December 27, 2015
Celebrating Christ's Birth (II)

This week we have had two more Christmas events. The first one was the Christmas worship service and meal provided by the church on Sunday, December 20. We expected more people than on an average Sunday morning, and that is what happened. There were roughly 70 or 80 people at the service at Lezha Academic Center. (Our church building can only hold about 40 people at its fullest.)

Sunday worship and Christmas program at LAC

Christmas Sunday Church Program (20-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

The program included a message by pastor Rafael Tartari, a re-enactment drama of Christ's birth by some students from LAC, and distribution of shoebox gift packages provided by Samaritan's Purse.

Christmas drama done by some students

Drama with the Reading of the Christmas Story (20-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

handing out shoeboxes from Samaritan's Purse

Distribution of Samaritan's Purse Gift Boxes (20-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

The meal afterwards was a combination of food brought in by persons from the congregation and food cooked in the school's kitchen.

three student girls ready for the meal

Girl Students from LAC Begin Their Meal (20-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

several men have finished their meals

A Group of Men Are into Their Meal (20-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Elsie filled a grandma role with Sofia, the pastor's daughter. And both of us did our usual roles of trying to connect with regular attendees and new attendees. Some new friends from this fall at church gave me my first taste of anchovies by sharing them with the group during the meal on Sunday. Their family's business "makes" the anchovies and ships them to various countries in the rest of Europe.

Elsie holds Sofia, the pastor's daughter

Elsie and Sofia Find Love in Each Other's Arms (20-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

And of course there must be some Albanian dancing.

a group of persons do an Albanian dancce

Zeni Leads an Albanian Dance (20-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Our friend and fellow teacher, Robert Cook, has his hands full as he holds their two children--Emily and Joseph. His wife Mira is not in the photo.

Robert Cook, teacher and pastor, with his children

Robert Cook Has His Hands Full with Emily and Joseph (20-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

The church celebration was followed on Wednesday evening with the LAC Christmas party. We met at a restaurant for a meal, a re-enactment of the Christmas story, and dancing. It is always nice to arrive early so that I can meet and chat with students, their parents, and fellow faculty and staff before the loud music starts.

staff and teachers at LAC Christmas party

LAC Faculty and Staff Ready for the Christmas Party (23-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Rafael and Morela at the LAC Christmas party

Rafael and Morela (Cook at LAC) Await the Meal (23-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

a student (Dea), assistant principal (Bardha), guidance counselor (Ina)

Dea (Student), Bardha (Assistant Principal) and Ina (Guidance Counselor) (23-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

students ready for the Christmas drama

Student Drama Group Awaits the Re-enactment of the Christmas Story (23-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

"Mary", "Joseph" and "baby Jesus" with the "shepherds"

Two Shepherds, Joseph, Mary, and Another Shepherd during the Drama (23-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Fatlum and his mother sitting beside John Janett

Fatlum and His Mother at Our Table with John (23-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

on the otherside of John were Katrina, Elsie and I

John, Katrina, Elsie and I Were at the Same Table (23-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

a group of dancers doing an Albanian dance

A Student Leads an Albanian Dance (23-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

LAC senior, Inda, and her twin younger siblings

Inda (an LAC Senior) and Her Twin Brother and Sister (23-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

There is something very good about knowing how to celebrate God's good gifts. And we pray that others might truly know the gift of Jesus Christ--God come to live, to die, to be resurrected and to ascend again to be fully the one God in heaven.

December 19, 2015
Celebrating Christ's Birth (I)

Our formal Christmas celebrations began with listening to Christmas music on my favorite Southern Gospel radio station, WBTX (Broadway, Virginia, USA) after the US Thanksgiving Day. We can listen to it streaming online here in Albania. At our Bible study meeting in our apartment on December 3, we sang a number of Christmas carols. This past Thursday evening, we shared Christmas memories and scripture giving us hope even in difficult situation.

Bible study in our apartment

A Bible Study in Our Apartment (3-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Then we saw some Christmas decorations showing up in shops and then over the streets.

artificcial Christmas streeds for sale in a shop in Lezhe

Christmas Trees Lined up Outside a Shop (2-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Chwristmas street lights in Llezhe

Christmas Lights Strung across a Street (18-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

The latter part of this week, events picked up speed. During school on Wednesday, the students practiced for video Irgen was making for Lezha Academic Center. Most of them also gathered after school to say Christmas greetings in Albanian and English for the video. My video version of that greeting is only five seconds long, so it will not take long to download.  

senior students practicew for the video

Seniors under Ina's Direction Prepare for the Video (16-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Ergen videos the seniors when they have it down pat

Irgen Videos the Seniors (16-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

LAC studewnts in my short video 

Many Students Share Christmas Greetings in English and Shqip (16-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

During the month the teachers and staff and participated in a "secret angel" activity. The on Friday evening we gathered for potluck food and good fellowship at Klementina's home. While there we revealed who was whose secret angel and gave our last gifts.

the table was spread with way too  much food for us to eqt it all gone 

A Wonderful Spread of Savory  Dishes (18-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

time to guess who are secret angel was 

Beginning to Reveal the Secret Angels (18-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

...and time to open the presents 

Opening Our Presents Was Joyful Fun (18-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Tomorrow the church is planning a special Christmas worship service and potluck meal to be held at LAC so that wwe have sufficient space for everyone. 

December 17, 2015
Birthday Celebrations

On Sunday, December 13, I turned 67. The day was good and not too full. First we went for our usual coffee at My Bar and then to the joint worship service of all of the evangelical churches in Lezhë. Robert Cook, a pastor from England who teaches at Lezha Academic Center, too, was the speaker.  

combined evangelical churches worship

Gathering with Other Evangelical Believers of Lezhë for Worship (13-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Robert Cook reviews his notes forr the sermon

Robert Cook Reviews His Sermon Notes (13-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

After the church service, we waited as Klementina walked to the school to get her car and to come back to puck us up. She then drove to a restaurant about half-way between Lezhë and Shëngjin where she treated us to a meal celebrating my birthday. As usual we had a relaxing time of good food and good conversation--two items I thoroughly enjoy.

waiting for our ride to the restaurant after church

Katrina, Lois, Elsie and I Waited for Klementina and Her Car (13-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

leaving the restaurant on the road to Shengjin

A Lovely Day and a Lovely Restaurant (13-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

The on Monday after school, we had a faculty  meeting scheduled. I found all of the teachers bags lined up on the upholstered seats while the teachers gathered at the table to be an interesting visual. And then our meeting began with a surprise for my birthday--a beautiful bouquet and a lovely cake!!

teachers' sachels lined up as we await faculty meeting

LAC Teachers' Satchels Line up in Expectation? (14-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Alda shows me the cake and flowers for my birthday 

Elsie by My Side, Lovely Bouquet, Great Cake and Wonderful Friends (14-Dec-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

What wonderful ways to celebrate God granting me another year to serve him and enjoy life. And more than 50 friends on Facebook snet me best wishes, too. This time I vowed to respond to each one. Friends are definitely a gift from God!

December 5, 2015
Thanksgiving Is an Event and a State of Mind

While Albania does not have a national holiday called Thanksgiving, those of us who are part of Lezha Academic Center do get to celebrate this event since LAC is an American-style high school. Plus being thankful is a state of mind that all Christians are urged to live in.

On Thursday evening (American Thanksgiving Day), Elsie and I were invited to Dini's and Klementina's home for the evening meal. Lois King had arrived just that afternoon from Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA, so we got to say hello to her, too. And Klementina's oldest sister was also visiting with them. It was not a huge party, but that suited us to a "T."

Lois, Elsie and I conversed in the living room before the meal

Lois and Elsie Converse in the Living Room (26-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

the Shahini's work on preparing the meal 

Klementina and Dini Prepare the Meal (26-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Klementina enjoys working in the kitchen 

Klementina Enjoys Working in the Kitchen (26-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Dini makes a green salad 

Dini Makes a Green Salad (with Olives, of Course) (26-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Klementina serves everyone pilaf 

Klementina Serves the Pilaf (26-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Lois and Elsie catch up on more conversation 

Lois and Elsie Continue Their Conversation (26-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

we are all seated and ready to enjoy the meal 

We Are Seated and Ready to Enjoy the Meal and Conversation (26-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Two days earlier had been the Thanksgiving banquet for the school--faculty, staff, students and parents of students. There were around 170 persons present for the celebration, and it seemed to be enjoyed by all. We are thankful for meaningful work and good relationships with LAC students, staff and faculty. We count them as friends. And we doubly appreciate that they seem to enjoy relating to us. "Thank you, God, for all of this."

The photos below are just a few that sample the events of Tuesday evening.

Katrina, Nicole and "World Race" women 

Katrina (L), Nicole (R) and "World Race" Women (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Rafael and Morela and Tone 

Rafael, Morela and Tone (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Armoado and his parents 

Armando and His parents (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Gjergj and his mother and brother 

Gjergj and His Mother and Brother (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Bardha's children Art and Dona

Assistant Principal Bardha's Children--Art and Dona (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Nikolin photographs his children Art and Dona

Rikolin Photographing His Children (Art and Dona) with Friends (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Close-up of Sonila

Italian Teacher--Sonila (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Elsie and Klementina in conversaiton

Elsie and Klementina in Happy Conversation (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Senior student Inda's mother and grnadfather

Honored Guests: Senior Inda's Mother and Grandfather (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

dancing and eating were the main activities

Dancing and Eating Were the Main Activities (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Gudance Counselor Ina was the staff director for the evening

Guidance Counselor Was the Staff Director for the Event (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

senior students put together a video on thankfulness

Senior Students Made a Video on Thankfulness (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

senior Gladys and his little sister share a dance

Senior Gladys and His Sister Share a Dance (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

Dini and Elsie watch the happenings

Dini and Elsie Watch the Proceedings (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

student government members read a poem by Inda

Student Government Members Read a Poem by President Inda (24-Nov-15; © Richard L. Bowman)

These were the two "big" events of our Thanksgiving week. But inn fact all of our relationships here in Albania are very special for us. We have much to thank God for in our lives here.. 

--©2014-15, Richard L. Bowman

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