Well not one but two Kerith related activities going on in Eastern Europe to report.
First of all Ben Davies, Colin Boyle and Krystyna Lysakowska are in Poland this weekend doing a leadership training weekend for the church in Swidnica we partner with there. Ben is a seasoned professional at doing this sort of thing, but it's a bit of a new departure for Colin who is going to be speaking at one of the sessions. However, anyone who heard Colin speak on Sunday evening a couple of weeks ago will know he will be great. Let's be praying for them all.
Secondly Ken and Ann Bothamley are still out in Albania. Part two of their guest blog entry is included below. I heard separately that Ann hasn't been too well for the last couple of days so please be praying for them too. They come home in a weeks time - it will be great to see them both again.
Men, can I be encouraging you if you haven't already to get your tickets for Gordon MacDonald next Saturday - it's going to be a great day so don't miss out. Also Gordon and his wife Gail will be preaching with us the following Sunday morning and evening - we are so privileged with the different people we have coming to speak to us - let's never take it for granted but always be grateful for the people God sends to us.
Hope to catch you over the weekend,
We get to read Simon's blog at a local internet cafe and it is very encouraging to see peoples comments and know that people are praying for us. We have now been here two and a half weeks and life is getting busier. We have just celebrated our second Easter this year as last weekend was the Orthodox Easter. You wouldn't really know it as it seems low key affair other than the minibus driver gave Ann and me red coloured hard boiled eggs when we got on the bus. We had to ask as to why we had been given them?
Coming to the Internet cafe we see again buses with Dutch destination names like Rubenslaan or Utrecht. You think "No it can't be! Then it dawns on one that all the local buses have been bought (given?) secondhand from a Dutch bus company, but they still keep the original destination names. It has been odd not to have your own dustbin. No green wheelie bins here. There is one very battered metal bin in the street that several apartment blocks use, and gypsies and dogs pick over it. Recycling has not come to Albania yet so everything goes in.
Now here is a good one! Streets have no name plates and there are no numbers or names on houses or properties. So I asked the leaders at church How do you know your address? This brought a general round of laughter. It was explained to me that when you moved house you asked your neighbour what your address was and hoped they knew and you keep on asking neighbours until you find out. They also explained that whilst every house has an official address the reality is your house is known by a descriptive address. So, you live on the fourth floor of the apartment block round the corner from the Kastrati garage. Or you live down the road next to the Alpha Bank, two doors down from the hairdressers!. Good eh!? We have not seen a post man or postbox. Then it dawned on us no house has a letter box!! No wonder we don't see a postman. So how do you get mail we asked. This brought another round of laughter. The postman knocks on your door in the hope you are in. If not he delivers it to a neighbour. If all else fails they phone you up from the post office and tell you to collect your mail. It was not explained how the Post Office, (yes there is one, one for the city of 120,000) knows your mobile phone number! So when we go to the newfrontiers conference in Durres next week we do not know really where we are going!! The hotel apparently has no name and no formal address. We will call someone on our mobile when we are a mile away and they will give us directions over the phone. This is all quite normal for Albania. How the electricity company, water and income tax people deal with a hotel with no name and address I don't know but I am sure it will become clear.
People are recognizing us as we go to the bazaar to buy our fruit and veg and get bread from the local bakers. We have started entertaining people, firstly our landlord and his wife and two daughters, who have been very welcoming to us,and then also people from church. Ann has been putting her wonderful culinary skills to work, usually some version of mish pule=chicken, or mish vice=veal with potatoes,onions and peppers cooked in olive oil. The main meal time is 3 to 4 pm for a lot of people and that is taking a bit of getting used to.
I continue to meet with Festim the church leader each morning for a couple of hours when we talk about Elders meetings, planning Sunday meetings, church finances, handling new people to the church etc. Last Saturday they ran a Kids Club and had 150 children come and several of them came on the Sunday morning. It is exciting to see but also very challenging as the church lacks space and facilities. I spoke on Sunday morning and just so that people could take notes if they wanted I bought them all Biros. You cannot take it for granted that they all have pens and paper let alone a Bible. The Bible they use is the Good News version translated from Italian.
On Sunday our landlord and his family took Ann and me out into the countryside where his brother in law runs a farm and restaurant. It was wonderful to sit outside, see them catch small carp that we would eat and smell the lamb chops, that we would also eat, cooking on the BBQ. The setting was wonderful,wild flowers growing all round, no weedkillers here, and surrounded by mountains with some still snow covered at 2500 meters. Their hospitality is profuse and after a big meal we are then taken to yet another friend who is a baker and confectioner and I succumb to zupe, a dessert much like a trifle only it was e mathe= a big one! Then yesterday as it was a national holiday we had a trip into the mountains with friends from the church, along a very bumpy road for an hour and a half. I won't say what it felt like! Another big meal in a local restaurant this time followed by dancing, which is like Greek dancing all in a line.
Thursday and Friday will see us go to Korce, where we will meet with Edi and Artina, who lead a church there. I prophesied bigness over him last time I met him so I look forward to seeing what God is doing with him.
This Sunday I will speak to the church here in Elbasan on money and giving. Do keep praying for Ann and me as we endeavour very much with God's help to build up a church in a land in the midst of great change and challenge.
Thank you again for your love and prayers,
Ken and Ann