Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Benny's Concert

Benny from India was here today. He arrived this morning, but unfortunately I wasn't feeling well all day, but Marisha took him around town and did a great job of showing him around (so I could rest and be well enough for tonight).

And then he had two concerts tonight. One at the English Club for about 10 of us, and then one at the Music Pavilion in the main downtown park in Banja Luka for over 150 people! He did a great job, and he shared some of his story and how God has changed his life. He also shared about the fact that he as an Indian is able to travel (with God's help) all over the world - 169 countries so far - despite needing visas for every country! Below he is playing (at the English Club) his unique guitar with bongos and harp built on. This is us at the English Club: Zeljka, Milan, Sanja, Branka, Ceca, Igor, Lea, me Benny, Marisha. This is some of our friends at the concert: Milan (who translated for him and did a great job), Ceca, Marisha, Sanja, Ljilja, Sinisa, Benny and me

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mostar with Marisha

We went to Mostar on Friday to go to the EUS (student) meetings that were being held there. As Trebinje is just an hour and a half from Mostar, Ljilja went home for the weekend and we stayed with my friend Carolyn. The meetings were good - Samuil who leads EUS in Serbia was the speaker and he is really good. And it was great seeing everyone from EUS as well - it has been a while!

Then while we were having dinner on Friday night with everyone from EUS and Jelena from Mostar was horrified to find out that I had never been to Blagaj and "Kravica" Falls. So, she organised for Jennifer to drive (as my car was with Ljilja in Trebinje) and we went on our adventure on Saturday! Here is Marisha and I in Blagaj at the mouth of the river Buna. We don't have any pics of the house where we are standing, which is what Blagaj is famous for. I will have to post them later. It is pretty cool. Here we all are at Kravica falls (which means "little cow"!). They were really beautiful. L-r Jennifer, Jelena, me, Marisha and Carolyn. Will have to come back in summer when we can go swimming... Carolyn took good care of us throughout the weekend, and took us around the old town today. And yesterday we also got to go visit Sabrina and David Lively. I studied language with Sabrina an age ago - BD - before David. Now she has two small girls- Irena and Klara- and it was great seeing her!

But on Saturday night we stayed in and watched "Eurovision" which is the yearly BIG music contest here in Europe. (it is how ABBA became famous in the 70s). All countries can send entries, and 25 compete on the night after either being in the top 10 from last year or getting through the semis and each country gets to vote as well.

We enjoyed ourselves, even though it isn't necessarily about the best song, but about allegiances: so the former USSR republics all vote for each other as do Norway for Sweden and Denmark, etc... In the end, Russia won. It was a good song, so I am not unhappy - but it is mainly because they have a lot of former repiblics voting for them!! Bosnia came in the top 10, which means we go straight to the final next year so we are happy (last year we came 11th which meant we had to do the semi-final this year).

All in all it was a fun weekend in Mostar!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Marisha has arrived!!

Marisha is here for 10 weeks to do an internship for her college degree. She will be helping with English Club, and with various other projects over the summer. She is a complete delight and we are already enjoying having her here!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What can you do?

I got cheated today. I think because I am a foreigner and a female...

I have been trying to fix my petrol gauge since last week. I asked my normal mechanic, but he doesn't do electrics - but he recommended this one auto-electrician. I trust my mechanic so off I go to the other guy but he couldn't see me right away and then said it would take about 2 hours so it was better to leave the car. So this morning as we have our team meeting I dropped off the car and Sergej picked us up.

When I went back to pick it up, fixed, the gauge only showed half full, and I could smell petrol in the car. I normally wouldn't know how much petrol I have in the car - but because we just got back from a trip which Miika's organisation paid for our expenses, I had filled up the tank (so I could give him the bill). And at the same time I pushed the "trip" button on my car because the gauge was broken and I didn't want to get stuck running out.

