first things first

A blog about whatever crosses my mind, ordered by importance.

Big Decision

So, I’ve got an announcement to make. These past several months I’ve been exploring two options for my time after my STINT is up. One area I was exploring was with the Digital Strategies team in Albania, working for Afrim Karoshi. I went to a conference with the Digital Strategies team here in May as part of that exploration. The second area was an open position at Watermark Community Church as a programmer.

The big news is I decided to go with the Watermark position.

There were a whole bunch of factors influencing this decision. I made a big pros/cons list spanning several pages of a word document, and everything seemed to come out pretty even. One major factor is that Watermark is willing to explore the possibility of me working remotely from Albania in the future, after spending at least one year back in Dallas. I’m really thankful that they’re willing to do that. I intend to be deeply involved in ministry in Albania for a long time, and this is one avenue for that.

My intention is to continue working for Albania Digital Strategies as a volunteer, with up to 10 hours a week of my time. I can do this either from Dallas or from Albania. There’s a lot of projects they want to do, and if you want to help please join our chat room!

My primary desire for spending a year back in Dallas, in addition to just spending a year enjoying time with friends back in my home country, is to go through the ReGeneration program. I’ve heard a lot of great things over the years about it, and I feel that it’s probably the best thing that I could do for my long term ministry in Albania and in Dallas. I’m excited to dive into this next season of life! It’s going to be another big transition as I finally feel I’m getting used to Albania.

What does all this mean for your monthly support? Check out below!

Quick recap of May and early June

Our May seminar was on “how to win friends and influence people”. We invited Altin Zefi, the finance director of CRU Albania, to present this topic and he did a fine job. We had fewer people this month but there were several new faces, which was interesting. The same happened in our June seminar, “Characteristics of a Great Leader”. For this one we invited Paul Johnson, former president of “Johnson’s bookstores” in Massachusets. He and his wife just recently moved to Albania and have joined the team which is focused on reaching business leaders.

May Seminar June Seminar

We also had a social gathering at the end of May, where we invited a latin dance instructor to give us a course. You all know how much Albanians love dancing! The dance instructor is named Helios and he has a studio in Tirana called Latin Passion. Check it out if the urge hits you :)

Latin dancing

Staff conference

Last week was the annual Staff conference, where we heard about what the various ministry centers are doing, and also about the strategy for the future. They asked me to be MC along with one of my teammates, Anila Zeneli. It was tough because I had to speak all in Albanian, but it went over pretty well. I was able to prepare a few jokes along with Anila about what the various acronyms stand for.

The vision of CRU Albania for the next several years is based around a “4 rings” strategy. The first ring is to have ministries in the major university cities, i.e. Tirana, Prishtina, Shkodra, Vlora, and Elbasan. After that, the second ring is to start ministries in 15 sattelite cities around Albania and Kosovo. The third ring is reaching out into villages and smaller cities. Finally, the 4th ring is to reach out to other nations including Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey.

The strategy is very ambitious. They have a 2020 goal of developing 700 leaders, who have 7000 disciples, with 70,000 total coming to faith out of 700,000 people hearing the Gospel. It’s a goal worth praying for, and I hope that God will grant our prayers. It’s an exciting time to be part of this ministry!

My primary contribution to this over the next year will be working with Digital Strategies in more of a technical capacity. I’m planning to have a weekly virtual coffee with Afrim over skype and help him to manage the various projects he wants to launch.

But I’m not coming back to Dallas until August - we still have our summer project to prepare for! And I’m really looking forward to it. A group of 10 Watermark members is coming to work specifically with the Professionals ministry here in Tirana. They’re part of a larger group of 34 who are coming this summer for various projects with the high school ministry. We’ll be in Tirana doing two big seminars, and hopefully having lots of coffees in between! Then at the end of the week we will take all the believers out to a hotel on the side of the mountain, and have a weekend retreat. I’m really excited for the retreat! I think it’s going to be great.

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Next week is a vacation week for me, before the projects really get started. I’ll be heading out of town to Israel tomorrow with my friend Kyle! Kyle is a teacher at the international school who also goes to my church. We both figured that we need to take this chance while we’re already over here and visit the holy land. So, check back next week for a lot of pictures from Israel!

Transfering support

As of now, I have more than enough in my staff account to finish out the year, including expenses to return home. Which means, it’s time for y’all to support someone else! Don’t worry, I’ve got a handy list of options for you.

Give to the ministry directly

The professionals ministry in Albania needs to raise $250/monthly to meet their budget. If you want to continue supporting the work I have been doing, please transfer your monthly pledge to supporting directly the ministry! Give to the Professionals Ministry #0905203 »

The Digital Strategies ministry also needs fundraising to pay for website hosting, and for development of new projects. These projects will have a huge impact not only reaching out to people through the digital medium, but also in assisting the other minstries to be more effective. If you’d like to support the work I’ll be doing in my spare time from Dallas, please transfer your monthly pledge to this account! Give to the Albanian Digital Strategies ministry #0669322 »

Give to one of my close friends

Eriol Petro has been my roommate and one of my closest friends for this past year. He’s just recently decided to join staff to pursue his passion of working with students! I’m really excited for him, he’s done a great job with the student ministry as a volunteer and is definitely one of the future leaders of Cornerstone Church. He will be full-time in Elbasan starting in September. Give to Eriol Petro #0954307 »

Pal Hila has been my roommate for 2 years and is another of my closest friends. He works with the high school ministry here in Tirana and is running the show for the summer project, the same one that the group from Watermark has participated in since 2013. He’ll likely be getting married soon, and it would be great to give them a boost in support as they start doing ministry together! Give to Pal Hila #0790936 »

Gedis Manko was my roommate the first year, until he got married to Çeljeta last summer. Now he and Çeli are working at the second-largest campus in Tirana, in the neighborhood called 21-Dhjetori. He’s also one of the key leaders of Cornerstone church’s new church plant in that area, along with Gentjan Doçaj. He’s another very close friend here in Albania who’se doing great work with CRU. Give to Gedis Manko #0664909 »

Well looks like you have a ton of options! I hope one of these suits you!