Walls Come Down in Lezhë
Posted on November 2, 2020 by VMMissions Staff
Having known them for over two decades, Tom Yoder understands the significance of the small changes God is bringing about now through the life and ministry of Dini and Klementina Shahini in Albania.
By Tom Yoder
The ruins of Lezhë’s castle tower over the city as they have for centuries. The castle’s common medieval design featured a lower outer wall of defense and fortified inner walls near the mountain top in which homes, families, and most essential goods were kept safe. Recent earthquakes have damaged building walls in the Lezhë area, many of them beyond repair. Seismic activity persists, and all wonder if disaster may come soon.
We can hardly survive without walls, can we? But long before we invented walls, God was out to settle the issue of trust and the insecurity that grips the human heart. “The LORD is my steadfast love and my fortress,” David wrote, “my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge…” (Psalm 144:2). Individually and culturally, we make choices regarding where we place our trust. Our fortresses or strongholds may seem to offer security, stability, or a space where we can live as we please.
Too often we find, however, that the beliefs and rationalizations that our hearts have built have actually come to imprison and isolate us from God and others. These are walls we are to “demolish,” as the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 10:4-5.
Lezhë castle, Albania. Wikipedia
Indeed, some long-standing walls are falling in Lezhë, Albania. In the wake of the traumatic earthquakes and the seemingly endless pandemic, God’s Spirit is blowing afresh and breaking through! Dini and Klementina Shahini are seeing marvelous releases that are revitalizing both Lezha Academic Center and Guri i Themellit church.
“Our desire has always been to see a truly Christian community growing here in Lezhë,” Dini exclaimed, “and now it’s happening like we’ve never seen before!” Divisions between church and school are breached as more and more LAC families and staff are finding in the church fellowship something that is hard to find in this post-communist culture—belonging. Recently one school mom, venturing a first tentative connection with the church, found herself weeping as the love of God was proclaimed.
Walls that have kept men and women from knowing the full joy of fellowship in Christ’s body are also coming down. COVID-19 has meant that the coffee bars, where men in the community gather for their segregated guy-time, are closed. So now more men are enjoying the pre-meeting coffee times in the church building. Following Dini’s example, they even take their turn at serving and clean-up. This is truly miraculous for Balkan men, given the fact that these are things that women—and only women—are meant to do! Dini remarks, “When you see men washing cups and serving the women—this is overturning thousands of years of tradition!”
Klementina and Dini Shahini. VMMissions photo
VMMissions’ team of workers and coaches that are focused on the Balkans have all expressed gratitude to the Shahinis for their servant leadership in this challenging year. While our other workers there returned for their scheduled furlough times early in the pandemic, Dini and Klementina sensed a clear call to stay. In a city put on lockdown, they persisted in prayer and frequent phone calls—constantly reaching out to let folks know that they weren’t alone or forsaken. Their steady hand of leadership has built increased trust and respect, likely dissolving some walls between VMMissions workers and locals that we scarcely understand.
And the miracles continue. Klementina shared with our staff recently, saying, “Yesterday we were cleaning the church. I am the principal, but they see me cleaning!”
“A Roma guy came to help,” Dini continued. “I grew up in this community and what we did was just ignore them. But now, because we served them following the earthquake, they are eager to help, working hard!”
Long entrenched expectations that have defined and divided the people of Lezhë are changing!
Yes, we are learning more and more that through prayer and persistent obedience, barriers and strongholds are no match for the searching, loving power of God. We have a heightened sense of urgency to proclaim the kingdom that cannot be shaken, calling on all who will hear to choose to make God their strong dwelling. Will you join in the chorus of prayer that brings Kingdom breakthrough?
Tom Yoder is the VMMissions Ministry Coach for the Balkans.