So, I knew that I had gone exactly 146kms in the 6 days. And there was NO way that was half a tank of petrol. I just drove away because I didn't know what to do, and went back to the church (which was close by) . When I showed Ljilja that the gauge was only half full, she said well maybe it is still broken (which I hadn't thought about!). So we went back to see what they would say. They said it was fixed properly and that there was only half a tank of petrol. Ljilja said, "we know exactly how much should be in there - either it is broken still or someone took petrol out". They carried on "discussing" and then eventually the guys says "no one took any petrol, but just so there is no problem with the police, here is your money back for fixing the gauge"...

But at that stage it wasn't about the money but about the fact that we had been cheated and they were saying that we hadn't! I guess they thought, as I did all the negotiating, that she is foreign, she is a woman, her gauge was broken, she won't know how much was in the car and chanced their arm... so we left without taken the money (which I regret now... but at the time it was a matter of principle!!). But the point is if he didn't do anything wrong, why was he offering us our money back?

We went to go fill up the car to see if maybe the gauge was broken or something, or if they had taken some petrol to see how much was "missing" and we got in about 20litres and we for sure hadn't used more than 10litres!!

Anyway, that is the last time we will go there...
(and I just praise God for my mechanic who is so trustworthy - I had totally got used to having him that I forget that there are people who will do anything for a quick buck...)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Tonight was the "Matura" (or Prom or Matric Dance) for the Economic High School. The tradition is that all the students go to the main square to wait before they parade in a long line through town to where they have the dance. Igor and Sofija from my English Club go to the Economic High School and so I went to go see them... And WOW!!!! They were completely different - I hardly recognised them. Here I am with Igor:And this is Sofija (did I say WOW!?)
And me with her:
I actually first met up with Mladen from the English Club when we were pushing through the crowds and trying to find them (always a problem!) and then we went on together to "Glad you asked". Here he is with Igor:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Novi Sad, Serbia

We went for the weekend for a conference for all the "church plants" at the "Mother Church" of our little Fellowship here in Banja Luka. Novi Sad is about 4 1/2 hours drive away in the Northern part of Serbia about 50kms from Belgrade.

The Christian Fellowship Church in Novi Sad:Me, Olja, Sinisa and Ljilja at the picnic we had on the Saturday. It was nice to hang out with people from the different churches and be in nature! Ljilja and I snuck away for a couple of hours so I could see the city as I didn't know if I would get another chance...Here I am in the centre of Novi Sad:
In the afternoon they took a group of us to the Tvrdjava (which means "fortress") which is pretty amazing. It was built during Austro-Hungarian times as a defense on the Danube against the Turks. It is the second largest fortress in Europe!
We all stayed for the weekend with different people in the Fellowship. Lea, Ljilja and I all stayed with the Ivanovic's, Tanja and Miki, and we had a great time. They really looked after us well!!
The speaker for the conference was Gary Cox from the UK. He was really challenging!!
A highlight for me was on the Saturday when the leaders of the different churches shared how it all began and gave testimonies and shared how God called them to the different places. In the below photo: Standing at left are Vera and Danijel - the founders/pastors of the Christian Fellowhip Church - Novi Sad. On the extreme right are Greg (from the US) and Jelena who work in Sombor (about 100KM from Novi Sad), then Sinisa and Olja, then the couple who work in Temerina (about 40KM from Novi Sad) and lastly Vesna and Neso (who were in Banja Luka way back in the beginning!) who are now planting a church in another part of Novi Sad.
It was a great weekend - lots of fun, good teaching, hanging out, sight-seeing, but I must admit that it is good to be home again!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

English Club at the Orphanage

Here is a picture of the group from Thursday night's English Club at the orphanage: From left to right: Mladenka, Maja, Sofija (from our English Club), Maja, Momir, Mladen, me, Snjezana, Milica, Suljo, Srdjan (who is one of the two carers for the "Family" unit where we hold the Club), Danijela. In front, Mario with Milan (from our English Club). Behind the couch hiding is the 3rd Maja as she hates having her picture taken! Taking the picture is Lea, and two of the US team were with us as well.

