Wednesday, September 12, 2018

YWAM Together | Thailand 2018

Earlier this year, we were discussing who would be able to go to the big YWAM Conference called "YWAM Together" to represent our region of Central Europe. As I am one of the people who helps lead this region, it looked as if it would be my turn to go. I was still debating whether I should go or try and get someone else, when my good friend (and former colleague), Rebecca, wrote to ask if I would come along to the conference and help her in the communications side of things: specifically to run the iCentre (or information centre). I wrote back to her to say "does it make me crazy that I want to come more now?". So off to Thailand I went...

The conference was huge - almost 4000 people, and I and a team of 24 volunteers were tasked to help answer people's questions. And do you know how many questions 4000 can have? A LOT! We had a lot of information on an app called Whova, and so people could also figure things out that way, but a lot of people also needed help with the app :) Below I am with some of the team (all serving in the Philippines):
I thought we would have a lot of people on the first day and then after that it would kind of calm down, but every day there was something new from workshops, to roundtable discussions, etc. And on the two last days it was decided that we would offer transport back to the airports (we weren't going to and then the hotel complex freaked out at having to do it, so we ended up doing it last minute and we helped out...) so it NEVER calmed down...

But, despite the fact I didn't actually get into many of the sessions I LOVED IT! I was able to troubleshoot and figure things out and just use the gifts that God has given me to serve... and the conference was soooo well run and the leaders so appreciative of what I brought, that it made it easier.

I did manage to get into some of the sessions (4 of the 12) and be a part of a workshop and a roundtable. I also got to have some meetings with people and a lovely lunch with those who came from Central Europe, so it wasn't all work and no play - but it was definitely different than I had thought it would be!

In the middle of the conference they sent everyone out into the city to do some sort of outreach - from prison ministry to schools, to bible distribution. Seriously well organised - sending out 3500 people!! I stayed back to try and have a break and catch up with myself... however, the emergency phone ended up staying with me... and then people's songthaews (Thai version of a taxi) started not showing up on time... (remember 1000s of people, so some thing will always go wrong!!) so the phone started ringing off the hook...  I was giving out phone numbers and answering questions on the app... all while sitting in a little hot tub near the swimming pool - I was determined to get a bit of water time in, and that was all I could do, but I am sure everyone else wasn't too amused with me!! But at least I did enjoy my outreach day :)

There were over 100 nations and 77 languages, and I was also involved in getting information/ announcements translated into 5 of them... both before and after the conference. It was amazing how committed the translators were to making sure that their people could understand what was going on! And it was a privilege to have a small part in that...

I came away with many new friends with whom I fought in the trenches during the week and even though it was hard work and loooooong hours, I would do it all over again!!

On the day after the conference finished, I was part of a gathering of leaders from all over the world. It was the main reason I went - to be a part of that meeting. And out of the over 100 leaders there, I just happened to sit at the table with our founders, Loren and Darlene Cunningham and some other senior leaders. It was completely by accident (there was no one there when my friend and I joined the table, and we sat near the front as he didn't have his glasses with him!) and yet felt like a little "well done" to me from God!! Love it!

Otherwise, I leave you with the highlight video of the whole week... it is amazing and gives a feel for what it was like to have so many people from so many different countries together in one place:

Monday, August 20, 2018

Team from Bristol | Kid's summer workshops

We had a fantastic time with the team from England... We started with two days of workshops/dramas/playing games at the Children's Home:
Here I am translating:
And actually helping to make the lion masks, that doesn't normally happen, as I usually run around... but I took two of the naughty boys and sat with them and actually made them zombi lion masks, otherwise we wouldn't have got anywhere... but anything to make sure we have peace and quiet!
 Here are some of the kids with them on...
 Getting ready for the play:
 Yes, you guessed it, Daniel in the Lion's Den, complete with hungry lions... It was super cute!
 Then it was time to move outside for facepainting/playing football and loom bands!
And on the second day, the four girls had prepared a dance for us:
They went one day to Prijedor and ran a workshop there, but I stayed back to do some errands here and get things ready for our two days of workshops. The first day was in our building:
The girls loved the crafts:
 Armour of God:
 And the boys loved the games (and also the facepainting!)
 And the cool juice boxes:
 The girls got to take part in a dance workshop, here they are showing off their dance:
The next day we were able to go to a nearby school and use their grounds, and it was so great! We had another dance workshop, but this one with more space:
And were able to do some fun water games (which ended up with a water fight, but everyone involved had spare clothes, so we were ok!!)
 We also had some fun outdoor games: swordfighting:
 And blow soccer: Father and son having a go:
And being outside meant we could have everyone's summer favourite: watermelon!! 
As you can see, we had a great time with the team - in fact they coined a new phrase "Super Bravo" using two words we use in the local language from English, but not usually together!! And they were a "Super Bravo" team indeed! 
Thanks also to all the wonderful local volunteers who helped us make it a fun time for the kids and the team! Picture credits: Ljiljana Baniček and Conner Haines

Monday, August 06, 2018

Musings about moths...

It has been a funny year, lots of travels and in between, lots of busyness and guests... It has meant that I didn't have time to completely deal with the moths that kept appearing in our pantry. Last year when we went off flour we gave most of the food in the pantry away to different people. This year, I took any other possible source of food out and yet they still kept appearing. I got moth traps and it was appalling how many there were... they were unrelenting! But because of my schedule and having guests around, we didn't have a chance to do anything about it...

