Junior Nursing major Rachel Blanton says she has always had a special place in her heart for missions. Her experiences during a Global Encounters missions trip to Albania, however, gave Blanton “a broader perspective on the needs of people.”
An Operation Renewed Hope team sought to meet some of those needs May 17-28 in the area near Tirana, Albania. Ten of the team’s 36 members were Maranatha students.
Missionary Mike Fiocchi’s church was the base for free medical clinics staffed by the team, during which 650 Albanian people heard the gospel and 97 professed a saving faith in Christ. The team provided dental and vision care; performed some minor surgeries; and gave out medications, vitamins, and other vital medical supplies.
Maranatha Associate Professor, Dr. Dean Kurtz, the team’s designated preacher, said, “The Albanians were very open to someone who cared about them. There is a whole generation that does not know the rudiments of the gospel; many were hearing it for the first time.”
Watertown dentist Dr. Harry Gibson, one of the medical professionals who offered free care to Albanians at the clinics, compared the people’s spiritual ignorance to a yard sprayed with Roundup. Dictators and forced religion have given the Albanian people a scorched religious background in the same manner that Roundup can kill an entire yard’s plant life. That lack of religious roots may have contributed to their overwhelming acceptance of Kurtz’s messages. Fiocchi said, “Considering that Albania is 70 percent traditional Muslim, there was a wonderful response to the Gospel.”
Fiocchi (’95) was impressed with the Operation Renewed Hope team’s testimony and work ethic. He said, “Their presence was an answer to our prayers. From the governmental level to the level of the poor, they work well with people. Just coming and displaying a positive attitude toward the Lord and the people makes a huge difference.”
The team chose Matthew 5:16 as its key verse for this trip: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
–By Bethany Wright