Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Booksneeze review: Hope Springs

Having really enjoyed Kim Cash Tate's two other books Faithful and Cherished, I grabbed at the chance to review her latest book Hope Springs. Knowing that I would not be able to put it down once I picked it up to read, I was very careful to choose a rainy day-off to start reading it. And I am glad that I did... I was right, I couldn't put it down!

Again using some of the characters from her previous books, but introducing us to an array of new and well-drawn characters, the author takes us this time to the little town of Hope Springs in North Carolina and looks at the Sanders and Dillon families, and the way their lives are more intertwined than anyone ever knew.

A story filled with twists, turns, interesting details, plus lots of live-giving lessons, I came away from this book having a deeper understanding of my relationship with God. I love reading books where I not only enjoy the story, but learn something more about how to be a better person, and stronger in my relationship with the Lord.

I would highly recommend this book to any lover of good wholesome fiction with a message that lingers long after you have finished the book. 

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Business training finished...

After having to do two groups because too many people came to the training, we combined the two groups at the end. After we finished off group two last night, we had group one join us so they could all get their diplomas together. In total 23 people graduated, above are pictured the 17 who were there last night. Now they (those that are interested) have two weeks to write out their business plans and to apply for one of our small micro-loans which we will give out by the end of November.

Both groups were great and Ljilja and I had fun with them. It is always sad when a course like this ends, but I know that many will be back to hang out with us at IHTUS! 

Here are some of the (translated) comments about what they learned from the course:
-On this course I learnt how to do business in a simple and fun way. The game is very interesting and it fulfilled my expectations, and I learnt a lot about how to organise the work I am currently doing and the negotiation and communication skills which are important for me in my work.

-We learnt how to plan with our own resources, how to make a profit and along with everything else, we learnt how to work in a team - ie how to make your job easier by working together with other people and in that way get a better result.

-I learnt how to communicate better, work together with others, and I put theoretical concepts into practice. I also realised the importance of planning and budgeting and savings.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

October Baby

We try to have a "Movie Night" at Ihtus on the last Friday of the month. While the English Conversation classes are happening, it becomes part of those classes, with the movie being in English with English subtitles, and the discussion in English.

And I get to choose the movies! I usually try to get something I haven't seen and want to watch, and try to get something people won't have seen. Seeing as it is October, I made this month's choice "October Baby". It is a great movie, with a wonderful message and a really fantastic feel-good ending, but it takes you on a roller coaster of emotions!

All 18 of us who attended enjoyed it, even the guys (some of whom I saw wiping their eyes during the film, along with pretty much all of the girls...) I would highly recommend it to everyone, but I think next month I will definitely need to choose a comedy! 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Too many people...

As almost 30 people showed up for the business training on Thursday, Ljilja and I decided to divide them into two groups, and work the weekend to get the second group in around the same time. So we had group 1 on Thursday and Friday, group 2 on Saturday and Sunday and the same will happen next week - giving them a week to do their "practical" in between. (In the first group there was a photographer with a lovely Nikon camera, so you will be able to tell which are his photographs, and which are with my little point&shoot canon. Thanks Sasa for your photos!)

Both groups were a lot of fun, and working with Ljilja has also meant it wasn't as exhausting for me, as working in my second language means it does take it out of me... but having extra help has meant doing two groups back to back wasn't too bad (but ask me next Monday what I think - after we have done it again!!)

Here is most of the the first group during negotiations on the second day of training: 
 Working on supply and demand with the "resellers":
Ljilja doing the "life cards" with one group: Life happens, even in a business simulation game! (I love this photo as it just captures the moment)
Here is the first group - and yes the weather has been really good for October!
Group 2, and Ljilja was more hands on: Explaining how things work in the game:
And here "helping" with the negotiations:
I still did the summary at the end...
Here is a picture of group 2 from today, but 4 were missing, so we will have to take another photograph next week...

Even though it is more work, I think having too many people wanting to do our training is a good problem to have!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

And another successful chicken dinner...

Yesterday, I was busy all day taking the kids from the Children's Home to the library: one group goes in the morning and one in the afternoon. With pick up, drop off and being at the library for almost an hour and a half, it takes almost 3 hours for each group - with an hour for lunch in between - so it makes for a long day. The kids were great mainly because some of the naughtier kids were banned from coming as punishment (I love the fact that banning the library visit is considered punishment - we are doing something right!). But I got to see my kids, find them fun books, play games with them, hang with some of my volunteers who came to help out and visit with the lovely librarians, all in all a good day...

And then I got home at 4.30 just in time to start cooking dinner for almost 20 people! Yes, we started the Alpha course and somehow I ended up cooking for the first one, still not sure how that happened, especially as it was my library day! I did do my super easy "peachy chicken", which with onion soup mix brought by my mom from South Africa, is just a case of cutting up the chicken and putting in the oven tray with peach juice, cooking for an hour and voila an amazing exotic dish!! (oh and cooking some rice to go with it...) {and thanks to Ljilja for doing the shopping!} So, it wasn't too much of a hardship :)

I love the Alpha course because besides looking at some interesting and important topics, it is a time when people can sit back and relax and enjoy just hanging out. This is the first Alpha we have had in 2 years, and the first in Ihtus, but it worked out well. We had 18 people coming and I think most will be returning (and some people will come from next week) and hopefully will enjoy the rest of the course. The chicken was mostly polished off and some of them wanted the recipe for my lovely chicken dish, but I had to disappoint them, as the onion mix packets aren't available here:( But I guess that means that I made another successful chicken dinner!

putting into practice what we learnt...