It was the quietest club that we have had yet as I told them the two ('older') American "uncles" didn't like a lot of noise. It was still quite noisy, but quieter than normal!! But the aim is for them to pick up English while having fun, and a little noise never killed anyone!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Dragana and Sergej

We were over at Dragana's house today as it was her family's "slava" (Saint's Day celebration) on Tuesday (which is Djurdjevdan - St George's Day) and so we were there for the 3rd day of the celebrations. We couldn't go in the evening with everyone else as I am off with the team to the orphanage, so we went just with Aleksandra earlier in the day for an early lunch. Here we all are: Dragana, Ljilja, myself and Aleksandra.One of the fun things about going to Dragana's place is getting to hang out with her nephew, Sergej, who is turning 2 next month. He is a darling. He calls me "Bimba" and is always asking when I am going to come to visit. When Dragana is talking to me on the phone she says "Its Bimba" and he says "gdje?" (which means "where?"). And when the phone rings they ask him "who is it?" and he says "Bimba!!" Here we are: (can you tell he hates having his picture taken?)
One time I took Dragana home from somewhere and he didn't know I was coming and they asked him "who is at the door?" and he actually said "Bimba?"!!! Then when I went in and he saw me in the hallway they asked him "who's that?" and he made the motion with his hand like "the crazy lady"!! I love it when people (especially at such a young age) are open about their true feelings about you!

"Glad you asked" with the American team

We have been running a series with the people from English Club (in English) called "Glad you asked" for the past couple of weeks. We have food provided by Ivana, a member of the Christian Fellowship (who is a great cook!). With the help of a DVD with excerpts and questions, we talk about different spiritual topics - last night was about different religions, and what they believe. It is a place where people can ask questions and share their own beliefs and opinions. Last night the team that is here from Oklahoma joined us. Here we all are: Here is Steve from Oklahoma talking to Mirko, Sofija and Ceca.
I am enjoying the series, because it is also making me think about what I actually believe and why I believe what I do. I am also learning a lot about the different topics from the excerpts on the DVD. If you want more information look at www.gladyouasked.com

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A big milestone for me...

Everyone always asks me if I am fluent in the language and it is very difficult to say "yes" without appearing a bit proud... and I always acknowledge that it is God who has given me the language ability that He has and I am amazed at how far I have come and how much I can do. But I reached a milestone today...

I often translate into English as of course that is the easy way round - and I translate into Serbian for small groups or meetings (or one-on-one) but I have never translated in front of a big group into Serbian... until today!

There is a team from the US here for a week. And one of them was preaching this morning in church and Olja, who usually does the translation in Serbian, was sick so there was no one else to translate... and so I stepped up to the plate... and it went much better than I thought it would - and now I know that I can actually do it, I will be doing it more often...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Srcocret - Zagreb

Ljilja and I went yesterday with Miika to Srcocret - a youth conference in Zagreb, Croatia - just for the day. There were over 1000 people and it was so well organised! For instance: there was free transport on the trams and buses in Zagreb for all of the participants. We, having to drive 3 hours from Banja Luka arrived late and missed the first part of the morning lecture so Ljilja and I decided to play hooky for the second part and go have a wander around Zagreb (she had never been to Zagreb before). Here I am in front of the Art Museum. The architecture is really beautiful.I even took her up into "Gornji grad" or upper town where we had to take our picture with our new friend:
We went back to the conference for workshops they had in the afternoon. After the workshops they had 3 locations in the city where they held concerts and approximately one third of the participants went to each of the concerts. The concert we were at was by the BiH worship team (who have put out a few cds and are GREAT!) and for me it was definitely the highlight of the day. Not only was the concert great, but we also got to hang out with some people we don't normally get to see.
Here I am at the concert with Vanja and Dina who work in Jajce.
In the evening, there was a concert on the main square which as you can see below was well received. The Mayor of Zagreb even sent a letter to be read out with his blessing on the conference - amazing when you realise that Croatia is a very Catholic country and here the mayor of the Capital city supported something run by the Evangelical churches!
We only got home after 12pm, making it a really long day, but I think it was worth it!!!
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