Then, finally, before Ljilja left to take Sina to fly out from Dubrovnik, and then visit her family in Trebinje for a few days, I decided it was now beyond time to do a complete pantry clear out. Before they left, Ljilja and I took everything out of the pantry (except the shelves and cupboards) and put it in the hallway. I put up more moth traps just to make sure they were really gone. To my amazement they still kept appearing in the pantry without anything in it. They were somewhere in the wooden shelves or cupboards... I took the shelves out and they still kept appearing... so the cupboards went out as well.

Over the next week in between working on communication stuff for the upcoming big YWAM Together event in Thailand, I went through everything in the pantry. When Ljilja got back, we bought (on sale!) some new plastic shelves which fit nicely and a new floor covering. We even got our friend and handyman, Damjan to come and paint it. Ljilja just said "it is so nice in there now, I want to sit in it". But seriously, if the moths come back NOW, I am not sure what I will do!!

I also hosted a friend this year who had to go through a lot of stuff she left behind in Bosnia and get rid of 95% of it. It was hard work and I realised that I am also attached to so many things for sentimental reasons. I managed to get rid of a lot of things from the pantry that we never use, but I have kept some small mementos. But if they were the source of the moth infestation they would have to go as well...

It has made me look at things and realise that *things* are not important. They are the things that moths and rust can destroy. I don't have that many things, but still I cling to some of them because they are important to me... but as the Bible says:  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Where is my heart? Is it with earthly things? Or is it with the things of heaven? Some days I am not certain... other days I know for sure. It is important to examine my heart and make sure that I am laying up my treasures in the eternal and not just for today. Sometimes just like with "Operation Pantry Clean Out", it takes a radical clean out and examination to make sure that my treasure is still in heaven. 

One of the reasons that I actually took this house when I moved in 15 years ago was that it had this nice storage space. For so long (we have had the moths off and on for over 2 years!!!) it has been a source of annoyance and now it is something we can enjoy. I haven't enjoyed the process of getting here, it was a lot of hard work, but in the end, the pantry is nicer than it has ever been. 

And the same is true of searching our hearts and spending time in reflection with God as our helper. Firstly we are reminded of reasons why we do things - I was reminded that the pantry was a reason for living here. Secondly, things that are annoying now will become easier to live with as we gain perspective - the moths being there actually made us get rid of the horrible old shelves and cupboard and get something better in their place. And lastly, despite the hard work, or maybe because of it, you will end up a much better person!! Or at least that is the hope :) 

Well that is it... I just had to share what has been going round in my brain this week... I hope you have enjoyed these musings about moths! 

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Morocco Holiday!

This is our 8th year of going on summer holidays together, Ljilja, Sina and I. This year Sina's wish came true: we went to Morocco!! We travelled to Budapest where we had found cheap Ryanair flights to Marrakesh. We spent one night there before heading to the coastal town of Agadir:

I had found a reasonably priced hotel near the beach and we had such a great stay there. Here we are at a restaurant on the beach for one of our many "tajines" which were all amazing:
We walked each evening along the promenade where there were these funny exercise machines: Had to give it a go:
The beach was quite packed with locals, and we enjoyed walking along it, but as the weather was surprising cool and windy (for Morocco!!) we mostly swam in our hotel pool. I know, I know!
 But proof that we did walk along the beach a bit :)
And there were quite a few camels and drivers if you wanted to have a go...
We went one morning to the HUGE souk - here in one of the spice shops with Ahmed who wanted to marry Ljilja. In fact many people did - the huge smile did the trick!
And she became somewhat of a local celebrity for trying to stop a robbery (which turned out to be a prank)... It was posted on a local news Facebook page:

Only Ljilja would become a local celebrity on vacation!!

We took a day tour to Essaouira which was amazing!
 Where the streets have no name...
And also a place to get some really lovely photos: 

On the tour, we got to stop along the way to see the famous tree goats. They climb the trees to eat the argon nuts from which they make argon oil.
 They were pretty cute:
We also made a stop to see how the argon oil is made... here is Ljilja with some of the ladies who make the oil: you can see why it is so expensive when you see how they have to make it all by hand!
We enjoyed lovely sunsets - at 8.45 at night :) It sets over the Harbour, but it is still stunning!
Then the beach part of the holiday was over and it was time to travel back to Marrakech to spend a few days there before flying back to Budapest: This is us having dinner overlooking the main square:
Here is another view from our first night there: It is always jammed pack with people in the evening when the heat has cooled down (yes Marrakesh met the heat expectations!)
We were staying in the Medina or Old City - here is a view from the rooftop of our Riad or Old House:
But inside was an oasis - built originally for the rich families and all having a water feature (ours had a pool, others have a fountain) which keeps the house cool - and it really did. I was on the bottom level and my room stayed so cool. It was a lovely place to stay in the madness that is the Medina!
The streets outside all looked the same, and I was just so happy to know how to use google maps as I was able to find our way quite well with that... not sure how it would have gone without that technology! I even had to use it once to tell the taxi driver where to go :)
 There was also time for shopping at the Souks - again Ljilja found a soulmate...
And we took a trip to the Jardin Majorelle which was beautiful:

We also took one day to go out of the city to the High Atlas Mountains for a hike, mostly along a river up to a waterfall:
It was a wonderful experience: Berber villages in abundance:
We enjoyed the local food and drink: Mint/green tea became a part of our daily routine:
And of course tajines: yum yum:
We only ate twice a day otherwise we would have been huge at the end of it! 
If I was to reflect on our holiday, I enjoyed seeing a completely new culture and encountering a lot of sites, sounds, smells and experiences which I never dreamt that I would in my lifetime. I loved spending time with two good friends and talking about life and God and praying together. And I still can't believe that we went to Morocco! But next year, for my holiday I would love something quieter, more relaxed and hopefully with less people. :) 
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