Albania (SEND) — Tucked away in the corner of a large gated property, the crumbling walls and debris-filled rooms of the warehouse cried out for redemption. It was obvious that the old Communist-era facility would need significant repairs to become the ministry hub for which SEND International’s Don and Krystal Zollinger had prayed. But when Don first saw it, rather than being repelled by the decay, his first thought was, “This location has so much potential.”
Just minutes away from the Roma community, the large building was perfect for meeting the multi-faceted needs of the people. Then the landlord said, “You can use it for the first year free of charge, if you fix the exterior walls and some of the interior.” After more prayer, Don and Krystal said, “Yes.”
That was in 2011. Fast-forward to 2015, and you’ll find the property has a new life serving as a place where the Roma and Albanians can find new life in Christ. Space that was dilapidated and useless is now used for classrooms and workshops. In it, girls gather and learn how to sew. Boys acquire woodworking skills. Ladies meet for women’s events. And men come together to work in the Roma men’s Fabrication Workshop.
The building also hosts kids’ clubs, Bible studies, and community events. Besides imparting life skills, Don and Krystal have been able to share Jesus with many and have seen some choose to follow him as a result of all that is offered through this multipurpose ministry building.
The building also houses Inovat, a new business-as-mission wood-burning stove venture that Don felt led to start. The initiative was motivated by three critical needs: (1) Roma men are desperate to find work in order to provide for their families; (2) Albanian houses do not have central heating and need another source of warmth during the winter; and (3) the Roma and Albanians need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Inovat provides a solution to all three needs.
Don says, “There are many Roma men who want to work and be trained by us. If our products sell well, then we would have the privilege of working with these men, empowering them with skills, and building strong relationships so that we can ultimately share the gospel of Jesus with them.”
In its first season, all the stoves Inovat placed with a local retailer sold within ten days. Don says, “The retailer now wants to order 150 more to have in his warehouse for the next season. He would also like us to design other stove models to display in his shop.”
Inovat’s relationship with Marketplace & Development Enterprises (MDE) will enable it to gain official status, comply with Albanian law, tap into capital to move the start-up from a concept to a viable, self-sustaining business, and partner with other like-minded believers who have the skills and expertise to help the ministry flourish.
Don and Krystal are grateful for the many facets of God’s redemptive process. They’ve watched Him redeem an old building and then use it to redeem lives for His Kingdom. Don says, “Our continued prayer is that God would use Inovat as a strategic door-opener to greatly impact the Roma community as we participate in establishing churches among them.”
Will you pray with us SEND for God’s continued blessing on this ministry?