Saturday, May 16, 2015

Albania Is No Longer An Atheist Country

It was a privilege to return to Albania for our 5th tour with TACO. In 14 days from April 29-May 12, we did 11 shows in and around Tirane, the Berat area and even down south in beautiful Saranda near the Greece border.

Our show consisted of Dustin's mad unicycle skills rolled together with Katie's dancing and a band comprised of 1 American and 5 Aussies. We again worked with an Albanian church planter/pastor from Tirane who has a vision to plant churches all over Albania. He connected with pastors around the country who set up events in their community to either strengthen their church or help them start new ones.

Our first show was in a basketball court in the middle of an apartment complex in a Roma part of Tirane. It was a rough start to the tour with very rambunctious kids causing havoc. Basketballs were launched into the band as they played, one even hitting Neville, knocking the guitar pick from his hand as he played and some of our equipment disappeared as we were packing up. But the local pastor connected with some men who were impacted with the message of Jesus that we shared and they now plan to attend church.

Another of our shows near Tirane was in an area where there was a huge and horrible explosion in 2008 destroying hundreds of homes and buildings, killing 26 people and injuring over 300. Click here to read more about it. There was a church in this area before the tragedy but not since. One of the former church members died in the explosion.  A local church planter hosted our event and used it to announce the launch of a new church starting in a building nearby which was the first to be rebuilt in the area. What a privilege to be part of the start of a church where one hasn't existed in 7 years!

It was special to return to Berat where a church was planted 3 years ago after a UniShow event. That church has since planted 2 other churches! After our show this time, a 17 yr. old girl was helping hand out Bibles and literature and invite people to church.  She had been at the UniShow event 3 years ago and had really connected with Dustin's story and gave her life to Christ at that event.  Previously, she had tried to kill herself numerous times, was very depressed and had no hope. Since then, God has totally changed her life, given her purpose and meaning and she has been very involved in the church.

We performed in the town of Rogozhino.  Pastors are planning to open the first church in this city in October.  They were apprehensive of what people's response would be to us sharing openly and were surprised when people asked why they hadn't started a church before and welcomed our message.

Near Tirane we shared at a center for vulnerable youth, started because of the needs of many wives and children who are abused.   It is now a regular hangout for students where they experience God's love.  At the end of our show it was special to hear so many verbally repeating the prayer of commitment to follow Jesus.

Dustin received an encouraging letter from a young girl that saw our show last year: "You are a very good example for me.  Before I met you, my dream was to be a popular dancer with fans, etc.. But when I saw you the "Campion of the World" that with your talent you show the glory of God and you chose Jesus before popular, that changes me a lot!  Now I just want to show Jesus in my talent...Thanks a lot!"  It's these kind of things that keep us going, knowing lives are being impacted.

We praise God that hundreds of Bibles were distributed at our events, hundreds responded to Jesus and were connected to local churches, and thousands of seeds of the Gospel were scattered around Albania through these May 2015 outreaches.  Since our first tour in Albania, 13 church have been planted through TACO's partnership with local church planters.  And that number is on the rise!

TACO Albania Spring 2015 Team.
Dustin with his fans.
The band.
Dustin sharing the message of Hope.
Fun times in Rogohzino.
Rogohzino friends.
Youth Center in Bothore Tirane.
Sharing in a church in Tirane.  This church had 50 people last fall, now over 300 attend!
Beautiful scenery enroute south from Tirane to Saranda.
Jarrod wowing crowds with his loop pedal performance in Saranda.
Local TV crew caught the action in Saranda.