here first and look out over the city.”
Everyone walked up the few steps into the circular tower. There were three open doorways where they could look out. The kids looked out of each one wondering what it looked like more than 1000 years ago. It must have been very different from what they could see now. Out one doorway they could see the tall downtown buildings. Out another window they saw the Vardar River. Through the third window they saw red roofs crowded together and counted seven tall skinny towers popping up above the houses.
“Each one of those things you see sticking up is a minaret. A minaret is part of a mosque,” Mrs. Taylor explained when she noticed the children looking in their direction. “Do you know what a mosque is?”
“It’s where Muslims worship their god.” Rebecca knew the answer. “It seems like a lot of mosques,” she sadly noted.
“There are new ones being built. And new churches being built, but not many that glorify God. There’s a lot of work to be done here.”
Mrs. Taylor saw the kids glum faces.
“But nothing is impossible for our God!” Mrs. Taylor turned the children to face her. “He can do all things. You can make a big difference too. Pray for Macedonia every day. Pray for our family too and for more workers to come and share the good news about Jesus!”
Rebecca and Joshua nodded, “We will.”
“Good. Let’s do some more exploring.”
Grandma Kay put her arm around Rebecca as they walked down the stairs of the tower. They walked all around the fortress and finally back out across the drawbridge.
The tour continued with a picnic lunch on Mount Vodno. On the top of the mountain was an enormous cross that was lit at night. They spread their picnic blanket out halfway up the mountain in the middle of a pine forest. Susanna was happy for the chance to crawl around and play.
The bus home was more crowded than the way there. Several people stood to make room for the children and women to sit down. Grandma Kay was thankful for her seat. She thought to pray for the city as she watched it go by out her window.
The group made it home in time for Susanna to take a nap. Grandma Kay thought a nap sounded like a good idea too. Rebecca and Joshua talked about the morning as they wrote down all they could remember in their notebooks.