Well friends, its not summer here yet (for university students) but it sure is starting to get hot! Things have picked up and we are rolling around from sharing food with local families in need, to baptisms, to an ongoing outreach event with our American students reaching Albanian students and a lot of little (big!) things in between. What does this all look like, you ask? Well, I can help you out there.
About three weeks ago we picked up our two Salt Company teams from the airport and brought them to our city where they are serving for two months. It has been one of our greatest joys to be their hosts and to pour into them during their time here. They are reaching out to Albanians by teaching some English classes and by participating in our summer outreach called JuJu.
I know, I know, you have no idea what an outreach is. Its hard to explain really and only makes sense once you’ve been in one before, but I’ll take a shot an explanation anyway. Outreaches here are put on by the student ministry, Jete Studentore (which functions more like a social club that leaders and staff use to meet new people and share the gospel personally). We do about 3 a year to make a big push to draw in new people, and we do this by planning about 2 weeks of games and competitions and inviting people to compete in them for a big prize. We split all of the students (both high school and college) into groups and have different events for competition like volleyball, debates, minute to win it games, dancing contests, etc. This outreach we are putting on frisbee, soccer, capture the flag at the castle, American/Albanian night, and a ladies fashion contest. One prize is to spend a day climbing and picnicking on a nearby mountain, and another is a full week on a beach in the south with our American students learning English and hanging out. We are about half way through the events, have budding new friendships because of it, and lots of photos to show for it. Here’s a taste.
We took the first week our American students were here to reach out to families in need in our city. We ordered food supplies, bagged it all up, split up into Albanian/American teams and took food to needy families whose names we got from the city government. It was a blessing to bless others and a way to reach beyond students and serve the city. A lady and her son and a friend of hers has been attending our church ever since, which is a huge answer to prayer.
Our church, Guri i Themelit Shkodra, travels to the beach once a year meeting up with our sister church Guri i Themelit in Tirana and celebrates new life with baptisms in the Adriatic Sea. This year our church came out in force (about 35 of us plus our 9 American students) and 11 of them were baptized. It was a beautiful thing– these friends declaring their love and trust in Jesus, being lowered into and pulled out of the water by their mentors, friends, and leaders, and the rest of the family in the water with them, cheering them on. God is at work. It was so fun to see girls we’ve invested in through our small group take this step, and even rejoice with some who have made their own disciples along the way. Here’s a sample of some of my favorite moments.
Can you believe that in the midst of this we even fit in a whole week of hangs with our amazing friend Laura that came to visit? Well believe it! We did some ministry stuff (JuJu kickoff and weekly meetings), some relaxation stuff (hiked up Tarabosh to picnic and hammock, spent the night at a resort in the mountains), and some adventure stuff (Castle Rozafa, Ulcinj, Montenegro).
Looking ahead, we’ve got one more week of the outreach and then a beach camp before the Salt teams take a break and begin the debrief phase of their trip. Lots yet to do and we’re excited to be a part of it all.