The UMC in Albania - Hope in Times of Uncertainty

The May 8 local elections in Albania were held in a polarized environment. According to OSCE observers they were calm; however, major problems arose as a result of the very slow and heavy-handed ballot counting.

The considerable delays and the fact that the final results are still not yet available everywhere caused suspicion of manipulation among many people. In the meantime there is not only a serious controversy but – in the case of Tirana – an open confrontation between parts of the population and the police. While the EU called the involved parties to keep calm and to respect the laws of the country, followers of the socialist opposition, who feel cheated, threatened to spark off a «revolution of the people».

Once again it becomes obvious how long the journey is from a patronizing dictatorship to a constitutional democracy. While Albania has – at least on paper – a modern constitution, a civil law, a criminal law and courts, this is not worth much as long as people do not hold the laws and as long as the laws cannot be implemented in many areas of life.

Against this background the small UMC in Albania tries to light a beacon of hope. The members and friends of Tirana UMC experienced a joyful Easter celebration when, after having completed an introductory course, four adults were baptized and accepted into the professing membership of the UMC. Two children were baptized, as well. These were the first baptisms in Tirana, which is a young church in both senses of the word – the average age of those attending is under 30. A second group of young people will be baptized and admitted into membership on June 19.

On Wednesday after Easter Holy Communion was celebrated in Pogradec. Although it was a mid-week service the church was full. Hearing once again how the risen Jesus Christ encountered his disciples with a unique care and attention, the people were moved by the invitation to communion, not something to be taken for granted, but as a genuine invitation to accept God’s forgiveness and fellowship as a sign of God’s presence in their lives. Since moving into a new building on the main promenade by the lakeside, the congregation is even more visible.

In Bishnica UMC, the local church in the Mokra mountains, which has grown weaker as a result of migration, the worship services are held every two weeks. They are led by lay pastors from Pogradec UMC who travel to Bishnica by bus. Women and children meet regularly during the week.

The UMC in Albania is growing, slowly but surely. It is a living fellowship of people who are prepared to join together in Christ and follow his example, inviting others on their way.

Thank you very much for supporting this mission through your prayers and donations.

Source: Superintendent Wilfried Nausner and Jean Nausner, Albania/Macedonia
Date: May 20, 2011