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Chapter 3: The Evangelist and World Mission

Like evangelism, world mission comes fairly well down the list of priorities of the usual local fellowship. In fact, world mission is comparatively small compared to the colossal resources available to the churches in the "sending" countries. Furthermore, according to Dr. Robertson McQuilken, a former missionary to Japan with T.E.A.M. and recently retired President of Columbia Bible College, only about 9% of those on the mission field are actually involved in Christian ministries, most of the remaining 91% being care or aid workers of one kind or another. In writing this chapter, most of the events described were actually witnessed by me, many of them miracles of God's grace and very evidently dependent on God's divine appointing. However, this subject is of such enormous importance to the countries touched by mission and to the church itself, that this report must be absolutely frank and must "tell it as it is". The problem is that dysfunctional sending churches promote their dysfunctional characteristics overseas and sometimes cause untold harm.

As long ago as the 16th Century, the reformist Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier criticised his predecessors in Goa for attempting to win the province by involving its political leaders in elaborate rituals in the European style Gothic cathedrals they were building. He saw these leaders, steeped as they were in pagan and occult practices, as infertile soil for the Gospel and advocated the building of schools where children could be taught Christianity, thereby winning the province in one generation. "Don't build churches, build schools!" he said. Danish pietist Bartholomew Ziegenbalg established five principles, broadly followed by pioneers like William Carey, on which most modern missions would base their strategy (see Stephen Neill's book on the History of Christian Missions, published by Penguin).

  • Build schools (as well as churches) and establish Christian education programmes for the children.
  • Make the Word of God available in the local language.
  • Preach the Gospel to as many people as possible as often as possible, being aware of their cultural background and beliefs.
  • Work for the personal salvation of each individual.
  • Train up local leaders to do absolutely everything that the local missionary does and go home, so that the local leadership can enjoy the respect of their people and actually begin to function as an autonomous local church, shouldering the burdens and responsibilities of reaching their own people.

It goes without saying that fellowships not living by these principles at home are unlikely to be successful in an alien environment with all its extra difficulties of language, customs, etc. I am constantly astonished by the number of fellowships who seem to think they can be successful on this basis. Dan Truitt, a missionary evangelist heading up the O.A.C. open air ministry in Greece, insists that much greater commitment is required by those going on the mission field and specifies the following priorities:-

  • A strong sense of personal calling
  • A godly life
  • Mastery of the language
  • A real understanding of the culture
  • Most important - an intensive prayer ministry for the people

Studying the subject in a limited way at theological college, I found most books on mission addressed the theological issues faced by the leaders rather than entering into a description of what the churches were like, what the believers were like, and what they were doing in practical terms at the grass roots.

Helpful Books

The books I have found most helpful and which I use extensively for teaching on mission, are "The History of Christian Missions" by Bishop Stephen Neill, published by Penguin. This reads like an adventure story - which of course it is! I find it almost impossible to put down every time I pick it up... In rather greater detail, Professor Kenneth Scott Latourette's very large multi -volume "History of the Christian Church" which covers the whole period of its history almost up to date, contains lots of stories of local individuals and their struggles.

I think Michael Green's excellent book "Evangelism and the Early Church" sets out very well the factors which hindered and facilitated church growth in the first few hundred years. The interesting thing is that the system of beliefs of most people in the world at that time made it a great deal more difficult for people to accept Christianity than it is today. Experience also shows that in many countries where results in terms of converts have been apparently good in recent years, many of those who we think are becoming Christians are actually joining the church to meet their material needs. This is natural where destitute populations with little food or fuel are desperately hoping for hand-outs from Westerners; so even there, there are no short cuts to real church growth.

Professor David Shutes who has studied European Church history for two decades, asserts that the continental European countries have in fact never been evangelised: Christianity came with conquering armies. Their conquering gods (God, Jesus and Mary - a mystifying and misunderstood relationship) naturally took precedence over the existing local deities, who became assimilated into the local pantheon as "saints". David maintains that St. Bridget of Ireland is a good example of this, having originated possibly in Iron Age times as a pagan fertility goddess. As the Church became an instrument of the State, its Bishops became princes with their own armies who enforced allegiance to Church and State; vestiges of this can be seen in Greece today when being a "good Greek" is synonymous with membership of the Orthodox Church. This concept is still assiduously encouraged by the local priests who have in past years sought to promote laws outlawing evangelical Christianity and even today will sometimes physically attack those who preach the Gospel in public!

