Sunday, June 29, 2014

Skateboarders in Banja Luka...

The past two and half weeks a wonderful skateboarding DTS team has been here from YWAM Davos in Switzerland. I mentioned them in my "Crazy Busy" blog post, but they have been so wonderful, that I decided they deserved their own post!

They helped out A LOT with our construction project at the church, held English classes, had a wonderful time with our youth at youth camp. Unfortunately, they couldn't come to kids camp as there were already too many people, but the youth camp was smaller and needed helpers, and my colleagues, Rami and Katja-Maaria were really happy they came along! And so were the young people :)

We wanted to take them to children's home to show off their skateboarding skills there, but unfortunately one of the girls in the home just fell out of a tree and broke a LOT of bones, so suddenly having skateboarders come into the home wasn't that appealing. In the end they had so many other things going on that we didn't have time even to go play soccer or do something else with them.

They also had some money that they wanted to use to bless someone, so they decided to use it for one of the flood victims. We took them to meet the family and they went with them to buy what she needed. While we were in the flooded neighbourhood, we took them to another house where the lady and her son hadn't managed to take down the flooded part of the walls as they didn't have the tools. First they offered to go and buy the right tool for her (as well as what they were already giving this other family), but then after thinking about it, decided they had enough time to go back to the church (where we have the tools) and come back and do the job. What a great team!!
Over a month after the flooding and those walls were full of mould and just nasty. Unfortunately all of these houses were built "temporarily" over 40 years ago after the big Banja Luka earthquake in 1969...Pretty much everyone has already done this job, but she hasn't been able to as she didn't have the tools...
Here the three guys who helped with the son (who helped them clean up the mess afterwards)... 
We really enjoyed having them around - and I think they really liked Banja Luka as well - they tell me the streets and pavements are great for skateboarding on... and they noticed the large amount of pretty girls that we have here pretty early on :)

Here they all are in all their glory. The ones holding the kids are their parents, and they are from the US. The four guys are from Canada. They were all great! And who knows maybe some of them will be back someday!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


"Budi hrabar" (or "Be brave") was the theme of our camp this year. The kids that come to camp are mostly from our social projects. This year we were joined by our sponsorship kids from Prijedor, so there were almost 100 of us at Bardaca (about an hour from Banja Luka). About 70 kids and 30 volunteers (including about 20 teenage volunteers). We were literally being brave just by having that many of us at the camp :). It was crazy, but fun!
Most of the kids were inside the buildings (and I was in one of the rooms to look after the kids), but most of the volunteers and a few of the older kids were in tents. And praise the Lord, it only rained the first night for a bit, and after that it was dry until the kids left!

So what do we do at camp? We sing: Rami and I leading the singing on the first day.
And our camp song was a translated version of "Be Bold Be Strong"! When I first heard of the theme the song immediately came to mind and if it was already in the local language I couldn't find it, so I did a little translation, and it really was a fun song for the kids! Here is it in our songbook:

Each night we have a "campfire" - the first night it was in our big tent as it was raining...
But the other nights it was outside, and we actually had a campfire!
At the campfire we do skits, games, and fun activities like "chubby bunny": (yes, that was an idea that came with me from my camping days... :) David and Emina showing how it is done... Emina won!
Every morning and afternoon it is time for a drama based on our theme (all from the story of Daniel in the bible): Here is King Nebuchadnezzar and his advisors deciding what to do with Daniel and his friends...  
After the drama, Sinisa was tasked with making it a little clearer and giving the children a better idea of how to apply it to their lives...  he does a really good job!
After the morning bible story we had workshops: Here is the art workshop making boats and beetles and other fun stuff out of paper mache:
 The dance workshop learning a Hip Hop routine with Ruut and Rebekka. 
Every day after lunch we also had organised games in groups - and you go from game to game in your group: Here I am leading a version of  "Have you ever...?" which I use as a getting to know you game in English class. The kids loved it...
And there was always some sort of water or balloon game as it was hot in the afternoons:
One afternoon Rami spent an hour filling up balloons for the kids to carry around - here is Nestor with his... it was of course great fun, until they burst!
There was free time - but always lot of things to do... including jumping on the trampoline or colouring or playing monopoly etc. Below is Timo from Germany doing his superman impression on the trampoline: He was here earlier in the year with a team and was invited back to join us for camp and it really was great having him!
As I already mentioned, I was privileged to be in a room to take care of some of the kids, and that is probably the part of camp I love the most. Being mom to those girls, pouring into their lives and just showing them that they are special... here I am with three of "my" girls: Milica and her twin sisters Tanja and Sanja.
There was also another set of twins in my room: Rebeka and Rahela (below with Ljilja). Their mom, Ljiljana, runs the sponsorship program in Prijedor, and all 10 of her kids were at camp this year (the last two years we have had 6 or 7 of the older kids, but because mom was coming the twins and their little brother Filip could come as well!). The older kids are a great help as volunteers, and all of the kids are as good looking as the twins...soooo cute! 

