Monday, June 29, 2015

Albania Day 4 : Cape Rodonit

Day 4 was a day of rest and a chance for us to see ome of the country and learn more of its history.

We hiked out to Cape Rodonit, waking along a ridge with the Adriatic Sea on either side of us.  The trail brought us to the remains of a castle believed to hide Albania's national hero, George Castrioti Scanderbeg, before escaping to Italy.  At the same location there is a chapel called St. Anthony's church.

The hike brought us through the remains of a communist- era military base. We were able to explore some of the bunkers which were connected in a maze of underground tunnels.  There were also some larger bunkers that evidently housed some type of artillery. Operating instructions were still on the wall!

Inside the chapel, the walls had been covered with frescoes.  However, in the cultural revolution of 1967, looters destroyed most of them.  It is thought that those of them that were left were done so in part because of the Scanderbeg crest found on the wall behind the altar.

After the hike we enjoyed lunch at a beautiful restaurant right by the sea.

Our driver and friend Armandi

Monday, June 8, 2015

Albania Day 3 : Kids' Club and Hope for the World

This morning was Kid's Club.  We were there during worship.  They sang one song in English - "Our God is an Awesome God".  It was amazing to hear and really special to us. We watched while they listened to the lesson and then as they learned to draw an elephant and a giraffe.  

We really had a chance to get to know many of these kids and their personalities in just a short time.  Despite a bit of a language barrier at times, we were able to communicate some with hand gestures and a few Albanian words.  A few of the older ones knew some English and would help translate too. We really do love the kids in Vlashaj!

The majority of the kids that come to the center are boys because many of the girls are at home helping to cook and clean while mom and dad are out working.  

If the kids in the village come to Kid's Club 3 Saturdays out of the month, Nathan rewards them with playing a Wii game on the 4th Saturday. So, we were there for that.  
Cydil and Jen got some cooking and cleaning done while the men and kids helped out with the Wii races.

In between turns on  the Wii, all the kids would play in the courtyard at the center.

Later on in the afternoon we had the privilege to go to the next village over to the Hope for the World Center.  This is a home for teenagers who need a home or have aged out of the orphanage.  We had the opportunity to talk with the kids there, but not everyone spoke English, so it was a little bit difficult.  A group with World Race was staying in Albania for the month, so we met some of them who were staying there at the center that week. We had a cookout and then went back to the village. Hope for the World also runs several orphanages in Albania and does much more for the country, 

Just a sidenote - Hope for the World  and World Race both are right here in Georgia.

Later that evening we had a chance to just talk with the Waggoners and let the our kids play.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Albania Day 2 : Work Projects and Abandoned Babies

We started early with a language lesson after breakfast and then began working on two projects. First the storage area underneath the center needed to be organized, Then we would need to paint the center's front gates.

We started with the storage area. In order to create a space for the shelving we first needed to pull everything out from the storage area. We would have more time later in our visit to build the shelves.With that finished, we started on the gate.

With our kids along side us we went to work brushing off rust and debris. Then we began the tedious job of painting every nook and cranny of the gate, all the while trying not to spill any of the black paint on the white concrete walls.  Our children never complained but worked diligently to make sure the job was done right.  We finished one of the gates that morning and would paint the second one later on during our visit.

While the boys were finishing the gate, the girls got cleaned up and headed to Tirana.  Jen and our girls along with Cydil and her daughter, rode the bus to go to the maternity hospital.  We did arrive a little early, so we stopped by a coffee shop and Cydil introduced us to Albanian hot chocolate (think thick like pudding, hot and yummy - dessert in a coffee cup that you eat with a spoon!).

We then went to the hospital.  We were greeted by Ms. Claudia, who started OSAAB (the Organization for the Support of Albania's Abandoned Babies) in 1996.  She and Mira, the social worker at the hospital, explained more about what they had done over the years, as well as showed us before and after pictures of the nursery. They told us the rules for going in and holding the babies and then immediately brought us in to love on the babies.  Two of the babies had just been born the week before.
We held the babies and prayed for them.  It was hard to know they were abandoned, and Jen really had to hold back the tears.  The girls loved holding them and rocking them.  We thanked Claudia and Mira for allowing us the privilege to love on the babies.

We found out before going that this is where the Waggoner's daughter was born and spent her first several weeks of life before going to an orphanage. This was also the first time Cydil brought her to visit, so it was extra special for us to be a part of such a sweet moment.

The girls arrived home just in time for the Friday night church service at the center.  Everyone worshiped together at the beginning and then the younger kids went and did a lesson while the rest of us stayed for the message.  

After church the Waggoners invited the Pastor and his wife to come and spend some time with us. It was a real treat to close out the evening listening to them recount their testimonies of how they first even heard the name Jesus.  It was very encouraging!!!