Debbie Brubaker, Managing Editor
I turned 60 in February. I also took my first missions trip this year. I’ve learned that we’re never too old, or it’s never too late to be about God’s business. Humans are the only ones concerned about limitations. There are no limitations with God. He is all powerful and all loving, and nothing is too hard for Him. Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the Gospel; this was my year to go.
At the end of 2010, I sought the Lord about His plan for my life in 2011. He told me to submit myself to Gail Buse, FCF’s International Ambassador, and help her with whatever she needed in 2011. I knew this was for my benefit. I just didn’t realize how life changing the experience would be.
When I told Gail what the Lord said, she replied, “Okay. I’ll pray about it and get back to you.” About March, she called and said, “I want you to go to Albania with me.” I was excited at the thought of ministering in a nation where the Apostle Paul had planted seed (Rom. 15:19). I knew some things about Albania because we had done several articles on the FCF family there for our magazines. I have prayed for the people, as we do for all our FCF family here at the International Office. Now I would have the opportunity to meet them in person and impart some spiritual gift that would help them grow in the knowledge of God.
After spending a week there, the people of Albania are in my heart. They ministered to me as much as I ministered to them. They opened their homes and their hearts to Gail and me. I was so blessed to fellowship with them. My heart particularly went out to the children and youth.
There is so much potential in this nation—in the people and in their land. Every time I ministered, I told the people that God has a plan and a purpose for them and that I was blessed to worship the Lord with my family in Albania. Our hosts, Pastor Irfan and Vera Toska and their grown children, Fabjola and Ari, are amazing and incredible people.
The Toskas’ story inspires me. I stand in awe of God’s marvelous timing. This family grew up under communism. Because the communist dictator had driven all religions out of the nation, the Toskas didn’t know anything about the Lord. They had never heard the name of Jesus.
Though Albania is a fertile land, there was never enough food under communism. During one meal that Vera served us, Fabjola told us that the amount of food set before us is how much the family would have had to eat for one week when they lived under communism. If your remarks about the lack of food in the market place were overhead, you were likely to disappear permanently.
Toward the end of the communist regime, both Irfan and Vera lost their jobs, and the family was starving to death. They decided to risk a week-long hike over the mountains to escape to Greece where they hoped to find work and survive. They might die on the trip across the mountains, but they were definitely going to starve to death in Albania. The trip to Greece was their only hope, for they had never heard that Jesus is our living hope.
The day they were going to leave, they received notification that family from the USA were in town and would like to meet them. Irfan thought that delaying their trip one day wouldn’t make much difference in their circumstances, and it was an opportunity to meet family. But that delay made all the difference in the world. That evening the Toskas met the Shooks (FCF ministers) and their lives were forever changed. The Toskas heard the Gospel for the first time, accepted Jesus as their Lord, and never made the trip to Greece. Twenty years later they are still in Albania, sharing Jesus wherever they go.
They are just like the Apostle Paul: “not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16 NIV). Whenever Pastor Irfan and Vera travel to the villages, they take Gospel books with them. As they are driving, Pastor Irfan will stop alongside the road and ask people if they know Jesus and are saved. If they reply, “No,” he hands them one of the Gospel books to read.
The Toskas make weekly visits to villages and hold Bible studies. At the time of our visit, they had just started a Bible study for the women in the village that is home to Vasilika, the church’s cleaning girl. Albanian women are hard working. The villages remind me of rural America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most of the village women have to work in their gardens or fields (and not with our modern day tools, either), haul water, wash clothes by hand, cook with wood, take care of the animals, and so on. Yet they welcomed us, were happy to see us, and listened respectfully. It was a privilege to share God’s Word with them.
At another village, we visited a school for children ages 6-14 where I briefly shared with the children from Psalm 139:13-14 (NKJV), “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” I wanted the children to know that God knows all about them, loves them, and has a plan and purpose for their lives. I wanted them to have hope. Though I didn’t have time to pray for each child individually, I went around the circle and shook hands with all of them.
In spite of the school’s condition—a run-down building that would be condemned in the USA, glass missing from windows, no central heat or air, no indoor plumbing, few resources (very few maps, books, pencils, rulers, etc.), no school cafeteria, no electricity—the teachers do an amazing job, and the children are joyful. Whenever the Toskas have the resources, they supply the village children with school supplies, backpacks, soccer balls, clothes and so on. The school we visited is typical of those in the small mountain villages. Pastor Toska promised the school director that he would pray about how the church could help the school.
At another village, after ministering in their Bible study, we visited with a family whose story convicted me. When they first heard the Gospel and before the church had its bus ministry, this family would walk down the mountain to the main road and catch the bus into Elbasan so that they could attend the church services. This was a three-hour journey one way, which they did in good and bad weather because they wanted to hear about Jesus. Is there an American who would have this kind of hunger for the Word or this kind of perseverance for getting to church?
The first Sunday we were in Albania, we visited the home of one of the church members. This is probably the poorest home I have ever been in, and that is saying a lot considering that I visited many poor families when I worked for the Departments of Human Services in both Indiana and Oklahoma. It would be hard for me to be joyful living in those conditions, but this woman is so happy because she knows Jesus. When I saw her at church the next Sunday, she threw her arms around me. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I could tell that she was happy to see me and very happy to be in church with her two children.
My last experience in Albania was leading a worship song with Endri, the church’s keyboard player and Irfan’s nephew, and drummer Julie Shelly, FCF minister from Fort Worth who lives in Albania and serves at Resurrection Church. We sang “Mighty to Save.” Endri did the verses in Albanian. Then while he sang the chorus and bridge in Albanian, I sang them in English. It was wonderful.
Pastor Buddy Harrison used to say, “God came down and kissed the earth, and I got caught in the middle of the smack.” That is how I felt after a week in Albania.
Our God is mighty to save. And no matter where you live in this world, He will move mountains in your life and make a way for the Gospel to go forth in power. He will open doors and give you opportunities to share His love wherever you are. He will give you seed to sow so that others can come to know Jesus. Yes, He will even send you to another nation when you’re 60 years old because it’s never too late to about God’s business. Nothing is too hard for Him.