Curious and friendly, the curly, dark-haired ten-year-old girl showed up smiling at the door of our teammate’s home with a friend in tow one Sabbath morning. She didn’t know about Sabbath, and she didn’t know that we were worshipping God together, but she wanted to join the foreign children and see what they were doing. We were new to Albania and to the Shqip language, so the communication gap was wide, but she didn’t seem to mind. She enjoyed looking at illustrated Bible storybooks with the other children, and she beamed when we sang songs together.
What we didn’t know at the time was what happened next. The girl went home and told her Muslim family, including her grandfather the imam, about how much she had enjoyed the interesting ways of the foreigners next door. Brimming with warmth and hospitality, her family took the Americans under their wings and cared for them as though they had been assigned as the welcoming committee.
As we came to know this lovely Albanian family, our bonds grew as our daily lives were woven together like a tapestry. Spiritual conversations happened naturally as they asked questions about our faith and our lives. They became our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The curly-haired girl and her mother were some of my best English language students. When she was seventeen, the girl was able to put her English skills to good use. Though her family is poor in money, they are rich in what matters most—faith. They prayed, and God opened the doors for her to finish her senior year at an Adventist academy in the United States. A kind American family took her in and hosted her for the school year. She was elated to be able to go to a Christian school surrounded by peers who shared her faith. Her vision expanded, and now she hopes to get a degree in teaching ESL as a stepping stone to sharing the good news wherever God may lead her. The joy of the Lord is her strength.