Imagine living in an environment where steps had been taken to attempt to remove any sense of spirituality from a culture. A place where church buildings, temples, mosques or any other type of religious structure was either destroyed or renovated for other use. For almost thirty years Albania was such a place. Under the communist regime, the authorities in Albania went so far as to remove the word ‘God’ from their dictionaries. This all changed during the 1990’s and today Albania is open to missionaries and allows total religious freedom, but people who embrace evangelical Christianity currently make up less than 1% of the entire population of Albania. This is partly due to the fact that much of the population consists of a generation who were raised in a system that indoctrinated them with the belief that there is no God, coupled with the fact that prior to Albania’s atheistic era the majority of the population identified as Muslim and have retained a cultural identity with Islam.
While these factors present significant challenges to the spread of Christianity, it is a good fit for the mission and vision God has given The Tide®. God has already laid a foundation for radio outreach in Albania through the establishment of Radio 7, a Christian radio network in Albania that has been on the air since May 2002. Earlier this year Enkelejda Kumaraku, founder of Radio 7, contacted The Tide to request assistance in establishing a radio-based church planting ministry in Albania. In August Don and Becky Shenk traveled to Albania on behalf of The Tide to assess the potential of duplicating in Albania the success The Tide is having with church planting in India. Radio 7 has good coverage of some of the more highly populated urban areas and is airing much good programming, but the majority of the Christian programs they air are translations of North American ministries that primarily target believers. What they do not have is a ministry that is producing heart language radio programming in Albania with messages specifically geared to speak to the hearts of unbelievers of Muslim or atheistic background. This is a role The Tide has been playing in other countries, and God has now opened the door to expand into Albania and neighboring Kosovo, where Radio 7 also has a station and the population is Albanian.
During the visit, Don and Becky met with several Albanian pastors and church planters, most of whom are first-generation Christians. It was encouraging to hear their testimonies and observe their enthusiasm, passion, and commitment. God is using them in amazing ways despite the spiritual vacuum that surrounds them and the lack of supporting resources available to them. It made us very grateful for the rich Christian heritage we have and the vast array of Christian resources we have access to. It also motivated us to help develop these young Christian leaders to the point where they will have both the ability and confidence to speak messages of hope on the radio. Pray with us that God will gift and anoint the Albanian pastors who are willing to work with The Tide to proclaim the message of salvation through Christ across Albania. We can come alongside them with training and resources, but ultimately it will require God working through His Holy Spirit to inspire surrendered servants with the right words to penetrate the hearts of people who currently deny His divine existence.