Sunday, July 21, 2019

England and Ireland trip...

In July, I went on a lovely trip around England and Ireland. I started off at two YWAM bases - one in England - YWAM Harpenden: I got to catch up with so many lovely people - but of course didn't get ANY pictures with them... here is one of some of the base:
I also spent a lovely afternoon with a family that used to be in Romania, but are now based in Harpenden... we went to the zoo! And of course this is the ONLY pic I have of them, looking at the meercats (and one of the boys is missing, oh well) 
It was a really fun afternoon - and we got to see many fun animals, including the lemurs :)
Then it was time to head over to YWAM Rostrever in Ireland, where I stayed with my friend, Belinda. Here we are in front of Inch Abbey... we took a quick selfie before the Game of Throne tour group came to see it - as it is in one of the episodes...
 We also went to a stone circle - really interesting:
 And we also went to the church which was built on the spot where St Patrick had his first church:
And here is a statue of him at the entrance of Downpatrick:
 I also got to see the Narnia trail: Rostrevor lays claim to the fact that CS Lewis said that this part of Ireland is how he imagined Narnia...
 I did it with my friend, Alex, who has come many times to Bosnia... here we are with "Aslan"
 At the same time that I was there, there were two lovely people from the YWAM Thessaloniki team who were there too: Catherine and Carrie. We went with Belinda across the lough on the ferry. A really fun evening!
 And there were some fun signs on the other side: Love the Irish sense of humour

I loved being able to be in Ireland and catching up with everyone there (not everyone is pictured!), but then it was time to fly to Newcastle and visit with the Smiths: I haven't seen Megan since she was 7 and she is now 14, so it was great to be able to catch up!
I also got to catch up with Ali Howey who took me to Belsay Hall and it was such a lovely afternoon, but of course I didn't get a photo of her and I together! But here is the Hall and the original castle:

And then I headed by bus to my godson and his family in Nottingham. I managed to be there for his 13th birthday which was really fun... And of course, I didn't get a picture with them... the only one I have is of their new kitty watching the tennis with us: It was such a fun afternoon of sport - between the amazing Wimbledon final and the England vs New Zealand cricket world cup final it was hard to know what to watch...
It was then on to All Nations College for the "Refresh" course: Easneye Hall where the college is, has a long history and the grounds and surrounds are truly lovely. It was definitely a wonderful place to enjoy a week's retreat... There were only six of us on the course and we truly became family during the week. I am so glad that I was able to be a part of this!
Then it was time for me to return back to Banja Luka... here we are coming into land at Banja Luka airport... the little hop from Belgrade is always in a propeller plane: and I just sat in the right seat to get this shot: 
I didn't manage to see my sister and her family (who live in Oxford) this trip, because she was away or busy when I could come, so that was a bummer... next time! Now it is just time to reflect on all the fun people I got to hang out with, as well as all the connections I made and meetings I managed to have along the way... such a lovely trip!!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

YWAM Davos Team

After the Faith and Conflict, I was back in Banja Luka for a couple of days before the YWAM Davos team (who were part of the F&C) came up to be here for just over 3 weeks. They are a great team and we had a fantastic time with them here. They were actually from the US, Canada, The Netherlands and Belgium, but all drawn to YWAM Davos through their love of snowboarding/skiing and extreme sports: Here they are at a place overlooking Banja Luka, where we spent time praying for the city: 
The first week, they surprised me for my birthday with a lovely birthday brunch: so fun!
They enjoyed hanging out with people at both English Classes and the photography workshop we ran while they were here:
We went quite a few times to the Children's Home, where they helped with our last few Book Clubs, and also on the weekends to entertain the kids:
 Making Ninja stars out of popsicle sticks:
 And making bracelets out of beads:
Of course, I don't have pics of the facepainting or football and other fun games or dramas (which I was translating) that happened... The kids loved the team, sometimes a little bit too much - as some of the girls ended up sending love notes to the boys on the team...  so cute!

They also helped A LOT to get stuff ready for future workshops. I get a lot of donations of things and it all needs organising. Here are Keelen, Dani and Caroline organising ALL the beads:
And they not only sharpened all my pencil crayons, but their OCD came out when they organised them into a rainbow... but actually it ended up being very helpful as I have now made two equal sets - one to take to the |Home and one to use for workshops in our classroom.
The team was also super handy, so they helped a LOT practically around the building: here are Nick and Tom enjoying the hardware store... buying stuff we needed to fix up and make the house great!
They helped also to clean out the container and get everything ready for our camp in August, and of course I don't have ANY photos of that... Or the before pic of this room which they totally cleared out, repainted and made completely new... the incentive was that they then could have the table tennis table set up in there... so this is them all setting it up! (you will just have to take my word for it, they did a LOT of work in there... the right incentive helps!!)
It wasn't all work and no play - I really am the "fun aunty" and for their days off organised one rafting trip on the river: (which I joined them in!) It was such a great day as the water was still quite high after recent rains, so there was quite a lot of white water adrenaline!
But for more adrenaline, they were also able to jump off this bridge... I did NOT join them in this activity:
And on another free day we went on my favourite hike along the river at Krupa na Vrbasu: 
We walked to the source of the river - which comes straight out of the mountain. You can't capture it in a photo, but it is so amazing to see how God makes something out of nothing!

