Red Hot Peppers

October 20, 2009 - Leave a Response

I discovered that I am never going to get all my stories and pictures posted if I keep waiting to get them all edited and corrected. With our timeline of leaving Macedonia next Sunday for our OFA (Off-Field Assignment until the first part of January) I have been so busy getting everything completed so that all the work will continue while we are gone that I have gotten further behind in my Blog postings.

So I decided to just begin with current happenings and try to insert past stories and pictures as I complete them. I am going to try to make at least a weekly posting to this site. (Call it an early New Year’s resolution!)

Box of Peppers Ready For the Fire


Peppers Roasting over the Open Stove Fire

Last week was a busy week for women in Macedonia (Albanians and Macedonians alike). They put up peppers, cauliflower, carrots, etc. and made Ajvar (pepper sauce) to last until next winter. I went over to Habibe’s and made photos one of the days she was working. Jehona was helping her mother — and it was a good thing — because the next day as she finished and put the oven away for the year, it began to rain. If Habibe had not had help, she would have finished her work in the wet and the cold because the temperature dropped rapidly the next day — winter has arrived.

Here are more photos from the day’s event:



October 1, 2009 - Leave a Response

This past week I received a big surprise. Each month has a photography contest. I entered during the month of August and the photo was picked as an “Editor’s Pick”. Then I got a message in September that the photo had made it to the “Finalist” category.

I have been taking photography and creative writing classes on-line as part of my “Continued Learning” that CBF encourages in Field Personnel. This seems to be a very inovative concept – to develop the skills of personnel in a way that will enhance ministry opportunities. I cannot tell you how many people I have met and become friends with in Macedonia because of this one interest. It is amazing!


Anyway, I never thought much more about the contest. I look at it as having an opportunity to learn from other photographers – more than anything else. But this past week – this announcement came in my mailbox. So I am showing you what I received:

“Trust” SEarl Photography

Hi Shelia,

Congratulations! You have won Second Place in the Monthly Theme category of this month’s BetterPhoto photo contest! Way to go!

With over 22200 entries in the contest, it is a big honor to be selected among the winners.To see your winning image – Trust – and the other excellent winning photos, visit:
News Press Release:


Photographer Shelia Earl of Skopje, Macedonia has won Second Place for August in the prestigious photography contest sponsored by, the site’s founder, Jim Miotke, announced Wednesday.

More than 22200 entries were submitted to the online photography contest, which attracted contestants from around the world and featured 10 separate categories.

Earl’s stunning image, “Trust”, garnered top honors after being submitted in the Monthly Theme category.

All of the winning images can be viewed at’s contest page:

The contest is conducted each month. Categories include Nature and Landscapes, Animals, People, Elements of Design, Digital Darkroom, Travel and Place, Flowers, Details and Macro, Catch-All, and Monthly Theme.


Judging is performed by a panel of professional photographers. The contest are sponsored by


September 7, 2009 - One Response


Here are photos of the Schoolbag Distribution Day for our children from last year’s class at the “Future of the Family” kindergarten – free education to Albanian and Roma children who would not be able to attend school otherwise.


We gave out the schoolbags the day before school started, but as you can see in some of the photos, baby brothers and sisters came along so that they could see what
school was going to look like for them this year, too.

He is really not unhappy. It is just that he was telling me about his feelings of uncertainty as to whether he would ever like “regular” school as much as he liked going to the kindergarten. This look is priceless though, because I saw it on his face many times during the past year — mainly when he was uncertain about something.

Some of the mothers wanted their picture made with their child, too. I love this one. The mothers have been so involved in the school this past year. It is a great thing to see the whole family benefiting from the educational experience of the child.

Habibe couldn’t let this little one go away empty-handed, but she didn’t want all the other children to see what she gave her either.

What a great student this young man is!
I loved this closeup of him – and that slight grin on his face.
The day these photos were made, lots of children from the past 5 years came by to greet us. Every one of them said the same thing – in different words — “No other school can ever compare to this one. I love to come back every year to see the graduating students get their schoolbags for first grade.” I have to say, “ME, TOO!”

More pictures to follow in the next few weeks.

As Habibe says, “Once the new ones stop crying long enough to make their photos.” HA! I
It is the same story every year — it takes about 2 weeks for them to learn what is going on. After all, they have never been out of their own home/neighborhood before. This is a frightening experience at first. But I can also say that they will be crying by December 31 (when the New Year break begins) –at that time it will be because they have to miss school for 2 weeks of holiday!!

Back-To-Back Anniversaries

August 12, 2009 - 2 Responses

This Sunday, August 16, is our 40th Wedding Anniversary!!! We were talking this morning (over coffee) about all of our previous anniversaries — where we were, what we were doing, etc. It took a while, but we remembered some of the details of all of them.

