Thursday, December 28, 2006

Some alpha photos...

This is the first Thursday night that we haven't had Alpha for 9 weeks - so I thought it was appropriate to post some photos from our last Alpha. We handed out certificates to all the people (8) who finished. Here is Sinisa with Daliborka (one of the twins whose parents are hearing impaired - we got to know them through our Humanitarian Aid program).
This is Ljilja and I with Aleksandra and Semmy. They are just good friends, but most people think they are sisters.
This is Daliborka's twin, Dajana (pronounced Diana like Princess Di) . They are both "Miss" competitors... and make Ljilja and I feel very short! But we love them lots...and they need a lot of love, growing up with parents unable to speak.

We will now have a break for the holidays, but sometime in January, Sinisa and Ljilja will be starting a group bible study with those that are still interested... (I will of course be in South Africa from mid January to the end of March...)

Post 100...

Yes, in the year or so of blogging, I have got to post 100... I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am doing it... Now to go make a cake with a 100 candles to mark the anniversary - NOT!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas photos...

Here are some pics from Christmas day. Here are some of us showing off our "silly hats". From left: Ljilja, Semmy, me and Aleksandra. See also how great the table was laid!


Then we have the Christmas crackers - going BANG! Here are Olja and Jovan with Sinisa and Aleksandra looking on. And all the food is now on the table!!

And Sasa with her friend the angel (aka ME!). With our lovely likkle tree in the background.

All in all it was a fun day!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

EUFOR...and Christmas parties

EUFOR is the acronym for the foreign troops stationed in Bosnia to keep the peace. They are mostly now from the EU although there are some hangers on from elsewhere. On Friday night I went to a Christmas party at my neighbour who is in the EUPM (who monitor the Police) and he had invited a whole bunch of people from the EUFOR base. I went by myself and barely knew him (met him in the local shop) and his wife not at all, so it was introduce myself and get chatting...

Anyway, I was chatting to one guy form EUFOR who told me that he went quite often to Sarajevo and so of course I said "well so do I". I then ask him how he gets there, thinking train, bus or car and wanting to commiserate with him how long it takes... Silly me, this is the army - he goes down by helicopter, poor chap!

Everyone from EUFOR is here short term - longest is usually only 6 months - so when they asked me "how long have you been here?" and I said 6 years there was a lot of drawing of breath (and probably people were also thinking - is she crazy??). I also realised that I do look really young when someone - shocked at the fact that I was here 6 years already- asked "so how old were you when you came? 16? "...

Talking to myself...

I know that on an average day I spend more time in the language than in English what with living with Ljilja and working with a Bosnian-speaking team, but it just occured to me this morning that when talk to myself I am doing it in Bosnian!! I used to sometimes do a word or two and then stop myself - but now it is just easier to do it in Bosnian...I (sva sretna) told this to Ljilja, and she of course found the ultimate put down by saying: "you talk to yourself??"...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

English Club...

This is a pic of my English Club on our official last night until April when I get back from furlough. We will be going out for coffee on Monday night as our "official" send off... From l-r: Dragana, Sanja, Ceca, Daliborka, me and Aleksandra. All of them are very dear to me and we have had a great last 13 weeks since starting the club. We went from having up to 11 people to the last few weeks of just these lovely girls - so we have really bonded!
We ended up with the "name game" - which is probably my favourite English activity... and it was my favourite thing to do with my friends in South Africa as well!! Basically you each write down famous people on slips of paper and then get into pairs and have to explain to each other who is the person on the piece of paper without saying the name. It is even more fun when I play it with them and amaze them with my knowledge of local celebs :-) Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 08, 2006

USB Photo...

This is the photo from our latest "USB" meeting with EUS (yip IFES love acronyms as much as YWAM). Translation: This is the photo from our latest "United Student's of the Bible" or "Union Studenata Biblije" with Evandeoska Udruzenja Studenata (yip the International Fellowship of Evangelical students likes acronyms as much as Youth with a Mission).

