You are equipping Albanian Christians for devotional ministry in their own context.
A Young Church
Just over 30 years ago, religion was illegal in the country of Albania. In fact, at that time Albania was the world’s only atheistic regime.
Being caught with Christian material back then could mean prison time. It could mean that the “offender’s” whole family would be ostracized from society, and even be denied entry into universities.
Words of Hope originally broadcast gospel radio programs in the Albanian language from outside the country, knowing that some people would be able to listen to the messages in secret and help foster the underground church.
After the fall of communism in 1992, Words of Hope Albania was able to move inside the country and carry out Christian outreach more openly. Since there was very little existing Christian infrastructure in the country, one of the first resources the team made use of was the North American daily devotional booklet. They translated this booklet into Albanian for print, radio, and later for online content as well.
God has used this translated resource for many years to speak words of encouragement and insight to a young and growing church in Albania. But Words of Hope also values the development of sustainable indigenous leadership, because we know that Albanian Christians are uniquely suited to speak directly to the spiritual needs of the Albanian church.
Training to Write
The Albanian church is still young. Few congregations there have existed for more than 30 years. Albanian Christians describe shouldering the responsibility of leading both their parents and their children to Christ.
The Words of Hope daily devotional was the first available—and currently the only—daily devotional written in the Albanian language in the country. Approximately 5000 print copies are distributed in Albania and neighboring Kosovo, and it is also available on social media and through an app.
Words of Hope Albania’s director, Roni Prendi, explains that for some time he has hoped to introduce Albanian Christian voices into the Words of Hope devotional. “Having something that was out of the Albanian context—a devotional that would speak Albanian to the Albanians—has been a dream for many years,” he says. “What about training and encouraging some of the church leaders to write?”
So in March of 2023, a small team of Words of Hope USA staff and volunteers traveled to Albania to conduct a 3-day training session for new devotional writers. The training was led by the managing editor for Words of Hope’s North American devotional, Christy Prins.
“It’s hard to overstate what it means for the Albanian church to have just 30 years of experience,” Christy explains. “All believers are young in the faith. In the 1990’s, as many were coming to faith, there were no mature Albanian believers to mentor and encourage new believers. There were no Albanian pastors to lead the church. However, just as in many other places, these new believers are eager to share their faith with others.”
More than twenty-five people attended this first-of-its-kind training in Albania. The participants ranged in age from 16-80, and included pastors, laypeople, and students. Most had never written a devotional before. The guiding motto of the training was, “If you write, you are a writer, and you can write a devotional!”
A Voice for Albanians
“There are many different kinds of spiritual writing,” explains Christy, “but at its heart, a devotional should guide the reader in growing in their faith through daily Bible reading and prayer. It should help the reader turn to and learn from the Bible. It should help them to hear the Word of God directly from the best source of spiritual direction we have. The Bible is a gift, and introducing readers to it is a privilege.”
Attendees had chances to discuss the kinds of readers they would be reaching through their writing. They contemplated life circumstances and spiritual needs.
“What wisdom and encouragement does a young mom need?” the training prompted. “What does a new Christian need to hear? What about mature believers who are trying (and struggling) to learn from the Bible and apply it to their life? How can a writer guide all of these readers in learning from the Bible?”
Needs unique to the Albanian context were brought up as well, especially the fact that already small churches are losing congregants at record numbers because so many Albanians are leaving the country to pursue better economic opportunities in other countries.
After the three days of training were complete, attendees were invited to share drafts of their devotionals. “They wrote in depth about the Bible,” says Christy. “They helped readers apply Bible passages to their lives. They used uniquely Albanian examples and experiences, and they wrote widely and deeply about the Bible.”
Over the course of the next year, these new devotional writers will be featured in the Albanian devotional, interspersed with translated North American content. Eventually, original Albanian content may well comprise the entire thing!
Roni explains that equipping Albanian Christians to write about their faith will have even more impact in the future. “Our hope is that they are learning the technique of writing not only for devotionals, but they can also write longer content. Write blogs. Write sermons for their churches. Or Bible studies for their small groups, and then lead them.”
The three-day training that you supported will continue to benefit ministry in Albania for years to come. “I think we just ignited something,” Roni continues. “We never know where it’s going to end, because once you build this passion and you give them confidence, you make them future writers. When you publish them, you definitely are giving a strong message and telling them: ‘God is using you. You have talent. Keep doing this.’”