Albanian Evangelical Mission
Christmas Day saw the retirement of David Young, director and one of the founders of the Albanian Evangelical Mission (AEM). Here is an interview between him and William Hadspen:
WH: David, how did you become drawn to Albania so many years ago?
DMY: When I was 18, I worked as a postman in Germany for a while before going to Cambridge to read modern and mediæval languages. Having been converted through the Methodist Church in Basingstoke, I worshipped with the Methodists in Backnang, and was invited to live with a family who had escaped from East Germany.
Through them, others at the church, and an inter-church youth group, I became concerned about the sufferings of Christians in communist Europe.
Over the next eight years, I realised that if I was to achieve anything among the people of eastern Europe, I must learn one of the languages. My thought and prayer for guidance led me to focus my interest on the Albanian people.
WH: Did you expect Albanian work to be a full-time ministry for you?
DMY: No. My theology had shifted somewhat, and I had recently been sent into the ministry among the Strict Baptists. Circulating among the churches awaiting a call to a pastorate, I expected pastoral ministry to be my long-term work, with brief clandestine visits to Albania when the situation changed enough.
It was virtually impossible to get into Albania, and of the only two Christians I know who got visas to join a small, closely watched tourist group, one was discovered having given a Gospel to a hotel worker and was threatened with execution.
WH: So why did you establish a missionary society for the Albanians?
DMY: By 1984, my network of contacts concerned for Albania had grown, but I was aware that Albania was often submerged among wider interests — the communist world, eastern Europe, the Moslem world, etc. A society might use the subject of Albania to entice people to a conference, but there was little planning for that nation’s needs.
At a prayer weekend for Albania, I stated the need for a fellowship to exist whose sole focus would be the Albanian people, its resources and personnel, with planning and activity directed to bringing the gospel to them. Some 18 months later, I and three other men founded the mission.
WH: Five years later Communism fell in Albania. How do you feel about the situation since then?
DMY: Early in 1991, there were three known evangelical believers left faithful throughout Albanian communism and still meeting secretly for fellowship.
The period 1991-96 saw astonishing growth, till maybe 10,000 people were gathering regularly at evangelical or Pentecostal meetings throughout Albania. From 1997 this slowed, but the establishment and growth of churches continues, with a number of Albanians now filling leading roles.
No one expected this sudden and total change from ‘the world’s first atheist state’ to religious freedom in law; and our sentiment is, ‘What God hath wrought!’
WH: What will happen in AEM now?
DMY: My colleague Paul Davies is taking over leadership, and we look for the ministry to continue under God, as long as Albanians in Kosova, Macedonia, Albania or elsewhere need our assistance in prayer, finance and action.