I had a nice run on the streets of Tirana this morning and Dan and I are ready for our 1st full day here. For those of you who didn't read yesterday's post, read on!
Through some sovereignly orchestrated events, I was invited by Andi and Vilma Dina who live in Tirana, Albania to come and train some of their leaders.
Albania (which lies West of Greece & next door to Macedonia) is one of the poorest countries in Europe. It's 60% Muslim and only 1% evangelical Christian. Out of about 3 million people, there are around 25,000 Christians; lots of work to be done.
I left Orange County, California at 8a on Wednesday, October 19th and will spend Thursday evening until Sunday evening with Andi, Vilma and some of their key leaders and fly home early Monday, October 24th.
Andi is in the process of applying to the Acts 29 network and has a heart to plant churches not only in Albania but in other nearby Balkan countries such as Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia & Bosnia Herzegovina. Andi and his team have a big vision and big hearts.
This is an incredible opportunity which may lead to coaching Andi on a regular basis as well as doing some ongoing training with him and his team over Skype.
Following is a bit of Andi’s story and vision:
“I am originally from Tirana, Albania. I'm 36 years old, married to Vilma and have four sons: Samuel 10, Amos 6, Joshua 4 and Jon Eliajah is 1 year old.
“I came to Christ 14 years ago when I was in college. I come from a Muslim family background and receiving Christ as Lord and Savior was a miracle for me!
“During these 14 years the Lord has transformed my broken life to a life with a purpose. I was spending my life in vain. I was about to immigrate to Germany and join a drug distribution network. One night I was so empty and restless and I whispered these words: Lord I don't believe in you, but if you really exist please show yourself to me, turn my life upright, perform a miracle in my life.
“I had two friends at the college and one of them gave me a New Testament. I took it and threw it in my room. But later I went and found it again and read my first Bible verse. It was not John 3:16 that could give me the gospel in one verse, but it was Romans 14:17 that says: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."
“This verse jumped into my heart. I was eating and drinking but didn't have any peace or joy. God did a miracle at the college I was about to quit. He made a way for me so I could continue the studies and, in this way, He protected me from joining the drug network. God showed his power to me and precisely answered my prayer. I started to cry and cry and I couldn't stop.
“I was kneeled down, thanking and worshipping Him and didn't want to get up. Then I made my second prayer ‘Lord I believe you are God and you answer prayers but please show me where can I serve you. I don't want to go away from you anymore. Lord, I'm Muslim, please show me where to go, please show me the right place to follow you.’
“For 13 years I've been serving His church, leading different cell groups and two church planting teams. I've been involved in children and youth ministry for the last four years, traveling in all the Balkans countries to train, encourage and motivate children and youth workers, pastors and ministers. It has been a great journey, full of challenges but always full of God's grace and faithfulness.
“We want to invest our lives to see the kingdom of God advance through the preaching of the gospel and planting new churches.
“We also want to be a blessing for all the wounded and fallen young Christian leaders. We want to help them recover, to be spiritually healed, to empower them and to equip and release them in the fullness of Christ in God's kingdom. (Isaiah 40:30,31)
“We want to invest our life and ministry in strengthening and helping the unity of the body of Christ in Albania by providing sound leadership and mentorship trainings. Also, by providing good resources in outreach and discipleship for all the churches and ministries in Albania.
“We want to help the vulnerable communities and those who are living in extreme poverty. We want to feed them by providing daily meals and also by providing the true bread that comes from heaven, the Word of God.”
David: I thought you would be encouraged to read Andi’s story. Praise the Lord Jesus for saving Andi and for calling him into an exciting life of sharing the gospel and planting churches.
Pray for me as I’m in Albania with Andi, Vilma, their four boys and their team:
1. That the Lord would give me health, strength and energy. (It took 24 hours to get here!)
2. That I would have great wisdom to know what to focus on in the training that they have asked me to provide
3. That Dan McIntosh (a 29 year old leader from my church who is with me) and I will work well together
4. That the Lord of the harvest will deepen and strengthen Andi and his team for the mission ahead
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!