One thing that we have found exciting and refreshing along our journey in Albania is the Christian church. It is different here than in the other places we’ve been. It is very much an emerging church – meaning it is new and growing.
During the communist regime in Albania, the nation was declared an atheist state for more than 45 years – the first atheist state in the world. Practicing any form of religion was illegal and punishable by death (in the most extreme cases), imprisonment, or other forms of persecution such as forbidding your children to go to school. All of the churches and mosques were either destroyed or converted into a facility for government use. The Christian population was approximately 30% during the beginning of this regime and nearly 0% by the end because persecutions had caused so many to give up their faith. We have been asking if there was any form of “underground church” during communism and so far I have only been told of about 4-5 persons in a specific village – of whom suffered.
The Christian church began to emerge after the fall of communism in Albania in the early 1990’s. This is the time when the country opened up and missionaries were able to come preach the gospel – groups such as Campus Crusades and YWAM among others. God has used these missionaries mightily in Albania – many have accepted Christ and churches have been planted throughout the nation. However, it is still a very small church and many Albanians have yet to be reached. The largest church in Tirana consists of less than 200 people (estimated.) And most consist of probably 30-50 believers. However, the churches we have attended have been vibrant, solid and active. They are preaching Christ Jesus as our Saviour and regularly sending out missionaries to reach the unchurched or unbelieving.
Phil and I feel very blessed to be a part of one of these emerging churches – to be part of a church body who has their eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. This has been a wonderful journey so far. Thank you so much to all of you have been faithfully praying for us. God is answering your prayers. He is so Good.
Please join us in praying for the Church in Albania… we will try to give you updates as we learn and experience more.