When I landed in Tirana, Albania, the first thing I noticed was beautiful mountains. I didn’t know that there were mountains here. And with that discovery, I felt a certain hopefulness rise up in me. My plane had landed early, so I had just enough time to buy an Albanian SIM chip for my phone. When that was accomplished, my driver arrived and took me to the church a couple of hours before our first meeting.
At our first meeting, we learned something I had not known: that the word balkanization means division. That’s something important. Any time that a place identifies itself with division, that is something to pray about. In addition, the Albanian flag has a two-headed eagle, which is also a symbol of division. So we’ve already got some clues about how to pray for Albania.
And right after writing that above, we did a prophetic act of tearing down a wall. The wall was one that the church had intended to tear down anyway, so it was both prophetic and useful. Some of the people were a bit hesitant and tentative, while others went after the wall as if it were the enemy, himself. It was good to see people having fun.
One of the most surprising things I learned was that there is no Albanian word for destiny. They use either destination or fate, neither of which really conveys the true idea of destiny. So an Albanian pastor preached about the meaning of destiny as a God-ordained purpose in life. Another pastor preached about the need for Albania to discover its identity, which he said had been personified in the personages of Mother Teresa (in a positive way), Enver Hoxha (in a negative way), and Skanderbeg (both positive and negative). He pointed out that the Mother Teresa identity is one of a humble servant, and that humility is not weakness. Instead, it takes great determination and inner strength to maintain true humility, as in the humility that Jesus showed in submitting to death on a cross.
During the afternoon, which had been left free, I went with Ethan, a boy from the church. We went bear hunting—that is, looking for an Albanian teddy bear for my grandson. I also wanted to get an Albanian flag for taking with me to Poland for the Feast of Tabernacles. (Last year I took Italian worship to Tabernacles for the first time. This year it will be Albanian worship—again, this is God’s doing!) We easily found a flag, but didn’t find a bear. There is still time, and perhaps I’ll find one before I leave on Wednesday.
Anyway, my time here has been really great so far. I feel hope continuing to rise like a balloon: higher and higher into the upper atmosphere. Yes, there is hope for Albania! God is good!