I’ve been impacted by a recent speaking tour in Albania. I have visited many different countries in the world, but this trip to Albania has affected me most deeply. My wife, Rebecca, and I returned with a burden for that country, but also for America. There are lessons learned, observations made, and scenes that will stay with me until I die.
Albania was Stalinized beginning in 1944, and by 1967, it was the first country in the world to include in its constitution that there is no God. The surveillance of the people was so detailed and so all-encompassing, that religion—both Christianity and Islam, if they existed at all—had to go underground. In a museum, we saw how tape recorders and hidden cameras spied on the citizens of Albania. Even prisoners were monitored to find out whether they spoke in favor of the reigning dictator or were opposed to him. When the dictator died, prisoners who rejoiced at his demise were further punished. Spies were sent into churches, and homes were divided. Neutrality was impossible; either you were enthusiastic for the regime, or you experienced opposition. Even saying you believed in God could cost you your life. Or, more ominously, the lives of your family and relatives.
But in 1992, the revolution against communism was successful, but alas, the reforms promised have not happened. Many young people are leaving to find hope in other countries. Albania is officially a Muslim country, though there is freedom of religion within certain boundaries. Politicians explained to us how the country is apparently moving backward rather than forward, both economically and morally. Despite this, the church is growing.
I was invited by to speak in the cities of Korçë and Tirana under the auspices of the Evangelical Alliance, a group of churches, and also in conjunction with an organization called “Hands of Providence” (which is supported by The Moody Church). In Korçë, my visit was not only advertised among the churches, but also in the city.
Advertisements in Korçë for the dedication.
Ribbon cutting for Sovjan Bible Church.
It was my privilege to dedicate the new building of Sovjan Bible Church in the region of Korçë. We met many fine, committed believers, including a woman who brought a Bible that was secretly passed around to a few believers during the harsh communist crackdown.
Holding the Bible shared by local believers under the communist regime.
The dedication service was filled to capacity.
The church could not hold all the people that came, with some listening outside on the intercom. What surprised us is the number of politicians that were there such as the mayor of the town, some members of the legislature, and the members of the Albanian cabinet. No one anticipated that we would have national media present. So, the Albanian pastor and I were interviewed briefly by the national media. This really gave the church some good publicity.
The church building was beautiful.
Preaching at the dedication service on Albania’s Easter Sunday.
The Scripture at the front of the church is Hebrews 13:8, which is also in The Moody Church’s sanctuary: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Cutting the cake to celebrate the opening of the church. From left to right: Pastor Lutzer, Rebecca Lutzer, Adi Selfollari, and Plator, one of the leaders of the evangelical movement.
Our Albanian friend, Adi, from The Moody Church has been crying up to God for years that God would touch this country. As a ministry partner of The Moody Church, we supported the pastor and Sovjan Bible Church to advance the gospel around the Albanian city of Korçë through the Redemption Project (the 2022 Easter Missions offering).
The dedication plaque reads, “Dedicated, April 16, 2023 by Pastor Erwin W. Lutzer, The Moody Church, Chicago.”
A packed theatre with hundreds standing in the aisles and at the back.
After the morning dedication, the evening service was held in a rented theater with 900 seats. Apparently, many people thought there was no way it would be filled, but an hour before the meeting, the man in charge got a text saying, “We are almost full.” The Director of the Evangelical Alliance believes we hosted well over 1,000 people. The big surprise was the number of young people. Literally hundreds. They had a wonderful program of music before I preached. The large crowd was a great encouragement to the churches in Albania. We give God all the credit and all the praise. Not only did I have many people praying in the United States, but I discovered the churches have been praying leading up to these meetings.
Rebecca and I were invited to the boys orphanage that is supported by the ministry of The Moody Church. They were wonderful kids with difficult backgrounds. Rebecca gave the children shirts and toy cars. Space forbids me to tell you some of their stories—stories of abuse and abandonment. I thank God that The Moody Church helps support such ministries.
A forty-minute interview on Albanian national television.
Since the Director of National Television had read my bio, he had his journalists interview me about my books on Nazi Germany, Martin Luther, and One Minute After You Die. We were heard all throughout Albania. The church leaders were deeply grateful I could share the gospel on national television. One of the reasons the Director of National Television gave us so much exposure is because he knows The Moody Church contributed money so food could be purchased during the COVID pandemic for the poor in the area.
We also visited the day home for children—40 children who would have been out on the streets, were it not for this ministry. The Moody Church also is partially involved in supplying funds. Also, when I think of this day center for children who come after school, they are helped with their homework, play games, then given a hot meal before they go home to utter poverty. It was so hard for us to hold back tears and just think this day school, which functions six days a week, can be supported for an entire year for just $36,000!
Some at the pastors’ seminar drove up to three or four hours to attend.
Back in Tirana, we met with 300 pastors and Christian workers. I spoke on the topic “Ten Temptations Leaders Face.” After which Rebecca and I, along with Kenny (a young man who flew in from India to minister with us), answered questions for another 40 minutes.
Thanks to the Wilberforce organization, which works with politicians, we held a meeting with a group of politicians from both political parties. About half of the attendees were Christians and the other half were from various faiths. I spoke on the relationship between religion and government, ending with a plea for freedom of religion, and the story of Martin Luther who stood against the political and religious authorities of his day. Again, I used the occasion to share the gospel.
The ambassador holding two of my books that have been translated into Albanian.
We met with the retired Albanian ambassador to Macedonia. He was very knowledgeable, has written several books, and understood Christianity and how it’s different from Islam. When I explained the gospel, and told him the best news for him hear, he said “fantastic.” At that point, our friend Adi explained the gospel in Albanian and he was eager to pray a prayer of repentance and accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The next day, after my speech to the politicians, the newly-converted ambassador gave me a hug and said, “Now I am your brother.”
So, why did this visit to Albania affect me so deeply?
1. I returned with a heaviness in my heart after visiting an actual communist bunker, which is now a museum. I was blown away by the detailed control and surveillance of the people under communist rule. Over one hundred thousand people were imprisoned or put to death. But it’s chilling to think of the governmental surveillance and control that can take place today, given our advances in technology and the digital dollar. I believe we are not ready for the kind of commitment and willingness to suffer for Christ.
2. Most of the believers in Albania have very little money, and depend upon our American dollars. This means The Moody Church, along with many others, must be generous in contributing to Christian ministries.
3. I returned with a burden for the US…We are being torn apart politically, morally, and racially, not realizing how special this country is. Yes, of course, it is imperfect and always will be; there is always room for improvement. But American dollars are sustaining Christian ministries around the world. And we are a symbol of freedom around the world.
4. Pray for our brothers and sisters…
Special thanks to The Moody Church, which I represented in this very needy country. I am so gratified by the commitment of our Missions Committee to the dear struggling people of Albania. The poverty is terrible. TMC is supporting the orphanage, supporting young people who go into villages and begin Bible studies, etc. The people of The Moody Church need to be commended for this wonderful investment.
Please understand, from the bottom of my heart, I take no credit for all of these opportunities, but because of the prayers of so many, God just granted favor to us here. I am humbled for it. The leaders are giving praise to God for the encouragement these meetings are for Albania. God bless, and let’s continue to intercede for Albania!