December 21, 2022

Urban Center, Mission to the Cities Has New Director

Bledi Leno is appointed to both positions, part of the GC Office of Adventist Mission.

Rick Kajiura, Adventist Mission
[Photo: Adventist Mission]

Bledi Leno, who is currently Multi-Ethnic Ministries and Adventist Mission director for the Greater New York Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was recently appointed director of the General Conference’s Global Mission Urban Center and of the world church’s Mission to the Cities initiative. 

The Global Mission Urban Center, which operates under the Office of Adventist Mission, helps regions of the world church to start new groups of believers in cities.

Leno points to Christ’s example of wholistic ministry as the foundation for his ministry. “Let’s not get lost in complex terminologies or strategies,” he said. “Mission to the Cities is all about the people who live in the cities, lives that are very precious to God and for whom Jesus died. They’re the objects of our love, attention, and care as we reach out to show them the way to Jesus.”

Leno has been a pastor in New York City in various capacities for more than 15 years. He and his wife, Gabriella, have two young boys, Matthias and Arthur. Originally from Albania, Leno speaks several languages, including Albanian, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and English. He is completing a Doctor of Ministry degree focusing on urban mission and will remain in New York City with his family as he takes up his new responsibilities.

“I feel humbled that the church leaders are giving me this huge responsibility,” Leno said. “I ask for continued prayers and wisdom from God to accomplish His purposes for this ministry, and for the emphasis that the church needs to give to the large urban centers in the world.”

“The cities are our new mission field,” Adventist Mission director Gary Krause said. “Bledi faces a large task in every sense of the words. But he combines a wholistic mission vision with strong practical experience, and I know he’ll be a blessing as he leads our work in this high-priority Global Mission challenge.”

The Mission to the Cities initiative, also under Leno’s leadership, works in tandem with the Global Mission Urban Center, seeking to increase members’ awareness of the enormity and urgency of the work that remains to be done in more than 500 cities of a million or more residents and approximately 30 megacities of more than 20 million each, worldwide. The initiative also seeks to inspire members to become personally involved in urban outreach.

Leno said he looks forward to continued growth of Adventist work in urban areas. “I believe that an ‘ecosystem’ approach may help us increase our effectiveness in reaching the cities. Through developing an array of different ministries and establishing them throughout the communities in urban centers, we can reach people of varying backgrounds,” he said.

Doug Venn, former director of both the Urban Center and the Mission to the Cities initiative, was recently appointed special assistant to the president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, directing the Possibility Ministries initiative.

“I feel so privileged to follow in Doug’s big footsteps,” Leno said. “I will work to draw on his expertise and wisdom, which he has shared with me through the years when I was his intern, to continue the legacy for Mission to the Cities.”

The Global Mission Urban Center is one of six Global Mission centers helping the church understand and build bridges to specific people groups.