Urime Vitin e Ri – Happy New Year! We hope that everyone reading this had a wonderful Christmas and is being blessed so far in 2017. It seems like 2016 went so quickly, especially the last month which was jam packed full of church activities, family commitments and challenges.

img_0561Perhaps we’ll get the challenges out of the way first before updating you on the better parts of the last month. As we may have mentioned before in our prayer letters our car has been becoming unreliable and has been costing us a lot of money to maintain and repair over the past year. Helen’s parents spent Christmas with us in Kosova this year and on our way to the airport for their journey home our car broke down, 200km from our home here in Gjakovë. One week and 700€ later the car was working again but this prompted us to start looking for and raising funds for a new (used) car. In addition to this, during their stay both Helen’s parents and us were struck down with flu and really were not in the mood to celebrate Christmas, this was quite disappointing as it was Helen’s parent’s first Christmas outside the UK. Ilir’s family also haven’t had a great month as Ilir’s Dad, who is a taxi driver, was hit by another car while working just before Christmas. He has a broken rib and some other injuries and is still recovering now. His car was a write-off so he cannot work.

On to more positive things. Before we were all struck down with flu, we managed to spend a couple of days in Tirana, Albania, with Helen’s parents seeing the Christmas lights, spending a day in Kruje (where the fortress of Skenderbeg is) and seeing one of Ilir’s sisters.

We were very busy over Christmas with church activities. On Christmas Eve we joined with other churches in Gjakovë for a joint worship service in the Cultural Palace. One of the other churches led the worship and put on a drama and our own Pastor, Jeton, brought a Christmas message to an audience of around 400 including the Mayor of Gjakovë, Chief of Police and various politicians. After this service we joined the youth from our church to minister to people on the street. Helen’s job was to keep the hot water flowing as we served 150 cups of tea and Ilir worked with the youth and Pastor Jeton to distribute about the same number of leaflets about the true meaning of Christmas.

Later that evening we led worship at the midnight service at church. Both of us were suffering with the flu and would quite happily have stayed in bed but we managed to play and sing to welcome in Christmas Day (blog post coming soon about worshipping when you don’t feel like worshipping). For the second year running the church was full for this service and we were asked for more songs than we had already planned.

On Christmas Day we had a wonderful family service and everyone took part. The children sang two Christmas carols, the youth performed a drama of the life of Jesus to remind us that Christmas is just the beginning of the story and that we shouldn’t forget what came after Jesus’ birth, we worshipped and Pastor Jeton brought a short message. After the service we spent a couple of hours in fellowship together over a bring and share lunch, music and dancing. There was far too much food and many people went home with a goody bag of food which was a real blessing to those families that struggle financially.

Now that we’re in the second week of 2017 things seem to finally be getting back to normal, we’re back to full health and ready to take on this year at full speed. We thank God for giving us both the strength and the finances to get through the last month and for our church which truly is a family.

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