OCMC Missionary, Melanie Linderman, teaching her class at the Protagonist School in Tirana, Albania.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
It’s January 2010 and I can’t believe that it will be eight years this June that I’ve been in Albania doing mission work for Archbishop Anastasios and the OCMC. It was supposed to be two years – three at most! But there is something about being here among so many people who are so eager to learn and to grow spiritually and honorably. I still marvel how caring and supportive the people are to each other, especially in their family circle, but also to the “huajt” (foreigners). Of course I am recognized as a foreigner, and once they establish I’m American – let the discussion begin – in English of course! You can’t imagine how delightful it is to have virtually everyone try and speak what little English they know. No matter that I can, at last, communicate in Albanian; no – that will not do. They want to use their English!
I realize the work will never be done here but isn’t that the case anywhere there is a need to help those who are less fortunate? I also realize I’ve grown close to those I work with most certainly, but also to my neighbors, the young couple who owns the bakery; the ladies at the fruit and vegetable stands; the shoe-repairman who works in a teeny tiny little closet on a side-street; the little man who sells flowers on the sidewalk every day, rain or shine. They ask where I work and what I do – and it gives me the opportunity to talk about the church I serve and the Archbishop who has done so much for so many throughout this country.
Then there are my 8th grade students at the Protagonist School – They are a challenge, but they need to learn about ethics, values and respect – and above all – our Lord and Savior. It gives me the opportunity to set an example if they wish to emulate it.
Later in the day, I am energized by a small but hearty group of young adults, who trudge through the cold and rain or stifling heat after a long day at work or university, to attend an English class with me. The environment is not very comfortable – but of course no one notices because there is work to be done. We read and have discussions. Sometime members of the clergy join in the class – it is encouraging to see this class continue to grow.
And then there is the weekly program on the Orthodox radio station – “Radio Ngjallja”. There is the potential of reaching a significant amount of people who may come across some English being spoken and stop to listen. Oh the joy of being able to read verses from the Bible and then give comments for “Thoughts to Consider” for the listeners. My co-worker, Lendita Lushka, translates sentence by sentence, and then we read from a short-story reader to continue to stimulate interest in the program.
There is on-going out reach to the destitute who desperately need anything we can give. To the street children who will take your hand and ask for money for food, to the cripples who sit on the sidewalk begging as people pass by – it’s amazing how they become part of your life too. Maybe there’s nothing tangible that will make a significant difference in their present circumstances, but sharing the love of Christ – is the most blessed thing anyone can do.
Why am I surprised I’m still here? As I write this, I realize that it’s actually no wonder at all. I glorify God many times every single day for the blessing of being here and striving to show the light of Christ –
And, if it weren’t for your generosity and your support I couldn’t be here. Our Orthodox church is making inroads in a country that is by far, mostly Muslim. The lures of gambling, drugs and human trafficking are rampant. But I do believe our presence does make a difference – and your prayers and support also make a difference. When you make a gift to support my work here, you become my mission partner. Our Lord has given each of us abilities and gifts – my circumstances allow me to be here – not everyone can go “on the field”, but many can support those who are able to make this commitment. Glory to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit to each of us! Thank you for your consideration.
Your sister in Christ,
OCMC Missionary in Albania
Orthodox Christian Mission Center e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
220 Mason Manatee Way Cellular: 011-355-0684066878
St. Augustine, FL 32086