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God's Great Tapestry of Hope in Albania

You know those gigantic tapestries that look like a bunch of messy threads up close but when you step back, there is actually a very beautiful and deliberate pattern that creates a powerful scene? God often works this way. He takes our messy threads and makes something beautiful. In fact, our little threads are often tied into something so much bigger than we are, so well planned, and something so much better than what we could have imagined ourselves. In Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV), it says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’” declares the Lord. “’As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Today, Ermal has found himself in the middle of a great big tapestry of hope that God is weaving in Albania, but the story did not start now. It started in 2009.

You see, Ermal came from a nominal Muslim family and his sole focus at the time was to escape Albania. No matter where he looked, he saw no hope for himself nor his peers. He saw no future and no work. He tried several times to sneak out of the country and even attempted hanging from the undercarriage of a vehicle, but none of his efforts worked. His final idea was to go to school and learn Italian. Perhaps he could find a way to Italy and get work there. He did not know at the time, but his teacher was a person who did have hope. She invited him to a Christian youth group meeting. Ermal decided that he needed to show these people with hope that there was none to be had. He planned to present them with the truth. But, it was at this youth meeting that he learned the truth. It was at this meeting that he learned that Jesus Christ died for his sins. It was at this meeting that he learned that there really was hope in Albania. And it was at this meeting that he gave his life to Christ.

Since that time in 2009, Ermal has been praying with Juljan (Josiah Venture’s country leader) for a way to reach many young people with the good news of Jesus. Once Juljan joined Josiah Venture as Albania’s country leader, Ermal joined as the JV Edge Sports Coordinator, because they were seeing how effective soccer was at gathering youth.

In November 2018, JV Edge Sports held their first soccer coaches training in Albania, and nine coaches attended. The coaches, from various local churches in the area, were trained to not only do high quality coaching, but they were also taught how to share the gospel and do devotionals with the players.

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After the training, Ermal had the task of trying to grow his seven-player team. Before the official JV training, Ermal had been coaching seven boys from his youth group, and, after the JV training, he came up with an innovative idea to get more boys to join. He challenged each of those seven boys to go to their schools and community and create their own teams. With these seven teams of players (eighty boys in total), they conducted a big one-time tournament with a trophy for the winning team. At the tournament, the gospel was shared and the boys were invited to join Ermal’s team and participate in semi-weekly practices. Of those eighty boys that participated in the tournament, twenty-five boys are currently participating on Ermal’s team. Not only that, these boys are also attending his youth group. Ermal has already completed Josiah Venture’s LOOK study (an introduction to the Gospel) with four of the boys. Two of them have chosen to follow Christ.

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Juljan and Ermal were praying for four teams total so that they could create a league, compete, reach more kids, and encourage more churches to be involved in the movement. Since the JV Edge training in November 2018, they have 10 teams with approximately 100 players, and more churches that are asking to be a part of the league!

In addition, these churches are very open to being trained by Juljan in the discipleship training material that Josiah Venture has developed. They are seeing young people come to Christ and they want to be a part of the movement in Albania.

From hopelessness to hopefulness. From threads to a big giant tapestry. What a blessing that the “[Lord’s] ways [are] higher than [our] ways.” And God is not done weaving this one…

 

 

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