It's our last day in Albania, but we still have a lot to do. Several of us have individual appointments. These are people who we want to share the Gospel with before we leave. Kevin and I are meeting with a few girls that we met at one of the socials. An Albanian Cru member will join us to help translate and to develop a relationship in which she can follow up at a later date. We're also meeting with a girl who Kevin met on his last trip here in October. She was one of the front desk clerks at the hotel in which he stayed. She brought one of their new employees to game night a few days ago, so new relationships are continually being formed. It would be amazing if we took the time to do the same in the USA.
This afternoon we are partnering with a High School music group from Denver, CO. They will be singing, and Ken Boa will be the speaker at an event for high school students. Last night we had a parent night for Cru members' parents. As some of you know, communism fell in Albania in 1991, so most of the parents of these young adults were brought up believing that there is no God. As their children come to know Jesus, many think it is simply a phase they are going through. Typically, however, they're not bothered by it. With that in mind, we hosted a dinner for them and Ken Boa gave a very convincing argument for trusting in Jesus even at their advanced age (late 40s and early 50s). Being 71 years old (20 years their senior), an author of more than 80 books, and having received two PHDs (NYU and Oxford), a Masters from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Bachelors from Case Institute of Technology, he earned their respect and attention. We'll see what fruit that brings in the future, as the students and Cru staff are excited to follow up.
Other stories from the past few days include:
1. Shannon and Ben visiting Mentor's wife, Arenda, at their home outside the city. She is about to have a baby any moment, so she hasn't been with us this week. They are a wonderful family who Shannon and Ben will support in the future.
2. Preston and Avni met with a young men after Ken's presentation on the origin of life. He was impressed with the statement, "Don't ask God for justice; ask Him for grace." Kevin and Ben also met with a Muslim named Soni who asked many good, deep questions. Because these two have a depth of knowledge that many of us don't, they were able to successfully use the diagrams from Ken's book "I'm Glad You Asked" to give good, deep answers.
3. Preston and Renis met Blendi for coffee. He was not ready to give up the things in life that he enjoys. Knowing that Blendi is an engineering student, Preston asked if we should trust the engineer who made the airplane on which we'll fly home on Sunday. He agreed that we should, so Preston related that to how we can trust the "Engineer" who created us and knows what's best for us. Blendi says that when he gets older he will probably choose to do so and trust in Jesus. Pray for him to make this decision sooner than later.
4. Shannon and Emily took a large group of women to Big Bite (yummy fast food... nothing like McDonalds) after the student night. A devout evolutionist, Esmerelda's belief system was shaken just a bit as Shannon asked things like, "Where do you think the first cell came from?" She didn't know. Then she asked questions such as, "Why would God want to have a relationship with us?" Shannon agreed that this is amazing thing, but the Bible tells us many times that it's because He loves us. Probably more important than any of these details, Shannon showed Esmerelda compassion that she hadn't experienced before. She, in fact, told Shannon that people thought she had a bad heart because of her beliefs.
5. Kelly and Alba met for lunch with two girls Muslim girls, Eva and Bona, from the University where languages are taught (I forget the name). Eva was a very bold, outspoken individual who, according to Bona, even interrupts people as they're answering the professor. I introduced them to my family, via pictures, and they were both very impressed with my nephew, Samuel (Hubba hubba... SAMUEL)! I explained why I had come to Albania, and Eva said that I could try to convince her about Jesus. I made her a bet that I could and we shook on it. I then explained to her an overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, helping her to understand God's "rescue plan" to save us from our sin through the blood of Christ. By the time I was done, she was sitting quietly staring at me. Her friend, Bona, said, "I've never seen her sit still for so long without talking." Eva agreed that she never has. So I asked, "Have I convinced you?" She answered, "Yes, you have." That doesn't mean that she has decided to follow Jesus, but she now believes that He is who He says He is, and, of course, Alba will follow up with her in the future. That's not all... Eva looks straight into my eyes again and says... wait for it... "You are like the LIGHT." I about fell off my seat. Both Alba and I looked at each other with disbelief and lots of goose bumps and explained that Jesus claimed to be the LIGHT of the world. AWESOME STUFF!
Alba and I made such a great team, that we took a group of girls to dinner that night (no, Rachel, I'm not losing any weight on this trip). We had another Muslim girl with us who listened attentively and said she believed. We asked if she wanted to pray with us, but she said she needs to process it all a bit longer. She also said, after learning that Alba's Bible study girls had committed to remaining virgins until marriage, that she wants to do that as well. How sweet is that?
6. Oh yeah... Ben got kicked out of a restaurant...
7. Yesterday, while Emily and Michelle went to a meeting with non-believing ex-pats, the rest of us went to see a beautiful castle in Petrela. The pictures will speak for themselves. The meeting that I mentioned was simply for the purpose of building relationships with people, so a Cru staff member asked if any of us had a skill that we could share. With that in mind, Emily took some of her 'Initial Outfitters' jewelry and taught about 30 women how to accessorize.
Tonight we will end our trip with a farewell dinner at a nice restaurant (they've all been super yummy) with certain members of the Cru staff. We will get back to the hotel around 10:00 pm but must leave for the airport by 3:30. The catch is that Albania's daylight savings goes into affect tonight. Therefore, for the second time this year, we will lose an hour of sleep. Totally not fair!
A funny story that I'll leave you with today happened while we were finishing up breakfast. Ben received a text from Adiol (the Muslim man who followed him up the pyramid the other day... read post 2 for details). Adiol told Ben that he is the only one who can help him. He said that he is in love with a girl, and "she has the birthday". He wants to go to her but doesn't have money to do so. Unless Ben helps him get to this girl, "In this life I will never be happy". If Ben is to help him with his request, he will put a tattoo of Ben on himself so that he can remember his wonderful gift for the rest of his life! We're all meeting Ariol at the tattoo parlor after the high school event to witness this wonderful commitment to LOVE (just kidding)!
Thank you, once again, for your prayers and support while we've been away. We know that you are an integral part of this ministry, and God has certainly blessed your faithfulness. Many "seeds" were planted, much "fruit" is growing, and several have been ready for the "harvest". Praise God! The Cru team in Albania is truly on mission, and it was such a pleasure to partner with them. They are all such wonderful people with amazing hearts to serve the Lord and bring home the lost. If any of you have the desire to know more about them, please just let us know. It is truly a worthy cause.
Prayer requests as we leave include:
- The country of Albania as a whole needs to know Jesus. Please pray that the few Christians in this beautiful place will have great success spreading the Gospel.
- Many relationships were formed this past week with young adults who are wrestling with what they believe. Pray that they would know the TRUTH and that they will be set free.
- For Cru Albania to be successful in their many ministries. That existing partnerships would be strengthened and new partnerships would form.
- Travel mercies for Team Albania as we travel home.
We love you!