Monday, 16 December 2013

Hurmë and people

One of the other fruits in abundance at this time of year is hurmë. In English we know it as Sharon fruit or Persimmon. They can be yellow in colour through to red or orange colour as below. They are the size of a large tomato and have to be bletted before they can be eaten. That is to say they are left until they appear to be over ripe. They begin to appear bruised or even going bad, but they are not. This is the time to eat them. You can eat them whole or cut them open and then eat the insides with a teaspoon.

On Saturday afternoon we want to Librazhd to meet the young people from the church there and speak with them. We have seen this group grow from from 5 to over 30 in number with several of them now at University in Tirana. Here is Ann with Erlisa who leads the group, and then photos of some of the youth. Our young people who have been to Youth Camp over the years will recognise many of them.






Then it was back to Elbasan to meet the young people at the church there who were practising their items for the Christmas meetings.

On Sunday morning I spoke at the Elbasan church and then some of the children rehearsed their parts for the Christmas meetings.



After this we had lunch with another family Ilir and Donika, Daniel and Lysania.

Then a meal in the evening with the church leaders Ilir and Rudina, when we talked through many things including their plans for next year and their request for us to help them develop their children and youth work.
Today, Monday, saw us having coffee and lunch with a couple from the Newfrontiers Bedford church, Ron and Sue, who have been here for 3 months helping the church. We caught up with Arjan in the afternoon and then with Blerim and Rudina with their daughter Amaris.
Now it is dark. Time to go and eat, then pack our cases ready for the journey home tomorrow.
Gezuar Krishtlindjet! Happy Christmas!
Ken and Ann


Friday, 13 December 2013

Catching up is SO important to do

Having seen Robert and Mira on Tuesday, Tomor and Miranda and Mira, Ida's sister and Ilir and Rudina on Wednesday we knew we were off to a good start on catching up with people which, especially in this culture, is SO very important to do.

Today Thursday saw us go back to Tirana by minibus to meet up with Niku and Tani, below. Their mother Elvera died of cancer in the summer, and Tani along with his father Shaban and Halil, another leader, lead the Bethel Church in Tirana. I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose ones mother at their age. I have just lost my mother, but my mum was 94 and lived a long and fruitful life. We had lunch together, caught up on news of the church and how they were doing personally and prayed for them.

Then it was back to Elbasan in time to catch up with Edi and Arta below, who lead a church in Korca. We had coffee together and heard all their news. Their church is growing with 130 on Sundays including children. They have taken on a further large room which they have divided in two for children and youth work.

Edi has recently been in Milan and met 3 church leaders there. He is hopeful that some of their youth together with some young people we know from Skopje, Macedonia may come to our Youth Camp in July next year. This could all prove very interesting when it comes to translation!

Another phone call and we went back to our apartment to meet Ilir Qelemeni and give him some presents we have brought for him and Donika and their children.

Tomorrow we will catch up with another family we love dearly, and then head to Librazhd to meet the young people from the church there. They are a great bunch and very close to our heart. Then return to Elbasan and meet with the young people from the church here that we support. We have brought out a laptop for the church and some money so that they can buy some guitars for the young people to learn guitar with.

Let me close tonight with a couple of Christmas themed photos, the lights in the main boulevard in Elbasan and a Christmas tree!!
Ken and Ann



Thursday, 12 December 2013

It is December, so it must be oranges!


Ann and I are back in Albania again. With the death of my mother and Ann's father in recent weeks our time in Albania had to be put back until now. Usually we come in early November when it can still be warm, but December marks the start of winter as it does with us. The days are still sunny and bright but a cold wind blows from the snow topped mountains. But as it is December the orange trees are full of ripe fruit as with this tree in one of the main streets in Elbasan. The markets are full of fresh mandarins and oranges at 45p per kilo.


We flew in on Tuesday and met with Robert Cook who took us to his home in Lezhe where we met Mira, his wife, and their daughter Emily, and caught up on all their news. Then on Wednesday morning we caught the bus back to Tirana and met Tomor and Miranda who lead Victory church in the city. They took us lunch which we did not expect. Again it was good to catch up and to hear their plans for their personal lives and the life of the church. We hope Miranda, photo below, can make it to our ladies REAL conference in June.

We were joined by Mira, Ida Sinakoli's sister. Ida is an Albanian young lady in our church who many of you will know. Naturally, Mira was full of questions about her sister. Mira is engaged and plans to be married next year. Then to the furgon, the minibus, that brought us to Elbasan and to the apartment where we usually stay.

The evening was spent with Ilir and Rudina the leaders of the church we support here in Elbasan, having a meal together with them and their 3 daughters Sara, Eliada and Abigaila.

Like many families they are getting ready for Christmas. This is still a new venture for many here as Albania has for hundreds of years been Muslim and in communist times it was the New Year that was celebrated. Even now of course it is the commercial aspect of Christmas that comes to the fore as with these decorated Christmas cakes. Christmas trees and street decorations are now to be found in most towns and cities.

Now at 4.30pm, as I write this, the sun is going down behind the snow topped mountains. The sky is pink and blue, clear and cold. Stars are already shining. Darkness will cover us in a few minutes as there is virtually no twilight. And it will be cold. Homes here are built for the summer heat, not winter cold. Heating even in shops and homes are inadequate for the task. I once visited a maternity hospital here in Albania in winter. None of the wards were heated. Only the babies in their incubators were kept warm. The mothers slept in their clothes and coats in bed to keep warm. Now we must go to eat before the restaurant gets too cold and we shiver as we eat!
All our love,
Ken and Ann
PS The fruit available tells you the time of year. So oranges tell you it is December, September will bring grapes and October/November pomegranates and so on all through the year.


Saturday, 13 July 2013

Youth Camp cont.

Here is Ida with some of the girls from Librazhd. The three girls on the left Neraila, Paula and Brisilda all became Christians at our first Camp. And Ben below, is with some of the guys from Elbasan.
Here is Liam speaking to the young people, with Edi from Korca translating. The young people really took to Liam with his enthusiasm for God, energetic style, sense of humour and ability to communicate to them.

Below is a group from a church in Tirana that came to the Camp for the first time and have loved it. Ann and I met their leaders, Tomori and Miranda only in April, then had a meal with them during the HTB leadership conference in London and invited their young people to come. And come they did!!
And some turned up I didn't expect! On the left is Madeline from Korca with 3 girls from Kosovo! Kosovo is Albanian speaking and more strongly Muslim than Albania.
On the left is one of the girls who became a Christian at the Camp, with Jorida from Tirana, telling her story of how she came to have a personal faith in Jesus Christ.
And finally from Friday evening, a quick shot of the 19 young people who became Christians at the Camp, with Edi asking some of them to tell of their journey to knowing God personally.
Camp is over all too quickly! Loads of new friendships have been made amongst the young people and with us, so there were farewells all round on Friday night and even more as we went our separate ways this morning, Saturday.
I am sure our guys and Ida have loads more photos that will appear on Facebook or where ever and even better still, really good stories to tell of their time here. Was the Camp a success? Absolutely!
Thank you for your prayers for lives changed. I believe they have really been answered!
From Liam, Dave, Josh, Ben, Ann, Ida and me.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Youth Camp

Tuesday morning saw us on our way with the leaders and young people from Elbasan to the Camp in Pogradec. Only after half an hour or so we stopped for a breakfast break at a restaurant owned by a cousin of Besnik Nogu. Besnik comes to our church and is married to Valentina. Here is Arjan Emini, one of the leaders tucking into his simite me bogace. Simite is a special bread roll made with maize corn flour, filled with thin layers of pancake with liquid butter poured over it and then sprinkled with salt!! A really healthy mans breakfast! Arjan is enjoying it anyway!

In contrast here are Ann and Ida having their coffee at the same restaurant.
On we travelled to Pogradec which is beside Lake Ohrid that separates Albania from Macedonia. We booked into our hotel and then went to the Nehemiah Centre where most of the young people stay and which acts as the centre for the Camp. There we met all the other young people from the churches we know, 2 churches from Tirana, Librazhd, Burrel and Korca, 156 people at Camp altogether. We met up again of course with Liam, Dave, Josh and Ben who had been in Korca.
It really took off with the evening meeting, Korca church providing the band.

Here is Dave doing his stuff...

Worship...all in Albanian of course.
Then Edi who leads the Korca church spoke and finally the evening was rounded off with a game. Everyone had a piece of jigsaw in a colour. You had to get all the people with the same colour together and then put your jigsaw pieces together to spell out a verse from the Bible. So it looked like this...
Or this...
Ann, Ida and I stay in a hotel and opposite us two of the church groups from Tirana and Burrel, stay in another hotel. The evening meeting finished at 9.45 so then we walk back to our hotel and ate our evening meal outside with dozens of others who either stay at the hotel or who come for a drink and listen or dance to the live music. It wasn't long before Ida was on her feet dancing! (Sorry, no photo)
I feel privileged to be here. This is the view from my breakfast table this morning, Wednesday.
Here below, the early morning sun is clearing the mist from the lake so we can see the mountains in Macedonia.
The morning session saw worship and then Liam speak about having a heart to really follow Jesus. After a drinks break some more games. These were held in the hotel grounds where the Tirana and Burrel churches stay.
Jorida from Tirana speaking after Liam spoke. She would like to come to our Academy. Then here are Ben and Josh during worship.

The young people were in their coloured teams. It is designed to mix them all up so that they get to people from different churches. Here the game is to fill a pipe with water that has holes drilled in it. You have to put your fingers over the holes to stop the water leaking out. It also seems to be a good game to show the different colours of the girls nails!
Then lunchtime.
Here are our guys having eaten their lunch of grilled meat, chips and mixed salad. Mixed salad surprisingly doesn't have tomatoes in it and Dave doesn't like tomatoes!
Life here is just full of things so different from life in Bracknell. The local fishermen row out in their boat, let down their net in a long line and then stand at the lake edge and pull the net in. Catching fish is team work.
These are just small fish, sardines.
Now time for a rest and then this evenings meeting.
Ken, Ann and Ida.