Thursday, 24 February 2011

Founding Sons and Daughters

I've been thinking a lot recently about the Church here in Kosovo. Not just the community of Christians here in town, or the big church in Pristina, but the whole collective of believers throughout this small country. It's a new Church, I think the first official evangelical church was started in 1985 (and therefore is younger than me), the New Testament was first translated into Albanian in 1980, and the whole Bible by the early 1990s. This is very recent history. There were Orthodox churches around before that as Serbia is officially Orthodox, but the evangelical community is still in its very early stages.

This has made me think a lot about the role of the young believers that I'm meeting here. In the grand scheme of things they will be some of the early leaders of this Church, given that they are probably only the second generation of "churched" believers in Kosovo. It takes me back to the book of Acts, to thinking about what the Early Church looked like, how the first few generations of Christians who were living post-Jesus went about meeting together to talk about their faith, to worship God, to do what they could to follow Jesus' instructions about living and believing in Him. They were trailblazers, founding fathers (and mothers), pioneers, and it is their example that these teenagers are learning from.

I have two prayers for this young Church, from a passage in Ephesians. Firstly, a rooting in the love of Christ; and secondly, unity within the Church:

"And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God."

"We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father who is over us all and in us all and living through us all."

Ephesians 3:17 - 19, and 4: 4 - 6

So if you are one of Christ's people, under this one God and Father, then pray for your Church family here. They have a big task ahead of them and they need to know the support of their brothers and sisters around the world. I am certain that they will achieve mighty things as they reach out and follow Christ, and I'm certain that this is a journey you want to join them on.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Independence Day

Thursday 17th February was Kosovo's third birthday! Happy Birthday Kosovo! Woo! This means we all got a day off! Woo!

To bring you all up to scratch on your Balkan history, here's the deal: Kosovo has been a disputed territory for hundreds of years, with a large ethnic Albanian population, a significant Serbian population, and other ethnic groups (Roma, Turks, Bosniaks). Up until the end of the war in 1999 Kosovo was a province of what we now call Serbia (but most recent incarnations have been as follows: Serbia, Serbia and Montenegro, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia, and The Kingdom of Slavs, Croats, and Slovenes.) From 10th June 1999 to 17th February 2008, Kosovo was under United Nations administration. On 17th February 2008, the Republic of Kosovo was declared as an independent nation. And so we get Independence Day!

We took a trip into Pristina to mark Independence Day with a prayer meeting at church. On the way to church we past this monument to independence, the NEWBORN structure. It's a great monument in my opinion, made particularly good by the grafitti which now covers it. I'm not sure if the plan was to allow the grafitti, but I think it adds something really special to an already very interesting structure. It makes it quite living, quite fluid, which I think is apt for a young nation finding its feet.

As is always appropriate, any birthday deserves a cake and so please check out the below. Yes, this is ALL cake. How to make me very happy! And that's Eileen's finger directing you all to Vushtrri, should anyone wish to visit.

Our Independence Day afternoon was spent, slightly randomly, at some Roman ruins. Now I bet most of you have visited some Roman ruins at some point, Lullingston Villa, Bath etc etc. I bet none of you have walked all over Roman ruins though. Well, you should visit Kosovo, where really no one is interested and you can do whatever you like with some ruins that you can find if you divert off the road and walk for about 5 minutes and there they are. As you do. And then you can walk and climb and clamber and fall off to your heart's content! And if you're really lucky you'll find a sarcophagus made of white marble:

You might also find some bones and things, which is less thrilling. Generally a bit creepy to be honest. Gross, in fact. Or you might just find me, grinning foolishly into the camera:
It was a good Indpendence Day. But real life kicks in and the long weekend is over. Things to look forward to this week are the arrival of Carol's (housemate) mum and sister, Bible Study, English class, my continuing drivers education, coffee, Kid's Club, lasagne, Albanian lessons (I have a test next week!! Eeek!!), the Rainbow school, more coffee etc etc. You'll be hearing more from me before too long...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Recipe for Goodness

So I recently got to experience my first hands on Albanian cooking class! It was very exciting! Carol, Eileen and myself all took ourselves round to the house of one of the local families to immerse ourselves in traditional Albanian cooking, and then of course eating.

A lot of the food here is based on dough and pastry, and the most popular dish is pita (say it like pitta, but more like peeta. Or something). Eileen's tried making it before and I'd watched the making process, but this was our first hands-on culinary lesson. And now I'm going to pass on my knowledge to you.

Step one: Get some flour. By "some" I means "lots":

Mix up the flour and some warm water until you get a nice dough. Knead.

Step 2: Roll the dough into a long roll and then cut bits off. Then shape them into balls. I tried this, it was trickier than it looked.

Step 3: Roll the balls into flat circles and then brush with oil.

Step 4: The fun bit. To open the dough out into a bigger circle, throw it around in the air like when they make pizza. Check me out:

Step 5: Where the magic happens. Lay your dough on a low round table (a sofran) on a piece of cloth and then stretch it out so it's nice and big. Probably a metre in diametre. Don't put holes in it. Harder than it looks.

Step 6: Spread out required filling, in this case spinach.

Step 7: Lift up either end of the cloth and let the dough roll in on itself, but don't let the two sides meet in the middle. You've ruined everything if you do that. Dramz.

Step 8: Separate the two rolls of dough and spiral them up. Place in dish. Repeat from step 4 until you've used up all the dough. Place dish in stove.

