Sunday saw us go to the morning Youth Meeting with about 20 people. They led the whole time with worship and then two of them gave a short preach about prayer. I brought some application about praying and Edi wrapped the meeting up. He and Artina , Arta for short, have gathered a good group. They have 40 young people who want to come to the Youth Camp in July. Lunch with Edi and Arta and then back for the second meeting at 5pm. Most people here are self employed, there being no big companies to employ people other than the State for teachers, Police, hospital staff, civil servants etc. So they meet when people have finished work at 4pm. (Remember too that there is a mixture of Muslim, who have Friday as a day of rest if any, and Orthodox with Sunday off if any.) We had excellent worship with a number of Hillsong songs and others we know. Again I spoke about Joseph wearing his coat of many colours and that God has given us a coat to wear. Edi called for a response and we prayed for many. There were about 70 people in all. I find it moving when we are asked to pray for people who are sick where in the UK one would think to go to the doctor first. Then another time of worship after this as they feel God has so blessed them. Then back to Edi and Arta's to eat whilst all the while Edi is plying me with questions. Then a taxi back to the hotel as it was pouring with rain.
On Monday we went by furgon, minibus, to Pogradec an hour away. It is a town on the shores of Lake Ohrid, and near the Macedonian border. It is an old lake formed by the earth's crust moving and very deep with varieties of fish found no where else. A bit like Loch Ness without Nessie! We walked to the Nehemiah Centre a German evangelical centre used as a private school during the week and for youth events and conferences during weekends. Edi understood that we wanted to see the place but was unprepared for all the questions we asked. Do our team need to bring their own sheets, own towels, what food will be served, can we see the kitchens, what are the sleeping arrangements, and the toilets (they are Turkish!) and they double up as showers! so you can do both at the same time??! We saw the main meeting hall and checked on the availability of a drum kit, keyboard, mixing desk etc. Edi was stunned by all our questions! He clearly is not an administrator but thankfully Arta is. The place is well organised and really clean as you can imagine run by a German organisation. We look forward to our Youth Band being their in July and many lives being changed. The numbers wanting to come to the Camp, (they always use the term Camp rather than conference even though we are in permanent buildings) are increasing. Edi says he has 40 who want to come in addition to others from other churches in Albania, some of the guys he gathers in Ohrid, Macedonia and the youth from Kosova. The latter are in for a really long furgon journey. The direct route is through Macedonia but they have no passports being young and they are costly. However they can come straight into Albania on the Kosova/Albania border with their ID cards but it means a really long journey. It is at times like this when one appreciates the joys of having a UK/EU passport!
Then back to Korca grabbing a bite on the way of byrek, hot filo pastry filled with feta cheese. Ann had chips as she cannot eat bread, pastry, cakes or anything with flour! Then a meeting of workers at Edi and Arta's house at 6pm. They are called workers not leaders! I spoke to the group and and at Edi's request spoke to them about money! There's a surprise! I could have spoken all night, but we closed at 8pm. Then Arta cooked us a meal and we walked home through deserted dark streets! Everybody seems to be home with doors shut by 9pm and the streets become completely deserted. It is eerie! and street lighting is poor.
On Tuesday morning we went for a walk to look at some of the sites in Korca but they were shut! One was an art gallery in the former house of a painter of Albanian Impressionist Art, but it was closed for redecoration. So we had a coffee, them met with Edi to talk through the whole programme and arrangements for the Youth Camp. I think we did it to death but it was necessary. Edi wants Lee and Liam to speak at main sessions but also for Lee to speak to church leaders about Youth Work in a church setting. In the evening we had a meal out with Edi and Arta, partly to say thank you to them for inviting us, giving us so much time, and being so patient as we learn their culture and ways and as we teach them and give them ideas and bring Godly challenge. They are just such a brilliant couple who soak up all that we say. It is a joy to be with them and sad to leave them.
Wednesday we decided we must get a piece of paper from the Police for insurance purposes. So I went again with Edi to the Police. It was the same again with explanations all round at the entrance gate to the Police Station, but this time we got to speak to an Inspector who told us to come back in an hour and he would see what he could do. After walking away about 100 yards he calls Edi on his mobile and something could be done now. So back we go and eventually we see an man who types up my details with Edi 's help. What is my fathers name? my father is dead...Yes but what is his name? OK Frederick and so on until we get the printed signed letter. I have reported my belongings as lost. If I say they are stolen they must open a case and I must stay in Albania indefinitely at my cost until it is sorted. Not an option!
At last it is all sorted and then we pack our belongings and head for a furgon to Elbasan. Edi finds one and we get on board. We wait an hour and a quarter, as the driver tries to drum up other customers by touring the local streets in the minibus before we finally set off. Two and a half hours later we arrive in a really hot Elbasan! Korca is in the mountains so cooler by several degrees. But we are home and collapse on the bed, then make a drink and then go food shopping! Another chapter finished in our time here!
Ken and Ann
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