NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 10th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: bringing the gospel back to places where the Apostle Paul walked.
After World War Two, the Eastern European nation of Albania spent decades under firm communist control. In 1967, Prime Minister Enver Hoxha declared Albania the first atheist country in the world. Religion was outlawed.
EICHER: After communism fell in the early 1990s, Albanians hungered to learn about the God they were prohibited from knowing. But the church there still faces challenges and needs help from Christians in other countries.
One family from Texas says God used an unlikely source to lead them there, and not just for short-term missions. WORLD reporter Jenny Rough has their story.
PETER SARGENT: So in—
KATIE SARGENT: Romans 15—
PETER: Romans 15 or Act 15? I should know this off the top of my head. —it says they went as far as Illyricum, which is modern day Albania.
JENNY ROUGH: Peter and Katie Sargent flip through the pages of a Bible in their kitchen—as music plays in the background. Their three young daughters run around their family room playing with a stuffed bunny.
Throughout their lives, the Sargents have read Romans 15 multiple times. But until two years ago, they didn’t give a second thought to the reference to modern-day Albania.
PETER: So probably Paul himself was here, but definitely the gospel was here early on.
Now, they live and breathe and eat all things Albanian.
PETER: What if we just kind of pass some of this stuff, Katie. And then maybe I could serve the potatoes.
KATIE: Yeah, the potatoes are still hot.
DAUGHTER OLIVIA: Pitas! I want pitas!
The Sargents may be settled in Albania now, but just four years ago, they were living the American dream. Married 8 years. Two daughters with a third on the way. They had just bought a house. And a second car. Life seemed set.
Then everything changed in 2019.
PETER SARGENT: It all started with our small group at church.
Their small group read the book Radical by David Platt. The end of the book presents a challenge: pray for the unreached places of the world.
PETER: To pray for the whole world, we got a prayer guide. And each night at our family bible time, we prayed for a different country.
They started with Afghanistan. But they didn’t make it much farther. That’s because their 4-year-old daughter Faith kept requesting prayers for the second country on the list.
KATIE: And it was really funny because for a long time she couldn't even really say Albania. She would be like, “I want to pray for, what's that country called again?” Or she'd be like, “Let's pray for Alabama.” And we're like, “Albania?” “Yeah, Albania!”
At the time, Peter worked as the campus pastor at a Christian school in San Antonio. The Sargents began to look for small ways to support the country. Since they both had an interest in education, they decided to support a school.
KATIE: So we Googled it, and there was one Christian school in Albania. And they just so happened to have a job posting on there that was exactly what Peter was doing, campus pastor, Bible teacher. And we're like, “Oh no, uh, Lord, what are you trying to do here?”
God seemed to open door after door after door. They took the first step of faith by letting go of what Americans cling so tightly to. They sold their house and cars. And whittled down their personal effects.
Then in July of 2021, they packed up eight suitcases, three car seats, and headed overseas. They describe the adjustment as stretching, but good. First, the basics. Learn a new language, including new concepts like the consonant blended letters of the Albanian alphabet. Dh...
PETER: Not to be confused with Xh, which is also.
Learning how to get food.
KATIE: You actually have to figure out, well, the chicken that we like is at this store, but then this store has all the breakfast stuff, and fruits and vegetables are a completely separate thing.
Tirana is a walking city. And running errands on foot provides the Sargents with many ministry opportunities.
KATIE: Like while you're out doing that, you meet the same people over and over and over basically every single day. And you have the same, you know, little small talk conversations. And that’s been really great for language development, but also for reaching our neighborhood.
One of their neighbors is a mosque.
AUDIO: [Call to Prayer]
And each time they hear the call to prayer, it reminds the Sargents to pray, too. Specifically for their nominal Muslim neighbors. They’ve had conversations about the gospel with some of them. Only 30,000 of the country’s 3 million people are evangelical Christians. The Sargents have learned to communicate the gospel in a way that makes sense to the unique culture there.
PETER: So their concept of sin, like mëket, is kind of strong. Like murder and that kind of thing. But the word mistake, gaboim, will sometimes click with them. So I’ll say sin or just mistakes. Everybody’s made mistakes. And that sounds like bad news, and it is bad news. But I’m not here to tell you bad news. I’m here to tell you good news.
But the bulk of the Sargents’ ministry focuses on the school where they work, GDQ International. Peter serves as chaplain and Bible teacher. Katie teaches social studies. The students are a mix of locals and missionary kids. The curriculum takes the approach of biblical integration.
PETER: Where we take what would be a secular textbook curriculum and then encourage the students to think about it from a Christian perspective.
Because of the country’s history, Sargent says God is part of the national consciousness for the first time in a long time.
PETER: And really, these kids are the first generation in Albania since before World War II who were able to be free to grow up in Christian homes. So this is a really neat moment in history to be investing in, in young Albanian Christians.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Rough in Tirana, Albania.
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