Last week, we had the Child Protection seminar which is definitely a subject no one ever really wants to think about, but if you are working with children, then it is something that needs to at least be in the back of your mind always... this world is not a good place, and until we are eternally with the Father in Heaven, the darkness that covers this earth will be there, unfortunately.

This past weekend, we were about to have a nice quiet Sunday afternoon, when one of the families in the Child Sponsorship project called Ljilja (my colleague and housemate) to ask her advice. Their oldest daughter (15) had left on Friday morning, without their permission, and she had sent an sms to them to say that she was going to belly dance with a group of girls in Tuzla and would be back on Sunday. She was part of a belly dancing class in Banja Luka, so they thought she was probably with them competing and didn't worry too much until they couldn't get a hold of her or the girl she was supposed to be with... so now they were wondering if we knew where she could be...

Thankfully, Ljilja managed to contact some people who teach belly dancing in Banja Luka and as they all know each other, so were quickly able to establish that no group of dancers had gone to compete or dance in Tuzla. I then suggested that we contact friends in Tuzla to find out if they knew of any dance competition going on there, and that is when we figured out what was probably going on... there was a "vashar" or a kind of "fair" this weekend near Tuzla where people eat and drink and dance, etc in tents. The girls would have probably gone to dance on the tables to earn money. Now, remember she is 15!!

The father wanted immediately to go to Tuzla and find her, but in our training (and now in making a policy!) one of the things to do if you think a child is possibly in danger or being exploited is not to go charging in there, but to report it to the authorities as soon as possible... so Ljilja went with the family to the police to report the whole situation.

PTL, the girl returned home safely on Monday morning and because the police are now involved, the people whom she went with are being investigated! They took other underage girls with them, but the rest were from the high school boarding house in Banja Luka, so that is why no other parents were worried...

The worst part of the whole story is there was a terrible car accident involving people from the vashar (4 died) which was reported on the TV Sunday night, so of course her parents phoned Ljilja worrying that she was involved in that... but luckily I was able to find out online that the people were already identified and reassure then that it wasn't her... But any 15-year-olds out there reading this, remember that your parents love you and even if you fight with them, it isn't worth getting them in a state of complete turmoil while you run off and do your own thing!

And the end result is that the father was thanking Ljilja for making him do the right thing and tell the police instead of going to the vashar and trying to find her, and who knows what would have happened then... so it was a good thing we put into practice what we learnt last week!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

First 10 days of October...catch up post!

You know that I have been busy when I don't blog :) And this last little while has been busy, even for me! I have my normal activities, English classes, Children's Home Book Club, etc which keep me busy anyway... Then last weekend I went to Brela Women's Conference. It was a fantastic time of fun and catching up on friendships as well as basking in the last rays of Croatia coast sun for the year... The weather was the best ever, and it wasn't just a brave few braving the cool sea, but many of the almost 80 ladies who came to this 10th anniversary conference made it into the relatively warmer waters this year!

I got to hang out a lot (and yet not enough) with my bud, Jocelyn, especially as we were rooming together... We met back in Zenica and both of us had the same language teachers, so we were reminiscing a bit about that and the crazy stuff we had to learn, amongst other things! I also got to catch up with some other great people, and got to know some fun new people as well! Here are some of us: 
And one of the cool things that happened was that we were given aprons, each handmade by a lady in the US - what a blessing! Here are Joce and I showing ours off: 
I got back Sunday and we already had a guest (although she is actually a "cest" (often) - she has been so often she is now part of the family), Sina, who was here to help run a Child Protection seminar this week. So, from Monday until today we have been in seminar all day and then lucky me gets to carry on with my "normal" stuff - like Book Club on Monday and English classes on Tuesday night. So, I am a leetle tired now!

It was a good seminar, and I definitely got a lot out of it, but the highlight has to be when we did "role plays": Here are Dragana and Katja-Maaria with their "child", a very sad looking Sina (who was acting the part of the abuse victim)... we had to act out what we then have to do once a case has been discovered...
Child protection is quite a heavy subject, and so Jaca and I were the comic relief: judges ala "Idol": And of course, we had to get "dressed up":
All in good fun, but we actually learnt a lot from trying to put into practice what we had been learning... 

On Wednesday night there was a concert at EKC Ihtus: in conjunction with the local drug rehabilitation centre "Victorija" with the theme "ROCK AGAINST DRUGS". The idea was to have it outside, but it was rained out :-( and as all 3 acts were acoustic it was actually ROCK AGAINST DRUGS "unplugged". I didn't get a picture of Daria who was the first act, but she has a fantastic singing voice and we all loved listening to her... 

Then it was the turn of 2/3rds of "Edgar Allen Poe" (as their drummer wasn't available) who wowed us with their amazing guitar work... and they had such fun as well - it was like we were just sitting in on a fun jam session with them! 
And then the main act, Andy Mayo, who came in from the UK specially for the concert! Andy was the director of the Oak Hall Bible School in Belgrade, Serbia, and now is running Oak Hall in the UK. I love Andy - and besides all the things he does in his day job, he is an amazing musician as well!

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