Our Youth Camp began on Tuesday at lunchtime as the young people arrived from 6 churches in Albania. From Burrel, Lezhe, Tirana, Elbasan, Librazhd and Korca. Our team left Elbasan in good time on Tuesday morning with Ann to be able to greet all those coming. Meanwhile I travelled with Ilir Qelemeni from Librazhd to Rinas Airport to meet Helen Cottee. When we arrived the flight was posted as being 30 minutes late, so we went for lunch . On return it was posted as being 2 hours late. Uhm! Then I had a call from Helen to say she was back at Gatwick! The plane had developed a crack in the windscreen and had turned back to the UK. They were all offloaded, given a meal voucher, had something to eat and then loaded onto a different plane that planned to arrive at 7pm! Life doesn't always go to plan does it? What to do? Ilir and I thought the best thing to do was to go to the beach! Not a bad idea! So off we went and whiled away our time on the sun loungers. They also have like four poster beds on the beach you can hire! An interesting idea! I won't show you the photos. Time soon went and we headed back to the airport to greet a somewhat tired but joyful Helen.
Then on our way, a 4 hour journey, that sadly for Helen was in the dark, so she was unable to see the wonderful mountainous countryside we passed through. At midnight we arrived at the Camp and Helen was united with the girls from our team.
This years Camp was more full on than those previously. Not only were there drama, and leadership sessions in the morning but those really interested could enjoy a further deeper session in the afternoon from our team. This meant their own afternoon free time was much reduced and seldom was the whole team freed up together. Here is a photo from a fun game session led by Tom that all the young people really enjoyed. A quick way to break down any barriers and shyness and get people going!
Robert Cook from Lezhe led the first teaching session and then it was lunch. This has been our biggest Camp to date. 80 the first year, 120 last year and 160 this year. This definitely was pushing the Camp site facilities provided by the Nehemiah Centre to the limits. Lili the administrator tells me how she lies awake at night thinking how she is going to cope with us all! Camps for them are usually for 60 people and again normally for children not teenagers and students. Here are our guys tucking in...
Here are some of the youngsters from Korca. You will not be surprised to know that young men can get through quite a lot of food!
Just one of many shots I could give you of the main sessions
We had several drama slots in the sessions. here is one performed by the young people from Tirana where they draw the head, hands and feet of Christ. At the back are a couple of guys who attend a Music Academy in Tirana who sang with voices as you would in opera. They were just amazing to hear, stunning in fact. That coupled with what was drawn had huge impact and was loudly applauded.
Liam led a couple of excellent sessions on the Holy Spirit and on Relationships. Both occasions led to people being prayed for. I know several have become Christians and others have definitely had their lives changed.
Amy praying with some of the girls
Here is a shot of Helen and Matt in a worship session with our band.
There were break sessions when many played volleyball, which is the most popular sport in Albania.
One of the great things about the Camp is hearing peoples stories. This is Elona from Lezhe in the north of Albania. When she told me her story my heart went out to her. Having finished her exams she wanted to study course 174, Law in Tirana, not far from here home. Her teacher by mistake wrote 147! She is now in Gjirokaster, in the south of Albania studying Information Technology! At times like this it is helpful to believe in the sovereignty of God.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday flew by! Helen felt she had been there ages though it had only been days. Sadly all too soon we had to say some farewells after the last session on Friday night.
Group photos a plenty were taken, e-mail addresses and facebook contacts made. And Saturday morning saw our guys with bags packed in good time ready for their minibus to arrive and take them back to the airport.
But leaving after such a brilliant time is never a short business, certainly not in Albania, so there were hugs all round again before the team were on their way.
No sooner had our team left than Tamara's parents from Skopje, Macedonia arrived to take her home. Some of you will know Marija and Tamara who came to the Ladies REAL Conference. They, and Tamara, were delighted that Tamara was able to be with us and knowing Tamara she talked about the Camp the whole way home!!
By the time you read this the team will be back in Bracknell, recovering from a wonderfully effective week serving the purposes of God.
Ann and I stay on another 6 days, speaking at church in Elbasan this morning and then seeing leaders from 4 churches and some new people we haven't met before in Tirana. Next year there will definitely have to be 2 Camps as the Nehemiah site, and it is the biggest Camp in Albania, is not big enough to hold anymore. Exciting! Lots of love...