As part of our Impact gap year we were given the opportunity to go to Elbasan, Albania, to help the church and bless the city. Even though I’ve been convinced of the importance of mission for a long time, this trip was the point where I got excited about mission for myself. I’m lost for words when people ask me how it was; the experience, the team, the country, the ‘God moments’ are all too many to recall in just one polite conversation, and one blog post. But I’ll give it a try!

We were in Albania for 11 days, serving the city in various ways. Whether that meant doing manual work like refurbishing old benches, helping with the children’s work on a Sunday, of having coffee with the church members, we were there to give it everything we had. I don’t think any of us knew how much we’d get back in return – there were so many blessings!

Firstly, the beautiful weather. 30-degree heat left no complaints – just awkward tan lines!

Secondly, the people. The whole Albanian culture breathes relationship – ‘going out for coffee’ means being gone for the whole afternoon as opposed to just an hour, and a warm welcome taking precedent above everything else. We ended up leaving who we spent time with for just a few days feeling like we had made life-long friends, and a country that was completely alien to us previously like leaving our home.

And thirdly, our ‘team times’. Every morning and evening we spent time as a team worshipping God, reading the Bible and praying for the day and for each other. These times were so precious, not just because we got to know each other better, but also because together we got to know God better.

One highlight of these times started just as all the other times did, with worship and prayer, but ended with us all singing over the city from the balcony, crying out for healing, justice, and revival. If the next day hadn’t consisted of bench construction and flag making, I think we would have gone on all night. God changed something in us that night; Albania wasn’t just a place we were visiting anymore, but somewhere we longed to see change. God imparted his heart for the nation into ours.

God has Albania in his hands, and it’s so exciting to think that all of the people we spent time (who I already miss!), as well as those they are working so hard to share the gospel with, will be there with us in eternity, worshipping the Lord of all the earth!

By Beth Martin

Beth Martin

Beth lives in Birmingham, where she did her Impact gap year with ChurchCentral. Impact is a year out to focus on God, involving a church-based project, overseas mission, and training in leadership skills and theology.