On Sunday morning most of the church from Librazhd travelled the 25 minutes to Elbasan to join us there. I brought a message to the people and then spoke to the leaders of the Librazhd church and their people about being part of Newfrontiers. Here is a photo of Ladi and Ornela, Ilir and Donika and Samuel, the leaders in Librazhd. Some of you will remember that Ornela and Donika came to the Ladies Real conference and that Ilir and Donika came to the Willow Creek DVD Conference. Below the photo shows some of the Librazhd folks in the Elbasan building whose ground floor meeting hall is nearing completion.
Monday morning early saw us catching a furgon from Elbasan to travel over the mountains to Tirane, the capital of Albania. So it is goodbye to Elbasan from us until next Spring. In Tirane we were met by Shaban at the furgon "terminal". Actually they just drop you off in the street near a building called the Pyramid because of its shape. Then all aboard Shaban's car heading for Prizren in Kosovo. This entails driving along a wonderful new piece of road from Milot, a few miles from Tirane, past Kukes to the Albania/Kosovo border, and thereby making the journey much shorter. The journey to Kosovo was usually by an overnight bus leaving at 10pm and arriving in Prizren at 4am. It never appealed to me! One Albanian church leader who did the journey was picked up in Prizren by the Kosovon Police wanting to know why he was roaming the streets at 4am. You can imagine Ann liking that can't you?
All went well until we reached to Kosovo entry border, when the Police would not let Shaban enter Kosovo. Albanians have an Identity Card and they travel across borders with that but they were clearly unhappy with Shabans and I don't know why. In the end we had to say cheerio to Shaban at the border and walk through the crossing to a nearby taxi. We called Shpendi our friend in Prizren, and took the taxi to the bus station in Prizren, where Shpendi and his wife Linda met us. They have brought us to the family home, a four storey house on the outskirts of Prizren. Now that means mum and dad, his brother and his brothers wife, they and their 2 children and sister live altogether under one roof.
We have been introduced to all the family, photos to follow, and had our lunch of local sausage, chips and salad. Now we are swapping stories and getting ready to eat again. Here is just a bit of background that will interest some of you.
The history of Kosovo needs a book in itself. Let's just say that Prizren pretty well escaped damage in the 1989-1999 war, but when the Albanians returned in 1999 a considerable number of Serbian homes were looted and burnt. Prizren suffered the most material damage in the riots of March 2004 with 55 houses and and 8 Orthodox sites damaged. Many of the these houses remain burnt out shells. Kosovo declared Independence from Serbia on 17th February 2008. To help maintain security and order there are KFOR soldiers (Kosovon Forces) , mainly American, British, German round Prizren, Italian and French troops who patrol, though this is low key.
However, many would say that Prizren is the jewel in the crown of Kosovo from an architectural point of view. It has the highest number of preserved Ottoman buildings with their upper storeys jutting out into the narrow cobbled streets. Prizren is the only municipality in Europe outside of Turkey where Turkish is an official language, a hangover from the Ottoman Empire. So many road signs are in 3 languages, Albanian, Serbian and Turkish. The town has 200,000 people and has a high youth population. Schools operate 3 shifts a day with up to 50 in a class.
Tomorrow we will talk more with Shpendi and Linda and go into Prizren and see some of the sites. Love from Lee and Tom and me.
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