On the ground today, the results of this quasi Christian cultural outlook are that preaching the Christian Gospel in public arouses great curiosity and at the same time, in some, a lot of suspicion. I find that in most European countries, East and West, people have never ever heard about the Lord at all. I remember speaking at an evangelistic dinner party in Milan where a lady, probably in her late fifties, listened to my interpreter obviously with rising anger. Thinking I had offended her, I asked afterwards why she was so upset. She replied that she had been attending Mass every Sunday since the age of five but no priest had ever explained the Christian message to her, and she was furious at being kept in the dark in this way. In fact, she became the means of the Gospel reaching her entire family and although she died three or four years later of cancer, she also brought others into the Kingdom.

The Methods

In Italy in 1985, Anni and I were on a camp site in Florence and met an American tour bus full of teenage Christians on a "mission to Europe". They would stay on camp sites and dress up as clowns, distributing invitations to campers to attend their evening performance, which consisted of a long mime with explanation in fast American, totally beyond the comprehension of any of the onlookers. However, tracts were distributed and friendly Italians enjoyed their company. Each teenager was paying $5,000 for a month's trip (a lot of money in those days) and Christian travel agencies may well have achieved something. However, the amount of money invested in the trip could have been used much more effectively to fund an Italian evangelist for ten years - which would actually have resulted in people joining the local evangelical church.

Much less acceptable was the way some American fellowships turned up unexpectedly on, say, a beleaguered Romanian pastor in the middle of the night with a request for accommodation and food for 25 young people who have come "to encourage the church". There might be a telephone call at 4 a.m. from a group never heard of before, requesting breakfast on arrival at 6.30 a.m. It seems that telephone numbers are passed around back home and the opportunity is taken to "do a mission trip". To say that one is involved in some way in Romania makes your church sound a lot more exciting. The fact that it's nearly always Romania is because of the publicity surrounding the ending of the Communist regime on the world's media, and the suffering involved by so many people. Aid continues to pour into Romania whereas there are far greater needs in other surrounding countries such as Bulgaria and Albania, which actually receive very little aid. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that an awful lot of "world mission" is media led, not Spirit led.

The Amateurisation of Missions

Dr. Peter Hammond, long term missionary to the suffering peoples in war zones bordering South Africa, writes of his concerns:

"Despite the hard realities and desperate needs of the mission field, we are seeing an increasing amateurisation of mission work. More and more Christians are pouring into the mission fields but for very short periods of time and often for very superficial goals.

"I have been astounded to come across large tour groups (calling themselves missionaries) travelling across the world just to spend four or five days 'in the field'. The high cost of international air travel would seem to make such short visits cost-ineffective.

"Even more incredible is how most of these short termers have undergone no selection procedure, received no training, and are ill-equipped to benefit the local believers. In most cases these religious tourists have a lower grasp of Scripture and a spiritual maturity that is dwarfed by the local believers to whom they presume to minister.

"For some obscure reason many Christians seem to think that any church-goer can be a missionary! The flood of untrained, ill-disciplined, unaccountable 'lone ranger' so-called missionaries into Third World countries is disastrous.

"Many don't even know enough of the local culture to realise how much damage they are doing to the Christian cause.

"I have seen many female missionaries in slacks or even shorts ministering in rural Africa. They seem oblivious to the fact that all the local Christian women only wear dresses. Once a team of 6 American medical missionaries flew out to work with us in Mozambique. As they arrived in Malawi the two women were detained by police for wearing slacks. They didn't even have a single skirt between them in their luggage. We had to go into town and buy some dresses for the ladies before the police would release them.

"In Africa it is generally considered a disgrace for a man to have long hair. This is not only cultural but Biblical 'does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a dishonour to him?' 1 Corinthians 11:14.

Yet you will see many long-haired pony-tailed men heading out to 'evangelise the pagans in Africa' oblivious to what a stumbling block they are.

"I have met Christians heading out to the mission field with nose rings, belly rings, tongue studs, and who knows what other body mutilations. It is not that these piercings are unknown in Africa or Asia, in fact every pagan culture practises them, Hindus and Animists in particular practise body-piercing and tattoos extensively. However, once converted they repent and turn away from such abominations.

