Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Party

For "my" Christmas we had a few people over to celebrate... Despite the cold and the snow outside, we were nice and warm in our well-heated flat, and I think everyone had a really good time.

Here are Sveto, his wife Ljilja, my Ljilja, Zeljka, Dajana, Daliborka and Sasa at the beginning of the evening with all the food on the table :-)...Below are Zeljka, Dajana and Daliborka (who are actually twin sisters) and Sasa after I had handed out the "Christmas crackers" = for me Christmas is NOT Christmas without Christmas crackers! I got my friend Doreen to bring them with her from England when she came. Many of them had never seen them before - so it was a really good idea!This is the rest of the crew - Daliborka (another one!), Sofija, Milan, me, Ceca and Sanja wearing the silly hats that came in the Christmas crackers! All in all we had a good time, with lots of good food and great laughs!


I woke up to a very white Banja Luka - it snowed looooaaaads last night. So I decided that I would go and make a snowman... Ljilja wasn't game to help me, so I made him by myself!

I am quite chuffed with how he turned out - it just reminded me of the true meaning of Christmas - that it is all about God's love for us.

"For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life." John 3:16

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Busy week...

This week has been busy, with traveling to Tuzla (about 360km round trip in one day!) and finishing up English Club with a bit of a Christmas party, as well as translating business proposals and finishing off year end stuff for our projects... And here are some pictures of some of the other happenings this week:

Handing out Christmas packages in schools... Despite the cold, the smiles on the children's faces warm you up inside!! It is however very sad when we ask the children "why do we celebrate Christmas?" and they don't know! The first few classes answer "because it is a holiday", "because of Saint Nicholas"...etc Then it gets around the school that we will be asking them that question and so the teachers prepare them and in chorus they say "because of Jesus' birth". Let us never forget the real reason for the season!!!This is Ljilja with the first years: aren't they just soooo cute!!??
This week it was also the "slava" (Saint's day celebration) of "Nikoljdan" (Saint Nicholas - and here they celebrate it on the 19th of December) and we went to celebrate with Vujadinka - she is on the left below.
We gave out the Christmas packages to all of the children from the 30 families in our Dorcas Aid project - here is Ljilja and I with little Danilo (who is no longer so little!) and his package.
And we handed out packages to the children of our social project - here we are with Suzana's twins (the YWAM Go Team painted their apartment this summer). They were really happy to get their packages!!
And now we are getting ready for "my" Christmas with a big party for our friends on Tuesday. Here they celebrate it on the 7th of January, so I get to have two Christmases!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas reflections...

Finally we had time this weekend to put up our little tree... I put on my one Christmas CD from Amy Grant and we decorated while the snow was falling slowly outside. For this girl from South Africa a white Christmas is still something very different! When I talk to my parents nowadays we do NOT talk about the weather (they are busy enjoying the swimming pool while I am up to my knees in snow here!)

This evening we were upstairs for Filip's birthday (he is our landlady's daughter's son). It was his second birthday this week. We were all talking about how time flies - it has been 2 years since he was born. I am also reflecting on the fact that it has been 3 years since we lived through his mother, Sladja losing his twin brothers in childbirth - she gave birth 3 months early at home (ie upstairs), and lost both the babies. And this happened 3 days before (my) Christmas (theirs is the 7th of January as they are Orthodox), so the anniversary is coming up soon. At the time I really really didn't know how or why God let things happen. But time moves on, and a year later, Filip was born and Sladja is expecting another baby in March. Anyway, I know that God has a reason for everything and who knows why He took the twins the way He did - but I know one thing, that as He showed me then, He cried along with all of us over the sadness and loss that we all felt...I take that picture with me whenever I don't understand why God allows things to happen. He knows how much we are hurting and He hurts and grieves along with us.

Okay, I didn't know when I started this post that I would be writing about the twins - but I guess that Christmastime will always remind me of what happened then. But I know that the worse times of grief that God ever felt would have to be the two days we celebrate each year - Christmas when He sent Jesus to earth and Easter when He was separated from Him because of the sin of the world being laid on Him. Christmas is a time not just to think about presents (although I do enjoy that part of it!!) but also to think about the fact that it is about Jesus' first coming and to reflect on the fact that He WILL come again!!!!!!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another package...

I wrote a couple of days ago about a HUGE package that we received from Corina (below right), but what I didn't know was that her best friend Deb (in the middle - both of the came on the team from Indiana in October) had also sent a HUUUUUGE package in the mail for us for Christmas!!! They sent them the same day, but somehow hers only got here today! We love you Deb! You and Corina are the best!! Now we really have a lot of things to put under the Christmas tree... when we finally get around to putting it up (now that we didn't go away this weekend, we actually have time to do it!!)

