Greece (MNN) — [Editor’s note: This story is Part One of a 2-part mini- series.]
There’s a lot more happening in Greece besides incoming refugees and a financial crisis.
In 1967, Albania became the first country to declare itself an atheist nation. On top of this, Albania was a communist country and all religions were banned.
But when the country’s communism began to fall in 1989, a door opened for the Gospel.
During this time, Andrew Teeuwen and his wife, Alecia, moved their lives to Albania with PIONEERS. There, they shared God’s Word, love, and helped plant churches in the northeast mountainous area of the country.
However, with newfound freedom, tons of Albanians fled to their neighboring country–Greece. As time went on, Greece’s Albanian population began to grow, and eventually, the Teeuwens transferred to Europe’s gateway to serve the Albanian population there.
“It’s been a great advantage to know the language because it’s easy to meet Albanians and for us to start speaking to them. It immediately creates a connection with them, and of course people ask why we’re there, which gives us a reason to share our work and our faith,” Teeuwen explains.
WHAT PIONEERS IS DOING
The Teeuwens partnered with some Albanians who became Christians years ago, in order to better serve the Albanian people in Greece. Their team consists of five couples, who last year started an Albanian language church on Easter Sunday.
“For years we had been talking about and praying about an Albanian language church. Through the initiative of several of the Albanian leaders that we work with, we got together and prayed about it and fasted, and sensed that this was the time to launch this church,” recounts Teeuwen.
Previously, Albanian Christians in Greece would have only been able to attend either Greek or International churches. It’s partly why, though the Teeuwens were working with Albanians to start the church, the main initiative to start the church was by the Albanians. They want to know God in their own heart language, and they want their people to have a chance to know Him, too.
PIONEERS is also working with Albanians in Greece through a cultural education center, Porta. Porta in Greek means “door,” while in Albanian it means “gate.” But either way, it is entry. And in this case, it’s an entry to love and acceptance.
“It’s a cultural center that gives Albanians value and allows them to come together for friendship and learning and developing themselves. And it reminds them that they’re not forgotten,” Teeuwen explains.
At the center, children can learn to read and write in Albanian. Albanian artists can display their artwork, whether it’s a sculpture, painting, or photographs, and celebrate their culture. It’s also a place where different Albanian organizations, such as student organizations or choirs, can meet.
“In this culture, Albanians are very much second class citizens…. They’re sometimes not trusted. So this is one of the ways that we try to reach out to them, by helping them to see that God has not forgotten about them.”
In the end, however, this ministry is all about the church truly being the hands and feet of Jesus and sharing Christ saving and redemptive love with others through the Gospel.
“There’s a lot of need in this country because of the refugee crisis, the economic crisis, the political crisis. And so, it really is our desire to be a light and to be a practical help to people as much as possible,” says Teeuwen.
You can join the ministry to Albania.
How to Help
Pray: Pray for the Albanian population in Greece to experience unity and come to know the Christ as their Savior. Also pray for the ministry the Teeuwens are involved in. Pray for Porta and for the church, for both to continue to flourish and for God to meet any and all needs.
Give: Please consider giving to the Albanian cultural center, Porta. The center is still needing donors to carry it through for the five years. Just mail donations with the account number 30112910 for the “Porta Tomorrow Fund” to:
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)
160 Clairemont Ave Suite 500
Decatur, GA 30030
Or, you can give directly to the Teeuwens HERE.
To learn more about the Teeuwens, click here,