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