Step 9: A bit later get them out of the stove.

Step 10: EAT.

(I don't have any pictures of me eating it - which is probably just as well - but I did and it was GOOD).

So there you are, now you can all get out your sofrans and wood burning stoves and cook up an Albanian culinary feast! Let me know how you all get on....

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Word

Many of you will be experienced bible study attendees and I would like you to think about the usual post-bible study chit chat. For those of you who aren't bible study-ers, here's a little insight - "That was really good, what a great passage" or "Man alive, that was so dull". I've said both. However, this weeks post-bible study chat centred on "And the power stayed on the whole time!". Bible study here is a whole other beast....

It genuinely is great news when the power stays on for bible study, just because it reduces the need for torches. There is a generator and usually we'll end up with some light, but it's always nice to not have to shout over the generator noise. And we need the generator because without that we have no heaters and no hot water for post-bible study tea.
The group here is made up of several local teenagers and a bunch of random foreigners. It is the believing community here in town, a relatively small group but definitely very lively. They have been working through the book of Luke and this week we reached the passage on giving taxes to Caesar. Most of it goes on in Albanian so I just pick up what gets translated, but the point at which the whiteboard got utilised and tax brackets drawn up, I managed to catch up. Just about. Not really. I did work at the Treasury but that doesn't mean I have any clearer idea on finance. Tax is just confusing.
It is great to be a part of this small but passionate community of young believers. It's really brilliant to gather in a cold room, around the heaters, keeping coats, hats, scarves, gloves etc on, just to open the Bible and get involved. It's like the Early Church, simple, basic, fresh. I love it. I am still waiting however for the great movement of Heavenly Power that will allow me to speak fluent Albanian. I wait in faith.

Here is a picture of me with my post-bible study cup of tea and AMAZING brownie. I finally remembered to bring my own milk and teabag this week, otherwise I have to drink coffee or fruit tea, neither of which make me particularly happy. But from here on in I will be well equipped to finish my Bible Study evening off in Great British Style.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Wood You Believe It!

On Friday, as I was washing my hair over the sink because there was no water and no power but my hair insisted on needing a wash, I realised that there were a couple of unknown men in the front yard with a few trees on the back of a tractor. After a closer look, I realised this was the much-anticipated delivery of wood to see us through until the end of winter. And of course it wasn't until they were driving away that I remembered I could document this little phenomenon on my camera. So I didn't, but I did remember to document what they left us with:

And this is me being useful and stacking the logs up. The sun's out and I'm not wearing a coat but it's actually a lot colder than it looks.
The central heating here is too expensive to actually use so this wood is our main source of heating. It goes from a big pile under the house into this stove where it heats up the front room and then we run from there to anywhere else in the house, trying not to lose as much body heat as possible. The running helps. Most of the time there's a pot of water keeping warm on top. This is in case of a tea emergency when there is no power. The last thing you want is darkness, chillyness and no tea.

That said, should the unspeakable happen and you return home to find the power's out and the stove's stone cold, we do have a gas hob for boiling water. This is a picture from one such occasion when the British shoebox team were here:

In case you're wondering, you get used to the power going off a few times a day, usually for two - three hours. You work out how to plan around it, like boiling the kettle for hot water bottles and putting the heater on beside your bed in advance. Just to at least take the chill off the room....

So now you're caught up the on the wood/stove/tea situation. And I bet you all feel better for it.

Looking forward to the week ahead... Albanian classes continue this week, hopefully I will have fully grasped days of the week by tomorrow and we can move on to more advanced things like "I'm really sorry I hit your car but it was your fault". Although I'm sure I'll never have to use that. We're hoping to start an English class for some of the local girls tomorrow, I'll keep you posted on that one. There'll be various bible studies and planning time for kid's ministry and the like. I'm excited, I think it's going to be a good one.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Time for School

As most of you will know, my two housemates, Eileen and Carol, run a school for children with special needs in the basement of our house. It's much nicer than it sounds, it doesn't look like a basement or anything. They've done an amazing job at decorating it and setting it up to be a great place for kids to come to learn. Here's a photo to prove it:

That's Eileen in the distance with one of the kids in the red chair next to her. Among Carol and Eileen's many talents is the creation of small things to sit on made out of cardboard, newspaper, flour and water - i.e. paper maiche. They are amazing!

There are six kids who come to the school although not all on the same days. The school runs from 9:15 to 11:45, Monday to Thursday, and on Friday some older children from the special needs class at a local school come for the morning. The needs of the six younger kids range quite widely. Some have autism, some have epilepsy, one has severe cerebal palsy. Their ability to engage with what's going on around them also varies, and none of them are able communicate through speech.

Eileen set the school up last May having been here for a few years doing house visits with the children and developing relationships with them and their parents. Carol arrived in August and was supposed to go home in December but she loved it so much she had to come back. Both Eileen and Carol will be leaving for good by May so the future of the school is uncertain. If you are a pray-er, please pray that the right provision would become available. This ministry is quite unique out here and there isn't anything that these children can go on to automatically. But there is hope that God knows what is best and will provide for his special children.

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what goes on. To the untrained eye (mine) it doesn't always look like these activities are teaching the children anything. But it turns out that Eileen and Carol haven't just been trained in colouring and singing - they are pros and every little detail of what they do with these kids enhances their ability to engage in the world around them and be part of something that they would otherwise be shut out of. I just think they're amazing!

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