All of our wedding photos are in storage in the States – so this is the only one that I had on the computer. I have included one of Arville at Normandy in 1981 which is the only one I have of him on the computer – closest to our wedding date. One of these days, we are going to be in the same location as all of these photos and I will have the time to put them all on the computer.


We both agreed, too, that it doesn’t seem like it has been 40 years since we finished that final semester of college, made wedding plans, and walked down the aisle. We may look it – but we don’t feel like we have been married 40 years. HA!


And then these photos were taken close to some of our other anniversaries (while we were in the States):


Now –the Back-to-Back Anniversary is that of Christopher and Amy.
Taken at Amy and Christopher’s wedding – our 27th Anniversary.
Amy and Christopher were married 13 years ago next Monday, August 17. Congratulations, you 2!! Happy Anniversary!

Amy with Her Dad

Amy and Christopher shortly after they married

Happy Anniversary, Arville. I love you & look forward to more wonderful years together.

A Bottle of Lotion & A Renewed Friendship

July 26, 2009 - Leave a Response

Arville and Adem Together Again after Ten Years

When Daniel and Earlene Vestal and their then-future son-in-law – Jordan – came to visit with us in 1999, we were in the midst of the Kosovo War coming to a close, and Albanians were preparing to leave the refugee camps. Since we had already begun regular visits to the large refugee camp Cegrane, near Gostivar, we invited the Vestals and Jordan to go with us to get a close-up look at the situation. On that day, we met one particular family and spent most of the day with them – listening to their stories of tragedy, uncertainty and yet irrepressible hope.

Cegrane Camp 1999

The Gashi Family: (left to right) Xhylferije, Shkendije, Adem and Blerim

Adem, Jordan, Blerim talking with Daniel

Arville, Blerim and Jordan inside the tent

Jordan, Daniel, Shkendije, and Earlene inside the Gashi Temporary Home

Visiting One Last Time Before Leaving
We were in the states at the CBF General Assembly a few weeks later when most of the families left the camps in Macedonia for home (at least what was left of home). The Gashi family was among those who journeyed back to Kosovo. When we made another visit to the camp we tried to locate them, but no one seemed to know where they had gone.
When we returned to Macedonia, we began working in the south of Kosovo — rebuilding homes, supplying tractors, food and clothing, plus medicines and vitamins for several villages.

This is what Prishtina looked like at that time

Daniel had left a business card with Adem (the father of the family) and the family wrote to him. They used the address of their former home, but since it had been destroyed during the war, they were not actually living there. The last time we were in the states and saw Daniel, he gave us their apartment address (they had moved there after returning and not being able to occupy their former property).

So we were able to talk to them several times on the phone since our meeting with Daniel in January. They wanted us to come to Kosovo and visit with them, but with the school, our other ministries, and harsh weather this winter in Macedonia and Kosovo, too, we were not able to accept the invitation until last week.

Here We Come !!!

We arrive in Prishtina (looks a bit different now, doesn’t it?)

Now, ten years later, we made the trip to Kosovo with our friends, Agim and Habibe who worked with us in the camps and in Kosovo, as well. From Prishtina, we thumped along on a new autoroute still under construction. Forty kilometers took us almost 2 hours to travel. We arrived in the village town of Drenas and the apartment of the Gashi family.

We were welcomed with open arms (literally) by Adem and his son. Blerim, who helped us find a parking place and took us up to their apartment. We were treated as if we were family who had been away for these many years. We arrived around noon and visited until about 6pm. What a gratifying experience – all the memories surrounding a one-time meeting a decade ago.

You can tell by the pictures who is Center-Stage in this family now. Eni will be two years old on September 14.

Eni with his grandmother

–and with his father (Blerim)

Blerim and Agim visiting — first time they had met, but you would have thought that they had been friends forever.

Eni with his Aunt Shkendije (who is expecting a child, too, in a few months).

Blerim’s wife, Sadete, and Shkendije Looking at the Photos we brought them from Cegrane Camp
And the proud grandfather, Adem, with Eni
The daughter of the family, Skendije had come to visit with us, too. During the conversations (sometimes everyone was talking, laughing, crying, at the same time), Skendije took a bottle of skin cream from her bag, and she told all of us that it was the one that Shelia had given to her in the camp. She had only used a little of it because she said, “It was a gift from you (speaking to Shelia) and represented all that you had done for us while we were in the camp.” Well, you can imagine that Shelia cried – but so did Habibe, Skendije and her mother & father. Who knew what an enduring gift that would turn out to be for a teenage girl in a refugee camp? We never really know what impact we might have on someone else’s life, do we?
The Women and Eni Telling Us “Bye” One Last Time – from their 3rd floor apartment.
We made a short visit to the former home site and farm of the Gashi family. Adem and Blerim work every possible chance they have – slowly rebuilding their lives. The financial resources for the family’s living expenses and the rebuilding of their home come from Blerim’s salary. He is a recent graduate of the newly formed Kosovo National Police Academy and is employed as a police officer in another town near Prishtina.
Here are pictures of the farm and what they have done on the house to be able to move back home:

Then we made a stop at the market so that Habibe could buy a new lid for her traditional pot.

We had planned to return in mid-afternoon to Macedonia so that we would arrive back before dark, but we could not pull ourselves away. After visiting until almost 6pm, we made the trip to the family farm and afterwards, Blerim escorted us to a “Memorial Cemetery” in a nearby village where an entire family of 63 members – father, mother, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters and children of less than 7 years old – had been murdered in 1998. This marked the beginning of the massive expulsion and attempted annihilation enacted by the Milosevic regime. We are still trying to assess the impact of that somber experience.

The Sign indicates that this village was where the horrors of the Kosovo War began in late 1998.

We are amazed that with all that they have endured, the amount of loss they have experienced, and their financial situation at the moment, the Gashi family retains a sense of joy and gratitude for life which was confirmed by the smiles and laughter we observed that day. We were privileged to have the opportunity for reunion.

Here are scenes of traveling back to Macedonia:

What the next stage of follow-up will be, we do not know, but we are relatively sure that this one visit will not be our last, the next one will be an overnight so that we can visit longer, and neither visit will be the end of the story – but a new beginning to a deeper relationship. We also plan to share this story with Daniel, Earlene and Jordan – along with pictures of these few hours together.

Arville & Shelia

Happy Anniversary to Alan and Layla

July 23, 2009 - One Response

Wishing Alan and Layla and Happy 15th Anniversary today.

For those of you who are not on Facebook, but follow our Earl Family Blog – here is the story for the day and some recent photos that Layla posted of Alan and her this summer.

Alan and Layla met while he was working as security officer for the hospital complex where Layla worked. They got married in Kansas City on July 23, 1994.

In the following few weeks, we had a big sale & packed up to travel to Texas where we put Amy in college in August, and then we left for Albania.

It is really hard to believe that 15 years have passed since that summer — and we have changed countries in the meantime.

Happy Anniversary to you both,

Mom & Dad

A Treat For a Special Lady

July 21, 2009 - Leave a Response

Recently I took Habibe to a boutique here in Skopje and treated her to a pedicure. This was such a luxury for her — she could not believe it.
After getting our toenails done, we met Arville and Agim for dinner (thus, the picture of Habibe standing in front of the restaurant before they arrived).

She couldn’t take her eyes off her feet all evening, and she kept saying that she felt like a princess!!

What a special day we had together!! It was so much fun to see her enjoy a very simple pleasure.

A Bit of Macedonian Culture

July 17, 2009 - Leave a Response

Galicnik Wedding 09-6941

We had a wonderful day recently – when we traveled to the western part of Macedonia for the traditional “Galichnik Wedding”.  Here are some pictures from the day’s event.

Galicnik Wedding 09-7171

Galicnik Wedding 09-7071

Galicnik Wedding 09-7240

Galicnik Wedding 09-2

Galicnik Wedding 09-29

Galicnik Wedding 09-34

Galichnik Wedding

July 15, 2009 - Leave a Response

Every year, in the month of July, there is a very special celebration in the village of Galichnik (near Mavrovo – for those of you who have visited us here in Macedonia). In the beginning, this holiday represented the return of the immigrant workers from abroad – a perfect time for the big Macedonian weddings to occur. These festivities attract visitors and citizens, as well, to watch a traditional Macedonian wedding take place.

And so – we start off on our journey to the top of the mountain – arriving at the meadow where we leave our car parked and walk several kilometers to the village of Galichnik. We hope you enjoy the trip.

We pass a sheep pen on the way up to the village.

After parking the car – we begin our walk up the mountain.

As we arrive in the village, the activities are beginning: getting the horses prepared for the drama that will unfold, a market area where Macedonian handcrafts are sold, and people visiting with friends they have not seen for a while.

We leave the village – the sign says, “Have a Good Trip”!

On the way down the mountain, we met a sheperd with his sheep and he was more than happy to let me make pictures.

The End of a fabulous day.

Shelia’s Artwork for CBF GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2009

July 2, 2009 - Leave a Response
This year’s CBF General Assembly will be held in Houston, Texas, July 2-3.
Here are photos of Shelia’s watercolor that will be in the CBF Auction this year:

It may be that you don’t see this blog entry until you are at the GA. If so, then go over and bid on the watercolor! The money goes to our Benevolent Fund that supplies food, clothing, heating for the winter, and other basic provisions to families in need.

The beautiful frame was handmade by a Macedonian man (Zlatko) who has done the framing of our artwork and photos for years.

Arville & Shelia