The last couple of days has seen Ann and me visiting a whole number of people. We have been back to Librazhd to a prayer meeting where we met a number of ladies who we first met a year ago. It was at that first meeting we mentioned our Youth Camp. 5 lives were changed from this church because of it they look to have double the numbers go this time. Then a meal with Donika and Valentina. Here we are with Ilir. Both of these ladies look to be at our Ladies REAL Conference in July.
Saturday was cups of lemon tea then a visit to Luan and Yola who run a general store and a cafe. This was followed by a visit to Ardit and Violca and their family that led to us staying for lunch. Here is Violca with her little boy Kristian so named as he was born on Christmas Day, with Ester.
After a brief siesta, yes people here have lunch and then a rest, we went to see Ilir and Arjana. The photo is of Arjana with her little boy Mikea (Micah). Arjana was born in a Macedonian speaking area of Albania. There everyone speaks Macedonian and no Albanian is spoken at all. The villages get financial help from Macedonia not Albania! and so Arjana has a Macedonian passport.
This morning Ken spoke at the morning meeting here in Elbasan, when we remembered Simon and Andy running their half marathons in Bracknell. The church building here is coming on a pace with the basement almost finished, and with some tiling and the toilets to finish off on the ground floor. Another 4 weeks say and they will have the beginnings of an excellent facility. It was time to say farewell to almost 50 of our friends, write this blog and then have an evening meal out with another family tonight.
Tomorrow Lee will come from Korca, where he is in Edi's church today, we have a brief lunch, say cheerio to yet another family, and then head for the airport where we fly home volcanic ash permitting.
We will miss the people we know here in Albania, seeing first hand what God has done, new friends we have made, and the warmth! See you all again soon.
It was so good to see Lee here in Albania after the disruptions of the Icelandic volcano. Lee has primarily come out to meet up with Edi, above, and talk through the details of the Youth Camp planned for July in Pogradec. After arriving late on Tuesday night, Wednesday morning was spent looking round some of Elbasan including the church building where the band will play at the Sunday meeting when they come out. Then to the local TeatriSkampa in the centre of the city, which is shown below.
Ilir the church leader discovered he knew the Theatre Director from High School days. We looked round the theatre, checking out the lighting and sound systems. Discussions continued as to how we advertise the band playing there at the end of July as all schools here close mid June. We are really excited about the possibility of reaching out to so many young people. The theatre is situated right in the middle of the city where everyone promenades in the evenings to escape the heat of their homes in the summer. Thursday morning saw us catch a furgon, minibus, to Librazhd a smaller town just 30 minutes away. The church here is led by Ilir and Ladi and they had suggested to Simon the previous week that we could gather young people in their town's theatre. So we went and again checked out the theatre. It may look plainer than the theatre in Elbasan but the lighting and sound systems are probably better. Again we had discussions how we would involve Albanian singers as well as our band, what drama we could do etc. There is tremendous potential here to impact hundreds of young people.
Yet another furgon ride brought us to Pogradec and meeting Edi. A quick lunch and then onto the Nehemiah Centre where we were with Simon and Andy the previous week. This time though we had a long detailed meeting with the Centre leaders covering every aspect of our camp, dates, numbers, menu, use of sports activities and so on. Then time for Ann and me to head back on a furgon to Elbasan and for Edi and Lee to travel onto Edi's city of Korca. There Lee spoke with the young people in the evening before on Saturday heading off to Ohrid in Macedonia to meet some more young people. But that is Lee's story to tell!
Let me finish with this example of Albanian hospitality. On Lee's first evening with us AFTER a meal I went into a hotel to just check on the football scores. The chefi, the boss, spotted me and straightaway he ordered us some beers and fried whitebait for us and when the whitebait had been eaten they were followed by a plateful of mussels. I am sure the beer (this included beer for Ann!!) would have kept coming if we had not gently refused it! This is typical of Albanian hospitality from people we had not met before! Lee was impressed!
Bye for now and Naten i mire! Good night! Ken and Ann
On Sunday Andy at one point needed the loo. He was pointed in the direction of these doors. Which door would you choose?
