Albany returns to God

Last week I was invited and had a great privilege to teach a study course on the Gospel of John according to the inductive method at the Biblical School from the city of Erseka from Albany. I had a group of 21 students from Albany and from other countries that were full of passion to understand the message of the Gospel of John to its fullness and to learn the inductive Bible study method, so that they may use it in the churches where they will go to serve people from their countries. Since I was in Albany, I tried to find out more interesting things from people about their country. I want to share with the readers the things I have found out and noticed.

Albany was under the Ottoman Empire’s occupation for more than 500 years, until 1912, that’s why, the major religion in this country is Islam (70%), followed by Christians, 20% of which belong to Albanian Orthodox Church and cca 10% Christians of Catholic Church. The population of the country is 3.5 mln, but similar to the situation from Moldova, a very big number, more than 1 mln citizens are abroad to look for a job to maintain their families in this way. It is much unemployement in the country, because there are no places of work.

Since 1890 a man came into the city Korcha, that is in the South of Albany, his name was Gjerasim Qirjazi, who began to teach people writing and to develop the Albanian language and culture. The most beautiful thing about that man is that he used the Bible in Albanian language for that and he created a school. Together with the school, a church grew up in the city where people sought to live beautifuly, according to the things learned from the Holy Scriptures.

After the II-nd World War, Albany became a communist country, and the power was in the hands of the tyrant Enver Hoxha from 1944 to 1985. As the communist governs had always acted in the countries they governed, firstly they persecuted rich people, ravishing all their wealth and in the same way they persecuted the intellectual people of the country, and made them die in concentration camps or, those who managed to run away abroad had chances to escape.  People say that absolutely all their wealth was ravished and people lived in a great poverty. The most was admitted for a man to have was a motorbike. Only those who were members of the party were allowed to own cars.

Since 1967 Enver Hoxha categorically forbad any manifestation of religion. There were closed all, absolutely all churches and mosques and they were turned into storehouses, clubs, etc. Nowhere in the country was officiated any religious service, nowhere. Still it was little opposition to this phenomen from the people, a thing I can hardly understand and I can’t find explanations. Nevertheless, I found out that the Catholic Church was the one who opposed the most from all religions presented in the country at that point. People had to hide the holy books and other worship things in their houses, being afraid that some of the authorities might come and find them, because they could have been sent to the concentrations camps for that. The thing that seemed to me the limit was when a child was born and parents went to the authorities to write the birth certificate of the child, if it was a name that was considered religious by authorities, then it was not allowed and the parents had to choose another name. So, for them names like Dumitru, Vasile, etc. were considered religious. People were obliged to give such names to their children according to the names of localities, or to invent some new names to be accepted by authorities.

Having a walk in the country I saw many bunkers like those from the image. Everywhere, absolutely everywhere in the country there are very many embrasures like those from the picture. Here is the history of these bunkers. When Enver Hoxha was in power, he broke up every relation with the emperialist states, and in 70’s he broke up the relations with the countries from the socialist camp and he backed out from the Warsaw Treaty. In this way the whole world were enemies for him. He was afraid to be attacked from anywhere. So, he obliged people to build up, as I was told, over 700.000 such kind of bunkers. The idea was that every 10 people from the country might have one and they might go there to lead the war. People also say that these bunkers were made up from very qualitative concrete and the money for the construction of one bunker was enough to build up a good house. Instead of buliding up houses, the tyran sent people to work in concentration camps and obliged them to build up bunkers. When I went to see those bunkers and to take pictures of them, I thought how some people, instead of buliding up relations, they build up bunkers and then they let only disaster and misfortune after them. In the Holy Scirptures God says concerning to this: “He who loves transgression loves strife; He who raises his door seeks destruction” (Proverbs of Solomon 17:19)(NASB)

In 90’s, when freedom came, things began to change. Many missionaries from different countries came to help the people from Albany to know God and return to Him. It has been noticed an increase of the evangelical movement and today, according to what people say, there are over 200 evangelical churches in the country, that count over 15,000 believers. People are willful to study the Holy Scriptures, young people go to biblical schools and in this way a generation that returns to God grows up. The Orthodox Church from the country has a theological seminar, and the priests of the Catholic church are prepared in many schools from Italy. In previous years theological school from Durres and the Centre for Christiand Leaders from Tirana were opened.

People of this country gave me a good impression, because they are hospitable, diligent and well-wishing. The way with the bus from Tirana to Erseka, the place I was to teach the course, lasted 5 hours and there was no one in the bus who knew Romanian, Russian or English. So, when the bus stopped near a cafe, because I didn’t know how much time the bus was going to stay, I went to buy a bottle of water and some cookie to eat. The driver of the bus was staying at a table with other two men and he called me to stay with them. Then, he ordered food for me and he tried to find out more about me, having a very benevolent attitude. When they understood I was a priest and I came to their country to teach other future priests the Word of God, they showed much respect. At the end, when I wanted to pay for the food they ordered to me, they didn’t want to take any money from me and they told me that they did that with a great joy, because I was their guest. The way they behave with the strangers speaks very much about a nation and in this case, I was a stranger for them.

Then, when I was at the biblical school, I woke up every morning to run and to have some sport. I was suprised to see how at that early hour people were already at work, and this shows they are a hardworking and well-wishing nation. In a day, while I was teaching the course, I saw through the window this woman who was gazing the sheep and was knitting at the same time. This shows again a special attitude concerning work.

May God bless Albany and bring them much light, peace and prosperity through the Gospel.

Translated by Djugostran Felicia