Albania (MNN) — Like many Eastern European nations, Albania prides itself on an atheistic worldview. When the Soviet Union was in its prime, inquiries into the existence of God or any higher being were quickly stamped out. Most young people in Albania grew up believing "there was no God." A small but passionate group of believers in the nation's capital city want to change this societal outlook.
"We're just hoping there's a 'holy curiosity' that's created in the city," said Randy Burtis with the Luis Palau Evangelical Association. "Albania's one of those few countries where [religious suppression] was so brutal and so controlled that an underground church didn't even exist."
In 1967, the government closed all religious institutions, and Albania became the first atheistic state in Eastern Europe. Private religious practice wasn't allowed again until 1990, and with not even an underground church in sight, the Good News had to start from scratch in Albania. A mere two years ago, the government granted legal status to over 100 of the country's evangelical churches.
But on September 22, believers will gather in the city of Tirana for an evangelistic outreach called TiranaFest with Luis Palau. The citywide festival will feature live music, activities for kids, and the ultimate message of hope from Luis Palau. Burtis says the group uses "Season of Service" projects to build anticipation for the event and soften hearts toward the message of Christ shared at TiranaFest.
And though the group of Albanian believers may be small, their influence is mighty.
"When they get out there and they serve their neighbors," shares Burtis, "and they share the Word of God with them in the midst of feeding them and giving them medical care, suddenly this small number of people is having a very large effect."
In the past few weeks, over 60 doctors have started a medical outreach. Between 2002 and 2012, approximately 500,000 people moved into the city of Tirana, putting a huge stress on already-strained medical resources. To meet this community need and foster goodwill toward TiranaFest with Luis Palau, churches have rallied their members around this project and more.
"They have just been offering their services. The churches have been sending in non-medical personnel from among their members to help out and minister to the people," said Burtis. Other community efforts include food and housing development projects.
Normally, says Burtis, Luis Palau events like this will last between 12 and 18 months. But believers in Albania saw a "window of opportunity" surrounding the nation's 100-year anniversary of independence.
While believers have put forth every effort to bring Christ into their nation, your prayers play a crucial role in the success of TiranaFest with Luis Palau.
"We'd just love for your readers to pray for the believers in Albania because they have a very difficult task in front of them," Burtis explains. "And we just need the Holy Spirit to pierce through those years of indoctrination of tens of thousands of young people that grew up believing that there is no God."
Pray for those who don't know Jesus Christ. Pray that many would be reached with the love and Good News of Christ through this festival campaign. If you'd like to make a donation to help this outreach effort, click here.