Macedonia-native Gazmend dreamed of owning a farm, one that would help his community. He shared his vision with his good friends, Jeff and Alicia Lee, Texas Baptist missionaries, who readily joined him in his endeavor.
The Lees communicated Gazmend's dream with partnering churches in the U.S. who graciously contributed. Within three months, Gazmend raised enough money to obtain his first cows. He felt so blessed by the gifts, he committed to donating the first calf from every cow to the Lees’ “cow bank” ministry, so they could continue supporting the dreams of other first-time dairy farmers. Today, about a year later, the cow bank farm has 10 cows, three calves and eight more calves on the way.
Jeff felt a call to “the ends of the earth” early on in life. His wife, Alicia, was unsure how God uniquely prepared her for overseas missions, but together they felt compelled to follow wherever God would lead them. And in 2012, God led them to Skopje, Macedonia.
With support from their home church, First Baptist Church in Abilene, they began their journey in Macedonia with their young son, Ethan.
After nearly four years of living in the southeast European country, the Lees have observed a unique and admirable quality about the people to whom they minister.
“One of the aspects about Macedonian culture that we love the most is that relationships are most important,” Alicia said. “Interactions and experiences are rooted in relationship. This plays out in various ways. In some cases, you can’t accomplish tasks without ‘knowing someone who knows someone,’ or you drop everything just to have coffee with someone because you value the relationships more than productivity.”
Each day takes a different shape for Jeff and Alicia, but each one involves relationship-building. Their daily tasks vary between working at a group home for adults with disabilities, serving at an orphanage, taking language classes, hosting a small group Bible study and building friendships with locals, like Gazmend. Additionally, Alicia provides therapeutic services at an international school and Jeff works at a refugee camp.
Both graduates from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Jeff holds a Master of Divinity and Master of Science in environmental management, while Alicia holds a Master of Arts in marriage and family psychology.
God is using the Lees in extraordinary ways in Macedonia. Being so far away from comfort, some days are harder than others, but the Lees remain faithful to God’s calling, no matter the circumstances. What helps them persevere those days, they say, is the church’s support.
“On the tough days, when our 6-year-old has to translate for us, when we attend the funeral of a precious child whom we loved or experience the heartbreak of disappointing the children at the orphanage, we know our encourager churches are covering us in prayer,” Alicia said. “We couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do this work we’ve been called to do without our partner churches that are the presence of Christ to us.”
To read more about how Jeff and Alicia are reaching the ends of the earth, check out their blog, thelittleleefamily.blogspot.com.
To learn about more Texas Baptist Missionaries and how to support them, visit texasbaptists.org/txbmissionaries.