Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Sunday morning found us saying our farewells to the people in the Elbasan church, but knowing we will be here again in July with Ida Sinakoli from our church before going to the Youth Camp. Liam and Dave Betts with Josh Grimmett and Ben Weeks will also come out with is and they will go to Korca to be with Edi and Arta before the Camp.
In the evening we had a meal at Ilir and Rudina's house, with their 3 daughters, again finalising conversations before.....the power went off! When I first came to Albania this was a regular occurrence. ( I remember being with Ann staying in the Grand Hotel in Korca and it had NO electricity and NO water! Not exactly Grand. ) The city of Elbasan was plunged into darkness, only cafes or restaurants with their own generator had power. And it started to pour, absolutely pour with rain as it can do in Mediterranean countries. Nothing else to do but wait for the rain to stop and power be restored which happened eventually. Final farewells and we walked home.
We had arranged to meet up with Mirjana who would like to come on our Academy year of training. She and Jorida, who also wants to come, are part of Shaban's church in Tirana. We have known them for several years through the Youth Camp and the worship training Colin Boyle and Dave Betts have done. So a bus ride, 30 Lek, 20p, however far you go, into the city centre and we had lunch together and talked through the possibility of her coming on the Academy.
A phone call to Tomorri and Miranda, who we had met at the Elbasan conference, and they repeated their invitation for an evening meal at their home. They lead Victory Church here in Tirana. So just before 7pm, Tomorri picked us up and brought us to their apartment that they share with Miranda's two younger sisters. Accommodation in Tirana, like any capital city, is expensive and so Miranda's sisters live with them until they can get a secure job and save for their own place.
This was the first time we had a real conversation with them and could hear their life story, where they met and how they come to lead the church. Miranda comes from a village near Elbasan and so knows all the people we know and a load more. Miranda prepared some superb food, with the help of her sisters and we had the joy of eating their hard work. Again, Miranda is keen that some young people she knows from their church in Tirana and from the village church her brother runs, could come to the Youth Camp. This we said is mainly a matter of para, para, money, money, but we promised to look at this and be in touch with them.
So late at night, gone 11pm, we made our Goodbyes, looking forward to when we may next see them. One more nights sleep, and then it is time to pack our suitcases, head for the airport and fly back home. Another time in Albania endeavouring to help the Church here to grow and build the Kingdom of God has come to an end.
Ken and Ann.
The next day Edi took us to Bilisht, a town near the Border with Greece, to meet Arjan, below who has a church there.
Arjan showed us round his church building and their facilities and then we sat and talked. His wife comes from Librazhd, the town we had been to the previous Saturday and Ann and I knew her from there. Arjan was very interested at the possibility of their youth coming to our Youth Camp. There are so few opportunities of young people coming together in a Christian setting. Camps for small children are quite common. They will have activities in the morning and then go home for lunch and be home the rest of the day. But to take young people away to a purpose built centre, all meals included and be away 4 days, have really good worship and teaching is most unusual. I don't know another Camp like it in Albania and I have asked around a lot.
The next morning we went to Lake Prespa. This is an area of Albania that is Macedonian speaking hence the road signs like this one. It is a quiet, peaceful, beautiful area. It is where the countries of Albania, Macedonia and Greece meet.
Time for coffee in a very small cafe, no one else there apart from us and the owner, but beautiful views all round. What the photo cannot show you is how HOT it is! Cloudiness in England like this would mean cool, but not here. It is very close, very humid.
Back to Korca and in the late afternoon we met with the young people from Edi's church. I have shown a number of photos as several of our guys back in Bracknell will recognise people from Youth Camp.
They worshipped, then I spoke, they played some games and then more interactive stuff. We talked about the problems they face, mainly trying to find work and jobs. You may have noticed that several of them have a dark skin colour. Albanians refer to them as Egyptians, ( it is thought this comes from Alexander the Great bringing soldiers from Egypt who stayed) and so they are looked down on and even despised though not as much as Roma. Several of them have been refused jobs out right because they are "Egyptian". Potential employers ask outright "What is your ethnicity?"
Esmerelda, in the last photo, works in a clothes making factory, 7 days a week for €60 a month! Ann and her talked about her having her own sewing machine at home and making things to sell and provide an income. Flori and her plan to marry at the end of June. Esmerelda's father died in the troubles a few years ago, and her mother ran away, so she lives with an aunt. She posses nothing other than her clothes. As a couple they will look to his family and the goodness of God through the kindness of the church to provide for them.
Last Friday was Good Friday in the Orthodox calendar. They are 5 weeks behind our Easter. So on Friday as we left the Youth Meeting we met the parade coming from the Orthodox Church. The parade was led by the town band,
Followed by the young priests walking backwards holding the incense holders
And the main clergy with the Bishop
Followed by about 5 to 10,000 people.
And then our final coffee together with Edi and Artina, with Clinton on the left and Flori and Esmerelda. This where we try to tie up any loose ends, talk about the Youth Camp again and who will do what and say our farewells. We had spent 4 busy days with Edi, meeting all their leaders and people and cementing a relationship that we already had. It is not often I feel this but leaving Edi was almost heart breaking for me. I feel for him in the task he has on his hands in building the church.
Saturday morning saw us climb aboard our furgon back to Elbasan and the start of our journey home to Bracknell. But still some more people to meet, and conversations to have.
Ken and Ann
Sunday, 5 May 2013
Later we walked down the old Via Egnatia, the old Roman road that went from Rome to the New Rome, Constantinople. Constantin wanted to call it New Rome but the people named it after him. The road runs through Elbasan on, up into the mountains, into Macedonia and then onto Thessaloniki and then Istanbul. This road is still the main road, used by all the truck drivers coming from Turkey and northern Greece, who are heading for Italy and western Europe. This is a bit of the original road, now one of the back streets in Elbasan that has been re-cobbled with EU money.