Today, I can say with the Apostle Paul, From Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:19)  Amazingly, I didn’t realize that I was headed into this fascinating stage of ministry until I was halfway through my first day of teaching at the Bible college in the Trivana, the capital of Albania.  At the break between classes, one of the students came up and asked if I realized that his country was mentioned in the Bible.  Of course, I was startled since I had never seen the word in all my years of biblical studies.  He then opened his Bible to the passage I have just quoted and pointed out that Albania was part of the ancient province of Illyricum.  I responded by saying that I had always thought that Illyricum was part of what is now known as Greece, but he opened an app on his phone that showed that the province was actually much large than I had realized and further west than I had thought – and, most importantly, it included present-day Albania.  I had to confess that I had not given much attention to his country’s ancient history although I had studied its narrative from the five hundred years of domination by the Ottoman Empire which ended with World War I, its takeover by the Italian government as part of the treaties set up at the end of the war, the domination by the Germans at the time of World War II, and its fifty-year Communist regime which, having destroyed all churches and mosques, boasted that the nation was the only totally atheistic country in the world.

I had been invited by an Albanian friend to join him on a mission to his homeland; however, several circumstances delayed the trip and eventually resulted in my having to make the trip alone.  Although the pastor who was to host us in the country did not know me, he welcomed me to teach in his Bible college and minister in his church simply because he trusted the recommendation of my friend.  When I arrived in the country, the pastor and I shared a meal to get acquainted.  When he asked me to tell him a bit of my background, I thought that, since I was scheduled to speak at his Bible college, I should mention that I teach in a Bible college.  When I mentioned Andrew Womack, he got really excited and said that he had been listening to his teachings for twenty years.  Then he asked me what courses I teach.  I responded by describing one particular course and saying that I wrote it because of my years of working with Lester Sumrall.  At that point, he got even more excited because Lester Sumrall was the one who opened Albania to the gospel at the end of the Communist regime by bringing in a boatload of food when the nation was bankrupt.  As he told the story of that period of revival when the gospel once again flourished in the once-godless nation, He mentioned a couple other men that I also have very close relationships with.  Soon, we realized that we were “cut from the same cloth.”

One of the bits of limited background that I did understand about Albania is that there is a strong Islamic presence in the country, but I wasn’t fully aware of the present-day extent of Islamic influence until a discussion with some of the national leaders in which I learned that Albania is currently being targeted by wealthy Muslim nations for infiltration by building mosques and buying institutions of influence such as schools, universities, banks, and hospitals.  They even support thousands of orphans with the intent of raising them up to become radical Muslims.  When I heard about their strategies and tactics, I realized that my decision to teach at the Bible college from my book Maximum Impact which explores the Apostle Paul’s missionary strategy and methodology was “right on.”  Christians need to purposefully and methodically impact their spheres of influence before other religions use the same God-inspired strategies to turn the hearts and minds another direction.

I also discovered that the pastor has been putting these same principles into practice and has become a very influential personality in his country.  While I was in his country for less than a week, he was involved with a seeming never-ending series of activities in a campaign against plans to liberalize the abortion laws in the country.  When a top-level meeting with the national deputy secretary of health “went south,” a follow-up meeting was scheduled for a couple days later – just in time for him to make the meeting and head directly to the airport to leave for a multinational meeting of leaders of Every Home for Christ for which he serves as the national director for Albania.  In addition, he called together approximately sixty members of Parliament, including the former President of the country, to educate them on aspects of the abortion issue that were not being considered by the liberal government.  His wife appeared in an interview on a national news channel to discuss the issue, and he had a similar interview the following day.  On top of that, he hosted a delegation from the German Parliament who wanted to get an understanding of the state of the Christian church in Albania.  I could simply say that his life and ministry demonstrate how to have maximum impact!

The composition of the student body at the Bible college also demonstrated that the pastor and his church were already implementing the basic principles of the course I was to teach them.  The entire classroom was filled with young professionals – most with advanced university degrees – who were imbedded in every aspect of secular society.  They had found their places of influence and were shining the light of the gospel in dark places (Philippians 2:15) as candles on their individual candlesticks (Matthew 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16, 11:33).  In addition, I learned that approximately eighty percent of the class were former Muslims.

After three days of teaching in the Bible school, I had the privilege of ministering in the church on Sunday morning and visiting the church’s outreach program in a slum area of the city inhabited by a colony of Roma people, commonly known as gypsies.  These people are rejected by society and their children are not welcomed in the schools, meaning that there is no way out of their repetitive cycle of poverty.  Yet, through the care of the church volunteers and the love of God, they are finding hope and salvation.

By the way, I did have the opportunity to visit the area of the country that it is believed to be the region where the Apostle Paul traveled and fully preached the gospel of Christ.  When I toured the ruins of a second-century church, I imagined that they are likely evidence of the result of his ministry in the area – which, even though the book of Acts doesn’t record the story, certainly had maximum impact.