Monday, 25 July 2016

Albania Weekend Away, Tushemishte

Sunday morning saw our final sessions after breakfast. Firstly Liam led a session on letting the Holy Spirit work in your life...

which the young people took to heart.
Then coffee, cold drinks and yet more cakes.
This was followed by Heather and Liam leading a Question and Answer session. Questions ranged from How did you get into church leadership and what advice have you to give? to How do you find the right marriage partner for your life?

The whole Weekendwas also a great time for friendship making, meeting some people for the first time and renewing friendships with others.


Time for our last meal together which we eat outside under cover from the heat but by the side of Lake Ohrid. Here are Heather, Sarah and Dan about to sit down and have lunch.

It is simple food but very good. First it was spaghetti with butter topped with cheese, followed by soup,

then a salad of grated cabbage, tomato, cucumber, cheese, lettuce and olives and finally qofte (home made beef burgers without the bun) with meat gravy.

The whole Weekend was great. I know they all enjoyed being in a more adult setting as befits their age, a good hotel by the side of the lake with just 2 or 3 to a room rather than the dormitories we have at Youth Camp. Real time between sessions to make friends; topics more suited to their age, and hearing from young leaders such as Liam and Heather not just speaking at sessions but answering questions and being open about themselves. All these things combined together with bringing biblical truth and prayer I believe will help these Albanian young people make God more real in their every day life but also help build the Kingdom of God in Albania. Ann and I really enjoyed it too!!



Saturday, 23 July 2016

Albania Weekend Away, Tushemishte

After a night of rest and a wonderful breakfast it was time for our first session today Saturday in the Hotel Millennium. Here is Ann outside the Hotel.

Heather, on the right, spoke at the first session and challenged us to get out of our comfort zone and be on an adventure with God.
Coffee break came with wonderful cakes.

Here is Dan after coffee with some of the young people from Librazhd.

Our worship times are led by Mirjana Herri from Bethel church, Tirana.
And then our second session was led by Ilir Koçi from Elbasan, here on the right. Ilir spoke about the key decisions we make in our twenties especially finding the right partner in life.
in the afternoon many of the young people walked across the nearby border into Macedonia to Sveti Naum, Saint Naum, a picturesque small monastery where peacocks roam free. They returned from their walk in the afternoon heat just in time for our evening meal. This consisted of salad, then soup of rice, lemon, yoghurt, and egg, followed by beef and potatoes, finished off with a plateful of melon and watermelon. At lunchtime we had salad, soup, freshly cooked local trout and creme caramel for dessert.
Here are Alice, Sarah, Heather and Ann recovering after the meal.
Liam took our final session today challenging us to know afresh the power of the Holy Spirit so we are enabled to impact the world around us. A wonderful finish to a wonderful day!


Tushemishte, Albania Weekend Away for 18-30's

This weekend we are holding our very first Albania Weekend Away. For 8 years we have been holding a Youth Camp in Albania for the young people from the churches we have contact with. But last year I took a look at some of them and thought, this is sad, but you are no longer teenagers!! It is time to hold a separate weekend event for those who are 18+, and so this weekend was planned.

Ann and I with Heather Pocock flew out on Wednesday of this week and Liam Parker our Youth Pastor and a team of four, Sarah, Alice, Max and Dan flew out on Thursday into a hot Albania. We met up in Elbasan and once settled into their hotel we went for a meal together.

A good night's rest and then we were on our way with Ilir Koçi the church leader and their 18-30's from Elbasan to the Millennium Hotel, Tushemishte. Half way and it was time for a break and a cold drink. Here are Alice and Sarah.

and here is Dan, looking suitably cool and Heather.

Here are Heather, Liam and Dan in the Hotel reception. It is a really nice place. Air conditioned, right by the side of Lake Ohrid, very nice rooms and our evening meal was eaten in the shade outside looking over the lake, with mountains in the background. What's not to like?

Here are all of us from Bracknell before our Friday lunchtime meal. From l to r, Max, Ann, me, Dan, Sarah, Heather, Liam and Alice.

Here are Paola and Arselda from Librazhd who were at our very first Youth Camp and have been every year since.

Our meal time was a time for reunions; some of the guys we had not seen since last year, but these girls from Tirana were at UNIKE in May this year when Catrina Benham and some of our ladies spoke at the Conference in Tirana.

