Monday, 21 May 2012

Local radio, a leaders meeting, youth and Sunday

Saturday morning at 9 o'clock saw us on our way to the local radio station.  Alur and some of the leaders who visited us in March had spoken about us on the radio a couple of weeks previously so our visit to the station was eagerly anticipated.  Why had these English people come to Kuressare? We were able to speak at length about our church and what we do, about the budding relationship with Alur and Marvi and the church in Kuressaare that they lead.  How lives had been changed through the many outreaches we run in the community and the change brought about by God's love for all people no matter their history or background. 

Sue spoke about her particular reason for coming and the mums and toddlers work she has been involved with for many years.

After an hour and a half at the radio station it was time to walk to the church building for a leaders meeting.  Below is a photo of the church building.  It is surrounded by land on both sides and behind it that also belongs to the church. 

And opposite the church building is this building, a former Russian barracks.  It is big, and lies empty and the local people don't know what to do with it! 

From 11 o'clock we then had a leaders meeting when they plied us with questions about getting people involved in serving in the church, what would be the next step for them as a church, gathering teams and so on.  There was a great sense of expectation, vision and passion for the future allied to reality.  I believe there is a great group of leaders here and it was thoroughly enjoyable to be with them and talk with them.  No awkwardness, just a great sense of ease and people who are on a mission.

After lunch, it was time for a break.  Sue went off to explore Kuressaare castle and we had a swim in a pool! After a meal Ann and I then went to meet the young people of the church at their 7 o'clock meeting.  (Sue carried on talking mums and toddlers with Angela). 

One of the noticeable things here is that many people are really tall, both girls and guys.  And so I found it at the youth meeting.  I was surrounded by young men all taller than me, and that doesnt happen very often.  I have seen several people literally head and shoulders taller than me! No wonder volleyball is their national game. 

Sunday morning brought us to the church meeting at 11am.  I spoke on serving in the church from Mt 20 v20-28.  Many churches that have experienced communism when everything was centrally organised and initiative was stifled, struggle to involve people as everyone looks to the pastor to do it all.  I spoke into this talking of Jesus who had a team of 12 to impact the world around him, and how we can all serve in the church and how the church needs this if we are to impact the society around us.  Then it was time for lunch together, and then catch our bus back to Tallinn, a 4 hour journey.  Farewells are never easy, and ours certainly wern't as we left many behind who we have grown to love and appreciate.  But I am sure we will see them again.  Four if not five of the ladies want to come to our womems REAL conference in June

We enjoyed trying to get to grips with the Estonian language.  Some words are pretty straightforward and others seem next to impossible.  The bus station,  bussijaam, is one of the easy ones.  From Tallinn bus station we got a taxi to the airport, saw Sue checked in for her return flight, absolutely delighted that she had been with us and been used so well to share all that she knows about mums and toddlers.  That she has impacted people here is no doubt and  I believe lives will be changed eternally because of her visit here.

We stay on a a couple more days to meet other leaders and then also head home.  What a wonderful time and way to use our lives.
Love from Ann and Ken

Mums and toddlers

At Friday lunch time we were taken to Alur and Marvi's house where we met Marvi and a number of the ladies who are interested in running a mums and toddlers group in the church.  It was great to meet up with Alur and Marvi again after their visit to us in March and to see where they live.  Whilst we ate a wonderful spread laid out for us, Sue spoke to the ladies about why and how we run our Sparklers group. 

There was great interest and loads of questions.  I wanted Sue to get to meet the ladies early on in our visit as I knew there would bound to be questions that Sue could answer as the weekend progressed.  Her session went on until late in the afternoon, when it was then time for us to head for the church and a meeting with many of their leaders and people.

Alur and the leaders who came to visit us had been impressed with how many projects we run that reach out into the community and impact our town.  They asked me to speak about this, what we do, how they had developed, where the ideas came from, how we organise and administrate it all, where we get our volunteers from and so on.  We had a break for something to eat, evening meal time, and then carried on with questions and answers back and forth until well on into the evening.  All the time Riina our translator is working hard, hardly having time to eat!

So it was time to call it a day, Sue to return home with Angela where they carried on talking about mums and toddlers and Ann and me to our self catering apartment.  Being as far north as the Orkney Islands, it is still light way past bedtime, and this is rather confusing even for us who are used to light evenings.  We climbed into bed at the end of a very good day and it is still light outside! 

I had read in a book before coming about a strange thing they have here in Estonia, and now I have seen it.  One sees buildings with the sign Pood outside.  It is pronounced Pod, as in pea pod, and it means Shop. It doesn't have on it the type of shop it is or the name of the shop like Tesco's extra or Subway or whatever, it just says Shop.  You have to go inside to find out what they sell. How strange is that!

What we did last Saturday in the next blog!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Tallinn old town and Kuressaare

I had every intention of writing a blog before now, but apart from our first morning it has been full on. On Thursday morning we had a look round some of the old town with Sue so she could see some of the  buildings that have been wonderfully restored after the Communist era. In many ways their buildings are similar to what one sees in Prague or Krakow but none the less, the nooks and crannies, the cobbled streets and courtyards give Tallinn an attractive look.  We have used as our guide book the Bradt Guide to Estonia, and on the cover it has a picture of a door.  And we came across the very door!  Here are Sue and Ann outside it. 

Sue has apparently always been taken by men who are in shining armour, so she had to stop by this one!

