Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ljilja's mom and sister do Banja Luka!

It has been 15 years of Ljilja being my housemate, and in that time, her sister has come to visit numerous times, but her mom, Ankica, has never been... until now! It was time for her to see where we live and enjoy the sights of Banja Luka.

Here she is with Ljilja at the fortress "Kastel":
 And she didn't come alone... Sladja, Ljilja's younger sister came along for the ride as well:
We did try to show her a good time by pampering her as much as she would allow: 
But mostly she spoilt us by cooking ALL.THE.TIME - she made at least two meals a day while she was here, so we could also freeze a LOT so we could also eat home cooked food even once she was gone! Whenever Ljilja goes home, she always sends us piles of food - but I did show her that I could cook, by cooking a couple of times, and she was amazed by how equipped our kitchen is. I think she thought we never cooked at all! Now she knows better - but it is still great to have a stocked freezer, which will make our lives easier for many weeks!

It was great fun having Ankica and Sladja here with us... and look forward to their next visit!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Children's Home | Children's Week and Book Club

Children's Week is always held here in the first week of October. We usually do something to try and celebrate it. The theme this year was "Believe in yourself". We went in on a Sunday afternoon and had a great time with the kids:

We made butterflies and then put them on two posters with one of my favourite sayings:
'A child is like a butterfly in the wind.
Some can fly higher than others;
But each one flies the best it can.
Why compare one against the other?
Each one is different.
Each one is special.
Each one is beautiful.'
And then added "Believe in yourself" at the end...
Here they are hanging in the entrance to the home :)
We then started the Book Club with my friend Jelena who read us her favourite poem:
 We also made cute little owl jars - which we will use each week to put in "wise quotes". And of course I didn't get any pictures of them...

The next week we made little "readers" - super cute!
We made the readers to place them on posters telling us reasons why reading is good for us: including "lowers stress levels" and "improves memory" and my favourite: "it is the best adventure".
As we will not be going to the Library in this semester (they are busy moving...), I decided that the reading club members needed to have something else to read. As we were given a great magazine for readers from 7 to 107, I gave them out to the kids: It is called "Politikin Zabavnik" and is put out by "Politika newspapers" in Serbia.
And I had a stroke of genius, and made it a "lucky draw" as to which magazine they got, so no one could complain and making it feel like a "prize" meant they all wanted one... let's hope they actually read them!!

I am so grateful to my wonderful volunteers who come along and help us with this project... We have about 30 kids and about 30 volunteers, but as they don't come at ones, it is usually 1 volunteer with 1-2 kids, although some weeks it can just be 6-7 of us with all of them!

And I love that the old volunteers stay in touch: This week 11 of the younger kids are going to have a special outing because of one of my old volunteers - they will go to the play place she helps at, get special costumes and face make up and then have a photographer who will take pictures of them before they have a party. All provided for by donations. The best part is that the photos will be used to make a calendar that the Home can use for their other donors as a thank-you. How fun is that! And we will also organise something fun for the rest of the children so they don't feel like they have missed out!! 

nConnect and ACTs Together

It looks like all I ever do is travel these days... but actually I am 3 weeks into a 3 month no-flying (which actually does go to show how much I travel if 3 months of no flying is amazing! And I will still be travelling a little bit by bus, train or car, so I won't actually be in Banja Luka for all 3 months! But still... 3 months without flying somewhere whohoo!)

In September, before I even came home from Thailand, I travelled to Montenegro for the annual "nConnect" conference with Samaritan's Purse. We met together with the Montenegrins, Macedonians and Albanians. It was nice to be with most of our Bosnian team (but we missed those who weren't able to come last minute :( ) and to work on the strategy for giving out of Christmas Packages through Operation Christmas Child this year.

We also got to enjoy an outing to the Blue Cave, although as we had to wait until we were done for the day, it wasn't as blue as it gets at lunch time, but it was still a lovely experience:
And we enjoyed a fun sing-along (ex-Yugoslavia style!) on the way back on the boat...

I was back in Banja Luka for almost 2 weeks, before it was time to go again - this time to a new country: Georgia. We held a leadership conference there called "ACTs Together" and it was a wonderful time together with leadership teams from across Europe. It was also great to connect with our leadership team live... this is how we normally do it:
The conference is held every two years, and has plenary sessions in the morning and then in the afternoons you meet in your Area Circle Team (or ACT):
We did manage to make it out of the conference room at the hotel and enjoy some sight-seeing at some ancient monasteries, which was fun. Here is the whole group:
I was helping with the conference admin/logistics and despite it being busy as a result, I find these conferences so much nicer when I have something to do! And I love serving others in this way. I also realise how much easier it is for me than so many other people: it is just the way God wired me... and I know that I am appreciated which makes it easy to do!

Now, I will continue to enjoy using my gifts of organisation to organise things here in Banja Luka!! 
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