Wednesday, July 01, 2020

E-Summit Samaritan's Purse

 At the end of June, the 3 regional teams and the national team of Operation Christmas Child in Bosnia Herzegovina took part in the worldwide E-summit that was held all over the world for all of the volunteers with this project. Most people were in their individual locations, but with our cases way down, we took the risk of getting together... we met at a place in the middle of the country called Cardaci and we had a great time. Here we are all around the map of Bosnia Herzegovina: 

This is a pic of what we did for 3 hours a day - zoom meetings with our region - the Balkans, Baltics and Central Europe: 
We also spent some time doing some workshops in our team - starting with the positive side of OCC: we broke into two groups to do this... my group is the one with the funny man (drawn by me ;) )
After that we spent time looking at the issues that we face and how we can solve them... it was a productive session. After that, as I showed off my drawing skills, I was asked to draw a picture of our National Coordinator, Jelena... and then we all wrote things we liked about her on post-its: we really love her and she was really touched: 
Our mascot was little Aron - and here he is with his best buddy, Ljilja: they are so cute together: 
Here I am with his grandmother, Elvira and mother, Eldina... 
Here we all are again - aren't we a lovely bunch? 
And one more photo for luck... 
It really is a privilege to work with these fantastic people on this project... making sure that we get shoebox packages to where they need to go!! 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Zooming around...

I have been using the Zoom meeting app for about two years already for various different meetings, but during Covid-19 everyone seemed to discover its usefulness and ability to be a platform for keeping in touch with one another when we were social distancing. I have spent soooo much time on zoom in the last two months! 

Here are some of the groups which I used to meet with regularly before Covid-19. Firstly with the guys from YWAM in Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia - we meet once a month to pray together, and we met more frequently during covid-19, love these guys:
Then with the leadership team or Area Circle Team (ACT) for YWAM in Central Europe: we meet every other month or so. I also meet regularly with our "Core team" of four of us (not pictured).
Another (temporary) group has been since September as I have been involved with FOCOS coaching training which is online every month and then we had the one week intensive which was held in Budapest in January.  It has been fun to see the interaction online after the intensive as we are much more connected than before we met in person!
Another group which met before, but during Covid met more frequently is the YWAM Field Circle Team for all of Europe. As I am one of the core leaders in my Area, I am part of this group as well. It is such a privilege to be a part of this amazing group of leaders. 
I also joined the Editorial team for an initiative called the European Leaders Learning Community which we are starting up officially in September. In the meantime we have been running Facebook Live interviews with various leaders in our organisation in what we call the "leadership lounge-lockdown edition". It has been such fun working with a team of great people to put all this together... 
And yes, you guessed, we met each week on zoom to do so!

Then, we as a YWAM Central European Area decided to meet altogether on zoom. We had never done it before, but we had an amazing time together - We had about 200 people joining on 100 unique connections representing 13 of the 16 nations in Central Europe. You can read more on the 

In order to make this meeting go smoothly we treated like an "event" and had a team to coordinate it - Great bunch of people!:
In the two hours we had many elements: A talk that I did on pruning/sabbatical: Click below to watch it :)
Two times of worship - one on the zoom meeting at the beginning, and one on Facebook live to end off with.  We shared together in small groups for some of it and also had some feedback and sharing from the audience. We saw that it was such a good thing that we believe that we will do it again in September!!

Another exciting element of zoom is the ability to run courses online for people around the world. In May, YWAM Craiova planned to have a 3 week Pioneering and Leadership course - but in the end because of corona, instead of cancelling completely, they decided to take it online. So instead of the 25-30 people who would have joined in, they had over 100 people from all over the world - I was in breakout groups with people from Brazil and Bangladesh! And over 60 of those finished the assignment that went with the course to get the credits from YWAM's University of the Nations.
I enjoyed taking part in the course and learning along with many other people. And the breakout groups were a great way to meet people (or reconnect with those we knew already) along with learning from each other. 

