What an incredible and blessed week at the first-ever EEMN Albania English Language Camp! We shared the grace, love and mercy of the Lord with over 60 students this week! The Old Testament story of Joseph was the basis for our language study about Faith. It served as a great testament to a loving and benevolent Lord - a view of God that is foreign to most Albanians.
As our first foray into teaching Christian concepts in this culturally Muslim community, it was important to take time to build relationships and trust in the first part of the week, before beginning to introduce Jesus. The students only knew a secular society based on Muslim social tradition. By the grace of God, the message was well timed and very well received. On Thursday, team member and EEMN Board Member, Pr. Phil Lee, presented the concept to the entire camp that Joseph was an ancestor of Jesus. The ideas of family and lineage are important to the people of Albania and served as a great way to introduce Jesus as a direct descendent of Joseph. Pr. Phil also drew the parallels of faith, humility, servanthood, love, and forgiveness shared between Joseph and Jesus, along with the promises that can only be accomplished by God in Christ.
Many students opted to take an English New Testament Bible home with them, on Friday; along with several Albanian biblical resources made available by Alph-Omega Church. We are grateful that team members, Steve and Linda Meyer, brought 100 Gideon's English New Testaments to Peshkopi to have available for anyone who wanted one!
Team member, Carolyn Lee (Pr. Phil is her husband), took the time to have her students write about their experiences at the language camp. They will be translated by our ministry partners and we cannot wait to read them all! Although, it has already been shared that her students think that Carolyn is the best teacher, ever!
Team member, Ruth Lindberg, learned on Saturday that one of her students is a member of a local Peshkopi family that is the focus of World Vision Albania and Kosovo. If you visit the EEMN FaceBook page, you can view the video about the family. EEMN is also praising the Lord for World Vision Albania and Kosovo, as they paid for all of our team member hotel rooms, while in Peshkopi (for all 9-nights!), and they paid for the entire week of lunches that fed all of the camp participants!
We are also grateful to Pr. David Michael Carrillo (EEMN missionary to Latvia) and his incredible gift for preaching the Gospel through music. EVERY student, teacher, translator and local host has his music replaying, over and over, in their heads and now knows that God loves them; they are a friend of God; and that God is their friend; God cares about them, and that God's plan are always up to something good!
For the rest of our camp story, here is the official camp video! Enjoy!
The team enjoyed worship, on Sunday, with the congregation of Alpha-Omega Church in Peshkopi. Our EEMN co-host, Dan Hall, delivered a great message on Acts 2 that was translated into Albanian by Pr. Ermal Lushi.
Following a walk though town and lunch at a popular restaurant in Peshkopi, the team was able to start setting up classrooms and make final preparations for camp at the church building and at a nearby restaurant reception room. One of the highlights of preparation included having coffee with several of our translators. Coffee is a very important social activity in the Albanian culture and you might notice from the photos that men and women usually sit in separate groups. This is a carryover from the Muslim cultural identity that still influences social mores despite the almost non-existent practice of religion in Albania. In fact, Ramadan is still observed by many in Albania (including in Peshkopi) even though there is no longer a spiritual or religious connection made to its observance.
On Monday, the most glitch free and enthusiastic first-day-of-camp student participation was enjoyed by everyone (at a new location, to boot)! Much of this is due to the outstanding planning and coordination made by our EEMN Albania missionaries, Dawn & Dan Hall, and our Albanian partners in ministry, Pr. Ermal & Sarah Lushi!
We are always very upfront that we use the Bible as a textbook for teaching English, and our hosts prepared us for the reality that we might lose some kids after the first day because they might feel uncomfortable with the Christian emphasis. However, every single child came back on Tuesday - along with several new students who were in academic testing on Monday. In all, we have over 50 students (6th-9th grade) participating in camp! Also, the level of English here is astonishing. This has made teaching a lot more fun!
We made the 4-hour drive from Tirana to Peshkopi - up steep inclines, plenty of switchbacks, narrow roads that hugged huge mountains, and incredible vistas in every direction!