Sunday, August 28, 2011

Country Profile: Albania

I'll be showcasing different country-profiles and unreached people groups on this blog, so I figured I would start with Albania because I have a friend who is trying to do some fundraising so he will be able to start a life of full-time ministry and his first trip will be to Tirana, the capital of Albania. He is hoping to stay there long enough to make an impact and form relationships with the locals. On his website he says that the goal of visiting Albania is to build up the small, local church (about 50 members!) and to serve the local community.

Visit his Facebook Page, Therefore Go Ministries, to learn more!

Religion and Church-Planting Progress Scale

While Albania is not really considered an "unreached" area (15.4% unreached), it is largely Muslim and non-religious and the Joshua Project website describes it as mainly having a  "formative/nominal church" among many of its people groups.


Of the 13 people groups in Albania, two are "unreached" (Han Chinese and Israeli Jew), and ten groups have greater than 5% "Professing Christians" and less than 2% Evangelical Christians. Only one people group (Romani/Vlax) has a "significant/established church" with greater than 2% Evangelical Christians.




from Joshua Project "Albania People Groups"

Brief Overview

"This pint-sized, sunny slice of Adriatic coast was ground down for years by poverty and blood vendetta, but Albania now manages to pack a wild punch of traditional Mediterranean charm and Soviet-style inefficiency. It's a giddy blend of religions, styles, cultures and landscapes, from Sunni Muslim to Albanian Orthodox, and from idyllic beach or rocky mountain to cultivated field. Relics from one of the longest dictatorships in Eastern Europe rub shoulders with citrus orchards, olive groves and vineyards." (Lonely Planet's The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World, 2008, page 11 "Alabania")
From WWII until 1992, Albania was a Communist/Stalinist state. In the 90s, many Albanians left the country in search of work (as much as 20% of the labor force). During the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia in 1999, about half a million ethnic Albanian refugees fled from Kosovo into Albania, burdening the country's already weak economy. Outside of the former Soviet Union states, Albania remains one of Europe's poorest countries, with high unemployment rates and corruption that really deters foreign investment. Freedom of the press is a constitutional right, however there is are powerful political, business and media agendas that often inhibit this freedom. After the communist regime, illegal and unregulated buildings sprouted up all over the place in large cities, proving to be a disaster for Albania's urban development. (Source: BBC News Country Profile) Rural women who have moved to the urban centers are one of the most poverty-stricken and abused groups in Albania.




See Women News Network for full article on the poverty level among women in Albania
Note: The Kosovo/NATO war is a very complex one including charges of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Wounds are still sore and I can't begin to go into all the details and history of the war here. I have not researched it previously, but I am finding that it is too much to get into at this time.

Quick Facts
provided by Lonely Planet's The Travel Book
  • Albanians shake their heads to say "yes" and typically nod their heads to say "no"

  • Known for shish-kebabs, baggy pants, and colorful scarves

  • Birthplace of Mother Theresa

  • Watch Lamerica for a stark look at post-communist culture

  • Tungjatjeta means "hello"

  • Listen to some polyphony for some traditional Albania music

  • Read Broken April by Ismail Kadare (Albania's best-known modern writer) and learn more about the blood-vendettas on the northern highlands before the 1939 Italian invasion


Photos




Lonely Planet



Flikr



World of Railways



BBC News



Blue Planet Green Living

Poetry

The following poem was written by a Kosovar Albanian, regarding the Kosovo war:

Until when, O God?

Why do You let me suffer?
Why do You let me weep?
Why do You not heal my pain?
Until when, O God?
Why must I live alone?
Why must I live a wasted life?
Why don't the flowers bloom?
Until when, O God?
Why does the springtime sun not shine?
Why is the darkness not removed?
Why do You not permit the light?
Until when, O God?
Why have You taken hope from my life?
Why has yesterday become my today?
Why does the rain never cease to fall?
Until when, O God?

- Ismet Lajqi


*    *    *    *

Don't forget to check out Therefore Go Ministries to learn more about my friend's trip and his fundraising needs. He has a special fundraising opportunity with Mark Kay, where until October 1st 100% of the profits coming into this particular Mary Kay site will go to Ben's fundraising efforts. Click here for more info about the Mary Kay fundraiser.

Thanks for reading! Please share or leave your thoughts in the comments!
God Bless You in the Name of Jesus †
♥Jenn

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mark Baxter's 6 Keys to Becoming a Strong Finisher - Part 1

I want to share some videos that discuss the main key points in Mark Baxter's book "Finish: Starting is Easy, but Finishing Makes the Difference". Mark, who is the Director of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Jacksonville, FL, was one of my Perspectives instructors this past Spring and he really has a hard-hitting and challenging way of driving home the truth of the gospel. Mark's book has a special meaning for Christians in light of the words and life of the Apostle Paul.

