Saturday, 15 August 2009

Oh Yeah!
Wednesday 5th August 2009
Citygroup was at Oh Yeah Centre, the venue we will be using from September and will be using when we launch. It was great to get to see it. It felt like home. Already we seem to be outgrowing Pizza Express which is great as we are unable to use that from September. I'm wondering how long until our Sunday service outgrows this venue.We discussed what would be happening from September onwards. There are few developments. I'm really excited to find out how this will impact the church.
We are starting to have Small Groups – not in the sense of a home/cell group but as an evangelistic tool. Activity based groups meeting fortnightly gathering like-minded people. An opportunity to find out what we are like – building relationships outside of the church. I'm having difficulty deciding which one I want to go to. There will be (at the moment) family based group, book club, film club, pool ladder and periodically a food/drink activity. I'd love to spend time learning to play pool as the last games I had I was so much better than I have been and beat the boys as well (I'm sure they were playing properly!). I'd like to do the book one but not if I have to read books over fortnight – not good at pressured reading! Film club – are the films going to be varied? I like films but don't get to see many so it'd be good to catch up on them. I'm going to have to ask the people running the group to get some answers to these questions. Hopefully that'll make it a bit easier to make a decision!
We were also told about the development of three-person-discipleship-groups. This is a great idea. I have got to the point where I need to get back into discipleship and this is a great idea. The groups can evolve as the church grows. I'm not sure this is set in stone but I'm happy with the provisional choice of group members I'm with. Trish, Charis and myself are one group. I had come to the peaceful realisation before coming to live here that Trish won't be discipling me as she'll have lots of other things to do. So to learn that we may be in a group together is great – must find out when I'll know this is a group.
I love the way the church is looking towards the bigger picture. It must be an easier route to only look at the immediate situation but if you start doing that it's difficult to change things. By having systems in place early on when we hit the growth these systems are established and will help develop and strengthen the church instead of isolating members.

Clearer Head
Sunday 26th July 2009

On the way to meet up with the Dublin Church plant I had to write down some words which were crowding my head. I've had a sense of something developing over the last couple of days but haven't had the chance to put pen to paper. In the back of the car I started scribbling – not the best I've written, it's been over a year.
The Creator, our God, has call you to be His child
Nothing you can do to earn His love
Nothing you can do to stop Him loving you
Your hope is in Him alone because of His sacrifice,
giving His life so you can live.

It was good to meet up with people from the church plant. Some of them are from Chelmsford, Essex – my old stomping ground. I'm looking forward to see how our friendships develop.

Frankie Says ...
Thursday 16th July 2009
Citygroup was last night (Redeemer Central weekly meeting) It's odd – I don't feel like the new person. I know I don't really know these people but that really doesn't matter. It was such a good meeting – great worship and a great time together.
I arranged to meet Kelly and Jules in the city today. My first adventure out – yay can get to the city by bus. Not that it's difficult but still an achievement!
I feel we were really blessed – on the way to the coffee shop we were offered a free frappé then we filled out a form which enabled us to have a free coffee. Great. It was good being able to spend time with the girls.
After Kelly left Jules and I headed off to Oxfam Vintage shop as we have an 80's party to go to tomorrow. It was great fun looking through what they had and trying on some things. I didn't want to spend too much. It was so strange looking at the clothes in Primark – 80's is definitely back in. Great clothes, still as colourful! (yes, I'm admitting I was there the first time round). I'm looking forward to seeing what the others have found.
One thing I'm enjoying is being able to spend time studying and as much time as I need/want to in prayer. I thought I'd make the most of the spare time I have while I can as I know when I'm at work I'll be tired again and a lot less time.
I love the way I start praying for things and then go off on a tangent – something I hadn't even thought about. That's why it's good keeping a journal to see where the Holy Spirit leads the prayers.

It's My Party And I'll ...

Sunday 12th July 2009
My last week in Norfolk has been manic with a big “M”. I really don't know how it managed to come together, but it has. Late nights and early mornings have helped as well as people from Small Group. I know a few of you have felt you should have done more but the help you gave has been an amazing help. Thank you for taking things to charity shops, to the tip, feeding me, helping me clean and being a huge emotional support.
I want to say a special thank you to Sarah – I couldn't have got through my birthday without your help. I would have crumbled under the last day of pressure. You kept lifting me each time I dropped. I was exhausted – physically and mentally and still had a hill to climb. I kept praying for more strength and it kept being given.
I was late to my leaving party.
I had been joking in the week that I may not be able to make it. I didn't realise how near that was. I was pleasantly surprised how many people came. It was great to see them. When clearing my kitchen I found a half-bottle of Port and thought I'd take it with me to have. I had only had a sandwich and the drink went straight to my head. Ooops. The evening went really quick. I had invited lots of people and some didn't come which was a shame. It would have been good to spend some quality time with people as I felt I haven't done that since I've been back (well, I have with some of you but not all).
It was difficult to spend time with people at my party. I was exhausted and once I sat down people were chatting. I didn't manage to eat much. There was plenty left over which was taken to a barbeque tonight (glad it was put to good use).
I was going to go to my party and continue to tidy up then be picked up to go to the airport. Thankfully Sarah offered more help to finish off the last few bits after I'd gone. Phew. I'm never going to repeat that again – having my leaving do on the last day before moving. Not the best idea I've had but it was also my birthday and always like to have people around.
Up early this morning – was it 5am? I think so. I had arranged to meet my brother at Stansted to see him before I leave. We both were there later than planned and only had about 5/10 minutes to chat. I felt bad it wasn't longer as they'd been at the Casino the night before but it was great to see him before I went. I know it's only a short flight away but why not meet up while we still had the chance.
I cannot believe I've brought 2 suitcases and posted 2 boxes of paperwork and some clothes. I cannot believe I only have one more suitcase of clothes to bring over – and alot of that space is shoes/boots and coats. Wow, talk about cutting down on my clothes. 3 wardrobes into 2 suitcases.
It feels great to be in Belfast although at the moment it feels like I'm on holiday which is great for now after the busy few weeks I had.
I had a lovely birthday meal with a cake and candles – when was the last time someone had done that for me? Some of the church plant had come over which was good to see them. Such a laugh.
The church plant aren't meeting on a Sunday yet in an official capacity but we meet up and at the moment are going to different churches and have lunch together. The church we went to today I felt very restricted and restrained – very odd feeling not being able to worship freely.
Lunch was great – good opportunity to spend a bit more time with people. They are such a great group. I'm going to enjoy getting to know them and spend more time with them.

