Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Ladies UNIKE Conference in Albania part 2

Well the girls arrived last night in Tirana and were through immigration and collected their luggage in record time. Then by minibus to our hotel and were checked in very efficiently. They all felt like something to eat but too much and after their travelling didn't want to walk too far so we ate our evening meal in the hotel.

I think most slept like logs. They ought to. One can have a choice of pillow here. Spelt pillow, pure new wool pillow, horsehair pillow, neck supporting pillow, thoracic support pillow or a body pillow as well as normal ones. Breakfast was an easy affair this morning, and then time for a stroll round the centre of Tirana. We saw the Presidential Palace, then went to an Orthodox Cathedral before coming to the National Historical Museum with its huge mosaic mural above the entrance. It depicts victorious Albanians from different parts of their past and is an example of triumphalist art of 1981.

Then we walked to the Opera House,where Tomor and Miranda hold their church meetings, saw the main 18th century mosque in Tirana across the road, that is noted for its colourful external decoration. It was kept as a cultural monument during the atheism campaign of the 1960's.

The mosque of Et'hem Bey with Skanderbeg Square in the background.

12 noon, and it was time to have coffee with Mira, Ida's sister and George her fiance. Here is Penny chatting with Mira who gets married a week on Saturday.

Like many a bride to be, Mira is excited, busy and tired all at the same time. She is working this week but has holiday next week leading up to her wedding. After walking a while in the increasing warmth it was most enjoyable as Esther discovered, to sit in a comfy chair and have a drink.
She was not alone. We all needed a break. Here are Sarah, Lesley and Catriona...
and Iris
Time to wander back to the hotel for lunch. A set menu of the day. Cabbage salad with orange or pumpkin soup, then pork fillet with ratatouille and finishing with a small fresh fruit plate or cake, bottled water included all for £4 each.
Just to show that I am here with my wife, here is Ann with Penny, Catriona and Esther.
Should you think it is all relaxing, as I write this Catrina and Sarah are finalising the programme with Miranda in the hotel lobby and then the girls are preparing gift bags for the 400 women coming to the conference before we eat yet again this evening!
I think they all like Albania!


Monday, 27 April 2015

Ladies UNIKE Conference in Albania 1,2 Maj

At last years Ladies REAL Conference in the Kerith centre, Miranda Ajeti, below, knew straightaway in her heart that she wanted a Ladies Conference in Albania. This put together with Catrina Benham's desire to speak overseas, and the Ladies UNIKE Conference in Tirana, Albania was born.
Just over 350 Albanian ladies are booked into the Conference that will be held in the Qender e Khristare, Tirana. (Christain Centre). Miranda lives with her phone glued to her ear tallking to church leaders, women who want to come but not yet booked in, people who will provide the drinks and seemingly countless others.
For Ann and me it has been a day to check out the Centre and the seating, (comfortable red chairs like the Kerith) where registration will take place, how drinks will be provided, how the building will be cleaned during the day, who will be there to operate the sound system as well as choosing the pastries that will be eaten during the breaks!
We are all delighted not only at the numbers of ladies coming, but also the number of churches represented. As is usual most are coming through personal contact with churches from Korca, Librazhd, Elbasan, Kajan, Fier, Gjirokastra, Vlora, Kruja, Lac and many from Tirana.
So we are almost there! Tomorrow, things begin in earnest as Catrina and 8 of our ladies from Kerith will arrive at the Mother Teresa airport, Tirana. From there they go straight to their hotel as they get their first glimpse of Albania. We have built in time for them to adjust by looking round the centre of Tirana and then the following day taking a trip to Elbasan. This will give them chance to see the countryside, taste the food, and the yummy Italian ice cream, visit one or two people houses, go to a pazaar,(market) and see some shops. We will go to an Orthodox Cathedral and a mosque (xhami) and have lunch in the remains of a Turkish fort, a reminder of the Ottoman Empire that ruled here for 400 years.
The Bible says that we make our plans but God directs our steps. We have made our plans, but we so want God to do what only He can do,and that is to move in peoples hearts. Please pray for this to happen and we look forward to what God will do.
Ken and Ann


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Conference in Macedonia

My last blog just a couple of months ago, was when Simon, the leader of our Kerith Church, and I were here in Macedonia. The flag in the photo is the Macedonian flag. The colours representing Macedonia have always been red and yellow, and it was adopted as their flag on 5th October 1995.

This time Ann and I are here for a Newfrontiers Conference in Skopje. Every couple of years the churches in the Balkans affiliated to Newfrontiers and the guys from the UK who support them get together. So a group photo of us all looks like this.

Here are church leaders from Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania with folks from the UK. As is true for many conferences, the key times often are not the spoken sessions, (though they were good) but the coffee breaks, meal times and free times when friendships are renewed and new friendships made. Key too are the times when we pray for each other and the nations they represent. We also catch up with people from the UK who we only meet in the Balkans!

We hear how hard it is for many of them in their home setting. Often the towns and cities where they live are very strongly Roman Catholic or Orthodox or Muslim. And therein lies one of the causes for the terrible history in this part of the world.

One couple Ann and I met are Tony and Geri from Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. We got on well, and are looking at inviting Geri to our Ladies Conference REAL, in June. Blagoevgrad is a university city about the size of Bracknell.

We took the time of course, to catch up with Sasha and Marija, who lead a church in Skopje, and to have fish and chips again. Remember the photos from the last blog? Well here is Marija and Ann de-boning her fish.
And not only are the fish and chips wonderful, the salads in Macedonia are the best I have anywhere. Already the lettuce,cucumbers and tomatoes are fresh from the local fields, grown under plastic.
Soon it was time to say our farewells to Vlada and Ivan from Serbia who we met with Simon 2 months ago, and Sasha and Marija, and all the others, (Farewells in this part of the world take a long time) and head back to Albania with Ilir and Rudina Koci who lead a church in Elbasan where we are now.
Journeys in this part of the world are not always easy. We took a taxi to the bus station in Skopje, then a 3 hour bus ride to Struga in the south of Macedonia, another taxi ride to the border with Albania, walk across the border to be met by a friend of Ilir's who brought us to Elbasan. And we only needed 3 currencies to do this journey, Macedonian Dinars, Euros and Albanian Leke...oh and British Pounds in the first place to convert. Six hours all told which was pretty good going!
Now we are in Elbasan at a gathering, yesterday evening and today Saturday, of the Newfrontiers leaders from Albania. I spoke on OT Theology last night and will speak at the church here on Sunday morning. But already I have been speaking to Miranda Ajeti in Tirana who has been organizing the Ladies Conference UNIKE that Catrina Benham and some of our ladies come to next week. Miranda phoned "We already have 360 ladies booked in and still some more want to come. Is that okay?" "Yes of course it is as long as we space to take them," was my reply. Wow! I can see that next week is going to very exciting!!
Please pray for Catrina and Sarah Farley who will speak at UNIKE and for the other girls who are coming with them, Lesley, Lisa, Esther, Penny, Catriona, Iris and Glynne and for all the last minute things to get sorted, such as "How are we going to serve coffee to everyone?"
Love to you all from Ann and Ken