Albania, a mountainous, Balkan state on the Adriatic Sea has a population of just over three million. The nation won its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912 and was conquered by Italy in 1939. The Communist regime that ruled from 1944 until the early 1990s left Albania economically, morally, and spiritually demoralized. Albania remains one of Europe’s poorest countries, hindered by inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure, corruption, and high emigration rates. The anarchy, chaos, and corruption of the 1990s and 2000s mirror the country’s grim past, leaving Albanians struggling for hope and renewal.
Albania is still struggling to transition from Communism’s closed market to a more open, modern economy. Agriculture accounts for half of all employment but is primarily limited to subsistence farming and small family plots that lack modern equipment. Energy shortages due to reliance on antiquated hydropower contribute to Albania’s poor business environment and failure to attract foreign investors. Politically, Albania has enjoyed peaceful, multi-party elections since the death of dictator Enver Hoxha and the demise of Communism.
Religious freedom granted by the government in 1998 has helped the infant Albanian church to mature. There are now organized, nationwide structures and a holistic vision for discipleship and evangelism. Over 60% of Albanians are Muslim, although superstition and folk Islam prosper. Due, in part, to more strategic ministry and consolidation in recent years, the number of evangelicals has miraculously grown from zero to several thousand. This rapid growth has created a vital need for leadership training to reduce widespread Biblical ignorance. Many towns and villages still lack an evangelical presence, and villages with churches show signs of second-generation spiritual lapses. Help ministries abound to deliver Christ’s love in action to the poor and suffering of Albania. These, along with the Albanian Encouragement Project networks, over 60 agencies covering every type of ministry, will help turn a country whose spiritual light barely flickered for decades rekindle a love and passion for the Lord Jesus Christ.