Step By Step
Friday 26th June 2009
What an amazing couple of days I've had. I've been blown away.
I have been blessed again. I needed to buy some paint to start decorating earlier in the week and was trying to find the cheapest shop as I didn't have much money. I looked on the mat at the front door – there was an envelope with money in (enough money to get paint and to buy some decent food). Thank You Lord Jesus for your provision and perfect timing. I ask You to bless the mystery giver(s).
I rang Steggles-Larner, a letting agency a couple of my friends are using, earlier in the week and had Chris Larner come round yesterday lunchtime. I explained I had more cleaning, tidying and decorating to do but wanted to know what else I'd need to do to let ou the house. I explained I was going on 11th July and understand it may take a while to find someone. I instructed him to act as agents – I've made a commitment to get things done by then – was that a good idea? Only time will tell.

I slept well that night – having painted most of the living room. I got up the next morning and continued. I figured out that if I could finish downstairs on the Friday upstairs would have to be done over the weekend and I can start packing things up then. It's going to be tight and may mean not much sleep but I've got to do it.
At lunchtime on Friday Steggles-Larner called to say the family really liked the house and want to rent it. Wow, I'm amazed. It gets better. They realised I had lots of decorating to do and wondered if I would reduce the rent for 2 months to enable them to buy paint and decorate to their colours. I think I said Yes before she had even finished speaking. Such a blessing. Such a weight off my mind. The next thing on the list was working out how to get cheap carpets as the one's down are quite dirty. Do I try to get someone to clean or buy new to start with? Not sure I have the money to get new ones but will have to find it somewhere. I'm running out of time. I could feel myself starting to get stressed so turned to prayer again – just a quick one.
Then the phone rang – it was Steggles-Larner again saying they'd arrange to get the carpets cleaned and check the house is clean prior to them moving in. Of course, not doing it free of charge but at least it's something less for me. Not that I'm going to leave it dirty but if I run out of time it's not a problem.
Hallelujah – my expectation for prayers being answered is rising again. It's making me want to stop all work and just pray and pray and pray.
At around 2pm Thursday after I had a phone call requesting a viewing that evening. I said yes as long as they can see past the work I'm in the middle of. They came round about 6pm. I was a little stressed but had the feeling this was a God-incidence – God was working in this viewing. I was trying hard not to get too excited about this because they may not make a decision for a couple of weeks.

Flying Out The House
Thursday 18th June 2009
What a lot of bargains on ebay lately. I've put quite a few larger items of furniture on ebay for bargain prices. Some items went at the ridiculously low prices I entered them on while others were having a battle with a few other members. I got more than I thought for them. The items are slowly being collected. My biggest worry about the prices being so low was that a shop would buy them and sell on and make lots of money, which of course they're quite entitled to do. But thankfully, I think the purchasers have been blessed.
It's feeling as if I've gone full circle – I had a few months when I moved in here without a cooker and now the cookers gone. A couple of weeks of limited eating ahead. It's strange, I'm really wanting to cook lots but know I cannot. I'll have to sort out my kitchen cupboards as I have lots of pulses which I won't be able to microwave! I should have planned ahead and made lots of soup and put in the freezer – never mind, hindsights great.

Another Answer
Saturday 13th June 2009
As I was collecting some information I needed to take with me to Kathryn's I came across a savings statement I had forgotton about. I had started it a few years ago and had to stop paying into a while back. I wanted to keep it for an emergency. Do you know what, I think this is classed as an emergency. After talking a few things through with Kathryn I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. It is not as desperate as I first thought. Kathryn has given me some good advice.
We also chatted about what my plans are. Over the last week or so looking at my finances I realise that if no job is forthcoming soon I will get to a stage where I won't be able to afford to go over to Belfast as I won't have any money left. I've been going round in circles trying to work out what to do. My first thought was to shut up the house and leave it, get a job in Belfast then come back later on to get ready to let. Or to work hard and get the house done soon ready to let. The funny thing is I've booked my ticket – I fly on 11th July early morning. Oooo, that's under a month away. I don't think I can get the house done in that time without lots of help – there is soooo much to do. Kathryn suggested I get an agent round this week to find out how much it could be let for and see what the way forward is for that. Watch this space.

How Tight Can The Belt Go?
Thursday 11th June 2009
You know the phrase “tightening your belt” well mines going to have to be painfully tight. I've created my budget based on what Jobseekers Allowance I'll (hopefully) receive. There is no way I can survive on that. I'm left with not much a week to buy food, clothing (ok don't need to buy every week but most of my clothes are too big now), travelling to interviews and socialising. Hmm, what I'm left with is a quarter of what I would have spent on food for 5 days. I'm going to have to find creative ways of doing things.
I'm really not liking this experience at all. I cannot see a way through at the moment. I'm finding it distressing - a great opportunity to pray more.

Thankfully there was Small Group tonight and I shared my budget with them. Kathryn has offered to walk through my budget and see if there's other things that can be done. I really need to do this. I don't think I've ever shared money details with anyone before but I trust her and know if she has any pearls of wisdom she'll share them.
I've been praising God for all the offers of help I've received today – use of a car, meals and for the unexpected gifts that arrived. Lord Jesus, You are so amazing the way you provide when all else seems hopeless. Thank You.

Hotline To Heaven
Sunday 7th June 2009
Lesley at church asked where I was over Easter. I said at Love Belfast. She asked if I was alright there as she had a desperate need to pray for protection over me. Wow, God's amazing. As I wrote in my entry about Love Belfast it was a great time and lots of revelation but at the same time it was a very challenging time.

Another World
Wednesday 2nd June 2009

What a scary place the job centre in Dereham is. I had an interview to register with them. There weren't many people about when I went in. After filling in various forms and creating a Job Seekers Agreement I was free to go! I turned round and there were lots and lots of people. The atmosphere in that place had significantly. I could sense a huge cloud of frustration and anger I had to walk through. Ouch, I hope I don't lose my peace.
I've been praying lots for energy to keep on tidying and sorting through things. This is hard. I feel there are barriers I need to cross but haven't worked out what they are yet to be able to pray specifically for them. I know I can do this through Your strength.
"Give all your worries to Him because He cares for you" 1 Peter 5:7
How have I forgotton that verse? It's strange how reading it again it prompts me – praying I don't forget (but remembering verses is not my strong point!).

