Bibles in the Balkans – May 2024

Imagine living in a country that is completely closed off from the rest of the world, and where it’s forbidden by law to believe, or even speak about God! Imagine what it’s like to be banned from owning your own house, and to live under a regime that bans and burns Bibles; that demolishes buildings of worship, and where there is an overwhelming atmosphere of suspicion, distrust, and corruption. This is what life in Albania was like from 1945-1991 under the heavy yoke of communism. In fact, in 1967, the country’s dictator (Enver Hoxha) declared Albania to be “the world’s first official atheistic state”. To say that communism was not a success is an understatement; by 1985, at the time of Hoxha’s death, Albania was also declared as the worlds third poorest country.  

Albania is located on the Adriatic sea coast of the Balkan Peninsula, between Kosovo & Montenegro to the north, Macedonia on the east, and Greece to the south. Two thousand years ago, much of that area was known as the Roman province of Illyricum – and it’s likely that it was the Apostle Paul who first preached the gospel there between AD53-56. Romans 15:19 says: “From Jerusalem all the way round to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ”. And so, for many centuries afterwards, its thought that the Albanian people were either Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox, but in 1385 a five-hundred year period of Islamisation began as the Ottoman empire conquered the Balkans, and forced Islam on its people. Albanian Christians were treated as inferior citizens and subjected to heavy taxing, with many fleeing to other countries in Europe. And so, for the last 700 years, under Islam and communism, the gospel message has been quenched and quashed, and left gasping under the heavy weight of oppression.

“But the Word of God cannot be chained” (2 Tim 2:9b)

However, in 1991/92 something significant happened in Albania; the stifling wall of communism collapsed after months of mass protests; revolution was the word on people’s lips. And slowly “Albanians emerged into democracy like proverbial moles blinking into the sunlight”! From the spiritual darkness of six centuries the light of the gospel began to shine again in Albania, and missionaries entered the country to find a spiritually hungry people, filled with questions about God; the rebuilding of the church had begun! There are now an estimated 15,000 evangelical Christians in the country, making up about 0.5% of the population.

TWFTW in Albania: The first Albanian language Bible was produced in 1994, but there’s also another language called Aromanian (or Vlach) that doesn’t yet have the scriptures. This is a language spoken by the Aromanian people living in Albania, northern Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria, numbering over 310,000 people – and that is where TWFTW comes in. Since June last year, we’ve had a small team of Aromanian translators working there, and the UK support base has been able to partner with them financially and prayerfully during that time.

As part of that partnership I was recently able to spend a couple of days with the team in Tirana, meeting with the translators, the exegete, and the team administrator. I came away so encouraged by the enthusiasm of this small team, all of whom are desperate to get the scriptures translated so that their people can read God’s Word in a language that is closest to their heart. Please pray for this team, that they would be super-strengthened to continue in their New Testament work, so that we’re able to reach the Aromanian people with the good news of Jesus, and equip this part of the fledging church to grow in Christ.

Random and possibly interesting facts about Albania!  

  • There are more Albanian’s living outside of Albania than inside!
  • Albanians love their coffee. There are more coffee houses per capita than anywhere else in world!
  • There are over 750,000 bunkers scattered over the country. During the communist era, Hoxha demanded they be built for an upcoming war…that never happened!
  • 70% of the country is mountainous. 
  • Don’t expect to find a Big Mac in Albania! There are no McDonalds ‘restaurants’. 

Out & About Diary Dates:

3-6 May: Bible teaching at church weekend away, Bassenfell, Cumbria

3-6 May: Barry & Julia Funnell at Bible by the Beach in Eastbourne

12May:  Preaching at Hesket Newmarket Free Church, Cumbria(AM)

13-17 May: Bible teaching at Bassenfell Christian Centre event, Cumbria

18-19 May: Oak Hall summer team-prep event, Otford, Kent 

26 May: Preaching at Corsham Baptist(AM)               

28May: TWFTW focus with Barry Funnell at Corsham Baptist church (PM)

Pray & Praise Points:

  • In Zambia a nationwide drought is impacting numerous translators and their families. They are battling with the challenge of frequent power cuts (8 hours a day) due to low water levels affecting hydropower. Pray for the situation in Zambia and for God to sustain all of our projects there.
  • Pray for the Aromanian team in Albania as they work on their translation.  
  • In the restricted country of ‘MY’ pray for our translators as they face tough daily challenges. Here’s what a couple of translators requested: “Please pray for peace. There is now no internet access where I live due to the ‘sensitive zone’; pray for the safety of my family”. “Pray for my family’s safety due to conscription. We are living under uncertainty and full of anxiety”.
  • Pray for the UK Director who has quite a few preaching appointments this month; that he would present TWFTW well & “correctly handle the word of truth”.

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