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


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