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War’s impact on her homeland stirs modern-day Macedonia call

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Irena Vodenska is a Baptist — and native Macedonian — with a mission to help her homeland survive a humanitarian disaster from the influx of Kosovo refugees forced out of Yugoslavia.
“Macedonia is a victim of this war,” said Vodenska, a J.C. Bradford assistant vice president and securities trading specialist in Nashville, Tenn., and member of Belmont Heights Baptist Church.
Vodenska sees the influx of 250,000 ethnic Albanian Muslim refugees into Macedonia, a former Yugoslav republic, in a different light than most U.S. Baptists. Her family lives in Stip, Macedonia, and they are struggling to survive in a country that was already economically underdeveloped before the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia over the Serbian-led ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.
“Due to the war, Macedonian factories have stopped working, and the Serbia and Yugoslavia trade channel does not exist,” Vodenska said.
“Macedonia was the first country neighboring the province of Kosovo to help the refugees. The people of Macedonia have given their resources to the refugees, and the resources have not been replenished. Now Macedonia is close to having zero resources.
“The disaster in Macedonia has become a humanitarian catastrophe since the economic system has collapsed,” she said. “Without humanitarian help from developed countries, the people of Macedonia are sentenced to a long period of suffering.”
Joe Stacker, Belmont Heights’ pastor, said Vodenska’s modern-day Macedonia calls “has given our church a new perspective in international missions.”
“This is very personal for us to focus on since she is from there,” Stacker said.
Belmont Heights’ newsletter has carried special announcements asking for help for people in Macedonia, encouraging church members to donate to the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s “Kosovo Refugee Relief Fund.”
Vodenska has also made presentations about Macedonia at the church and at other churches and at the Southern Baptist Convention Building in Nashville. She is available to speak by calling her at (615) 463-2441.
Vodenska’s parents are retired and living on pensions that barely cover their expenses. Her brother is a journalist who has not received a salary in four months. Her sister-in-law has been laid off by a pharmaceutical company. Her brother’s family has moved in with her parents.
In her native country, Vodenska was raised in the Macedonian Orthodox Church. She came to America five years ago to pursue a master’s degree in business administration from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, where she graduated in 1996.
While in graduate school, Vodenska visited many churches in Nashville, but was impressed by the friendliness at Belmont Heights.
“When I first visited the church in 1995, a woman asked if I would like to sit with her. It was all I needed; no other area churches had welcomed me like that.”
Vodenska affiliated with the church under “watchcare” and later became a member. She is active in the singles ministry, sings in the choir and takes her turn in extended session.

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  • Marcia Knox