Another use of zoom in this time was to connect with my family who are in 4 different countries - it was so great to connect with them all a couple of times... and I hope this is something we will continue in the future now that we have discovered how easy and fun it is! (this photo was taken at Easter - please note that my Mom is sitting with the Easter bunny with a mask on... what can I say?)
And then I did try to Zoom with some of my local friends, but in the end they couldn't get on, so we just did Messenger Chat which turned out to be much more fun... but would be very distracting for meetings!!
Beside all of these things, I also did sessions with 3 coaching "clients" on zoom - all to get the hours I need for the coaching course I am finishing up. Including two other local clients, I have now already done 25 sessions out of the needed 30, and so will finish up in  a couple of weeks already! I don't have any pictures of those sessions as they are all confidential :)

But I have to say that I am really enjoying doing the coaching... much more than I thought I would. I am also so glad that I decided to go ahead and get as much done while we were in lockdown as now I can relax a bit! And looking back, I don't know how I would have been able to meet the September deadline for finishing up the coaching hours without all the extra "corona time", so I am glad for the virus for that at least!

As you can see, I have definitely been zooming all over Europe and around the world over these last two and a bit months of "lockdown" - all while staying in the comfort of my own home! 

Monday, April 06, 2020

Chaplain Chaplin

When my brother was in High School he used to joke that he would study theology and then go serve in the (then compulsory) 2 years of army in South Africa. His reasoning was that he would then be able to be a "Chaplain Chaplin". I know he was only kidding, but actually I had an interesting thing happen to me that reminded me of it when I was serving at the YWAM Together in Thailand in 2018...

I was working at the Information Desk and minding my own business when I was approached by some people who said "so someone told us there was a Chaplain who was working at the desk". It turns out they were Chaplains who worked in hospitals and prisons and they were asking around among the 4000 attendees to find out if there were more of them around and someone kind of misunderstood and said "well there is a Chaplin working at the info desk"... so we laughed and then they said to me "well do you want to know the origins of your surname?". Always one to get useless information, because why not, I of course said "yes!". It turns out it wasn't so useless at all. Instead, I think it was a Godly encounter...

Now, to give you the background. I was always scared to be a leader. I didn't think I had what it took, even when other people saw that I had potential. My leader in YWAM Central Europe invited me to be a part of an "emerging leader's track" at the Global Leadership Gathering in 2012 in England. It was a great time with 300 leaders from around the globe, and there were 30 or so of us in our "track" who met up with Darlene Cunningham (co-founder of YWAM) every afternoon. I was continuously feeling like I shouldn't have been there and that it was a mistake that I had been invited.

One day, during worship, I don't even remember the song, but it was amazing worship, being led by Graham Kendrick, so you can imagine... I just remember feeling this overwhelming presence of the Lord and during that time saw a picture of a mantle/cloak being placed on my shoulders. I felt like this mantle was something the Lord was challenging me to take up in the future and that He was showing me that it wasn't a mistake that I was there and He was grooming me for leadership in YWAM in the future. It was a powerful moment as I accepted the mantle, little knowing what it all meant and where it would lead.

It was another 3 years before I was asked if I could pray about coming on the leadership of the Area team for Central Europe. And when I was praying, the Lord reminded me of that cloak and that He had been preparing me for this time. So, I accepted the invitation, little knowing that in less than a year the main leadership for the whole Area would be handed over to me as the previous leader transitioned out.

Fast forward to Thailand two years after that. I was feeling burned out. I was feeling that I wasn't where I should be with my leadership. It was hard. I was tired. And then these people shared the simple story of my name...the name I was born with:

Back in Roman times, there was a young Roman soldier who saw a beggar lying by the side of the road freezing cold. He took his Roman Army cloak and cut off the bottom half of it and gave it to the beggar to cover up with, leaving the top half for himself. That night he had a vision of Jesus who told him "as you clothed that beggar, you clothed me". 

