Dear Loved Ones,
I have exciting news to share with you! God has seen fit to provide an opportunity for a short term mission trip to Albania this year. A church planting endeavor needs help and has asked us to send a team. A few of us sought to answer the call, and from this, a team of three was formed: John Sleadd, John Neyhart, and myself. God has already provided the first $1000 through the giving of the members of our church (Household of Faith Grants Pass), and the plane tickets are purchased! We still look forward to seeing how God is going to provide financially for the rest of the expenses of the trip and also to present a gift to the church in Albania but let me share with you some reasons why I’m so excited about this trip.
First, a little history. In Romans 15:19 we read, “...from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the Gospel of Christ.” Illyricum is also called “Dalmatia” in 2 Timothy 4:10 saying that Titus had gone there. You can probably guess where I’m going with this... Yes, Illyricum and Dalmatia both refer to none other than modern day Albania. In a region where the Gospel of Jesus Christ had penetrated and pastor Titus had spent time, it is not hard to believe the history that Albania was widely Christian. It is said that all Albanians were Orthodox Christian until the middle of the 13th century. However, as the Ottoman Empire grew, Islam began to take over the region and many Christians were either heavily taxed, discriminated against, or forced to convert to Islam. This went on until about 1912.
From this time Albania grew into a monarchy and developed the slogan “religion separates, patriotism unites”. This led to its embrace of communism and in 1946 the government shut down all churches and killed many Christians in the name of “unity” as a nation. At this point history records that Albania had become “the first atheist nation in the world”. Hundreds of pastors were imprisoned, executed or starved to death. Church buildings were either owned by the state or burned to the ground. It wasn’t until the issue of human rights was brought to the United Nations in 1983 that Albania hit the world’s radar. Shortly after this, the Albanian government went through some leadership changes and received intervention from other nations, the United States of America being one of them. The fact that our nation helped their nation gain freedom explains why Albania is not a dangerous place to go for Americans today.
In 1991 Albania finally allowed religious freedom again. It is amazing to me to think that the same year I moved to Grants Pass, at 11 years of age, God had granted freedom to this country across the world and that many my age have no recollection of a mention of God until they were twelve. Consequently, this is about the age at which a boy named Edi Demo became a Christian. Edi told us that he remembers the day he heard that there were outsiders speaking about God, but says he had no point of reference to really grasp either of those terms, "outsiders" or "God". Today he and his wife Bona, along with their two young sons, serve full time with the Illyricum Movement, the church planting ministry that we will be assisting.
Needless to say, the gospel of Jesus Christ quickly made its way back into the region and Christian populations began to grow again. However, since Albania was predominantly Muslim for about 400 years, many are also returning back to those roots. Now, after nearly thirty years of freedom, the Albanian church is calling for the well-established, seasoned Christians of the world to come and help plant and establish new churches and contribute to the advancement of the kingdom of God, a work that was begun with the Apostle Paul. We must answer the call. We must come to their aid. The Illyricum Movement’s motto is “planting and establishing churches among Muslims”. Let’s help provide them with resources to do just that- by supporting them financially, by much prayer, and by sending fellow workers in the gospel.
I am asking for your help financially. That is a part of this letter. But a much greater part of this letter occupies my heart, and that is to draw the attention of the Christian church in America to the Lord’s harvest in Albania. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest.” Laboring for the gospel takes the whole church, every part of the body of Christ working together. There are “pray-ers” and there are “go-ers”. There are senders and there are the sent. If you feel that the Lord of the Harvest has called you to be on the sending side so that laborers would be sent, please give to this endeavor.
Please also pray for my family as I will be away from them for three weeks.
Anything that is provided that is beyond the needs of the trip itself will be a gift to the Albanian church.
May God receive all the glory for all that is done so that this work may be established.
Grace and Peace,