For those of you that missed it - we had meetings for students or people who are working with students, which were held in Zenica last weekend, and this is most of the people who were at those meetings! Aren't we a great bunch! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Whistle-stop trip...and ooooooppppssss

Well, Ljilja and I went to Zenica (a 2-3 hour trip each way) and back in less than 36 hours. We had EUS (IFES) meetings there and had a great time with everyone...

We almost didn't get to go as my car has been giving me hassles with starting all month (since it started getting cold) and I didn't want to risk getting stuck in Zenica... And on Tuesday it wouldn't start at all... The mechanic could only come out on Thursday (as it wouldn't start at all we couldn't get to him what with the hassle of towing it!) PTL he found the problem and fixed it - one of the cables had burnt out - and charged me all of R100 (about 10Euros or $14) for coming out and doing it - got to love Bosnia!

On Friday we drove down with my friend Janice (who was staying with us for a couple of days - we love having her!) and put her on the bus to Sarajevo (where she lives). We then had our meetings with the other students and people working with students until late on Friday night and again on Saturday morning until lunch time when Ljilja and I left them to come back before dark... I have one rule about driving in Bosnian roads - it is better in the day time...

Somewhere on the way back I realised how Bosnian I have become when I overtook a truck on a solid white line (I could see way ahead!!!) - everyone here does it. And then of course right there there was a Policeman!! Ooooooooppppsssss!!!!! LUCKILY he was on the other side of the road, but he had obviously seen me as with hand signals (like only Bosnians can do) he indicated "what were you doing??" and "oh well you are going the other direction, but if I caught you you would have got a big fine" (yip I got all that from his hands...) So PHEW! This time I got away with it - but I will not do it again!!!!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

weather...

The weather here in Banja Luka is just doing the wierdest things for this time of the year. I am sitting in the sun (okay inside as it is still pretty chilly) and posting this blog and just amazed that it is so nice and warm on November 25th!

Otherwise all is well with the world still. Just over a month and I head to South Africa and the wummer there. I have a feeling that I am not going to see much snow before I go, which is a pity as I love snow. But who knows what the weather will do...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"New" Fellowship building...

For those of you have been ever at the Christian Fellowship Church in Banja Luka - here is our "new" building. We haven't moved - the landlord changed and completely redid the whole building. He also kicked out the upstairs tenants and gave us the upstairs (ok and raised the rent, but not astronomically) which suited us fine as we wanted a bigger place anyway!

We are very excited about the changes which we believe are a direct result of prayer -we felt that God was wanting to give us something bigger and better and so prayed and looked for 3 months, but found nothing - and then the Lord changed the landlord instead!

Those of you who have never been to see us - come on by and see our new place! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 11, 2006

thoughts on life right now...

Well, things are going really well right now in Banja Luka. I was thinking about this time last year Ljilja and I were praying and seeking the Lord for the following: For a way to get to know young people and to widen our circle of friends, for a specific project to help people in the city which would be more developmental than our current project. And then in February we started praying for a bigger and better place for the Fellowship to meet in as the place we were in was in really bad condition.

Anyway - in the last year, we have joined forces with EUS/IFES (or the local chapter of InterVarsity) and run the "Film nights" and got to know a whole lot of people, many of whom are coming to Alpha right now. In May our Landlord changed and completely fixed up the building - and we now have the whole building - so we now have a bigger and MUCH better place without even having to move!

And this past week we found out that our project proposal has been approved. This
means we will be able to help 30 families in need with humanitarian aid and business training. 3 families will be chosen in the first year to get micro-credit to start a small business. And another 2 in the next year. They will then pay into a revolving fund so that we will eventually be able to help even more people. Anyway - it means that God has also blessed us in answering our prayers from last year!

