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OCMC News - An Angel in Albania

by Alex Goodwin (Posted 3/26/2015)

OCMC News - An Angel in Albania
OCMC Missionaries Dn. Stephanos and Dk. Alexandria Ritsi with Tefta who is recovering from a stroke that she suffered after Christmas last year. Tefta has been an integral part of the Church’s Resurrection in Albania since the fall of communism in the 1990s.

It was the day after Christmas when the stroke hit. For hours she laid there, no one knows how long, paralyzed by the assault to her nervous system. It wasn’t until a neighbor, unable to reach her by phone, went to check on her that she was found alone, collapsed in the winter’s cold.

We often think of angels coming to our rescue in times of need, but on this day after the Feast of the Nativity, the angel was the one in need of rescue - and this angel’s name was Tefta. She had lived through the Communist oppression in Albania steadfastly clinging to her Faith even though it was dangerous to do so. When Communism fell, she was among the first to help resurrect the Church. She welcomed His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios when he arrived to replant the seeds of Orthodox Christianity in a country that had survived brutal attempts to purge all religious expression. In the years that followed, she dedicated her life to serving the Church and sharing the Gospel. She participated in outreach, sang in the choir, and was a founding member of the women’s ministry. She worked alongside Fr. Martin and Pres. Renee Ritsi and Fr. Luke and Pres. Faith Veronis when they served as missionaries to Albania.

Following her stroke, Tefta was admitted to the Mother Teresa Hospital in the heart of Tirana. She was not receiving adequate treatment, so former OCMC missionaries Dr. Charles and Maria Linderman made sure that she was transferred to a hospital better equipped to provide the needed care.

After she was released from the hospital, she was placed in a home for the elderly. People from church would visit and see that she needed to be in a different environment if she were to continue her recovery, so His Beatitude arranged for her to stay at an apartment owned by the Church where she would be more comfortable. Now, a team of volunteers, overseen by OCMC missionary Pamela Barksdale, stays with and cares for Tefta. She is visited by an Orthodox Christian man trained in physical therapy and the doctors from the Church’s clinic, which houses state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, look after her care. She is still unable to move the right side of her body, and she struggles to speak, but hopefully with time, care, and a great deal of prayer, Tefta’s condition will improve.

The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania has done amazing things since the 1990's. It has built and restored more than 400 churches and monasteries, and it has established a seminary that has trained hundreds of priests, catechists, and Church workers. But, most importantly, the Church has cared for people like Tefta. This profound expression of Christ’s love is at the heart of the Church’s mission in Albania and around the world.

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Prayer for Missions

God of truth and love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Hear our prayer for those who do not know You. That they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth, and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church, and raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world. Make us witnesses to Your goodness full of love, full of strength, and full of faith for Your glory and the salvation of the entire world. Through the prayers of all the missionary saints, Have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
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