Why we didn't go to to Tuzla, Sarajevo and Trebinje

We had these grand plans to go to Tuzla for a meeting, then head for Sarajevo to stay with Janice and see her, then head to Trebinje to see Ljilja's family and Sladja's new baby, Mirko. When we woke up this morning it had been snowing, but not badly, but in the two hours it took us to pack this is what fell... The funny thing is that Alpha this week was on "How God guides us" and one of the points was that God gave us common sense and that just kept going through my head: Is it common sense for two girls to go in a little Peugeot through the mountains of Bosnia when it is snowing this much?? And I really didn't have peace. Anyway we phoned everyone where we were going to ask their opinion (another point from Alpha is to get wise counsel!) and everyone was unanimous that it wasn't worth us doing the trip... :-(

We will go to Tuzla instead sometime next week when hopefully it won't be snowing.

We are on the one hand sad that we don't get to go to Trebinje and Sarajevo to see everyone, but on the other hand we have a nice "free" weekend to relax and catch up on things we haven't had a chance to do (like put up the Christmas tree!!!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


This morning we went to Bronzdani Majdan - a village about 1/2 an hour from Banja Luka - to take the Samaritan's Purse Christmas packages to the children in the schools there. For those that don't know - through the Samaritan's Purse organisation, people in England package presents for their "friends" here in Bosnia in shoeboxes (so they are also known as "shoebox packages") and we distribute about 10 000 in and around Banja Luka. Each child is also given the opportunity to take the picture book "Best present in the world" which talks about the real meaning of Christmas!

Here we are with a group of first graders at the "big" central school:
Handing out to the sixth graders (the eldest children that get the packages - there just isn't enough to go around...) again at the central school - the smaller schools only go up to fifth grade.
And this is Ljilja with 3 of the girls at one of the smaller one room schools, with Jelena, who is showing what she got in her really nice package: It is such a blessing to be able to see the joy on the faces on the children!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

English Club...

Tonight we had a Christmas theme - we will also carry on with the theme next week and have a party as it will be the last one until next February. We had a discussion on "parties" and then an exercise with the real meaning behind the "candy cane". I had organised Doreen to bring some for us to have - so here are pictures of some of the class doing the exercise in pairs and enjoying their candy canes...

Zeljka and Lea:Igor and Milan:
Mirko and Vladen:
And then a group photo of everyone who came tonight: And a really cheesy photo of me in the front, but what can you do!! :-)

Christmas Package...

Corina, our dear friend from Indiana sent us this HUUUUUUGE package FULL of Christmas presents! I couldn't believe it when Ljilja brought it out of the post office! We opened it up and then opened one present each - the two letters which she made for us, aren't they fantastic!! I have insisted that we leave the others to be opened on Christmas day! (It makes it so much more fun on the day!) Thanks so much Corina, we love you!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lunch with Olja...

Ljilja took Olja (Sinisa is her husband) and I out for lunch today at a new restaurant in Banja Luka "Mala Stanica" (Little Station) and boy was it good! It is situated in what was a little side railway station, and the decor is really cute and the food was fab. It was also good just to chat and hang out and realise how much we just enjoy being together as friends and hanging out!

One time a while back Olja asked us how we had labeled her phone number in our cell phones - was it something like "najdraza pastorova zena" (the favourite pastor's wife), meaning that she was our favourite, not that she was his favourite wife out of the many... anyway we had a good laugh at that - and she is now labeled in my phone as "najdraza pastorova zena"!!

Friday, December 07, 2007

South African evening...

While Doreen was here, we decided to have a South African night at English Club. We had to do better than the Fins had done the week before, so the challenge was on:

We started off with a short film about Cape Town, followed by a short taken from the film "Untag" by Leon Schuster (he is a South African comedian). That was a big hit! We then had a quiz on South Africa (using guide books to look up the answers).

That was followed by the game "guess what I do" using famous South Africans. We put a name on the board and the two teams took turns guessing what they thought they did. So Thabo Mbeki was a rugby player, religious minister, and musician before they guessed correctly that he is the current SA president!

We ended off the evening with "peppermint crisp pudding" (which is made from ingredients that you can only get in South Africa - or in this case at the SA shop in London - thanks to my great friends Dave and Sarah for getting the ingredients for me and sending it to Doreen before she came), which was a GREAT hit!!

All in all it was a great evening!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Doreen is visiting...