After his death, he was sainted as St Martin and his half "cloak" was carried into battle, and the tent that his cape or "cappella" was housed in also became known as a "cappella" or later on "chapel". And the people who carried the cloak were "cappellano" or "chaplains". The chaplains were the ones that carried the cloak seen as a symbol of bringing the presense of God into battle with them. 

Do you see it? The mantle that God showed me? And the cloak of a Chaplain? There are no words that can describe what it felt like in that moment when I realised that the name I was born with and the picture of the cloak/mantle/cape were two images that came together without me even realising it!! God used my name in the image that He gave me back in 2012!

I also realised then that my role in leadership is to bring God into every situation I encounter. As I write this, it is also a good reminder that I am a "Chaplain" and not just a "Chaplin". It is no mistake that I am who I am and do what I do in, even if sometimes I get tired and discouraged about it. I just need to remind myself that it is the mantle of His presence that I carry on my shoulders as I go about being a Chaplain Chaplin! 

Saturday, March 21, 2020


Covid-19 has hit so many places hard... and even we in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been badly affected. Mainly by people coming back from Italy, Germany, Austria. So many people are now in quarantine that it is hard to keep track, but they are keeping on trying... 

When cases started to happen in Banja Luka, we had already decided to have a craft evening with some of our lovely volunteers, so we wore the masks for the photo as a joke kind of... now it isn't so funny anymore as more and more cases are found. 
The team from Ireland came a couple of days after the Faith and Conflict to spend time in Banja Luka...until the coronavirus meant that they had to leave early to try and get home - sad faces: (well except Alex who was still catching up - the photos were taken early in the morning to give him grace)
We were sad to see them go, but in the end it was definitely the right decision as they would have been stuck with me in Banja Luka indefinitely as borders closed and flights were all cancelled. Now, the teams that are supposed to be coming in the next couple of months are also probably going to be cancelled. I have been so busy since January, and it wasn't really going to slow down until July and I was thinking "how am I going to survive"... so things have changed so much in the space of a week!!

I have been wanting to go to see Ljilja's new apartment in her home town (it is actually directly above her parents place), but I hadn't had the chance. Now with her being unexpectedly free (the conference she was supposed to be at was cancelled) and the team gone for me, we decided it was time to take a break in Trebinje. We are social distancing - including with the Grand Duke of Herzegovina: 
In the meantime, I managed to help organise a prayer day for the 250 or so YWAMers in Central Europe on Friday. We had 24 hours of slots filled by people all over our area...
And those of us in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia prayed together on zoom for one of the slots... Each in their own homes :) It was great!
In this new time of uncertainty and unknown, one thing is sure, that God was not surprised and He knows what He is doing. We just need to take each day at a time, take measures to protect ourselves and others, and help those that we can. We decided to go now and have a break in Trebinje, because we fear that it will get much worse in Banja Luka before it gets better (so far 45 of the 90 cases in Bosnia Herzegovina are in Banja Luka), and so we want to get back when we will be most needed to help those that are more vulnerable. Stay safe out there and enjoy this unexpected "downtime" if you are able. If you are a health worker know that you are being prayed for! 

Faith and Conflict 2020

This is the fourth Faith and Conflict which we have run in cooperation with YWAM Ireland... There were 23 people who came from YWAM in Switzerland, Albania, Greece, Serbia and Ireland. We also had some other lovely people join us from Sarajevo. We started in Sarajevo for 3 days and then moved to Mostar for the last 2 days. We listened to local stories, and learned from Jonny Clark and Alex Atwell from YWAM Ireland. Below is Alex sharing with us on the opening night:
 We also had a wonderful tour of Sarajevo with Sasa who is an amazing guide:
Even during last year's Faith and Conflict, the guys from YWAM Davos in Switzerland were talking about coming back this year, but during their "lecture phase" for their Discipleship Training School. We ended up running the F&C in February so they could come and do a snowboarding camp with the youth in Sarajevo (the DTS school focuses on snowboarding and free skiing). They also decided to come the week before to Banja Luka where I spent the week sharing my story and lessons I have learnt along the way - it was great fun!
Besides the YWAM Davos guys coming to Banja Luka beforehand, a team from YWAM Ireland came to Banja Luka afterwards. We had a great time with them...

