Caring is about more than having an open door

When Christians from Germany began to bring relief supplies to the Albanian village of Bishnica in 1992, Gjergj Lushka was just four years old. It was not only material things which went on this difficult journey – the relief workers also planted seeds of faith in the hearts of many human beings, as they did in Gjergj’s heart. 

It was no surprise that Gjergj Lusaka became part of the emerging UMC in Albania as a child. But one day, his parents, seeing no future where they were, took a step which many people take even today: they moved to Elbasan, the fourth largest city of the country, hoping for better prospects.  
The UMC in Albania had soon realized that when building up a church it is not enough just to wait for people to come into the open doors of the church. For this reason, from 2008 onwards new church communities were founded with the focus on cities to which people were moving, and not on the increasingly depopulated villages.
As a young man Gjergj Lushka then moved from Elbasan to Tirana, in order to study social work and social politics at the university there. And because there was now also an UMC church in the Albanian capital, that church became his spiritual home. After graduating from his studies he found a post as a social worker with the organization «Help the Life» and gained valuable experience in assisting and integrating children with special needs, as well as supporting their parents. 
Because there is a great lack of assistance in this area, which in other countries would be regarded as automatic, the UMC set up its own «Early Intervention Center». Gjergj Lushka was now able to use the knowledge and experience he had acquired, in cooperation with other experts. Conversations, therapies and consulting became specific forms of caring. They gave the clients the feeling that the UMC in Albania is not a church that wants to be near to people, but that it actually is near to them. 
The collaboration with the organization «Help the Life» then came to an end and the «Early Intervention Center» was closed. However, the wish for such help remained, and the responsible persons knew that they would look for possibilities which would enable this work to continue. Not because of their reputation, but because it is so important to these people to receive this help. 
First, however, a completely different possibility presented itself for living this caring. People from the UMC who had moved to Durrës asked if they could also set up a church in this city on the Adriatic coast. After careful consideration Gjergj Lushka, who in the meantime had begun to study theology under a course offered by the Church of the Nazarene, was finally entrusted with setting up this new church. The first service took place in July 2017 in a rented apartment. Gjergj Lushka now travels the 35 km from Tirana to Durrës every Sunday, in order to preach. He is supported by volunteers, and thus it is not only the program (àservices, Bible study groups, English courses) that is growing, but also the network of contacts in Durrës. The UMC tries to listen to find out what the people’s needs are, and considers carefully how these could be answered adequately. This approach has so far proved its worth, even if it is not as spectacular as landing pioneers somewhere by parachute, so to speak, and telling them «Just do it!»
In the leadership team of the UMC in Albania, Gjergj Lushka is the person responsible for the development of social work projects. He has thus been in close contact with the authorities of the city of Tirana for months. They have given the UMC permission to establish a new «Early Intervention Center» for the children of two districts of the city. It is not only persons belonging to all generations who value the caring attitude of the UMC in Albania – the church is also regarded by government authorities as a trustworthy and reliable partner. A woman psychiatrist with 30 years of experience in dealing with children with special needs, as well as two further employees, will work in this new center under the direction of Gjergj Lushka. They have already received from the authorities lists of children who are to be supported and assisted. Now their task is to verify these lists, to establish contact with the parents and to explain to them what the Center offers. The operating phase is currently temporary, but the object is to be able to be there for people for an indefinite period. 
The responsible persons experience again and again how God calls human beings, gives them qualifications and sends them. At the same time, they try to keep their eyes open and to be aware of the difficulties in society. Where the result of this is that God’s missionary command «Go!» meets up with the human call «Come!», new hope can spring up due to authentic caring.

Source: UMC in Albania