Friday, April 29, 2016

Christmas Packages for Easter

We normally distribute Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child packages in December/January for Christmas. This year, they asked us if we wanted extra packages around Easter as well and we said "yes". People can order packages online until January and then they made them up and sent them to us in March. Luckily we had the Czech team to help us unload the truck. Then we waited for Orthodox Easter (which is on the 1st of May this year) to hand them out for Easter!

We did multiple distributions over two days, and as usual it was a lot of work, but so much fun. Here is Ljilja with Nestor at one of the distributions. He has been one of our actors in our last two Christmas productions in 2015 and 2014
But this time, we just used a DVD which we had which was the Easter story told in 15 minutes: which made things a lot less stressful :)
And then it was time to give out the packages: This is the part I love!

The best part is seeing the smiles on the kids faces!  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

We went today to spend some time with the children who are still at the home - it is the Easter school holiday this week, so many of them have either gone home or to family to celebrate Easter. Yes, it is Orthodox Easter on the 1st of May... a big difference this year between Catholic/Protestant Easter and Orthodox. (why the difference? - see this link)

I of course forgot to get pictures of the kids while we working, but here are the finished projects. We "painted" eggs and made chickens (the wings are cut outs of their hands!). The one of the left says "Christ is Risen" and on the right is "He is Risen indeed"... And I think they turned out pretty well!
As there were not that many kids, I took along 12 masks that I bought on special ages ago in South Africa - there has never been a time to use them, as I only had 12. Even there were more than 12 kids with us, I decided to give it a try. I was kind of worried that someone would be disappointed when they didn't get one, but it worked out really well: only 12 wanted to do the masks! So it was a real win! YAY! Here are 10 of them with me: (see if you can spot N. in the middle who clearly doesn't like having her photo taken - usually she is a very happy smiley child!)
The kids enjoyed having something fun to do on a rainy afternoon, and we enjoyed bringing a little Easter joy into their lives to help them remember that Christ is Risen INDEED! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Good excuse for a little triplet...

Our friend, Sina, visited us for 3 weeks in April as part of her work with Fida International. She was actually here to work, but once again we used her as an excuse to take an overnight trip last weekend and enjoy the beauty of Bosnia. We took a trip to Vitez, to a lovely Ethno Village - where we enjoyed the lovely little houses around a little lake:
Sina and Ljilja with the picturesque background:
This was the one we stayed in - Danica:
This was the view from the restaurant where we had our breakfast: Ljilja waited for ages to catch the swan :)
I was able to save myself from this giant fish...
In time to go and enjoy the lovely spa, so relaxing!
Then it was already time to leave - there was a Bosnian traffic jam on the way home:
We also took time to enjoy the lovely views along the way...

So beautiful!
And before Sina went back to Kosovo, she made us some "pulla" - a kind of Finnish cinnamon roll: soooooo yummy!
As usual it was nice having her to stay, and it is always good to have an excuse to have a little getaway - and to enjoy the beauty of Bosnia!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Living as a Royal subject

Today is the Queen's actual 90th birthday and in wishing her on twitter and Facebook, I looked back at the day I became British and saw it was 6 years and 4 days ago... how time flies when you have a British Passport!!

When I applied for citizenship, it was just so I could get the passport, because the South African passport needs a visa for every surrounding country to Bosnia - so even to drive 45 minutes north of Banja Luka, I needed a visa for Croatia. So it really made sense (and still does, I praise the Lord at every border I go through where I would have once needed a visa) to get the citizenship so I could get the passport.
Along the way I discovered two things: the first being that I didn't even need to apply to South Africa to keep my citizenship (which you normally would do when you acquire a second one), because according to them, I was actually British at birth. I just didn't know it! The second was that I didn't expect it to be quite so meaningful to me to swear allegiance to the Queen. I kind of thought it was just part of the process, but when I came to do it, I was actually really moved by the seriousness of the oath and the big step I was taking to align myself to her service.

My brother doesn't believe that there should be a monarchy - that it is a waste of money, but it turns out that I am quite a little monarchist, loyal to my Queen and proud of the fact that I am counted as one of her royal subjects. I guess it helps that she is clearly a believer and takes her role as God's representative seriously.

I realised after I became a royal subject to Her Majesty the Queen that there were some important parallels in my life as a believer. I was born into the United Kingdom, but just didn't know - but I still had to swear allegiance to the one on the throne - in this case, the Queen - to actually get all the privileges that come with being British (the passport, etc). And it is the same with the Kingdom of God. We are all born into it without even knowing, and we have to swear allegiance to the one on the throne - the King of Kings - in order to get all that comes with being part of the Kingdom. You can believe in God and not be part of His Kingdom but you cannot get all the privileges, unless you actually take the step to become a royal subject...

I love this parallel as it taught me so much about the Kingdom and how it works out here on this earth - not just when we get to heaven. And now, please join me as we wish Her Majesty a happy 90th birthday! God save the Queen! 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Review | The Newsmakers

I have read (and also reviewed) many books by Lis Wiehl, so when I saw this book available for review, I grabbed it. I read while travelling to the UK and it made the trip go by very fast!
The story took me in, and shook me up, turned me around and surprised me at the end - just the way I like it!

