Friday, December 09, 2016

The last Book Club for 2016

Since I got back from my travels, I took two groups of kids to the library (below are the littlies...) and we had a Book Club with the kids...
This week we had the final week of Book Club for the year. At the end of the year and the end of the school year, the children in the Book Club at the Children's Home are given out prizes for attendance. This last quarter, 37 children managed to come enough times to qualify to get a prize...

We have a lot of donations of the things and try and make the prizes more or less equal...
It took the 5 of us an hour and half to make the prizes on Tuesday night... but we had fun!
At the last club, before we gave out the prizes, we made a whole lot of snowflakes... and coloured in some books... and made a poster (well, two actually - one for the Home and one for the Library). I love it when it all comes together! It says "Spend your winter with good books!"
We gave the prizes to the boys first (I have learnt that this is the best strategy!!)
We let them go before handing out the prizes to the girls - I then took a photo with most of the volunteers who were there as well... what a great bunch!
I am now keeping track of all the hours that the volunteers are doing so that it can go into their "volunteer booklets", which we gave out in September. Between the 37 volunteers, they did over 400 hours of service during this semester! Some of them had only 2-4 hours, others have over 30!

The last book club for this year, but we will be back up and running in 2017! 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Team Building in Budapest

On my way back from Norway, I went to Budapest for a team-building time with the YWAM Central European Leadership team. Since we formed in July, we have been meeting online on Skype, but we hadn't had any time together in the same place. We spent 3 days getting to know each other and how we can work together well. We were in meetings most of the day, but we did have one hour long "escape room" where we had to work out how to get out of the room. It was a medieval themed room, so we got to take some fun photos afterwards: (back row are Arlen and Jason, both from the US, Arlen lives in Romania and Jason in Hungary. Alket is from Albania, then me and Yohanan, who is from the US and Florin from Romania). Yes, it is me and 5 guys... we definitely need some more females on the team!
We do have at least one female advisor: Helga Nuernberger from Romania (originally from Germany) who is one of our "elders" (so not part of the actual team, but gives advice as needed). She joined us for some of the team-building time - see below photo. And Stephe Meyers came from Spain (he is the former leader for YWAM Europe) to run the team-building time. They joined us for the escape room, but just observed how we did things together and made comments afterwards...
It was long days, and tiring after long days also in Norway, but as I said to someone today, I am physically exhausted, but my soul is completely filled to overflowing! 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Leadership Training School Module 1

The organisation I work with, Youth with a Mission, usually runs schools on a 3-month modular basis, but for many leaders taking even 3 months out of their usual places is too much, so they decided to try something new here in Europe: a 10-month long, online school with 5 intensive week-long "modules" every other month in different places in Europe. The aim is to not only train leaders, but also give them opportunity to network together and be mentored by other leaders, and put into practice what they are learning while on the school through practical assignments. It sounded like a wonderful opportunity as I am more and more involved in leadership, and so I signed up!

The first module was in Norway, about an hour north of Oslo. And Norway greeted us with a lovely covering of snow... this was the pic from the plane as we landed:
It may have been cold outside, but with 120 participants, and wonderful teachers, the atmosphere inside was very warm! We were joined from Hawaii via skype by Darlene Cunningham, one of our co-founders. She wasn't able to join us in person because of health problems, but we still enjoyed our time with her (and pray for her recovery!):
Her husband, Loren, was with us for the week in person and he told us stories of YWAM's pioneering days and shared with us many of the lessons he has learned along the way:
One night his phone rang while he was teaching and he actually took the call to everyone's amazement... it was his little sister, Janice, and at first we were all a bit shocked that he had taken the call from her... until it turned out that she was involved in much of the pioneering of YWAM in Europe and shared stories of how things started here (and we quickly realised the phone call had been planned!!) It was great to hear them banter back and forth and when he reminded her about the time she was arrested in Afghanistan, quipped about how glad that wasn't him, saying "Here I am, Lord, send my sister"! Love it!
We had other guest speakers, including Alv Magnus and Andreas Nordli, who shared about their work in the nation of Norway. Alv was the pioneer and Andreas is the current leader.
 We had great times of worship and also prayer over nations of Europe (using a BIG map!)
 Most afternoons were spent with our "processing groups": As you can see, our group is pretty fun! We are from 6 different nations, including the Cook Islands, and it was great getting to know them.
Despite the busy schedule (breakfast started at 6.45 and our program went to 9pm, and I helped with breakfast prep so my days started at 6.15!), we did have time for some fun activities (aimed at building community!)... A bonfire in -10degs, with hot chocolate, marshmallows and sausages :)
And going to an ice-hockey game for the local club "Storhamar". The club gave us free tickets and organised their buses to bring us and take us back... so we of course cheered for them and I think we helped them onto victory! The game was in the CC Amfi which was built for the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics and used for figure skating. We had a lot of fun and I am so glad that I got to experience it! I even came back with a hoarse throat from screaming :)
I didn't get any pics of the hanging out over mealtimes (of which there were 4 a day!) and just getting to know awesome people from all across Europe. I look forward to continuing this 10-month journey of learning and discovery as we now work online and meet with our processing groups on Skype until the next module...

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Book Club - bigger than ever!