It wasn't all work and no play for us volunteers, we did manage to get away to walk around some of the Bardaca lake reserve. Here I am with Tanja and Gaga:
I don't have a picture of the craziest person on camp, which would be the cook - Ankica (one of the mothers). She cooked for all of us on one stove which when you put two plates on blew the fuse. And in this:  (Bojan was a great help to her in this regard!) and the food was WONDERFUL!!!
Other than having a sore throat after the first day of singing loudly (ok, and screaming at the kids from time to time!), and the fact that the mosquitoes were completely out of control, I had a great time at camp... I always say at the end, half of me can't wait to get home to my own bed, but the other half really wishes it could go on for longer!

Well done to Rami, Katja-Maaria and Ljilja and all the volunteers for organising a great camp. We are going to miss Rami and Katja-Maaria when they go back to Finland next month. Here's hoping they will be able to come and help with the camp next summer, I don't know how we would do it without you!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Crazy Busy

Things have been crazy busy here lately... we are trying to help flood victims, while doing all of our normal ministries and getting things ready for our Kids Camp this weekend. In the midst of this a wonderful skateboarding team from the US and Canada came to help us. The YWAM school that sent them is in Davos, Switzerland, but none of them are actually from there :) I haven't got a pic of all of them together, but will remedy that soon.

There is a lot of aid coming in for the floods, but as far as we can see,  not a lot of it has actually got to those most in need :( So, we decided that the only way to do it was to go directly to the people and buy them the things that they need the most. Ljilja went last week to one really hard hit area. She did all the work on finding out what they needed, ordering it or taking the people to the shop to order it, and then on Monday most of it was delivered. We took two of the team - Brett and Andrew - to help with the putting together and carrying etc... There were cupboards, flooring, beds, kitchens, etc all being ordered and brought.

Here they are putting a bed together for Katica:
And here she is with Ljilja: she was so happy to have a bed to sleep on after being on a kind of sunbed for the beach since the flood hit over a month ago.
And here they are putting another bed together - it really was great having their help! People bought beds, flooring, cupboards and kitchens... it really was so wonderful being able to help them get the things they need the most.
Here is Sinisa with Darko - some of them are just helped by having someone to talk to... but it is nice that we could provide them a new kitchen (which they will put in once the wall is fixed).
The team has been so helpful in other ways - here is Brandon sharing a testimony at our Sunday meeting. We are meeting in Ihtus at the moment, because the place where we will have our meetings is still being renovated.
And the team has been really helpful with this as well. It turns out that they are all really good construction workers - so have been SO helpful with the work going on in here...
We had another team that came and helped put in the ceiling last month and my colleague Rami and church people have been working hard as well, so it really is coming together!!
They are also helping with English classes (which I forgot to take a picture of!) and we will also take them to the Children's Home and they are helping on our Teenager camp next week... so although things are crazy busy right now, it is really great to have them here with us!!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Hungary and celebrating birthdays...

Last year, when we were scheduling when our next staff gathering would be for YWAM Central Europe (it is every other year), and it was decided that it would be from the 28 May to 2nd June, I already realised that this would create a problem in celebrating my 40th on June 3rd. I didn't want to have to travel on my birthday, so my leader, Carmelita, who lives in Budapest, suggested that I could just stay on an celebrate it in her apartment...and so I started planning on doing just that!

I had a great time at the Staff Gathering: once again I was on the organising team (and did a lot of work, but there were 3 of us doing what I did last time, so it wasn't as hard!). Almost 200 of us from over 25 nations, including most of the 16 represented in YWAM Central Europe (from Poland to Greece and Slovenia to Moldova). We remembered to take a photo this year, so here you can see all of us:
After the conference we headed to Budapest and started to plan the party...A few of my international friends, Rebecca and Belinda, who had come for the conference, stayed on specifically to celebrate. I had managed to convince Ljilja (and then Sina) to come as well, and then I invited my friends who live in Budapest as well as some other people who stayed on after the conference. The ironic thing is that my leader in the end actually wasn't there - she had to go to her niece's wedding in the UK, but she graciously let us use her apartment anyway!!

Rebecca who lives in Thailand was called on to make Thai food... and as we were in Budapest we had to go to the thermal baths... and as my family used to celebrate birthdays with my Gran with KFC (and we don't have it in Bosnia), we would go there for lunch... and so the plan all came together... I had an absolutely fantastic day, being spoilt from beginning to end...

I also had a lot of "bee" stuff given to me over the years by my friend Liz, and so I decided to go all out and have a "bee" party for my fortieth - if you can't do it then, when can you?? Here is the "bee" table with 6 of the Thai dishes Rebecca prepared. She also made a dessert - mango sticky rice! She is amazing and everyone stuffed themselves silly...
And then it was time for the "cake" which was actually the dessert "Transkei Mud" from South Africa. I made it with ingredients I brought with me (it is caramel/peppermint crisp deliciousness and I have yet to find someone who doesn't love it!!). They made me wear the bee stuff (ok, maybe I wasn't too opposed it :)...
It was a wonderful fun, relaxed evening, and everyone(especially me!) had a wonderful time. We actually remembered to get a group shot so you can see all of us... between the 10 of us we actually represent 11 nations (if you count dual nationalities, and places we are working). 
I am glad that I was "forced" to celebrate my birthday in Budapest - it really was so much more special than I could ever imagine. Thanks to everyone who made it happen! (and now that I am back in Banja Luka, I will be celebrating later in the week with my Bosnian friends as well!)
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