My friend Doreen, who is with YWAM in England (but is from South Africa), is here visiting for a week. Unfortunately the weather has been pretty cruddy, and I have been busy, so she has mostly just seen Banja Luka and the inside of the Fellowship and my house (where she has been enjoying reading some of my books, so she has been very happy!).

However, today we braved the weather and took a trip to Jajce, about and hour an a half away. Despite being foggy in Banja Luka and in Jajce - it was sunshine along most of the rest of the way, so it was a good trip!

Here we are at the Krupa Falls: Here are the flour mills on the River Pliva near Jajce. It looks kind of sad now, but in the summer it is really beautiful!
Here we are in Jajce (pronounce Yait-se) at the fort. We had a great time just wandering around, despite the fog. We decided to get cevapi (which is traditional Bosnian grilled meat sausages in a special bread - you have to try it to know what it is!!) as it is always better in the Federation (where Jajce is) than in Banja Luka. We were nice and got it to go and brought it back to eat with Ljilja. I think we must be the only people ever to take cevapi from Jajce to Banja Luka! (it was GREAT though! Certainly worth the 1 1/2 hour wait while we drove home!!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Finnish Evening at English Club...

This evening at English Club I had the evening off and the Fins (and one Czech) ran the show. Miika, Kesija (Miika and Mirjam's eldest daughter) and Lea (their 4 daughters' teacher) showed us some funny things about Finland (like the fact that a national sport is throwing Mobile phones and they have competitions in Air guitar playing). David from Czech republic taught us some basic Finnish. Below is Miika showing us some of the 15 different cases that Finnish has. (glad I don't have to learn this language!)
Speaking of David, he has been in Banja Luka now for almost 3 months, finishing his thesis in Serbian language (for his studies at Prague University) and helping at English and Alpha and wherever else, and is leaving to go back to the Czech Republic this week. From the beginning I have been campaigning for him to think about coming back here to work alongside us, as he really is an asset to the work here (he speaks the language fluently, and is outgoing, and well fun to be around, and everyone loves him!) He is praying about coming back in some capacity, and looking for a way to do that. So for those that pray - pray with him and us for God to find a way to bring him back!! (and no don't get any ideas - I hate it when people think just because he is male and single that means we can't just be friends!!) Below is him (behind with glasses) hugging Miika and Natasha and with Mladen (from the English Club).
I have a cute story about him which just shows how dry he can be: After Alpha one week, Ljilja and I were driving him home and I said (we were talking in Serbian) "my bed is crying for me" (which is how you say that you are REALLY tired). He said "yes my bed is also crying for me". After a few minutes of other conversation he said "man I don't know how I am going to be able sleep now, my bed is all wet..." Ljilja and I got all concerned and were offering him a place to stay, etc... and then he says "my bed is all wet from the tears, because it has been crying for me all this time..."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

USB Weekend...

The EUS USB-United Students of the Bible meetings happened in Banja Luka this weekend. We haven't got together since camp at the end of July, so it was really great to catch up with everyone. Here are most of us on Friday night at our house: I decided for dessert to make pumpkin pie, (with the butternut I have that Dragana's dad grew for me this year) seeing that it was American Thanksgiving on Thursday and Jenny and Tiffany were with us. Here we are with the half of one pie that we hadn't eat yet. And even if I say so myself it was GOOOOOOOOD!!!
Besides Jenny and Tiff, we also had Jan and Anneriet from Holland staying with us for the weekend and along with them, their very very very cute son Joas. (Who was sooo good my landlady, who lives upstairs, didn't even know we had a baby in the house!!) Here we are:
So what did we do at the USB? We had some worship, some teaching, some discussions, some hanging out and most of all fun!! Here we are during one of the sessions: On Saturday after the rest of the people left, and Jan and Anneriet and Joas were visiting other friends, Jenny, Tiffany, Ljilja and I went to coffee at what is fast becoming my favourite place in Banja Luka as they actually have proper English Tea (and is the first place I have found in Banja Luka to have it!). The weather was really nice (well for this time of the year) so we got to sit outside!Unfortunately Tiff got really ill on Saturday night and so is still with us having not been able to return to Zenica on the train today, Sunday - as Americans would say "bless her heart" or South Africans "shame, poor thing". I feel quite bad because I was jokingly trying to get her to stay one more night and then when she HAD to, I felt quite guilty! But I figure if she is going to get sick away from home, it is good that she is here with us, so we can give her good care because we wuv her!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Zagreb trip...

I went up to Zagreb for the weekend to write the Cambridge TKT (Teacher's Knowledge Test). I decided to do this because I will need to have some proof that I can teach English for next year when it comes time to apply for my "permanent residency" as they are stricter than just for temporary. It went well, PTL!

