Local Missionaries in Albania
Located in southeastern Europe, Albania sits between Greece, Montenegro, Kosovo, and the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea. Slightly smaller than the state of Maryland, Albania became the only country to classify itself as an atheist nation in its constitution in 1967. During his rule, communist dictator Enver Hoja sought to erase all religion from his country; revered places of worship for both Catholics and Muslims were destroyed. Hoja also ordered parents to change the names of any of their children who had biblical names such as Matthew, Peter, or Paul. The parents were issued a list of government-approved names. Many religious leaders were imprisoned, tortured, and executed.
It was not until 1991, after the People’s Socialist Republic was dissolved and the Republic of Albania was officially founded, that religious freedom returned to this nation. During 50 years of dictatorship, two generations were raised without any religious background. Today, many people identify themselves by their parents’ or grandparents’ religion in name only.
When communism collapsed in 1991, Albanians were reduced to poverty. According to the CIA World Factbook, “Successive governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, widespread corruption, dilapidated infrastructure, powerful organized crime networks, and combative political opponents.” Albania is considered to be Europe’s poorest and least developed country.
Today, 55% of Albanians identify themselves as Muslims. According to Joshua Project, “The Muslims, along with the Catholics of northern Albania and the Orthodox of southern Albania, are pressing for restrictive legislation to keep out other religions, such as Protestantism, that are considered non-Albanian.”
Despite these challenges, indigenous missionaries have found openness to the gospel among children and youth. One ministry opened a vocational training center where young people are learning marketable skills and has also developed programs for the disabled and marginalized as well as for struggling farm families in this mostly agrarian culture. Another ministry holds evangelistic sports camps and children’s outreaches as an avenue to share the gospel. They also train Bible college students to ensure the next generation of leaders are equipped to serve.
Sources: Joshua Project, CIA World Factbook
How to Pray for
- Pray that God would bring revival to this country, which has been so oppressed and mishandled throughout its history.
- Pray that God would lead indigenous missionaries to those with open hearts to hear and accept the gospel, and that He would provide the funding needed for their work.
- Pray for the small minority of believers in Albania, that they would grow in their faith and spiritual maturity to become effective witnesses for Christ.
More stories from Albania
As military conflict has intensified, more people have lost income or been driven from their homes into jungles. Local missionaries have provided food, health care and other aid to Internally Displaced People and children’s homes. These efforts have led to multiple opportunities to share the gospel with the unreached, with many trusting in Christ. The leader of one village initially opposed local missionaries’ aid but changed his mind – and put his faith in Christ – after witnessing their impartiality and the sincerity of their love. Workers need donations of $35 or $70 to bring aid and the gospel to those suffering from war and the pandemic. Pray for protection and healing of workers with COVID-19.
Burma’s internal military conflicts have curtailed ministry efforts, but the chaos also has helped expand God’s kingdom as displaced people take refuge at a Bible college and Christian camps. Among those fleeing to the jungles or to neighboring countries are young people, a native ministry leader said. “Many young people, however, remain in the country and do not know what to do with their lives,” he said. “Some young people run to Bible colleges and Christian camps.”
In war-ravaged Burma (Myanmar), violence and the pandemic complicate local ministry efforts at a time when they are most needed. A worker recently told a ministry leader that local missionaries and their families had to flee their homes. “He told me that he was one of three pastors who fled with their families to the forest and stayed at a cave, trying to run to a village where they could stay temporarily,” the leader said. “His son, who was 19 years old, was killed by the terrorists.”
Since a military coup plunged Burma (Myanmar) into chaos one year ago, the gospel has advanced even as violence and COVID-19 paralyzed the country. “COVID-19 killed 413 Christian ministers within four months, some of them close friends and relatives,” the leader said. “Among our missionaries, four caught COVID-19 and almost died, but they have been restored and have worked hard in soul-winning outreach.” One of the native missionaries nearly died in July, and since then he and his wife have planted a church, the leader said.