Saturday, August 13, 2016

Book Review | Perfect Timing

I took this book with me to read on my vacation and spent a lovely afternoon absorbed in Roy Jones' life story as he shared how God got him into missions and continues to lead and guide him and his wife Shirley.

It was a short read, but it was definitely a book I will be reading again and again for the insights into how to live a life of faith full out. His insights into trusting God with finances, and how to seek the Lord's will in everything is definitely something that is worth being reminded about again and again.

Sharing frankly about his struggles, and how God has brought them through as a family, it is an encouragement that God will use you if you are willing.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for more insight into what being a missionary is all about and also for those in missions to be reminded about why we do what we do!

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Book Review | Together at the table

Having read and LOVED the first two books ("A Table by the Window" and "Reservations for Two") in the series by Hillary Manton Lodge, I jumped at the chance to review the final installment!

I decided to wait for my vacation and then go back and read the first two books again before getting into the third book "Together at the Table" and it was WONDERFUL! I loved the first two stories as much as I did the first time, and then I got lost in the third book completely. I must admit I even bored my vacation companions with stories from the books, as the characters are so alive and full bodied, it felt like I was talking about real people.

Once again the author keeps the suspense in the relationships of the two main characters going: "will they, won't they?" She also brings a wonderful and completely unexpected ending to the story of her grandmother which started in the first book.

I don't want to give anything away, but I cannot emphasize enough how much I LOVED this series and can recommend it as a wonderful read for foodies, travel lovers, romance suspense fans, history buffs, pretty much anyone who loves a good read about "real" people which makes you smile and want more...

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Croatian Vacation

This year, I found a really reasonable place on the Island of Brac, just opposite from the city of Split. We also we added Carrie from the US to our motley crew - so now we were four nationalities from all over to make the waiters and border guards wonder how we got together!
Ljilja, Sina and I had been on the Island of Hvar before, but never on Brac, and we really enjoyed it. We were in Supetar, the biggest town:
We did some exploring of some of the other places around the island:
So beautiful!
We had a lovely sea view from our apartment and watched the sunset from our little balcony most nights: I love sunsets!
Carrie left us 3 days before the end, so on her last day we went to the world famous "zlatni rat" beach near Bol. (the below pic is off the internet, as any pictures from the land do not do it justice!) It was a lovely place and we had a fantastic day...
And we went out to a lovely restaurant overlooking the sea for her last dinner with us:
 After she left we did more exploring and enjoying the lovely summer weather at the beach :)
It was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries and be able to come back energised for the next season here in Banja Luka!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wedding in Finland and a whole lot more...

As my former colleagues' daughter, Ruut, was marrying our good friends' son, David, Ljilja and I decided to make the trip to Finland for the wedding. Our good friend, Sina, was so happy to have the chance to host us as she has stayed with us a lot in Bosnia, and even come to visit me in South Africa. Now was her chance to show off her Finland!

The wedding was stunning: of course it was on a lake (Finland is the land of a thousand lakes!), and luckily there was no rain. Here you can see where the vows took place:
The two families together in one photo: Finns on the left, Bosnians on the right. Ruut is the oldest of 4 girls and David is the oldest son in a family of 10! Don't they all look lovely :)
Here is just the happy couple: Ruut and David
 After all the festivities - they left in a very unusual way :)
Here's a photo to show you what we looked like in all our finery :)
Other than going to the wedding, we did see a bit of Finland: We spent a few days in Helsinki seeing the sights - here is the Lutheran Cathedral.
And here is the Marina area. Helsinki is surrounded by water.
We also spent time with some great people: including Sina's brother, Sani, and his girlfriend Anna.
We had a lovely evening catching up with Sina's friend, Jelena who has visited us in Banja Luka.
Then it was time to travel to Sina's family's "summer cottage". On the way we stopped off in Tampere to see some old friends. Lea (next to me) worked in Banja Luka for 3 years so it was great to see her and her sister, Eeva-Liisa, and also Susanna (who are both sponsors of our children in Banja Luka).
We had a great time at the summer cottage, which is not really a cottage:

We enjoyed hanging out with Sina's mom, who at 70 still plays tennis regularly, as does Sina's 86 year old uncle! Some amazing genes there...
And enjoyed the breathtaking sunsets over the lake at 11pm at night! Yes, 11pm!  
We enjoyed some fun Finnish traditions of berry-picking in the forest, and making a blueberry pie out of the pickings!! And of course the sauna... including jumping into the cold river in between sessions (but I kept my bathing costume on for that!!). We generally had a great time as the below photo shows :)
It wasn't all work and no play - we helped clean the roof of all the pine needles and leaves from the trees...
I didn't just take pictures... someone had to pick it all up off the ground where they swept it... ;)
Then it was time to leave the peaceful surrounds and head back to Helsinki. We made a day-trip across the Baltic sea to Tallinn in Estonia, where we caught up with my friend Helina:
And did some sight-seeing in the wonderful old town. So pretty!
Then it was time to head back to Banja Luka, but there is always time for a silly photo with sauna hats (do they need hats in a sauna??)
It was such an amazing trip and I am so grateful to Sina and her family for showing us such a wonderful time. The wedding was amazing, and I am so glad that we could be there for that, and it was also so great to catch up with many people along the way!!

