Contact Us in the UK
- Phone: 01302 811319
- Mailing Address: 24 Elmfield Road, Hyde Park, Doncaster, South Yorkshire DN1 2BA
Contact Us in the US
- Phone: 202.468.4571
- Mailing Address: PO Box 5188 Wheaton, IL 60189-5188
I don't remember the first Christmas I celebrated. Albania was in her first years after Communism and I was a freshman student. We were full of dreams as the doors of the "bunker" were opened and we could breath...freedom. Freedom came with a huge cost as we shifted from a closed, isolated and indoctrinated society to a life for which we were neither prepared nor experienced.
Our culture had begun to shatter and big shifts were happening. The first shift, even before Communism really fell, was to welcome God into our country and society. This God whom we had abandoned and whose existence we had decided to deny and wipe out from our lives, was now welcomed. He was not forbidden anymore. The only churches or mosques that survived as cultural objects opened their doors for the first religious services. In my hometown, in Fier, we gathered near the Gjanica stream, where the former Orthodox Church happened to be. Hundreds of people - some out of curiosity and some nostalgic and happy to return to their traditional routes - gathered there. I was there too, holding a candle. I did not know what it represented, but I was sure that lighting a candle was the right and proper thing to do in a church...even though we were outside, in the empty space where a church used to be.
I do not remember when, but I found and brought the Koran home. I was happy and proud. My family had a Muslim background, even though none of my parents’ families practiced their religion. They followed some general rules, celebrated some religious important holidays, and that was all. Religion was not engraved in their hearts. We did not belong to those families who secretly celebrated and kept their religious tradition during communism. Maybe part of that was because my father really embraced the communist ideology and really believed that religion was a weapon in the hands of the most powerful people to subdue nations. Or maybe because deep in their conscience they knew that Islam was not a willful choice for Albanians, but was enforced by the Turkish Empire during those 500 years that they kept us in captivity.
And I met another religious group who visited our high school. To be one of them was easier than I thought. You did not need to be born with that religion; you did not have to confess anything. They told us to write our names on a paper they handed out and that's all. I became a Bahai. I started to frequent their meetings, devoted myself to their rites and manners, but inside I felt disconnected from this mighty and forbidden God we were all in search of and wanted to know.
My journey with Christ was complicated as I was lost in the midst of religions. During the time when I became a Baha'i, I got in touch with a foreign Christian agency -- they had published an advertisement about an opportunity to study English via a correspondence course. I wrote to them and signed up. They sent a newsletter with powerful testimonies of people who were delivered from cancer, drugs etc. The newsletter was called SOON and was based in England. For a year I corresponded with them - they sent me my first Bible, in English and a tape of the Gospel of John. This is how I got to know Jesus. I loved reading the Bible, I loved listening to the Gospel of John, but I had a lot of questions and none could help me with answers. And as I have mentioned I did not understand the concept of sin. I prayed on my own to receive Jesus one afternoon, but it was not until 2 years later, on that December day, that I surrendered my life to him.