So, I am very encouraged... God is able!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Wholeness through Christ weekend


This weekend we held a Wholeness Through Christ course in Banja Luka. It was attended by people from Banja Luka, Bihac and Sarajevo. We also worked out that amongst us there were 11 different nationalities, so we were a mixed bunch! We had a great time and everyone that came left feeling like it had been a worthwhile experience

Wholeness through Christ is a ministry originating in the UK which deals with inner healing. I have been on two of their courses in England and asked them about the possibility of coming here and it all went on from there... They also run courses in South Africa, Turkey, Finland, Albania amongst other countries. Posted by Picasa

Margeret praying for Enisa and Ron before they give a talk. Posted by Picasa

Me leading worship... Posted by Picasa

Ron praying for people Posted by Picasa

This is the team who helped with the Wholeness through Christ weekend here in Banja Luka. Ljilja, Enisa, Ron and Margeret (from the UK Wholeness through Christ), me and Senka. Senka and Enisa were our wonderful translators. Ljilja helped with the organisation. Posted by Picasa

The Alpha course


Here is a picture from the Alpha course which is now in its third week (aren't we lovely!). We have had a great time up until now with about 10 people coming each week.

For those of you that don't know, Alpha is a basic Christianity course- it starts with dinner, then a talk, followed by a discussion. Sinisa has been doing the talks and he does a really good of contextualising them to the culture here and making them personal as well.

We have talked about "Christianity, boring, untrue or irrelevant", "Who is Jesus?" and "Why did Jesus have to die?". This week is "How can I be certain of my faith?". We are excited because everyone is still very interested in coming and hearing more about Christianity - and who knows maybe they will become Christians??

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Graeme and Nicole's visit...

So my friends Graeme and Nicole from South Africa (currently residing in London) came to visit last week with their lovely daughter Janel.

Despite Janel getting two (Bosnian according to Ljilja!) teeth and them getting constant looks for going barefoot - including the baby - a BIG no no here in the land of grandmothers, it was great having them to stay. We had the most wonderful weather (hence the bare feet) - who would have thought that we would be walking around in short sleeves at the end of October...

Here are some pics from their stay...


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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Women's retreat in Croatia


After not being able to go to the conference last year because of visas, it worked out for me to go this year and the Lord really blessed me through it...

50 women working in Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro got together to celebrate, commiserate and join together. A team from the US came to pamper us, and they did a great job!

Besides being able to enjoy great English worship (and great treat!), we worked through the book of Philippians and so "joy" was certainly a byword of the retreat... And I had a fantastic small group for our discussion times, I don't think I have laughed as much and as long in a long while... and another highlight was that it was warm enough so that I also got to swim in the sea!!

I got to be in a room with my great friend Janice (below with me and Betty - the counsellor) and we had a fantastic time with little sleep. On afternoon I also had a scheduled time with Betty - which I think should be called "getting Bettied". I decided after talking with her that she is so great that she deserves her own verb!! (Besides being a great counsellor, she is a veteran missionary, having been in Hong Kong for 28 years).

All in all I had a blessed time! PTL!
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Thursday, September 21, 2006

TV troubles...

I got back from my travels and everything was broken - the TV, the car, the telephone, and my internet wasn't working as well I hadn't paid in while I was gone... anyway we quickly sorted out the other stuff, and also "sorted out" the TV by buying a new one. The old one was my landlady's and it would have cost me quite a lot to fix it and so I decided to get a new one, as that way it is mine and it would have a guarantee so it wouldn't give me hassles again for a while... well that was the plan anyway...

I bought one at a good price and brought it home and it was great fun figuring out how to program the channels, etc... That night, Sladja, who is staying with us in our lounge (now fondly refered to as "Sladja's domain") noticed a green light stayed on the screen when she turned it off. We probably wouldn't have noticed it for weeks so it was a good thing she was staying with us!

We took it back and they changed it right away for a new one... (which I then had to program the channels on that one too). 10 days later THAT one started doing all sorts of strange things (including the green light!) so we took it back... the guys in the shop were very sweet and PTL immediately offered us our money back (which is VERY unusual as things don't come with a money back guarantee here...), so it was out hunting for TVs again...

Anyway we found another which was a little bit more expensive, but has a 3 year guarantee and a good reputation. We brought it home and of course had to program the channels on that one (I am now an EXPERT!) and so far so good...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Only in Bosnia...

I went the other day to the Police to find out what I can do about my driver's license. More and more often when I get stopped here by the police (usually randomly, not for anything I have done - I am convinced that I have a police magnet as they tend to stop me a LOT) they are telling me I am not allowed to drive on my South African driver's license. I either have to have a Bosnian license or an International one. So I decided to check up on this...