"It is generally quite easy to tell the difference between a pagan and a Christian in Africa by how they dress and how they treat their body. The Scriptures are clear 'you shall not make any cuttings in your flesh ... nor tattoo any marks on you; I am the Lord.' Leviticus19:28. Ear-rings on men in the Bible were a mark of slavery. Exodus 21:6, Deuteronomy 15:17.

"How can you expect African Christians to respect long-haired men with pony-tails and ear-rings who presume to come and teach them? I first came across the term religious tourists in Romania. A pastor related to me the bizarre story of 89 Californian Christians who had flown in to 'minister' in Romania. Naturally, none of them spoke Romanian. Neither did they have transport. They were totally dependent on their local hosts, whom they presumed they were coming to help. On Sunday morning they all wanted to speak at the main service; each was given 2 minutes to bring greetings. So began a seemingly never ending procession of 89 religious tourists delivering their greeting through an interpreter with successive camera flashes accompanying! 'We never saw these people in the dark days of persecution' declared the Pastor.

"Recently a group of 29 Americans and Europeans flew in on a single aircraft to one location in the Sudan. When asked how long they were going in for, they proudly announced '2-3 days, maybe even 4'. I could only stand in amazement at their superficial understanding of what is needed in missions. 'What do you plan to accomplish?' I asked. 'Oh!' the man answered 'We plan to hand over some relief aid and buy some slaves!' So this is now what missions are coming to - large groups of people flying half way across the world to hand over some relief aid, say a few nice words and set some slaves free, and in just a few days they fly back home thinking that they are now missionaries.

"They have no understanding of the people to whom they are going, they have never bothered to study the history of the nation or the culture of the people they say they are sent to. They are untrained, unprepared, unaccountable, and even unaware of the way the local people perceive them."

I have quoted Dr. Hammond's letter in full. What he describes so graphically is a very common attitude towards evangelism and mission by church managers generally. Similar things also happen in England. Groups of young people going out on missions for a couple of weeks led by, say, the local Youth Pastor, will be equipped to do little more than paint the fellowship meeting hall and hand out tracts - they don't learn much from this sort of experience. The churches in Bristol recently got a large group of young people together and sent them to Manchester without any adequate preparation and those I spoke to ended up clearing rubbish from a housing estate hoping to generate opportunities to talk to individuals, but very little actual Christian ministry could take place. It would have been rather more intelligent to secure the services of specialists in using young people, such as Operation Mobilisation, who have the experience and infra-structure to make an adequate job of these kind of opportunities.

In fact, organisations like O.M. which rely on young people to sustain their various ministries in different parts of the world are severely hampered by the increasing popularity of Christian festivals such as Spring Harvest and Green Belt. These enterprises are wonderful experience for the young people to take part in with excellent teaching and music, and are a tremendous blessing to many - yet with the need to raise funds now for University courses, students must spend part of the summer working, so they can no longer do two things: most obviously will go for the Christian fun time. Far fewer of them now ever get missions experience of any kind. This has affected Open Air Campaigners to a lesser extent - ours is essentially a training ministry. Our strategy is to spend time training local Christians in the countries we are seeking to evangelise, and to provide them with the back-up and equipment they need to establish on-going, viable ministries. Language and culture then cease to be a barrier and they can actually reach their own countries far more effectively.

The Bristol School of Evangelism

Lome, Togo
Graham Loader of Bristol is a Brethren Evangelist with years of experience on the Hartcliffe housing estate, one of the largest in Europe, home to people with wide social problems. His years of door to door work and the establishment of the Teyfant Christian Fellowship on the estate are a glorious story of faithfulness and perseverance. Graham was the first person Anni and I visited to discuss the possibility of starting a ministry in street evangelism in Bristol, rather than becoming an Anglican vicar. He was a mentor, as was Mike Hencher, an absolutely wonderful full time Brethren preacher - they did more to help me get started than anyone else. After a few years, Graham and I both realised that people coming into evangelism needed a lot more preparation (particularly in the area of practical skills) than one could learn in training colleges - so with David Harris and Malcolm Widdecombe we set up a full time training programme at Pip'n'Jay church. The Senior Elder of Bristol Christian Fellowship at that time was Dr. Nic Harding, and he sent us 50 students for our first year - so altogether we had 65 to teach every day. Over the 6 years period we ran the School, numbers fluctuated a lot but we helped some absolutely brilliant young men and women get started in evangelism and missions much more effectively than would otherwise have been possible.

