Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July 30, 2008 My final day in Albania

The Stephens Center

This morning Christy and I met with Alma from the prison ministry to look at necklaces that the women in prison hand make and sell to make some money.  Alma is a volunteer and she works with them to help them develop some type of trade.  We met at the Stephens Center where you can actually order american pancakes and french toast, so that is what we had for breakfast, it tasted so good.  
Christy & Alma at the Stephens Center

After our breakfast meeting we met with Migena from the christian women's magazine Ilure.  The interview went beyond what we could have imagined.  We will be featured in two separate months with one article with the interview with me and with pictures, and then a separate article about Christy with her on the cover.  In addition, they have agreed to allow us to write encouraging words from Journey of the Heart monthly in each addition.  Which means we can reach over 8000 women in Albania with this opportunity.  We will be writing encouraging words along with points of interest about mentoring and its value to women, their children and to the communities of Albania.  This truly was out of the hand of God.  Watch our website for complete details on the how and when for the articles will be in the magazine.  We will get copies and Evis has agreed to translate each article into English so we can attach it to each addition.  

Our next meeting today was at the American Embassy with Ambassador Withers.  He was gracious and allowed us a few minutes today to talk about Journey of the Heart and what we are doing for women in Albania.   He shared his experience here in Albania and imparted great wisdom about our approach.  He was impressed and wants to talk with us further about this.  then asked if he would mind a picture with me.   Christy then took a picture of the Ambassador and me to share with all of  you.

 Ambassador Withers and Mary 

I then had to go and say goodbye to my new dear friend Evis.  She has impacted by heart in a very powerful way.  It was hard for me to say goodbye, so we didn't say goodbye, we simply said I will see you tomorrow.  As i walked away from her i cried.  I have been changed by knowing her.  

I want to thank all of you for praying.  You have seen the results of your commitment and sacrifice on behalf myself, Christy, Journey of the Heart and everyone we have encountered.  There are no words to express my heartfelt gratitude, but for now I give you thanks.  God is rescueing women to bring hope and healing to their hearts.  
I will finish the blog on Friday, but i must say goodnight, it is 10pm here and i must go to bed because i will need to get up at 3am  to make my 5:35am flight home.    Blessings to you all!
It is hard to believe that my time here for now is over.  It has felt like I just got here.  I believe that all that God wanted done was accomplished and beyond.  It would take me pages and pages to tell you all everything that we experienced.  But for now I just want to say Praise God!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday July 29, 2008 final day of training in Berat

A man and his horse in the center of Berat

We got up this morning to another beautiful day in Berat.  The three of us went to breakfast.  Our breakfast was included in with our room charge.  As Evis ordered our breakfast i was waiting for a menu.  But instead the waiter was preparing a typical Albanian breakfast, which he laid out for us to come and get what we wanted.  It was warm slightly toasted bread, cut up tomatoes, cheese, apricot/cherry spread, cut up cucumbers and hard boiled eggs.  I of course was looking for more a typical american spread of food.  So, Christy and I has bread and a tall glass of the best Latte i have ever had.  I wanted another, but the electricity was off.  Oh, that is the other thing i have neglected to tell you, the electricity in Albania goes off and on.  Sometimes it is off for a short time or can be off for a few hours.  

So, after breakfast we went to the church for training and the electricity was still off, so we were unable to use our powerpoint.  That was of course not a problem, God made a way for it all to happen as it should.  Our training, went very well.  We talked a great deal about the process and did a number of role playing.  Each women got the chance to role play as a mentor and a mentee.  We then had each of them talk about what went well and where the challenges were.  We ended the day with a good follow up plan for them to meet with Christy and Evis to continue to develop their skills as mentors. 
Role playing as Mentor and Mentee

Migena, the pastors wife, has a wonderful plan to be sure that each women trained to become a mentee first and then become a mentor.  I truly believe this small church is going to be used by God in a powerful to reach the women in Berat.  Which will also help the children, the family and of course the entire community.  It was truly a honor to be with these women.  I know that Christy and I both were truly blessed.  We could not have done any of this without Evis.  She has worked with Christy to organized and plan all of these trainings and come to the 2 trainings and did all of the translation for the entire time we trained.   I know that I will miss her terribly.  It was an amazing experience, training in 2 different languages.  God has done a great thing in us all.  