The lovely lady at the Police told me that yes it is true that I shouldn't drive more than 6 months on my SA license, but that as a foreigner without a permanent residency I fall into a "hole" as I can't get a Bosnian license until I have permanent residency... So I ask her "what should I do" and her reply... "shrug your shoulders and pretend you don't speak Serbian, they will get confused and let you go"...

Only in Bosnia will the OFFICIAL reply be to LIE to the police!!!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

DUBROVNIK


I made it!! After all the waiting and being FOUR times in Trebinje WITHOUT a VISA for Croatia and therefore not being able to make it to Dubrovnik, this week I FINALLY made it!!

And it was wonderful...

I almost didn't make it even to Trebinje as when I got back from England my car had a leetle problem which required someone coming out to fix it as driving it was dangerous! Anyway after trying various people, Sinisa finally managed to get his cousin to come out and fix it and I got off to Trebinje about 2 hours later than planned!!

Ljilja and I drove out on Tuesday to Dubrovnik and spent about 4 hours just the two of us, wandering around Dubrovnik and having the MOST expensive cup of coffee/coke that I have ever had (more expensive than the tea Mary and I had in Athens even!) but it was worth it!

The photo of the two of us at the fountain was taken with batteries from some kind German who after realising that our batteries were dead took his out (he luckily had the same camera) and then took the photo...

On the way back the Croatian border guard was the same one and he told his colleague to open the gate for us saying "Let them through - it's just that South African"...

We then returned with others on the Thursday and actually got to swim at this beach about 5 mins from the Old town - what a great experience, swimming with a view! We also went and had icecream and wondered around the Old town again...

Am still pinching myself... I got to go to Dubrovnik FINALLY!

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In the UK...

I have been in England for almost a week and it is certainly flying past... I spent a fun day in Zagreb with my friends there before flying out, and then 4 days in London. I managed to see and do quite a lot while I was there. I stayed with my friends Graeme and Nicole and their lovely baby, Janel who is now 9 months - and who ALMOST started crawling (with a leetle help from me she was doing it!) .

I spent a LOT of time with other friends from Cape Town, Dave and Sarah, and their 21 month old twinnies - Jonathan and Katherine (who are incredibly cute even with snotty noses!) . We even managed to do Covent Garden with a twin pram! One night we drone two hours to visit yet other friends from Cape Town and their two kids which was great fun (especially the KFC for dinner which we don't get in Bosnia - we don't have McDonald's even).

I also had a dinner with a couple coming to run a prayer ministry seminar in Banja Luka in November to flesh out the details on that, which was a better option than doing it all by email and phone.

Then I came to Oxford to stay with my sister and her family - and my parents are here from Cape Town as well, so it has been great catching up with everyone, playing with James (now 5) and Amy, 3.

I will be going back to Bosnia on Sunday and I will definitely go back tireder, but happier!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Katie is leaving...

Katie from Santa Barbara has been here for a month and is leaving today to spend a couple of days in Sarajevo before flying out.

From coming with us on humanitarian aid visits, to helping at English Club with the YWAM team to doing the art-workshop at the EUS camp, (and doing the washing up!) she has made herself useful and I am going to miss having her easy going company.

Last night we had a little party to see her off - and despite the cake not turning out, we certainly had a good time...

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Dubrovnik...

If you ask me where in the world I would like most to visit, it would have to be the beautiful city of Dubrovnik on the Croatian coast. So why haven't I gone in the 5 years I have lived in Bosnia if it is so close?? Especially as I have been 4 times to visit my roomie Ljilja in Trebinje which is just 30km away??? Well, I am on a South African passport which means I need visas for everywhere - including Croatia!! And to get a Croatian visa has not been easy for me either - they can be quite mean...

Two months ago I found out I can get a visa which lasts for one year for Croatia if an organisation will guarantee for me - so I called up my good bud Jasna with YWAM in Zagreb and got her to do a guarantee letter... Once I handed in the papers, it took two weeks of waiting with bated breath, but I now have a visa in my passport for Croatia which is valid for ONE WHOLE YEAR of MULTIPLE ENTRIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am still pinching myself - it will make my life a whole lot easier as if I want to travel anywhere I fly out of Zagreb in Croatia and have to apply each time - now I don't have to!! And it also means I can visit my good buds Jasna and Juliana and others in Zagreb (just 2 1/2 hours away) without worrying about visas each time!!

