Last Wednesday was Dita e Veres, or "Spring Day," here in Albania. On Dita e Veres, all the schools have the day off, and everyone congregates in the center of town to celebrate. I went out with some friends to join in the festivities. One of the main streets of Tirana was decorated with garlands of large, brightly-colored plastic flowers strung over the road, and there were booths set up to sell food and traditional crafts. On street corners, people sold yellow mimosa flowers, which grow all over Albania in the spring and make the air smell wonderful.
My friends and I wandered through the crowded streets, stopping to watch a traditional dance and to drink thick Turkish coffee. We ate akullore (ice cream) and admired the beautiful hand-made traditional crafts that people were selling in booths on the side of the road. I got to try ballokume, a large cookie made of corn meal that is traditionally eaten on Dita e Veres. I also got to climb the pyramid, a monument in the center of town that was constructed to honor the death of Albania's communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, in 1985. The walls of the pyramid are very steep, and I was absolutely terrified to climb it! But the view from the top was wonderful. We could look down on all the festivities below us, and the crowd was so thick that we could barely see the ground.
I met with my friend last Wednesday evening to discuss what she had been learning from her Bible. She told me that she has been reading her Bible for several hours each evening, and that she has started praying and asking God for help. She talked about how she realizes her sin and has repented of it, and how she told God that she wants to follow Him. She has been excitedly telling her friends and family about her new faith. In her own words, "Everyone wants money, possessions, and relationships, but it's all 'kot' [vain] and God is the only thing that can 'mbush' [fill]. People don't say thank-you to God enough." She also said that she has always been different from her friends because she wants to know why we're here, what the point of life is. She had gotten a philosophy book from her school library in an attempt to answer her questions. But when she began reading the Bible, she returned the philosophy book because she knew she had found the truth she was looking for.
I am still completely in awe of the faith God has given her. Her understanding and insight put me to shame. I often feel like she is teaching me more than I am teaching her!
I just spoke on the phone with my friend again today, and what she said is exciting enough to warrant another post!
When she called, she asked for an explanation of a verse, and then told me that she has continued to read through the Bible and has been learning so much. She said that she's been "asking Jesus for help." She is so enthralled in the Word of God, and is so excited about all that she is learning. I am completely in awe of how God is working in her life! His Word is alive and powerful, and it is speaking to her heart. Other than bringing her to church and giving her the Bible, I haven't really had any serious discussions with her about what it means to have faith in God. But He has really been working in her and preparing her. It just shows how powerful He is, and how little He needs my help! His Word speaks for itself! I feel like she has learned more from reading the Bible on her own the past two days than many people have learned about God in their whole lives.
I am going to meet with her on Wednesday to talk about it all, which will hopefully lead to her making a decision for Christ. Although, she may have already made the decision herself! I don't think she has ever heard salvation and faith in Christ spelled out the way I would like explain it to her, but she certainly believes in God and sees her need for Him. I may be able to explain some things to her, but God has already done the most important work. He has gotten a hold of her heart in a way that I cannot even understand!
While living in Albania, one of my biggest problems has been not knowing how to communicate with other people about my faith. Telling someone about Christ is a daunting task in itself, but add to that the confusion of a language barrier and it sometimes seems impossible! I have been learning as much Albanian as I can pick up without taking lessons, but by now my vocabulary is only that of a two-year-old. And most of the young Albanians that I have met know a good amount of English, but it's not enough to speak fluently on important topics. (You know, how the God who created the Universe sent his son in human form to save us from our sin and depravity, and stuff like that.) With such an obstacle, fear of miscommunication seems like a very legitimate concern. But how can I do what I feel God has called me to do when I am so afraid to speak to others about Him?
Recently, I have been reading through Isaiah and Jeremiah. Several verses jumped out at me and, like a slap in the face, showed me how ridiculous I have been:
Isaiah 50:4 - "The Sovereign Lord has given me His words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary..."
Isaiah 51:16 - "And I have put my words in your mouth and hidden you safely in my hand..."
Isaiah 59:21 - "'And this is my covenant with them,' says the Lord. "My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children's children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken."
Jeremiah 1:7-9 - "The Lord replied, 'Don't say "I'm too young," for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don't be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!' Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, 'Look, I have put my words in your mouth!'"
God gave His prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, the right words to say because He knew they could not do it alone. I realize now that my worry is completely unfounded. When God gives us a job, He also provides us with what we need to do it. And not only will He give us the words to say, but He has also provided us with the Bible, which is powerful enough to speak for itself! Now, I have a new found confidence that God will provide me with His words. After all, I am nothing more than His instrument. I cannot accomplish anything on my own, but He will provide what I need to bring Him glory.
I have continued to build a relationship with an Albanian friend. She speaks enough English that we can communicate fairly well, although we often end up laughing over the misunderstandings that the language barrier creates. I often go to her house for lunch and to help her with her English homework. She has also been coming to church with me almost every Sunday for the past two months. She enjoys the service, and I know that she pays attention because she often comments about the message and tells me that it really made her think. She is very open and receptive to the Gospel. Yesterday, I gave her an Albanian Bible and a pamphlet about eternal life. Later that day, she called me to tell me that she had spent the past few hours reading them, and that it's been making her think about her life. She said it made her realize that she does wrong things, and she told me over and over how much she loved the books.
It's truly incredible how God has been working in her! To her, the Word of God is like a mirror, showing her sin and her need for Christ. No one had to tell her these things - she learned them on her own by listening in church, and now by reading the Bible. Her simple acceptance of the truth reflects the child-like faith that the Bible says we should have. I plan on meeting with her sometime this week to talk about the Gospel. Please pray that God would give me the words to say, and that He would continue to give her a soft heart that is receptive to His salvation.