One of these was Ian Loring; another Caralee Albarian from California. Caralee had been on a mission with us in Bristol for three weeks when Operation Mobilisation joined us with a team for a "Love Bristol" campaign. A number of young people were to join O.A.C. and/or Bristol School of Evangelism as a result of their experience on the streets that year. Caralee returned to the States and was back with us five weeks later with all her worldly possessions; a very mature person with excellent qualifications as a dietician, she had already done a stint as a a missionary in the Sudan. During her training Caralee was successful in establishing a fine ministry in a number of churches and especially in taking assembly in a substantial number of primary schools in Bristol. However, I reckoned that Ian was somebody unlikely to get through the course. He had had a most unhappy life experience to date, clearly had quite a lot of problems and had only been a Christian about ten days - but David Harris came to see me and said it was no good my turning him down, as he had already accepted Ian for the course himself! Ian wasn't too sure about how to take notes during the lectures, clearly struggled with a lot of the concepts being taught, and obviously thought a lot of our methods were pretty daft... So I relaxed in the knowledge that I had been right all along.

However, during the second year of the course Ian went on a mission to Bulgaria which involved taking aid in a large truck to some of the dreadful orphanages emerging from obscurity thanks to the media. Next he went with a team led by Caralee to preach on the streets in Thessaloniki that summer; while there, the dam of oppression in Albania burst and huge numbers of Albanian refugees poured out of the squalor of their surroundings into the adjacent countries. The Greek police corralled several thousand of them in the square in front of the railway station in Thessaloniki where the Greek churches did a fine job of feeding them and caring for them and Caralee's team went and preached to them. Our street work is characterised by the use of large sketch boards on which we use cartoons and other drawings to illustrate the message. The bright colours and the live nature of the presentations do attract a great deal of interest, and substantial crowds - I think something like twenty or thirty Albanians became Christians. These men went back to their families with the Gospel and a desire to win their villages for Christ; a few months later, after their marriage, Ian and Caralee followed them. The little local church of about twelve people rapidly grew to over 100 through Caralee's sketch board preaching in the open air - once to several thousand people at an evening meeting in the local stadium in Korce. In the next few years, living in a single upstairs room with no running water, Ian and Caralee learned the language well. The greatest achievement in my view was their success at understanding the very complex mores of Albanian culture which still defeats most missionary efforts in Albania.

Ian and Caralee's move to Erseke, the purchase and reconstruction of the various church properties there, and all the extraordinary adventures resulting from their courageous decision to stay in the country during the 1997 uprising, has given them a love for and a credibility with the local people unsurpassed in my experience on the mission field. The vision now is to complete the establishment of 22 churches, many quite large, the training of much greater numbers of indigenous church leaders, and the necessary training programme to achieve that, and the handover of local churches to local leadership.

On a visit in May 1998 I described what I saw and it's a good description of what a successful foreign mission looks like and involves:

"Grenade-thrower" is a 15-year-old gypsy boy with a short lifetime of begging behind him. This is of course a rather thin way to make a living in a country such as Albania in desperate poverty. However, he acquired fame and developed newfound skills during the flare-up of violence which spread right across Albania about a year ago. As this declined, he once again found himself unemployed. Walking through Erseke one day, Ian found him sitting by the side of the road and offered him a job on one of his building sites. Today this lad is bustling around with the other builders, delivering cement to the block-layers and concreters: he has a pride in his work, works harder than anyone else, is paid each month just like the others, and has joined the Youth Group. Ian is known as "Yanni" to all and sundry, and is a sort of "Lord Jim" character in this small city of 8,000 people. Everyone wants to talk to him and he is currently running about five businesses as well as nine substantial churches, most having an attendance of over 100. He has the astonishing ability to have got right into Albanian culture to the point where he knows a large number of families and all that is going on in their world. He has developed a very large number of friendships, beyond where the church is at, partly because he and Caralee stayed there during the troubles (early in 1997 anarchy broke out due to the public rage at being cheated of life savings in various pyramid schemes which, as pyramid schemes are wont to do, collapsed like a house of cards). They played a large part in quelling the violence when Ian called the townspeople to the Peace Meeting which stopped the fighting - allso because of the initiative they took in supplying the hospital with medicines which took Ian and his team through various terrorist battle lines on the way to the frontier with Greece on 5 or 6 separate occasions. All of them put their lives on the line doing this, and when they were trapped in Albania five or six miles from the frontier, it was only the intervention of a Greek Special Forces Unit with helicopter gunships that probably saved their lives.