Christy & Klodi

Continuing to practice

We then loaded up the car and headed home.  We had a great time debriefing with Evis and talking about what we believe God is telling us all that is next.  WOW!!!!!  
Tomorrow morning we are meeting with a Alma from the Prison Ministry, then with Ilure Magazine and then Christy and I have a meeting with the American Ambassador.  Tomorrow night I will finish the Blog from Albania.  So, after Wednesday you may not hear from me until Friday because I leave for home very very early Thursday morning.  Be watching for the final pages after that.

Monday July 28, 2008 in Beret Albania

Just a reminder of the old way of life in Albania

We were up and out the door by 6:15 am this morning and picked up Evis and headed out of Tirana to Beret.  It takes almost 2 1/2 hours to get there.  We traveled through the rural areas of Durres and beyond.  We drove along the Adriatic.  Sea on our way.  It reminds me of Panama City Beach in Florida.   You will see in the pictures, it looks very much like a Mediterranean City.  It is beautiful with a blending of the past and some of the present.  We stayed in a very European Hotel.  The shower was interesting.  It is open within the bathroom, so when you take a shower everything in the bathroom gets wet.  Well, you can imagine that was fun.  
We arrived in Beret and was met by a Pastor who was a friend of Evis.  He then took us to his church.  To get to the church we walked up a narrow alley street between two small market stores.  The church meets in a small space, using folding chairs and used equipment.  You will see the picture below of the front of the church space.

The women in Beret 

The entrance to the church where we trained

We began our day with singing worship without instruments or recordings.  It was so pure and beautiful, all i could do was listen to the beauty of their voices and the authentic true worship of their Lord.  These women never heard of mentoring before Migena, the pastor's wife, asked them to come to this training.  They began to see the value and said they wished they could have had this before.  We trained 7 women who are all part of this church plant in Beret.  The pastor and his wife, had a very successful business in Tirana and felt the call of God to leave and come to Beret and plant a church.  They presently have around 50 people in attendance.  They both see that the mentoring program will be a tool God will use to draw in many others from the community.  I was amazed at the humility and gratitude for the opportunity to be trained.  I have observed an attitude of great appreciation.  They do not take anything for granted.   The training went well and had them role play along with me.  They were very nervous at first but could see right away the benefit of mentoring.  They taught us as well further about the culture, so we could help them learn how to use the skills in their community.

The houses built into the side of the hill

After the training Evis, Christy and went to a restaurant to have a some lunch.  I guess i have forgotten to tell you that the Albanians do not eat lunch until after 2pm.  This has been an adjustment.  We then traveled up the side of the mountain and went to the castle in Beret.  Evis was a great tour guide.  Please take a moment to look at the pictures, the castle is incredible and the view was speculator.  We walked a great deal but it was worth it.  I have much to show Terry,  I know that he would have loved the history of it all.   Some of the local people live in some of the areas of the castle and they sell their wares, some of which are hand made.   Most of the people in Beret and in all of Albanian do not have a job, so many of them still sell the hand made wares.  I found it very interesting that this historic landmark with great historical value, have people living in it.  

Christy and Mary at the Castle

That is Mary & Evis walking up the hill

After the castle we went back into town and met Migena and Noku for pizza.  As the evening began in town the streets were filled with people walking.  This is there social life.  They all walk down to the main streets and meet in side walk cafes and walk the town.  Cars can no longer drive on the main streets because of the mass of people.  We were walking at 7pm and after dinner it was after 9:30 and people were still everywhere.  It was a great day and i felt like i had experienced the past in Beret.  

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday July 27, 2008

We spent the early part of the day resting and sleeping in.   We all then went to Evis home for dinner.  We had a wonderful time meeting her husband Colie and her three beautiful children.  We had a wonderful time and ate true Albanian dinner.   Thank you Evis and Colie.

You will not hear from me until Tuesday evening.  We are going to Beret tomorrow and will not be back until Tuesday around dinner time.  Blessings to all.

Saturday July 26, 2008

We took the day off and went to Kruja Albania.  It is a town up on the side of the mountain.  It was beautiful.  We shopped at the open air market shops, where of course they spoke Albanian. Matt did all of the translating for us. It was a great experience.  Christy and Matt bought this beautiful hand painted trunk.   Enjoy some of the pictures below.

Roma (gypsy) shacks in the streets Tirana

Women hand making a wool rug

Open air shops
Free Range Chicken

July 25, 2008 Friday

This morning we held our Tea for the mission organizations we invited.  We spent time listening to who they were and also wanted to continue to share with them our global mission.  We met with 2 other people from World Vision Idlur and Katie.  They both wanted to see how we could partner with all of the sectors of Albania that World Vision were present.  So, we have committed to partner and will be working out all of the details on how they will happen.  We felt that the Tea was very successful because we continued to build relationships with these amazing people here who are working so hard to help the people of Albania.  Idlur who is the gentlemen in one of the pictures, actually graduated from Purdue University and just got back from a visit back to Indiana to visit his friends.  

Idlur & Katie from World Vision chatting with Christy

After our tea Evis and Christy and I went back to Bathore to first have our follow up meeting with the staff we trained last week to be Hope Partner Mentors.  We had the opportunity to work on some additional skills and to continue to equip and encourage them all.  Christy will continue to meet with them.  
After our follow up meeting we met with the women's group that we met with last week.  We began with Christy showing them how to care for each other in giving hand and feet massages.  Some to them were not to sure about this in the beginning but eventually they all had the chance.  I even got my hands and feet massaged.  Anila came over and said she wanted to massage my hands to say thank you for me coming to her home.  I have learned so much humility from these women.  I am forever changed.  
Two of the older women, which at first were not sure about this, they loved it.

These girls loved this experience

Anila massaging my hands, it was great.

I then talked to them about the love of God and how it is possible for me to love them with the love of God even if I don't even know them.  Christy then talked to them about the importance of celebrating who they are and how we celebrate them as well.  She gave each of them our purple celebrate journal. 

I brought each of them hand made bracelets that Kay Woitha, Glenda Simons, Cassandra Michel and myself made before I left.  We laid them out on the table and allowed each of them to choose the one bracelet they wanted.  They were very excited about the gifts.  I explained that there were women in the United States that hand made the bracelets and wanted them to give them to each of them as a gift made with love.  They then said they would like to send something back someday that they hand made.  They were very grateful.  We had a wonderful time.   Saying goodbye was difficult.  They will be in my heart for sometime.

Anila with her new bracelet

We then spent time with Evis and recorded an interview to explain more in detail Global Care Mission and the reasons we have committed to partner.  I asked Evis why she felt that our training was so important for her organization as she works with these women.  She said "I believe this training that we have had will save these women's lives".   I was overwhelmed.  
Two of the children at the Center of Global Care

Global Care Center in Bathore

On the way out of the Bathore, Christy stopped the car and did a UTurn in the middle of the road with people waiting behind us, just so we could get the picture below.  She said I have to get this picture for my Uncle Terry, he would want to know that this still happens today.   This was literally at the street.  

Cow being gutted right out on the side of the street

Thursday, July 24, 2008

July 24, 2008 A Great Day

Christy, Magena and Mary at The French Bakery

This morning we had a meeting with Magena from World Vision.  She attended the training for the last 2 days.  At the end of the training yesterday, she asked if we would have coffee with her in the morning.   We discovered  that she wanted to discuss how we could partner together and possibly consider training additional staff of World Vision in Albania.  Christy and I began to see the incredible opportunity God is presenting.  We would ask you to pray about this along with us so as we further this relationship that the timing for all of this is what God would want.   We are humbled by how God is fulfilling his promises.  Thank you all for praying.  

Christy & I with Anila at her home

After our meeting with Magena we met Evis from Global Care and went out to Bathore to interview one of the women that meet in the center.  She welcomed Christy and I into her home.  You will see in the pictures that this family lives in one room.  A family of 4 children the mother and father.  We spent some time with Anila and interviewed her.  She gave us permission use video the experience.  This experience was life changing for me.  Anila is a woman of great strength in the midst of a very difficult life.  She loves Jesus with all of her heart.  Her typical day is filled with normal activities of caring for her 4 children who are all under the age of 5.  She cares for them still with no modern conveniences.  She works very hard all day in very unreasonable conditions.  She shared very heart breaking stories of her life, and still believes that God will take care of her. She has impacted my heart in a way that i cannot explain, at least today.  Anila has encountered many difficult things in her life and wants to share with other women how Jesus can forgive them and give them a new life in their heart.  I think for now i would like to share a number of pictures that will also tell part of the story.  

Anila & Mary

We also went back to the school in Bathore as I promised and you will see some of the pictures of the inside as well as the outside.  We also interviewed Evis of Global Care at the school so we can help them as our partner tell their story of how the children need so much more than they are getting at this time. Evis shared with us many of the needs of the system and what Global Care is trying to help accomplish for the children for their education in Bathore.  You will see pictures of 3 small building where around 4000 children attend classes in shifts.  Most of the classrooms house 40 kids.  You will see in the pictures the size of the rooms, you will understand the needs.  Please pray for Evis and her staff has they continue to serve the communities children and the women of Bathore.  They are doing amazing things.  

This is the school yard and their outside diseased toilets

The school yard in Bathore

A typical classroom

Just an example of the streets where kids hang out

Christy & Evis buying fruit juice at the neighborhood market

Today was very full.  After we returned home we began to discuss all that needs to be accomplished to continue to move forward in God's vision for Journey of 
 Heart.  Please pray for us as we discern it all.  

July 23, 2008 Our final day of training at the Stephens Center

Our day started out leaving on time to go and have breakfast at the Stephens Center restaurant to have good all american pancakes.  On our way we encounter a slight problem.  Christy and I got in an auto accident.  We are just fine and all is well.  This man pulled around us to the left and cut us off in front of us.  The interesting part of this is that this happened right outside the American Embassy back gate.  Well you can imagine the Albanian authorities and the Embassy got involved.   There is hardly any damage to Christy's car, but the other gentlemen was charged, because it was his fault.  Well with this happening we of course did not get our pancakes, but were still able to get to the Stephens Center and set up in time for the training to start.  Sorry we don't have pictures, we thought it was not a good idea to take any at the time.  Of course now we are sorry that we didn't take any.  The memory is one for the journal.  

Christy and the Praise Team that led us in beautiful Worship. 

Helping one another 

Our training went very well.  We agreed that the group will set up follow up time meeting with Christy to continue to learn and grow together as Hope Partner Mentors.  They are very excited about how these new skills will help them serve the women in their communities of Albania.  We learned a great deal from these women about the culture and the issues that the Albanian women face.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2nd Hope Partner Training at the Stephens Center

What an wonderful day.  We began our 2nd Hope Partner Training at the Stephens Center in Tirana.  We had 17 women attend from 8 different churches or missionary organizations.  Each of these women love the Lord and have a heart to serve other women. 

Christy welcoming the women

The women in this picture are from Chili, Brazil and Albania

We are having a great time
Getting to know each other

 We started our day in worship, with a young Albanian women leading us in song along with a young man who played guitar.  It was beautiful pure worship.  I listened to them sing in Albanian and it was if I could understand.  We will attempt to post a small video shot to let you see how beautiful it was.  

The women spent time  taking the Spiritual Gifts Profile and seeing how God uniquely made them.  For many of them it was confirmation and them in what they are already to for God.  Tomorrow we will begin to role play the mentoring process together.  Christy and I felt blessed to be with these women.

I thought you might want to see what Christy and Matt look at out their back door every day.  The mountains behind their house are beautiful.  

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day 4 - Last Day of training for Global Care

We spent most of time together role playing the process of mentoring.  We had such fun.  The women were a little nervous to begin, but the more we did the more relaxed they were.  At the end of the training I presented each of them with a certificate of completion and Christy presented them with a beautiful journal as a gift from us.
Presenting the Certificate

Christy presenting the journal gift

So, as of this afternoon we now have 5 trained Hope Partner Mentors Bethore Albanian.  We are so very proud of each of them.  They worked very hard to over come the language barrier.

Hope Partner Mentors in Bethore Albanian

Each of them were excited about getting started with the women in Bethore.  We will be going back to Bethore next week to meet with them again to debrief their first few experiences of mentoring.  

The Women were so grateful that you prayed that they wanted to say a special thank you to you all.  On the poster each women signed it in Albanian and Christy then drew a heart around each name to remind them that we are all now connected in our hearts. 

At the end of the day, Christy and I stopped to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables.  They have many open air markets along all of the streets in the city and also in the rural areas.  The picture below is Christy bartering for food.  The young man is someone that she knows well and he tells her when the food is not good.  She likes to go to him because he treats her well.  She really can hold her own with the people here.