And below, some of the young people we know from Elbasan.

Our evening meal consisted of Greek salad, chicken soup with pasta in it, chicken fillet with potatoes and vegetables and finally a dessert called three milks. I have a picture of it here. It is like cheesecake without the biscuit base only it's not! More like a milky scrambled egg, only it's not! I give up. But it' s nice.

Time for me to go and get ready as I speak at the first session this evening. God spoke to Ann and me in a life changing way when we went to an 18-30 Weekend away when we were 24 years old. May God speak just as clearly this weekend!

Please pray for these young people. The future generation of the church in Albania depends on young people such as these.

Ken and Ann


Monday, 2 May 2016

Busy, busy

The last four days have been busy, busy, so I thought I would show you a picture of calmness. We were on the road from Pogradec to Tushemist near the Macedonia border with Lake Ohrid just out of camera to the left. Quiet, utterly still, with snow on the top of the mountains. We went to see a hotel in Tushemist where we may hold the 18-30's weekend in July. We look round the hotel of course, see the bedrooms, restaurant area, the meeting room, and then talk money with the owner.

Time for lunch with Edi beside Lake Ohrid. After lunch we journeyed back to Elbasan and saw another likely hotel for the 18-30's. They emailed us their prices and now we take everything into condsideration, talking to people who have stayed at these hotels, the locations, one by the lake another on the outskirts of a city, how good is the food, and so on. There will be another round of bargaining over prices, such is the way here, before we make a desicion.

Friday was wet as Ann and I walked through the rain with our umbrella to catch the bus to Tirana to meet up with Miranda and Tomor. Travel by bus is cheap for us, 85p each for a 1 hour journey. We meet them at the stop near the Carrefour hyper market where we went for their food shopping. Albania is full of little corner shops selling your immediate necessities, but they are being superseded by Italian supermarkets such as Conad and Orti or the French giant Carrefour. Then to their home and then off to Mount Djeti. I have wanted to go to Panorama Restaurant on Mount Djeti from when I first came to Albania but had never made it until now. There are signs in the city centre of Tirana to Djeti but after 1km they run out and you are left guessing how to get there. Now we travelled with Tomor and Miranda who knew the way to the cable car. It was a 20 minute cable car ride up the mountain into the mist and rain. Mount Dajti is 1613 metres 5292 feet.

Now at 2pm it is time for lunch. Lunch here is eaten later than the UK. Here are Ann and Miranda pouring over the menu.

One thing we had was this salad for four people.

Expressions of appreciation are often spontaneous here in Albania as Ann found out yet again!

Bottle brush flowers in bloom.

We walked from the restaurant for 1km or more enjoying the fresh air and spring flowers to be found at this height to the Panorama Restaurant and time for a coffee. Then a minibus back to the cable car as the mist thickened and rain fell, back down the cable car and out into sunshine and home.

We are talking all the time about the forthcoming Ladies Conference UNIKE, how many ladies are coming, the arrangements, how Miranda is much less stressed than last year as she knows what is coming, about their church and themselves and Albania in general. After an evening meal we talked until midnight and then rolled into bed.

Saturday morning Tomor and I continued talking about their church until it was time for us to go. Edi and Arta Morava picked us up and took us to the Stephen Centre in Tirana. This is an American founded small hotel and coffee bar cum restaurant originally as a place for missionaries to meet up. You can always find Christian ex pats from all over the world catching up over coffee and lunch. They do a good hamburger!

Edi and Arta who ran in a church in Korce, have moved to Tirana and intend to start a church here. (Edi's father was seriously ill and was in hospital here and Arta's work increasingly meant she worked in Tirana so it made sense to move.) This was their first real get together with 3 families and 2 single girls. So this is the very beginning of something that we look to see grow and have impact. We worshipped, prayed for each other and brought prophetic words, and I spoke briefly.

Then lunch with Edi, next to Ann, and their son Mikael, and nearest is Miga with Arta. After we journeyed back to Elbasan with Edi who was travelling on further to his home town of Korca.

On Sunday morning we went to the church we support here in Elbasan run by Ilir and Rudina Koçi. We have given them money from our Gift Days to help them do further work on their building. Trying to make pictures of a building look interesting is a bit difficult, but we are just so delighted with the work they have done since we last saw the building in November last year. Here is Ilir with Ann in one of the rooms that will used by children.

Doors and windows are in and some light fitments are up. This is the hall leading to the main room with smaller rooms off to left and right. Floors are tiled with under floor heating. They are now at a point where they need advice about the sound system and tech desk. Not my area of gifting! But I am sure we have people who could help.

At the moment the children's work is in the basement, with tables all set out like this with say 40 children.

Also in the same basement area, and at the same time, some of the girls are learning steps to some Albanian dances.

There were 70-80 people present and growing in numbers with a good sense of God's presence, a love for him and each other. They can all see, obviously, how their building is changing and that is helping to build a good sense of excitement and vision.

Lunch with Ilir and Rudina and their girls and then in the afternoon Ann went to the 40th Birthday Party for Suzanna. I have photos of this but I will show them another time.

Home eventually in the rain. And then a nice surprise. Blerim and Rudina, who are part of the church and whose apartment we rent, brought us these lilies picked from her mothers garden,

and this traditional Easter cake with red painted boiled eggs. It has been Orthodox Easter here this weekend with big celebrations in the Orthodox churches especially in Korca which is near the Greek border. It is a plain cake like a Madeira cake, but has carrots in it making it tasty and moist.
Now on Monday 2 May, we catch up on things, like me writing this blog, Ann does some washing, we go out and buy some more food, and we know we will be invited out for coffee by several people in the next couple of days. Then on Wednesday we leave for Tirana and to meet Catrina and the girls from Kerith who are flying in for the UNIKE Ladies Conference. More ladies are booked in than last year, so it should be really exciting and life changing for many. Do pray for Miranda, Catrina, Heather and Sarah who speak, and for all the ladies who come that they know God speaking to them personally.
With much love from Ann and me.


Thursday, 28 April 2016

The sun does not shine every day...

Yesterday Sunday it rained, with thunderstorms, most of the day. On Monday it was still wet but we needed to go shopping. First to a Supermarket for the necessities of life, coffee, jam, honey, green peppers which are now in a dish and waiting to be roasted, butter, milk, eggs etc. And then some unnecessaries but nice. Having said that, it is not true. Ann is coeliac and therefore so many desserts she cannot eat because they have flour in them. So we called into the Pastiçeri Milan for meringues and lokumb that Ann can eat, (and a zup for me). There is no photo of the zup, a small trifle, because I have already eaten it!!

Then through the rain to a coffee shop, and then on again through the rain to the market. Here are the peppers ready to be cooked.

Here is another zup, just to show you what they are like.

After lunch on Tuesday we went to the church building to see Ilir and look at the building work they have done. On the way we met a funeral cortège. As it is a Muslim culture here, people are buried the next day after dying. You can just tell your employer you need the day off and every understands the situation. There was a long line of cars following the coffin and then two bus loads of people. Many people don't have a car, and so a bus, provided free of charge by the bereaved family, will take you to the bereavement parlour, the only way I can describe it, where after filing by the coffin, you are given a free meal. Another reason why a lot of elderly people go.

In the evening we had a meal at Ilir and Rudina's home, with yet another wonderful meal cooked by Rudina. Here is Rudina with her youngest daughter Abigaila. Ilir and Rudina have two other daughters, Sara and Eliada who are both now as tall as their mother. They are at that stage of teenage life!

One of the things Rudina cooks is this, below, aubergines with tomatoes, onions and garlic in olive oil. I cannot describe how yummy it is.
Ann in the kitchen with Rudina and Abigaila.

We have had quite a lot of rain since we have been here. The mountains around Elbasan are high enough and the nights cold enough for it to snow on the mountains, and so in the morning we can look out from our balcony at the snow capped mountains.

Now it is Thursday morning, and I will send this off quickly as Edi Morava is about to come and pick us up on our way to Pogradec. There we will finalise the accommodation for our 18-30's weekend in July. We have held a Youth Camp in Pogradec for the last 8 years but now time has come to hold an 18-30's weekend as those who once were teenagers and came to Camp have grown up! They have been to college or university, have jobs and are moving on in their life and their needs have changed.

Do pray that we find as good place just right for the weekend and for safety as we travel. Tomorrow Friday we travel to Tirana and meet up with Miranda to go through all the preparations for the up coming ladies Conference UNIKE. Please pray for this, all the ladies who will come and our ladies from Bracknell who will come with Catrina Benham.