After leaving Artina in Korca on Saturday morning we travelled onto Pogradec to see the Nehemiah Centre where we held the Youth Camp last year and where we will be again in July. We wanted Simon and Andy to see where we go and how good the facilities are. Last year we gathered 85 youngsters and this year we would look for say 120. The Nehemiah Centre are erecting a further building so that the capacity will increase to 250. After a snack lunch in Pogradec we said our farewell to Edi and travelled by furgon back to Elbasan. On the way we saw a rare sight, an Albanian train! These are old Czech railway stock.
When we arrived in Elbasan, Simon and Andy heard the roar of the local football crowd. So of they went to see Elbasan beat their rivals 2-0. In the evening we had a wonderful meal in a Greek restaurant with Ilir and Rudina and Arjan and Blerina. Then afterwards we had ice creams. Here is Blerina and her daughter Orantia with Ann.
Sunday morning saw Simon preaching at the church in Elbasan followed by lunch with the leaders in a restaurant in a nearby village. I felt privileged to hear Simon speak to the leaders over the meal table and offer them such wise advice in such a good and easy spirit. Here are L-R Gazim, Arjan, Simon, Andy, Ilir and Ilir.
Well...which door would YOU choose? Andy chose the door on the right. WRONG! The toilet is the door on the left. The other side of the door on the right is the guard dog! Good job it wasn't a brown bear or wolf from the mountains! Then back to the home of Beni and Bartha who have looked after us so well, and for Simon and Andy to pack their bags, and begin the journey home. I believe it has been a hugely significant visit from two great guys who have been loved and appreciated where ever they have gone in Albania. And now a break for a day and then we eagerly await Lee's arrival! Lots of love, Ken and Ann
Here we are at the furgon, minibus, station in Elbasan waiting to fill up the minibus before we set off. Simon, not one to waste a minute, is busy twittering! Korca is a 3 hour drive away travelling in the heat. I find just travelling here can be tiring. It is not a relaxing experience, but it is an opportunity to talk with people on the minibus who speak some English. Simon had a small photograph album with him of his family and church events which proved very helpful in breaking the ice. Was this Catrina's brilliant idea?
You may rememeber Artina and Edi who lead the church in Korca, here with Simon. They came to us in 2009. Arta has been invited to our Ladies REAL conference.
Korca is considered Albania's city of culture and has an area called Little Paris with cobbled streets. Enver Hoxha was educated at the Sorbonne in Paris and even in communist times he allowed French to be taught at a lycee only in Korca.
The Orthodox Cathedral is in the centre of Korca. Whilst Simon and Edi had coffee and talked we went for a wander through some of the old back streets behind the Cathedral. After this we went to the building that Edi rents for his church. The young people were preparing for a wedding on the Sunday. Preparations included dancing!
So we all had a go! I've got some video clips to up load next time! Then a meal in the evening together and back to our hotel.
Last Thursday saw us travel to Librazhd where we met the leaders of the church Ilir and Donika and Ladi and Ornela. We had coffee together outside in a cafe. Here is Simon with Ornela on the right and Valentina on the left, and us. Some of you will know we have an Albanian guy Besnik who comes to our church. Valentina is Besnik's fiancee. Donika, not in the photo, and Ornela and Valentina have been invited to the Ladies REAL Conference in July. Please pray they get their visas.
Here is Andy and Simon with Ladi and Ornela. As we talked Ladi suggested that our band plays in the local theatre when we come in July before we hold the Youth Camp. So we are looking into this. Lee, our Youth Pastor, will see the theatre and talk this through with Ladi.
And really I should have put this photo first. Here is Besnik with Valentina! They look a happy, lovely couple don't they? After a truly amazing meal together in the evening, when Andy and Simon ate a sheep's head!? Ilir drove us back home to Elbasan. A really wonderful and profitable evening together.
Some of the varied Books I've read recently in no particular order....
The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. Another one of those books I wish I could have read 20 years ago. Excellent about how to achieve organisational health.
The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware. very helpful in helping to understand Orthodox history and thinking. The Orthodox Church is the main church in Serbia and Macedonia.
Austria-Hungary and the orgins of the first world war. Helps with the historical background to the Balkans. The Powers at work then are still at work today, politically, economically. Samuel R Williamson Jr
Bradt Guide to Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia etc (excellent and sometimes the only guides avaiable for lesser known countries)
Jesus through Middle Eastern eyes. Opened my eyes to see the Gospels in a new way. Kenneth E Bailey