Series Code: AFM
Program Code: AFM000005
01:22 I think that God worked in my life.
01:26 I met, you know, some wonderful people.
01:29 When I first met Blerina, we'd just moved into our house
01:33 on Tokana.
01:34 I was in the second year of the university.
01:37 We got this knock on the gate,
01:39 and I went out there, and
01:41 it was this university girl,
01:43 and she said in fairly good
01:45 English for somebody who hadn't
01:47 really spoken to anyone.
01:49 Oh! Sorry, I want to come to your home, you know
01:53 to speak English.
01:55 And I said, "Well come on! Anytime you want,
01:58 come on in and visit. "
02:00 Really, not that I went, you know, to know God from them,
02:03 I said really, I went just to improve my English.
02:08 Before I knew it, she was at my house again, but she was
02:11 really depressed. I hadn't seen her for probably a week.
02:15 And she came by and talked to me again.
02:18 After just that one conversation where we, we became friends
02:23 almost instantly. She's a very friendly girl.
02:26 And the second time she came she was depressed and
02:30 she just said, "I want to die. "
02:33 And I thought, "Oh no! This girl is going to commit suicide, and
02:37 I'll never get to tell her about God!"
02:39 At that time is where I really started praying for Blerina,
02:43 that she would be able to know God, and know the peace that
02:47 He can give her.
03:15 In 1995, Adventist Frontier Missions launched a project
03:18 in Albania.
03:20 Our goal is to establish a self- sustaining church-planting
03:23 movement that can be carried on by Albanians and spread
03:27 exponentially throughout Albania and the Balkans.
03:33 Roughly the size of Massachusetts,
03:35 this small European country sits on the eastern shore of
03:39 the Adriatic Sea.
03:43 In English, Albania means, "land of the eagle. "
03:52 Albania is real varied, as far
03:54 as its terrain. It is mostly
03:56 mountainous, but the kind of
03:58 mountains you find vary from
04:00 different parts of Albania and
04:02 from region to region.
04:03 Here on the coast, the whole coastal plain in the south
04:07 is very arid and dry and rugged.
04:13 There are springs here and there in the mountains,
04:15 but for the most part, really arid and dry.
04:22 I particularly enjoy hiking above Vlore. There's a lot of
04:25 pasture land where they keep sheep up there.
04:28 It's real beautiful and quiet and peaceful.
04:34 I even went up and I took my sleeping bag to stay over night.
04:37 A shepherd insisted I sleep in his hut with him.
04:40 He said there was wolves, which I still don't believe. I know
04:43 there are further south on the border with Greece there's
04:46 wolves still, but I don't think we have them close to Vlore.
04:50 But he insisted, so I slept in the little shepherds hut, and he
04:53 fed me supper and then breakfast in the morning.
05:11 In 1945, communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, closed Albania's
05:16 doors on the world.
05:17 For nearly 50 years, the world heard little of Albania.
05:21 Oppressed and cut off from outside influences,
05:24 spiritual darkness settled on the country.
05:27 Entire generations grew up without knowing the Creator.
06:11 Like the mist covering its rugged mountains,
06:14 communist ideology and domination enshrouded Albania.
06:18 Religion of any kind was abolished.
06:23 Communist rule ended in 1991, making it the last east European
06:29 country to turn to democracy.
06:31 When communism fell and
06:34 the democracy began here in
06:37 Albania, it was like big
06:39 explosion with almost an immediate implosion.
06:42 Things falling back upon the Albanians.
06:45 One of the very difficult things that happened here in the
06:48 fledgling democracy was when the get-rich-quick schemes began
06:53 Millions of dollars disappeared.
06:55 People had sold their homes. While many of them had taken
06:58 back good percentages, a great many others lost everything.
07:07 They turned upon the government.
07:09 Arms depots were ransacked. Approximately 4 million arms
07:13 were released into the hands of the common people -
07:16 8 billion rounds of ammunition,
07:18 literally tens of tons of explosives.
07:23 The people just absolutely went wild for several months.
07:30 It was during the height of this that we were preparing to leave
07:34 America. For several weeks, we went into Yugoslavia to wait
07:38 until the situation calmed here in Albania.
07:50 We made a decision fairly early on
07:54 that we would seek to reach and work with adults
07:57 especially the adult male, for Stan and I
08:00 to really seek to figure out how can we, you know, really come
08:04 to the place in a relationship with them where we can really
08:07 grapple with spiritual issues and spiritual needs
08:09 in their lives.
08:18 Both of us have made some significant friendships, and
08:22 we're finding that the work takes a lot of patience,
08:26 takes a lot of friendship building, and we're learning
08:29 to spend a lot of time in prayer for the people that we're
08:32 working with.
08:43 Our prayer is that, as we reach and understand how to grapple
08:48 with the spiritual needs of the adult male, that will bring in
08:53 its wake a strong influence upon both their wives and families.
09:19 Albania today is a country where spiritual interest seems to be
09:23 stirring. And yet, as far as people grounded in a solid
09:27 faith, it just doesn't seem to be happening very rapidly.
09:30 Albania was, for about 50 years, almost totally isolated from the
09:34 rest of the world under the communist regime.
09:37 In 1967, religious observance was outlawed by the government.
09:43 Prior to that, there were about 5 centuries of Islamic
09:47 occupation as the Turks had come into the country.
09:53 Most Albanians today would tell you that, before the Turks,
09:57 we were almost all Christians.
09:59 And yet today, 70 percent of Albanians claim the Muslim
10:03 heritage, about 20 percent identify themselves as Orthodox,
10:08 roughly 8 percent or so as Roman Catholic, leaving 2-3 percent
10:12 a variety of different beliefs.
10:14 As far as Seventh-day Adventism, we find that most of them
10:18 don't know what an Adventist is.
10:29 We've had about 4 to 5 young
10:31 girls coming to study the Bible,
10:34 and they range from 17 to 27.
10:38 We've been studying together two times a week.
10:58 It's really been exciting for me because I feel like I'm able to
11:02 communicate something of God to someone who wants to hear, and
11:06 moving to that place with people takes a long time.
11:09 But these girls do want to hear, and I believe that the Lord is
11:14 working in their lives as a group and personally.
11:16 I've seen that.
11:43 To choose a single Albanian is, especially there, is difficult
11:47 because coming to love so many of them,
11:51 but I suppose perhaps one that is especially close
11:56 would be Zyke.
11:58 He's one of five brothers here in Albania and basically they
12:02 consider me the little brother in the family.
12:05 When we first came to Albania, we spoke very little Albanian.
12:08 He would often invite me to travel with him in his truck,
12:12 trips that would be 6-9 hours.
12:14 Each of those was like one long language lesson.
12:16 But I've learned far more than language from Zyke.
12:19 I've also learned things about the culture, things
12:22 about their worldview.
12:23 Sometimes he's a little harsh with me, and yet I know he cares
12:27 and when he tells me that we're doing something wrong or
12:31 why don't we do this, or why don't we do that,
12:33 generally it comes from a genuine concern on his part.
12:38 And I see that God is at work in his life. Even though he
12:41 teases me a lot, he loves to introduce me to his friends in a
12:45 variety of ways to embarrass me, it's all in good fun.
12:48 I enjoy his personality very much.
13:00 I'll tell you about Shpresa because, she's a lady of about
13:04 42, 40-something years old.
13:08 Her husband was a good friend of
13:11 my husband's, before he died, but last year he died suddenly
13:15 of a heart attack. We started visiting Shpresa because we felt
13:19 so sorry for her.
13:21 And she considered us to be her husband's friends.
13:25 He taught English, so there was a connection between he and my
13:29 husband. I wanted to communicate to her that I wanted to be
13:32 her friend, not just her husband's friend.
13:36 And it wasn't long after that, that we went to visit her one
13:40 day and she was very nervous, and so we walked in her house
13:45 and I could tell something was wrong, and she said,
13:50 "My blood pressure is high and my heart is just racing. I don't
13:54 know what's wrong. " So I took her blood pressure for her and
13:58 her pulse, and it was pretty wild, and I sat with her for a
14:03 while and we talked, and it was related to the stress that she
14:08 feels and the emotional stress she feels with her husband's
14:10 death. So, it was really neat because from that experience,
14:16 I said, "You know, Shpresa, you need someone to regularly
14:19 check your blood pressure daily until it gets figured out. "
14:24 And she said, "Well, I don't have anywhere to go. "
14:26 And I said, "Well, I'll come and check it for you. "
14:29 So I did. I started coming every morning to her house,
14:32 and it was during those times when I would come for the
14:36 blood pressure that we would talk, and she became very open
14:40 to me and open to express her sorrow about her husband and
14:44 open about sharing herself with me.
14:47 It was unexpected for me. It opened up opportunities
14:51 for me to talk to her about the Lord. And we had several
14:55 conversations like that. One time in particular, it was right
14:58 before we went on furlough, I was there and we were talking
15:02 about saying hello and reunions with your family, and she said,
15:05 "Yeah but, when you guys leave your family, it's going to be
15:07 really hard on you. " And I said,
15:09 "Yeah. Wouldn't it be neat if
15:11 there was a place where you never had to say goodbye?"
