Albania (MNN) – Before the fall of communism, Albania was beaten down, isolated, and restricted.
Throughout the 1960s and up to 1991, there was religious persecution and the nation was effectively called the first atheist state.
“Although the communistic dictator, Enver Hoxha, was proud to declare Albania as a first atheistic state, I’m absolutely certain that that did not mean that the whole country was atheist and that there were Christians in the country all the time and also, many of the people would regard themselves of Muslim background,” TeachBeyond’s UK Country Director, David Midwinter, says.
Opening of a Nation, Fizzling of Religious Growth
When Albania opened up in 1991, missionaries started to flood the country and many people were willing to hearing the Gospel. The Church began to grow rapidly.
However, due to corruption and economic problems including the collapse of Ponzi schemes, the growth of the Church was tainted and seemed to stop bearing fruit.
“Things have not really gone incredibly smoothly for the country in any way and but now, the country is democratic, although, I would say that my experience is still, the corruption is still endemic.”
Midwinter says infrastructure and the environment have improved, but many problems remain.
“As far as the Church is concerned, I would say that the initial enthusiasm and growth has plateaued and it is challenging, really, for the Church and the growth is much slower, but the opportunities are tremendous.”
Opportunities for Christian Education
He shares that the opportunity for education is great because schools often operate under a “harsh regime”, class sizes are large, teachers tend to be harsh with children and “many parents are looking for something that is based on a bed of values and the values that are under pending the system at the moment.”
This opens doors for an opportunity to improve schools and has given a vision to TeachBeyond and other national ministries to establish Christian schools that will care for children, raise them up in an education, and guide them in their walk with Christ.
Midwinter shares he met a Christian couple from Albania who had a vision to begin an organization called ‘Transformational Education Albania’.
Their prayer for the organization was to start Christian schools across the nation.
Though there wasn’t a large Christian school network, they kick-started their vision by holding a conference for Christian teachers.
“Optimistically, we planned that maybe we would get thirty or forty teachers would come along to this conference. This was in 2017. And in the end, there were 105.”
Midwinter says the results were overwhelming and they had to turn some teachers away because they ran out of room.
They recently held a second conference in 2018 and planned for 120 people. This time, 190 people came.
“It’s quite incredible really, the number of Christian teachers that are there. I guess across the country, 190 doesn’t seem like a huge number, but from where it’s beginning, that’s a great number to turn up,” Midwinter says.
“It demonstrates the real hunger among the teachers for, I think, for two things. One, for professional development. They want to learn how to teach in a way that perhaps embeds their Christian faith and values in whatever type of school they’re in. And secondly, underlying, we discovered there is a real desire and hunger for Christian schools to begin.”
Changing the Nation through the Next Generation
As TeachBeyond comes alongside Transformational Education Albania, they want to fulfill both the desires and developments for establishing Christian schools in the nation. They know that discipling children can change the nation and help put a stop to corruption and problems that remain.
“Albania was declared the first atheistic state and now there is a fantastic opportunity for Christian schools that can make a huge difference across the nation,” Midwinter says.
“These children are taught and discipled that their hearts become open to the Lord and they commit their lives to Him and growing in Him. It will change the future leaders of the country. That’s what we’re aiming for and praying for.”
Pray for wisdom in how they should register schools, pray the schools would have a great impact in children’s lives and in the nation, and pray for connections with Christian teachers who have a heart to share the Truth with kids.