About Albania

Albanians are a people who have been continually told who they are supposed to be, instead of being allowed to hear from God who they are supposed to be.

An ancient people

When Paul speaks of his travels in Romans 15:19, he says, “…by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ…” He is speaking of the Albanian people. They are a people with an ancient heritage who trace their history back to the Illyrian tribes of Biblical times. This was evident in a history museum that we visited in Tirana, Albania last fall. The first room in the museum begins with the Illyrian tribes and quotes some of Paul’s teachings from the Bible.

A history of oppression

The people of Albania fought for their independence against the Roman Empire, the Greek Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Serbian Empire. When the Ottoman Empire rose to power in the late 14th century, they claimed Albania as one of their territories, even though it would take nearly a century for them to achieve any sort of control of her people. (It is now widely believed by many European historians that the Albanian people, led by their General Skanderbeg, effectively halted the northern movement of the Ottomans into Eastern Europe.) The Albanian people lost most of their Christian identity during their occupation by the Ottoman Empire. It was not illegal to be a follower of Jesus during this time, but you were unable to own property, sell goods in the marketplace or attain a path to citizenship.

Communism and Atheism

After the Ottoman Empire was defeated during World War 1, pieces of the Albanian territory were divided up and given to different European nations. During World War 2, they were used as a gateway to Greece for Germany and Italy. Post World War 2, a communist dictator rose to power and isolated the country and her people, declaring Albania to be the world’s first atheist nation. In order to maintain control, the government trained and employed neighborhood spy programs. The Albanian people quickly learned that you couldn’t trust anyone, even your next door neighbor.

The last 30 years…

The country of Albania is in a pivotal moment, 30 years after the fall of the oppressive Communist government. The ethnically Muslim, but spiritually Secular people there have little economic prospects, live in a fractured society and are living without much hope for the future. The church movements that started in the capital city so fervently after Communism fell, developed quickly using Western church planting techniques and have not yet gained the momentum to reach the wider culture and surrounding villages. Less than 1% of the population considers themselves a Protestant Christian. And those who follow Catholic or Orthodox teachings only number 10 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Most of the population, 60%, considers themselves Muslim, tracing their family lines back to the Ottoman empire.

Needs in Albania

We are actively fundraising to join a team serving in Albania, a Balkan country of southeastern Europe. There are a variety of needs there: economic, vocational, social, and spiritual. A deep mistrust of outsiders and a culturally Muslim community with a secular worldview means the love of Jesus must be demonstrated through nurturing families and building healthy communities. The team actively pursues this goal through establishing small-businesses, creating gathering spaces for people, and participating in family-to-family discipleship.

Why go?

Throughout the Bible, God shows us that He has always been on a mission to bless the world and bring everyone into His kingdom. This is especially apparent starting in Genesis 12 when God tells Abraham that he will be a blessing to all peoples and culminates in Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8 and in the beautiful picture of all peoples from all cultures worshiping together in heaven presented in Revelation 21. We love because God loved us first. We go because God came to us. And ultimately, we are trying to be obedient to the call of God on our lives to serve overseas.

Before we were even dating, Katie served as a teacher at a International School with a Biblical worldview in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. At the same time, Mike felt called to help with pastoral training in under-served, global communities. “Going and making disciples…” has always been a part of our story. We are excited to be able to do this as a family on a team with other like-minded families.

What will we do?

First, we will take time to learn the local language and culture of our host people. This will include finding language learning helpers, interacting with neighbors, and exploring our local community. We always go as learners, and this will be especially forefront when we first arrive. After establishing the family, we will seek to see where God is working in the community and join in those activities. There are many ways that we believe God may use us in Albania. There is an International school where Katie could teach and the kids could attend. The team has established two small businesses: an auto-mechanic shop and a BBQ restaurant. The goal of both businesses is to provide a service to and a place to gather for the local community. The auto-mechanic shop has also birthed a sister location, both established and run by an Albanian believer in a strategic neighborhood. Perhaps God will use Mike’s team-building and discipleship skills to help facilitate mentoring and multiplying of these businesses. The team also hosts community dinners, which our family will be a part of, to facilitate family-to-family discipleship. Another team member seeks to gather groups of women for hikes, exercise and fellowship. Perhaps God will use Katie’s group fitness training as another gathering option for these women.

There will be many ministry opportunities for our family once we are in Albania. Our first priority will be language and culture learning, because we truly believe that we are not bringing Jesus to Albania; He has been there for a long time. So if we want to help the Albanian people hear what Jesus is saying, they need to hear it in ways that make sense in their context.

Thank you for your support.

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