The sounds of school ring loud and clear this September at Albanian Christian School’s Lezha Academic Center (LAC) in Lezhe, Albania. The city is located along the Adriatic Sea in the northwest corner of the country at the foothills of the Albanian Alps. Virginia Mennonite Missions has had a presence in this city of approximately 35,000 since the early 1990s when Sam Scaggs first proclaimed the gospel message there. Klementina Shahini, executive director and visionary for Lezha Academic Center and an appointee of VMM, provides major leadership in shaping this new high school, an affiliate member of the Mennonite Schools Council.
Picture this reality: a refurbished hotel of three floors with four neatly-arranged classrooms furnished by German Mennonite Schools of northern Germany, a spacious library, and a first-class computer center. Also picture 35 highly motivated Albanian students actively studying mathematics, science, history, English and the fine arts all taught with a biblical worldview by a well-equipped staff of six and soon to be seven VMM teachers, five of whom are VMM tranSenders. Rigorous academics within the context of Christian education is the hallmark of the school.
Lezha Academic Center was launched on September 2 with an inaugural ribbon cutting ceremony attended by approximately 150 persons. The audience included students and their parents, Lezhe city dignitaries, and a delegation of twelve from the US representing VMM, Eastern Mennonite Missions, Mennonite Education Agency, the school’s board of directors and friends of the school.
One of the major challenges of Lezha Academic Center was to secure the official license from the Albanian Ministry of Education. Just a few days before the ribbon cutting ceremony and much to the relief of the Board of Directors, the license arrived signed by none other than Sali Bersiha, the Prime Minister of Albania. Marvin Slabaugh, a LAC board member, noticed that the official license is numbered 606. How fitting, since this is the page number of the well-known hymnal anthem Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow.
Why start a Mennonite-affiliated high school in an international setting? Education is not just next to ministry—it is ministry itself! We do well as we enter this second decade of the 21st century to consider the potential of education as a way to raise up leaders steeped in Christian values to serve in their communities, the church and beyond.