Visiting the villages which number about thirty in the region, where in the summer the team has an on-going regular street ministry for the purpose of establishing Bible Study and Prayer Groups in local homes, we traversed roads which one would imagine no wheeled vehicle could cope with. Travelling up 1:2 gradients tyre-deep in mud with the occasional rock outcrop forming a step is a really interesting experience!

In these villages Ian and his team are regarded as saviours, largely because the 4-year-old son of one of the mayors fell from a 3rd floor window on to concrete last year leaving him paralysed and in a coma, with his brain hanging partly out of a large hole behind his right ear. Ian organised a doctor and an Albanian ambulance and got them across the Greek frontier without any documentation whatever, and arranged for them to be met at the intensive care unit at St. Luke's Christian hospital in Thessaloniki. The Director, Dr. Kazarkas, laid on both his brain surgeons, who then operated on the lad for 48 hours continuously. They succeeded in putting this little boy's head together and today his hair has grown over the huge scars at the back of his head, he has suffered no ill effects whatsoever and was rushing around the garden of the stone hovel where he lives just like any other 5-year-old would do.

I walked into a little village and met a woman making butter in a barrel, the old-fashioned way. She didn't understand a word I said and I couldn't understand her, but was able to meet all the family and share 45 minutes with them in their living room (about 8 ft. square) the floor level of which was below ground level. This was a common arrangement in mediaeval houses when it was thought desirable to cut out draughts, when you sleep on the floor. They produced a little glass of peach Raki which was quite delicious, and with great ceremony some Russian sweets on a little tray. They had several married daughters aged 16 or 17 living in adjoining huts, and their 15-year-old daughter was beside herself to meet somebody from the West and desperately trying to remember a few English words from school. Albanian culture means she will have been excluded from education at about 11-12 years, and will be kept at home until married off to a local farmer in about a year's time. She was so bright I thought how sad it is that she should be denied all opportunity of a proper education and a life of her own. This was a Muslim village where the Saint Eleanora sect has established a Muslim shrine. She established her status in Albania by levitating publicly in the air and I would say demonic forces like this are very evident in the lives of many Albanians. Probably this accounts for the fact that the guards on our properties in Erseke have to be on 24 hour rotas and each week these young men face armed intruders. Everyone still has a Kalashnikov and one young man with a large pistol attempted to disrupt a meeting for 102 teenagers I was preaching to, on our final evening there. Andy, the 20-year-old guard who turned this guy round and sent him packing, has often faced challenges like this and it is a measure of the spiritual depth of may of the workers that Ian employs that they are prepared to risk themselves in this way on a regular basis.

Ian and Caralee have a profound understanding of the Albanian culture and how they think. Because the Church is a new entity in the country, everyone seems to know everyone else even in quite different towns. Ian is alarmed by the inability of many missionaries to understand what is going on in their own churches. On occasion he has had to tell them. Westerners continue to be fleeced left right and centre and continue to be a ready source of money for the unscrupulous. The Faith Church in California continues to support the Muslim from Korce who is divesting them of substantial amounts of dollars. The Dutch group who founded a bakery in the area unfortunately put the property in the names of Albanians who had been Christians a very short time, and now the missionaries have left (because of the troubles) the entire property was sold by the "Board" to relatives for $1. This sort of naivety is still seen when so-called evangelists visit Albanian towns and speak to large crowds of people, many of whom take leaflets and make "commitments". The evangelists imagine that revival has broken out when in fact Albanians desperate for work and keen to meet foreigners will stand around and listen and will take leaflets in the hope that this will result in some sort of hand-out.

Another group, "Every Home Crusade", has a sort of race round the villages and deposits as many leaflets as they can through letter boxes: the Albanians regard this as quite a joke. Less funny was the group who had a meeting in Korce at which they photographed a rather unusual man standing in the crowd with rather high cheekbones. Last year this photo was used in a leaflet to publicise the group's prime objective which is to de-bunk evolution. The photograph of this unfortunate man was thus distributed in his home town with the caption "Man or monkey?". He was the subject of ridicule, had a nervous breakdown, and has lost his job. Ian's remonstrations with the organisation concerned led to a lawyer coming from America to assess suitable damages to be paid to the man and his family and an agreement was entered into - hardly surprisingly with these sort of people, the amount promised has not been forthcoming.

