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From Albania and Back

When we first wrote this our suitcases were half packed, and we are nearly ready to leave our home here in Albania for a few months. We've enjoyed the holiday season here in New Zealand and have now turned our attention to a couple of months of speaking engagements around the country.
Outreach to Poliçan
The highlight for Murray at the end of 2016 was supporting a men's outreach from our church to the men in a town called Poliçan nearly three hours drive away. In our last newsletter we wrote:
The men (in Tirana) have had a growing concern for the church in the hometown where many of them first became Christians. Murray is supporting their plans to visit Poliçan every few weeks, to encourage the men that still live there. The first visit will be on the 15th October. 

Most of these men became Christians many years ago, but for a variety of reasons they stopped meeting together.
Since we last wrote, Murray and his team have visited Poliçan five times, and in total they are having contact with 12 different men. Each time they go they contact as many of the men as possible, and then meet with them over two days. They usually drive down on Friday afternoon, stay overnight and then come back on Saturday afternoon.
On the most recent visit the men began a new Bible study series which they plan to continue while we are gone.
Tirana Bible Studies
In our church in Tirana we have continued our small Bible study groups. Murray has been discipling and studying the Bible with five men, however for a variety of reasons, he has particularly focused on the two in particular that are leading the outreach to Poliçan.

Féy has continued with a group of three women, and has seen them growing in their faith, and in their understanding of the Scriptures. She is encouraged that they are not dependent on her, but continued to meet and study together each week even when she has been away. Her other group of two women were finding it more difficult to meet regularly as one of them is was working long hours leading up to the New Year celebrations.

A number of other small groups began at the beginning of last year are struggling to keep traction. The biggest challenge has been from employer pressure to work long hours, which is hard not to do, when you know that there are 100 other people ready to take your job.

At the end of last year in church we acknowledged eleven church members who had finished Bible study courses over this past year.
Greek Short-term Team update
In November Féy planned to take a team of nine Albanians on a short-term mission trip to Athens to work alongside a Greek church that has a significant ministry to immigrants. As often happens here in Albania, the make up of the team changed by the day leading up to their departure, with a 75% turnover in team members. She ended up with a group of four (instead of nine) Albanian guys on the team, aged 21, 26 and two who are 52. Féy was a bit concerned as to how it would go leading a group of guys (especially two being in their 50’s), but it was a great team.

After the uncertain start (changing team members and having to leave on a bus 12 hrs later than planned), everyone had a really positive experience. It was good watching the team as they were challenged by different discussions, and the things they saw and experienced.

Over the week we experienced three different styles of church services and took part in two feeding ministries (giving meals to people hit by the financial crisis). The guys also got to hang out with homeless men who came to the church centre for showers or just to have a coffee and game of dominoes. The poor community in Athens are very international, and came from all walks of life. We also had some quality discussions with a local Greek pastor, an Albanian church leader, and an Albanian missionary (his wife is American) about the situation here in Athens.

As a result of their experiences and discussions, all the team members were inspired and challenged, and we have heard that there has already been an immediate impact and change in their ministries here in Albania. However, a lasting impression the team did not expect to experience was the lack of hope they saw in many of the people they met with in Greece.

One of the reason's Féy took a team to Greece was because ECM is looking for ways to support the evangelical churches in Greece. She was able to follow up on some important contacts in Athens, and the plan now is for the ECM International Leadership Team to hold one of their meetings in 2017 in Athens. So from many perspectives it was a very successful trip.