The Plentiful Opportunities for Ministry in North Macedonia

North Macedonia, a southeastern country in Europe, is a richly diverse and beautiful land, both in its landscapes and its people. Rachelle Neal, GEM International’s Vice President of Europe, has lived in North Macedonia and served its residents for about 15 years, and she will lead us in discovering more about this picturesque land of opportunity.

This mountainous, landlocked country, surrounded by five neighbouring countries, is home to just over 2 million people. With much of its population claiming orthodox or Muslim beliefs, North Macedonia, like much of Europe, has a very small number of evangelical Christians. With a considerable amount of the population able to converse in English, though, it’s a perfect opportunity to house ministry for those not fluent in Macedonian or Albanian.

Although language barriers in many European countries often cause challenges in the early stages of mission work, North Macedonia holds the advantage of a large population of English speakers, creating an easier transition for missionaries who don’t speak the country’s other languages. “We do a lot with interns, whether they’re Ten2 summer interns or TESOL [Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages] interns, and a lot of short-term teams come through to help with projects,” Rachelle explains. “You can just walk in and start working with people because [most] know English.”

Using the English language in ministry has also been an excellent way of treading on neutral ground between the two main people groups – Albanians, who tend to be Muslim, and Macedonians, who tend to be orthodox. “People don’t feel like they’re being a traitor to their culture when [the church service] is English and international,” Rachelle says, mentioning that English isn’t typically used exclusively for either group. “English sometimes brings those barriers down and allows us to have those conversations a little more easily.”

When deciding how to reach the locals spiritually, Rachelle mentions the importance of using the gifts God has given us. “God has equipped us with various skills and experiences, each of us uniquely, and he wants us to use all these things. I’m a teacher and my husband is a businessman, so we’ve used those skills here in Macedonia as a way to form bridges into the community and relationships so that we can more effectively share Christ.”

As part of serving in the education industry in Macedonia, Rachelle sees the importance of instilling critical thinking and communication skills in learners. “[Many locals will] do the actions [in religious rituals], but they’ve lost the meaning or the understanding and the connection with Christ behind those things,” Rachelle explains. “What we would do with adults is ask them of their [orthodox] traditions and the why behind it, so as they’re researching it, they’ll discover [answers] for themselves, which is really fun.”

Currently only a small group works in North Macedonia with GEM, allowing for plenty of opportunities for others to serve within this charming country. “We would love to grow this team,” Rachelle admits. “And because there have already been foundations built here in the areas of business, education, and the church, there are opportunities to walk in and impact those worlds.”

Although there’s plenty to be done in this country, there’s still much to celebrate. “There have been many great things happening in North Macedonia lately,” Rachelle remarks. “The number of volunteers at the new learning centre has grown, refugees are coming for classes, interns have arrived, and a student has attended church. We are praising God for His faithfulness.”

Will you pray with me, thanking God for what He’s already doing, and for further impacts to be made across North Macedonia?