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Albania Mission Update

General Report from, Albania. Spring 2023.

By Paul Alkazraji, pastor and director of the ministry.

The church in the village continues to be an active and alive ministry in this its tenth year since the commencement of regular Sunday services in 2013. Those Sunday services are attended by around 20-30 adults and children usually, every Sunday afternoon at 3pm. This is at a slightly lower level than at periods of peak attendance during the last decade. Preaching is mostly done by Petrika Dhimo and myself, though Berti Azisllari and Keli Kycuku have preached there occasionally too this last year. I am presently trying to stimulate more prayer amongst church members with a number of small initiatives. In general, I continue to feel encouraged about the life of the church.

The children’s programme is attended by 15-20 children on Wednesday afternoons and led by Margarita Dhimo. It enjoys reasonably consistent attendance though it has some occasional losses to a neighbouring church, which now employs our former youth leader. Margarita also leads a teenage girls group with around 6 girls and a mixed ‘tween-aged’ group of a similar number on Friday afternoons. Margarita now also works as a teacher in the state education system in the mornings, and is supported by us on a part-time basis for her role at the church.

Petrika Dhimo leads the men’s ministry with around 10 in attendance at the Wednesday afternoon Bible study and another 5 men in less frequent attendance. We are currently running a café at the church on Monday and Tuesday mornings with free coffee and biscuits to try to broaden our reach to the village men. The women’s ministry is led by Albana with Margarita helping her, and the Bible study is attended by between 8 and 18 women with up to 30 attending any special event we organise like a dinner dance or an excursion.

The young teenage boys group has been led by me and Albana since this time last year. This has been difficult at times as many of those boys exhibit challenging behaviour. With a strong approach to managing their behaviour from Albana during the Bible study, and a range of games and outdoor activities that I bring, I believe the group has stabilised and gelled now with around 7 regular boys.

Throughout the year, we have organised a number of special activities including evangelism on the streets, a summer project with a small pool and bouncy castle, excursions and community celebrations for all church members.

All team members are active on additional days doing home visits in the village and also helping church members with practical tasks such as shopping, medical visits or dealing with the bureaucracy when they come to the city. We do not presently have an employed guard or cleaner, so the practical maintenance of the place falls on each of the team members to make a contribution. This can make for some extra work but presently saves us the additional expense of employing someone from the village.

With the second church plant started by us, we remain connected and open to further initiatives together, though the men’s café that Petrika helped with for a long time no longer runs there. I have stepped back from that more since last summer and the start of services there as Berti has clearly emerged as a capable leader in his own right.

We remain open to purchasing a piece of land next to the church building ready for the church community to develop in the future, and the funds are already raised to buy it (back in 2016 at HT). However, despite repeated attempts to close the deal over many years we have not managed to do so. The ministry continues to be in a healthy financial position with support adequate for my family, ministry running costs, and the support of staff. This comes from our principal supporting church (HT) and a number of other individual supporters in England who give towards the work.

James Quine came out for a week in March to visit us in Albania. He couriered in a number of useful things including school books for Hanni’s home learning, and some advance items for the July youth visit from HT/Stacc. James stayed at the Villa Eden, giving us an opportunity to test out the venue as a possible place for the summer team to stay in. He came to the Sunday communion service with us, and played ball games with the children in the church yard after. He helped me deliver five food bank boxes to families around the village, did some home visits, and prayer-walked with me around some neighbourhoods. He accompanied us to a ‘Laser Tag’ venue with the church youth and a five-a-side football game with the church boys, which were paid for by a gift of £150 from Stacc that he passed to us. He also enjoyed a half-day trip to Greece with us for some rest and relaxation.

Paul was interviewed in last month on United Christian Broadcasters ‘This is My Story’. Click on the catch up link for 27/03/2023 if you'd like to listen in.

click here and then scroll down to 27/03/2023 - Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

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