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!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Children's Week

This week we went to the Children's Home to do a workshop with the children for "Children's Week". The theme this year was "My week, my year". To represent the "year" we did the four seasons through a tree: spring blossoms, summer green leaves, autumn yellow/orange leaves and winter snow! Each child made a plate with four trees:  

And altogether we made one poster with one tree with all the seasons on it...
We enjoyed all the crafts - with all our wonderful volunteers!

Thanks also to our interns, Hannah and Haley and visitor Andrea for all their help in setting up things for this workshop! It made things so much more interesting for the kids for sure! 

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Volunteers, Interns and a Guest

Two years ago, we had a lot of new volunteers, and so last year, we decided not to advertise for new ones, but just keep the ones we had or growing organically through word-of-mouth. But after not getting any new volunteers last year, we definitely needed more this year. So we put out the call, and again got a lot of new people! So great! In early October, we had a meeting for all the new volunteers - here they all are:
Then on the 8th of October, we organised a training for the new and old volunteers with our dear friend, Dijana, who is also a trained "Pedagogue" or "Educationalist". She also works in the Children's Home where most of our volunteers will be helping. She went through some important information to remember when dealing with children - especially how to handle emotions well:
We also give each Volunteer a "Volunteer book" where they can keep a record of all of their volunteer experience. Here are two of our new volunteers with theirs:
At the end of September, we were joined by two wonderful new interns, Hannah and Haley, who will be with us for a year. They came from the US through InterVarsity. They have helped a lot with the new volunteers. Here they are helping give out the Volunteer books:
 And then this past week we were also joined by a guest from YWAM Budapest, Andrea...She thinks one day she may actually move to Bosnia Herzegovina! I showed her around Banja Luka together with Hannah and Haley. At the Fortress, Kastel:
 In front of the Orthodox Cathedral "Christ the Saviour":
 And we went to a look out spot to see all of Banja Luka and pray together... thanks Hannah for taking the photo!
It has been fun getting to know our new interns and Andrea, and all the new volunteers! 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Mom's visit 2019

I am really blessed in that my mother comes (almost) every year for a visit on her world travels to see her children. She spent time with my brother in Canada, and then went to my sister in the UK, before heading to visit me in Banja Luka. Ljilja and I took her to our favourite new restaurant: Bizarre bar.
 She especially liked the deserts - we planned to go back to try some and never got there... next time!
But don't worry, there was plenty of ice-cream, and the weather (although cold in the mornings) was mostly lovely and sunny:
We did a little bit of touristing and also some shopping at the market - Mom was in luck that all the summer stuff was on sale, and so she grabbed a few bargains :) And we enjoyed the fountains:
We also went to see the new Downton Abbey movie... Or as it is called here "Dauntonska Opatija"
And we were all on our lonesone in the funky theatre... Luckily it is English with subtitles, so Mom can understand it, but what she couldn't understand was when they turned on the lights as soon as the credits started rolling. She always stays to the bitter end... she even tried to stay despite the lights, but they actually started motioning to us to get out- that was a bit of a cultural experience for Mom!
We also has a lot of fun trying to take a picture with the selfie spot sign. Seriously... It is part of a tourism organisation's plan to make tourists have fun in different places in Banja Luka. And well, we did have a lot of fun... mostly because it was tricky to hold the sign and not have the "s" disappear behind my head, making it a "selfie pot"! It wasn't designed to be held, instead to be glued to the wall, but the glue was not glueing it anymore, so we took advantage!! I am sure people thought we were crazy as we took about 20 photos before we finally got it right...and both of us having the giggles didn't help! Good times! 
Besides having fun in Banja Luka, we drove to Ljubljana and Bled in Slovenia to meet up with some other YWAMers there. I do know how to show Mom a good time: Here we are in Bled: With the ONLY island in Slovenia in the background on the left with the church and the castle up on the right overlooking it all...
On the other side of the late with the YWAMers - two Norwegians and a Slovene. Andreja, the Slovene, is the only fulltime YWAMer in Slovenia at the moment, and the Norwegians, Andreas and Geir Edvin, are from a YWAM location which wants to support her, so I, as one of the YWAM leaders for this area went to meet up with them all and talk details... I also did my Leadership Training School with the two of them, and we were all involved in "It's time for Slovenia" in 2017, so it was a nice reunion!
And we had a good time... here we are all enjoying Bled cremshnita: sooooo yummy!
Some more classic pictures of the beauty of Bled:

There were so many other things that happened while she was here, including her making me a chair cover (gotta use those sewing skills! and Mom LOVED the fabric shop here!), her getting a haircut and a pedicure (cheapest place on her travels!), enjoying the indoor pools together and having friends over for dinner/coffee. And all in all, I think Mom enjoyed her 2019 visit to Banja Luka (and beyond!) 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Kid's Action Day

While the Finnish team were here to help run the Youth Camp, on their last day here, we decided to do a fun day with the kids from our project too. When Rami and Katja-Maaria were living here, we used to run "Kid's Action Days" twice a year. We used to do them at the local school, but now we have the church building and so we can do it there!

We started off with a program - the team is here introducing themselves: 
Then it was time to sing some songs: Here they are doing actions. We also sang the song Rami wrote called "Vrlo Dragocjen" (Very Precious) which was our camp song one year. It has a fantastic message of everyone being precious - and that differences are actually to be celebrated, not mocked.
Then one of the team from Burma/Myanmar shared about his experiences - he was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, as his parents had fled persecution in Burma. Eventually they were accepted to go to Finland. As he has grown up in Finland, he doesn't speak English so well, so he was speaking in Finnish, the guy next to him is translating into English and then Ljilja into the local language...
 Then it was time to be surprised by a bunch of sheep:
Who told the story of the shepherd leaving the 99 to go find the 1 lost sheep... which went along very well with the message of the song - every one is so precious!!
Then it was time for a whole lot of games throughout the building...
Sword fighting was a real hit:
 As was the "how many sweets can I get out of the box with chopsticks" game:
 Facepainting was also a firm favourite:
And guess how many sweets in the jar:
There were many more games all over the place, but we didn't get pics of them all. After the kids all had a chance to do all the games they wanted, it was time to finish up with Finnish blueberry pie: yummy!!

Then a pic with most of the kids and the 3 Burmese guys...

Before picking up Mom or Dad (who were having their own meeting upstairs while this was on) and going on home... 

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Youth Camp 2019

Last year, our ex-colleagues from Finland, who had helped us run all of our Kid's camps from 2011-2015 asked if we wanted them to come with a team from Finland and run a Youth Camp for those children who had come to our camps previously. And of course we said "YES"!

We had a LOT of issues before camp started and at one point the place where we had camp did not have water, so we thought we might actually have to cancel, but thankfully they managed to get it fixed an hour before we arrived!!

Here is the camp photo so you can see all of us! As you can see, it was a fun group!
The Finnish team brought a LOT of great and fun games... and despite the heat, the youth all loved to join in!

 Especially when the games included water:
We invited some other organisations to join us at the camp: here is Dragan with some of "his" kids - they are all part of a traditional dancing club:
 And we got to enjoy some of their talents:
Here is a Finnish/Burmese/Bosnian band playing traditional music for them to dance to:
One day the pool next door let us go there to swim for an hour for free! We were very happy as it was very HOT!
The food was fantastic - Ankica, one of the mothers, once again did all the cooking... with a little help from Sinisa the pot-stirrer:
And also our brothers from Burma/Myanmar: 4 of the team were originally from Burma and went as refugees with their parents to Finland over 10 years ago. Here they are helping to cut up the watermelons:
 On the last night we had a lovely big bonfire: with fun and games all around it:
Including the Finnish tradition of cooking "makara" (sausages). The Burmese Finns also shared some of their food in form of a spicy salad - which was VERY spicy and a bit hot for many of the kids!
We not only fed ourselves physically, but also spiritually, with a daily word from Sinisa from the Bible:
One of the best aspects of camp for me was working once again with Rami and Katja-Maaria, and of course we didn't get ANY photos together. Here they are with some of their team downtown...
Even though they have been gone for 5 years, it was like slipping on a familiar and comfortable glove working with them again. They brought a team of 10 (plus themselves and 3 of their girls) and it really was so much fun being together again. Before they left, we also did a Kid's action Day with the kids in the project, but more on that in the next post... 
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