Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Operation Christmas Child 2019

This past weekend, we managed to give out over 600 packages in five different presentations. It really was "OPERATION Christmas Child"!!! I already explained about the play we used this year in a previous blog post.

Each time, we would start with Sinisa saying a few words and then introducing our play:
Afterwards we would come out and sing a few songs - with Bojan (whom Fady on the Lausanne team taught to play guitar) playing along with me! We had a great time singing the local version of Jingle Bells, a song about Christmas and then "You are Precious" which was written by my Finnish colleague. It fit in with the theme of the play where all the animals had their special gift for Jesus, so we decided to sing it as well...
Before the main attraction, Ljilja would ask them what they learned from the play and the songs... and the children were right on the ball with their answers! They were all paying attention! And then of course the main attraction - the Christmas packages:
Our actors and other volunteers helped us with the handing out of packages:
 Here is Ljilja with some of the kids and the actors:
And another one of the three "younger" actors as they are so cute - they are actually all cousins, and Lena (left) and Marija (right) have been in our plays already for 5 years - but their other cousin, Lana (middle) wanted to join in - and she was also very good!
Here we all are with our shoebox packages!!!
And then repeat 4 more times over 2 days and that is how it is done!!! Hope you have a great Christmas everyone!!! 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas Plays 2019

Since 2014, I have been "in charge" of the Christmas plays for the distribution of Operation Christmas Child shoebox packages in our church. Most of the same children are still involved as our actors, but now they are teenagers and mostly taller than me!
This year, I was talking with one of the actors in August at camp and saying that I needed to start thinking about what the play would be this year already... she thought I was joking, but yes I either find a script and adapt it or write the plays myself and that takes time for the creativity needed!

Unfortunately in the run up to Nick Vujicic and then having the Lausanne team here, I really didn't have the time or inspiration to write something... I was playing with the idea of writing a script about the animals at the first Christmas reminiscing about it or something like that, but nothing came of that. We would also be starting with rehearsals a LOT later than I would have liked, so I was worried that the actors wouldn't be able to learn their lines...

And then in November, I got really sick and had to cancel my planned trip to Romania. While I was resting, I decided to at least look for scripts and see if I could find something of if inspiration would hit...

And I found this cute little story about a barnful of animals who learn from "Mama Cow" about the story of Christmas and how all the different animals contributed to Jesus's first night in their own special way. And I fell in love with it - such a cute way to use animals to show how special we all are. I needed to adapt it a bit and add two more characters as we had more kids than were in the script, and this was the result: (There are English subtitles - just click on the CC.)

The kids did great, and I am so glad that we have two lovely interns, Hannah and Haley who were able to help with the costumes - if I didn't have them, I would have given up on an animal play! And thanks to Haley for taking the video.

It really was a great play to use with limited time - I added the part about the Cow reading the story so she didn't have to memorise all those lines and the rest of them had very little to learn! One of the parts I did add was the Bull, knowing who would act it. so a bit of a typecast :)

Sinisa also did a wonderful job on the stage, making it look different from all the other years... We had a fun time doing the plays and then handing out the Christmas packages... but more on that in another post...

I can't believe that this is the 6th play I have done - 3 adaptations, and 3 written by me. I love the fact also that we have this great group of kids/teenagers who have grown up with us doing these plays. Each year I think "maybe next year we can do something simpler, like just watching a video", but each year some of them ask me "when are we starting to practice?" or "what play are we doing this year?" and I relent and do it all again... but I am serious this time! Video next year ;) 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Volunteer Christmas Party 2019

Last night, we had a wonderful evening celebrating this time of the year and thanking our volunteers for their service - here we all are with our lovely antlers!!
Haley, Hannah and I spent almost two days making things for the party. Here are apple pies (done in my gran's old mince pie pans, so cute):
 Chocolate pretzels with m&ms: festive!
 Chocolate brownies:
 We also had my famous pumpkin pie - much to Nina's delight... she loves the pumpkin pie!
Before all the sweets, we actually had some savoury - baked potatoes with all sorts of toppings - they were quite a success! Here is Haley with hers:
 We had a good time hanging out - Vlad with the twins, Katarina and Marina: I remember who is who by the glasses: Kat-arina has a set that look like a cat. Although I still managed to get it wrong once as I thought it was Ma-rina who had glasses like a "machka" (the local word for cat). Luckily they are very forgiving!
 Bojana hanging out with Hannah (and me in the background!)
 Vlad and Hannah:
 And then he got to have a go with the glasses!
After hanging out for a bit, we had a fun game of "pass the parcel" adult style... where you throw a dice (which is what Bojana is doing) and when you get a 6 you have to put on the scarf and the gloves and try and get a layer off - until the next person gets a 6 and you have to give everything over to them... it was pretty fun! Each layer has a little prize so it is worth it! 
 Then we had a chance to ice cookies:
 And everyone got quite into it...
 There were some cute results:
At the end of the evening, everyone got a gift - a lovely Children's Bible (as we all work with children!) and then a heart with our names on them and JN 3:16 to remind us of God's heart for us: 
It was a wonderful evening and everyone who came not only had a great time, and ate lots of good food, but also left knowing that we are so grateful for their work for us, and that they are special and loved! 

