We flipped over Tirana!
Yesterday we went prayer walking in Tirana. We had lots of interest and participation from the local believers, so we were able to break up into four groups: Government, Arts and Culture, Communist Places, and the Churches and Religious sites. We made arrangements ahead of time to meet outside the central mosque for the noon call to worship (today is Friday, thus the Moslem Sabbath). By the way, I made a mistake yesterday when I said that there are five mosques in Tirana, there are actually four and a fifth is under construction right next to the Parliament building.
Being called for the Body of Christ, I choose to go with the Church group. First we went to the Catholic Cathedral. The first thing I noticed was the statue of Mother Teresa outside. Inside there was a huge wooden crucifix, rather primitively carved. It looked very dry and dusty, and it was directly over a throne-like chair. On the far wall was a huge mosaic of Mother Teresa. When I got closer, I could see that it was made of shells. And one chapel had a saint carrying a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. The saint was implied to be Paul, but only called “The Apostle.” So my overall impression was one of death: dry, dusty, enthroned crucifix; Mother Teresa made of dead clam and mussel shells; and Paul carrying a sword. Others got similar impressions on the same theme of death. An Albanian member of our group told us that the church offers counseling services and help for women who have an unwanted pregnancy and are considering abortion. So we prayed and proclaimed life into the church: life for the unwanted babies, life for the Catholic people, and a true and living faith to grow in the place where ritual and tradition has reigned.
Next we went to the Orthodox Church. The first thing I noticed was its huge, ornate golden doors, set in marble. Inside there was more marble and glitter and ostentatious show. High above us was a huge image of a very Albanian looking Jesus. He looked very grim, with the corners of His mouth turned down as though He had never smiled and a hand raised in a blessing that didn’t have any warmth to it. In the center of the altar area was an icon of the Madonna and Child. Three priests robed in black, with black hats and beards stood to the left, looking very much like three large ravens. To the right of the icon was a large marble throne-like chair. The whole congregational and altar area was cordoned-off because of work. But as workers entered, I saw them go to the icon, bow, and kiss it. Some of them went on to their area of work, but the ones who needed to consult the priests approached them, bowed, and kissed the ring of the priest they needed to talk to. When we talked about our impressions later, the term that came to me was “whitewashed tomb,” so again there was a death theme, and we prayed life to replace death.
Then it was time to go to the mosque and meet the other teams. The mosque was very small and plain by comparison to both the churches we had just seen. I stood across the street and watched as men went into and out the door of the mosque. Meanwhile, outside several rug merchants set out their wares, which were not only prayer rugs, but also a few larger rugs. Periodically a voice chanted over the loudspeakers attached to the minaret. Because of how close we were, the chant was very loud and annoying. I began to pace back and forth on a wide place in the stairs, praying. I didn’t pray in a way that would be obvious to anyone other than those who have seen me do it. To most people, I’m sure it just looked like I was pacing and thinking, or pacing as I wait for a car to come pick me up.
At one end of my pacing route there was a lottery kiosk. It was very busy with lots of customers. I prayed to close both of those idolatry places because gambling is a very insidious curse on the poor people of Europe. Wherever the poverty is worse, the mania to gamble is far worse. I don’t think that’s an accident. The people who run those places know that the poor are desperate for money, and will even sacrifice what little they have for a chance to become rich. I have even noticed that the lottery kiosks often have a place where people can scratch their tickets that looks rather like an altar. The biggest lie of all is the lie that money will solve their problems. Without Jesus, money only changes their problems because rich people are some of the most miserable people on earth.
In the evening session we worshiped, and the Greek pastor sat at the drums to play a song that the Holy Spirit had taught him. The lyrics were about diving into God’s river and swimming. So, crazy girl that I am, I jumped up and started swim-dancing. Unlike my crazy “marching in with the saints” (see Cross-Culture), several others joined in with the swim-dance. It was lots of fun.
Then today we went to the Courthouse to pray and ask God for justice, and to do a prophetic act. We prayed for unity and protection for the team, but when we got there, several people from the church showed up unexpectedly, with children in tow. The pastor became very upset because we had come to do spiritual warfare in the heavenlies. So this was not a school outing, and he was concerned about the safety of the children and others who had not prayed together with us at the church ahead of time. Of course, he’s right. You can’t rob the devil of his power and position without him trying to launch some kind of retaliation. So the last thing he wanted was to invite an attack on these people who had not been covered first in prayer. At the risk of hurting feelings, the pastor told them to take the children and go, and when they hesitated, he suggested that we break up into two groups: English speakers and Albanian speakers. At that point, the uninvited people did finally leave. The thing is that they needed to take this seriously, and to understand that we have a real enemy.
So we did pray at the Courthouse, did the prophetic act of driving a stake into the ground in front of the building. Written on the stake was: “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8). We don’t always do that particular prophetic act because that would reduce this to a formula. Instead, we do whatever the Holy Spirit indicates for us to do.
Please pray for us and for our families. There have been some very strange and troubling attacks on the health of teammates. It seems that we have really stirred something up in the heavenlies. Nevertheless, God is good!