Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Bother at the border!

Off we set with Edi and Renato in the children's work minibus, a smooth road and blue sky. Soon we arrived at the Nehemiah Centre in Pogradec where we will hold our Youth Camp at the end of July, with Liam our youth pastor. We met Elona Canallari who deals with the administration of our camp and confirmed the dates. It gave Lydia and Catherine the opportunity to see where the Youth Camp is held. Then on again, through Drilon a quiet beaautiful spot where a small river runs into Lake Ohrid and then to the Albania-Macedonia border. Quiet, very quiet. Probably the quietest border crossing I have ever been to. Just one other car and a couple walking through the border. Getting out of Albania was no problem, getting into Macedonia was a problem for Edi and potentially for us. The passport check was okay but they were checking the vehicles and the Police were unhappy with a broken window in the minibus that was taped over with plastic. Something that would be perfectly okay in Albania, in fact pretty normal. After giving Edi a hard time for twenty minutes whilst we sat patiently waiting and praying for them to make their decision as to what to do with us, they finally agreed to let us proceed as long as Edi fixed the broken window in Ohrid, else he would not be allowed out of Macedonia with his vehicle back into Albania. They produced a written order for him saying he must get it fixed and giving him permission to proceed only as far as Ohrid. I was relieved, as there were no taxis that could have taken us and frankly we would have been stuck. But on we went and then stopped for a short

break by the lakeside. Photos above with Ann, and below will give you some idea. It was totally calm, a beautiful blue sky and warm.

On the other side of the road I spotted these 2CV's and thought this is where they must come to die!

On to Ohrid where we went to the bus station, bought our tickets for the 3pm bus and then went for lunch by the lake. Life has it's compensations and this was one of them. We were seated under a tree looking towards

the lake about to tuck into a lovely fresh Shopska salad, with village sausage and chips. The tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce are all fresh and locally grown and strawberies are already in season here.

Then time to get the bus, say our farewells to Edi and start our 3 1/2 hour journey to Skopje. Sasha met us, took Catherine and Lydia to their hotel and then we went to their home as Ann and I were going to sleep in Sasha and Marija's bed. A cup of coffee and a sit down in a comfy chair, then time for us all to eat down town and then home again by 10pm ready for a brief nights sleep. The alarm was set for 2.15 am but I awoke at 2. Showered and shaved, cases packed and the taxi arrived soon after 3 with Lydia and Catherine already on board. Straight to the Alexander the Great Airport for our 5am flight, and now as I write this we are on the WIZZ air flight to London Luton. An excellent, enjoyable, fruitful, friendship building and tiring time. But I would do it again!

Love from Lydia and Catherine, who have excellent, positive and thoroughly enjoyable companions to travel with, Ann and me.




Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Korca church workers meeting

On Monday at 6pm we met with the men and women who head up the various ministries in the church. Buildings here are built for the summer heat, so high ceilings, tiled floors and heavy curtains to keep out the light and thereby the heat. But in winter and even now in spring it works against them so that rooms are cold, sometimes very cold. So the sob, the wood burning stove, has pride of place at their Sunday meetings. Here we are gathered round the sob, but it is not lit, so as you can see, people are wrapped up against the cold.

After introductions, we asked them what issues they faced and after suggesting a few things to them the conversation and the questions flowed. Dealing with growth in the childrens work, communication amongst themselves and with volunteers, gathering volunteers and looking after them and planning ahead were some of the topics we covered. In the photo below are l to r Daniella, Vile and her husband Fredi,

then Vaso, Toshca, married to Daniella, Kostika and Olsi one of the Elders.

And finally Olsi again, Julia and Renato.Renato is one of the Elders and runs their bible teaching class.


We met the people in the bible teaching class and all of us prayed and prophesied with them. They are a group who are new Christians and are being taught the basics of the Christian faith.

