Thursday, 20 November 2014

November in Albania.

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.

Here are Miranda's brother, Ermir, me, Tomor, Ann, her mother Flutura and her sister Ornela with Ermir's son David.
Now Ann, Miranda, Flutura, David and her father Kadri, drinking coffee and eating fruit in the sunshine.

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.

Here are Edia, Jorida, Megi and Mirjana from Bethel Church, Tirana
Ilir from Elbasan, Edi from Korca and Roberti from Lezhe.
And now 4 girls from Burrel, the town I first went to In Albania.
And some of the guys from Edi's church in Korca.
I spoke on the Saturday morning on "Male and Female" and how this impacts church leadership and pastoral responsibilities and care.
On Saturday afternoon it was then off to Librazhd to meet the young people there who nearly all come to our Youth camp. They are a great bunch to be with. Again I spoke on vision and their plans for the next 10 years, always mindful that "man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" Proverbs 16v9


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.


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Youth Camp Scenes

I will try through these photos to give you some idea of the Youth Camp. Firstly and very importantly, our team getting to know people from the different churches. So here are Jack and Nick with some of the girls from Librazhd.

Imogen with more of the guys and girls from Librazhd
And now men together. Olu with more guys from Librazhd
and Emily and Jess with I don't know who!

In the afternoon there are sports and competitive games. It is Nesti who organises these and he does an excellent job. He is clearly in his element. Everyone is allocated a team so each team represents a cross section of the churches.


One of the games consisted of piggy backing your partner for 20 metres who then reached up for a lollipop sweet.
So Edi entered into the spirit of it and piggy backed Shaban! And they got the sweets!

Evenings are given over to a fun item then worship and a message


Here is Sarah singing with the band from Korca

Liam speaking...

and the response....



In an earlier blog I mentioned Tiku who became a Christian last year at Camp. I made a mistake with his name. It is Spartakus, shortened to Taku. So here is the new church group from Geshtenjas that came to Camp with their leader Yrri, in the white shirt and his wife Sanna at the end on the right and Taku is the tallest one.
And now a personal item. On Friday I went with Edi and a finance lady from the Nehemiah Camp to pay money in to the Bank in Pogradec. When Ann and I came out we saw Arti and Vali and their two daughters Era and Elsa who come from Elbasan. They are the family who provided us with accommodation in Elbasan when we first came to Albania. We get on well with them and always go and see them every time we come.They were on a day trip to Pogradec. Many people prefer Pogradec to the coast as it is at a much higher altitude and by the large Lake Ohrid and therefore much fresher and has far less oppresive heat. As it was lunchtime we took us to the village of Tushemisht and then we had lunch together.
Ann with Elsa, Vali and Era
Tushemisht is a village right next to the Macedonian border with entrance by vehicle restricted from 10am to 5pm, full of old style Albanian houses with gardens full of flowers and streams of water flowing through some of the streets.
The lady on the right is the statue of an Albanian actress best known for her role as Olga. The much slimmer lady on the left is Ann!
Vali and Ann.

and then lunch together

After our farewells it was time to see how our young people are getting on eating their evening meal which they eat before the evening meeting.

Everyone seemed happy with the food, pizza, grilled vegetables and cabbage salad followed by cake and watermelon.

Now Friday night, the last evening has come and gone. Farewells were made on Saturday morning, and they take ttime in Albania.

Now as I write this we are all on our way home sitting in Vienna Airport waiting for our flight to London Heathrow, some reading some headsets on. I would rate this probably our best Camp ever, but for more detail why not catch up with the Team when you see them, Liam, Jess, Sarah, Imogen, Jamie, Nick, Jack, Olu, Emily and Ben. They have been brilliant, and represented our church and our loving God very well.

With truly grateful thanks to God for another life changing Youth Camp iin Albania.

Ken and Ann


Thursday, 31 July 2014

Academy Students amendment

Folks, I am sorry but in my last blog I wrote my email address incorrectly. It is Fortunately one couple who know my correct address contacted me willing to support one of the students. That is such a help. Even if you can give half the amount say £150 that is a huge help. Any queries or questions do email me. Thank you

Ken and Ann

Albanian Academy Students

You will know that we have had a number of Academy Students over the past few years who have spent an academic year with us benefitting from training and teaching. Several of these have come from Poland, Lithuania and Estonia, and because these are EU countries they do not need a visa. Obet from Zambia who was with us this last year had to get a visa which he did succesfully.

We now have some young people from Albania who have applied to come to our Academy for September and been accepted by us. Now for the difficult bit, the visa application. It ought to be straight forward as Kerith is recognised by our Government as a fully A rated sponsor and are granted a certificate to show this. The certificate number is quoted in their application and everything should fall into place. The photo below shows Megi and Barbara both from Shaban's church in Tirana who have been accepted by us. Megi spoke at this mornings meeting and Barbara wants to Social Justice work with us.

And then we also have Nerila from Librazhd who is a physiotherapist but would like to do Youth work with us. Nerila came to our very first Youth Camp where she became a Christian.

And here is Nesti from Burrel who wants to do Children's work. Nesti is organising all our games and activities at Camp as he did last year with great success.

A real issue for all of them is the one of money for the visa. The visa costs £208 and then the company who handle the visa application for the UK Embassy in Tirana want another £100. It has all gone up in price this last year!

To give you some idea of how this relates to earnings here, Nerila works for 20 hours a week for 3 months as a physiotherapist for £200. From this she needs to help pay her way at home and provide clothes and shoes and travel etc. So the visa fee realistically is outside her ability to pay. Their churches too have little money to help them. I bought a new laptop out this time for Nesti's church. A guy in the UK paid the £540 for it as the church does not have that kind of money. So just for once, I am asking if any of you who read this would be willing to help them with say £300 each? If you will then please email me at k.bothamley@ntlworld and let me know by this Saturday 2nd August and I will sort it for them. Not only do they have to pay the quite substantial visa fee it has to be paid in euros by Visa card, so they all have to open a Visa euro bank account just to do this.

At the least please pray for them all, that the money becomes available and their online applications are succesful. It will mean so much not only to them but to their sending churches. We can play a part here in help build the future church in Albania.

From Ken and Ann