By Lindsay Steele | Mission Network News
Before the fall of Communism, Albania was beaten down, isolated, and restricted. Throughout the 1960s and up to 1991, there was religious persecution and the nation was effectively called the first atheist state. Today, however, there is new hope spreading through Christian teachers and schools. David Midwinter, TeachBeyond’s UK country director, was recently interviewed on Mission Network News about the interest in Christian education for Albania. (The full podcast is found here.)
“Although the Communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, was proud to declare Albania as a first atheistic state, I’m absolutely certain that that did not mean that the whole country was atheist. There were Christians in the country all the time, and many of the people would regard themselves of Muslim background,” Midwinter says.
Opening of a Nation, Fizzling of Religious Growth
When Albania opened up in 1991, missionaries started to flood the country and many people were willing to hearing the Gospel. The Church began to grow rapidly. However, due to corruption and economic problems, including the collapse of Ponzi schemes, the growth of the Church was tainted and seemed to stop bearing fruit.
“Things have not really gone incredibly smoothly for the country in any way, but now, the country is democratic, although, I would say that in my experience the corruption is still endemic,” Midwinter said.
“As far as the Church is concerned, I would say that the initial enthusiasm and growth has plateaued. It is challenging for the Church and the growth is much slower, but the opportunities are tremendous.”
Opportunities for Christian Education
He said that the opportunity for Christian education is great because schools often operate under a “harsh regime.” Class sizes are large, teachers tend to use harsh methods, and many parents are looking for a values-based education. This open door for an opportunity to improve schools has given a vision to TeachBeyond and national ministries to establish Christian schools that will care for children, raise them up through education, and guide them in their walk with Christ.
Midwinter shares he met a Christian couple from Albania who had a vision to begin an organization called ‘Transformational Education Albania’. Their prayer for the organization was to start Christian schools across the nation. Though there wasn’t a large Christian school network, they kick-started their vision by holding a conference in 2017 for Christian teachers. (Photo at top of page)
“Optimistically, we planned for 30 or 40 teachers. In the end, there were 105.” Midwinter says the results were overwhelming and they had to turn some teachers away because they ran out of room. The Albanian organization held a second conference in 2018 and planned for 120 people. This time, 190 people came.
“It’s quite incredible really, the number of Christian teachers that are in Albania. I guess across the country 190 doesn’t seem like a huge number, but from where it’s beginning that’s a great number to turn up,” Midwinter says. “It demonstrates the real hunger among the teachers for two things. One, for professional development. They want to learn how to teach in a way that embeds their Christian faith and values in whatever type of school they’re in. And second, we discovered there is a real desire and hunger for Christian schools to begin.”
Changing the Nation through the Next Generation
As TeachBeyond comes alongside Transformational Education Albania, they want to fulfill both the desires and developments for establishing Christian schools in the nation. They know that discipling children can change the nation and help put a stop to corruption and problems that remain.
“Albania was declared the first atheistic state, and now there is a fantastic opportunity for Christian schools that can make a huge difference across the nation,” Midwinter says.
“These children are taught and discipled so that their hearts become open to the Lord and they commit their lives to Him and grow in Him. It will change the future leaders of the country. That’s what we’re aiming for and praying for.”
Pray for wisdom in how they should register schools, pray the schools would have a great impact in children’s lives and in the nation, and pray for connections with Christian teachers who have a heart to share the Truth with kids.
Listen to the interview.