From time to time I'm going to ask people to write a guest blog entry, and first up for that is Ken Bothamley all the way from Albania. By the ways it's great to see all the comments people are leaving against Ken and Ann's photo album, although I'm slightly miffed that the photos seem to get more comments than my blog - only joking :-)
So over to Ken..............
Having been here just over a week now we can send you this email from Arjan's office. Arjan is one of the guys who the church paid for to come over to the Willow Creek leadership conference in Bracknell last October. He runs the children's orphanage in Elbasan.
The photo is of Ann standing beside our accommodation....no seriously this is Ann standing next to one of the thousands of concrete bunkers built all over Albania during communist times when they expected the West to invade. They are hemispherical and litter the beach, the countryside everywhere! This one is at a place called Lezhe.
When we arrived in Albania we went first to Burrel, a mountain town, and delivered a keyboard that I had brought out from England for the church there. I spoke to the church on Sunday on money and tithing.
The photos I have uploaded show Rustem, Maria and Lili their daughter who lead the church in Burrel. Then on the Monday we traveled onto Lezhe to see Robert, an English guy who has been here 10 years and leads a church there. We spent time with him and I spoke at a new Lifegroup they have just started in Shengjin, a seaside town which becomes a major resort in the summer.
Then onto Tirana, the capital, where we had lunch with Shaban and Elvira who lead a church of about 70 people there. Shaban and his 2 sons have been to the Kerith Centre. Then at last onto Elbasan our base for most of our time here. We have a large 2 bedroom apartment, a massive bathroom you could throw a party in and a lounge cum dining room opening onto a balcony. It was interesting. No kettle or toaster, a 2 ring cooker and only basic cutlery but it has all changed now and a cooker with oven arrived at our front door this morning! We shop for wonderful fruit and veg in the local market. We very obviously stand out as foreigners. At 6 feet tall I am a giant in the land! and all the women eye Ann up and down all the time looking at the clothes and shoes she is wearing. Ann has learned to cope with this by smiling and saying Mire which simply means "good" and is part of the daily greeting.
Every morning I meet with Festim the church leader and talk about all manner of things to do with church life, e.g. Sunday meetings, welcoming visitors, Elders meetings, agendas, making decisions, their children's work, plans for the future, the whole idea and value of planning at all!? having a team from Germany and how they will cope with this, finances personally and for the church and so on. I have been to an Elders meeting and we go to their weekly prayer meeting tomorrow and I will preach on Sunday.
Now Ann has her cooker I am sure she will be busy cooking, mish pule - chicken, or mish vici - veal and inviting people round. It is exciting to see God's church at work in a very different culture which has been deeply affected by communism and a history of 500 years of Ottoman (Muslim) rule, and is hugely impacted by poverty and lack of work for people, 38% unemployment rate, and where many people so obviously struggle to live from day to day.
Do please pray for us especially that the church here grows, we keep safe and well and we can encourage the church leaders in faith and vision.
Ken (and Ann)