It’s a women’s retreat—so you expect women, with possibly the odd spouse hanging around at the back or helping with logistics. When you find the back row filled with elderly Muslim men, however, you know something special is happening.
The occasion was the Albanian Mission women’s retreat in Durres, from June 2-4. This annual retreat has always been focused on evangelism, as the church members bring their friends and relatives. This year was no exception, with 20 of the 38 women in attendance coming from outside the church. Some of them heard the good news of Jesus for the very first time.
What was exceptional, and demonstrated the interest and relevance of the program, was that several elderly Muslim men from Kosovo, who happened to be staying in the same hotel, chose to join in and listen very attentively. They even decided to participate in spiritual activities, such as pinning prayer request notes to the prayer tree.
Under the theme, “Jesus in the four seasons of your life,” Clair Sanches, Trans-European Division Women’s Ministries director, helped each participant to reflect and draw a spiritual lesson from every season. “Winter is the time to get to know yourself and to be honest with God,” she said. She then added how Jesus brings joy to our life in Spring, how Jesus is with us even in Summer heat, and how we can bear fruit just like trees during the Fall if we let Jesus into our heart.
During the three-day event, each woman created a prayer journal, which served as a reminder to regularly spend time with God. However, the most remembered activity was the prayer tree, which was created as part of the program. “I promise to take this tree home,” said Sanches, “so I can keep presenting your requests and thanksgiving to God.” Her promise and the fact that according to participants God’s presence was felt throughout the meetings touched many hearts and inspired them to stay open to Jesus.
Even though the weekend is over, those who attended believe its impact is still being felt. Flora and Ana, from Tirana, have decided to come to church more regularly and start taking baptismal classes. Flutura had her first encounter with Jesus at the retreat and is now regularly attending the Elbasan church. Also, her daughters are planning to enroll in Pathfinders. The weekend touched many lives, and now women expect its effects to continue for years to come.