It is hard to describe with words what we experienced during our visit there. Words seem too simple. Not complex enough to describe the beauty, destruction, emotions, remnants of communism/war, freedom that is welling up and taking root in the hearts of the people. Words just aren’t enough. It hurt to see some of the things we witnessed. But it was wonderful to be a part of the love and kindness we were able to share. The joy we witnessed in the people there was inspiring & humbling.
We met children that laughed & played like usual. They tried their best to communicate with us, despite the language barrier. By the way, charades is a great way to communicate by acting out what you are saying, lol! I could have stayed with those children the whole time we were there. Hugging them & playing with them. We provided meals to them & fun & they got to learn about Jesus and His love for them. We learned of some of the hardships they endure, it is so terrible. Digging in the garbage for food, being picked up by a “pimp” to beg for money, human trafficking used to be crazy rampant there also. I don’t know current data on that though, although I met a lady who told me of the time she was almost abducted by a gang that was known for this. I learned of the deep control of the hand of communism and could barely wrap my mind around it. The person sharing these stories was near my age – such different lives we were experiencing in our middle school ages. I was able to hear stories of what people endured to get to church that night and of how some people’s families were in uproar because of them attending. What a strong faith & conviction to continue to follow Jesus regardless of who hates you or disowns you. AMERICA doesn’t realize the FREEDOM we have!!!! I met this gorgeous girl who is wheelchair bound and learned of how God had placed in her & a friend’s heart to start a foundation to help people with disabilities in Albania. It isn’t like here, there aren’t rules requiring accommodations. Every church service she has a group of strong guys carry her up 2 1/2 flights of steep stairs to take her into the church to hear the word of God spoken. And after every service, those guys carefully bring her back down. Such sweet love.
On the mountainside from the edges of the castle in Berat, you can see the word “NEVER” etched into the hillside of the country. with whitewashed stone. NEVER here in this 100 metre shout means “never again” to another Enver, never again to communism. After their freedom in the early 90’s Enver Hoxna’s name remained, the dictator that had ruled over the people. Years later a farmer replaced the letters to say “never” instead of Enver (the dictator’s name). I got chills & my eyes welled up when I heard that story & looked into those letters screaming freedom from the land. Albania is free. It has fought years & centuries to be free but finally, they are free. There is SO much healing that still needs to occur and corruption needs to be overcome but slowly, one by one God is stirring up & capturing the hearts of the Albanian people. My heart is that one day Albania will be a CHRISTIAN nation, no longer predominantly muslim but instead free in Christ Jesus, fully & flourishing. To God be the glory!
Here’s an article about the changing of the letters from Enver to Never, which only happened a few years ago:
Some photos from Albania: