Preaching the gospel in Illyricum
Our CEO Ian Roberts reports from his trip last week to Albania to launch Christianity Explored.
“There’s no atheists here - it’s so different to Germany”. I was listening to the reflections of a long-term missionary, brought up in Leipzig under Communist rule, but excited by the opportunities now afforded to spread the Gospel in rural Albania.
A religious melting pot
Albania has a population of around 3 million of which an estimated 40% now live in the capital of Tirana.
New buildings and vibrant cafes show signs of an emerging city prosperity. But (refreshingly in many ways) no multinational corporations are in sight. Taking a shower can be a hazardous experience with the cold water supply coming and going without warning, particularly in the early morning!
Meanwhile the Church seems to be growing. Missionaries of all kinds piled into Albania in the mid 90s as the country opened up, only to evacuate soon afterwards as chaos descended and a State of Emergency was declared. Many have now returned to work alongside those who rose to leadership in the vacuum.
A huge new Mosque is now taking shape in the city centre. And as I flicked through the channels on my hotel TV, pretty well every other channel seemed to be a religious one - of any and every persuasion.
It’s into this setting that Craig Dyer (our Training Director) and I, accompanied by Northern Irish sponsors of Missionary Agency partners Adopt a Child, arrived to launch the Albanian translation of Christianity Explored.
Introducing Albanian CE to 80 pastors
We had to travel a day early courtesy of a flight cancellation. This allowed us a fascinating journey over the border to Kosovo to meet with a handful of pastors on the Tuesday.
Then on Wednesday and Thursday we repeated the same training session for those who could come, meaning around 80 people had been introduced to 'Identity, Mission, Call' in Mark’s Gospel by the end of the week.
Erion Cuni, our energetic host, had done a fantastic job at encouraging leaders of all denominations to attend. Erion already has a track record with Christianity Explored having previously introduced the prison version, The Prisoners Journey®, in his former role heading up Prison Fellowship Albania.
The stories he told us of changed lives in the prisons encourages us that similar fruit will be seen as the church version takes root.
Albania appears to be in transition. There’s a plethora of religious options to choose from. And the Church is still a very young one.
So our prayer is that our resources would be used to introduce people to Jesus.
Our hope is that they would also help leaders take believers deeper into his word, so that they would grow in maturity and be able to discern truth from error in a country at a crossroads and facing many choices about who God really is.