Encounters with beautiful people from Afghanistan and Albania
February 2022. This was our first short trip as a whole family, and our first time to Albania. Javad had already gone a week earlier and for the second week I joined with the girls. We were excited. This was a unique moment in time. A small coastal town with a population of approximately 8.000 people in Albania is hosting more than 1.500 Afghan evacuees as they are preparing for transition to the US or other final destinations. February being off-season, the place had no tourists and on every street corner you could hear people talk Dari or Pashto. It was a surreal feeling, almost like walking the streets of Kabul, just with more ocean and less potholes on the roads. Two cultures colliding in one little place – “Albanistan” so to speak.
We were intrigued by encountering many beautiful people – both from Albania and Afghanistan. Our focus was to serve the Afghan evacuees of course, as they were in a sort of waiting and parking position with not much to do and too much to think about. We visited families, met with them outside, chatted with them by the roadside and offered our friendship, compassion and prayers. All of those were received with great openness and thankfulness. We were honoured to meet many outstanding personalities that had lived a sacrificial and dangerous life of making Afghanistan a better and brighter place to live. All of them grieved deeply about the loss of this dream of a more modern, free and strong Afghanistan. We could just listen to their stories and offer our time and hearts to them and share about the Hope we have for them and for this broken world in which we live in.
The Albanian people on the other hand earned our deep respect as well. We met predominantly warm-hearted, welcoming, friendly and generous people with a big heart for their new Afghan neighbours and an even bigger heart for children. The cooperation with the local churches and believers was incredible, as they even offered facilities and abilities to serve the refugees and shared in our efforts to show God’s love and compassion to them.
In the slide show below you can see some impressions of a 3 day football tournament with more then 160 participants and spectators, which was the highlight of the outreach and initiated by our friend Danny and his team of sportsmen. The atmosphere was filled with excitement and joy, as especially the Afghans could leave aside for a few hours the heaviness and tragedy of their situations and just physically give their best or cheer with all their hearts for those on the field. Female teams were playing for a cup, as well as male teams, and it was a joy to watch the passion and ambition displayed by the athletes. Many of them were professional athletes in Afghanistan and had to flee the new regime, so to show their talent on the field was a very special moment for them. It was especially moving to see young women do their sports in freedom with excellency, which is now not possible anymore in their home country. The positive feed-back the team got afterwards, was incredible. And some team members even got to have a wonderful deep and spiritual conversation with the Albanian manager of the football-hall. All in all we could see God’s presence and hand in it.
Afghan hospitality knows no boundaries and limits, even the smallest refugee accommodation will transform into a high quality restaurant if you show up at the door as a guest.
Two precious young ladies, who were human right activist and journalists in their home country, invited our team over for dinner one night in their small refugee accommodation. They told us, we were like angles visiting them in a time of true darkness. When it was time to part they gladly received our prayers of blessing for them and you could see that God’s presence touched their hearts that moment.