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.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


After teaching Discovery Workshop, then lunch and a rest, we went to see a family Ann and I have known and kept contact with ever since our first visit here to Elbasan. The father in the centre of the photo is Arti with his two daughters Elsa on the left and Era. Mum, Vali, was very sad as she had just had her eldest brother die, and she didn't want her photo taken. Visits such as this one, mean we have the obligatory Turkish coffee with a glass of raki.
Both daughters are at University in Tirana, Elsa studying drama and Era is doing a Masters in finance.

Ida has been taking a look at the local costumes that are available. To get a good one is very difficult it seems. Most towns and villages have their own design, and are often owned by a cultural or dance organisations that you hire them from for weddings etc. The very best are hand made at home.

Time again to eat. This is inside the walls of the Turkish fort where we often come. It is a popular place to have coffee, socialise, have weddings and school proms. Ann's meal tonight was veal steak and chips, with a healthy salad of course!

The visit to Arti and Vali's with Ida led to an invitation to visit Arti's mother. Ann and I had been once before several years ago. She is a sprightly 71 year old who has a one storey house with a cellar and large garden.

She has a garden full of lemon trees that she waters each day early in the morning. The lemons are sold to hotels and restaurants. Between the trees are rose bushes of many colours and herbs like dill, thyme and oregano growing wild giving the whole garden a wonderful scent.
Friendships are always important and non more so than in Albania. Arti has lived in Elbasan all his life and seems to know everybody. Keeping contact is more than just thoroughly enjoyable. Not to do so would be seen as a serious snub.
Tomorrow we are up early and off to Youth Camp with the group from Elbasan.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Discovery Workshop Day2

We were up bright and early to take the next 4 sessions of the DW here in Elbasan. Another day, so another outfit for Ida!
When Ida had finished speaking there was spontaneous applause! The people here love her. Rudina said "I feel as though I have known her all my life". They loved the fact that Ida is speaking their language, is speaking in a simple but clear way and she understands their jokes and comments and where they are coming from.
Here is Ida with some of the ladies. Ida then Jeta, Rudina, Kela, Blerina and Arjana.
And now with some of the guys...Arjan, Gezim, (Arjana) and Ilir.
Here is one of Ann, me and Ida
Then it was time for lunch. The Albanian version of the English sandwich.
Here is Sara, Ilir and Rudina's eldest daughter tucking in, and here is here mother doing the same.
Because of the heat, the air conditioning was on, wonderful! But then it was time for farewells until tomorrow morning and time for us to go home and have a shower and rest before going out to see some friends at 6pm.
It has been just such a wonderful time being able to bring Ida here and seeing the impact she and the material we taught is having.
See you soon.

Discovery Workshop

Last evening we got down to the business of teaching the first sessions of the Discovery Workshop. Here is Ida at the end of a session and below in the midst of her talk.
It is just such a delight to have Ida from our church go to her home country and teach in her own language. As you imagine amusing comments Albanian style and good questions and answers flowed back and forth during the teaching. One could see the people took her to their heart, and Ida spent quite a time talking to people afterwards and praying for one lady in particular.
Evening sessions here at church start at 6pm. People have had their lunch and then a siesta in the afternoon so are ready for action about 5.30pm onwards. So after the teaching it was time to eat. People are out in numbers, just sitting and having a drink or going for a stroll in the warm evening air. Here is a picture of just a few of the dozens sitting in one cafe area.
We go to eat in a restaurant set inside the walls of an old Turkish fort. It is a stunning and amazing setting, often used for wedding photo sessions and wedding and other receptions. The Turkish/Muslim influence that lasted 400 years is still felt here today. Banners in the street remind one that we are in the midst of Ramadam. Coloured light up the walls of the fort and are also wrapped round the palm tree trunks.
After the meal it is back to the apartment, review what we did and talk through what we do tomorrow and then fall into bed! Another good day over.

Friday, 5 July 2013


Ann and Ida and I are now in Elbasan in Albania. We travelled on Wednesday with Liam Parker, Dave Betts, Josh Grimmett and Ben Weeks arriving at 11.30pm to our usual hotel in Tirana. Ida, who is from Tirana, was met by her mother and went home to stay with her family overnight.
Tani, a son of the church leader we know in Tirana was at the hotel when we got there to greet us. After a wonderful nights sleep and breakfast Liam went with Tani to pray for his mother who is seriously ill with cancer.
Liam, Dave, Josh and Ben then headed off to Korca to be with Edi and Artina and their church. Liam will be focusing on 3 days of evangelism on the streets. Do pray for them. Korca is strongly Orthodox. Edi has a growing church full of young people and we pray and look forward to hearing their stories when we meet up with them again at the Youth Camp next Tuesday.
Ann and Ida and I travelled separately to Elbasan along a new piece of road that includes a loooong tunnel! Where the journey was 90 minutes, full of twists and turns, it now takes 30 minutes on a smooth, flat new road. Bliss!
We are really excited about having Ida with us, as she is part of our church, knows our church ethos, but now for the first time is travelling with us in her home country meeting the churches and the people that we know.
After lunch we met Ilir and Rudina who lead the church and introduced Ida who with me will be teaching Discovery Workshop to some of the church today, Friday and Saturday morning. Ida is still busy typing away on her laptop as I write this, translating some material before we get it photocopied.
Meanwhile, Ann and I have been to the pazaar, to get food for lunch, fresh lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cherries and figs. Yes it is that time of year! The fruit and vegetables are always wonderful here.
Do pray for us. Apart from a 10/10 at Kerith, (10 speakers each have 10 minutes), this will be the first time for Ida to speak in front of a church and speaking in Albanian. Already they have told her that she sounds like a foreigner who has learnt Albanian!! Not totally true but I will encourage them to encourage her!
Looking forward to a brilliant time,