Today, we are used to having the freedom to choose what we want to do in college. Sometimes we fail, but we have a second chance to do things better. Most importantly, we can follow our dreams.
For many people in Albania during Communism, however, none of these things were true. The lack of this freedom directed the course of their life. For some, this reality could feel crushing; but our hope is in God, who sees the desires of our hearts and fulfills them in his perfect time.
Donika is a 70-year-old lady from the Rruga Ura community. She comes to the ladies meeting every Wednesday and sits in the first row. If you look at her carefully, you understand that she is sharp and easily grasps complicated ideas. She is one of the most active volunteers, but she has had obstacles in her life because of the communist regime.
Raised in an intellectual family, Donika never lacked love for life and a passion for education. Since she was a kid, she has had big dreams and wanted to help others. In her free time, she loved to read. One summer, she was reading a book titled Two Orphans. In the book was a character called Doctor Herbert. He would heal people not only physically but also spiritually. Donika remembered, “I fell in love with Dr. Herbert and medicine.”
That sparked a desire in her heart to become a doctor. Like the character in this book, Donika wanted to heal people physically and spiritually.
During the Communist regime, you graduated from high school and a field of study was assigned to you. You needed excellent grades to be part of the Faculty of Medicine. Donika worked so hard in high school, and she was overjoyed to find that she would be allowed to start her studies in medicine at the university. It was the start of a journey for her.
She worked diligently in each class and studied hard every day. Unfortunately, three years into her program, she could not pass one exam. That single exam cost her the entire degree. It was decided that she could not graduate. With her dream shattered, Donika lost hope in becoming a doctor and helping people. She knew she would not be able to practice medicine, and that was the only way she thought she could help. Even though she did not know God back then, he wanted to give her another dream.
The Communist system sent her to be a biology and chemistry teacher in a village for a year. The work there gave her the chance to see a different reality. She witnessed first-hand the difficulties that her students faced. She loved these kids dearly and wanted to support them. She helped them all through that year, but after it was up, the government sent her to work as a laboratory technician.
This October, the church saw the need to start an after-school program. Donika was the first who wanted to give her time and volunteer for this project. She told them, “I want to help children who have never been to school. This has been one of my dreams. I see children as a gift that God has given us to take care of, guard and teach the Word of God. In this way, we pass on the commands that God gave to Moses in the desert.”
There are 25-30 children who come every day to the center. Donika has started a literacy class for some of them. Every afternoon, she comes to help those kids learn even a single letter. For those children who have had difficulty with the formulas in chemistry or biology, she explains it very passionately. She does not have any children of her own, so her students have filled the spaces in her heart.
Donika told our partners, “I want to inspire the new generation to dream big dreams and work hard to achieve those dreams. There is no greater pleasure than spending my time with these kids. They give me life.”
With her scientific and medical background, Donika helps with a lot of the church’s health awareness work in the community. She goes to all the people who need medical support and helps them without asking for anything back. She teaches them how to care for themselves. Meanwhile, she measures the blood pressure of the people who need it and invites them to church. She desires to help everyone, especially new mothers. She teaches them how to take care of their children whether it's addressing diarrhea, malnutrition, difficulty with breastfeeding or sickness caused by hygiene issues. Besides the physical help, she also shares the Word of God with people and how God has transformed her life.
“I want to support the new generation,” she explained, “to be a servant of God and serve people with all my heart because we never know what God will do with kids. Today, they do not know how to write or read, but tomorrow, when they grow up, I am sure that their dreams will come true, and God will use the new generation to glorify his name among us.”
Donika is a gift and role model to many in the community. Despite what seemed like the death of her dreams to be a doctor, God is now using her to do what the fictional character Dr. Herbert did in his story. We are very blessed to have her in our midst, bringing hope and light to every broken heart.