As most of you hopefully know, we are trying to put together a team from GCD to help lead an Evangelistic English Camp in Albania this summer. Grace Church has been sending a team to Albania every summer since 2002. The role of this short-term team has grown a lot since that time. Initially, its purpose was to draw the youth of Tirana (the country’s capitol city) into Grace Church of Tirana, which had essentially no youth as a part of it (yet the church sits right along “The Block” – the center of Tirana social life!). It was clear from early on that the youth of this nation, only recently exposed to capitalism and democracy, were searching desperately for joy but could not find it in the country’s infant freedoms. That joy could only be found in Jesus Christ. In 2006, Justin and Gretchen Hall (Justin is a graduate of North Central College and Gretchen of Wheaton College. The two met as a part of the Grace Church College Group) have moved to Tirana to lead the youth ministry full time.
Slowly but surely the youth group has grown since then, partly through the evangelistic work of the Grace Church Evangelistic English Camp (called “Eureka!” back in the day), and there are now young Albanians who are capable of helping Justin and Gretchen lead the youth group. That quick maturity of the youth group is an awesome testimony of the Spirit’s power. Our short term team no longer needs to go and lead the camp for the Albanians. Instead, we have the privilege of coming alongside the youth group in their own evangelistic endeavors.
For example; The Albanian Student Ministry Team led three evangelistic camps last summer. Two of the camps were in Tirana. The third, which the Grace Church of DuPage Team helped run, took place in a small village outside of Tirana called Babrru. At this camp we were able to tell “The Story of God” starting with creation, the fall and then flying through the Old Testament and eventually landing on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Essentially every kid at this camp was hearing this story for the first time. Since that time, Majlinda (a young leader of the Student Ministry Team) has been conducting a regular “English Club” in the town and many others from the youth group have found ways to continue relationships with the kids in Babrru.
Currently, only a man named Astrit and his wife are the sole Christians living in Babrru. He recently graduated from the small seminary in Tirana and it is now Astrit’s desire to plant a church in his hometown of Babrru. Grace Church has been invited to send a team back to Babrru this summer to come alongside the Albanian Student Ministry Team and Astrit by running another Evangelistic English Camp with the hopes of planting the seeds of a church in Babrru.
Babrru is not the most beautiful place I can think of spending summer vacation. You’ll be sweating a lot but not sleeping a lot. You’ll spend a lot of time planning activities and lessons but most of them wont work out. You’ll feel self conscious and awkward as you struggle with the language. You’ll only be there long enough to realize how insufficient an amount of time two weeks is to build meaningful cross-cultural relationships. On top of that, the emotional high you get as you return will probably fade away by the fall and every resolution you make about your own habits after experiencing another culture will probably not stick around too long either. Yet God is at work in Albania, as he is in every other corner of his creation, and there really is a place for this short-term team in that work. Because of that fact, I’d encourage everyone to at least give some thought to spending a few weeks in July of 2010 in Albania.