At the end of Paul's third missionary journey to the churches in Greece (54-58 A.D.), he bid farewell to the elders at Ephesus, saying he must hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible before the day of Pentecost. He told them he was compelled to go by the Holy Spirit and that he didn't know what would happen to him there because he knew the Jews in Jerusalem were plotting against him. Despite this he said:

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24

The book of Acts ends with Paul's arrest and his dangerous and miraculous journey to Rome to be imprisoned (though he was allowed to live outside of the actual prison). The author (most likely Luke), in writing the last sentences of the book, affirms:

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! Acts 28:30-31

In what is most likely Paul's last epistle (after prison), he writes to Timothy:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Paul's life offering to the spreading of the good news of Jesus is a wonderful inspiration and challenge to all Christians. I want to finish the race too. When I see Jesus, I really, really want Him to say to me "Good job, Jenn. You were faithful until the end."..... Doesn't satan just have a way of making you believe it's "too hard" though?! Boy he's good at his job sometimes.... BUT the Holy Spirit is even BETTER at the job of building us up in faith and when we turn our hearts toward Jesus then we can rightfully see the path God puts before us and we can follow it until the end - without turning to the right or to the left.

So, we all have the desire to finish the race in "all boldness and without hindrance," but we need a little lot of help getting there! Let's see what Mark Baxter has to say...

Here is his intro video where he explains his book "Finish" (which can be purchased here):



Father, thank you for the ministry of Mark and for everything that the YWAM organization does to be a blessing to others. I pray that you bless him and that his book turns out to be a huge success. As I listen to his words in this video, I hear a challenge made directly to me. It is SO easy to start things. I start things all the time and don't finish. I don't want to take the easy route anymore and I pray that You give me an abundance of faith and strength and courage to be a finisher, and not just a starter. I pray for godly wisdom and strength to take a stand for Jesus and for the truth of His life, death and resurrection. I know that I am blessed to be a blessing to others, and I pray that You take over my life and make it whatever You want it to be so that I can be a vessel that brings the living water to those who thirst for it. Protect me from the lies of satan and keep me and my husband (and baby) safe from his wickedness and from the destruction that comes from believing him as opposed to believing You. May our faith be strong enough to overcome the lie that we "can't finish" the race. May Your will be done in our lives so that we complete the task that You have called us to do - to live holy lives and proclaim the truth of Jesus. I pray this in the name of Your Son Jesus. Amen

Jenn

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thoughts on Nursery Décor for Lil Jakey

I haven't set up the nursery yet, but I know I want to go with browns, tans, sage green, blues and yellows... but mostly sage green. I am also planning on doing a sheep and/or farm "theme". I don't really want it to be too "themey," but I love sheep so much!

Figured I'd share some nurseries I liked while I was browsing through the Project Nursery website. I may or may not use some of them as inspiration... I first have to paint the room and get it cleaned out!

I really like a shabby or antique look, though I am often drawn to modern nurseries as well. In the end, I don't think I can let myself do anything but a shabby/antique look - or as shabby as I can get!!

see full nursery here
see full nursery here
see full nursery here
see full nursery here
see full nursery here

Enjoy browsing through these adorable and inspiring nurseries! It's amazing the creativity some people have!

God bless xoxo

Jenn

Sunday, August 14, 2011

God's Beautiful Animal Kingdom at Roger Williams Park Zoo

The other week, my husband and I went to the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island with his brother and sister, along with his sister's husband and two sons. It was a very hot day for a zoo and I have very mixed feelings about zoos (especially when animals are completely out of their natural habitat), but it was well worth it in the end. I really love animals and therefore took so many photos... way more than are shown in this post, of course! So, here is a showcasing of some of God's wonderful animal creations:
How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number,
living things both large and small.
(Psalm 104:24-25)

























and God's crown of creation:


Thanks for reading! Please share or leave your thoughts in the comments!
God Bless You in the Name of Jesus †
♥Jenn

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's a Boy! ♥ Jacob Elijah ♥

Had our BIG REVEAL ultrasound this morning! My mother came with us and everything went very well. It was so awesome seeing my baby again, but sadly I think this will be the last time until I give birth!

So excited that we're having a wittle baby boy :-) Can't wait for my little Jakey to get here!!


Those are his legs and the arrow is pointing to his little you-know-what :-) Isn't it strange that I am already so proud?! haha... My healthy baby boy!! 

We did also have to get a fetal echo-cardiogram because Jon and his siblings were born with heart defects, so they checked our little ones heart today also. (I actually fell asleep during that one! It was about 50 minutes of the woman looking up close at the heart and the room was dark and silent, except for the white noise coming from the ultrasound machine!). 

We will get those results back in about a week, so we're keeping in prayer about that. 

