Albania

A new church partnership

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Murray and I are pleased to say we have begun partnering with the Kisha e Perendise (Church of God) church and church plant in a densely populated suburb called Mëzez, on the outskirts of Tirana. We will be working with Erion and his wife Gena, and Elton and his wife Mariana. Erion is the pastor of the older church (planted eight years ago), which is at one end of suburb, and Elton (and Mariana) are leading the new church plant on the other side of the neighbourhood. The four of them form the basis of the leadership team for both churches, and are in their mid 30’s, and are bivocational. Consequently they are not able to work in the church full-time and need help – especially with the new church.

They have asked us to do four things:

Join their leadership team for regular monthly meetings. Meet regularly with Elton and Mariana in a mentoring relationship. Disciple the older folk from both churches. There are around ten older people (men and women) who come to one of the churches, but culturally it is difficult for people in their 30’s to disciple people of older generations. Murray to help in the church plant – however we are yet to work out the specifics of what this will look like.

We feel that we have a reasonable understanding of their church situation, leadership style, struggles, and what they want/need from us and how we can support and work alongside them. We confirmed that we will work with them, and will review the situation in a year.

 

September road trips

In September we went on a Balkan road trip from Albania to Kosovo, then through Macedonia to Bulgaria (Sofia & Burgas on the Black Sea) and on to Romania (Vanju Mare & Timisoara), and then back to Albania via Serbia and Kosovo.

The purpose of the trip was to support a new missionary family in Bulgaria, and then for Féy to meet with other ECM missionaries in each of those countries to encourage them and discover more about their ministries.

It was an intense two weeks, covering 2810 kms and meeting with 10 different people/couples/families who are involved in ministries ranging from anti-traffiking, church planting, a halfway house for single mothers, translating and publishing, children’s summer camps, pastoral support for pastors, and training.

This last weekend Féy also flew up to Austria for four nights to meet the missionaries in Austria and to attend the Austrian teams Prayer Days.

Church Planting in Albania

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Murray has been partnering in the Shalom Church for the past two and half years, along with Féy (very part time) and Kent & Angie Morton (for the past year). The highlight of those years was witnessing nine people growing in their faith, and then get baptised last September. However, after the baptisms, Valbona took over more of the leadership and decision making, as she feels that the church has been planted. As our involvement and input steadily reduced, we realised that it was time our involvement came to end, and at the end of May we had our last official service with them.

Our time in the Shalom church has borne fruit, and we have learnt a lot about working within the context of a small local church. We plan to continue to meet with the church members as opportunity allows.

We are now exploring and seeking another Albanian church to partner with in church planting, and have already had some encouraging conversations. Please pray for clear direction, and wisdom as we set up a new mutually beneficial partnership to help plant and strengthen Albanian churches.

 

Féy’s Dad

During the first week of June, while at a week long training course in the beautiful Tyrol mountains in Austria, we received news that my dad had been admitted to hospital. On Wednesday we heard that he had had a very rough night, and that they had nearly lost him. For two days there seemed to be some hope and chance of recovery as they pumped him full of antibiotics and other drugs. For a number of reasons we made the decision not to travel to NZ at that point. We hoped and prayed for Dad to recover, but sadly Dad passed away peacefully on the Friday evening in the presence of my mum, my younger brother, our four children and three other grandchildren. We were able to come to NZ for a memorial service with family on July 4 and we will be here a couple of weeks to support my mum and move her into her new house before returning to Albania. Thank you very much for your thoughts and prayers.

Baptisms in Albania

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Over the last eight months the Shalom church plant, which is made up of about 15 adults and 20 children, has been doing some basic biblical discipleship topics from the first SEAN course, “Abundant Life.” During that time we covered 18 different topics including repentance from sin, belief and forgiveness, how to pray, and what it means to be a member of a local church.

After we had done the topic of Baptism we asked who was ready for baptism and seven people responded. We spent a number of weeks going over what baptism meant with everyone in the church to make sure they all understood what was happening. We chose a day at the end of July for the baptisms, but had to postpone it until the September 14 as some had work and others planned to be away on holiday with their families.

We met with those to be baptised the day before the event and discovered that another woman wanted to be baptised as well. Though she was a new Christian, we agreed that she was ready. On the day, an 80 year old woman who was a regular part of the Shalom Church but has been away for the summer said “why can’t I be baptised too? Why didn’t you ask me?” So we ended up baptising her as well – by pouring water on her instead of immersion because of her age. A total of nine people were baptised that day.

 

Introducing God.

For the past year, Murray has been quietly working on making the Introducing God course culturally relevant and personalising the illustrations. As he finished each lesson, either a friend translated it, or Murray did the translation himself with our language teacher.

The result is 11 booklets in simple, easy to read A4 format. Since finishing them, Murray has given the first booklet to ten different men, including neighbours, the local mechanic, the men associated with the Shalom church and two others.

The plan is to follow each lesson up with a discussion over coffee, so he is going to be busy during these next few months working through the series with these men. ‘M,’ a nominal muslim taxi driver, was the first to read through the series with Murray and he became a Christian about half way through the course.

 

For information about the Cotters click here.

Church planting in Albania

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The Shalom church is ticking along nicely, however it is currently more like a house church that meets in a building rather than a church. Each Sunday up to 11 adults and half a dozen teenagers meet for a bible study and prayer, while the children have a separate programme. On Saturdays Valbona runs the main children’s programme.

With Kent and Angie Morton now living near the church we hope for more contact with the families living around the church. Féy and I will be thinking and praying about moving into the neighbourhood at the end of the year too.

Progress with people’s faith is usually slow and hard to measure, but we have some encouraging signs with 6 people (4 adults and 2 teenagers) thinking about baptism this summer.

Pray for those thinking about Baptism. It is a big step for the adults to do such a decisive act and invite all thier families and it is easy to put it off and not bother. Pray for them also as we make as sure as possible  that they understand this Christian Faith that we are teaching and what we believe. It is going well.

“M,” the 44 year old taxi driver whose wife and two boys come to the Shalom church continues to learn about the Christian faith. If Murray doesn’ call him to meet up, he calls Murray, which is really encouraging.