Until they had to leave early because of Covid-19... More on that in this blog post

Monday, February 17, 2020

2020 started with lots of travelling...

I started mid-January in Budapest, where I was part of the week-long intensive FOCOS Foundational Coaching Skills Training. It is part of a year-long program that I am taking part in this year. There were 21 of us from all over the world learning how to be life coaches. It was a lovely group of people, and we had a great week learning together!

It was a very intensive workshop - but we did have one afternoon of seeing the beautiful city of Budapest:
Some of us went up to palace and the Castle district where I got some lovely photos:

 We also had time in the evenings to wonder around... and take in some sights:
 Or make album cover photos... (did I say this was a fun group?!)
After that, I had a week before I needed to be in Prague for a conference, so I decided to stay in Budapest for a couple of days and meet up with people there... it happened to be Edyta's birthday so I got to hang with her and Marie which was especially fun...and also got to see other fun friends there too!

Then it was time to go a bit early to Prague to spend time with David and Irena and their four girls. It was a great time to catch up with them (they used to live and work in Banja Luka), especially as it was a couple of days before David was diagnosed with Leukemia! He is busy getting treatment in hospital in Prague and the prognosis is good, but it was still a bit of a shock...for them and for me. (if you pray, please remember them in your prayers!)
Then it was time for the European Leadership Gathering - about 350 leaders from all over Europe met in Prague. Our first night we even had Loren Cunningham (below right) who is YWAM's founder. It was a privilege to hear him speak to all of us:
We also heard from all sorts of YWAM greats: here are Jeff and Romkje Fountian being interviewed on the sofa by Tove:
We also got creative: Here is Carl Tinnion (the outgoing European leader) doing a monologue as Jan Hus: a Czech theologian who was an early reformer whose thinking influenced Luther!
He was burned at the stake for his "heretical thinking": and Carl's monologue made us truly think about his premise that "Truth Prevails":
I was involved in a LOT of the behind the scenes organising but did get to be a part of the program on the last night along with Dick Brouwer, our new European Leader:
Probably my favourite moment of the whole week was when Al Akimoff (one of our long time YWAM leaders) prayed for our outgoing YWAM leader, Carl Tinnion... you can see me wiping the tears off during it, I was laughing so hard... 
During the week, I decided that we needed to get our lovely Central European area together one afternoon. It was a great time of sharing and we so enjoyed being "just us":
But my favourite part of the whole week was definitely hanging out with my buddy, Rebecca: She and I were the communication team for Central Europe for 5 years before she moved from Czech to Thailand. I recruited her to come and help at the conference and we had a great time. We also got to spend one afternoon after the conference seeing the sights of Prague:

Then it was time to head to the UK: I promised Rebecca that if she came to Prague to help we would finally make good on our promise to go visit our ex-leader (whom we worked for for those 5 years). So we went to spend a couple of days with Carmelita - we were near to Shakespeare's place of birth (Stratford-upon-Avon) so we went for the day - here we are in front of his birthplace: (not sure why I have the scrunchy face haha)
 And then we met a local who told us where to go to see his place of burial:
It was also good to meet Carmelita's husband, Derek... God told her to leave YWAM, then she met him, and got married after 50 - so there's hope for everyone! Here we are in front of the church across the street from their house: 
It was a fun couple of days of catching up and hanging out: 
Then it was time to go and visit my sister in Oxford - I did get to spend time with my niece and brother and law as well - but the only pic I got was with A in front of the Radcliffe Camera:
Then after 4 weeks, 7 different beds, a load of buses, a train, two planes, one workshop, one conference, and visiting good friends and family, it was time to head home to Banja Luka again... I love travelling, but I love my own bed just as much!! 
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