Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Like it was yesterday!

We said goodbye to our Ukrainian teammates, Sergej and Ira, and their daughter, Vera, in 2009, and besides the fact that Vera has blossomed from pretty 9-year-old into a darling teenager, it seems like yesterday that they left. They are here for the wedding of their other daughter, Anja, who is getting married to a local guy, and we had them over for lunch today and it was lovely to chat and catch up with them.

It was really so great to see them again, and when we prayed together before they left, Ljilja and my hearts both broke when Vera prayed that they would be able to come back to Bosnia again to live... we wish they could come back too!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

OakHall visit to Banja Luka

This weekend we were visited by 28 lovely people who were travelling through the Balkans, with OakHall from England. We had a great time with them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Booksneeze review: The Organic God

I so enjoyed Margeret Feinberg's "The Organic God" that I have actually gone back to re-read it more slowly. Her writing style is easy to read, and her ideas so thought-provoking, that it is definitely a book that I will read again and again.

She talks about stripping down my relationship with God and just getting back to the basics, trying to see the realness of God and how He wants to be a part of my life. And how we can journey with Him in this life.

With a good balance of her own story weaved in with scripture and other examples, it is a book which shows us how to see God's presence in our lives: showing us how to look for different aspects of His character, His love, His kindness, His beauty...

I would recommend this book for anyone looking to see how to deepen their relationship with God and see Him in new ways.

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

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blogging for books review: Ollie Chandler collection

When I saw that Randy Alcorn's trilogy was up for review on bloggingforbooks.com, I grabbed the chance to get three books for the "price" of one.

The Ollie Chandler Collection is 3 novels in one: "Deadline", "Dominion" and "Deception". All of them are crime stories with good twists and turns that keep one guessing. The first two have Ollie Chandler as a detective who helps solve the crime. The third one is more about Ollie, and it was definitely my favourite. The other two are thought-provoking as well, but somehow Deception was the one which brought it all together.

The author also deals with various topics such as racism, abortion, AIDS, Education, organ transplants, media bias and political correctness and does a good job of giving a good Christian perspective without coming off preachy.

Randy Alcorn's writings are usually centered on helping people understand the reality of the afterlife, and throughout these three books he gives us glimpses of what heaven could look like.

I would recommend this trilogy for anyone who likes crime novels and is looking for a good wholesome and thought-provoking read.

I received this book free through bloggingforbooks.com, but this opinion is entirely my own.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Playing hooky with Kate

Kate is a fellow-YWAMer who is travelling around and doing interviews with people for her Masters studies. She first came to stay in July while the Dutch team was here, and hung out with us then. But as I was too busy to show her around, she just got to experience what life is like when there is a team here and not much else. And then after visiting Sarajevo and Belgrade, she is now back for a little bit before carrying on her travels...

Yesterday, Ljilja and I decided to play hooky and take the day to show her the beautiful city of Jajce (and some of the sights on the way there and back). Here we are with Jajce in the background: 
We had really good cevapi for lunch and then headed to the new lookout which is right in front of the waterfall. You can get right down in front of it, which is amazing, but the spray is so much it really isn't clever to take pictures there - so here we are a little higher up: still stunning...
After that we went up to look inside the catacombs. I had never been as they were never open whenever I have been in Jajce before. They are carved out of solid rock, and even though it was almost 30 degrees outside, it was pretty chilly inside - in fact you could see your breath! They were built as the final resting place of the Duke of the area in the late 14th Century and it is quite an amazing place. And you can even get some funky photos, like the one below :)
It has been fun having Kate here, and think she enjoyed playing hooky with us too :)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Saying Goodbye...

Saying goodbye is something that is inevitable in this life, but somehow I seem to be saying a lot of it lately. Having lived in Bosnia for over 12 years, I have said a fair share of goodbyes to other "ex-pat" workers who have left along the way... I console myself by picking up some of their stuff where I can, so I now have a HUGE library of books for instance - I jokingly say outlasting other people has its benefits!