15:13 Which for her is a very tender issue, because of her husband
15:17 dying, and she said, "Oh wow. " And I said, "Shpresa,
15:22 maybe there is. "
15:24 There are a lot of barriers. She and her family suffered greatly
15:28 under communism, with family members being killed even, and
15:32 them being relegated out to a village and sort of quarantined
15:35 off. They had suffered a lot
15:37 under communism, and I think
15:39 that the suffering has made
15:41 it hard to believe that there is a God.
15:43 But her husband's death has made
15:45 her feel a need for something
15:47 besides this life.
15:49 Her name means hope.
16:07 Nana Maria is my, she's more like my grandmother to me,
16:13 because she does seem much older than she is.
16:18 She lived below us when we first came, and she's the mother
16:21 of our first landlord. And he and his brothers and the mother
16:25 have all taken us in like part of their family.
16:28 And so she's like our grandmother of the family.
16:33 She's taught me how to make borek and other yaprak and
16:38 different ethnic Albanian foods.
16:42 She loves me.
16:44 She loves it when I come. I just wish I could go visit her more.
16:48 I only understand two thirds of what she tells me. I wish I
16:52 could understand more, but she pours her heart out to me
16:57 many times. Often she's in tears, she misses her
17:01 daughter so much.
17:02 Her daughter lives in Greece. For some reason, they think I
17:07 look a bit like her. So she always says I'm her daughter.
17:13 Stan's her son, and I'm her daughter. Try that one.
17:22 The biggest need that I've seen that I've been interested in is
17:26 the increasing level of lifestyle-related diseases
17:31 that they didn't have so much when communism was in place
17:34 because their diet was a lot more simple, and they didn't
17:37 have as much meat. The food was different.
17:40 White bread was non-existent.
17:42 They ate beans and brown bread. They had a lot less diabetes.
17:47 They had a lot less heart trouble and hypertension.
17:50 Now they have the luxury of meat and white bread and
17:54 lots of stress in their lives. They are experiencing lots
17:57 of our western diseases, and they don't have any answers for
18:01 them except to suffer through them, to take some pills. I feel
18:06 that a real need is to provide them with some knowledge so that
18:10 their lifestyle could be improved and that would give
18:13 them, you know, a solution. But the problem is, they associate
18:18 brown bread and beans with poverty and communism. And meat
18:23 and white bread is luxury.
18:26 So, it's not a simple solution either.
18:35 Since our arrival in September of '97, things have calmed
18:38 considerably. We no longer see tanks patrolling the streets as
18:43 we did. The armed police are still out at checkpoints, but
18:47 the frequency of them being with masks over their faces is much
18:52 less. Order is being re-established here within
18:55 the country.
18:56 Nonetheless, there's a tremendous sense of cynicism
19:00 among the people. Many of the people are saying, "Well, if God
19:04 cared about us, He wouldn't have let this happen. "
19:07 Many other people say, "Well, we see an need for God, but we're
19:10 just too busy for Him. Where has He been for
19:13 the last 50 years? He's not been around for us. We're a little
19:16 too busy for Him right now. "
19:18 The greatest need is of course a spiritual need.
19:22 But unfortunately, as sinners, we don't always realize where
19:26 the greatest need lies. If you ask an Albanian what the
19:29 greatest need in Albania is, they will say, "We need public
19:33 order, and we need work. "
19:37 For example, you look at adult males. I don't know what the
19:41 exact percentage rates are, it's really hard to tell, but I've
19:45 heard figures of 70 and 80 percent unemployed.
19:49 Or if they have a job, it hardly brings in anything.
19:52 So, from their perspective, which is a valid perspective,
19:57 the greatest need is work.
20:05 The greatest need is for people to learn trust again. To learn
20:10 to trust others, to be able to trust the Bible and God.
20:14 They feel God has forsaken them.
20:16 They feel, you know, during communism, you couldn't trust
20:20 anyone. You didn't want to tell them the truth, because it could
20:24 be used against you.
20:28 One of the most effective ways to engage people in conversation
20:32 on spiritual things it just to spend a few minutes at a time
20:35 with them. 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there.
20:40 We have found as we travel around, there are far more
20:43 people than we can effectively work with on our own.
20:46 It's exciting to think ahead of what's in store for Albania.
20:50 We have see that there is definitely a spiritual
20:53 restlessness in the hearts of the people. Short-term mission
20:57 trips and projects have their place, but the beauty of what
21:00 AFM endeavors to do is that we want to work ourselves out
21:04 of a job. We'd like to see the church well established and
21:07 reproducing in an area, be able to move over and do it again in
21:10 another area, and we need more people willing to do the same.
