Lydia Harris Lane who heads the 0-5's in our church, Ann and I flew into Albania last Wednesday afternoon. We were met by Shaban Hoxha who leads a church in Tirane the capital. He took us to our hotel. Some of you will know we have some Albanians in our church including Ida. The very first thing we then wanted to do was to see Ida's parents, Ida's mum is above, and give our greetings to them from Ida. Ida has not seen her parents in the flesh for 7 years. So giving our greetings and talking with them and telling them about their precious daughter is an emotional and wonderful time. After talking a while they invited us out to a meal with Ida's sister Mira. Here is Ann and Mira, below. The restaurant was like a very large English pub that served a huge arrange of different meats. We had a wonderful meal and time together. Lydia had a brilliant introduction to Albania! After breakfast on Thursday we then went to see the work that Shaban and his wife Elvira have with Roma children. It is a simple school where local children are taught to read and write and play together all preparing them for State school. Whilst they should all go to State school most schools shun them, indeed refuse to have them and so they are marginalised from the outset. Teaching them the basics means they will be accepted at school and into the larger society. Here is a lad playing a recorder. Many Roma are musical. The music scale he uses is completely different from ours though. As soon as he plays the kids want to dance! Some of the class. Ann with the Roma lady who leads the class... and Lydia with a number of the children. The girl who Lydia has her arm round came to our Youth Camp last year. This was an enormous thing for this girl. To go to a normal young peoples event outside of her home town was just unbelievable for her! Our visit to these Roma children was a very moving time. Lydia is well used to seeing the poverty and very basic conditions found in her home country of South Africa, but this is Europe and it came as a bit of a surprise. Thursday afternoon saw us catch the furgon (minibus) for the 90 minute ride over the mountains to Elbasan. You can see the snow still on the surrounding mountain tops. Beautiful. And the main street of Elbasan, Boulevard Qemel Stafa. No sooner had we unpacked in our apartment we set off to see the people at the second Alpha course that the church we go to in Elbasan is running. Over 30 people were there. Some were from the church and attending the course others were completely new friends who had come along. There was a very good atmosphere and excellent for us to meet people who we know as friends. Then onto see a family Ann and I know and greet them and their daughters. Lydia was introduced to the obligatory Turkish coffee and glass of raki! Friday morning we took Lydia to see the local market, pazaar, and have coffee. In the afternoon there was a Word Plus teaching time to the leaders of the 6 Newfrontiers churches in Albania when Robert from Lezhe and I spoke. When this had finished Lydia had chance to meet 2 of the Children's workers from Edi and Artina's church in Korca. Here they are having a good talk whilst music and Albanian style dancing is going on in the background. We had more teaching sessions this morning, Saturday, when Robert, Edi from Korca and I spoke followed by lunch of guess what?! This was just part of the 35 large pizzas we got through! Another session from me and Robert and then we were finished this Word Plus training . Ann and Lydia are now on their way to Librazhd with Ilir Qelemeni, as I write this, to meet with the girls there who run their Children's work. Then tomorrow Lydia will see the Children's work here in Elbasan and in the evening meet all the Children's Ministry workers. Below is a photo of Robert speaking to some of the 35 people at the training sessions. We brought out a projector that has already been put to good use and a MP3 recorder to record all the teaching that then can be made available to everyone. As I write this I reflect on what a full and exciting time it has already been and there is more to come. Love from Ann, Lydia 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