And the best past is that I am off to Dubrovnik at the end of August when I visit Ljilja and her family in Trebinje!!!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Camp Jahorina


Well, we just got back from the IFES/EUS (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students/Evandjeoska Udruzenja Studenata) camp and it was a great week! Here are the "Banja Luka girls" - Dragana, Ljilja (getting pampered), me, Aleksandra and Sasha. We are spoiling Ljilja as she had worked hard all day cooking meat for all 35 (including a team of 15 Americans) of us on the braai.

Aleksandra and Sasha had a wonderful time at the camp, and were particularly moved by the main speaker, Vanja (here we are - I translated into English for her) who spoke a very powerful word, and it touched even me, while I was translating it! We are very hopeful that both of them will come to know the Lord in a more powerful, personal way in the future.

Dragana and Ljilja were also touched and encouraged by the week with other Christians.

On the last night we had a "cultural evening" and as there was a girl from Kenya (studying in the US) we represented Africa. Here we are teaching everyone to dance to "Bajete Nkosi".

Anyway, despite the fact that we came back "completely dead" as Ljilja says, it was well worth the trip - PTL!! Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 17, 2006

Busy-ness

I think the problem with a blog is when you have stuff to write about you don't have time to write about them... I woke up early this morning to catch up on stuff and I posted (Finally - a week later) about Turkey, but my life right now is pretty blog-worthy, but no time to write much detail!

We got back from Turkey late on Monday night and the YWAM team of 4 girls was here from Hungary, so jumped right into organising for them. And then Ljilja got really ill and ran a high fever for two days - very worrying, but PTL she is doing much better now.

Katie who is staying with me until August arrived on Thursday... She is fitting in well, and it will be a great pleasure having her here - to experience first-hand missionary life. The team, Katie and I will be running an English Club this week (Mon, Wed, Thurs -they handed out 800 flyers, so we will see how many people come!) . Ljilja and I have also been taking the team and Katie to our humanitarian aid visits so they can meet some of our contacts and just let them know that the world hasn't forgotten them... We had a Turkey night on Saturday to share our pics with our friends and introduce them to the team (and we made Turkish Caj - and it turned out fantastic for our first attempt!).

Tomorrow is Ljilja's birthday so we are having a party tomorrow night... looking forward to that!

And in between all this trying to figure out Bosnian and Croatian visa stuff, so being kept busy!!

Turkey pics...

How to summarise the week-long "Balkan Project". The idea behind the project is to give people living in the Balkans a taste of Turkey in a week - well at least around Ismir. We were busy all day every day and so it was quite hard going - but I must say that in 10 days I truly feel like I saw and experienced as much as I possibly could.

The project was run by two wonderful Chinese Americans - Jason and Mailin. To start off with we had 3 days of workshops and seminars, and a leetle adventure on our first day, where they took us across town "for lunch" and then disappeared, leaving us with an envelope with (a little) money, a transport card and instructions to find our way back to the Internet Cafe that they have by 3.30, taking photos on the way of certain things... Needless to say since I am writing this, we didn't get (very) lost and made it back safely!

The rest of the week wasn't quite as adventurous, but we did have fun. From going to a village to watch how they make glass beads, to visiting the castle overlooking the city (above) , going to Ephesus (which was definitely the highlight!), going on the bus, the ferry, the metro and a cable car to get around (and walking a LOT)- and eating pretty much every kind of Turkish food that they have in restaurants and fast food places! We also did various projects - like cleaning trash in one neighbourhood, and giving out food to homeless street kids, as well as hosting a Balkan evening in the internet cafe (which was great fun!).

They did give us (not enough) time for shopping, but the only sea we saw was in the bay which is totally built up and so dirty you can't swim in it - so no beach going or swimming for us! But we did have an amazing view from the place we were staying!!!


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