These sort of activities by people who appear to be either stupid, ignorant of Scriptural methods, or unscrupulous, are seriously damaging the efforts of those in the country with long term effective relational ministries. Many of the people involved in these activities are graduates of Missionary training colleges in the U.S.A. and one can only assume these people have no understanding of the kind of public proclamation ministries which actually win people for Christ and build God's Kingdom.

Ian and Caralee's current activities involve the reconstruction of the town's primary school in Erseke where Ian is employing a team of builders under an engineer to rebuild the walls around the playground to discourage theft and vandalism, and providing proper facilities in the building itself which he will completely refurbish. At the Church Centre he has constructed a sports area with netball and basketball facilities, he has completed the secure garage for the Land Rover and over the top is constructing a large brick room with a tiled roof which will be used as the publishing centre for translating and publishing Christian books in Albanian. An Oxford graduate, Dan Baynes, who has a brilliant mind and a profound facility in Albanian, will help with this. Ian is also re-developing the large property opposite the Centre, a 4,000 square ft. stone house which will form accommodation for the School of Evangelism and the computer skills training centre; this work will be completed during the summer of 1998.

The building operation is led by the Albanian engineer Petrit who has little understanding of calculating weights and loads, so we need to show him how this is done. Ian is using the Land Rover to keep a local taxi driver, Mondi, in business - he lost everything in the collapse of the "Pyramid" scam. The Erseke dentist is leaving town and leaving his Christian daughter behind - her name is Viola, and she is an excellent dental technician. Ian is fixing her up with accommodation in the Church Centre and our job is to provide her with the equipment she needs. At the moment she has a really awful Bulgarian electric drill clamped to a work bench with a sanding disc, and a piece of mahogany with four 6" nails driven into it to use as a manipulator to put upper and lower sets together. Amazingly she produces really first class work in this way!

Ian has also recruited 24 Albanian knitting ladies and has important large spools of Jaeger dyed wool for them to produce the most wonderful Arran style jerseys to various designs. The quality of the work is perfect. The wages for producing a jersey, which takes 2 weeks, amount to $18 which is more than the local monthly wage, so in a month they can earn about two and a half times what they could otherwise get. The wool is expensive to import and export of the jerseys via DHL will also cost a substantial amount. If we can sell them for $100 in the West the profit will support Ian's Albanian church workers.

Ian also has an agricultural project under way and has ploughed 15 acres of land, part of which we own, up in the mountains. An agriculturalist is advising on new strains of potato and ways of getting this poorer land to produce higher yields. Ian hopes this project will bring under-used local land into use and provide an income for church workers in the mountain villages. I think he rather hoped that the representative from Tear Fund who visited the country recently would be able to assist in this area of work, as while they were unable to help in the medical emergency at the hospital due to their extremely long reaction time to emergencies, they are nevertheless a very good Development Agency with a lot of the skills we need. However, they chose instead to work with a Reformed Dutch group living outside Albania whose work in the country was destroyed in the troubles (in early '97 anarchy broke out in Albania due to the public's rage at having been cheated out of life savings in various pyramid schemes which, as pyramid schemes are wont to do, collapsed like a house of cards).

As these people have no experience of establishing projects in Albania they have asked Ian's assistance. He is of course very glad to help. It seems a pity that Tear Fund's work will not now be anchored in the emergent Albanian Church.

Sunday services continue to be led by the Albanians themselves; two of these, Tony and an 18-year-old girl, who have matriculated from the High School and who have been believers and members of the Youth Group right from the beginning, are about to apply for University education in Los Angeles where a relative of Caralee's is Admissions Director. Tony wants to study Computer Science and Business, and she wants to be a Doctor.

Every day as you visit all these activities you see people busily occupied in all kinds of areas of ministry. Lots of young people throng the sports area in groups, while others visit the hospitality house where a delightful American couple (who have retired from business) have friendship and counselling sessions, taking a terrific amount of pressure off Ian and Caralee. Mark and Ruth Stoscher (2nd and 3rd generation Missionary Kids) are graduates of Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, have now mastered the language and have a terrific teaching ministry not only for the church but particularly for the indigenous leadership. Fuller seems to produce people with the kind of practical skills relevant in front line church planting ministries. One of the Faculty there designs church programmes for us. This is of course a terrific help to someone in Ian's situation. He has an on-going training programme for his 35 church leaders who are deployed in groups of three or four in surrounding towns. He is pulling them in to give them further training for about four days every six weeks. He has asked me to recommend suitable people to assist with this. Looking round Bristol as I do, there seem to be very few people with any sort of understanding of front line public ministry who can actually be of assistance - Graham Loader is a prime example of someone we would like to have with us in Albania as often as possible.

