Shepherding people

Tags: Albanian Ministries, Canada, Story

By a SEND Albanian Ministries worker

Besim* was just 14 years old when I first met him. He was raised in a remote mountain village in Southeast Europe where he spent his days herding sheep and goats. His Albanian elders taught him the intricacies of their cultural rules that still govern life even in the “modern” cities.

I met Besim when he came to the city for high school. I was a fresh-on-the-field missionary, 20 years his senior. And when I told him the gospel, he believed with childlike faith. When he returned home on holiday, he shared the gospel with his friends and family and started a domino effect of belief.

Besim and his friends were a vital help to the missionary community in understanding and communicating to his culture. These boys and girls became the catalysts of a church movement that has reached literally thousands in cities and villages around the world.

I have had the privilege of serving alongside Besim for 19 years now. He is the pastor of a local church and many of his friends are in key leadership roles in other churches. They were the ones who opened their homes and shared what little they had with war refugees in the 1990s. They have endured threats on their lives and beatings. They have been disavowed by family and friends. They gave up opportunities for prosperous lives in major cities to return to the remote areas to plant churches. They serve with dedication in full-time leadership roles in churches while supporting themselves through full-time work. They are consistent and faithful partners in establishing the church among Albanians and give up vacation time to serve in any way needed with the camp ministry. And they send key leaders to other countries on vision trips with a desire to spread the gospel.

When I asked Besim what he would do to start a church plant in another city among his people, here’s what he said:

  • “Move there, not just go there,
  • Buy a property (which signifies you are there to stay, that you are expecting God to build his church) and, property will never be cheaper,
  • Live and preach the gospel,
  • All the while being relevant to the peoples’ physical needs,
  • Make disciples,

And Jesus will raise up his church.”

Over the past two decades of serving with Besim, I have often wondered, who is teaching whom?

*Not his real name