From Desperate to Daring Blessing

Natasha Likollari

One Roma lady and her family in Albania went from crippled by poverty to helping their neighbors survive the economic downturn.

Daily living for a Roma woman is a seemingly endless gauntlet of obstacles and challenges. One dear Roma lady who is involved in our team is Hena. Her name means “the moon,” but her life has not been that bright.

Living in a Roma community in south of Albania, she is the mother of four kids, three daughters and a son. When you ask her about her childhood, she hardly remembers any happy moments to share. Growing up in a poor family, her suffering continued after she got married. She started her married life at a very young age without understanding the role of a wife or a mother. No one taught her how to care for a home or raise children; figuring out all the roles expected of her felt like a nearly impossible mission for Hena.

Her life could not have been further from a girl’s dreams for her future with a happy life and loving husband.

Hearing a New Call

Hena shared about the hardships she was facing when she initially met one of the team’s leaders and the pastor of a local church Latif, “I was dealing with the children and doing the housework in my daily life, but my life was a mess.

“We didn’t have a house; the place we lived looked more like a hut. My husband worked some seasonal jobs in agriculture, but the income he received weren’t enough to provide for our family needs. I would always complain that we couldn’t meet the needs of the kids and family, but we never took the initiative to do something to change our difficult conditions.

In our neighborhood, we have a small church. During this time, my kids were attending the children’s meeting. Later, my husband and I became part of the meeting too. No one had told us about God; we grew up without religion, without God. We had never heard something like this before in our lives. Week after week for years, Latif would visit our family and share with us how God had changed his life, what God has done in his family with his kids and how blessed he was.

“He wouldn’t stop inviting us at the church meetings; so little by little, we became part of the meeting, listening how God loves people without any difference. No matter who you are, your education or color, it doesn’t matter if you’re poor or rich, he wants to bless us and the work of our hands (Deuteronomy 28:1-13).

Blessed to Bless Others

“Listening to these kinds of conversations, our way of thinking started to change. Every poor person’s dream is to escape misery and hope for better days, but many don’t know how to do it. We were thinking about how we could get out of the poverty and have a better life, then we heard about the microbusiness project that motivated people to do something for themselves and family.

“With Latif’s help, we made a simple business plan and took out a small loan. At first, we bought some chickens, and then when we had some extra income from selling the chickens, we bought a cow. In this way, we had food and milk in the family. As we were taking care of the cow, we saw how blessed we were to be able to feed our children and take them to school. This gave hope and joy in our hearts.

“When the cow’s calves grew, we sold them and were able to pay back the loan we took in the beginning.” Not only were they able to pay off the loan, but they began stocking up materials to build a new house.

“As I look back on my life and my dream to escape poverty that seemed impossible,” Hena said, “I think I’m in a dream, not in reality, living in a new house. But God made my dream for shelter and a roof over my head come true. I can’t be happier than this.”

These blessings came into even sharper relief when the COVID lockdowns began in Albania. “This time was a time of famine for many families, but not for my family. Our church started a small project to provide for those families. In the evening, when my husband came home, I told him about this and together we decided to help one family. We had food, and what we had, we gave to them. We had planted our land with wheat, and we were able to provide flour for them.

“My heart is full of joy for what God has done for me and my family. I had nothing, and God has blessed me more than I asked for so I can become a blessing to others.”