Bill and I have just returned from a wonderful two days in Albania with the World Vision staff from Albania and Kosovo.
World Vision has an annual global Day of Prayer, and for their particular observance of this day the team decided to have an overnight retreat. This was the first of its kind, that we know of, and the hope was for us to help provide them with a refresher on the theological foundations of development work.
The World Vision Albania, Kosovo staff are led by a very competent National Director, named Tony. One of Tony’s visions for his staff is to refresh and build the foundations of the Kingdom theology behind their work. As many of you know and experience every day, working on global issues of poverty can sometimes be overwhelming and it is easy to feel discouraged and eventually burn out. It’s critical that we all keep remembering that this is the work of the Kingdom of God, which ultimately Jesus takes responsibility for and promises to never leave us alone in. Bill did a wonderful job laying the foundation of what life with God looks like and reminding us that ultimately our work comes from a place of daily being called God’s Beloved. He taught on the foundation of the Kingdom of God being one of transformation and highlighted how the work of World Vision is that same work of transformation within communities and individual lives.
On the second day, I spoke about the importance of Spiritual Disciplines in the life of a development worker and gave some simple ideas of how one can incorporate prayer, stillness and solitude into daily routines. There were many encouraging conversations with staff between sessions, including one I had with a staff member who said he and another colleague were going to commit again to coming into the office early to cover their work in prayer.
The retreat took place at a beautiful Orthodox Monastery just outside the capital of Tirana. The main Orthodox bishop was a very generous host and it was fascinating to learn the history of faith in Albania directly from him. He spoke about how this particular monastery was one of the first churches to be destroyed when the religious persecution began in 1967. For the two decades that followed, no one was allowed to even make the sign of the cross without incurring 10 years in prison. Some of the monks living there had themselves been imprisoned during this time period. Due to the ‘closed’ nature of Albania during this time period many of the Christians we met were beneficiary’s of the large youth evangelism movement that grew after the fall of Communism.
Do continue to pray for Albania and Kosovo. Pray for the issues of high unemployment, the Christian minority in the population and the amazing work that World Vision is doing to care for and protect children and communities. The 200 World Vision staff were incredibly welcoming and we are looking forward to continuing to walk with them to create a long term spiritual formation plan.