My colleague also asked me the other day how many short-term teams I have hosted or been involved in. And I would have to go back and count them, but it has been a LOT. And with short-termers comes the inevitable goodbyes. And you start protecting yourself by not getting involved with short-termers and not putting your heart out too much...

I mean the truth is, saying goodbye stinks. Especially if you don't know when or if you will see people again on this side. It is nice to know with believers that one day we will see them in heaven at least! Sergej (a colleague I said goodbye to in 2009), used to say "meet you at the East Gate" to people when saying goodbye. I like that. It gives hope...

This year has been particularly hard. I said goodbye (albeit from a distance) to two of my oldest friends in Bosnia, who had to go back to the US for health reasons. And his prognosis is really grim, so I am pretty sure I will only see him again on the other side...That just stinks.

And my good friends here in Banja Luka also left in July to go back to the US, and I am going to miss them a lot. They were kind of like my mom and dad here. Really stinky.

And other friends are also going back to their home country, and then this spring/summer I had 3 short-term teams and two singles coming through... heart crushing to say goodbye to all these wonderful people I was just starting to get to know!

I am really blessed with lots of local friends, and that helps a LOT. But sometimes I need to speak with people who get all of what I am going through. And so finding friendship with people "living between two worlds" is essential, and rarer, and thus it hits harder when the inevitable goodbye happens...

And I haven't even mentioned the goodbyes that happen when I leave one of my "homes" and go to the other... those are also stinky! Whichever way I go, I have to say goodbye to someone :(

And yet, I pick myself up off the floor, and realise that my hope is not in my relationships with others here on this earth. My home is not here. I am just here for a short while and then I will be home forever with the One who turns my mourning into dancing... weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning!! 

So, I continue to put my heart out there, and say goodbye well, knowing that it is all a part of the process of living here in this fallen world. And I know that one day, not too far off in the light of eternity, I will be in a place where I won't ever have to say goodbye to anyone ever again!

Fida Health Promotion Seminar

A team from Fida International came from Finland to run a two weekend seminar on "Health Promotion".  Despite the crazy timing, I decided to take part as two of my volunteers from the Children's Home project were keen, and it is definitely something we could use in the future there and in other places. The topics range from oral health to anti-smoking to human trafficking so the teaching material will come in handy in the future for sure.

There were lectures: (Here is Marke giving the lecture, and sitting are her husband Marku and Jani)*
But most of the work was done in groups:
 And then we were doing the presenting:
Or putting on skits which conveyed the main points of the lectures or our group work:
Despite the fact that the first weekend was 40 degrees both days and we were all very hot, I think that everyone enjoyed the seminar and found the material was very interesting and engaging. We are now looking forward to using it in the future in schools and at the Children's Home.

*So, the first day when we met Marku and Marke, Ljilja and I had the same thought - it reminded us of the time I thought Prija and Prika were names and how cute it was that the father and mother of my landlady's son-in-law were called "Prija" and "Prika" and that they had found each other. It turns out that prija and prika are the names for "in-laws" here. More on that here. It is pretty cute that Marku and Marke found each other!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Canadian Cody came to camp!

As he was coming back for a short-term trip to Bosnia (after doing a YWAM Discipleship Training School outreach in Sarajevo over the winter), Cody wrote to me a while ago and asked if he could come up to Banja Luka to check us out and help us out in whatever we are doing. As we usually need more guys to help us for camp, I asked if he wanted to come up and help us out with that. And we are all so glad he did!

He is from the prairies of Canada, and having Canadian family, I guessed he would be nice to have around, as it is hard to find a Canadian that isn't nice :). As he was going to be working with children, we requested two references and they were more than glowing, so after getting them, I was really looking forward to having him with us!!

