Friday, January 27, 2017

Albania:Day 2. Mission Without Borders in Durres

Thursday morning I was picked up at the hotel by Monika and another Mission Without Borders staff member and driven to the port city of Durres.  Having seen the work of Mission Without Borders in Moldova in 2010 (when visiting Chisinau), I was eager to learn more about their work in Albania.  I was driven to the Mission Without Borders office and greeted by the family coordinators.

My first activity of the day was a computer presentation of facts and figures.  Mission Without Borders works in 19 communities in Albania- most of these are in the Durres area.

As of January, there are 334 families enrolled in the Family sponsorship program.  That's 1640 men, women, and children who are being helped on the path to self sufficiency!  On the first day, we went to meet with a newly enrolled family.  They lived in a two room apartment.  When we pulled up, there was a child collecting snow into a bucket outside.  I thought he was building a snowman (lots of people were as it rarely snows there).  When I asked, I discovered that he was collecting snow for drinking water.  This block had no running water.  Or electricity.  We were warmly greeted into a very cold apartment.  The D family live there with their 2 young children.  The older boy had been in the hospital for a month for breathing problems.  The youngest girl was 3 years old today.  Everything in the apartment had been furnished by Mission Without Borders.  A cabinet and two couches and a small gas heater.  It looked like a propane tank with a reflector on top that, while very hot, seemed to generate little heat.  I saw a similar device in the other homes that lacked electricity.  Food for the day was cooked beans.  She had 1/2 a pot sitting out and showed how she cooked on a gas burner attached to a tank (something similar to the picture on the right).  Even the coordinator mentioned later that that contraption was "dangerous".  But you do what you have to with two children to feed.

The second room of the apartment had a larger couch the Mission had provided for the children to sleep on.  When we left the coordinators decided to get a birthday cake for the young girl.  It was probably the first birthday cake she ever had.  So off to the bakery and they returned to sing Happy Birthday and show love to this family.  It was a wonderful way to demonstrate the extravagant love of God.  It was so hard seeing their grinding poverty (the father worked part time) but I am comforted in the fact that God's people are working with this family now to help them with their daily needs, share Christ with them, and walk with them toward self sufficiency.

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The Family to Family sponsorship program meets families where they are (often with nothing at all materially) and provides necessary food, medicines, and hygiene items to stabilize family life.  Poverty is grinding.  You can't plan your future when your kids are crying and hungry.  The first step is stabilization- monthly "care parcels" delivered and a relationship developed.  The program is Christ centered- although aid is not conditional upon a person becoming a Christian- and the goal is to share the good news of Christ's salvation and His Love in tangible ways.

If I ever am able to return to Albania, I hope to see this family active in a church and in much better living conditions as the father learns job skills and finds better opportunities. I saw several families where this happened!  I'll share some of their stories next.

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