Category Archives: Village Outreach

Flag Day

There’s two things a successful photographer should never do: try to duplicate Iwo Jima and have your subjects turn their backs to the camera. I think in this case we’ll be given latitude for both.I’m helping raise the flag for the Darshen school. This flag is representative of the relationship between the school and America. It is a gift from Jake who lives in Texas, and as the saying goes, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” At the school they call him Big Jake, which I think is appropriate because of the big-ness of his heart. The flag originally was to be hung on a standard within the school but because of its size, it now uniquely adorns the south wall of the upper hallway. Every visitor and every student can’t miss it. Many thanks to Jake and Renee` for the tangible representation of this relationship. P.S. The school principal requested an American flag during Jake’s last visit. It was my privilege to deliver it. And, by the way, it did not fly over the Alamo.


A lot of you will be going to Grandma’s house this week. You’ll get to share in all the goodies: Food, tradition, and family. It’s a natural thing to want to be included in holiday family tradition. Grandmas make anything special, especially when families get together.I’ve wanted to visit Grandma’s house this week in the village of Vlashaj. Flora has garnished respect from me over the years because she lives on the high corner of the village and always monitored traffic, separating dogs from donkeys. She is a grandma, one who has made her family stronger in time of trouble, happier in times of sadness, and wiser when her knowledge guided the family through low spots. She will, without knowing it, stand over her family on this Thanksgiving.Age has taken its toll. Every day from her little chair by the front gate she would wave or shake her walking stick to let you know that we’d better say “hi” and give her a hug or you would fall under the rain of strong Albanian phrases. Sadly, these days she’s been reduced to the back kitchen to sit by the cooking stove and stays warm all day to help with her arthritis and diminished legs. I was brought over to her, she was told who was there to visit her and did the proper response that guests in Albania do, I bowed low, and then promptly gave her a hearty hug. The work that she’s done in the village, the commission handed her to steer her family and the guidance that came from a much younger frame allows me to give this lady respect.

“Cheese” it

Cydil had the opportunity to bring much kaboom, flash and crackle to the village. It reminded everyone of the big explosion. Planters is so thankful to have Cydil’s talent on board for a personal photo shoot for many of the inhabitants of the village. Most dressed up in their finest and we haven’t seen that many teeth in a long time. We’ve got one great picture of model, Mandi, being photographed by Cydil being photographed by Mom. The light explosions were simultaneous and it looked like the fourth of July in the end of November in Vlashaj.

Summer Events

June 11 -18 marked several remarkable events. One of which being, a series of ladies meetings. The ladies team from The Family Church of Gainesville, FL, planned a study of the book of Ruth to share with the women of Vlashi. Through a drama depicting the relationship of Naomi and Ruth and Boaz the story of redemption was illustrated to the village ladies. The response from the women was awesome. It was met with great enthusiasm.

It was a village visit day

Mandi and Xhina go to Darshen on Tuesdays. (FYI–a mountain village about an hours drive east of Tirana) Mandi took some great pictures of their home visit. The pictures speak for themselves. These girls do most of the work for the family since their Dad passed away 3 years ago. They are about 19 years old. In the picture of Migena washing clothes notice the pile of sticks behind her. They will be used to warm the pot for her hot water wash cycle. Mandi’s wife, Xhina, is the one with the jacket wrapped around her waist. Don’t you just love the picture of the men playing dominos? Notice their glasses are empty.(for now) By the way, the picture was not taken after working hours….try 11:00 a.m. The picture of the black pot is just what you think it is. They are making the Albanian adult beverage called raki (rocky). This village is so authentic. The stone house is how they lived many years ago. Not too many things have changed in this village the last hundred years.

Ladies Night

Friday evening was ladies night in Vlashi. All of the ladies were invited to view the Mary Magdelene movie plus singing and folk dancing. Genti and Shpresa said ladies came for the evening that had never been in the center before. Hearts were encouraged and challenged. May God open these lives that have never understood the message of love for them. Genti and Shpresa were able to also distribute some items from World Vision.

It’s a Beauty Shop!!

I love the smile that comes to my mind when things happen that are unexpected! Djusha’s beauty shop is one of those events. She just opened a week or so ago. Her shop just happens to be in the old house that we got possession of this fall. Our plans were to simply tear the old house down and start making plans for a new community center. This also happens to be where the kindergarten is meeting. It is wonderful that a greater purpose for something that we considered useless can be of service to others that have need. Djusha knows that it is just a temporary location but wanted to use it to get her business established. Djusha learned hair styling from classes in our girls’ training center. We are also thrilled that she has realized her need for a savior. This is what it is all about.