Whenever we come to this time of year I think of Thomas Hood's poem we learnt at school.
No sun, no moon, no morn, no noon,
No dawn, no dusk, no proper time of day.......
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
But it is different in Albania. Ann and I arrived to blue skies and trees laden with Sharon fruit (Persimmon) , pomegranates and mandarins. Here is one large pomegranate and some persimmon,
and flowers in abundance.
We we stayed with Tomor and Miranda Ajeti who run Victory Church in Tirana. Miranda and Tomor came to our womens REAL conference in June, and Miranda was blown away by it. She said straightaway to Ann, "I want to do this in Albania". And when Catrina Benham said that one of her dreams is to speak in a foreign country, Ann nudged Miranda and said "Now is your chance". Catrina agreed, and now we are looking at holding a Women's conference in Tirana on the 1st and 2nd May 2015.
So the next day was spent talking this through, looking at possible venues and considering all the things that have to be done to make a conference happen.
As a people, Victory church, come together on Saturday afternoons at 4pm in the Opera House in central Tirana. Here are some of their young people before the meeting leafleting people on the street.
We had invited some of their young people to our summer Youth Camp and they in turn gave Ann some flowers to say "Thank you."
Sunday morning saw us up early and off to Elbasan to the church we often go to and their morning meeting where I spoke on vision.
We had a midday meeting over coffee with Tomor and Miranda, Ilir and Rudina from Elbasan and Arta and Edi from Korca and Ann and me, to talk through all the detail of the planned Womens Conference in Tirana.
The next day Miranda took us to her home village of Kajan to meet her father and mother.
This is Ermir (Miri) Miranda's brother, his wife Nazmie (Naku) and their 3 children, Elesia, twins David and Erisa. Naku is a schoolteacher and Miri an electrician. Miri brought some of their young people to our youth camp last August. We taught the twins the nursery rhyme "Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear, one step, two step, tickle me under there" They liked that!
During the week Ann and I spent time with Ilir and Rudina Koci who run the church in Elbasan. Our conversations cover all manner of things from how they are as a couple to childrens and youth work, pastoral issues and how theey see the future.
Elbasan is a good centre for quite an area and they have good church facilities. So come the end of the week church leaders from 5 Newfrontiers churches and their younger leaders gather for training in Elbasan.
Back to Elbasan and a Greek meal in the evening with the leaders of the Elbasan church Ilir and Rudina, with also Arjan and his wife Blerina, Ilir and Donika and Ron and Sue who come from a Newfrontiers church in Bedford.
Sunday saw a round table meeting with Miranda seeking the thoughts and ideas of Ilr and Rudina from Elbasan, Edi and Arta from Korca and Ann and me. I won't show the photos as we all look VERY serious!
Then Monday and it was time for farewells and back to Tirana and a final lunch with Miranda and Tomor as we pondered over our thoughts for the conference whilst we ate lunch together.
I think Miranda is ideal to make the Womens Conference happen.Two of her strengths are Communication and WOO,winning others over.
And then onto a bus for Lezhe and the evening and over night with Robert and Mira Cook who lead a church in Lezhe. Mira is pregnant with their second child and has now finished full time work and Robert teaches English full time in a local American College. Time to catch up and talk through Albanian cultural issues. Rob is English and Mira Albanian so it is always good picking their brains and experience on cultural matters, life in Albania and life in the local church.
Do please pray for Miranda who is organising the Women's Conference for about 250 women next May, and for Catrina Benham who will speak at it. This will Catrina's first time speaking overseas into a very different culture but one where is God is still present and able to move in power.
We are already planning and have indeed set the dates for next years Youth Camp in Albania at the end of July. We will take a team and Liam our youth pastor will speak. Please pray for Liam and that many lives will be changed through the Camp.
With much love from Ann and me.