Spreading the gospel in Albania


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 16th. Thanks for listening! Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Albania.

It’s a small coastal country right across from Italy’s boot heel. It has a lot in common with its neighbor, Greece: Miles of coastline, rolling mountains.

After World War II, Albania’s communist leader kept the country isolated for forty years. The economy crumbled. Albania had the lowest standard of living in Europe. Bad housing. Bad roads. And absolutely no religion allowed.

REICHARD: After communism fell in the early 1990s, few Christians were left. But that number is growing. This past summer, an Albanian church teamed up with a group of Americans to run an English camp. The goal was to share Jesus with a generation desperate for meaning. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen brings us their story.

AUDIO: [Sound of welcome music]

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: It’s the official camp kick-off night. Everyone’s gathered on the patio under a couple of enormous red umbrellas.

TONI MANELLI: [Speaking in Albanian]

ERA VOCI [translating]: Welcome dear friends to our home.

TONI MANELLI: [Speaking in Albanian]

ERA VOCI [translating]: It is a honor to have you here with us.

There are about 40 people here. The Albanian team has decorated the patio with red and black flags. There’s a lot of baklava. A lot of dancing. 

AUDIO: [CHANTING ALBANIAN SONG LYRICS]

They play a popular song about the Albanian flag. When it comes on, everyone whoops, dances, whistles, claps, and sings along.

AUDIO: [SINGING IN ALBANIAN]

They have a lot of pride in their heritage. But if you ask young Albanians about their plans for the future…most of them say they want to leave. They want to get away from Albania’s haphazard infrastructure, high unemployment, and low average income. 

That’s why some of them came to this camp. They want to learn English, get a job, and go anywhere but here. But the Christians running the camp are hoping for something more.

AUDIO: [HALLELUJAH, SINGING IN ALBANIAN]

This is how every morning starts. Most of the campers have never been to church before. But now, every day, they listen to members of the American team share stories of how God changed their lives.

BRUBACHER: It is a moment when Jesus spoke to me in a very calming way.

TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING ALBANIAN]

BRUBACHER: So my question to you is…do you know the one who helps the helpless?

After worship, the campers split into three groups based on their English proficiency: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced.

Today, the advanced group is running mock job interviews.

THERESA KUNGEL: Hi, I’m Theresa.

STUDENT: Hi, nice to see you.

KUNGEL: Do you have your resume?

STUDENT: Yeah.

KUNGEL: And what is the position you’re applying for?
STUDENT: My position I am applying for is waiter.

In the beginner group, they’re learning the months of the year, holidays, animals…and animal sounds.

TIM BRUBACHER: Beef! Beef!

ALBANIAN: Lope, lope!

BRUBACHER: Mooooo. MOOOOOOOOOOO.

[LAUGHTER]

The afternoons are free for group activities–beach volleyball, swimming in the Adriatic. But the American Christians also use this time to connect one-on-one with the campers. They want to have meaningful conversations with each person here.

META: I’ve never heard stories about Jesus…I believe in God, but I never heard these things before. 

This is Sindi Meta. She’s 20. She studies English at the University of Tirana. She knew this was a Christian camp, and was curious to see what it was like.

META: When I hear your stories, when I hear you talk about Jesus, the way you love him, the way you trust him, I don’t know. It makes me want to cry now that I’m talking about it.

She says she wants to find out more. But it’s hard because she only has one Christian friend. Everyone else she knows says it’s silly to believe in God. 

META: If I’d had people around me who are Christians or believed or anything, I think I would be a Christian now.

One of the goals of this camp is to connect people like Meta with the local church. Everyone there knows what it’s like to be alone in their faith.

GULIQINI: Was a long time for me to decide just because…I was hearing different things from different people.

Kleo Guliqini is 23 years old. You heard his voice a minute ago leading worship. Six years ago, he attended a camp just like this one.

GULIQINI: What they challenged me was, don’t hear what I’m saying, don’t hear your friends…are saying, just go home and pray for it and pray for God to show you who he is. And he will. So he did.

After a year of questioning and thinking and praying, Guliqini says he woke up one day with new clarity.

GULIQINI: I do believe, I do believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose again.

Now, though most of his peers are trying to get out of Albania, Guliqini wants to stay. Why?

GULIQINI: I really want to meet new people and share with them. The most important thing that we have, that’s the good news. The gospel. We are speaking for eternal life, so it’s not something that, okay, if I choose by mistake, it’s not a problem. It’s really important. 

AUDIO: [HALLELUJAH, SINGING IN ALBANIAN]

For WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen reporting from Vlorë, Albania.


(Photo/Creative Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “Spreading the gospel in Albania

  1. Pallab Gupta says:

    As a teenager, one of my favorite books was “Tomorrow You Die” (Tomorrow You Die (International Adventures) https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B00HX34U6M/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_rD1PDbR52STRJ). In that I learned that Albania was the first country that declared itself atheistic. I remember when the dictator finally was gone. This news report comes as such a blessing to see how God works to heal.

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