The Sabbath, April 23, was a big day of celebration for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Albania, as hundreds gathered in Tirana to praise God on the church’s 30th anniversary. Leaders of the Albanian Mission and the Adriatic Union were present, and many international guests also joined digitally.
Audrey Andersson, Executive Secretary of the Trans-European Division (TED), was among the keynote speakers, who thanked the Church of Albania for its commitment to its mission and conveyed best wishes from Raafat Kamal, President of TED. “We will soon be celebrating in heaven, because Jesus is coming soon,” Andersson remarked. Adriatic Union Conference (AUC) officials also took the time to thank church members for their commitment and resilience.
Pastor Delmar Reis, president of the Albanian mission and organizer of the event, shared a glimpse of the future of the Albanian church, stressing that much will be done in the areas of communication and mission. “We are here not only to celebrate the past, but also to look to the future!” Reis exclaimed.
Touching testimonies, inspiring songs and heartfelt prayers were shared throughout the program. Sali Berisha, former president and prime minister of Albania, sent a congratulatory video. In his message, Berisha expressed his esteem for the Adventist Church, recalling its great work in support of the Albanian people. “Thousands of Albanians have been helped by the Adventist Church and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. [ADRA].” Berisha, who saw the birth of the Adventist Church in Albania during his tenure, said, “Adventists are like the good Samaritan in the gospel,” always ready to rescue and help.
Finally, Berisha recalled how former US President Jimmy Carter, a good friend of his, repeatedly asked him to help and support the mission of Adventists in Albania. “Jimmy Carter visited Albania twice in the 1990s. On these occasions, but also through letters that I have kept, he asked me to [keep] an eye on Adventists,” Berisha said.
Berisha and religious freedom
Berisha was the second President of Albania from 1992 to 1997 and Prime Minister from 2005 to 2013. In 2012 he was commended by the Religious Freedom Association for the outstanding and exemplary level of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence between religions in Albania. That same year, Bertil Wiklander, then TED Chairman, presented Berisha with a plaque in recognition of his unique contribution to religious freedom and the promotion of humanitarian values for the Albanian people.
History of the Adventist Church in Albania
Adventism in Albania has much older roots, dating back 100 years. Adventist martyr of the Albanian faith, Daniel Lewis, a pharmacist from Boston, Massachusetts, returned to his native Albania in the 1930s to share the Advent message in the land of eagles. After World War II and the establishment of a repressive Communist regime, Lewis was then imprisoned and tortured, and he died in prison because of his religious beliefs based on Scripture, including the keeping of the Sabbath day holy.
Meropi Gjika, after studying the Bible with Lewis in the 1940s, accepted the Christian message of hope from Seventh-day Adventists. When Christian churches were banned from the country by the communist government after World War II, Gjika endured more than four decades of religious repression. Although she had no contact with a larger Adventist community, she continued, for 46 years, to set aside tithes and offerings from her small income. In 2001, Ray Dabrowski, then communications director for the Adventist Church worldwide, called Gjika “a symbol of faith, hope, love and obedience.”
For more information about the church in Albania and ADRA Albania, please visit www.adventist.al.
This article originally appeared on the Inter-European Division news site