How Deep the Father’s Love For Us!
So there Scott was, standing before this teary-eyed woman. She was probably in her 40’s. Her hair was messy and uncared for. She was a bit dirty and her clothing was probably bought from one of the local second-hand stores. She was short, even by Albanian standards. And there she was, crying.
This probably doesn’t mean much to you yet so let’s give this a little context. We have chosen a small Albanian church to serve at over the next few years: Kisha Ungjillore e Tiranës or Evangelical Church of Tirana. It is a small church with only 25-35 people coming together to worship together on Sunday mornings. The church isn’t big enough to have a full time pastor yet, so they alternate Sundays between four men in the church (of which Scott is now one). The church meets in a rather small room of a building it rents from Campus Crusade; which is a huge blessing because normally the church would have had to pay more than it could afford to rent a space of that caliber. The church owns two instruments, a guitar and a tambourine, but only one person knows how to play the guitar and he hasn’t been there very often. So around 11 o’clock on Sunday mornings you can find a small group of Albanians and one American family (us!) offering up their praises to God and worshipping Him with all that they have. Even with the language barrier it is a blessing to have such sweet fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ.
One of the missions of this small church is to reach out to the community around it. They recently planned an outreach event with an American couple from Oklahoma and we got to help out! The church purchased backpacks and school supplies and the American couple flew over with a bunch of supplies that had Christian messages on them. The church had contacted the local mayor and had asked if the mayor would bring the 75 of the poorest kids from the community to give them the backpacks. The mayor enthusiastically agreed and the event was set for Saturday evening. On Saturday we filled the backpacks with the school supplies and some candy for good measure and we waited for the event to begin. It was very exciting to have Savannah, Carter and Sophia involved in every part of this event. They were wonderful helpers when it came time to fill each backpack up with the precious message ridden cargo.
The event was meant to accomplish three things: (1) to provide needy children with the supplies they otherwise could not afford, (2) to get contact info from families for the food ministry, and most importantly (3) to reach families with the Gospel. The church leaders had asked Scott if he would share the Gospel for about ten minutes. This was likely to be the first time many of these people would have ever had a clear Gospel presentation. It was quite a priviledge for Scott to be asked to stand before these people and tell them of our great God.
So the event began and the kids and parents filled the basement to the brim. It was quite exciting. Albanians, as a culture, generally don’t show up on time for things but the room was packed full even before six. We had to find more chairs and line them up against the walls. Savannah, Carter and Sophia helped make plates of snacks for everybody and got excited to hand those out. Then after singing a few praise songs and a few words from the other Americans, it was time for Scott to share the Gospel. Now mind you, we all speak less than 100 words of Albanian (and that is being generous) and Scott has about as little as possible in common culturally, experientially and in world view as the people who all sat looking at him. Luckily it wasn’t about Scott or his connection to these poor Albanian families. The Holy Spirit is at work in Albania and the best way we can be involved is to get as far out of the way of the Spirit as we can and let Him work through us. And so Scott begins to share that great old story with the Albanians addressing sin, the Law, and the One who redeems the lost.
As we ponder all that God has done and praise Him, we wonder how many more nights like this lie before us. How many nights of ministering to the poor, or bringing people the Gospel for the first time, or even discipling the new believers that are already here do we have before us? Mostly, it makes us wonder “why?” Why didn’t we do this more often in the US? Why did we let things of this world slow us from our mission when we were in Fresno? Our God hasn’t changed, has He? He doesn’t love the Albanians more than Californians, does He? No, but we let things get in the way. Too many nights were squandered rather than working. Too many opportunities passed out of a lackasical attitude toward others. I hope our family is the only one…
God is blessing us in so many ways. We are humbled beyond words at the power of the Gospel of Christ. Please pray for us that we (1) would always be available for His will, (2) that we would be bold in proclaiming the Gospel of which we are ambassadors in chains, and that (3) regardless of whether we are leading a Bible study with believers, sharing His hope with a non-believer, or giving food to the poor, that we would above all things make the glory of our great God both real and magnified by what we do. May God get all the praise, honor and glory as we continue to do the work that He has gifted us for and He laid out before us while we are in Albania.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, NASB)