It is our privilege once again to share with you all something of the work of the Lord here in Albania. As we write, the Muslim community is celebrating Kurban-Bayram (a Muslim feast) and everywhere there are visible evidences of their presence here in Albania. It is a national holiday and considering that it is November we have had a nice day. The last six months seem to have come and gone so quickly, but we are thankful for the progress made in the work here.
Since last writing we have finished the translation, proof reading, and printing of three further Emmaus courses bringing the total number now available in Albanian to eight. The proof reading of another is entering the final stages and we hope to have it completed before the end of the year. Again we were able to translate and publish another gospel tract in Albanian in preparation for the book fair. We are blessed to have a graphic designer who works with us to design the front covers of the tracts and any other leaflets/invitations we produce for outreach. He is a local brother whom I have known for many years now, originally from an assembly further south in Albania, and he freely gives of his time to assist us in this way which is a rare commodity here!
Since May I have been going every Thursday morning to the local prison in Lezhe with brother Mondi. Lezhe is about an hours drive from Tirana, and Mondi is a local commended brother working in that town. For the first hour I have the responsibility of teaching English to the inmates as requested by the local authorities. After the lesson we are free to visit the prisoners in their cells and to discuss the Scriptures.
One man, a 33 year old who has been in prison for thirteen years and has another three years to serve, is showing a lot of interest in the gospel. He has completed three Emmaus courses and last Thursday I was able to give him the fourth. On each occasion he stays after class for a long while to discuss spiritual matters. There are several others also interested, and we pray for wisdom as we speak with them weekly.
Again, this year we were enabled to have a stand at the National Book Fair in Tirana. We were small compared to the other religious groups that surrounded us, but we attracted a lot of attention resulting in an interview with one of the local TV channels, which was broadcast several times over the weekend, and two radio interviews. Attached to the left of us was a large Islamic stand, opposite a large Catholic and further Islamic stands, and to the right of us a large Greek Orthodox stand, with yet another Islamic stand by the Iranian Culture Centre! The main attraction was a replica wooden printing press of the 15th century one used by Gutenberg. Many thanks are owed to Val Stewart from the assembly at Ballyclare for very kindly taking the time to make it and sending it to us in time for the fair.
Once again we were able to distribute freely over 2,000 calendars we received from the Albanian Christian Fund and, in addition, copies of the most recent tract translated and printed. Along with this were invitations to a conference on the Sunday evening where the topic this year was "The Bible can we believe it?". We were pleased to have around twelve non-believers for the conference and they listened with respect.
Outreach at Expo Centre
We continue to rent premises in the area where we live for a variety of outreach activities.
Children: At the beginning of September we held a special week of childrens meetings as there was no similar work in our area and we were burdened to commence a work among the children. Towards the end of the week we had up to twenty-five in attendance which was very encouraging. Most of these children were hearing Bible stories for the very first time. Due to a few cases, three years ago, of suicide among children who had been linked to the Jehovahs Witnesses movement, parents are very reluctant to send their children to activities connected with any of the non-traditional religious groups (Islam, Orthodox, and Catholic). Since then we have been meeting with the children every Saturday morning for two hours and have a regular attendance of 10-15, most of whom are boys aged 9-12 years.
Teenagers: Around eighteen teenagers continue to meet on Friday evenings for systematic Bible study. Over the past two years several have professed which is an encouragement, as this is a challenging age group with which to work. As they approach the university years we fear that many will be lost as far as follow-up is concerned, as they pursue further studies and subsequent careers abroad. Next month Albanians will be allowed for the first time to travel freely in Europe without visas. This is likely to influence greatly the young people in particular to seek a new life outside of Albania.
Sunday meetings: Every Sunday evening the message of the gospel is presented at the centre. From time to time we have visitors or invited speakers from other assemblies and afterwards there is a light buffet for all as this encourages people to stay and provides an opportunity for meaningful conversations. Several of the regular non-believers who attend have recently expressed how they like the friendly environment and feel at home when they come. Over the last few weeks Enris mum has also been making her own way on the bus to the meetings which has been a real surprise and we continue to pray for her salvation.
Thursday evenings: Those involved in helping us with the childrens work, teenagers work, and Sunday evening meetings meet together on Thursday evenings to pray and to discuss the weeks activities. We are only four couples but we pray that the Lord will continue to remember us as we seek to win souls for Him and develop this new work.
Sylvia continues to work at the ABC clinic in a voluntary capacity two mornings a week. In October the clinic held another two day training conference for local GPs as they were unable to accommodate all that wanted to attend their conference in May. She has also recommenced language study with an hour lesson once a week to try to consolidate her knowledge and practise speaking Albanian more. Meanwhile the boys are back at nursery/pre-school three days a week. They do not start school until 6 years of age here, but have a list of requirements to fulfil before starting such as counting, knowledge of the alphabet, and elementary mathematics. They are both looking forward to the new arrival at the beginning of February!