Besides helping out at the music workshop, and with the kids in one of the bungalows... he was also very dedicated to helping the kids have fun and literally threw himself into everything as the following photos from our "water-fight" show:

We also made him help with the actions for our camp song (he had the actions down - even if he didn't know the words to the song!):
He was only around one day after camp, before he left today to go to Bihac and then back to Sarajevo. But at least he got to see a bit of Banja Luka before heading out again. Here we are at Ihtus last night:
It was great having him, and I hope maybe he will come back one day! 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Kids Camp 2013

----WARNING LONG BLOG POST---- Cup of coffee/tea recommended while reading :) 

This year we were in a place a little further away near Modrica, and the biggest issue was the water (which was brought in and ran out TWICE... not fun in 40 degree heat!), but other than that, it was a great place... (and for more on our Kids camps, you can see 2011 and 2012) and we had a fantastic camp!!!

We had a lovely place in the forest to have our morning and afternoon program...
 And evening campfire!
The morning and afternoon programs included a Bible story drama by the Finnish team (here is Jesus calming the storm:)
 And a talk by Sinisa on that day's topic - each story related to a feeling: fear, hatred, sorrow and joy. 
Every day in the morning we had workshops, ranging from sport to drama to music: Here are the music workshop singing us one of the songs they learnt:
Because it was HOT, before the afternoon activities, I organised a game which was basically a water fight with rules... and it was great fun!
Two teams: one is trying to fill the bowls with water and the other is trying to stop them! (and then they switch). It was ad hoc, using what we had available: some cups and bowls, and it worked REALLY well! :) The kids loved it and they got wet - which was the real point :)
The evening campfires were great fun: with dramas, and games including the classic bob for an apple:
 Then find the sweet in the flour:
 And this is what ends up happening!
Those were three of our teenage "volunteers" who were floury faced. We had volunteers ranging in age from 14 to 44, and a lot of them were under 20, so there was also a bit of "teenage camp" as well as "kids camp". In fact so much so, that some of the boys forgot the 'no being our after 12 o'clock' rule (kids have to be inside at 10pm, but the teenagers had some slack). And some of them even caused a bit of a ruckus in one of the the girls' bungalow by throwing in a HUGE moth. So, they were punished by having to clean ALL of the toilets - not that they seem too unhappy about it:
One afternoon we had a "SURPRISE". And all the kids were asking all day what the surprise was... and when Rami brought it out it was a real surprise: a four-wheeler!!!
Those that wanted to, got to have a drive on it (and don't worry too much, Rami killed himself running next to them to steer...), but the kids had fun! Here is Senija on the bike:
Some of the little kids weren't that excited about the surprise, and one had asked me if we could play the "sponge game" which is 'duck, duck, goose' with a wet sponge and LOTS of fun... so of course I obliged... we had fun!
Another surprise (but maybe not as welcome) for the kids was the visits from the dentists. The campsite is run by the Red Cross, and they offered to organise 4 dentists to come in a check teeth... so of course we took them up on it!
 And they were great fun, even letting the kids have a go!
The last night it was Ljilja, Dragana, Natasha and my turn to run the campfire... and it was great fun! We had karaoke with kids songs:
 Spijkerpoepen (pooping nails in Dutch!)
 Stefan showing how it is done:
 And a tug-of-war between Finns and Bosnians: The male Finns were unfortunately stronger:
 But the female Bosnians made up for it by killing the Finnish girls!
And we ended up with corn on the fire (courtesy of the dentists - I think it is ironic that the dentists gave the kids something that sticks in your teeth before bedtime, but the kids LOVED it :)
On the last day we had a great "adventure" with teams of kids having to find 12 stations and complete tasks to try and remind them of what we had learnt on camp (and to have fun!). At my station, they had to work out the names of the bible stories (by adding the missing letters) and then tell me which emotion it went with... all of them successfully completed it in the 5 minutes!
Other stations were a bit more scary... here is Jaarko from Finland needing help: and he went home with his leg looking like that!!
Before the kids got on the bus back home, we had a closing ceremony where we showed what we had done during the workshops: The music workshop sang another song. Here is the periscope group:
 And the art group:
 And the drama group had two dramas with a little message, very good!
The Hip-hip dance team also showed off their stuff, but we didn't get a good pic of them :(
Every day, each of the bungalows/rooms were given a grade out of 5 for the state of their room when inspected. Some of them didn't know about it, some of them didn't care (the ones with the 3 at the end for instance, was actually a girls bungalow!). My bungalow - we were number "8" so I suggested the name "awesome osam" (as osam is eight in the local language!) and they were awesome... The first two days we got 5s and so did bungalow 10... so it was neck and neck. In order to get out in front we decided to do some decorating, and put flowers and a other things in our bungalow! And so we ended up with 5+, and pipped the others at the post... They were chuffed (as was I, not that I am competitive or anything:) {and unfortunately I didn't get a pic with them :(}

