John Blanchard in Albania
When John Blanchard first visited Albania over a year ago, three things hit him. The first was the near total absence of gospel witness since post-apostolic times. Until recently, with rare exceptions the picture had been unremittingly dark culminating in years of domination by Communism and the removal of the word ‘God’ from the Albanian language. All churches were closed and many Christians severely persecuted.
The second was that present churches were in consequence ‘first generation’, with no indigenous traditions. This has advantages, but also dangers. Churches not founded on scriptural and confessional lines become difficult to guide to safer ground.
The third was the great need for sound evangelistic literature. John recently told Evangelical Times, ‘I can obviously do nothing about the first of these issues, I may be of some help in the second – and I am determined to do something about the third!’
Albania has a population of three million and countless villages, so remote that they can only be reached by donkey. Yet urbanization is gathering pace by the day, with 800,000 people – over 25% of the country’s citizens – now living in Tirana, the nation’s capital.
Not surprisingly, urbanization is helping to fuel materialism, as Albania enviously eyes the West’s prosperity. A missionary told John of his sorrow that even some Christians were allowing materialism to creep in.
Albania is the second poorest country in Europe (Moldova is the poorest) and John was told of many people going ‘on the list’ with shopkeepers (that is, creating IOUs) for staple foods like bread.
Following last year’s visit John launched Operation Albania, raising funds to have his evangelistic publications translated and published in Albania. It was hoped that the first three of these – Evolution: Fact or Fiction? Where is God when things go wrong? and Why believe the Bible? – would be released during his latest visit but a technical hitch delayed them by a few weeks. Nevertheless, several thousand copies of each title will be available soon.
In addition, the Albanian version of his well-known book Right with God is awaiting final editing; and the translation of his major volume Does God believe in Atheists? is nearing completion.
Other titles planned include Can we be good without God? Is anybody out there? Has science got rid of God? and Meet the real Jesus.
John’s latest visit concentrated on ministry to students in Tirana, Vlora and Lushnje. Their enthusiastic response has deepened his longing to strengthen the hands of Albanian Christians seeking to spread the gospel.
Readers wishing to share in the literature project are asked to contact John on 01737 357501, at 81 Lambert Road, Banstead, SM7 2QU; or at firstname.lastname@example.org