Lost In Praise Forevermore

Thursday 29th May 2009

Last night I made sure I was able to pray and worship the same time Citygroup was happening like I did last week. It was strange, I'd made this decision last week and speaking to Trish before she went to Citygroup she suggested I do that.
I had a long time worshipping and again the prayers were flowing. My main prayers were protection – physically, mentally and spiritually - over all involved in the church plant.
I prayed against any attempt hairy legs would make during my sleep tonight as last week I was spiritually attacked. I prayed but each time they came back until I got out of bed and demanded they flee from me in Jesus' name – they went then and I had a lovely sleep.
Tonight I gave a short presentation to the church about the work going on in Serbia. There were lots of questions being asked. I prayed earlier on in the day that some people would attend. Quite a few people came – it's half-term so some families are away and couldn't make it. It was better to do it this week as the centre is booked up for another few weeks. I had to re-do my presentation. I was upset as the one I had prepared was quite good with a variety of photo's to break up my talking. My pc crashed and wouldn't turn on. I had 30 minutes to pull a presentation together. I was very limited with my photo's I could use, but a brief presentation was made.

"You're The King Of This City"
 Sunday 17th May 2009
My heart broke during church today for Belfast. We were singing “You're the King Of This City”. It reminded me so much of Love Belfast. I didn't quite understand at that point what it meant. Part of the preach today was on Paul's deep sorrow and anguish for the lost. Ahhh, I'm beginning to understand now. I began to sense God was saying not to worry as there are good people already in Belfast working with the unsaved and making progress. He knows the good work being done and the heart of all there and is very pleased.
There was a regional celebration this evening at Aylsham which I went to. It was great to catch up with so many people. I felt God was saying to trust in Him with all I own – it all belongs to Him. Even if I feel I'm getting rid of a part of who I am and also have to let go of Ma and Pa I need to do this to be able to move on to the better times ahead. It will be a healing process which may bring up some baggage but His hand is over me and He will guide me through. I AM NOT ALONE.

There Is No Small Part To Play
 Friday 15th May 2009
I was quite surprised how few people from Wellspring knew I was back. I returned with very limited credit on my mobile – which was used trying to get my landline reinstated and trying to make contact with R G Carter's and employment agencies. As my first week progressed I bumped into people in the town from church who would have walked past me had I not spoken (they weren't expecting to see me so didn't register it was me!). It turned out for the good in a way as it meant I met people slowly and got back into things at a slower pace.
It is really odd feeling being back in my house – it is so big. I cannot get used to not having the cat or rabbit about. The fish are getting special treatment as I'm not distracted by other animals. Sarah and Andy have done a smashing job looking after them. One poor fish waited for me to return before he died.
It's the end of the first week and I have my landline back – I feel more connected. I've set myself a little challenge – not to connect the tv's to the aerials until I'm working – one less expense to worry about. I'm not too sure I'll be able to do that – knowing CSI is on and not watching it will be difficult.
I'm beginning to realise what a daunting task I have ahead of me – sharing my news about moving to Belfast to help with the church plant and getting the house let. Looking around the place I'm wondering what I need to sell and what I can take with me to Belfast. At the moment I'm hoping to get a temping job/s to finance redecorating and getting jobs done and to be out in Belfast by September. I'm unsure where to start on the house. First things first, it really needs a good dusting and hoover then I can start clearing things.
I have a desperate need to worship and to praise God – there is so much I need to thank Him for. I'm off to hunt out my hi-fi to put on my worship songs (where did I put them??)
I've been questioning how to reconnect with church and move forwards. Again I feel like I'm part of 2 churches (at times it feels like 3 but have to concentrate on the here and now and the future, not the past). God's reminded me there's no small part to play in the body of Christ. We are ALL a separate but necessary part – unique. God has made us this way for a reason. We each have our own role – if we don't do it no-one else is able to do it for us. What would the body of Christ miss out if you don't step out?
I have amazing peace about being out of work. Even after ringing R G Carter's and finding out there's been another run of redundancies I'm still at peace. I know God has provided a job for me – the right job for me and He'll sustain and provide for me until then.
I have spent lots of time this evening praying for the church plant. I thought it would be a quick run through of a list of people but how wrong was I? I was trying to write the prayers down in my journal but have been unable to keep up. I won't write them down as some things may be personal to them (one of these days I may ask you if these were relevant prayer requests at the time – not ready to ask you yet!).
I have an amazing sense that the power of the Holy Spirit being experienced at Citygroup is a small foretaste of so much more to come.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Counting Down ... My Last Week in Serbia

11th May 2009

Saturday – I arrived at church a little earlier than the team were expected. I had cleared the day to finish off some cleaning and to welcome the team. I managed to finish a bit earlier than I thought so I sat in the courtyard reading. I'm really going to miss this place, I love relaxing in the courtyard. I've finally made a decision to come home with the Team – a week earlier than planned. It'll be good to have some company on the way back.
I had a phone call from Sonja to say the team were about 30km's away. I wasn't sure what that meant in time-wise but thought a rough estimate. I didn't want to go outside and check the road every time I heard something bigger than a car. I'd be up and down so many times. I checked my watch and thought I'd relax for 20 minutes or so. When 20 minutes were up I put on the kettle then popped my head out the gate. As I looked down the road a minibus passed. Could this be the team? It pulled in – yes it was. What great timing. It was great to see them, cannot believe they are here. I know it sounds odd but it feels as if family have returned. I'm looking forward to spending time with these guys and getting to know them better.
On Sunday I had invited Vesna, Slaviša and Dajan over for lunch. Dajan didn't come – i think he'd have been a bit bored. It was great being able to share more with Vesna and Slaviša. We were sharing cooking tips – me being able to share a cooking tip, new experience for me. But my tip I cannot take the credit – Katarina gave me it and I passed onto Vesna and onto you. So simple – make a paste from garlic cloves and some salt and mix it into plain yogurt. Goes lovely with pasta and many other dishes.

The afternoon passed by too quickly. This was the last time I'd be able to spend with Vesna this trip as Faculty will be very demanding. That's when it hit me I'm going home and have to say some more “see you soon”s.
I had a few things I needed to get done before I returned to the UK so I didn't see the team until the Tuesday. Wow, they have made some fantastic progress. They have come over to do some decorating. I've been looking at the doors for months itching to get some paint stripper on them – that's what they've been doing. They've stripped 2 of the doors and repainted them. Such a different. The windows are being done as well. What can I say but you guys are such hard workers and have really made a difference.
I spent time with the team on Tuesday in prayer and worship. The Holy Spirit was definitely with us. It was fantastic. There were so many prayers and prophecy for each of us. I feel very blessed to be able to spend time with Team Attleborough. I raise my glass to you and say “Asphalt”:0)
During the week there were lots of people coming and going from downstairs. I was amazed to see how many people were blessed by the humanitarian aid. By the time I left most of it had been distributed. Sladjaner had worked hard in organising people.
The next few days passed by quickly – painting, cleaning, having fun, cooking, shopping. I found it very useful to be busy and keep focused on something.
My last day arrived. This was going to be a difficult day and I needed to be busy. The team had finished most of their work and were taken to Niška Banja. It was a beautiful day for a walk about and a relax by the spring. Then they were introduced to the wonderful pancakes (getting hungry just thinking of them!). Some had savoury then wanted a sweet one as well. Mmmm, šlag, plazma and chocolate sauce. Oh, there I go again made me think of Bombay's hot chocolate. Why oh why aren't our hot chocolates that delicious and thick here? It is true – Serbian's make the best hot chocolate (at least the best I've ever had).
There was church communion, meal and party in the evening. It was great. One of the reasons was to introduce Team Attleborough to the church and thank them. Another reason was to say goodbye to me and the other was to have some fun together. I found the worship very emotional – this was the last time for a while that I'd be worshipping in Serbian.
I'm now back in Norfolk. Team Attleborough were such a great support on the way home and the first day back. I decided to stay over in Attleborough to help at Ignite and stay for Sunday Service. I've missed english services. I didn't realise how much.
My house is so dusty. I cannot wait to clean it. But now the hard work really starts ...

Clocking Up Bus Miles

30th April 2009
What a shame we cannot get bus miles. Over the last couple of days I've managed to collect a few.
My first week back in Serbia was spent doing alot of travelling. I had arranged to stay with Marija in Knjazevac for a couple of days. I had to postpone us going because my cold I came back with went to my chest. I wasn't sure I'd be able to go at all. On the day I was meant to be travelling I was finding it so hard to breath. I had to re-register with the Police because I went with Sonja to collect her mum and it meant I hadn't got a visa. On the way back home Vlada dropped me off at the Pharmacy to buy some drugs. I wasn't sure how quick they'd work. On the way bus stop one of the taxi's was trying to get my attention. It was Mihailo. I was so relieved to see him. He took me home free of charge - thank you. I wasn't sure I'd be able to walk from the bus stop. I just about made it upstairs and went straight back to bed.

On waking up Tuesday I felt a bit better - not completely well but able to breath alot easier. I made a decision to go away. Marija said the town was very small with not much to do so I thought I'd be resting alot of the time.
We went by train to Knjazevac. When I say train, it was 2 carriages. Marija cannot travel by bus. The train took over 2 hours. I have never been on such a slow train journey! It only takes an hour by car!
The first night was awful. I'm not sure if it was my sinus' making me so rough or a migraine brewing so I took myself off to bed to hopefully sleep it off. I woke up on Wednesday in a hyper mood and very relieved to be feeling much better. I could tell Marija had been worried about me.
The next couple of days were spent walking around town, visiting her friends. Some of them spoke english, others didn't. It was good getting to see a little bit more of the country.
On Saturday I went to see my dear friend, Vesna and her family in Aleksinac. I managed to buy a bus ticket – and without the help of a piece of paper. I was very excited to be going to see her and meet her family. We've been talking about meeting up for months and I cannot believe it has happened.
Vesna was waiting for me at the bus station. Vesna showed me around town – doing her tour guide duty. It felt about the same size as Knjazevac, but I may be wrong. It was interesting walking about the town.
We had to walk through a park to get to Vesna's house. The park was on the side of a hill. From near the top you can see across the valley – can see for miles. What a view, so beautiful.
When we got to Vesna's I was introduced to Dajan (Vesna's son) and her two nieces. They were all very shy and didn't want to speak english in front of me. After a while Slaviša (Vesna's husband) and her sister came (I'm really sorry, I cannot remember names!).
Vesna and her sister prepared some krompir pite (potato pies) and showed me how to make them. I cannot believe how simple it looked to make the pastry and roll it out – I think it's because they've been making them years and it won't be as easy for me! I was really pleased to learn how to cook something. Apparently it is a Bosnian version of potato pie – yummy.
Vesna was a fantastic translator. I tried to understand the Serbian conversations and questions as much as I could be still have a problem with constructing a sentence. Slaviša kept telling Vesna to speak in Serbian – that way I'd learn quicker. We tried to communicate with him speaking English and me replying in Serbian. We didn't get very far!
Vesna's cousin, Violet, and husband came over to see the “English”. They have returned to Serbia after living in Luxembourg. When they arrived I started to speak in French which confused them a bit until they realised what language was being spoken. It was very strange speaking to Vesna's cousin's husband (is there a bg there?). His english is very good – only a slight accent. He uses alot of slang phrases. I couldn't stop laughing at him. He, like many people, learnt english via films.
The family couldn't believe that I was spending time with them. Vesna is in her first year at Faculty which the family are surprised at. Then to have a “real life english person” in the house spending time with them was fantastic. They were surprised how much english Vesna speaks and how we get on. I'm not sure what their ideas of an english person are but I'm nothing like that. Looks like I've left them with a good impression.
Vesna and I hadn't made firm arrangements as to when I'd go home. I thought that about 8pm would be a good time to leave. This came and went and then started to get dark. Hmm, what was I to do? No problem, I'd stay over. Thankfully Naomi and Miloš were planning on coming to church and had to come through Aleksinac so they picked me up.
Vesna had lots of questions that we hadn't managed to cover so we arranged to meet up in the week.
On Tuesday I went to see Naomi and Miloš in Sokobanja – another bus trip! Last year Naomi and I had arranged to meet up on 30th April this year to praise God for the amazing 12 months we had (at the time we were having an amazing time and thought it'd be good to catch up). We needed more than a day. I think we had only managed to cover 3 months. We have met up early because 1st May is Labour Day in Serbia – a big holiday and N&M were going to Novi Sad. Next year we may have to a few days to work through. It was amazing to read about the prayers which were answered and how amazing the answers were – exceeding what we thought may be the answer. It was so inspiring to talk about things and praise God and look forward to the next part of our adventures with Him. We were wondering where we'd be in 12-months and we haven't got a clue. Last year we never thought we'd both be in Serbia, a bus ride away from each other. Isn't God amazing how he works things out?
What a horrible bus ride home. I was fine until just after we left Aleksinac. We went a strange way home. I had a flash back to the last time I got a bus from Sokobanja (last year). We had to change buses and I was starting to panic in case I was meant to get off the bus. That's what I get for listening to other travellers conversations and trying to work out what they were saying. I must have got it wrong. I kept praying and tried to keep calm. I decided not to ask any of the passengers as it wouldn't have helped if I had known I was not going to Niš. I was trying to work out what to do if I was heading to Leskovac. I've been there before and know Vlada & Sonja know people there. The worry I had was if my phone charge would last to explain what I'd done. I eventually decided to enjoy the rest of the ride and deal with things if/when they happened. I was watching out of the window and started to get a bit excited. Was this the approach to Niš? The more I saw the more excited I became. Yes, it was. The bus had gone the long way round all the villages. Wow, I was sooooo happy to reach the bus station. Such a relief.
We have a team arriving from Attleborough, Norfolk on Saturday. I'm sooooo excited. I cannot wait for Amy to come over. It feels like years since we last did a Friday night youth outreach in Dereham and I'm so excited to show her and the rest of the team Niš. I think there are 6 on the team. It's been fun getting the rooms ready.
I went to see Vesna again on Wednesday afternoon. She is part of a choir but unfortunately I'm going to miss her next concert so she wanted me to attend one of her choir practices. We had a few hours before choir practice so we sat in the park on the hill. She brought her questions with her. It was very strange listening to some of her notes. Some of the information is out of date – I was being grilled about different aspects of UK life. It made me realise how little I know about different regions in the UK. I hope my answers are accurate and she gets a good mark! (did you?).
Choir practice was good – amazing to hear how powerful their voices are. Wow, I could imagine them doing their concert. One of the songs, a Serbian hymn, knocked my socks off. Fantastic. I got goose bumps! After we went into the cafe but quickly had to leave to catch my last bus. I just about caught the last bus. They made sure I got on a fast bus home this time!
Thursday – how wet can a day get? I was soaked getting to church. When I arrived I saw a huge yellow lorry. The Humanitarian Aid had arrived. It was pouring with rain and lots had to be unloaded. I managed to help a little but didn't want to get too wet in case it made my chest worse – didn't want it to get any worse. I set up refreshments for Coffee Pauza. Only one lady arrived. It was a shame as I had saved some of the cleaning and bed making for the ladies to help. There was lots of activity downstairs – some of the Humanitarian Aid was taken to Aleksinac and another place – Niš is the drop-off for this area of Serbia. I have never seen so much. How is this going to distributed? Where do you start?

Friday, 24 April 2009

Back to Serbia With Love

I'm surprised how quickly I've adjusted to being back. In fact I don't think I had to adjust at all. I felt very alien in the UK but at home here. I found the UK very materialistic and commercialised. I felt very uncomfortable with it. It has been a good insight into some of the problems I'll have adjusting back to UK life next month.

Argh, only one more month left. I'm really excited about the next month here. I don't feel it is only a month left – God can work in a second so the opportunities to change lives is immense. I love seeing people grow in Christ and feel there is more to come over the next few weeks. I want more opportunities to plant some seeds ready for the Holy Spirit to grow them. It'll be great to hear in the months and years ahead how people have grown and where their walk is leading them.

(I) Love Belfast

Naomi, Milos, Mira and I headed to Northern Ireland for Love Belfast. It was such a great event and great to meet up with people interested or already in the church plant. I've heard about people and been praying for them but to meet them has really helped. It is really encouraging to hear how the churches of Belfast are working together and are supporting each other. The team have already bonded and I think this weekend has helped them grow closer together.
I think each of us has found the weekend very challenging.
The Serbs – Milos and Mira - struggled with the culture shock. They kept comparing things to Serbia and how much better Serbia is. I suppose being out of the country for a short time and seeing so many differences was difficult for them. It took me a few weeks to adjust but they had to do that in a few days. I found it difficult as I was woken up on Friday by a very painful foot. I could hardly walk. It continued throughout the weekend. It was slightly better each day but still painful. Now back in Serbia it is so much better. It made me more determined to enjoy my time in Belfast. I was a little quieter than I wanted to be due to the pain but I was still able to socialise a bit.
It was lovely to stay with David and Trish Capener. They are renting a great house – there were 5 of us staying with them. I hope we weren't too much trouble for you. They were such an encouragement to us all. I didn't realise how much I missed them until I spent some time with them. I wonder who else will make me feel that when I get back to Norfolk.
Hello to new friends, it was great to meet up with you and thank you for making the weekend so much fun. Thank you for your prayers to heal my foot. It's nearly completely healed. Hairy legs didn't succeed in disrupting my time in Belfast.

No April Fool

We had a Wednesday evening free from any planned activities. I've been trying to hold a film night for the girlies for ages and most of them are only free on a Wednesday. We normally have Communion one week followed by Student night alternately so to have a free Wednesday was an opportunity not to be missed. At first the guest list was only 3 but including Tracy and I we had 9 over for dinner.
The film didn't end up happening but after having chats, dinner and playing games it was still a great night. There was a mixture of believers and non-believers. It was so good to see them all mixing. One of my students came along which was great as she may be encouraged to attend a student night now. We had to ask them to leave as they needed to catch the last bus. We listened to them going downstairs and they were all laughing. I felt God was here with us tonight and something has grown among them. Watch this space.
I spent a good few days with my brother and family. It was great to catch up with them and spend quality time there. I also enjoyed catching up with some friends back in Essex – 4 of them I haven't seen for 4 years since I left. It was also an opportunity to reflect on my time in Serbia.
I realise that some of my blog has been about my struggles here – but I felt I needed to be honest about things. It has been very isolating here at times but the good moments have really made up for it. It took a while for things to develop but I feel they are now.

My photo of one of my favourite flowers
 What a busy month March was. We had a visit from Andy and Helen Moss from Great Yarmouth. They were here for 10 days which flew by. It was great having them here. They had a great impact on the church.
We had our first MAD day with around 20 children. There were activities and games for them to play. One of the girls remembered me from last summer – at least that's what I thought she said. It was a great chance for the church to look at the MAD day structure and whether we need it to be changed as the children are getting older. The older one's didn't engage as much as they had done in previous days so maybe we need to run a youth group for them.
Tracy – a girl from a New Frontiers church in Bristol – also arrived. She is planning on living in Nis for a year or so from September. This was a bit of a taster for her. It was great sharing the apartment. I was concerned before she arrived as I've had the apartment to myself and wondered if it'd be difficult. I didn't need to worry. She was such an encouragement and I can see her doing good things here. It's made it a little easier to leave knowing she'll be taking over some of my work. She will be kept very busy here and I think she enjoyed the time getting to know people.

I've finally met 3 of my neighbours – all within a week. I feel a bit better having spoken to them, even if it was only to introduce myself. I just have to remember what they look like!
I had children's work for one of Andy's preaches. It was so funny. For weeks now it has only been Iva and Milos. I took a few extra craft items with me just in case there were a few more. I had 7 children with me. Church usually finishes by 12.45. Helen came out at 12.50 and said they hadn't even started preaching yet. Ooops, I was struggling finding things to do with them. Thankfully Helen stayed and helped. It was difficult keeping them quiet. I think church finished at 13.40. What a marathon children's work that was. Only one more to do!
I had 2 days at Faculty helping Sonja's students with conversation. It was such a great time. I was very nervous before I started but we had enough material to keep conversations going. It was a great opportunity to find out what youth think about and their views on things. I'm really surprised how much I enjoyed doing that and it has raised a few questions for me what I want to do workwise when I get back. It's started me thinking again about doing a degree but am unsure in what and where and when .... etc. As an introduction activity we had to think up 2 truths and 1 lie. I found this really difficult – thinking of a lie. I changed them each day. I think they were * I speak french * I've travelled around Europe * this is my fourth time in Nis. What do you think the lie is?
We had another Holy Spirit evening at church. On the previous Holy Spirit evening I didn't ask for prayer as I felt the native church needed to receive more than me. But on this night I felt I needed to have some impartation. There were lots of people attending which was great. I went forward for prayer for the gift of Tongues. I feel I've made a step forward and have faith I've been given the gift. The joy of heaven came upon me again. My stomach hurt so much.
I've had my last serbian lesson. It was surprising how sad I felt. I really enjoyed them even though at times they were very difficult. I'll have to pop in and see Tina – it's handy as the school is opposite the church building so no excuse!
We had a quiz night at the church. It was well attended and well organised, well done Martin and Irena. I was on a team with a couple of students. We did really well. We came 2nd – 1.5 points in it. We couldn't believe it. We lost to the teachers but gave them a run for their money. I think it was the country outlines that let us down. Never mind, I'm sure there'll be a next time!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Shaken, not stirred
I went to Naomi's church on Saturday and met with God in a strong way. I was very surprised. At first I was having trouble worshiping, I just didn't feel like it. I was upset at this as it was a great worship band. I felt i as at a cross-roads and had a decision to make. I could either continue plodding along or take another direction which would be challenging but would make me grow. I chose the challenging direction - I have my seatbelt already tightened. I recommitted my life to God and submitted my future again. I have been struggling with still being single at my age the last little while and have now it go. Not in a way that I don't want to get married but in a calming way that I can move on and be more prayerful about it. There was so much more - I won't write too much as some of it I'm still praying about.
Oh, so many prayers are being answered. But not just answered - they're being answered on a much higher level. This is so encouraging that I'm changing the way I'm praying. I've been reading lots of books on prayer since I've been here and have realised that sometimes I've been praying answers (Lord, please do this...etc) instead of requests. I've also started to pray specifically. I think the most important thing I've had revealed to me is to pray for me. I pray lots for other people but hardly for me. It's difficult for me to think of prayer requests at times but I'm making myself think as we can all do with prayer.
I've certainly had a change of attitude. I don't know if it's because time here is getting shorter or if something else has happened. But I definitely feel different. More positive and upbeat and excited. Watch this space . . . .
I'm still missing friends and family lots but I don't think that's going to change much (well, maybe settle a little) but it's 3 weeks until back in the UK so not too long to go until then.

Another Farewell
Wednesday 4th March
I had some bad news late last Saturday (28th February). One of my friends here (Katarina), one of the ladies I was discipling, died suddenly. I couldn't believe it. She was 63 with some health problems but no indication she was going to die. Katarina and I had arranged to meet after Church on Sunday for a cheese fondue with her husband. We were both (maybe all three of us) were really looking forward to it. When we were arranging the lunch in her texts to me she kept asking if I could be patient for the cheese to melt. Little did I know I would have to wait until I am brought home or Jesus returns. She sent me a strange text “did I know I was a very special person? Well you do now and you are” - it seemed strange as it was in the middle of the texts making arrangements. I shall always remember her saying “When shall we three meet again” when Natasha, Katarina and myself were making arrangements. It really made her laugh. I know the answer to that one.
God has certainly been working in this situation. Her husband, Vito, is a Serbian Orthodox Christian (I'm unsure if he is practicing or the usual Serbian response to being asked if you're a Christian). It was Katarina who came to church. They are not having a Orthodox funeral and have asked Vlada to do the talk and the meal is being held at the church building. Hopefully hearts will be opened today in ways they didn't think possible.
I am so glad I had a change of heart meeting with Katarina. I was a little scared to get close to her as it would be difficult at the end of my stay here. I would have regretted not getting close to her – and looking back at the support we gave each other wouldn't have happened.
Wow, I managed to buy a return ticket to Novi Sad. I tried to ask but the lady realised I was reading from a piece of paper and asked for the paper. Was I really that bad? We managed to communicate somehow.
I'm sitting by myself (first time) in MacDonalds. I haven't had breakfast and thought I may not be able to eat until gone 5pm so thought I had better eat something before the funeral. I'm really not looking forward to it but really feel I need to go as we were close. I'm surprised how relaxed I feel sitting on a table by myself. Part of the reason is because I'm able to write in here and look busy. I think I can handle sitting in a cafe (preferably an internet cafe) by myself and catching up with emails and blog, etc.

Well, I managed to get through the funeral. I'm so glad that is over with. I found it extremely distressing.  The meal was back at the church and it was a great opportunity for people to meet us and see the building.
I'm off to pack my suitcase as tomorrow I'm off to see Naomi in Novi Sad. It'll be good to catch up. So glad she's here.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3
I had a very interesting time with 2 of the ladies from the church on Wednesday. This was my first time doing some studying with them. They are both at different levels (yes, I know we all are!). One is wanting to start reading the bible but we’re not sure if she’s given her life to Christ yet. The other lady has been a “Christian” (read on and you’ll understand the inverted comma’s) since she was young. I am very concerned about her – it seems she has a pick and mix faith and has missed/chosen not to believe a very fundamental part of the Christian faith. At least we are having some insight into what her faith is and it gives me something to pray about. I was encouraged because it was obvious we had very different views. I had been praying she wouldn’t instantly dismiss any truth – she hasn’t. I’m praying that she’ll be able to accept the truth.
Oh yes. I had my Serbian test yesterday. It was a test on the first 6 lessons in the book. I spent hours trying to revise. It has highlighted areas I need to work on. It was what I expected – cases (we don’t have an equivalent in English – noun endings change depending upon the action, I think). When using one case and making the adjectives and nouns agree I can just about manage. But give me a paragraph with words missing I need to fill in with the correct case I haven’t a clue, so I guessed! It’s difficult as there are some overlaps in the English explanation. It’s difficult when your teacher has a slightly limited command of English. She does speak good English but it would be good to have a teacher that can explain the grammar in a better way. UK schools really need to teach English grammar (or do they now? They only did the very basics, as in noun-adjective-verb. The rest I learnt whilst learning languages. I was encouraged as Tina (teacher) wasn’t too worried as I can get bye in Nis with the way I speak. I’ve just paid for another month but the lessons have reduced to 60 minutes. It means I won’t be able to finish a lesson in the book each session but it will also mean I won’t have as much to learn so I should hopefully enjoy the lessons instead of it becoming a chore.
In case I don’t get a chance to write again – Happy St David’s Day for Sunday. I’m missing my griddle. I really want to make some Welsh Cakes but cannot figure out how to cook them. Oh, I’ve had an idea which I may try – not going to lose anything. It’ll be good if it works so I can take something to church. That’s a challenge for me to find the ingredients! I’m not sure I’m going to reach the shopping lesson on my course. It should be ok as I'm looking after Milos and Iva tomorrow and they can help me make them.

Goodnight Sweetheart, it's time to go. Bye Sootz
Monday 23rd February 2009
The past few days have been a real struggle. Strange how things work out. For the past 2 weeks I was struggling with being here. I had a good couple of days but then received a disturbing text message which threw me off balance. It was to do with my lovely cat and the lovely family that were looking after him. Cut a long story short, he’s not well. I had been taking to the vets the last few months before I came out here and he’d been given a clean bill of health. The blood tests hadn’t shown any abnormalities. I had been praying his skin condition would settle down but it hadn’t. He had to have a steroid injection every month. By about 3 weeks the effects of the injection started to wear off and he was scratching and uncomfortable. After a night of thinking and praying I felt it was better to let him go – be put to sleep. I feel really bad about not being there but cannot bear to think he’s uncomfortable. Everything that could be done had been and he was with a really caring family who love animals dearly. Hopefully Jo you’ll read this and will be able to have some peace from this. I feel awful leaving him with you but I didn’t know it would be such a difficult time for you. Thank you for the offer of help and giving him a fighting chance.
Losing Sootz has put a new fire in my spirit to ensure my time out hear bears fruit – for others and myself. I don’t want to waste a moment. I’m trying hard not to run ahead of God and to be lead by Him. I have a tendency to always be busy but I sense I’m being taught to rest in Him and be guided by Him more. It is a privilege to be able to spend time daily with Him.

The church here had a great few days with Grantley and Floss Watkins visiting and serving the church. My prayer is that the church continues with the amazing presence of the Holy Spirit and they don’t think it only happens when we have visitors. I pray that the growth and experiences will be sustained.
What has the next week in store? Team meeting followed by Serbian lesson followed by planning Children’s work tomorrow. Discipleship and study with two ladies followed by student evening on Wednesday. Coffee Break followed by Serbian lesson on Thursday. Church cleaning, bible study on Friday. I know it doesn’t look like much at the moment but I’ve worked out to only plan a day ahead as things change quickly here. I’m hoping to meet up with at least 2 people from the church and a student.
I had another bus experience yesterday on the way to church. A lady asked me something and I’m getting better at saying I’m English. I was expecting the usual response. This time she said in good English “I speak good English”. She wanted to know if I was waiting for her bus and how long I had been. She then gave me her life history. As we were getting on our bus she said she was going to a church but not the usual one in Pantalej (same part of the city as the Good News is in). I asked if it was a Protestant one. She said it was not quite. I was very curious. It sounds like she could have been going to the Baptist church. She took the address of the Good News. We exchange mobile numbers and as we parted she said that she needs to get credit on her mobile but would like to stay in touch. That was fine with me. I wasn’t expecting to hear from her for a few days but had a call today just to say Hi. She’ll contact me again as she’d like me go to go round for coffee and a chat. Watch this space. It sounds like Good News church has had some contact with her. I pray there will be fruit from the work they’ve already done with her.

Hot Water Spa Time
 Friday 13th February 2009
Wow, I’ve just been swimming at the local spa. It was great. So cheap, so warm. I didn’t bring a swimming costume with me as the only swimming pool I had heard about is an outside one and thought that it may be cold for most of the time I’m out here. Don’t panic – I did have a swimming costume on. Katarina has given me one of her older ones to use. That was such a relief it fitted. It was a great time relaxing and getting to know Katarina and Natasha better. It was an international event. Katarina is German, Natasha is Serbian. So between us we were each speaking a different language to our native one. No, I haven’t grasped the language completely but I’m speaking a mixture of Serbian and English in the same sentence. It’s strange I don’t realize I’m doing it until someone mentions it. I don’t do that with everyone as I’m sure I’d get stranger looks!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Ucim Srpski
Has it only been 3.5 weeks? It feels like much more – but in a positive way. It’s good to finally have a whole evening to myself. I think it’s only been a week but it’s good to be able to have some dinner, sit down and relax then get on with some work.

I’ve started my Serbian lessons. It’s good to make a start. 3 hours a week so not too much. I’m still not sure I’ve learnt the alphabet for tomorrow. I cannot get my tongue/mouth around two of the sounds. I know they are meant to sound different but I’m not having much success. It’s like going to speech therapy all over again. I’m trying not to watch too much English television to get used to hearing Serbian. I’m picking up some words – even if I do not know what they mean. Thankfully at the flat there is recnik (dictionary) so that I can look up some words.

I’m meeting more students which is great. In a couple of weeks the student work will start.

I’m trying to get used to Serbian hospitality. I’m beginning to learn not to eat any food before visiting. They remind me of Mrs Doyle from Father Ted – “Go on, go on, go on, go on”. They say things much better than that. “Are you hungry?” “No”.
They wait a short time. “Can I get you some cake?” “No, thank you”. Another short time – “Would you like ….” Even if you give in early more food appears. I try to let people know early on that I’m a vegetarian as a bit of a warning. I’m afraid I’d have to offend someone by not eating their meat.

I’m enjoying catching up on my films. Some I haven’t heard off but am loving flicking through peoples DVD collections to see what films they have. The Copyright laws are different here so can download films from the internet.

Talking of the internet – this time tomorrow I’ll hopefully be a step nearer to better internet connection. But I’ll still have to be patient and wait for the modem/router to arrive. I cannot wait to be able to chat to people again. I’m really missing speaking to people back home – especially brother as I still haven’t found out how their Christmas and New Year was in Oz. “It’s good to talk”. Will we be able to have an interactive small group meeting, I wonder?...

Monday, 12 January 2009

The first week
I cannot believe it's only my first week. It feels as if I've been here a little longer. I'm feeling settled in my flat and am getting to know the different buses I can catch to get to different parts of town. My flat is superb. I'm getting used to hearing the other occupants of the building. Not that it's overly noisy but I'm used to living in a semi with no-one the other side. I've decided to sleep in the big bed, which means I have to make up the sofa bed each evening. I find I sleep better in a bigger bed. It's quite a novelty now and it makes sure I keep the living area tidy, so it's a good thing. Karolina worked hard in creating some cupboard/wardrobe space for me, thank you. My clothes fit great into one of the wardrobes. I really must fully unpack the case so I can see what I do have.
I had a good day Saturday looking after Milos and Iva. We played some games. I didn't realise how long a game could last. At first Milos and I started playing Ludo. I lost track after 2 hours how long it lasted. After that Iva and I played Snakes and Ladders. We gave up after an hour. Unbelievable.
After Vlada and Sonja came back Sonja kindly dropped me off at Martin and Peter's. It was good to spend some time with them. Boys and their toy's though – I can sort of understand and X-box but a large flat screen tv? I must admit, it does look good and is great for game playing.
Yesterday was the first church service. Services are now in the morning, starting at 11am. Martin and I had arranged to get there earlier as the rooms needed to be cleaned before the service. We had planned to start at 9am, which meant I'd have to leave around 8am as I wasn't sure on the buses on a Sunday. I missed my bus by a matter of seconds. If the road hadn't been slippery I may have managed to catch it, but I'm still a bit nervous of the snow and ice (I'm a lot better than I was). So I decided to walk to find out how long it takes. I had a feeling it could be about an hour and wasn't completely sure of the way but still tried. It did take an hour and I managed not to get lost. There wasn't too much cleaning to do, thankfully as I was nearly an hour later than planned – but I wasn't worried as Martin wasn't there either.
It was good to spend time at the church and with the members of the church. There were some familiar faces and some new ones. The service was good. It hit me that this is my church for the next few months. I think it has finally sunk in I'm here for a while – not too sure how that feels at the moment, one minute it feels ok the next not so good! I have a few phone numbers to arrange to meet with some ladies.
Last night I had my first migraine in months. I thought it was my usual sinus pain but I was wrong. It is difficult to distinguish at times if it is sinus pain or migraine pain. I took some pain killers but it didn't touch the pain. That's when I realised I was in for a bad time. I made up my bed which made my pain worse but I had to try to get to sleep as soon as possible. It was too late. I spent the few hours either with head down the toilet or trying to get some rest.
I'm now sitting by the light of the laptop as my part of town has a power cut. It's been over an hour and it seems to be spreading. The block of flats opposite here (a bit of distance away) had electricity which gave some sort of light but they've gone out now. I thought I'd use the time wisely and catch up on the blog (will try to upload as soon as electricity is back). It's amazing how much we use electricity for, the things we cannot do when we haven't any. I'd love to sit and read but cannot see the page without being blinded by the flame. Never mind, surely it cannot last forever?!
I'm feeling a little lost – most of it's due to being impatient. I want to do so much here but things are very slow at the moment. The students aren't back to university yet so some are still in their home town. I'm unsure what I need to do here and what activities I need to sort out or help with or just attend. I know all this will become clearer in time and some of it is to do with the culture. It's a shame, I wanted to ring one of the ladies from church tonight to see if she's free tomorrow but as the phone's a walkabout one I cannot even do that. I have to remember it's only my first week of many. I must enjoy this spare time because once I start Serbian lesson's I can see my spare time being used up by learning.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Cathy's in Nis
I arrived Monday evening. I'm trying not to use the internet connection at the flat too much because it's pay per minute and I've already spent too long on so far! I'm in the process of having it changed which will be great.
I'm surprised how settled I'm feeling. It was a great way of easing into life here having some company at the flat for the first few nights, thanks Naomi.
I had a chilled out day yesterday. Thought I'd try to start how I mean to go on by cleaning the flat - not that it needs it. I ended up blowing a fuse. I tried to sort it myself but it didn't work. I hadn't got any lights. Luckily some sockets still worked so I had one light on but had to feel my way in the bathroom. Sretan came round to sort things out, did the same thing as I did and the lights came on. Work that one out.... I felt terrible - I hadn't been in the flat a week before things start going wrong.
I think next week may still be a little slow as things start picking up mid-January but am hoping to meet a few people next week, even if it's only one a day. I'll know more after church tomorrow.