A Blessing to a Matriarch

World Challenge Staff

One sweet woman has long been a blessing to her village where our partners work in Macedonia, and they wanted to find a way to give back to her.

Over 40 years ago, Ilmija Hasanovska moved to a small village named Red Coast in North Macedonia. Her husband and she had owned a lovely home and land in a big city that they’d sold to move to this smaller village and raise their children. The village had been a beautiful, thriving place back then, and Ilmija and her husband had bought a chicken farm to run as their own small business.

Now the village is very different. Ilmija’s husband passed away, and she was forced to let the chicken farm go. The village has deteriorated in the economic downturn that North Macedonia has experienced of late.

Because of Ilmija’s circumstances without her husband and trying to make sure her family was adequately provided for all by herself, she couldn’t move the family back to the city.

The Loneliness of Leading

A divine appointment was waiting for Ilmija in Red Coast, however; she heard about Jesus and the gospel for the first time there. She still mourns her husband’s passing, but the Lord has given her a spirit of extraordinary generosity. She is always willing to help her neighbors or give whatever she’s able to give, even if it’s just advice drawn from the experience of a long life. Almost everyone in the village calls her ‘mother,’ and she attends nearly every celebration, community meeting or gathering in the village.

Despite the deep ties she has built in the community, Ilmija still struggles, though, with grief over the loss of her husband and worry for her family’s future.

Part of Ilmija’s anguish is seeing her own children and grandchildren not being able to find jobs or provide for themselves. They’re hardly alone. The World Bank reported, “In 2019, barely half of people of working-age in North Macedonia were employed. Youth unemployment and NEET shares are considerably high, reflecting challenges to gain a foothold in the labor market for newcomers.”

When World Challenge’s partners entered Red Coast, they were delighted to discover Ilmija with her love of the Lord and her extensive care for her community. While they worked on microenterprise projects with people in the village, they didn’t want to neglect one of the people who has been a pillar in the town for decades. They wanted to find a way to bless Ilmija.

Food and Communion

Many people in the village depend on Ilmija, but she had few people to turn to herself. Because her children and grandchildren have struggled to find consistent work, she never wanted to ask them for anything, even when her own budget was tight. Some months, she was barely able to pay for everything.

The team decided to do what they could to emotionally, spiritually and practically care for Ilmija. They regularly visit her now, often bringing a meal and spending time in conversation and prayer with her. They encourage her to see the treasures God has given her in her family and community and to trust God that he is responsible for their lives and wellbeing.

Recently, they have seen Ilmija start to brighten with new hope that God will provide for her family and change their situation for the better.