Will’s and Doreta Niven’s Newsletter

Niven’s News

(August 2018)

Dear friends,

This summer has afforded us many opportunities for the work of the gospel. Last week we were privileged to go as a family to the “Light of life” camp for blind and partially sighted people in Ersekë. This was the ninth year that Niko Hamzallaraj has organized this camp and it was literally bursting at the seams. We estimated that there were over 100 campers plus their guides or family members from all over the south of Albania. Will preached five times from the gospel of John and was struck by the respectful silence as he preached each evening. In the mornings campers were divided into three discussion groups with questions that Will had prepared about the sermon that had been delivered the night before. The last discussion group that we took part in was remarkable. A quick question on what Protestants believe about “the saints” led to a discussion on what we believe and how the Bible differs from the Qur’an. Questions came from all directions and it was a wonderful opportunity to share the faith.

A number of things have left a deep impression. First the general ignorance about Christ and the Bible among nonbelievers. People were asking the simplest questions and it was astounding to see how little they knew about the faith. Most of the Elbasan group admitted that they have spent much time and money going to holy places or engaging in witchcraft to find a solution for their problems in the past. Superstition, religiosity and tradition are keeping so many blinded to the truth. Take for example Akiu from Durrës. He told Will that he was a Muslim, that the Qur’an was descended from heaven and that the Bible and the Qur’an are essentially the same. When Will challenged some of his presuppositions he sat flummoxed by what he heard. By the end of the camp he asked for an audio Bible so that he could test for himself what the Bible teaches. Pray that the Word preached and shared in private conversations might bear fruit.

It was striking how thirsty believers are. Will spent hours answering the questions of a new believer, Roland, who has just a year in the faith. He is a deep thinker, has been distressed by much of what passes as Christianity in Albania and is seeking firm Biblical convictions to live by. Another man we spent time with was Fran who lives in the northern town of Rreshen. An earnest and knowledgeable man, Fran has a great burden for the region that he comes from. He told us that there is no pastor in the region of Mirëdita for the churches that he knows. Without a shepherd the sheep are beginning to wander and the only pastor visiting the area can only come once a week from another town. Fran took some 20 audio versions of the New Testament with him. Pray for shepherds for the flock of Christ in Albania who are men after the heart of God. Pray for blind believers that they may grow as disciples of Jesus and pray that we might provide more seminars to teach those who are thirsty for more.

What is clear is that there is a huge need in the blind community which the Albanian Blind Society is not meeting. In the last 25 years they have not given a cane to a blind person yet the “Light for the blind foundation” was able to give out nearly 50 canes at this camp alone! The government gives the blind society money for the poorest members of their community and for a week’s holiday yet this is the only camp that blind people can go to as these funds have been systematically stolen for years. It is shocking to see the way that such a needy and vulnerable group are being exploited by a few. Last week an evangelical believer, Arjan Hysa, was elected President of the Society. Pray that he would not be sucked into the whirlpool of corruption there and that he would be an ambassador for Christ and one who would bring great help to his community.

We have been greatly helped by two teams coming out to us from North Hertfordshire in July. Between them some 250 children and young people in 8 different locations were reached with the gospel. Two holiday clubs were held in Fier; one in the church and one in a new neighbourhood in which we have many contacts. This area is comprised of blocks of flats built by the council for those in need. Two couples from the church live there and we have any other contacts in the area. We were able to use the offices of the blind society for our meetings. In the first meeting a boy asked, “Who is this Jesus that you are talking about?” This just underlines how much spiritual need there is. One lady asked a church member who was organizing this club as it was so necessary for the children which gave a great opportunity for witness. Please pray for future work in this area as we consider establishing a Bible study there as it is a long way for many to get to church from there and this isolates them badly.

The holiday club at the church and youth club were great opportunities to follow up those who have been at camp in Ersekë this summer. Will was able to spend some time with one of the fathers. What was particularly encouraging was that we had very few church children at these clubs and many new faces. We also had a number of adults sit in the clubs and listen to the lessons. The teams helped in two Roma villages, Mbrostar and Baltez, under the leadership of Latif who is pastor of the Baltez church. Others travelled to Elbasan to help Beni Çelanji have a holiday club in the village of Dushk and also to reach out to the community in Elbasan. We also went to the village of Ferras and a particularly challenging group of children. We also had a good holiday club in Patos. What was particularly gratifying was to see the way that these teams were a true partnership with the local church. The teenagers from the Fier church really stepped up to help with the holiday clubs and we had the help of people like Taulant, Monda and Bruna in all that we did. We have never asked so much of any team and it was a joy to see how people rose to the challenge.

We have had some hard circumstances over the last weeks. Pray for Sandri who lost his mother not long after his being baptized. Pray for the family of Marsela, one of the early believers in Fier, who died last week of a brain tumour. Pray for Ligor who has travelled to France to be with his critically ill brother who needs an urgent transplant. Pray too for Doreta’s mother recovering from a very bad virus. However, we are rejoicing as Lidia did very well indeed in her end of elementary school exams. God honoured her refusal to copy or cheat despite teachers verbally allowing students to do so. Pray that she and all our children would keep their integrity and grow as disciples of Christ. This week we plan to have a week’s holiday so please pray that we might be refreshed and renewed ready for ministry.

Every blessing,

Will and Doreta

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