We started a few weeks ago, but I only remembered to get pictures tonight... So you can see how many people we have involved in the book club at the Children's Home. We now have almost 40 kids and about that many volunteers, so we are definitely the biggest we have ever been!
With so many volunteers, it actually works really well as we manage to calm the kids down and get things done, but it is still loud and crazy and so much fun!!
We actually have so many volunteers now that I have had to start turning people away which is a positive problem to have! 
We work through worksheets which help them to process what they have read in the books. Tonight we were working on a worksheet called "Svidjelo se, Ne Svidjelo se" (I like... I don't like) so they can say which parts of the book they like and which parts they don't like... these guys all had joke books (a big favourite!) and so on the "don't like" they said "NOTHING" :) 
I wanted to take more photos, but things are always crazy, so you will have to make do with these :) 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Wonderful team from the UK!

I met Les and Pam from the UK when I came on a short-term trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1999. They were also here on a short-term trip and we stayed in touch all this time. Pam started bringing teams from the UK to do "pampering" 12 years ago, but they had never been to Banja Luka. When I was in England in February, I stopped off to see her for lunch, and I encouraged her to think about bringing the team to Banja Luka... and in the end they did!

Here are Ljilja and I with the team of 4 - Nicky, Nicola, Wendy and Pam:
For 3 nights we had "pampering" for mothers of the children in our projects, our friends and our wonderful volunteers. It was hard to explain to everyone what the "pampering" is as when you translate the word in google translate it comes up as "cuddling" :) So here is what "pampering" consists of: Manicures:
And handicrafts (where we could just hang out and be creative!):
We also had fun with some photo booth items: Here are the ladies from the 3 nights: As you can see we had a good time!!
They really treated us so well, we were soooo blessed! So, I showed them a good time in between the pampering - showing them around Banja Luka, including taking them to Cafe Rene (which is based on the TV show "'Allo 'Allo") :
I also took them to the working watermills and waterfalls at Krupa na Vrbas, which they loved!
After a great week it was sad to see them go again... but I can comfort myself in the knowledge that they plan to come again in the future! 

Monday, October 24, 2016

European Leadership Gathering in Armenia

About 70 of us from across Europe gathered in the little country of Armenia for our Europe leadership meetings. I went a day early to help with setup and I am so glad I did as we spent about an hour sight-seeing and got to see the magnificent Mount Ararat: (and then it was cloudy for the rest of the week, so all the other people who came didn't get to see it at all!)
That picture was taken from the top of the "Cascades" which are pretty amazing. There are art galleries inside on every level...
And art installations on the outside on every level:
Including this magnificent lion made from recycled tyres:
It was a privilege to be able to enjoy some of the sights on that first day as the rest of the week was pretty busy for us all, but especially for those of us in the organising team :)

We met altogether in plenary sessions during the day. Here is Al Akimoff sharing some stories with us - he has been working in the Central/Eastern European region for over 40 years!
In the afternoons we met in our "regions" (Western, Central, Northern and Eastern), so I was with the guys from the Central European region. There were 8 of us and on the first night after our meeting ended we went out for dinner in a traditional restaurant: 
 And enjoyed some lovely Armenian music:

Including this flute player who played two flutes at the same time WITH HIS NOSE :)
We had some lovely food, which I forgot to take a picture of: I ordered lemonade (and a lot of others followed my lead... to their dismay!) and got some lovely bright green tarragon drink: my one colleague said it tasted like sweet beef stew :) Definitely an acquired taste which I didn't have time to acquire... but the food was really good, so couldn't complain!
Then it was time to divide the bill... you try and figure out what you had! Luckily we mostly remembered the prices of what we got! Armenian's lettering is unique as it was specially made to be able to translate the Bible. During the Soviet Union they would teach the children "God doesn't exist, but He gave us our alphabet" :) 
We were in meetings for most of the day all week, but one afternoon we were taken on a wonderful outing to see Mithras' temple: Here is Andrej, one of the leaders in Armenia, sharing with us about the temple. He helped organise the whole conference and it was such fun working with him.
There was time for a picture of all of us at the Temple:

And we also went to a 4th Century Monastery (yes, the 4th century - the Armenian church was founded in 314 and was the first country to have Christianity as its official religion) which was cut out of a cave. The acoustics were amazing, but it didn't make for good photos inside... I did get some photos of the crosses:
Which get more intricate as time goes on...
And they are all so beautiful:
It was a great week of meeting together as a YWAM family from all over Europe as well as finding out more about the history and culture from this part of the world! 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fun afternoon

One of my local volunteers met a couple of travelling actors who do their act in pre-schools and for children's parties. They were interested in doing something at the children's home and so the volunteer contacted me to see if we could work something out. I made a phone call to my contact in the home, and it was all arranged...

I came along just to make sure everything went well, and it was fantastic! The little and big kids alike loved the show which lasted just over 1/2 an hour.  There were fun jokes, some magic tricks, and they kept us all laughing from start to finish!
The two clowns became different characters as the story went along. It was all about playing outside and enjoying time with your friends (rather than being on a computer all day!)
After the play was over we had a dance party with the clowns and as you can see, the kids loved it!
I am so glad that this "accidental" meeting with my volunteer meant that the kids got to have a fun afternoon, giving them something to do on what otherwise would be a long boring Saturday afternoon! Thank-you especially to the clowns - you were amazing!  
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