I am so grateful for your support of our ministry in Albania and especially our BSKSH student ministry. I am sending you an update of our student ministry this time so that you know how to be praying for us.
IFES Albania staff workers and student leaders organized two very successful camps during July and August 2013. We are pleased to report that we saw 6 students commit their lives to Christ and join our student groups this year as a result of these camps.
For the fourth year in a raw, in the first week of September, we organized another summer school in leadership development in cooperation with Campus Crusade for Christ. We had fifty participants attend the summer school.
Our staff are making progress in accomplishing the goals that they have set for this new academic year. Thus, we have new leadership teams established and ministering in Shkoder, Tirane, Elbasan, and Vlore. (The student group connected to our movement in Korca is also doing very well, but support and oversight of this group is being provided completely by the local church there). Besides the normal weekly meetings, these teams have already planned to have mission weeks later in the year plus several major evangelistic events around Christmas and Easter.
IFES Albania in partnership with Campus Crusade for Christ sponsored the first Veritas Forum event on 18th November 2013. We plan to organize at least two to three Veritas Forum events per academic year.
It has been challenging so far to establish functioning teams in Gjirokaster and Durres. The problem there is that there are few Christian students in those cities at the moment and they are new believers. The same applies to our plans to help start the IFES movement in Kosova. The challenge there has been both a financial one and also the issue of ethnic divisions. However, it is encouraging to see that our staff and student leaders in the cities where the movement is strong are praying for these situations and considering ways to help.
Our annual evangelistic national conference will be on 26th - 28th April 2014. We aim to have 150 - 200 students attend. Our Christian students will be inviting their non-Christian friends to the conference and evangelist Michael Ots from the UK will be delivering the main talks.
Other major events planned for this academic year include: student groups retreat in December 2013, an evangelistic campaign in partnership with GBU (IFES) Italy in April 2014;a sports tournament in partnership with the Bible Society in May 2014; four mission weeks in the cities of Tirana, Vlora, Gjirokaster and Elbasan in the spring of 2014; a special conference for medical students in March 2014; a national conference for graduates on business ethics and leadership training in March 2014; and, three evangelistic camps in summer 2014.
One of the things that has contributed positively in the accomplishment of our goals so far has been an improvement in our communication. Our paid staff workers in every city write a monthly report with basic information on the activities they are doing, the short-term plans they have and the different prayer requests. They are also required in the beginning of each academic year to form a leadership team and together with the team to work on an annual calendar of events plus formulate two to three measurable objectives for their ministry.
Team work is another positive factor in the growth of our ministry. We are very grateful to God for the unity we enjoy in both our leadership teams and student groups.
Last but not least, working in partnership with local churches and other Christian organizations has contributed positively to our development. We praise God for the positive attitude the local churches have towards our movement in the cities where we minister. We are very grateful for the various projects that we are invited to join in with other Christian organizations. One such project which we are involved in is supporting financially and in prayer two Albanian missionaries working with Muslim students in Cyprus and Macedonia.
One of the lessons we have learned is the importance of investing in leadership development. We have experienced what pastor Bill Hybels says, "Everybody wins when a leader gets better." Thus, because we have focused on leadership training, we have been able not only to have effective leaders as part of our ministry, but our student ministry has provided good quality leaders for local churches, Christian organizations, and the society at large. This has helped us build good relationships and partnerships with other Christians in the country, but it is also inspiring to our members to see people from our ministry rise to important influential leadership positions in the society and the various professions.
Another thing we have learned is to allow for creativity and not be scared of making mistakes. During the mission weeks that we organized in the past academic year, we noticed that the most effective teams were those who allowed students to be creative and even learn by trial and error. Thus, introducing music concerts, drama, sports events, and movies made for a very successful mission week in March 2013 among the medical students in Tirana. Sticking to a more traditional method of evangelism in another city did not prove as successful as it was hoped.
God has surprised us with the openness of the Albanian students to want to attend meetings where the Gospel is preached and the Word of God is taught. Thus, we have seen a good number of new students joining our groups at the beginning of this new academic year. I would say that the many opportunities we have been given to minister have been God's great surprise for us this year.
Thank you very much for your prayers and support for this ministry.