Wednesday, 25 November 2015

At last the photos!!!

Now here are the photos I wanted to upload in Albania.  Easy enough when one is at home on your own computer. This is the restaurant by a river that looks likes a ruined castle in the village of Mullett.  Tomor and Miranda took us here to talk through the arrangements for next years Ladies UNIKE conference.  

Ann with Miranda

and inside the restaurant.

On Friday evening Mira, Ida's sister, and her husband Gjergji took us to a fish restaurant in Tirana for a wonderful meal.

Prawns with pomegranate seeds

Then a raw fish salad with pomegranate seeds, though we think the fish had been cured in lime juice,

noodles with mussels

and then sea bream cooked with cherry tomatoes and olives

and finally fresh fruit for desert all In season, new oranges, mandarin oranges, persimmon and kiwi fruit.

The church in Elbasan have just finished installing underfloor heating pipes in the main hall and three rooms off this corridor.  The ceilings and walls have been plastered and painted and now the concrete is being laid on the floor covering the pipes.  It is left to cure for a month.  

The main boulevard in Elbasan on a fine November day. Blue sky and 22C at midday.

And finally, orange trees grow alongside several of the roads in central Elbasan.  They are a lovely sight with their bright orange fruit, almost like Christmas decorations. Now you have been able to see what we see and understand how enjoyable it is for us to be in Albania. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

What good is a blog with no photos?

In the early days of writing a blog I bought Blogging for Dummies thinking that it would help me. I soon discovered two things. It was largely focused on how you could use your blog to raise money by advertising and increasing your viewing audience, and secondly it assumed you were at home using your home computer and keyboard. I wasn't really interested in the first and I wasn't doing the second. My blogs are written on the move. And therein potentially lies a huge problem. I am writing this with my iPad. I can include photos if I have taken them with my iPad, but not otherwise. Whilst I can connect Ann's camera, to my iPad, the iPad of itself does not have the power to download the photos. So it tells me. So then I go to a local internet cafe, use their computer and keyboard, connect Ann's camera and hey presto,we have it! But life is not that simple. There used to be an Internet cafe on nearly every main street here in Elbasan, Albania but not any more. Worse still, try even FINDING an internet cafe in the Cyrillic writing nations, Macedonia, Serbia and so on and then you are confronted with a Cyrillic keyboard! The Internet cafe I have always used here in Elbasan has become a betting shop with a few computers upstairs and they now all have German keyboards. It is not just that the Y and Z have changed places and the @ sign is elsewhere, this computer try as I may wanted all script centred, in blue and underlined and it wouldn't fit the text round the photos. Agh! I gave up and came home.

So, I was going to show you the restaurant that looks like a ruined castle that Miranda and Tomor took us to on Friday morning to talk through next years Ladies UNIKE Conference.

And I was going to show you some of the wonderful food at a fish restaurant that Ida's Astley's (nee Sinakoli) sister Mira and her husband George took us to in Tirana on Friday night. I have never had a fish meal like it. It was absolutely superb!

And I was going to show you up to date photos of the underfloor heating that has been laid in the church here in Elbasan, and all the plastering and painting work they have done on the building, with some money we gave them last summer. It just needs now to have the doors and windows put in and the floors tiled and electric fitments so that the ground floor is finished off and they can use the main hall and three rooms for youth and childrens work.

How much better the blog would be with photos!!! Hopefully, normal service will resume as soon as possible.

Much love from Ann and me.


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Albania Youth Camp 2015

Once Youth Camp begins it is full on for 3 long days. After breakfast and morning devotions there is the first session with worship and 3 speakers each for 10 minutes, each one is a youth leader in their church, and then games for 2 hours in the heat 35-40C, lunch then free time. The evening meal is at 7pm followed by a meeting with worship, leaders from different churches being interviewed and then Liam our Youth Pastor speaking. Here is Megi from Tirana speaking on the first day at one of the 10 minute sessions. The band members are from the Albanian churches, but they had no drummer so our very own Jacob Benham came to the rescue.
After the morning session there are games organised by Nesti from Burrel. How does this guy think of these crazy things to do year after year? Fortunately most of the games involve water, and as it is so hot clothes dry in minutes. And when you are young, who cares?? Here is one crazy game. Holding up a young guy off the ground, one of the team, on a chair and walking him towards a paddling pool with balls in it that he has to fish out. A good job I wasnt sitting on the chair. I dont think they would have lifted it!!
And another one. Running and then sliding along a plastic sheet covered with soapy water!! That looked great to me.
Or this one. Climbing a rope ladder tied to a tree in the local park with a small bucket of water in your mouth to empty into a bigger bucket in the tree.
What makes Camp are the young people themselves and here a few photos of some of them.
Our guys Jack, Nick and Sam below
Miri a leader from the village of Kajan, in the blue shirt centre, and Matilda, a leader in the white cap, from Victory Church, Tirana, and their group.

