Allegheny West Members Minister in the Aftermath of Communism
Posted April 15, 2014
BY CHRISTOPHER THOMPSON and Visitorstaff
In Albania, a country rebounding from Communism and a largely secular Muslim population, the Roma people struggle to find adequate employment, education and healthcare. A group from Allegheny West Conference recently traveled to this Southeastern European country to help.
The stamp of Communism is still visible in Albania. The citizens have modern vehicles and cell phones, but in many ways the country is stuck. Until about 20 years ago Communism kept Albania a closed country. No one was allowed in or out. This also meant no religious freedom. But there are no locked doors where God’s Spirit is involved.
Although Albania is still a largely secular Muslim country, the Holy Spirit is definitely working through the Albanian Mission and ADRA Albania. Beatrice Kastrati, director of ADRA Albania, talked passionately about the needs of the people: “There’s a great disparity between the rich and the poor… There are areas of corruption … there is so much work to do here.”
About two years ago, Sergio Romero, director of Multicultural Ministries for the Allegheny West Conference (AWC), heard of the need in Albania. “I started to pray for the people in Albania, specifically for the Roma (Gypsy) people,” he says. “They are the underprivileged people in Albania. This people, out of prejudice, don’t have access to medical services or education. I have in my heart to serve those that nobody else wants to serve.”He then got in touch with ADRA Albania to find out how he could help. They invited him to bring members of his New Experience mission group along with 11 AWC members. A total of 50 pastors, children ministry leaders, general contractors, and medical professionals, from four countries and 10 states visited the country for mission work.
The group spent a week in the Albanian capital of Tirana and surrounding cities preaching revivals, providing free health clinics, health fairs and Vacation Bible School (VBS). Approximately 75 children poured into the ADRA compound daily for VBS. More than 500 medical cases were treated. And between the five revivals, approximately 30 people made decisions to be baptized.
“While in Albania, God showed me how awesome it is to serve others,” said Amneris Martinez, a member of the Manantial de Vida Spanish group in Columbus, Ohio.
Shirley Benton, AWC Women’s Ministries leader, agreed, “This mission trip was an amazing ministry of love. We went to minister to those who have so little, and saw the joy and gratitude on their faces as we gave them medical assistance, food, toys and clothing. We saw hope come alive as love and the Word of Jesus Christ was shared with them. It is a country waiting for the good news of the gospel.”
Jason Ridley, pastor of the Hilltop church in Columbus, says this was his sixth international mission trip. “It was refreshing because the Seventh-day Adventist Church in that country is fairly new. I was the first Adventist to preach in the city of Fieri where 90 percent of the people in the church were very young,” he recalled.
Romero said he would never forget meeting 12-year-old Alda. “She is in first grade. She is finally attending school because of the amazing job that ADRA is doing there. She was proud that she was able to write her name. For a whole week, she attended our VBS program and she was an incredible girl.”
He hopes that this is only the beginning of a long partnership with the Albanian mission. Kastrati dreams of building a community center for girls, a home for senior citizens and much more. And Allegheny West has already been invited to come back next year.