“PËR NJË JETË MË TË MIRË” This phrase in Albanian means “for a better life”. It is the reason and hope that drives an individual or family to leave behind family, friends, culture, and language in order to start anew in a city like Boston. As they cross cultures, learn English, work furiously to pay bills and push their children in school, this underlying motive moves them forward. They are working, sacrificing, persevering to obtain a better life, a life with opportunity, stability and prosperity.
This is also the theme of the tract that I wrote this Fall in Albanian to give out to the individuals that I meet. In about 700 words it seeks to put a finger on the longing of the Albanian for a better life, but in a way that points them beyond economy and safety to a relationship with Jesus Christ, the truly “better life.” For as Jesus said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37)
I wrote the tract for a number of reasons. First of all because it conveys in their heart language the deep things of the soul and of God. For the 50,000 men, women and children of Albanian background in Boston and Worcester, there is precious little access for them to the gospel in their heart language. Among the 50,000 Albanians there are a number of Eastern Orthodox, but there is no existing evangelical ministry that is seeking to connect them to the good news of Jesus in Albanian.
This December we had our first event for the Albanian community. It was a Christmas party with a potluck, a program for kids and Albanian folk dancing. It was also when I had the chance to explain in Albanian the significance of Christ’s birth and challenge those there to consider and investigate the life of Jesus. For most of the 40 or so Albanians there this was probably the first time they have heard the something of the gospel in their own language. If you have ever lived in another country or learned another language you understand the importance of this. Even those immigrants who learn English well enough for mid-level jobs have no exposure to the terminology of spirituality and theology. There is no substitute for gospel proclamation in one’s heart language.
Secondly, this tract is one means of fishing. Among the sea of so many individuals spread throughout this vast city, busy with work and life, I am looking for those in whom God is already at work. Those who know that there is more to life than possessions and positions but maybe yet don’t know what it is. Those who are disappointed by the passing pleasures of this world and thirsty for something more satisfying. Those who may not know much about God or Christ, but would like to find out.
Finally, this tract is easy for anyone to use. The reality is that with so many Albanians spread throughout Boston, most of you likely work with an Albanian, live near an Albanian family, or eat at a restaurant owned, run or staffed by Albanians. You just may not know it. If you do know it and have relationship with an Albanian this tract is pretty easy to use. You just say, “My friend wrote this in Albanian, what do you think?” It could be they have little to say, but maybe they have a lot to say and a lot of questions. Maybe they want to talk more with you about these things. Maybe they want you to introduce them to me.
This tract is not magical. I am hopeful it is well-written and speaks to their hearts, but more than anything it is just something. Something better than nothing. Something to get them thinking, to get the conversation started, to set before them in hopes that God by his Holy Spirit would use it to start a spark of faith in their lives. And if there is anything that I have learned over the years it is that God doesn’t need much to work, just what we have. A tract, a relationship, a dinner in your home, a prayer, a word of encouragement, such things are the tinder that God by his Spirit lights on fire.
Working on this tract, I had various Albanians read it and help me with correcting grammar or vocabulary. One man sat with me at Panera for an hour and a half working our way through it. He is typical of Albanians of his generation. He is in his mid 50’s with two kids in college. He immigrated to Boston 15 or more years ago. He has done well in getting a “better life”; he owns a home and has a good job. But this tract resonated with him and put into words what it seems God is already doing in him. He senses there is something missing. Though he has had almost zero exposure to faith and to the gospel, he is interested and intrigued. He was there for the Christmas outreach, listening intently. What will happen with him? Will he embrace the better life of relationship with Jesus Christ? Will he taste and see that God’s grace is incredibly good and spread that news to others?
I don’t know. But he has read and heard “something,” and the conversations have begun.
Would you pray for our ministry as we serve the Albanian community with the good news of Jesus? Would you also prayerfully keep your eyes and hearts open for Albanians and others in your life who need to hear “something” about the good news of Jesus? If you do know an Albanian please contact me. I would love to get you a tract and think with you how to initiate spiritual discussion with them and see how God might be at work in their lives!
Rev. Jason Stryd spent several years as a missionary in Kosovo before helping establish an outreach among Albanian immigrants in Philadelphia, where he served for over ten years. Jason, his wife Kristine and their two children are now part of Christ the King, reaching out to the 50,000 Albanians that are part of the Albanian diaspora around Boston. For more information, visit https://www.ctkboston.org/projects/albanian-mission