Erica Sparks takes a new job with GNN, even leaving her 7-year-old daughter with her ex-husband for the opportunity. When she is in the right place at the right time to get an exclusive of a ferry accident and then a couple of days later another right-time-right-place exclusive and her career takes off... Now is it just coincidence, or is something else taking place???

I love the fact that the story isn't just suspenseful with a touch of romance, but also weaves in redemption principles within the stories. It makes you think deeper about the meaning of life and isn't just a good read.

All that to say, it was a good read, but it wasn't the best book I have read by Lis Wiehl. I found some of the plot twists a little bit too far-fetched, but went with them for the sake of the book. Also I didn't really like the main character all that much, but near the end she did redeem herself through her actions. I would still recommend it to anyone as a good holiday or travel read.

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

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Two English classes...something old and something new... :)

This week I started teaching English to two new groups. The first group is something I am familiar with: adults, doing conversational English - games, fun and activities all to get them to speak as much English as they can :) I have been doing it for 9 years now and I still love it... I love encouraging people to build up their confidence in a foreign language, as it builds up confidence in other areas as well. And I love making it fun for everyone, including myself :)
And the second group is something I haven't really ever done before... kids. Well, I actually did do two years of trying to do English with the kids at the Children's home... but it was more like organised chaos with a sprinkle of English if I am to be honest :) 

At the end of last year, we added 30 1st and 2nd graders to the child sponsorship project through the Finnish organisation, Fida, and so wanted to do some fun English with them, so it had to be less chaos and more English... learning while they don't realise they are learning!
Through song, colouring, games, fun activities, and LOTS of repetition we are managing to learn some English and have lots of fun all at the same time... (some of the kids can't write yet even in their own language, and most of those that can, can only do Cyrillic lettering, so there are a few challenges!)
We are using the older kids from the project as volunteers along with other local volunteers, which makes the classes easier for me to manage and really fun for the kids!
Sina from Finland (who is the regional child sponsorship coordinator for Fida) is here at the moment so she came to join our class to see what we are up to:
And thanks to Ljilja for all the lovely photos... here she is with all of us at the end of the class today...
I think we had fun, and hopefully something actually went in. I know Ljilja, Sina and I are all still singing the songs :) 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Adventures with the Children's Home kids...

This week was our third trip to the library for this year... And it is no longer pitch dark when we get there, in fact since the clocks turned 2 weeks ago, it is still quite light. So, after we had chosen our books, we took advantage of the lovely weather and the fact that it was still light (and got out of the librarian's hair!) and went to hang out at the little playground around the corner from the library. And I think the kids had a great time...
I hung out with the kids on this side of the playground, while other volunteers had the other side and the slides under control: It isn't a very big playground, but with lots of other kids it was not that easy to keep control of our 15. But luckily they are good kids so no one went wondering off :)
I love this next photo as it just shows the pure joy that swings can bring. The kids have their own playground at the Home, so it isn't that they don't get to do this, but having cool volunteers to hang out with and all the attention that that brings definitely adds to the fun!
And one exciting difference was the appearance of "Baki" (one of our volunteers knows his owner) who sat there and let them pet him without a problem. Good dog!
As you can see, it was a fun evening, and the kids enjoyed it even though we didn't get ice-cream (usually we do when we go to the park, but it was still a bit cold for that...maybe next time!)

I love these kids and being able to give them little fun adventures - even just going to the library in the kombi is an adventure for them, so with the park added in it is a bonus!

Another bonus adventure was last time we went to the library in the kombi: getting pulled over by Mr Policeman in a random traffic stop...

Now, some background is that my wallet was stolen when I was in England in March, and my driver's license was in it, and getting a new one in South Africa took up until now (and I still have to get it here to Bosnia). So, I am driving in the meantime without one...

And when I drive the kids, all of them want to go, and it is really hard to not just take all of them... you say "no" to them, I can't... So I had 14 kids in the kombi. There was also a team from the Czech Republic and some of them wanted to come and another volunteer also always comes along, so I had 4 adults plus myself... which if you can do math makes 19 of us in a van that is registered to take 9 :) And so the last adventure I wanted was to be stopped by the police!!!!!!

But, by the grace of God, I managed to stay calm and the policeman was very nice... I said I didn't have my license on me as it was in my other wallet (which it is... just somewhere in England, having been stolen, ha ha), and so he just asked for some other form of id (and luckily I did have my passport on me!) I then admitted to having too many kids in the kombi, but didn't admit to the exact number... just said "about a dozen"...(and didn't mention the 4 volunteers), but he was cool with it as they are from the Children's Home and so in the end just let us go. I think his main job is to see if the vehicle is registered and if it is stolen (and it is registered and it is not stolen) so anything else was OK!! Yay!!

I am still amazed that I got away with it... and all of the kids afterwards were also sharing how scared they were and how cool it was that nothing happened to us. The poor Czechs were also a bit scared as they didn't know what was going on language wise... but in the end it all worked out and it was one more adventure that I could provide for the kids that they are still talking about today! Ha ha!

p.s. I deliberately chose photos which aren't identifiable, so if you don't like my fuzzy photos, I am sorry :) 
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