Saturday, July 09, 2016

InterVarsity/IFES Team

As our  EUS (InterVarsity/IFES) colleagues, David and Irena, left in June to go live in the Czech Republic, we didn't have an InterVarsity Team for this summer, but the team that is in Sarajevo came up for a couple of days for a visit. It was great having them here! Ljilja did most of the organising, and I just helped out, but it was a fun couple of days hanging out with new friends and old.
We even had an American Cultural night with them, including a fun game of "Guess who I am" and a Jeopardy-style quiz.
We also enjoyed coke floats and some other American snacks.
The leaders of the team are Matt and Bekah, who came with their daughter Hannah, who is a darling. They have led teams and visited before to Banja Luka, so it was especially great to be able to catch up with them!

Monday, July 04, 2016

Rest of Murilo and Avi's visit

It has been great to have them involved in other things here, like visiting the children's home and the cultural evening, but they are busy travelling so that they can run a workshop called "Word By Heart". We decided to take it on the road to Prijedor and even though it was a small group, everyone was very encouraged by the seminar:
They also shared with us in church on Sunday morning, which was a great blessing:
And they got to enjoy true Bosnian hospitality at our friends, Damjan and Tanja:
All in all, I think they had a great time as did we with them, and it was hard to say goodbye as they carried on with their adventures around the Balkans and beyond! 

Friday, July 01, 2016

BISA Cultural Evening (Brazil, India and South Africa)

With my friends, the Bennetts, here from South Africa and Murilo here from Brazil and Avi from India, we decided to have a cultural night at EKC Ihtus featuring these countries: Here I am introducing the Bennetts:
Here is Murilo with his Brazilian Hotdogs:
And Avi made us some Indian Chai:
And from South Africa we had pumpkin fritters in the beginning and at the end of the evening we had milk tart (with Katherine Bennett sneaking a bite!) YUMMY!!

Little Rachel (here with mom, Sarah) loved the pumpkin fritters:
And everyone had a great time enjoying the food, drink and sweet stuff...
Before we were treated to a very interesting presentation on each of the countries... 
At the end Murilo shared a story from his childhood in Brazil and how he prayed to the Lord to get him out of his bad family situation, and the Lord answered his prayer... He used a wonderful illustration where he changed his broken home through the cross:
All in all it was a wonderful evening, full of fun and food and new experiences. Thanks to everyone who made it an experience to remember! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

When good friends come to visit...

I have been friends with Dave and Sarah for over 20 years and when they lived in England for 8 years, they wanted to come visit and never did. When they went back to South Africa just over two years ago, they promised to come visit on their next trip to Europe, and this year they made good on their promise!

They are very brave bringing 4 kids to visit Bosnia, but I think I am showing them a good time: Here they are in front of the Orthodox Cathedral in Banja Luka:
It has been such fun having them here: Here we are in Krupa na Vrbasu (at the watermills, about 1/2 hour from Banja Luka). They really enjoyed the hike along the river and the adults the food at the restaurant. As it is fish with head and tail still attached, the kids not so much! But we loved it! And we found some other fun food for the kids, so they were happy...
And they also got to experience what my life can be like: when they originally contacted me I told them that this week was a quieter week and nothing much would be going on... and then I got a request from a friend of a friend who was travelling through the Balkans presenting a seminar called "Word by Heart" whether he and his friend could stay here this week and help out with whatever we are doing... So I said yes and suddenly this week got a little bit busier,,, they also came with us to Krupa, where we enjoyed getting to know them a bit better on the hike and lunch together!
As the two guys are from Brazil (Murilo, above left) and India (Avi, above right), I decided it would be great to go to the Children's Home to share about the different cultures from three counties (South Africa, India and Brazil - we just need a Russian and someone from China and we have all of the BRICS countries!). There are not many kids at the Home at the moment during the school holidays (many go to Italy, others to family members), but we still had a great time with the kids that were there.

Here we are pasting tissue paper on the Brazilian flag - we also did the Indian and South African!
Murilo from Brazil also shared about how we can fix our broken hearts...
Before we moved outside to do some loom bands in the shade, while the guys played football.
And my volunteer, Nina, could enjoy getting some cuddles from baby Rachel:
This is some of what my friend, Sarah, had to say on facebook about their experience: Belinda is an excellent tour guide! And a useful shopping companion as she can speak fluent Bosnian. Thank you Belinda for hosting us in this beautiful city! Such an interesting part of the world. We visited the orphanage this afternoon and the kids really love Belinda and they so enjoyed our visit. It is such a privilege to be here and see some of the work that Belinda does in Banja Luka. So, I know they are having a great time :)

Today we will head to the pool (it is going to be HOT) and this evening we will have a cultural evening at EKC Ihtus. And then they head out tomorrow (very sad face) It is a bit weird when my two worlds collide and people from one part of my life get to see what I do here... but it is a great weird and I am so privileged that so many of my friends and family have come to visit me here!
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