So after a great time with them for two and half hours it was time for them to go home and us to go and eat. Back to the hotel restaurant that was already crowded with what seemed to be an office party. And on the menu was something I have not seen before. Half way down the page is "Grilled or fried locust". And you and I thought it was only eaten by people like John the Baptist! Perhaps I should have it for breakfast!


Lydia and Catherine and Ann are now tucking in to their breakfast as I write this now on Monday morning. Breakfast over, it is time to pack our cases and be on the move. Edi is kindly taking us in their childrens work minibus to Pogradec, past the Nehemiah Centre where we will have the Youth Camp in the summer, over the border into Macedonia and onto Ohrid. There we will get on a minibus and head for Skopje. So a day of travelling, but the sun is shining and God is with us.

Love from Lydia, Catherine, Ann and me.


Monday, 7 April 2014

Childrens Workers Workshop in Elbasan

Ann and I are here in Albania again, this time with Lydia Harris-Lane who leads our childrens work at Kerith, and Catherine Felgate who is also on staff and helps Lydia. The church in Elbasan lead by Ilir and Rudina Koci asked us to help them develop their childrens work. Lydia came out 2 years ago so now it was felt it was good to come again. The Workshop was held last Saturday morning and the photo shows Lydia with Arjan Emini translating. I know Lydia has done something similar to this in Lithuania but this time there were between 40-50 people from at least half a dozen churches. Many of these were known to me and Ann, but there were many new faces. 3 churches from Elbasan were represented, and others from Tirana, Kruje, Cerrik and Korca. So a really good crowd who really enjoyed what Lydia and Catherine had to say. Afterwards they spoke of how they had been challenged and benefited from what they had to say.
Afterwards we had pizza together and questions and answers flowed and new friendships made.
Here are some of the girls from Korca who came. In Korca they gather 80 children on a Sunday morning whilst their main meeting for adults and teenagers is in the late afternoon. And just to prove that we are here, here is a photo of us with them.
Whilst Lydia and Catherine were speaking Ann and I were meeting with Nerila Qoshku and her cousin Bresilda both from Librazhd. They are both at university in Tirana and finish their studies this summer. Nerila has applied to come to our Academy. Please pray that her visa application which she will make at the beginning of July will be sucessful.
In the evening we had a meal together with Ilir and Rudina and talked about their church and the childrens work in particular. On Sunday morning Lydia and Catherine looked in on the childrens work and I spoke at the meeting. It was good to see that new people had joined them since we were here last December. Then straight afer the meeting we got on board a furgon, minibus, and headed straight to Korca.
Two and half hours later we arrived in Korca and booked into the hotel on the outskirts of the city where we are staying. No one in the church has a home big enough to take two of us let alone four of us, so we stay in a hotel.
Edi and Artina who lead the church here met us at the hotel and we had coffee together and caught up on news.

After catching up, we then headed off to their church which keeps growing numerically. It is such a joy to meet up with so many people that we know from meeting them at our Youth Camp year after year and then on the occasions when we come to Korca. The Korca band has played at our Youth Camp the last 2 years. I am sure some of our youth will recognise Elvis on the drums and Geni on the bass guitar.
And below, is Vaso leading the worship with his wife Madeleine and Xhulio on the violin.
I spoke at the meeting and then afterwards after many farewells we went for an evening meal with Edi and Arta and their son Michael.
Today, Monday, we have a break. Lydia has not been to Korca before and it is Catherine's first visit to Albania so we thought it will be good to show them some of the Korca sights. Korca is considered the cultural capital of Albania. Here was started the first school in Albania for boys and then girls, and Korca declared itself an independant Republic in the 1920's in the days after the Ist World War, that paved the way for Albania becoming an separate nation no longer under Ottoman rule.
Now we are off to the church workers (leaders) meeting and another good time with a great group of people.
Love to you all and please pray for safe journeys. Tomorrow we are up and on our way back over the border via Ohrid to Skopje the capital of Macedonia. It's all go!
Ken and Ann