Hello Friends & Family!!!
Let me share a powerful testimony with you…
Pastor Kristian grew up under communism here in Albania, and he remembers the day it fell. He was just 16 years old.
God would speak to him in prophetic dreams as a young boy growing up (he still experiences them to this day.) One of these dreams was of him trying to go to Greece when Communism fell, and the men at the border said to him “go back, you’re so young and it’s not your time.” He recalls now that this is one of the many miraculous words God spoke over his life. When he grew older and Albania was freed from Communism, the fulfillment of his boyhood dream had a much deeper impact than he could have ever imagined.
Kristian went through a lot of hardship throughout his life. Many of his stories bring tears to all our eyes because we can visibly see how his life was crushed and the result of that crushing is the “finest oil” that has marked his whole ministry.
One of his testimonies is that before he met Jesus, he was married to a beautiful woman and they had a boy named Xhijel (a good friend of mine now). Kristian was very dedicated to being a good father and provider for his family. Early during their marriage, rumors spread that his wife was being unfaithful to him but he didn’t believe what people were saying. Then one day he saw her with another man and his life hit rock bottom. They got a divorce and he tried to stay in the same city as his son was living in, but it became really hard seeing his previous wife living a new life with a new man.
Kristian decided that he would leave Albania and make his move to Greece across the water. He didn’t have papers to move permanently, but he thought he could just go as if he were visiting the country and then never leave. He paid 500euros to go into a car that would go across the border into Greece, and this wasn’t anything illegal or out of the ordinary for someone to do. When police stopped the car for a casual inspection, everyone ran out of the car and fled, except for Kristian. He was a bit confused, but apparently there had been about 50kilos of marijuana in the trunk of the car. The Grecian police knew that Kristian wasn’t the culprit, but because of Albanian law, they needed to arrest someone regardless if they were the ones who actually did it.
They arrested Kristian, and in the court hearing, the judge sentenced him to 25 years of prison. This was an act of injustice over Kristian’s life in the same manner that Joseph in the Bible was sentenced to prison. Greek and Albanian prisons alike are horrendous–and there’s little to no guarantee that you survive even a month without being killed, much less 25 years.
Kristian was always friends with everyone he came into contact with, and one of his friends happened to be a Big Boss of one of the mafia gangs close to his house. When this boss knew that Kristian was being unjustly sent to prison for 25 years, he made sure that Kristian would not have to go through the normal initiation that inmates would go through as a means of humbling them. This initiation would include doing all the laundry for the inmates, being beaten every day in order to be humbled, and having the least amount of food in order to make the prisoner feel extremely grateful for what they had. It would also include having no bed, the worst rooms, and the worst living conditions to break down their soul so that they would never think of doing a crime again. This boss put aside a room, with a bed, food, and water for Kristian to live in the prison. He made sure that no one was allowed to put Kristian through this initiation and when people asked why, he would say “this man is innocent, it’s unjust. He is a good man.”
When Kristian was explaining this part of his testimony, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that Jesus sent a mafia boss to prepare the way for him– a sinner to shelter the life of a future Pastor!
Kristian would pray every day to God asking why he was in prison. He would ask “God, why do you want me here? Why did you let this happen to me? What is my purpose?”
One day, there in the library was a Bible written in Albanian. Kristian thought to himself that since he was there for 25 years, what harm could it do to read the Bible? (He grew up Muslim). As he started reading, God opened his eyes to His glory. God revealed His majesty to Kristian & marked his life with purpose.
Kristian started to realize as he was reading that other people in the prison were reading the Bible too, but in their own language— Greeks, Russians, Albanians, Italians—so he organized a Bible study every Friday night in the prison. This was a high-security prison so it was the first-ever Bible study there. The directors of the prison asked him what he needed to keep this program going because they saw considerable results in everyone’s prison life, and Kristian told them that they needed a Pastor.
The directors asked for a Pastor from the outside to come on in & help lead this group. The Pastor who came in was confused, thinking Kristian himself should be the pastor because of the respect he had garnered among his inmates, and because he saw the hand of God on Kristian’s life. Kristian at this time kept saying “how can I be a Pastor? I am in prison. I am a sinner. I am lowly & I don’t have authority or possibility to lead others in faith.”
When hearing this part of his testimony, I couldn’t help but weep at the thought that Jesus truly does mark the humble with his anointing. Jesus marked Kristian’s life in that statement. The Church in the prison started off with 37 people reading scripture & has only grown since then. It was the first-ever church created in that high-security prison.
Kristian had a new purpose. With his people in the prison & he had this new love spark with the deep intimacy Jesus had been cultivating in his heart. But how many of us know that God wants to do the miraculous in our life? Regardless of whether we are deserving of it, He loves showering us with His mercy. Four years passed by in prison and a lawyer showed up to his cell. He said, “you’re leaving today.” Kristian didn’t want to leave because the only people who left before their sentence were the ones being transferred to a. different prison. It was rare that a judge would ever appeal a sentence, so it was not even on his mind that this was the case. He had to argue with Kristian to convince him that he had won his appeal. Kristian was a free man!! God released him at year 4 instead of year 25!! This was a miracle from the courts of heaven. God Himself had showered His his life with favor drenching him in loving kindness & mercy.
Kristian describes how when he was leaving, all the inmates of the prison–hundreds of people–were clanging their plates on their doors in honor of him. They were all singing their goodbyes and encouragement in his honor.
It was that moment that God marked his life to be a Pastor, calling him back to Albania where he had fled. He left Greece with a new blazing passion to reach the lost and forgotten. His heart continues to burn for the prisoners who are so unreached in Albania and end up dying hopeless. When I think of this testimony, I think of how beautiful Jesus is. How merciful He is. How much He truly sees the individual and cares about every single need & always prepares the way. He meets us wherever we go. In Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet overheard the Lord saying “whom shall I send?” and in this case, He sent Kristian. Hearing this powerful testimony and being able to share it is my highest honor!
During my time in Albania, I ask that you all join me in prayer for Revival to sweep over this nation!! For hearts to come to know the beauty of Jesus!! For the Holy Spirit to hover over the Living Water Church here in Elbasan.
From the core of my heart to yours,
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have poured into my life with prayer and finances. As a “faith missionary” all of my financial support comes from the generous donations—whether through a “one-time” gift or monthly offering— of people who believe in what I am doing. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated!