Saturday, August 15, 2015

Rome in a day!

We arrived in Bari, Italy at 8 am Saturday morning.  By the time we got through customs(2 hours!), we barely had enough time to get to the train station for our 4 hour ride to Rome.  We arrived in Roma Termini again and had to buy tickets for another train to our apartment.  We then had a few minute walk with all our luggage. We were quite the site, walking thru the streets of Rome.

We found a grocery store to buy breakfast and snacks.  We found a little pizza place that sold an equivalent to slouvaki.  Yummy!!!  We ate dinner in the apartment and went to bed.

We were up early and after a quick breakfast, caught a tram to the center of Rome.  From there we walked everywhere. We only had a day, so we decided not to take any tours or go inside any monuments.  We only stopped for a quick lunch at a restaurant, where we ordered a true Italian pizza.

We again hit the streets to see every site we could in the short amount of time we had. We were pleasantly surprised at how close everything was. Our kids kept up, they were as excited as we were to be there.

Over the years of homeschool, the kids have learned a lot about Rome and were able to recognize many of these places, as well as tell us the history of each site.

We knew that Scanderbeg, Albania's national hero, had spent some time in Rome, so we were so excited when we finally found Scanderbeg Piazza on our map.  We navigated our way, using our tiny map in order to see it in person.  The building where he stayed is still there.

We were in the city until about 7 pm and then headed back to our apartment.  We stopped only to pick up a little dinner of slouvaki once again.  We ate it quickly and repacked so we could be ready to be up and out of our apartment around 3:30 am to catch our 8 am flight out of Rome.  What a day!!!

Amazingly, it was actually cheaper to take the time travelling thru Italy, spending a day in Rome on our return trip, than it would have been for us to have flown directly into Tirana, Albania.  We feel so incredibly spoiled that our family was able to visit both of these amazing places.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Albania Day 9 : Monster Trucks and Friday night church

The boys in the village knew there would be a surprise at the end of week, but they didn't know what. Friday morning they were waiting at the gate well over an hour before the scheduled time.

Our local Lowes had generously donated 25 DIY monster trucks for the boys to assemble. 

We had told Tobin, before the trip that he would have to give a devotional for the event. (Easy to say, but how do you tie monster trucks to a teaching from scripture?)

Fearlessly, Tobin read from 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul compares the church to a body with many working parts that are all dependent on each other.  He then showed that the monster truck needs each part in order to go! (We were kind of a little proud!)

               We formed an assembly line and let the boys start working on their trucks.  Many of these boys were holding a hammer for the first time ever. The boys ages   ranged from 5-16.

There were so many boys that even the girls had to lend a helping hand. However, God had provided just enough that even Ellie and Reni got to make one.

The toy trucks occupied the boys for the rest of the day. They were a huge hit!

I had told God years ago, that if He was calling us to Albania, I would be willing to go and even sweep floors for Him there.  So, of course, when Jen saw me here she was quick to remind me of how God had answered my prayer! God has a sense of humor.

The boys could not wait to take us to their "big rock" in the woods.

One last afternoon game of four square.

Aaron was given the opportunity to preach at the Friday evening church service.  It was a privilege to be able to encourage our brothers and sisters in VLA-shaj. ( I noticed some giggles while I was preaching, apparently I had been putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable! Pastor Genti translated it exactly as I had said it,
emphasis and all!)

Before we left the service the body prayed a blessing on us. It was hard to leave, even the kids said we weren't there quite long enough.  The people of Vlashaj are in our hearts and we cannot wait for the opportunity to return.

We left the village right after the church service to catch our 10pm ferry from Durres to Bari, Italy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Albania Day 8 : Work projects and a third home visit

Our second work day. Aaron and Nathan finished the second half of the gate at the center. Meanwhile, Jen and the kids finished assembling the metal shelving  and organizing the storage underneath the house.

While Aaron and Nathan finished the top of the gate (too high for the kiddos) Tobin and Andrew resumed their week-long nerf gun fire fight with Reni. 

Rachel and Ellie had more time to tell each other stories. Jen, Cora and Haley helped Cydil photograph and enter data on the computer for a project she is working on.

The afternoon provided an opportunity for one more house visit.  Here we are with the Koni family.  This family was the first in the village to believe in Christ. Their daughter Eda is very fluent in English and was extremely helpful in translating for us especially while we were hanging out with the youth in the village. We were able to spend a lot of time with Eda throughout our time in Albania.  We really enjoyed her fun, loving personality and her commitment to the ministry there in her village.

During our visit we were able to encourage one another with stories of all that God had done in our lives.  Even the kids shared testimonies of seeing God's healing power.

(You can see the bond that was formed between Rachel and Ellie in this photo.  They were attached at the hip.)

From here we headed back to the center for another round of open court volley ball and four square.  We finished the night packing up for our departure late the following evening.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Albania Day 7 : Hot chocolate, castles, slouvaki and an orphanage

Today was a busy day. First we had the opportunity to visit an orphanage.  We brought a foam turtle craft for each of the kids to make. There were about 10 kids around preschool age.  Then we spent a little time playing games with them like "Duck,Duck, Chicken" (Cydil did not know the Albanian word for "Goose"). What a joy to see our kids helping these little ones with making a craft.  The orphanage children were so at ease with our kids.  Our kids started picking them up, giving them piggy back rides and teaching them to summersault.  The smiles on both our kids and the orphanage kids were so amazing to see. We are so thankful for the opportunity. (Sorry, we cannot post any pictures of our time there.)

Afterwards we met with some other missionaries in Elbasan.  We met at a fortress for cappuccinos and sodas. 

Here in Elbasan is another section of the Rruga Egnatia.  It was so crazy to think that we were walking on the same road as Paul and other missionaries in the Bible.

For lunch one of the missionary friends, Julie, brought us to eat slouvaki with the Waggoners.  It's kind of like eating a gyro stuffed with shredded meat, lettuce, tomato, and special yummy sauce. They stuff French fries in it as well.  You can see the pictures of Rachel and Andrew eating them.  Side note: We were able to find a similar food the day we spent in Rome and we all were so excited.

Soon after lunch we drove to another fortress called Petrella.  This is the fortress that Scanderbeg's sister was in charge of.  Most of the castles/fortresses are rented by restaurants, so they do not cost anything to visit.  We just bought cappuccinos for the adults and hot chocolates for the kids as a thank you.  Here is a picture of the hot chocolate we wrote about earlier, nice and thick and delicious!

We enjoyed time with the Waggoners seeing the beautiful mountains of Albania.  This is such a beautiful country!!!

We drove home and immediately Cydil and Jen got things ready for an evening bible study with the ladies of the village.  Jen spoke on how God delivered her from so much anger and how spending time in God's Word is essential for growth in the life of every believer. The ladies were surprised, but encouraged to know that we all deal with the same things despite where we are from. As Jen finished our interpreter signaled for Jen to continue. The ladies wanted more encouragement, so she began to tell the story about our adoption of Andrew and his healing of hydrocephalus.  It was a wonderful time of fellowship!