21:14 We've had a very good working relationship with the AFM
21:17 missionaries who've been working in Vlore. And because
21:20 we've had that very good partnership with the AFM people
21:23 who are here, it seems that it would be a good avenue to find
21:26 more people to work in the country.
21:29 The greatest need in Albania is the need for people. We have a
21:33 number of young Albanian pastors here, and we've been able to
21:37 attract a number of student missionaries who've come and
21:39 spent 6 or 12 months working in Albania. But people is the real
21:44 need. Many cities have no Adventist presence. These are
21:48 cities with 30, 40, 60 thousand people, so people is what
21:52 we really need.
21:55 Although it sometimes is a horribly painful experience to
21:58 try to go from one culture to another and never completely
22:01 leave your own culture, but you're not completely, you're
22:04 sort of in the middle between two cultures. That's really
22:09 difficult for me. But on the other hand, in the short time
22:13 we've been here, I've had the opportunity to go into places
22:17 that I could never have gone. I would never know the mind or
22:22 the life of, say, Shpresa or my little Albanian grandmother.
22:26 I could never have entered her life if I hadn't been willing to
22:30 cross over the barriers and seek to learn how to speak to her and
22:35 to make those moves. There's a price to pay to seek to move
22:39 from one culture to another, but I really believe that that's the
22:44 call of the gospel. You know, I believe I have something very
22:47 valuable and precious, and I feel responsible to make the
22:51 effort to cross those hard things and to come after them
22:55 and not sit back waiting for them to come after me or to
22:59 come after what I have that's precious. For me to take the
23:03 initiative and to go. It's pricey, but it's also
23:06 really special.
23:20 She came up to me, and she was going through a time where she
23:25 was very discouraged and depressed. She told me that
23:29 she should die. And I asked her why she would say something
23:32 like that. And she said because she just wants to have a happy
23:35 family, she wants to have a simple life, she's not asking
23:39 for much, but she can't have it.
23:41 Not here in Albania.
23:44 After she asked me a few questions, I started telling her
23:46 about Jesus and how He had
23:50 sacrificed for us and how much
23:54 He loved us, and trying to tell
23:58 her, explain that to her.
24:00 I tried to use their - what I
24:03 have learned about their hukmaria here.
24:08 They have a revenge killing, that if I kill your
24:13 brother, then you come and kill my brother, and you try and kill
24:16 me. But then if you kill me, my brother tries to kill you,
24:20 and it goes on and on like that forever
24:22 until somebody says, "Stop!"
24:24 And they're willing to call it quits and offer a child
24:28 instead, you know, to the person who wants revenge.
24:33 I told her it would be as if I had a very good friend here who
24:39 had only one son. And they loved me so much that they
24:43 said that their son would die instead of me,
24:48 and that the hukmaria would no longer be against me.
24:53 That I would be forgiven.
24:55 So he dies. And then I'm free.
24:58 I don't have to hide. I don't
25:01 have to fear those people coming and killing me. I have
25:05 another day to live, I have life to live. Blerina came back at me
25:11 and she said, "So it's a sin to want to die!" And I thought,
25:14 "Wow! Where did she get that?"
25:17 She realized that when you're
25:20 given life, it's such a precious
25:23 thing, that every day, you should want to live the best,
25:28 the most for God because He's done so much for us.
25:31 And to me, after we talked on that, I think it hit me more
25:36 than it hit her. I was just taken
25:39 with that thought. I thought,
25:41 I need to not just go away in my housekeeping and
25:44 everything and just say, "Oh yeah, another day.
25:48 I've got to wash clothes, another day to wash dishes,
25:51 another day to whatever, but I need to joyfully do
25:54 whatever is given to me because I have life to live. " I have
25:59 so much to be thankful for because God gave His son for me.
26:08 That was her turning point, and she said, "I want to know God. "
26:12 And that's where she prayed, well she asked me to pray, and
26:16 she repeated the prayer, wanting to know God. But, even
26:21 more so, because for me, that was a real eye opener of what
26:27 God did for me.
26:29 And why I want to be here to serve Him, because
26:34 He gave me life.
26:42 What I want to say again is just to pray God will do His best
26:48 for me and do what is best for my people. I mean, Albania.
26:52 And I hope for them to know God.
26:57 Everything will be okay.
27:03 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the
27:06 everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will
27:10 not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.
27:14 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power
27:17 of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men
27:21 stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew
27:25 their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will
27:29 run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
27:55 For more information on
27:57 how you can serve
27:58 or how you can support
27:59 frontier mission work, visit...
28:11 For the latest information on
28:13 the Albanian mission project
28:14 and Adventist Frontier Missions
28:16 or to order a copy of
28:18 Where Eagles Soar, visit...
28:25 When you call, please be
28:27 sure to mention where you
28:28 saw this program.