It has been almost three weeks now since my dear friend Tamara went home to the Lord. It feels so strange, like a reality I push away as I do not want to accept that I will not see her again on this side of life. And then it is this ray of joy and peace knowing that she is with the Lord,her race has finished and she has entered into God’s rest, in the most secure and glorius place.
I do not remember when was the first time I met Tamara. She and Adam came to Albania back in 1993-1994, right after the fall of Communism. I was a young believer. I had started to go to the student movement, but believe me that at that time I had not realized or totally grasped the magnitude of accepting Christ. I heard more about her though after I joined staff. She had left a significant mark on the first two Albanian staff women, whom she trained, but not only.
One of them would describe her as someone who was very committed and passionate about evangelism. Another one as the brave woman who followed God to a country that was poor and did not have the comfort of her home, but still gave her such joy and happiness to be there, because she knew she was where God wanted her to be.
Tamara also was known for her discipline and punctuality. I had heard about her famous saying: “Don’t be sorry, just be on time”
We Albanians are very relaxed when it comes to time, we are not oriented toward the clock, and that makes it difficult for us to be punctual. I will explain you why. We are very relational, and while I leave home to go somewhere believe me I will stop and talk at least to 10 people on the way. We share this common understanding between us, but we can be a pain in the nerve for other cultures. And yet, Tamara demonstrated to me that she was a learner, since the first “official” meeting we set together, in 2012 or 2013 when she came to Albania.
I was in a hurry and worried to be on time. I do not remember if I made it on time. But she was there smiling, very relaxed and peaceful and said: “Ah Rudi, don’t worry. You know, I lived in Albania. It is totally fine for me if you would be 20 minutes late”. That caught me by surprise. But I learned that while in Albania, she had decided to love the people and the country she was called to, and to embrace the cultural difference as part of her mission to bring the good news of God’s unconditional love to us.
And later that week as we invited Adam and Tamara at our place, I saw how easy it was to connect with her. She had this beautiful smile that reflected her soft spirit. We laughed a lot during that dinner.
When Kejdis and I joined their team, I asked Tamara to mentor me. That was a huge step for me. Why? Because I knew from the begining that Tamara was disciplined and she would not throw a pity party for me, but would not let me comfortable in my zone, she would challenge me to do what I would say I would do. And that was what I liked about her. She was committed, faithful, disciplined, wise and truthful. And during the three years of our mentoring relationship, I learned more about her soft side and her ability to understand, extand grace, love and sympathy with someone when they were hurting.
I felt comfortable to open my heart with her, to share my struggles. I remember one of our skype calls. I was struggling. I was not coping well with some of the changes that entered our life, when Kejdis accepted the new role. I was very tired because I was struggling with a cronic health condition and I had not adjusted to this new health reality in my life. So, I was not seeing clearly. I was scared. For the first time in our skype calls, I broke into tears. I will never forget that day, because I found in her a faithful friend who knew how to come down to where I was and lift me up in the Lord. She would faithfully walk with me in the journey of discovering and redefining my new reality through God’s eyes and not mine.
Today, on Thanksgiving, I want to thank God for Tamara, for her life and the many ways He used her. She was not a person that liked to do things outloud or wanted to be noticed, thus I was not surprised when I heard that at her funeral many people learned things that they did not know about her. She would listen more and speak less, but she had a sharp thinking, and she did her work with joy. She was a brave woman. She joined staff when the ministry in Poland was underground. She was brave to come to Albania right after Communism, when the country was still in chaos and very poor. She was brave to embrace her share of sacrifice during the years that Adam served as the Area GCM teamleader and he had to travel a lot and they lived in between two countries. She did not complain. And she was brave to follow God into the unknown, when they resigned from our team.
Because I believe that she took her strength by following the Lord. For her it was important to follow God’s leading. Doing God’s assigment for her, gave her joy!
I will miss my friend a lot. I can not imagine not seeing her again on this side of life. But I grieve with the hope that one day we will meet again, as those who have been forever redeemed by the blood of our Savior for a glorious enternity with Him!
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you many not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not proceed those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall raise first.
Then those who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore comfort one another with these words” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Till then, goodbye my friend!