I love you God! Thank you for Your blessings! Thank you for such a wonderful day with my husband and my mom! ♥ †

xoxo
Jenn 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Halfway There! My Journey to 20 Weeks Pregnant

I promise blog, I have no forgotten about you. I have neglected you, but not abandoned you entirely.

Life is too crazy right now to keep up with everything and I think I will post here more often when I actually have a baby. For now, you'll have to make due with periodic updates... very periodic!

This journey has been... incredible. interesting. awe-inspiring. funny. painful. scary. fun. You name it!

I didn't really have any sickness in the beginning besides about 3 weeks straight of constant nausea. No throwing up though, thank God! My back is definitely suffering already since I had a bad back even before I was pregnant, so I hope to be getting one of those support belts soon. Growing pains. Man, they sure are called that for a reason! I get "round ligament" pain very often and when my breasts were growing it hurt so much! And seriously, they're going to grow more?! I am already very overdue for a new bra... Yikers....

Sleep has been... an "adventure". If I am not having weird, detailed and disturbing dreams, then I am tossing and turning because of the pain and general discomfort. Recently I've tried sleeping with a huge U-shaped body pillow and it has only caused more discomfort - although truthfully, I think my husband is more uncomfortable with it taking up his side of the bed than I am sleeping with it! Poor guy, he just wants a good night sleep... Boy, are we in for a rude awakening!!  LITERALLY!

I only wake up once, twice tops, to go to the bathroom at night... though, truth be told, I believe that's because I don't drink enough during the day. I tryyy, but I don't try hard enough. Honestly, how can one person drink THAT much water and still have room for food?! Honestly?! I am FULL off of all that water! It makes my stomach hurt! And I very much enjoy NOT having a hurty stomach :-)

Mmmm speaking of food... I eat a lot, but I don't think I am overdoing it (yet)... I'm really not taking that whole "eating for two" thing to the extreme... *Ahem, check back in 10 weeks.. we'll see where I stand then* ..... I just have many snacks or small meals during the day. And proud to say that most of it is healthy stuff! I'll have bad days or strings of bad days where I probably don't eat very healthy at all, but I think generally my eating habits are rather good. Especially considering where I started!!! (Going hours on end without eating because I didn't feel hungry or eating just sweets and cookies.... or eating a LOT and having it ALL be unhealthy food.. Not to mention ZERO water intake!!!)

I know the below picture of me is hideous, but YAAAYY my belly popped! Finally! People still say it is very small, but whatever at least it's obvious I am pregnant now! Though not obvious enough that a stranger would be able to ask me when I am due without risking a VERY awkward "Um, I'm not pregnant...." situation!

Who knows, maybe I will stay "small" throughout... Though I would be VERY surprised if that is true! I just always imagined myself to be a large pregnant woman... or as my friend would say, Pregasaurus. I guess we'll have to wait and see!


I'll try posting again sometime soon.... Depends on my definition of "soon"... Don't hold it against me if it doesn't match YOUR definition of "soon" ;-)

Good bless! xoxo

Jenn

Free Bracelets from Open Doors USA for "One With Them" Campaign

Open Doors USA "One With Them Campaign"

Got an email today from Open Doors USA for two FREE "barbwire" wristbands (flexible rubber) to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering because of their faith.

They share our faith - but not our freedom

Watch the below videos to hear testimonies from Christians in Bangladesh, Eritrea and Central Asia. Also visit the below link to order your free wristbands. They will certainly be conversation starters!! 

I hope that wearing it will remind me to pray for the persecuted Church every time I look at it. I will also keep in prayer that the Holy Spirit would speak through me on their behalf whenever if anyone asks me about the bracelet.








Holy Father, I pray for Your children who suffer persecution and adversity for Your Namesake and for following the One True King, Jesus Christ. May Your Holy Spirit guide them and give them strength to endure and the courage to face Your enemies in the name of Jesus. I believe the words of Jesus that we are blessed to suffer on His behalf and that if we truly strive to live holy lives through faith in You and by the power of the Holy Spirit, then we will suffer persecution. May we in America be inspired by our brothers and sisters overseas who have no freedom for their faith, yet they fearlessly hold on to the truth. Bless them abundantly, for they are a blessing to us. I pray that the Holy Spirit guides me to living a more holy life and that the Lord My God will grant me strength and courage to stand firm by the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I ask in the Name of Jesus that my life be transformed into a life that brings glory to You, as our brothers and sisters bring glory to You and Your Name. You are a holy God. May all Your people be holy also as a reflection of Your holiness. I thank you for the persecuted Church and all that we can learn from them. Bless them and may they feel Your presence always. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thanks for reading! Please share or leave your thoughts in the comments!
God Bless You in the Name of Jesus †
♥Jenn