Thursday, 18 September 2014

James + Lori News from Albania (September 2014)

September 2014, prayer letter from Albania

Dear friends – greetings from Gjirokaster, Albania and love in Christ,
Our last news letter was back in June and as anticipated between then and now we had lots going on. Thank you to all who were praying for us over the past months. There has been a lot to be grateful for. The camps went really well and outreach in villages in the evenings was encouraging. As school term starts we are turning our attention to restarting weekly activities and following up on contacts made at camps.
Between the team here, we were involved in 10 weeks of camps. Thank God that over 400 children went through these. I had asked people to pray that we would get new children coming from rural areas – in the end we did indeed have a good number from villages.
5 of these were day camps (children coming in the daytime only) these were held in Gjirokaster, Tepelena and Ballsh. As well as being great fun, it was a joy to see children and teenagers hearing the Gospel for the first time.  Another camp was aimed at families and, although there were less numbers than anticipated, it was very significant for several families in particular who reacted positively to the Gospel presentations and asked more questions. The involvement of volunteers from the UK was essential to make these camps happen. A big thank you to those who came and helped.
Shaun Thompson has put together a more detailed report on these camps - please ask me if you’d like it.
Open air outreach
We spent several evenings doing open-air evangelism over the Summer as we’ve done previous years. We went back to the village of Chepun where we held an activity over 2 nights. This year less adults turned out for this though there were many children. In the village of Zhulat, high in the mountains, volunteers from the UK helped us sing some songs and Shaun shared a message with those who gathered. This went really well and the men of the village hardly let us go afterwards! The villagers of Zhulat are mainly ‘Bektashi-muslims’ and in the past though friendly, have been cautious. It’s great to see them being much warmer to us and our message – but of course we long to see conversions. Several other villages were visited over the course of the summer but a particularly memorable evening was spent in one of the poorer neighbourhoods of Gjirokaster. Over the past year Petrit has been starting a new work there and there seems to be an open door there for the Gospel at the moment.
What to pray for of the coming weeks and months.
Restarting youth clubs. At this time (September) those involved in youth clubs will be meeting to decide how to go forward and were to focus our time. We really need wisdom and guidance here as decisions made will be for the whole year. Many new children and young people attended camps – but would they come to weekly or monthly youth clubs? It’s impossible to know unless we try. We’ve previously had clubs in three cities; Gjirokaster, Tepelena and Ballsh. We hope to do the same again. For several of these groups we hope to do Bible overviews.
Young men - pray for Ervin  and Cheti who are two 17-year-olds who have been regulars at our lads meeting over the past couple of years. I’m going to be inviting them to commit to doing a Bible study with me over the next year.
Village outreach I hope to restart going to villages weekly to do evangelism. Last year I taught English in villages schools with the purpose of building bridges with people there. This led to many conversations and opportunities to give out literature. To restart I need the permission of the new headmasters and of the new head of education in Gjirokaster.  Please pray that I get this.
Preaching  We will be starting new series both on Sundays and for the Wednesday night Bible study. We've chosen to go through Thessalonians on Wednesdays and do a series on 'people who met Christ' on Sundays. We very much need the Lord's blessing as we study and prepare for messages. Please pray for Petrit, Shaun and myself in particular. 

Wider News 
It just became world news that in Kosovo many Albanians were being recruited by mosques to become jihadist fighters for IS. Over 200 Kosovar Albanians have traveled to the Middle East so far which is a lot for a country of 1.8 Million. Thankfully the government there has been pushed to take action against extremist groups that they had been ignoring for a while. Islam has a stranglehold on the lives of many Albanians in Kosovo. Please pray for believers sharing the Gospel with Albanians in Kosovo who follow the false prophet.
Family News
John really enjoyed being at camps and swimming (with arm-bands) in the sea. John has just started nursery school. This is a big step for him and for us too! The beginning will be a bit difficult for Joihn as he’s not used to being away from us. Lot’s of other children were crying for the same reason the first few days and this made it even more scary for John!
Ana is now 6 months now and is doing well. She’ll a real joy to us all.
Lori will be doing a little bit of English teaching at home starting soon – this will give her something to break up the week with and also provide valuable points of contact in the neighbourhood. Please pray for our witness to our neighbours and more boldness and wisdom in sharing the gospel with them. One of our neighbours was ill recently and we asked her if we could pray for her – she was very happy to accept and this led to an interesting conversation about prayer. Another good conversation was had with her husband who is a practising Bektashi muslim.
New car – it became apparent over the Summer that I’d soon be needing a new car – my current one has low ground clearance and can’t get to the more remote villages. In this letter I was going to ask if anyone felt led to contribute to this, but news already got out via Paul Davies, and amazingly the amount that I was aiming at has already come it! Praise God for providing and a big thank you to those who gave.
I’m looking online at vehicles in Germany and looking at getting something that I could use both for villages and for outings with young people –  something like a VW transporter with seats. This would be a real asset to the work. Please pray that I find something suitable that would be both reliable and useful. If anyone has contacts in Germany that might be able to help put me up for a couple of nights or help look at cars please let me know.
We continue to be encouraged and amazed at God’s grace and might. Thank you again for your gifts and prayer support. Above all please continue to pray that God would be at work – through his Spirit – convicting and convincing people to turn to Him. We pray that same for the communities that you live in wherever that may be.
In Christ
James, Lori, John & Ana
“ And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,” Acts 17:26-27