I will never forget that meeting. It was end of March 2018. I had invited the key disciples of church “Agape” in Tirana, a church started by our GCM team. The discussion and conversations around what I call the Paul’s cycle, are still fresh in my memory. I would share with them what we see as the core of Paul’s ministry displayed from Acts to his letters. Paul would visit the key cities, would initiate with people, and would lead to faith those who would respond to the Gospel. He would then take care for their growth in Christ, build disciples and then appoint them as leaders of these new faith communities. Then, after seeing this cycle come to completion, he would move to another city and start from the beginning, but he would continue his ministry of care from the distance through his letters and also his visits. 

Hearing these words, my brothers and sisters understood that Olta, I and the team I was leading were becoming ready to move to another area of the city to start another church. A huge and heavy burden seemed to befall on their shoulders to carry on this wonderful work that the Lord had started amongst and through them in those last 5 years. Expressed and unexpressed fears overwhelmed their minds and hearts.

Many of them were even questioning if this church could continue without our team. In the midst of these, Olta, my wife, jumps in and shares that she understood how they felt. She recalled a time many years ago when the CRU staff had to be evacuated from their campus due to the unrest in the country. They have left a handful of believers and Olta was one of them, serving as a volunteer. She would never forget the wonderful things that God had done in those years through that group of students who decided to carry on the ministry despite the situation in the country and the absence of the team. Then Olta shares how she was convinced that even in this situation, we would see the hand of God to use these group of disciples to carry on the work that was started through their new church.

Just as Paul hands over his disciples to God, so we did- a step we were convinced that should have be done earlier. We trusted God by transferring almost all our responsibilities to these group of disciples, who had a little experience in ministry but had a great heart to serve the Lord.  

There has been a year and some months since that meeting, and I share with great joy what the Lord has done through these group of disciples, despite their fears, doubts, insecurities, failures, confusion at times. They have not only been able to lead the church and the groups, but the church instead of decreasing has grown.

Just this summer, I saw them planning, organizing and running a great summer camp. Caleb Smith, a church planter who came with an American team to serve with the summer camp, commented that this camp was the best one he had ever taken part in his 20 years as a believer and participant in short mission trips.  

Baptism service

Olta and I can not express enough the joy we have experienced as we have seen our brothers and sisters serving with so much joy, sacrifice, commitment not only through the year, but especially during the summer camps. Many of them had given away their summer vacations, savings, and even accepting a short pay roll from taking off days from work, in order to reach the lost souls through these camps.

Some encouraging stats: 20 high school students and 20 adults participated in the camp. 8 of these people decided to believe in Jesus as their Savior.

7 people got baptized at the last day of the camp. 3 of them were new believers who accepted Jesus during the camp, and 4 of them who accepted Jesus during this past year.

There are at least 7 committed leaders who are serving as volunteers to run the church services, the small groups and outreaches throughout the year.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

by Elton Manelli, GCM team Tirana Albania.

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