The church year is coming to an end these days, and many local churches are remembering people who have passed away in recent months. One of these people is the Macedonian pastor Zora Vuckova, who experienced incredible things in her ministry and who is worth remembering.
Zora was born on February 12, 1936, as the fourth and youngest child of the Vuckov family in Murtino (then still part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia). Because her parents were active members of the local Methodist church, Zora grew up in the church and committed her life to Christ there as a teenager. As a young woman already, she heard the call to the ordained ministry, and at the age of 22, she was accepted into the UMC as a "church sister" (comparable to today's office of local pastor). Her first ministry covered the then very large local churches of Murtino and Monospitovo.
Zora Vuckova was a fearless woman and had an impressively strong faith. This was particularly evident during the communist state terror and church persecution of the 1950s, a very difficult time for all Churches in the former Yugoslavia. Pastors were imprisoned at the time, and Zora Vuckova's colleague in Murtino, Asen Palankov, disappeared in Novi Sad in 1959 during a Bible course for church workers. He was presumably murdered by the secret police, and to this day it is not really known what exactly happened to him. After Asen Palankov's disappearance, Zora Vuckova was solely responsible for both churches - and she was interrogated by the secret police for months.
Dauntlessness and courage of faith
Once, shortly before the start of the Sunday worship service, a secret police jeep pulled up in front of the church in Murtino. The occupants wanted to take Zora Vuckova to Skopje for questioning. She bravely entered the church while four men surrounded the pulpit to prevent the dauntless woman from climbing up. Then the completely unexpected happened: Zora Vuckova approached the four men and greeted them all with a handshake. The surprise effect allowed her to climb up to the pulpit. From there, she asked the "guests" to sit down as she wanted to start the service. She would speak to them after the service. But it would really not be fair to the 300 people present if she simply kept them waiting. The people from the secret police actually sat down. However, the driver outside in the jeep honked his horn incessantly, whereupon the "guests" finally left the church and drove away. "God has saved me once again." She was convinced of this at the time, and even decades later, her memories of this difficult time were characterized by this grateful conviction. However, the interrogations and harassment continued afterwards. For months, a lock was put on the church door in Murtino on Mondays. When Zora Vuckova arrived at the church on Sunday morning, she broke the lock without further ado, then rang the church bell and led the worship service. This went on week after week, and every Monday a new lock was put on the church door and the intrepid woman was called in for questioning.
In 1960, Zora Vuckova was assigned to Radoviš and Rakliš. The situation there was particularly difficult for churches, and none of her male colleagues wanted to be assigned there. Zora Vučkova, on the other hand, had no fear because she knew she was called and protected by God there, too. She preached her first sermon in the old church in Rakliš, which had been built in 1936. The current church was built on her initiative in 1974. The construction and her entire work was greatly supported by her friend, Marija Temelkova, with whom she lived from 1960 until her death in 2016.
Zora Vuckova served in Skopje from 1987 to 1990 and then returned to Radoviš and Rakliš. She lived in the church in Radoviš until 2014, when it was demolished due to its age. Her wish to build a new church there was not fulfilled during her lifetime.
She spent the last seven years of her earthly life, which came to an end after 87 years on May 19, 2023, in the church-owned apartment in Rakliš, where she was cared for and looked after by the Miss Stone Center.
Zora Vuckova was a very courageous woman and did not lose her strong faith even in difficult times. Children in particular were close to her heart, and the children loved "Aunt Zora" and came to Sunday school in large numbers. Even when her health was very poor and she was dependent on help, she continued to attend worship services and accompany the congregation's singing on the harmonium until almost the end.
As a strong personality, Zora Vuckova remained true to her calling - even if women were not initially taken seriously in the ordained ministry. The fact that this changed over time was and is also due to Zora Vuckova's ministry. Her natural authority, her fearlessness and her strong trust in God not only helped her through the most difficult situations in her life, but also made her a role model in many respects. A role model that is worth remembering.
Source: Christina Cekov, Strumica (North Macedonia)