by Enris Nase
Modern Albania is part of biblical Illyricum, in southeast Europe, mentioned by the apostle Paul, ‘from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ’ (Rom. 15:19). Like the first-generation Christians, our aim is to fulfil the ministry of the gospel in the country.
Thirty years after the fall of communism, Albania is almost unrecognisable as economic and social transformation continues to sweep the country at great pace. This has brought many challenges but also many opportunities to share the gospel with people who traditionally claim to belong to the majority faith group of Islam (70%).
Tirana, the capital of Albania, has been a fast-growing city for many years now. Around 25,000 people relocate each year from villages or towns to live in Tirana and many others commute daily for work. The busy routine of city life can be a great challenge to the acceptance of the gospel as there is never the ‘right time’ to ponder and reflect on spiritual matters. People can feel that they are no longer individuals but just small cogs in the great metropolitan system, which is disheartening. However, newcomers are neither under the influence of family nor religious traditions and their desire to make new friends can create an opening for the gospel. By befriending newcomers and showing Christian love, the first steps to awareness of their spiritual reality are made. As they observe the differences between the warmth of the Christians and indifference of others, there is a growing desire to not only spend time with believers but even to consider further exploration. After their initial contact with the assembly, an invitation for personal Bible study follows with the aim of bringing them to a better knowledge of their need of a Saviour. Emmaus Bible courses are an excellent evangelistic tool, which allow the ‘student’ to read the material that has been discussed and the ‘teacher’ to check progress made by marking tests.
Books – A Lasting Legacy
Around 20 years ago, we started translating and printing Emmaus courses, which are still used across the country and cover a range of topics for non-Christians as well as new believers.
Recently, I got a letter from an inmate who started to study the Bible using one of the Emmaus courses he found in his new prison cell! It is exciting to correspond with him, getting to know him and being able to send further courses and other Christian literature. The great news is that he now wants to get baptised and is eager to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus.
Printing books is a legacy that we desire to leave behind if the Lord tarries His return. As first-generation Christians, it is vital to have good, sound Christian literature that guides doctrinal teaching and assists all aspects of our practical lives. The process of publishing requires much time and passes through different phases: initial translation, checking the fidelity with the original, assessing the flow of thought in Albanian, correcting mistakes and lastly preparing the layout before going to print.
While reading a good book, I often think of my fellow Albanians who are unable to enjoy this privilege due to language barriers. Therefore our aim is to publish two or three books every year. Our increasing selection includes books by David Gooding, John Lennox, John McQuoid, Ralph Shallis and others. Although time consuming, it’s worth every minute as these books will be available long after we’re gone. Pray for the publishing ministry as a good book is one of the best gifts you can give someone.
Since the commencement of the new assembly in 2011 we have aimed to mobilise and enable each believer to share the gospel with their friends, relatives and co-workers. We are fully aware that as the new believer receives life from the Lord, naturally they start to look for Christian friends resulting in fewer non-Christian connections. For this reason, the first years after conversion are crucial to sharing their newly found Saviour with unsaved friends. Organising outreach events benefits new believers and the assembly by helping them to exercise their gifts and providing opportunities to invite others.
As Albanian society becomes more westernised and secularised, fewer people are interested in the spiritual aspect of their lives. When the first assemblies started in Albania in the early 1990s, there was no need to give out invitations – people would come to a gospel meeting simply by being invited. Now it is much more difficult to get people to come along and especially as there is no custom of going to church. However, when a conference or seminar is arranged there are always visitors who like to attend. Given our atheist/agnostic background in Albania, the first of these events, held in November 2009, was entitled, ‘Has man created God or God created man?’ Many attended and since then we have seen hundreds crossing the threshold and hearing the gospel. Although many do not return we know that His Word will not return to Him void (Isa. 55:11).
the first years after conversion are crucial to sharing their newly found Saviour with unsaved friends
Tract distribution is another way of reaching out with the gospel. When we arrived in Albania there were no tracts available to buy for distribution so we had no other option than to write our own. Around a dozen are now available for distribution on the streets by the local assembly and to date thousands have been disseminated. The most recent tract written and printed this year deals with the meaningless and emptiness of life without the Lord. As people distance themselves more from God, yet still look for meaning and purpose in their lives, we can point to true life found only in Him.
Caring for the Community
My wife, Sylvia, continues to support the ABC Clinic with medical expertise and medical supplies. Since the commencement of the outpatient palliative care clinic a few years ago, this ministry has grown significantly and presents many opportunities to share the hope that is found in Christ with those facing an uncertain eternity. As a member of the scientific board, she has also been helping colleagues with new training.
Following the apostle’s example ‘by all means I might save some’ and besides our usual gospel meeting, outreach is tailored to the variety of people with whom we work. Sometimes it may be in a relaxed setting, as in an intentional conversation over coffee or sometimes in more formal settings like organised conferences with specific topics such as historical evidence for the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the reliability of the Gospels.
The Story of the Bible
In Albania we don’t have the privilege of visiting schools or teaching in school assemblies as, due to our communist heritage, schools are secular places. So we had the idea to display a printing press at the International Book Fair in Tirana in 2010. We demonstrated how the printing press works and how Gutenberg printed Bibles 500 years ago using John 3:16 as our sample text. That initial concept developed to include examples of Bible
manuscripts and later panels and displays were added. The exhibition presents how we got the Bible, why you can trust the Bible and the message of the Bible. It is a great tool that reaches people whom we might not have expected. As we locate a venue to display the exhibition, we advertise on billboards, hand out leaflets and promote the event on local radio and television. We invite the local authorities who will often come for the official opening. Some months ago while at the International Book Fair, a young man stopped and exclaimed ‘I was at your Bible exhibition’. My obvious reply was ‘So, what did you think of it?’ He visited the exhibition, became interested in knowing more, searched until he was gloriously saved and is now attending an evangelical church in Tirana! To God be the glory!
Fulfilling the ministry of the gospel should be a paramount task for every Christian and the approach ‘by all means’ the motto and a way of life as we try to make known the salvation God has provided to everyone in Christ.