Looking back on my time there last week, several things occurred to me:

The depth of commitment of the Albanian converts.
Christ really has become the centre of their lives. Very few of them are salaried yet most of them are involved in the church's ministry in one way or another.

There is very rapid growth taking place
New people join the Church each week. The services are designed to bring people into a relationship with Jesus. Discipleship training is very good. I think the work will double in size in the next two years and the challenge of producing enough leaders from the churches themselves will be a very difficult thing to achieve.

The small premises for meetings mean that worship sessions take place in people groups.
Sunday morning services are for children, Sunday afternoons for teenagers and young adults. These services are great fun - the teenagers particularly have a marvellous sense of humour and there is a lot of laughter.

Older adults are far fewer in number than other groups and seem to suffer from a deep sense of hurt through their experiences of oppression by their old political masters.
Trust, and the ability to relate to one another, have been severely damaged as a third of them seem to have been employed as secret police to spy on their own relatives.

Ian himself is now an outstanding Christian leader. A Bristol man, and a trained accountant, his knowledge of business as well as his deep conversion experience have produced a man with just the right skills in just the right place at just the right time. His training at the Bristol School of Evangelism provided him with the skills and background which have equipped him for the kind of public proclamation ministry largely unknown in Bristol nowadays. I think his story and what he is doing is an epic of the modern missionary movement. As Paul Alkazraji, O.A.C's Press Officer, said during our visit: "This is not a newspaper article, it is quite a large book."

The Albanian churches have a sense of direction and purpose which seems to be lacking here in England. Our rather "religious" church-centred approach to faith seems to me to be isolating us from the real lives of the vast majority of people in our society, whereas in our Albanian churches, faith is at the centre of their lives every day. Our lack of any sense of mission here at home means that a project such as the Decade of Evangelism becomes a meaningless charade without discernible substance. Our lack of responsibility for the ministries of Missions Agencies means that most of those going abroad as missionaries need to raise their own support and many of them end up in partial secular employment to make ends meet. Many of them even in Western Europe would not be able to run a car. This is absolutely disgraceful.

"One is struck by the fact that the burden for the greater part of modern missions is borne by the Americans, with a few remarkable exceptions like Ian Loring and Dan Baynes. Groups from the U.K. like Tear Fund are completely out of their depth and tend to do things which would appear to be sometimes rather ill-advised. Somehow British agencies need to become part of the very large network which is world mission. Frankly, as I speak to many of their representatives, I find they tend not to know what is going on or who is involved."

As I write this, Ian and Caralee are with one of their sending churches in the United States working on a programme to train over 100 Albanian church leaders every 2-3 years; they see the possibility of establishing about 100 churches every ten years for the foreseeable future. This is at a time when very few successful church plants are taking place in Albania that show long term results. The key element right from the beginning in Korce where the church grew from 12 to over 100 in just a few months, was taking the Christian message out on to the streets and preaching it. It was the same story in Erseke, which is where Ian's main church centres have been established. The children's open air meetings in the villages each week, the public preaching actually in the town, and all that followed, have been activities which have brought people into the Kingdom. Ian and Caralee and their team are there for the whole town and for the last 2 years Ian has been Chairman of the local Football Club, so he meets up with a lot of people who are not church members every day.

The significant thing to note is that few people became believers and church members through attending worship services.

Ian's ability to pass on the ministry means that these services are actually led by church members who form the worship group and preach the messages, all of course under his direction. This means he can call on 30 - 35 full time church leaders and probably about 100 part timers to lead the churches' various ministries. However, Ian remains such a key figure in the community that when he tried to resign the chairmanship of the Football Club to go on furlough for an extended period, there was a protest demonstration outside the Church Centre by 200 men who closed all the surrounding roads and refused to allow him to leave until he agreed to go and discuss the matter. It was solved by Ian's agreeing to remain as Honorary President, and an Executive Director being appointed to do the work!