Thursday, May 10, 2018

Aloha from Albania!

'Aloha' is the Hawaiian word for love, peace, compassion and mercy, commonly used as a simple greeting. Our team of 8 from Australia, Albania, America and Korea, chose the name Team Aloha and had the privilege of extending these virtues across Albania packaged in a performance infused with the Gospel. We surprised ourselves with how much fun the Aloha show was to perform.

Donning Hawaiian shirts, we hit the stage for 65 minutes of non-stop action combining unicycling, drama, dance, music and most importantly, the Gospel message. We partnered with an Albanian church planter who has used these creative performances over the years to start more than 20 churches. In some cities and villages we partnered with young churches and in other cities we joined nationals who are working on starting a church where none exists.

Our organizer worked hard to secure permission from mayors and officials in each city. Police were present at most events, blocking off streets and diverting traffic, clearing parking lots, helping keep the peace among rowdy kids, and generally keeping an eye on things. On this tour we also had the unique experience to record some of our show at TV 7 studio in Tirana, which aired a week later.

We heard very encouraging feedback regarding our presentations. One pastor said he felt our event changed the atmosphere and showed that the church comes out of their walls to share with the community. He noted that people were very affected by the message. Another long-term partner thought our show was the best he's seen from our group over the years. He was very encouraged afterward with the amount of youth who asked him for details about how to connect with the church. 

Another pastor said in his 4 years of leading his church he has never seen so many people interested in taking Bibles and literature before. He was amazed to see how the performance drew people in and opened them to the message. Local workers said it was a beautiful performance unlike anything the community has seen before. 

During a city center show, we were surprised that the nearby caf├ęs turned their music down as Dustin led in a prayer of surrender to Christ. Church members saw a lady who is a known atheist pray the prayer! Another lady said she felt deliverance during the message and a Presence she had never felt before.

In another city, believers are trying to plant the first church. A local Christian lady was so encouraged by our show there and even helped hand out literature at the end. She and her husband were part of the church that fizzled many years ago and their own walk with God went with it. She asked us to pray for the opportunity to fellowship with other believers again. Team members talked to an Imam who started to debate until he was shown verses in the Koran that say Jesus died and rose again. They read to him from John 1 explaining what we believe. The Imam was open to reading the Bible and learning more. And we know of several people who made professions of faith in Jesus during the show! With the great response and so many interested in learning more about Jesus, it looks promising that a new church will begin here soon. 

We performed in front of a Mosque in a city which is half Muslim, half Catholic and mostly in need of a relationship with Jesus. During the invitation and prayer of surrender to Jesus, several people indicated they were choosing Jesus for the first time! One of those people was a 21 year old who said, "Today I changed my belief. I was a Muslim but when I heard the Christian message I wanted to follow Jesus."

We performed in another city which is 95% Muslim and has not had a church in 15 years. There is a Christian couple whom our organizer and a business man have been driving 3 hours each Saturday to disciple and mentor. Since unemployment and poverty in Albania is common, and often the reason new churches struggle, they are implementing a new model of simultaneously opening an electronics business in the city along with the church, to help support the pastor and church. This ambitious couple hope to get both the church and the electronics shop up and running as soon as they are grounded and have a solid team prepared to lead.

Our church planting organizer has a wise strategy of not hastily throwing a church together but waiting until the foundation is strong enough to support a lasting fellowship. He wants to plant churches, not play church, and his methods seem to be working. He reminded us that as we do these evangelistic events we are pushing, fighting, attacking the gates of hell. We are not just preaching the Gospel but breaking mentalities. He said people in Albania think church is stale, boring, lifeless tradition. But when they see dancing, lively music, and a world champion performing and sharing about Jesus, they realize people in the church are normal, fun and it shatters misconceptions about who Jesus is.

After each presentation, many surveys were collected from interested people requesting follow-up. Church members will contact each person and begin discipling them. In summary, we presented to 3,150 people during 11 events plus a TV broadcast that will be viewed by many people in Albania, Kosovo and USA.

Please pray for:
-The thousands of people who heard the Gospel and the hundreds who indicated a first time commitment to Jesus, to keep growing in their understanding of who Jesus is.
-Wisdom as church members follow up with those wanting to know more about the Bible and Jesus.
-The churches to grow in depth, numbers and unity.
-More workers and believers in Albania to serve in the church and reach out in evangelism.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Colossians 3:12