Dear Friends and Prayer Partners,
Pascha this year will mark my three year anniversary in Albania. As I reflected on this fact, I thought, how quickly time is passing as I am involved in the various ministries, ministries rich with the blessings of God’s grace and friends. My Christian Education and Field Work program with the students at the Seminary has grown considerably. For the first two years, my students’ work has included a teaching assignment at of one of the Kids’ Clubs or the Church in Tirana, under the direction of fellow missionaries, Nathan and Gabriela Hoppe. This year His Grace Bishop Nikola, Dean of the Resurrection of Christ Theological Academy, began to also send the students to local villages and churches in Durres and Kavaja. This has been an exciting challenge for me in many new ways. Saturday there are catechism programs at Shen Vlash for the village children and in Tirana at the Roma Community. Sunday there are catechism programs in Tirana, in Durres, in Kavajes and at a local village church, in Rushku, and Sunday evening in a home in a suburb of Durres, Shkozet. Just getting to the various locations is a bit of an adventure and has prompted me to seriously consider acquiring a car.
What has been really fulfilling has been identifying the needs of the six very different catechetical settings outside Tirana and trying to implement new strategies and methods for improving their programs. In conjunction with this effort, OCMC has approved funding for ministry relating to a new Catechetical Resource Center at the Seminary through my missionary support account. The catechism programs are funded partially by the Orthodox Church of Albania and partially from my support account, made up of donations from you, my prayer partners. Therefore, I want to account to you for the work we are doing and to keep you posted on our progress so that you can keep us in your prayers. Also, if you are a Facebook fan, I have been posting pictures from the various events on my Profile page and in my Cause: Pray with Missionary Anastasia Pamela Barksdale for the Orthodox Church in Albania. Thank you for your continued support of this vital and important ministry.
This Spring, the Children’s Office offered to conduct an “Outreach” program in Durres for our catechism classes at the Saints Paul and Asti Church, located near the local boardwalk. My students joined with the Children’s Office staff and the Durres youth group to conduct a series of youth oriented activities to bring the “good news” about our catechism program to the general public, as well as the local Orthodox community. The number of new children actually joining our catechism classes, to-date, has been small, but the activity did enable my students to encounter the unchurched children of Durres, reorganize our program, establishing two classrooms and begin developing interactive activities with the Church’s youth group.
Last week, the first step of the Resource Center at Shen Vlash Monastery became a reality as 22 children gathered at 8:00 am on a Saturday morning in our new classroom space. Tomorrow my students and a group of volunteers will meet once again to paint a second room which will be for younger children. My goal is to establish “age appropriate” classrooms for children 5 to 9 years and 10 – 13 years.
One of the major complaints my students have about their teaching assignments is the “conditions” under which they must teach. So often there is no real classroom, maybe they teach in a living room, a field, a beach, or the narthex of the Church. Thus, I am trying to create a teaching lab; one which I hope will set a standard, and then we can talk about the things we can and cannot control in a learning environment. Often in Albania, new ideas or concepts are difficult to explain because of the lack of experience, which provides a reference for the students. Our first “new” classroom has been painted and shelves assembled and I have begun to equip it with visual aid tools like bulletin boards, white boards, and flannel boards; cd players to use in teaching songs and hymns and playing games. Several students have artistic abilities and are painting thematic pictures of Jesus with children. Learning to use visual aids and interactive materials is still a very new idea in Albania.
Our final stage will be to set up a room that will be our workshop space for conducting training, developing curriculum and lesson plans. Besides computer equipment and a data projector, we also plan to collect materials from all the various diocese ministries in Albania and have them available for reference. We would also like to develop a good collection of craft ideas, games, songs, etc. Having resource materials readily available comes slowly here, but it is something we are working at all the time.
In the hopes that some of my prayer partners in the States would want to help, I have set up a Wish List on Amazon.Com. You can access this list at the following link:
Pamela’s Wish List
Please share the list with others. If just a few people send one or two items, we could improve our program very quickly. Fr. Luke Veronis is coming to Albania the end of May and promised to try to bring things with his Mission Institute team, but packages must arrive by May 25th. Father Luke’s shipping address is 41 Noble St, Dudley, MA 01571. Otherwise, mail by slow boat to Albania to: Anastasia Pamela Barksdale, c/o Kisha Orthodhoskia, Rruge e Kavajes, 151 Mitropolia, Tirana, Albania. Please help if you are able.