Worker profile: Norma Teles
Posted on July 16, 2021 by VMMissions Staff
Norma Teles with a child at the Joshua Center in Lezhë, Albania. Courtesy photo.
Service program: tranForm
Serving since: 1999
Since 2005, all of my energy and attention has been on the Roma community in Lezhë, Albania, and the learning center that was born out of my concern for the Roma children. I noticed that the Roma children did not feel comfortable at children’s meetings in the church. I saw that they were not attending school and that they lacked basic skills. I started to go to the area with a friend, just two days a week. By fall of that year, I was ready to register the first group of Joshua Center students! We now serve 32 children ages three to six in a part-time preschool program, offering educational and recreational activities. The Joshua Center provides a safe place for the children. We encourage the participation of the family, helping them to be involved in positive ways with their children’s development. I also connect regularly through a girls club with older girls aged 9-19 and with a group of mothers.
The beginning of the school year is always a challenge. It is an intense time for me, as new children join and others return. But within a few weeks, the miracle happens and we all settle into a routine. However, the really big challenge is to engage the family in the process. Some parents don’t see the importance of education. But this challenge has opened the opportunity to work with the mothers every two weeks, and it has been very encouraging to see them grow. The children also challenge me with great questions. For example, a 12-year-old recently commented to me, “Being a Christian is too easy to be true. How does a person go to heaven without sacrifice?”
I have great joy when I see a child come to Jesus! One of the first lessons in our curriculum is about God’s love. The children learn, “God loves me, I am special.” These simple lessons impact lives; these precious children soon start to affirm that they are special. I have seen mothers crying because the children whom they have scolded have replied, “I am not an idiot! I am special. I am a child of God.” Just the other day one little girl began to cry when we were singing. When I asked her why she was crying, she said, “I felt something in my heart. I felt loved.”
A typical day:
A typical day at the Joshua Center begins with a welcome, followed by a morning circle involving prayer, a Bible story, songs, and other activities. Then we offer a healthy meal and other educational activities. In the afternoon we have our afterschool program that helps the first through fourth graders do their homework. We offer them a meal and activities that contribute to their development, like handicrafts, cooking, sports and recreation. A highlight is when we have the girls club. I love to see these older girls thinking deeply about God’s words, memorizing verses and sharing with others.