For many years, the Miss Stone Center in Strumica (North Macedonia) has been a beacon of charity and hope - despite all the challenges that keep coming up. and that demand a lot of strength from those in charge and the staff.
The staff of the Miss Stone Center, a diaconal institution closely associated with The United Methodist Church in North Macedonia, perform with great commitment and within the framework of various branches of work an impressive and inspiring service for the welfare of people who otherwise hardly anyone or no one cares about. Again and again, they are confronted with obstacles that seem insurmountable.
As the two months of May and June 2023 were very rainy, many agricultural products could only be cultivated late. In combination with a very hot July, this meant a considerable loss of harvest - and this in turn resulted in a marked price increase in the area of agricultural products. It is obvious that the Miss Stone Center, which provides daily meals to around 250 people, is particularly affected by this development.
Nevertheless, limits are also being pushed again and again. The maximum capacity of the kitchen in the Miss Stone Center had already been increased from 150 to 170 meals per day. Currently, there are even more than 195 people who benefit from the "Meals on Wheels" project. Mitko Konev, head of the Miss Stone Center, said laconically: "The new arrivals are in such bad circumstances - we simply can't turn them away." With over 50 people, the waiting list for this service is also fuller than ever.
The waiting list is also long for the "Warm Soup for Radovish" project, which has long since included not just soup but a nutritious stew that varies daily. However, for capacity reasons and in view of the available financial resources, the number of food recipients has to be limited to 50.
Without the generous and faithful help of individuals, local churches and organizations abroad, this work would not be possible on the current scale. And those responsible trust that God also works again and again in special ways where they reach their limits. That, as in the past, viable paths to a hopeful future will become apparent where none seem to be at the moment.
But if, for example, it has not been possible for a year and a half to find replacements for nursing staff who have dropped out, because well-trained nursing staff are being specifically poached from facilities in Western Europe, then there is no other option but to reduce the scope of the home care project. This is the only way - with the remaining, extremely dedicated specialist - to ensure the high quality of medical and nursing assistance for elderly and mostly bedridden persons.
On the one hand, there are very positive experiences in the work with Roma children and youth in Ohrid. 20 children between the ages of five and 14 take part in the programs offered by the Roma school. Especially the group with the youngest children gives the responsible persons a lot of joy. The children have integrated well into the community in the first class, and in terms of performance, some of them keep up with the strongest. Omer, a boy in the group, even won first prize in a math competition for first graders. The work of the counseling center for Roma girls and young Roma women, on the other hand, came to an end in June 2023. Those responsible for the work are grateful that during a period of four years they were able to offer help for a brighter future through practical lessons, the placement of apprenticeships and personal attention, as well as individual counseling.
Thanks to the great commitment of numerous men and, above all, women, it is possible time and again to overcome obstacles and set signs of hope. But there are also personal strokes of fate, worries and problems from which the closest employees are not spared. It is precisely where there is no spacious place, and where boundaries cannot be overcome, that a great deal of strength, stamina - and support from the outside is needed. For this reason, too, those responsible at the Miss Stone Center are heartily grateful if you remain by their side in the tension between boundaries that can be overcome and those that must be accepted.
Source: Urs Schweizer, Assistant to the Bishop, Zurich (based on a circular letter from Christina Cekov, Strumica, North Macedonia).
Photos: Home Care Ministry / Project «Hot Soup for Radovish» / Miss Stone Center