Sunday, January 21, 2018

January trip around Central Europe

As my good friend, Janice, is now living in Vienna, I decided it would be a good place to go to spend New Year's, before heading out to see some YWAM people around the Central European region. My first adventure was being kicked off the bus from Zagreb to Vienna as it was overbooked and put on the bus 3 hours later. I did get vouchers for my trouble, but as it was my first journey with Flixbus, I was not impressed to say the least!

But I eventually made it to Vienna, and seeing Janice again made the trip all worthwhile. Janice used to live in Sarajevo, and Ljilja and I last saw her 4 years ago in Israel, so it was time for a nice catch up! After celebrating New Year's I spent a week with her and we also managed to fit in some sightseeing in between the catching up! The highlights were Schönbrunn Palace:the summer palace of the Hapsburgs, so much history!
And a #bucketlist item: the Spanish Riding School and the lipizzaners. We went to the practice session, and I managed to sneak a couple of photos (which aren't hopefully I won't get into trouble putting them on this blog). It was just so amazing to sit there and watch them do their dressage steps, but also realise that this place has been in existence for almost 300 years.
I managed to have my camera focused on the right spot at the right time to get this shot of an "airs above the ground" move. This is not done every day at the practices, and it was the ONLY one of the day, so it was a lucky shot indeed!!
I also managed to meet up with fellow Capetonian and friend, Richard at a traditional Viennese coffee house: He is living in Vienna now, so it was nice to have a good catch up!
Then it was time to do some "work". I travelled  by bus and train to YWAM Hurlach near Munich in Germany. It was my first time at the castle bought for the 1972 Olympics and one of YWAM's heritage sites. It was great to spend time here at the base and see old friends. I spent time in YWAM Hurlach staff meetings, but mostly spent time with our Member Care people for Central Europe, Hannes and Doris, but unfortunately I didn't a get a pic of them, so you will have to do with a pic of the castle instead:
Then Hannes and I drove together to the Czech Republic to meet with our YWAM team in Cheb. We had a great time with them and I think they enjoyed our visit as well: 
I then travelled by train to the lovely city of Budapest, but unfortunately all the other travel caught up with me, and I got sick. So I didn't actually spend time with almost anyone (after setting up many appointments, which had to get cancelled :( ). My last day I went to the doctor and got some antibiotics for my throat and asked her if I should cancel the next leg of my trip to Bucharest (by plane) and she said that with the antibiotics I would get better and there was no reason not to go... so onwards I went: 

It was a whistle-stop visit to Romania for some meetings and of course I didn't get any photos of that either, but on the way back I got to enjoy the stunning sunrise in Bucharest airport: 
After 3 weeks of travelling, by car, bus, train and plane it was really great to get back home to Banja Luka!! 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Operation Christmas Child Shoebox packages

After spending two months preparing hard with my teenage and child actors, we put them to work in December to do our plays and then give our shoebox packages. Here we are after the first distribution: The actors are in front without packages :)
This year instead of one long play, we had 3 little plays with 9 actors in total. We had one presenter who announced each of the plays and one was offstage in this play - playing the angel that appears to the these two shepherds:
 Then we had two mice talking about the true meaning of Christmas:
Both of these were actually poems that I found online and adapted. The last was a play I wrote and when I wrote it, I actually had my teenage actors in mind! It was a conversation between them (and at the end it turns out they were waiting for a bus as they run off the stage!)  about Christmas and Jesus' birthday. I included interesting facts like Christmas is in summer in South Africa and Australia :) It worked really well and I am proud of my actors:

I did manage to take a video of the plays, and I need to mention that the shepherds and the mice were interchangeable (we were supposed to have two groups, but in the end it didn't work out, but they had learnt both parts so we mixed and matched) and the video is actually the other way round from the pictures: (and if you click on CC you will get English subtitles!)

After the plays, Ljilja did a great job of getting the children to understand what they were all about :)
Afterwards it was time to give out the packages: We had various sizes of groups as we did performances for different organisations, but it was fun every time!
And a lot of variety of children: this group was for autistic and children/adults with special needs.
We also did some presentations in schools: First grade, sooooo sweet:
And for many of the groups, we also organised beautiful Children's Bibles: 
I love how proud he is of his Bible:
After the plays there was also a chance to interact with the actors. And yes, the mice were the most popular!!

A fun thing that happened is that I was chatting with my sister (who lives in England) and she told me that she had actually organised for her company to put together shoebox packages. Although we don't know if those packages are the ones we are given out here, it is a possibility as our packages come from England! I offered to do some thank-you pictures for her to show to those that collected, and here they are below: 
I think it was fun that we could do that and I know her company appreciated it!
She also wanted some package opening pictures, and so I made this video in one of the schools:

Also, the actors were able to go and help out our friends in Prijedor do a show there where they had about 200 children in the audience. And it went well! Also, we will still do one more show in January for the children at the Children's Home... And even though it has been hard work, seeing the smiles on the children's faces makes it all worthwhile!

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