I was very sad to see them go as they really were an amazing team - I even made them each Thank-you Cards to show appreciation for all that they did: We tell teams that they are each laying another brick in the building that God is building here, and these guys definitely placed many!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Faith and Conflict 2019

Three days after finishing the Central European Staff Gathering, it was time for my next conference... yes, organising two conferences back to back was not a clever plan, but thankfully it all worked out!!

This is the 3rd Faith and Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first one was held in 2014 and then the next one in 2018, but now we actually aiming to run them every year! This is a conference that is run in conjunction with YWAM Northern Ireland and they run them in Northern Ireland, Lebanon, the US and South Africa.

We started off in Mostar and we had over 30 people, because a team from Albania that was there joined us for our time there, it was great having such a large group of people who want to learn more about Faith and Conflict in this beautiful place. Here we are at the new "Old bridge": (the old one was destroyed in the 1992-1995 war and it was rebuilt in exactly the same way as the old one, finished in 2004):
We also went up to the "cross on the hill" over Mostar. The unfortunate truth is that the cross which should be a symbol of love and grace is seen as a provocation. The city is divided between Croats (Catholics) and Bosniaks (Muslims). The mortar shells which destroyed the Old Bridge during the war were shot from this mountain... and now the cross is standing on it, overshadowing the city and in a way, a visual reminder of that fact... we loved learning about the symbolism and hesitated to take the group photo, but felt it was a lesson learned that needs to be remembered - symbols can be provocative and we need to be careful what symbols we use in our lives...
During our time in Mostar, we were treated to a concert by one of the YWAM Ireland staff, Alex Atwell. He shared his songs and stories from Northern Ireland... about peace and reconciliation. It was a lovely evening:
The main speaker for the conference was Jonny Clark, leader of YWAM Ireland, and it really is great to work with him and his team from YWAM Ireland. Here we all are enjoying some of Jonny's teaching in the beautiful Kairos Centre in Sarajevo.
Here is a pic of Jonny and I enjoying the Bosnian speciality "čevapi" together in Sarajevo at the end (we took the photo to send to our mutual friend in Ireland "the other Belinda" to make her a little jealous as she looooves čevapi!)

In Sarajevo, besides great teaching and cevapi, we were also treated to a great tour of the city's war history with the pastor of the Dolac Malta Evangelical Church, Sasa Nikolinovic. One of the places he took us to is actually in the top 7 of beautiful abandoned places: the bob sled run from the 1984 Olympic games: (and I think this photo should be our album cover... we are too cool for school!)
In Mostar and Sarajevo we had local people come and share stories in segments we call "Local Voices". Some shared their stories about being in the war, others shared how they are working now in some area of peacemaking. I love this part as there is such a depth of wisdom here, and people who have gone through so much have a lot to teach us, and I love giving them a platform to share! And for many people, this is the part that impacts them the most.

The group was fantastic, and it was with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to one another, we truly became a pilgrimage community in our week-long journey through this wonderful land... 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Central European Staff Gathering

This year was time for our Central European Staff gathering! We met in Vajta, Hungary altogether for 4 days of fun, fellowship and renewal! Youth with a Mission Central Europe is made up of 16 countries with about 250 staff.

Before everyone came, our "Core Circle" leadership team of four met for a day: pictured below: me with Arlen, Florin and Alket:
Then it was time for the wider "Area Circle Team" to meet for one day:
Then it was all of the staff - over 150 came, along with 50 children!
We had a wonderful speaker - my first leader in YWAM, Stefaan Hugo, from South Africa. Here I am introducing him: I love my expression in the photo :)
Our theme was that we are pieces of a puzzle - and together we can make the full picture:
We had a great children's program the whole week - and the last day they led the program in the morning:
 And they led us in praying for all the countries in Central Europe:
It was a great week of being together as the YWAM family - and there was so much more that went on!! From workshops, to sharing about what is going in our region to conversations over meals, coffee and at the pool (which was only open on the last day as it was rainy and cold most of the time :().  We had a great group of people helping: when we did the thank-yous at the end, over 40 people needed to be thanked!!  I love being able to facilitate this gathering... using my organisational skills to bring it all together!!!

And now it is time to move on to the next conference... Faith and Conflict 2019... yes doing two conferences back to back is not the best idea, but I am sure it will all work out!! 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Austrian team for Easter

A team of 15 young people came from Austria for a week to help us with our Easter programs. They were mostly young teenagers and it was great having them come again (they were with us last year as well.)

We had a lovely little puppet play to start off with - and Ljilja and I were doing the voices behind the scenes... all about the true meaning of Easter! 

Then it was time for some different fun activities with the kids... first of all altogether: 
 And then we moved into many different activities all around the room: making crosses and other crafts:

And some fun activities, including: bounce the ball into the hole:
A really fun game with little coloured cups:
 Loom bands!!
And HUGE Jenga! We all got a huge fright when they all fell over!
We had a great week with them - they also went to schools and to the children's home, but I don't have pictures of that... as a treat and to say "thank-you" we took them to Krupa na Vrbas and Jajce for the day... here we all at Krupa:
And here you can see better the beauty of where we are :)
Here are Ljilja and I with the team leader, Hanna - who is originally from Finland, but has been many years in Austria: we love Hanna!
And what is so great is that Hanna is committed to coming every Easter and helping us reach out to children and youth with her teams of teenagers! 
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