Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Friend

In the past few weeks, my uncle has been making friends with our mailman.  He discovered that our mailman's first wife was a Christian, and when she died he married a woman who is Muslim by tradition, though not in practice.  He is very open to discussion of Christianity, and has many questions about our faith.  His fifteen-year-old neice has been living with him and his wife for the past few years.  Two Sundays ago, they came to church with us.  They both enjoyed it, and would like to continue coming.  I was also able to spend some time at their house last week, to help the girl with English homework and to get to know her and her aunt.  She speaks only a little English, and her aunt speaks none at all, so trying to communicate is often very comical.  But both of them are very kind and welcoming, and I enjoyed the time I spent with them. My friend and I plan to continue spending time together, and I am praying that she will keep coming to church with me.  Please pray that she and I would be able to develop a good friendship, and that she would come to know the Lord.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Life in Albania

  • An estimated 70% of Albanians are Muslim, though many follow Islam only by tradition and do not practice it devoutly.  Other prominent religions include Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox. 
  • The mountains are truly stunning.  My cousin likes to say that if all the mountains in Albania were ironed out, the country would be the size of Russia.
  • Albania has a rich history that goes back thousands and thousands of years.  It's so different from America, which is a relatively new country!  There are many historical sites from as far back as  before Greek and Roman times, and I would love to know what history is buried beneath some of the major cities.
  • The story behind the two-headed eagle on the Albanian flag can be found here:
  • Very few people obey the traffic laws.  Stoplights are irrelevant, everyone makes their own lanes, and the policemen who stand on the side of the road and wave their arms are almost completely ineffective.
  • Albania is known as the most hospitable country in Europe.
  • We have to filter all the drinking water so we don't get parasites.
  • Everyone throws their trash in the streets.  Several times, we've passed a huge trash pile on the ground...right next to an empty dumpster.
  • Crossing the streets is like being in a game of Frogger.
  • We bleach all the fruits and vegetables that we buy from open markets because it's hard to know how clean they are.  My aunt once saw a rat crawling over all the tomatoes.
  • One word: "Opa!"
  • Kolonat is the Albanian equivalent of McDonald's, and AFC is the Albanian knock-off of KFC.
  • Personal space does not exist.
  • Albanian cuisine can be summed up in three words: kos (yogurt), olives, lamb.
  • Shaking your head side to side means "yes."
  • When you meet elderly ladies, they like to pinch your cheeks and then plan your wedding with their son.
  • Castles, castles, castles!
  • New Year's is the most celebrated holiday.  Christmas was not celebrated in Albanian during communism, and, though it is celebrated now, is not as big of a deal as New Year's Eve.  It is when they give gifts, visit family, and shoot off millions of fireworks that would be illegal in the States.
  • In most cities, the Muslim Call to Prayer can clearly be heard. 
  • Everyone you meet invites you out for coffee.  In fact, we drink so much coffee that if I were to get cut, I'm sure I would bleed coffee.
  • Skanderbeg is the most famous national hero in Albania.  He is known for fighting off the invading Ottoman Turks in the 1400's.  His statues stands in the center of Tirana, the capitol.  Kolonat even has a burger named after him: the Skanderburger!
  • There are 36 letters in the Albanian alphabet.  However, reading Albanian is relatively simple - each letter always makes the same sound, very much unlike English! 
  • Popular foods include byrek, sufflaqe, fli, and lamb head roasted on a spit (You don't eat no meat?! Ok, I make lamb :)

  • In fact, watch "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."  That pretty much sums it all up.
  • Albanian culture includes a myriad of blessings and curses ("bless your hands," "may you have a long life," etc.)  One curse is literally translated as "May the skin on your elbows dry up!"
  • Leke is the currency used.  It's easy to convert: 100 leke almost exactly equals $1.  So a cheeseburger at Kolonat is about 200 leke.
  • In the Bible, "Illyricm" was ancient Albania.  Romans 15:19, "They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God's Spirit.  In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum." 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Psalm 90:12, 14-15"Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts...Satisfy us in the morning with Your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days.  Make us rejoice for as many years as we have seen adversity."

Psalm 119:96
"I have see n a limit to all perfection, but Your command is without limit."

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
"We are human, but don't wage war as humans do.  We use God's mighty weapons, not worldy weapons to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.  We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps us from knowing God.  We capture every rebellious thought and teach them to obey Christ."

Jeremiah 6:16-17
"This is what the Lord says: Stop at the crossroads and look around.  Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.  Travel it's path, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you reply, 'No, that's not the road we want!"  I posted watchmen over you who said, 'Listen for the sound of the alarm.'  But you replied, 'No, we won't pay attention!'"

Monday, January 16, 2012

English Lessons

Last week, we began making arrangements for different ministry opportunities that I am going to be involved in.  I hope to begin giving English lessons, so that I can make friends with Albanian girls of high-school and college age.  Most Albanian students know at least a little English because they are required to learn it in school, so I’ll offer tutoring to help girls with conversational skills. We spoke with a school across the street from where we live about how I can help their English students, and I hope to begin working with them by next week.  I have also been arranging to work with Hope for the World at a home for Albanian orphans between the ages of 15 and 18.  There, I will help the girls with their English studies by hanging out with them and teaching them conversational skills.

We have continued to get to know the families of Denisa and Valbona, the gypsy girls we befriended on the street.  Yesterday, we went to visit Valbona’s older sister, Rukia, who was in the hospital to have her appendix taken out.  She is a precious girl with a beautiful smile, and she beamed as my uncle read to her from Psalms.  We hope to be able to continue to build relationships with her family, as well as with Denisa’s family.