I went up and down by train because it has been snowing non-stop since Wednesday night and I figure the safest way to travel in the snow is by train. Well, it may be safe, but it wasn't on time. I waited 1 1/2 hours on Friday to leave Banja Luka (because one of the electric cables had fallen somewhere on the tracks). They kept us on the station WITHOUT heat for 1 1/2 hours...without telling us how long we would have to wait... so not a happy camper, but, PTL, the rest of the trip was without incident.

In Zagreb, I stayed with Juliana, my American YWAM friend and she had organised a Thanksgiving dinner (complete with Turkey) for some friends and I was the token "non-American". So on Saturday after the exam I was treated to a full (and completely unexpected) Thanksgiving dinner!! Along with what must be the best pumpkin pie that I have ever had (sorry Beth Summay - better even than yours!).

Okay, the funniest part of the trip happened at the border on the way back. On the way to Zagreb the guy was all excited about my South African passport and took all the details down, etc and was chatting away with me and saying it was very unusual to have that sort of passport come through there (it is the first time I have gone by train and thus the first time I have crossed at that border). Anyway I got to the border today on the way back and a DIFFERENT border guard took my passport, looked at it and said "were you the one that came through on Friday?". Obviously I was the talk of the border!! How funny is that! :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

CHE Seminar

CHE (Community Health Education/Evangelism) is a method used to bring spiritual aspects into humanitarian aid work. The seminar was held this weekend in the Christian Fellowship, with over 30 people in attendance. A team from Tuzla came to run it and we had people from Zenica, Sanski Most and Sarajevo also join us. Here we are on Friday night and then below that on Saturday - the way the seminar was mostly run, in a circle... Besides helping in all the behind the scenes stuff, I also got to lead worship, and it was great leading for so many people (I realise how my life has changed when 30 people is a lot of people...). We also made a bit of a band up on Sunday morning for worship - two guitars, the piano and a trumpet, and it was just so nice to be leading with a bigger group for a change!We had 5 people staying with us on Friday and 6 on Saturday (because, of course, we are crazy!). Below we are pictured on Friday night. The two boys belong (one each) to the two ladies. Mario (on the left) is an old friend from when I worked in Zenica (we used to run the home group together, and he was for a while in the worship band I led, until we worked out that he couldn't really keep a beat - and he played the drums!). He is now part of the eldership (they don't have a pastor) of the Zenica Baptist church. All in all it was long and busy weekend, but fun as well... now I am off to bed!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Photos on the wall...

I have been meaning to do up the one photo board I have on the wall as it had LOT of photos on it and it was just too busy. I wanted one with just a few photos on it. Here it is on the right - the other two photos are of my nephew, James (my sister Astrid's son) in a field of buttercups, and my brother Kevin and his firstborn Luke on the beach. I love both of those photos - as they look so good, but they are of family too.Anyway, tonight Ljilja and I wanted to do something relaxing, so I finally got around to fixing up the photoboard. I decided to make it with just friends - and that from South Africa... I think it turned out pretty well...
Thanks to the ladies who came from Indiana for the crafty materials and inspiration!!!
(ps Jana can you recognise this frame - it was the one your folks gave me for my first birthday in Bosnia from IKEA)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Alpha 2007

We started off Alpha for this year with a bang. We even had to buy a new table as we had to add a 4th (we only have 3)! PTL when we first started Alpha 3 years ago we bought 4 place settings (plates,etc) so we had enough of those... At the time I said "we need to have faith", well it has finally come to be that we needed them...

For those who don't know what Alpha is: it is a course started in Holy Trinity Brompton in London, and is aimed at people who want to find out more about Christianity. It starts with dinner, followed by a talk on a specific topic (including "Who is Jesus?" to "What is prayer?") and then a coffee time with discussion usually based on that topic. It is run in over 160 countries around the world, this is our 4th Alpha here in Banja Luka.

This Alpha is written into one of our Humanitarian Aid projects and so is optional for the families on that project - and so the majority of the people who came were through that project - 11 to be exact. We also have 6 other friends or Fellowship members who came along plus 6 of us "staff", so we only had one open space!Sinisa and my table with two couples from the project. The husbands are both bakers by profession and the wifes actually went to high school together! Miika and Ira and their table - sisters Jadranka and Ljubinka and Damir. Damir is an old member of the Fellowship but his wife Ljubinka has never ever come. Her sister Jadranka has been coming for about a year now, and so we invited them all to Alpha and she came along with them!! Sergej and his table - half people from the project, half his friends. Ljilja and her table - all people from the project. I eventually came and sat with this table as they were the fun table - and stayed on the longest (but actually they also had the best discussion too!!). During the coffee time Miika and I played a little ditty "Down by the Riverside". Or should I say I wowed everyone with my 3 chords and Miika just played along :-)

All in all it was great evening and despite the pouring rain we had a FANTASTIC turnout! May it continue through the rest of the course (we will have 7 more weeks...). Thanks to those who are praying!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Amarula party...