Matilda and some of the girls.

And some of our guys, Nick, Sam, Jacob, Nick and Ben enjoying their ice creams (akullore) with Edi Morava who organises the Camp.

I recognise Paola from Librazhd in the yellow top.

What makes the Camp is not just the young people but God himself moving in power in a persons life. Here is Liam speaking on the first night of the Camp bringing the good news that God loves us, and that we can know him in a personal way through his son Jesus.
After speaking there is always time to respond to what has been said and pray for one another.


The three days go quickly and all too soon it is time to say our farewells. Friendships have been formed across the churches and the Nations, that continue on FB, but more importantly lives have been changed. Only afterwards do leaders tell me how wonderful and worthwhile it has been and how some of their young people have become Christians or made a move forward in their walk with God.
We had so many young people this year, more than ever before, that I have begun to think we must have a Youth Camp just for teenagers 13-18 years, and a separate weekend away for students and twenties. For the first time we had a leader and 4 young men from a church in Podgorica, the capital city of Montenegro, the country that borders the north of Albania. The guys had been Kosovan refugees, so were Albanian speaking. Some of the young people have been coming for 8 years now from when they were young teenagers, and though they are no longer teenagers they come because it is the best Camp they know. Time has come I feel to do something fresh, challenging and relevant for them. Please pray about this as we seek to serve the young people of Albania in the best way we know how.
So on Saturday morning, we all went our separate ways. Liam and the team stayed another night and spent some time together as a team, and then caught an early flight home on Sunday via Istanbul. Ann and I returned to Elbasan and i spoke at the Sunday meeting. Another wonderful, fruitful Youth Camp was over for another year!
Much love from Ann and me.



Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Youth Team to Albania Camp

Liam and the team of nine set off on Sunday evening for Stansted Airport to catch their Pegasus Airlines flight to Istanbul, a brief stay in the airport overnight and then fly from Istanbul to Tirana arriving at 8am on Monday. That was the plan. But the plan was thrown completely when their fight was cancelled. Pegasus, like a lot of budget airlines, don't fly everywhere on their route plan every day. Suddenly phone calls and texts are flying all over the place even if the plane wasn't! Pegasus could get them to Istanbul on Monday after midday but then they didnt fly to Tirana until Thursday, and they could only take 9 not all 10 of them. Um! This is Sunday evening when the church office is closed and some key staff are on holiday! But we all have mobile phones! In the end they all stayed overnight in an hotel near Stansted on Sunday night and then Pegasus flew them to Istanbul on Monday. The onward flight was with Turkish Airlines to Tirana who fly from the main international Ataturk airport, so that meant being transported from one side of Istanbul (Asian side) to the other European side. This was followed by futile attempts to sleep in the airport on Monday night before catching their early morning, now Tuesday, flight to Tirana, Albania.

I met them at the airport soon after 9am, all looking VERY tired. Bottles of cold water all round was the first thing and then all aboard the air conditioned minibus where they could relax knowing they really were now on the last leg of the journey. It didnt take long for most of them to fall asleep. This photo of Olu probably sums it up. No, he is not thinking with his eyes closed, he is fast asleep!

After 90 minutes or so we were in Elbasan the main city Ann and I stay in and a good place to have a break. Liam and others were hungry so fast food was the order of the day. Sufllaques were orderd with a bottle of cold water all for 200 Leke =£1each. It is amazing how food revives the spirits.



Another of couple of hours and we arrived at the Nehemiah Centre, Pogradec where we hold the Youth Camp. Sheer relief that the journey was over. Here we are right by Lake Ohrid and much higher up so the air is fresher and cooler. The team were greeted by Ben and Jack from our church who have been here a week already.
Bags and suitcases put in their rooms and then it was time to eat again. And this is what they tucked into, a hearty helping of a baked pasta dish with vegetables in it and cheese on top, a sausage, salad, potato soup if you wanted it, and watermelon.

Here is one young girl with her tray of food, and Ann in the background.

It was great to go round all the tables meeting the young people and their leaders from the churches represented here. Many have been coming for several years and we have got to know them well.

Finally, to show that Ann is here with me one of her by the lake this evening.

Lots of love from Ann and me, and grateful to God and to many of our staff playing their part for getting the team here safe and sound ready for the Youth Camp to begin.