Monday, December 16, 2019

Ukraine meetings

In the middle of December, I travelled to Ternopil, Ukraine for meetings with the other YWAM leaders in Europe. We needed to get together to look at the next couple of years' meetings and to plan the conference we have coming up in Prague in February 2020.

It was also great to catch up with what is going on in the 6 different areas that make up the European Field. We have a great group of leaders who oversee the approximately 2500 YWAMers in our field:
There are 11 of us from 10 different nations in this group of people... and this is not everyone who belongs to this team - I think we would be about 18 from 15 different nations if we counted everyone! I love YWAM! Looking so forward to our conference in Prague - I was the one who suggested having a conference in "our" area and now it is all coming together!! 

Friday, December 06, 2019

Last night at the Children's Home

After taking the children in two groups to the Children's Theatre over two weeks - to watch "Puss in Boots" and "Pinocchio", it was time to finish up our workshop for the year... the volunteers love just hanging out with the kids - here is Marija learning from the kids the latest clapping game - so cute!
We decided to make creations out of "Hama" or "Perla" beads... I found them in IKEA in Zagreb and the kids looooooved working with them:

And Haley our wonderful intern spent the evening doing the ironing - which is how they get fused together: 

And of course we didn't have any pictures of a completed product, but you get the idea!!

Then it was time to give out the prizes for attendance... everyone who attended at least half of the workshops and were good got a little prize... the team from Lausanne helped us make them up :)

Here are the girls with their prizes - the boys got theirs first, but all of the photos of them are blurry as they tend to not stay still haha... (faces blurred to protect privacy)
A BIG thank-you to all the wonderful volunteers who help make this project such a success - we will have a break over the winter months and start up again in March.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Team from YWAM Lausanne

 We were privileged to host this fantastic team of 13 people (and a baby) from 8 different nations over the course of a month. Here they are about to go on their scavenger hunt - to find out more about Banja Luka:

While I took all their passports to get them registered! They really were from 8 different countries! 
The first week they were here was the week before we held the Nick Vujicic event. So they helped a LOT with the advertising of the event: handing out flyers and getting posters up - here we are about to go around campus:
And here they are afterwards - it isn't all work and no play!! 
They also helped a lot for the set up for the event - here they are after helping to unload the books that were given away at the event (almost 2000 of them!)
 We also spent time praying for Banja Luka and the event from our favourite lookout spot over Banja Luka - joined by some of the people who came for the weekend of the event, Tormod and Margritt:
 And then on the actual day of the event they were among the many volunteers who helped make it go sooooo smoothly!! Here they all are with Nick! 
The rest of the time they were here they helped us with English classes, humanitarian aid clothing distributions, and a wonderful cultural night amongst other things. They also went twice to help out in Prijedor with their children's programs. So they kept busy!

They also helped us with a couple fun evenings with the kids at the children's home. Here is one of the fun nights - where instead of everyone doing one thing, we had tables of different activities - from games to crafts to face painting... everyone had a phenomenal time:
They also helped us organise a fun evening for the volunteers who helped at the Nick Vujicic event as a thank-you:
 All through their time here, one of the team was helping one of our young people to learn the guitar. Before they left he had made so much progress that they wanted to bless him with his own guitar. He had some money saved and the team contributed the rest. As a thank-you, his parents had them all over for lunch!! The below picture is all of us (with the guitar) before leaving...
And then it was time for the goodbye party... 
And even though we look happy on the photo, we were all very sad to see them go... :(

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Nick Vujicic

There are no words to describe how we are all feeling after the amazing events with Nick Vujičić which happened in Mostar, Sarajevo and here in Banja Luka this past weekend.

After a year of planning, and much anticipation, Nick Vujičić of lifewithoutlimbs.org was actually with us in Banja Luka:

In Banja Luka, we wanted to have as many people hear his message as possible, and God opened the doors so we could not only have the biggest indoor arena with 3000 seats (which were all FULL!), but it also went out live on the National Republic of Srpska TV and online through live-streaming. 

Nick’s message of Hope, Love and Faith went out to many people, and at the end everyone in the stadium stood and prayed with him:

Here in Banja Luka, our small team of 3 were the main organisers.

Because we knew we couldn’t do it on our own, we invited many people from outside to come and help. There were 30 people in 3 teams who came specifically for the weekend – one from Serbia, one from the Czech Republic (with our ex-colleagues, David and Irena) and one from YWAM Switzerland. We also had many local volunteers who helped out as well! 

Here are all the teams, and also about 30 local volunteers who helped at the event:

God also provided a wonderful PR/Event firm who helped to organise the event and find the sponsors to pay for all of the costs of advertising and production. The Government was one of the sponsors, and so helped to provide many things free of charge, including the indoor arena and the billboards around town.

After the event was over, as they were leaving, people were given copies of Nick’s book “Life without limits” and a copy of the Gospel of John in an interesting edition called “Uncover”.

On the Monday after the event, Nick met with the Government of the Republic of Srpska. First with the President:

And then with the entire cabinet:

We are still amazed by all the God managed to do through Nick’s visit, all the people that he touched and encouraged, and also challenged by just being who he is and sharing God’s message of hope and forgiveness with everyone!
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