And now please can someone tell me how I get the camp song out of my head... :)
♫ Moj Bog je veci od planine... (my God is bigger than a mountain...)

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Best laid plans...

The Dutch team fly out of Zagreb in the morning. Originally the idea was for them to take the bus at 3.15am in the morning and get to the airport just in time. Then as they had enough money left over to stay over in Zagreb, I suggested that they do that... The team took a vote last week and they ALL wanted to rather leave in the morning than earlier from Banja Luka. I think they liked it here :)

I had set the "goodbye party" to last night, so that they could stay out later if they wanted to (and not tonight when they are thinking they have a 3.15 departure), but in the end it seems that it was a God plan rather than just a good one...

I was dropping off another guest at the bus station yesterday and so while I was already at the bus station I decided to try and buy the bus tickets for the 3.15am bus for the team. And it was a good thing that I did!

That bus comes from Sarajevo, and the bus company doesn't let the bus station here in Banja Luka sell more than TWO tickets (as it is better for them to sell the tickets all the way from Sarajevo). And apparently that bus does get full, so it was not worth the risk of hoping there is space and then there not be place and then missing their flight... so it was back to going the day before :(

Then we had to get them space on the 4pm bus today. Now, that bus can sell up to 10 tickets in advance, but as it is a 16 seat kombi, they won't sell more than that. And the team is 12 people! Thankfully, the lady at the bus station was INCREDIBLY helpful and called the bus company and eventually got through to them and they agreed to send a bigger bus just for us! (and apparently she has a son who is unmarried, am I interested...urgh!! The problem with being single in the Balkans!)

And last week when they were thinking about going the day before we made inquiries at a hostel near the airport in Zagreb, so I quickly wrote back to them and said that we would take their offered accommodation if it was still available, and PTL it was!

So, the incredible flexible team got on the bus today and have hopefully got to the hostel ok, (and also to the McDonald's - they were wanting to go here in Banja Luka on their last night, but luckily I knew there was one right near the hostel!) and will hopefully fly out safely tomorrow back to Holland!

I know it definitely was a God thing that I went yesterday and found out about the tickets and the bus and everything, otherwise it would have a sadder and more stressful ending to their stay in Banja Luka! (and because the goodbye party was already last night, they were able to end it really well!)

All good things...

The Dutch team left today after spending all week doing a "Kid's club" for kids from their neighbourhood (as well as the kids from the children's home as it is in their neighbourhood, so they came along as well) and they did a great job despite the heat...(it got up over 40°C/104°F on Monday!) I didn't get many photos as I was busy translating, but each day they acted out a story and then had a craft to go along with it... and then we had a great time playing games. They started out each day with the clowns who were of course a big hit, as well as any of the games with water :)
Last night we had a goodbye party for them at Ihtus. Some of the people had left already when we thought to take a picture: 
It was a great evening: they told stories, song a song, had a presentation with pictures, and even juggling... and of course I didn't get any pictures of any of it! Oh well.

Today some of us went to the children's home with some presents which they had brought with them from Holland. It was so fun to give out things to all the children and see their happy faces :)

I am going to miss these guys, they were a great bunch and we had a good time with them...but all good things must come to an end sometime :(
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