Life in Elbasan

With the continued heat, 2 weeks of +35C, people were looking for this, the clouds that herald a thunderstorm bringing the cooling rain. And rain it did. Big heavy drops that drenched the streets and cooled the air, bringing a short relief from the heat. But just a couple of hours later the temperature was back to normal!
Sunday morning we worshipped with Ilir and Rudina and many people who are our friends, grateful for air conditioning! Ilir spoke from 2 Cor 5v17, on being new creatures in Christ.
On Sunday evening we made our way to Ilir and Rudina's apartment for an evening meal. In the road nearby is a huge hole exposing work that is being done on the main sewer drain. This hole was here in May when we came with our ladies to their apartment.
Rudina and 2 of her daughters, Sara and Eliada.
As usual the table was spread with food, boiled potatoes, because the English like them, roast chicken, salad,olives, boiled eggs, and pickled aubergine.
On Monday evening Ann had arranged a flapjack cookery lesson with Elsa. One of the first families we met when we came to Elbasan was Arti, Vali and their daughters Era and Elsa. We stayed in an apartment they rent out, and we have been friends ever since. So here is Vali with Era and Ann in the kitchen. First challenge was that they have no scales. Ann had brought with her the oats, golden syrup, baking parchment and a tin to cook the flapjacks in. Now you know some of the things thay go into our suitcases!
And the finished product!! Looks goos to me. We didn't get to taste it but I reckon Vali and the girls would have eaten most of it before Arti came home from work.
And a family photo with Elsa, Era, Vali and Ann with 2 girls from next door.
This was Monday evening and we were already aware that Liam and the team of 9 with him had had their Sunday late night flight with Pegasus Airlines to Istanbul cancelled and they had stayed overnight in an hotel near Stansted airport.
Their journey to get to the Youth Camp is another story.
From a continuing hot Albania.
Ken and Ann



Saturday, 25 July 2015

Elbasan - early in the morning

Saturday morning 25 July at 6.30 and the sun is appearing from behind the mountains to start another day here in Elbasan, Albania. The mist hangs over the river Shkumbini, but will soon disappear in the heat. I cannot say I am writing in the cool of the day as already the temperature is 30C and will quickly rise. Fortunately Ann and I are staying in an apartment with air conditioning else I am not sure what we would get done! Ilir and Rudina told us it has been hot all of July with the temperature reaching 44C on the day we arrived, last Wednesday. Turning my camera away from the sun, you can see Elbasan with its 125,000 people already bathed in sunlight and people are on the move. Many shops and the Post Office open at 7am. The Post Office, Banks and the new small supermarkets have air conditioning, all the others don't have it, so they swelter. Ice cream and water melon sellers do a roaring trade.
We arrived late on Wednesday evening to be greated by Tomor and Miranda who took us to an air condiotined hotel to stay overnight in Tirana. The same wonderful hotel we stayed with Catrina and the team of ladies for the UNIKE conference earlier this year. Surprise, surprise, they recognised us! Our original idea was to go straight to Elbasan when we arrived, but our flight turned out to be 4 hours later than planned arriving at 10.30 pm, so a few quick text messages were sent from Gatwick to Tomor and Ilir Koci and our schedule was changed.
The next morning after a delightful breakfast, we met Tomor and Miranda and had lunch together. They had asked us to bring a whole number of things from "uncle Tesco and aunty Waitose" as they describe it, and Catrina had sent a gift which delighted Miranda. Green and Black's chocolate is her favourite. Naturally we talked about the UNIKE ladies conference and the plans and date for next years conference. Some of you girls will have spotted Miranda has got her hair up. This is because of the heat and one way of trying to keep cool.
8 of their church young people and 7 from Miranda's home village of Kajan will come to our Youth Camp held next week. After much chatting it was time for farewells and we went on our way to Elbasan. Time for a short sit down to escape from the heat and then we walked the 1 kilometre to Ilir and Rudina's apartment for our evening meal with them and their 3 girls.
Rudina provides such wonderful food. Star attraction for me was the aubergines stuffed with onons, (Rudina had peeled 1 kilo of onions and cried for ages) tomatoes and garlic, and then cooked in the oven until really soft. Wonderful, with village sausages and salad.
With the heat, Ilir and Rudina and their girls all sleep in the lounge, on the settees and the floor, in the one room they have with air conditioning. Even so it can be hard to sleep well as the air conditioning is battling with such high temperatures even at night. Buildings here have no insulation, not even the new ones, so they are very warm in the summer and very cold in the winter.
Friday morning we rested and texted. I got in touch with Jorida Doce, who with 2 other girls is with Ben and Jack from Kerith. Ben and Jack came out here last week to spend time with the young people from the churches we know and encourage them to believe for great things at the Youth Camp and in their own town. Having started in Tirana and then having had 2 days in Elbasan, they were now in Librazhd, sleeping in peoples homes at night. The whole time will be a brilliant experience for them and they will get to know the young people, their towns, Albania and God far better. Today they move on to Korca and from there will go to the Youth Camp.
So another day dawns with its plans and purposes. We look forward to what God will do today!
Ken and Ann