Mary is here visiting, and to my shame, I discovered that I had never shared with her the delight that is Amarula. And when we were at Olja's wedding we had decided to have an Amarula night with Olja and her cousins, Vesna and Naca, as they had wanted to try it, so we decided to do it while Mary is here. Olja's husband was happy to have the night to watch an important football match and us girls were delighted to have the chance to hang out and enjoy Amarula milkshakes. I also made peppermint crisp pudding-my mom brought the ingredients from South Africa when she came as you can't get anything here. It was such a fun evening - I can't remember when last I laughed sooooo much (and that was BEFORE the Amarula!!).

left-right: Ljilja, Vesna, Naca, Olja, Mary, Dragana and I

Saturday, October 27, 2007

How funnnnyy!!

Ok, I love it when Ljilja says to me things in English that are directly translated from the Bosnian. Like "crazy like electricity" (which describes our friend Deb!!) but the one tonight has to be my favourite yet...

This afternoon I had a reeeeaaallly long meeting with Janet and Mark and Cindi - like 5 hours (which went REALLY well, and Janet and I are now much happier for those of you that have been following that saga...) and then I went straight to practice with Miika for the service tomorrow and so I came home at 9.30pm really tired.

Ljilja and I then went for a walk to get outside for a bit. And we were practicing English as we were walking. As we were walking she said to me in English - "you look really tired, you look, well, like death on vacation"... How funny is that?! Isn't it a great??!! Anyway, I am off to bed so I will stop looking like death on vacation!!

Friday, October 26, 2007


Mary is here visiting right now, and she came over for lunch today and stayed to hang out all afternoon!!! For those who don't know, Mary lived in Banja Luka for over 7 years and left to get married (she is here right now without her husband to catch up with everyone by herself. Bill arrives on Monday- we are looking forward to seeing him as well, he is great!)

Monday, October 22, 2007

one more of the team...

I realised that in my blog about the Indiana team that I failed to mention two of the team at all. They are actually Shelley and Luanne, but as they are actually roommates - for me they will always be "Laverne and Shirley"! They spent the week with Sergej and his family and despite sometimes having to speak "hand and feet" to get understood, I know they had a great time!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007


For those of you who don't know, South Africa won the Rugby World Cup last night, beating England 15-6 in the final. I got to watch some of the match on a Serbian channel, explaining (well trying!) to my Bosnian friends what the game is all about! Below is a picture of our president, Thabo Mbeki celebrating with the team after the match!
And on Sunday, I decided to celebrate in my own little way - embarrassing Ljilja by driving to church this morning (and back!) with my flag flying high and proud! People looked at me strangely, but it was good fun!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Indiana Team...

This past week we have been hosting a team of six ladies from Indianapolis. They are from the church that supports our Ukrainian colleague, Sergej and his family. As he speaks very little English it means a lot of translation (and is quite tiring) for me, but it is very encouraging to have the teams come as it just reminds us we are not alone over here. In the below picture you can see us on the main square while on our tour around Banja Luka. Three of the team stayed with Ljilja and me: Corina, her best friend, Deb and Marisha (in below photograph on the walking street in Banja Luka). Corina is the reason that Ljlija's English has improved since she was here in May - they have been emailing and instant messaging constantly and even talking on Skype! Marisha is coming next year for a 10 week internship starting in May and we are really looking forward to her coming! again! Deb, well, there is just no way to describe Deb - she is one of a kind!! We really enjoyed having them to stay and it was really hard to say goodbye!
The team came with a special gift for Sergej and his family - money for a much needed car: below is the photo of Sergej and Ira (right) opening the gift - which was a toy car - and you can just see on his face that it still hasn't sunk in what this actually means! It did later and he started crying(as did we all)! Linn, on the left, led the team and is a part time missions pastor at the church.
Here we are on the last day, as we were having "pita" (Bosnian pie) for lunch at our house. I just think it is such a lovely photo of all of us! I don't have many pictures of what the team actually did - besides taking humanitarian aid to various organisations and seeing what they do, they also helped at my English Club and ran a Women's scrapbooking/craft evening. The last night they had a fantastic goodbye party with over 35 people attending- where they shared something the Lord had done in their lives during the week.
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