Sunday, August 24, 2014

Albanian Wedding: Renis & Alba

As you may have read in the past posts about Albania, I had the opportunity to capture a wedding while in Albania. My new dear friends Renis and Alba who are full time missionaries were married during the time we were there. Words can't really describe a lot of the time I spent in Albania because it was incredibly life changing. However, this couple is a very inspiring Christ centered couple. They've completely dedicated their lives to the work of God. I'm proud to call them my friends :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Albania Part 2

After the first week in Albania, actually when I first set foot in Albania, I felt like I belonged there. It felt so welcoming and like home away from home. The people are very friendly and loving. The country is a developing country but I think they have something that is so important in their culture. They want to invest in your life and have you invest in theirs. I'm talking face to face real conversation over coffee without cellphones. SAY WHAAAA??? That doesn't happen often here anymore. Unless you demand it.

During the weekend after the VBS camp and before English camp we were able to experience an Albanian wedding. {The man} has been going to Albania for the past few years on this same trip. He has connected with many new friends but this couple in particular has become very close to him and now me as well. Renis and Alba are an inspiring Christ-like couple that were married this summer. Matt was in the wedding and through their friendship with Matt they asked me to be their photographer! An ALBANIAN WEDDING?? I mean really...Who gets to capture an Albanian wedding??  God opened that opportunity and I feel so blessed to have been a part of it all.  {More to come on this event in future posts...stay tuned}

After the weekend we headed to another town outside of the capital. We were met with 20+ college students from the city of Tirana at a resort. We spent 5 days in the resort teaching them about English and about Jesus. Everyday we taught English class from 9am-12noon. There were three levels; beginning, intermediate, and advanced. Being the English teacher that I am, I taught the advanced class with two other lovely ladies from my church. The afternoons were for beach/pool and building relationships with our new friends. We met up as a group each night for an hour and a half to teach parables from the Bible. Matt and I taught a small group together. This was followed by a night activity of some sort. Dancing, movies, games, food, you name it... we did it.

A main purpose for our trip, to teach about the Gospel. It was also the scariest part of the trip for me. That probably sounds ridiculous since I knew thats exactly why I had signed up to go. I feared that I wouldn't have the right words to say or that I wouldn't have all the answers to speak about Jesus to students that haven't heard much about Him, this was also the area that I grew the most. I found myself in many conversations with student about Jesus and my faith. I also found that when I spoke, God was clearly leading the conversation. My goal was to speak truth in a loving way to the students. I shared my testimony and told how God has changed my life and heart. I learned that although I don't have all the answers or even close to all of them I can still impact the lives of others through trusting God and allowing Him to use me to greater His kingdom. Many great friendships were made and I had the opportunity to pray with two girls who accepted Christ.

The camp was life changing in one way or another for each of us. New friendships were built, people were saved, and a good time was shared by all.

There are so many more words I could write to tell you of this experience but as always I prefer my photos tell a bigger portion of my story.

Not related to camp, but just to give you an idea of how beautiful the country is! 

Also not related to the camp. Just loved that these two men were playing a game. :)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Albania Mission Part 1

As I hand wrote this post last Monday while driving back to Texas from Iowa I mourned the loss of my summer. It has already come and gone and I failed at meeting any sort of blog goals I set. Time simply got away from me and many more important things came up. As some of you know I spent 20 days in Europe this summer. I was on a mission trip in Albania. The goal of this trip was to teach about Jesus' love for His people and to bring truth and light to the lives of children and college students. There were two parts to the trip and fortunately I was able to be part of both. The first week we had a family VBS camp on the beach. During this part of the trip we worked in a village outside the capital of Albania. Our team consisted of a group of Albanians we partner with, four American young adults, our church's missionaries, and two families from our church that brought their young children. The idea was to have a cultural mission experience for the kids of the American families and to test drive how the trip would work with families for future possible trips.

Before I get into the details of how God used us on this trip I will explain a little about Albania. The country was under communism for a long time and has only been out since 1991. During communism rule there was no religion allowed. Albania was deemed an atheist country. Since 1991 and the fall of communism many different missionaries have entered Albania to bring religion to the people. The people of Albania are incredibly loving. They want to invest in your life and know you. They love to sit and get coffee and learn about you and tell you about themselves. In their culture they have a huge focus on investing in relationships face to face. This I love.

The village we worked at in Albania was a small and poor village. The people there do not have many resources. We set up our VBS (vacation bible school) camp on the beach near the village. We rented out umbrella chairs and brought all the supplies to host a successful camp. Thanks to everybody involved with planning, fundraising, and donating, and praying the children were able to have a successful camp! In the morning we started with prayer and praise. The children were all singing in Albanian and dancing around the beach. The sound of 20+ sets of feet stamping in the sand and the joyous voices of praise will never leave me. We spent the next few hours each day engaged in Bible lessons, crafts, snacks, and beach games.

We were able to provide lunch for the children each day of the camp. This was a big deal for them because they don't have access to much food. Their meals are small and not of substantial nutrition. Each day we fed them turkey sandwiches, fresh fruit, cookies, and juice or cola. Lunch was one of my favorite times with the children . We sat in our groups and through motions and sounds and lots of giggles we communicated. It was amazing. Even with a complete language barrier I was able to learn so much about each child. The best day was when I finally got them to understand that I wanted them to copy what I was saying in English. I had my whole group yelling out "You're awesome!" I would quickly tell them back and they would grin so big and cutely say "thank you!"

After the three days of camp with the precious children I was in love. Each of them were so special. I especially became attached to the kiddos in my group. The little boys were so eager to play soccer, use my camera, and wear my sunglasses.

Each day was an opportunity to share the love of Christ with these children. Their eagerness to learn more and more was humbling. Children from the age of 6 to probably 11 were so excited to learn about Jesus. It was clear that God was moving in the village with these children and the families that help reach out to them.

The last day we held a special BBQ and awards night. We all gathered at a home in the village to eat together one last time. After sharing our meal, each child was awarded with a certificate. Cheering and clapping each child went forward to receive their award.

After pictures and many hugs the children walked us back through the village to our bus. Hand in hand with my little friends we made our way to the bus. Many kisses were blown out the window to my sweet David who was nothing shy of an 8 year old charmer who stole my heart.

Tears fell as we drove away. I hope to see them again next year!