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!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!


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

"Paketica"

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!!)
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