Yet another colourful door, outside the House of the Blackheads!!

Part of the old city walls.

And then back to our hotel for lunch.  I had sult, my grandfather called it pork cheese, pork meat in jelly, with boiled potatoes, horseradish and mustard.  Just to perk it up!

On Thursday morning we had a brief walk around some more of the old town. There is something different and attractive around every corner. More of the narrow streets, 

knit wear, winter pullovers, hats and mittens, being sold beside the city walls,

one of the stalls at the flower market

and yet more of the city walls.

It was time for coffee and a bite to eat before Ain Vares' son Vilu arrived to take us to Kuressaare. We loaded up and were on our way. Mile after mile of spruce and fir and silver birch trees on flat countryside. Soon though we were going aboard the ferry for a 20 minute crossing to the Island. Even Sue said she could manage 20 minutes on a boat especially as the sea was as flat as a pancake. The Baltic Sea has a tidal range of about 6 inches and is far less salty than the open ocean. I have drunk some of the sea water just to check!
Here is Riina on the left, our interpreter for the whole of our time, she did a marvellous job, and now must be completely worn out.  Next to her is Marven and Vilu.

By late afternoon we arrived in Kuressaare and we stopped of at an Irish pub for a meal. An ice hockey match was in full swing on the tv between Finland and the USA, and the pub was crowded with noisy Finns. Kuressaare is a spa town and very popular with Finns and Swedes in the summer season from now until September. Then we went to the home of Kalmer and Angela where Sue is staying. This couple were part of the team who came to Kerith in March. And we went to our apartment. Just time enough to freshen up before going to the first of our many meetings.  We will be in touch. Ken

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


By the time you read this my wife Ann, and Sue Davis, above, and me will be on our way to Estonia from Luton Airport.  You may know that we had 6 leaders from a church in Kuressaare on the island of Saaremaa, Estonia visit us in March this year.  This is the home church of Virge Maton, who is married to Mike who are part of us. The pastor Alur and his wife Marvi came with Kalmer (worship) and Angela (children), Ain (artist and leader) and Karin (youth).  They saw most of what we get up to, and though they did not see our mum's and toddler's work called Sparklers, they believe this is what they want to run with.  So we are travelling with Sue who has been involved with Sparklers for more than 20 years, who will share her experiences.
We stay in Tallinn overnight and then we will be on our way on a 4 hour journey, including a short ferry crossing, to Kuressaare.  The island is as far north as the Orkney Islands and the weather will be similar to here, a real mixture of showers and sunshine and it will be cool.
Please pray for us as we build relationships, share with the people from the church, speak on local radio, and for Sue who will be experiencing Estonia for the first time.
We look forward to blogging from Estonia.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Shume urime per ty, shume urime per ty..

I forgot to mention that last Friday was Colin's birthday!  So when he started the evening session here in Elbasan, we sang to him "Shume urime per ty", Happy Birthday to you, same tune just Albanian words! 
The photo above is from Saturday morning showing some of the girl singers from Tirana and Elbasan.

They are increasingly using young people which is what we like to see, so here is Daniel from Librazhd

And this is Elizier, who is about 8 years old. She has an amazing ability to draw especially animals and make them look lifelike. Blerim, the man we rent our apartment from is a Christian and an artist and has her as a student and speaks highly of her gifting in one so young. She remembers details he says of how an animal should look, better than most adults.

Lunchtime on Saturday after Colin and Dave's sessions consisted of byrek, see below.  It is filo pastry filled with either spinach, meat or cheese.  When you have a good one, preferably home made, it is superb.

Here is Dave hard at work this time on the keyboard and not guitar!

After the Saturday session finished about 2.30, Liam and Colin and Dave set off in a forgon with some of the guys from Korca to go there, a 2.5 hour drive.  I thought this would be good experience for them.  They get to see another city where they have not been before, another church they have not been to before and opportunity to spend time with Edi and Artina who lead the church there and be with their musicians and singers.  Edi gathered his guys for a session with Colin and Dave on Sunday morning and afternoon, with a short break for lunch.  Liam spent time with the young people and with Edi talking through the Youth Camp in more detail, and Liam spoke to the church on Sunday evening.  (Sorry I don't have the photos, they have them!)

On Monday the guys left Korca and headed for Elbasan but stopped off at Librazhd to meet some of the young people from the church there. (To those of you who have been to the Youth Camps Librazhd is the place with the rickety bridge across the river!) Dave and Liam know many of them from our Youth Camps. They had a great time catching up and looking forward to the next Camp. Then back home to Elbasan and a meal at the home of Ilir and Rudina who lead the church here.  They live in an apartment on the 4th floor with their 3 girls, Sara, Eliada and Abigeila. 

And so to this morning.  After breakfast Liam and Dave caught a forgon for Tirana to meet up with Tani and some of the young people at the church there.  Colin and I had a look round some of Elbasan, then lunch and it was time for farewells to Colin and see him on his way back to Tirana and then to the airport ready for the flight back to Gatwick and your cold wet weather.  It is hard to think of it, when we have been enjoying 30C and blue sky.
It has been a brilliant time, and everyone has spoken so highly of Colin, Dave and Liam and what they have brought to the churches here.  They have left an excellent legacy and I know will be welcomed back with open arms. 
Ann and I have 2 more days here and then we too will head for home.  We look forward to seeing you soon. All our love.