And there I was, a Sunday evening in July up top a castle on a hill in Albania with the harmonies of the Doxology filling the air as the sky turned gradient colors and the sun descended. 4 months prior to this I had completely no idea that I would even be in Albania, let alone be blessed with a family together experiencing a glimpse of heaven. God works in amazing ways. I was given the opportunity to take part in missions with other Missionary Kids (MKs) as a leader. In just a matter of the 5 weeks we had in Albania, I was first met with a loving and talented leadership team, and on top of that students that desired to know Christ more and that loved intentionally.
Where is Albania? This question was pretty common when I told people that I'll be doing missions in Albania because 4 months ago, I had the same question. Entering this country I had no idea that I would be met with hilltop castles, beautiful views, good (actually good) coffee, and mountains everywhere I looked. I had no idea I would come to love the team I was working with so much, and that I would learn so much from them. I had no idea I would be singing praises in prison and running a camp for Albanian teenagers. I can go on and on of the experiences I was so fortunate to have. And while there were life-changing stories, photogenic views to post on Instagram, and relationships I want to keep forever, there were challenges as well. There were stressful moments (and hours), spiritual warfare, disappointment, hurt, discouragement and conflict. But these challenges are as much of a blessing as those photos that end up on social media. Through these challenges it is so clear how much we need Christ.
This need is fairly evident in the statistics and stories we throw out in church from time to time and when we are doing ministry with non-Christians. From the time that I spent with Albanians and their simple responses to our stories and sharing of the Gospel, I have seen how much the world needs Christ, and how much joy it brings them when they discover this great love. There are people who have not gotten the chance to experience this joy. And sometimes it takes just one person's courage to stand up and share their testimony to change the life of someone else's.
It is clear especially in ministry that the world is lacking in love and purpose. That they need to hear the Gospel and learn of this amazing, indescribable joy that Christ brings in our relationship with him. But even more so do we Christians need Christ. Without Christ we are unable to reach non-Christians. Without Christ, ministry is ineffective. Throughout this mission trip I experienced struggling to answer questions, discouragement from unmet expectations and hurt in relationships. And in all this I have been able to see more and more how broken I am. Because I am so broken, I am helpless, hopeless and useless without Him. What's the point of sharing the Gospel from memory if it's all from my head rather than a heart that truly believes? How can I love others if I'm not loving Christ first? Where is the trust in my expectations? Ministry, in a foreign land or even within your own personal community will stretch and challenge you in countless ways and it is then that you should ask yourself these questions. Are you putting Christ before all things?
We are all broken and will fall into times of doubt and reliance on our own strength. This is the cause of the stress, disappointment, discouragement and hurt I experienced through over a month of ministry. But there is this amazing grace in which if we choose to accept, we can rebuild from our brokenness. Rebuild from the disappointment and hurt into a ministry that is from God. We need to yearn for Christ and desire to know Him more and more each day. We need to invite Him into our life continually and let Him be reflected in everything. We need to surrender each ministry, goal, future plan, day, and moment to Him.
And now I am sat on my bed left with only photos and stories to reminisce on the summer of amazing sunsets and panoramic views. Now there is a screen between the relationships I've made this month. However, my God is still the same, and He will continue to be my constant. God gave me the chance to minister and strive for Christ in stressful times this summer. Through the affirmation of an intentional community, I was encouraged to seek Christ before all things. But now, the need for Christ is even greater. Let us be aware of how the Gospel has not reached many nations and people, and let us be more aware of how much we individually and in our Christian community, need Christ.
Live for Christ-make His name known in every nation, in whatever community you are a part of, wherever you are-you are called to spread the Good News
Surrender to Christ-let go of all your hardships and commit your ways to Him because He is greater than us, and His plan is greater than ours
Hope in Christ-abide in Him regardless of the joy or trial knowing that He will intercede for us
Delight in Christ-there is so much joy in knowing Christ and when you are filled with delight, you expel sin and pursue sanctification
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5)