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Albania: A Model of Cooperation in Missions

by Mats Tunehag

Albania was the first and only country in the world proclaiming to be an atheistic nation. But today there are proportionally more long-term missionaries in Albania than in any other country in Eastern Europe, 1 per 6000 Albanians. Besides that thousands of short-term missionaries have entered the country in just a few years time. In the summer of 1991, the first missionaries in many decades were able to move to Albania.

Albanian Encouragement Project (AEP)
In the fall of 1991 the constitutional partnership AEP was formed. The purpose is to facilitate the coordination of evangelical Christian work in order to serve the Albanian people spiritually as well as physically. Today there are more than 70 member agencies from all over the world. AEP has an office in the capital Tirana.

Within AEP many joint-initiatives have been taken. Sometimes it has been member missions with similar ministries like relief and development or short term team outreaches. Other initiatives have concerned the whole AEP-group. Among other things there has been joint missionary retreats, the founding of a school for missionary children as well as a Bible Institute. An Albanian Bible Society, ABS, has been established with representatives from all three Christian groups in the country - Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants.

The Evangelical Alliance in Albania (The Brotherhood)
One of the primary goals of AEP is to encourage church planting all over Albania. Many Albanian churches have joined the Brotherhood, an Evangelical Alliance of churches. It is, like AEP, an umbrella organization. One of AEP's goals has been to encourage the development and growth of the Brotherhood. This is an interesting issue with many implications: What should the relationship be between AEP and the emerging Albanian Church/The Brotherhood? AEP is maybe John the Baptist who prepares the way and the Brotherhood is the Christ , who will increase.

Conclusion
The Christian faith did not reach Albania for the first time in the 1990s. But during the 1990s Albania experienced an enormous influx of mission activities. Why didn't everything turn into a chaos when so many agencies came in at the same time? A partnership approach through AEP is one answer.

AEP is a framework that facilitates a meeting place, a forum for discussions, information sharing and interaction that enhances the building of relationships that leads to cooperation.

Albania:<> A Model of Cooperation in Missions, is from the Lausanne Magazine, Summer 1997, by Mats Tunehag who serves with Interdev.
 


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