A church in Albania is working to bring God’s light and new life to the Roma community, and they share how he is transforming one lady’s relationships with her family.
When you step into a Roma community, everyone around you has a story of incredible hardship that they have survived.
As we get closer to the center of the community where we hold our weekly meetings, you might notice an elderly lady sitting on the doorstep of her house. Her face is a web of wrinkles. Her eyes are dark and deep, wells of unspoken emotion. The crooked lines of her body seem bent beneath a great and unseen weight. As you passed by, it’s almost as if you can feel the pressure she holds within herself.
Her name is Drita, which means light; but no glimmer of brightness is in her face or the tale of her life as she begins to tell it to you. She was married when she was ten, a child trying desperately to escape the violence of her family only to end up becoming a victim of violence from her husband.
Drita started to believe that life was suffering and little else.
Laying Down a Lifelong Burden
As Drita begins to talk being a mother of six children, growing up in extreme poverty, being betrayed by her husband, tears start falling down her cheeks.
With an alcoholic partner, she never knew more than a minute of peace. Violence, quarrels, grudges, betrayal and hatred had always been part of her life. The qualities were passed down to her sons and daughters-in-law who mistreated and abused her too. Given the wrong model from generation to generation, even her grandchildren began to hate her and treat her poorly. Despite living in the same house, they did not talk to each other for years.
No one loved Drita, and she made herself unlovable. She would quarrel with her family and neighbors. The devil had done his work by destroying her marriage, family’s life, relationships with neighbors, any possible friendships and nearly every speck of peace in her own heart.
The church that prays for people’s salvation and invites the Spirit to move, though, can never be defeated. World Challenge’s partners work with a local church that has this kind of heart, and they invited Drita to come hear the Word of God.
“When she stepped into the church, the sun rose for her,” Our partner shared. “Working for so many years in this community, seeing people surrender their lives to Christ are precious moments for us.” They offered the invitations and brought people into the church, but only God could transform a heart and mind. Witnessing that miraculous work never grows old.
Drita told the church team, "I've carried this burden for so long, I don't want to carry it anymore. I have seen hell. I have nothing more to lose. I want to talk with someone to lay down my burden. I found peace here. I don't remember the last time I laughed.”
As she prayed for salvation, a change came over her face, almost like the reflection of some hidden light.
A Life Reborn and Restored
Drita’s life is not the same anymore. God gave her peace and restored her smile. She never had any friends before so she did not know the value of close relationships, but today the church is her second home.
She feels welcomed and respected by the church leaders, and now her relationships with her neighbors and family are being restored. Her daughters-in-law are part of the church meetings now, and the team has been working to forgive one another and restore their family. Her granddaughters and grandsons are part of the church children’s club, and they are being taught and shown how to love and respect one another, their parents and their grandmother. This joyous transformation is what has been in our hearts when we read,
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3, ESV).
In 2019, when Albania was hit by a powerful earthquake and then dozens of aftershocks, Drita's house was damaged. The church gathered a little money to help her and her sons fix their home’s roof. It seemed like a little thing, but it meant the world to her. In this situation, she felt the hand of God through the care and support of the local church.
Today, when I see Drita with a smile on her face, surrounded by her grandchildren, I can say with confidence that God has done a great miracle in her and her family.