December 31, 2013

Worse Than Hate

By Brittany Tedesco

Hate. It can be daunting and scary...ruthless and unpredictable. To go near it is to take a risk.

In predominately Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist countries, the risk of bodily harm for sharing Jesus Christ is incredibly high. But so is the reward.

Believers are tortured or killed, put into prisons or labor camps, poisoned by hostile idol worshippers. The hate directed toward them—ultimately toward Christ—takes many forms.

But as any experienced native missionary will tell you, a passionate hater of Christ has the potential to be a passionate follower of Christ. Just look at the Apostle Paul.

Gabriel Barau, a Christian Aid-assisted ministry leader in Nigeria told us that the Muslims he´s led to Christ are more than willing to die for Him. . . just as they were once willing to die for the cause of Islam.

Armed with love, Christian Aid-supported native missionaries walk toward hate, for in hate there is zeal, there is possibility, there is agitation in the soul.

But what do native missionaries do in a place where souls aren´t particularly agitated? In a place where sharing the gospel doesn´t require much risk, but neither does it offer much response. In a place where people just. don´t. care.

In a place like Albania. . . where apathy silently rules, posing a greater hindrance to the cause of Christ than pure hatred.

To answer this question, Ed White, who works with our Development Division, recently traveled to Albania to meet with a Christian Aid-assisted ministry.

The 13th least religious country in the world, Albania is home to many “nominal” Christians and Muslims. Talk to the youth there and you´ll find most are completely indifferent to matters of faith. Those that describe themselves as either Muslim or Christian only do so because a parent or grandparent does—not because of any real conviction. Everyone gets along. No one cares.

Albania´s history sheds light on the reason for the apathy. Thanks to communist dictator, Enver Hoja, in 1967 Albania became the only country ever to classify itself as an atheist nation in its constitution.

Berti Dosti (right) shares Christ's love with fellow Albanians.

To underscore the point, Hoja recruited young people and ordered them to destroy every church and mosque in the country. White talked with a man who still winces at the memories of being forced to destroy his family´s church at the age of 12.

But Hoja wasn´t done. He ordered parents to change the names of any of their children who happened to have biblical names such as Matthew, Peter, or Paul. The parents were issued a list of government-approved names.

It worked. . . sort of. Though faith in Albania appeared to have died out, a few Christians quietly passed their faith onto the next generation. Still a small minority, real believers exist in Albania—one of whom is Berti Dosti who pastors an evangelical church and preaches on a radio program that broadcasts throughout Albania and Kosovo.

Apathy is a formidable foe, but Dosti knows how to defeat it: by reaching out to Albanians at the point of their need.

In a skeptical, dreary nation plagued by malaise and boredom, where unemployment is high and youth have little to hope for and nothing to hope in, Dosti opened a vocational training center where young people are learning marketable skills. He has also developed programs for the disabled and marginalized, as well as for struggling farm families in this mostly agrarian culture.

His love for them is winning them. . . his Bibles studies are well attended. The same love that wins hate-filled Islamic radicals has awakened the apathetic souls of those who were dulled to their real need: Jesus Christ.

“Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:8