Walking along the road and the most unexpected thing happened….

pexels-photo-343469.jpegThe story is so familiar, walking along the busy road, crowds of people, shouting, shoving, pushing.  There walks Jesus.  But He can’t manage it himself.  Imagine that, the Creator, the Word at the beginning, the Almighty, the one who said He is the Son of God and He can’t manage it alone.

Without in ANY WAY wanting to imagine that I have ever been in a situation anything like Jesus was experiencing, there are times when I have felt overwhelmed.  It feels for a long time as though I’ve been stumbling along, the weight getting heavier, the loads adding with every step.  Crowds shouting with opinions, jeers, what I can’t do, be or achieve, shoving at me to do this, do that, pushing me into being who I don’t want to be.

I’m stubborn though, independent, self-confident and so just keep going but feeling like I’m not sure if the next time I will be able to stand up for one more time.

Simone-di-Cirene

As I look at this image of Jesus, needing someone else I see the power of those people around who will walk behind, who will help carry the load and to walk onwards.  The ones who do believe in who I am and what I can do.  The ones who care about who I am.  Deity in one more example for me of humility – allowing a person to help Him carry out the act of redemption.

Luke tells us Simon was ‘compelled’ which the Persian and literal translation means “pressed into service of a king”.   A man from Libya, an immigrant, chosen to serve the King.  Was it an honour? Was it humiliation?  Was it God’s greatest unspoken message of allowing other people to be part of our journey, our story, to surrender ourselves and pride.

(image: Sieger Koder (1925-2015) German priest and painter, Simone di Cirene)

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Beyond the image, children.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5115441/Albanian-stowaways-sneaking-Britain.html

Migration, Daily Mail and Missing the Point

Beyond the sensationalised images of adults and aggression are some shocking statistics that are the true story.  Last year alone 407 children and young people were recognised, caught, registered, however you would like to say, as migrants seeking safety and support.  The highest number of lone children, not from war or conflict but from families dreaming of something more.

The Northern village is typical, it is true, there is no work, there is a lack of hope, there is despair and there are families who just want more for their children and give money they don’t have, to people they don’t know in the search of  a dream.  Most of these children won’t be thugs, thieves or delinquents but very well may end up that way because of the systems in place.  Disappearing into anonymity, without a place to settle and belong to, fleeing the authorities they hoped would help them.  These children know that their parents have paid thousands that they don’t have because the expectation is they will earn some money and support the family in the future.  They can’t return because they know their families have less than nothing.  They can’t stay because they are not at risk, until they have to put themselves at risk through illegal links and relationships.

Albania is a country with outstanding beauty, most people are friendly, hospitable, open their homes and welcome you.  The number of meals we have shared where as guests we are the only ones eating because the families can’t afford to serve us and eat as well.  As you sit realising this sacrifice, the impossible challenge of thanking and respecting their kindness but eating their suffering and trying to find ways of sharing whilst honouring.  Having worked with Albanian children and young people their dreams are so often crushed by the corruption but not by their own abilities.  They have pride in their wonderful country but no hope.  They have skills for their wonderful country but no opportunities.  They have belonging to their wonderful country but no future.  This is the truth behind the images.

The challenge doesn’t have a simple solution, as with most immigration issues.  But the answer most definitely isn’t labelling with violent, drug addicted, thugs.  Challenging corrupt systems, supporting those who have found their way here and understanding the search for a dream should not end in a nightmare.

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Whether you’re a photographer, musician, fashion designer or restaurant owner, Wix is bound to have a template you’ll love. With 100s of designs to choose from, the decision making process may seem a little daunting, but Wix can help you with that. Just scroll through the Template Categories and choose the field that fits you best. From there you can find a template that suits your design style and make it your own.



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Being (A) Part

Two days ago marked 8 years since we left for Albania and 6 years since we opened Burime – the children & teen centre we set up on the Keneta.  When I shared this memory on Facebook I was almost instantly responded to by one of the ‘boys’ who came, saying

 I believe that not only my family but also for other children you 
will be like a special miss, you will always remain in our hearts and
minds as our people with love and we spent one of our most beautiful 
experiences... I wish to turn back time and you were with us

It was tough to leave, especially into unknown – what would happen to the kids we had invested our lives and hearts, what would happen to our little discipleship groups, what would happen to those children and families who had never felt noticed before we arrived.  Then for us what would we do, where would we live, how would we live?

Albania was God’s plan A for our family, its made life tough since we got back here (I don’t say home) and most people have no idea about the struggles each person faces, the tears that are cried and the hole in our hearts.  But we know too that this is God’s plan A for now, we have just bought our beautiful ‘home’, we have Lilijana, the kids are all doing well academically in school, Neil is on the degree course, I am loving my job tutoring and we work for our ‘sending’ church seeing the young people grow.

We have also really known that our link to Albania isn’t limited to facebook posts and instagram pictures but that God has given us an ongoing link, passion and opportunities to both support and accompany our friends and family there.

Rachel is one of those, she inspired us, worked with us, advised us and helped us in many ways and for the last two years Neil has been back at Kampi Aventura helping out.  Last year was incredible to take our kids to help, to see them having fun as kids but sharing God in their heart language.

So for this year, we dream to go again to Albania, to support the work there as well as what we feel is essential in maintaining our friendships with our neighbours.  We dream of being a part of the ongoing and developing work we see, to use what God has given us here to plant into there.  We would love for you to consider being a part too – can you sponsor a child or young person to go to camp (only £30)? Will you commit to praying for the camp or for a specific child at the camp?  Do you feel God calling you to join us as we go (financially, prayerfully or in person?) .

(At the moment we can’t afford to fly out and so are planning a road trip but can meet you at the airport and help with accommodation and details)

 

A Shoebox Full of Thanks

Three years ago, I wrote this blog.  Sitting here with my tree in my heated home, on a road made of tarmac, with no fear of the electricity cutting out or the lack of water it made me remember how much we have.  It made me remember how much difference a shoebox makes to many lives.  I remember giving out those boxes, snatching hands desperate to grab a box and rip it open, big eyes filled with wonder spreading down into the most beautiful smiles, peering eyes to see what their friend had in theirs.

So, if you have filled a shoebox and sent it away I wanted to thank you, it is not just some token thing that you do at Christmas.  It is not just a goodwill to calm your conscience.  It speaks of being important to someone in the world, it speaks of being cared for, possibilities and hopes and so from all the children who think they are forgotten and your gift has told them they matter, thank you.

Christmas day on the Keneta

Matilda at her Christmas show

Christmas day is very different year.  As the country was the first to declare itself “Atheist”, the governance may have changed but the traditions have not, so Christmas is not celebrated but instead the focus is on the New Year (Viti i Ri).  It makes things interesting, we don’t have a Christmas tree, we have a New Year tree.  We don’t have Christmas lights, we have New Year lights.  The workmen arrived to work on the drive at 8.15am unaware of the excited children inside who had been up for three hours and had long since scattered paper all over the lounge, scrambling to discover the wonder of the present inside.  Everyone goes about life just as normal and if you ask when Christmas is, some random guess is made, often getting December but no real idea on the date.  So Christmas is different.

We had the pure pleasure of going to the Christmas churches celebration where the Churches of Durres gathered together at the Sports Hall and worshipped the Saviour for whom the day is all about.  It was great to see over 500 people worshipping, reflecting and celebrating.

As we went back home two of the boys came over, intrigued by what we did on Christmas day.  Our kids wanted to get out their gifts to show them but we couldn’t let them.  Already our kids have so many more toys than anyone else… possibly than everyone else on the road combined!  By English standards they don’t have that much!!!!  So we let them get one thing out each to play with whilst their friends were there.  We had a great chat together about what we do at Christmas and why and asked them about their New Year traditions.  As part of this I asked when Babagjyshi comes (Santa Claus), they looked at each other and laughed.  “He doesn’t come here”.  I was suprised and said I thought he came at New Year with a gift, “no” they said “he doesn’t come here, he must have forgotten us.”  At that point my heart broke, whilst thanking God for the blessing (including material ones) that our family enjoys.

My dream this year is that we can find a way for Babagyshi to visit but more importantly that the real gift of Christmas, Jesus may be discovered amongst the celebrations.

The Amazing Offer – Buy Nothing

indexblack_friday_logo

I remember last year being shocked by all the Black Friday stuff, that was when I lived overseas and the scale of the consumerism was sickening.  This year my place of living may have changed back to Britain but that sick feeling Black Friday phrase gives me has not.

I’ve never really understood how a day of Thanksgiving for all we have in our lives is then overshadowed by the need to go out and buy more, get more, possess more.  It makes me wonder about the sincerity of the thanks.

I cannot help but see the name of Black Friday as one of the truest- the darkness of greed. The negative feeling of despair from debt from wants, wants and more wants. The bleakness of images of people fighting not over a loaf of bread to feed their family or a sack of rice to sustain them but the latest, hugest, flatest screen or some other peripheral so needed in life you would fight for it.

But my Friday is not going to be Black, its going to be about light, hope, brightness.  I will be part of the Buy Nothing Friday and I will seek out ways to bring a blessing, be a blessing and celebrate again the thankfulness in my life for all I have.

#SHOPLESSLIVEMORE