Missionary Diary: At a crossroads in Albania

Lachlan and his wife Tiffany* have served with Operation Mobilisation (OM) in Albania for the past two years. Their baby son Caleb now joins them for the next chapter of their work in this country. 

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:11)

I wonder whether you have considered this verse in light of big life decisions. We made a big decision recently and I had been thinking about this verse quite a bit.

When we first came to Albania, the decision-making process was not too hard for my wife and me. We prayed together and separately had an impression from God, which we trusted was from Holy Spirit; we were going to go in 2019 for two years. God ‘failed’ to mention, though, where we would go, seemingly leaving the decision up to us. We had connections with Operation Mobilisation (OM) already through its discipleship-focused camp called TeenStreet and didn’t really think twice about seeking to work alongside them somewhere. But where?

We felt sure that this was the right choice; like a gift from our Father.

We spoke with them about a couple of options, and after some closed doors, we left it in their hands to suggest something to us as we were all praying together about a good fit in terms of our skills, experience, passions and more. Eventually, they suggested a ministry in Albania serving the disadvantaged Roma, Egyptian and Gypsy population. We looked into it, met online with OM’s field leader and personnel in Albania, and prayed together. After this, we felt sure that this was the right choice; like a gift from our Father.

We arrived at a unique time for this ministry and after a year there, opportunities arose for us to serve elsewhere in Albania that excited us both. But what about that original impression from God that it would only be two years? Were we meant to stay with this particular ministry? These new commitments meant agreeing to stay a year longer. Maybe God originally just wanted us to get our foot in the door so to speak. Either way, we prayerfully accepted new roles as our previous ministry moved its location from the city it was in for 16 years. We saw God confirm this decision as we moved forward in a number of ways; another gift from him.

Our new roles were less hands-on, being based at OM’s head office in Albania. Tiffany began to take over as personnel officer and I began a role in mobilisation and public relations. Tiffany thrived in her new role, whereas she was challenged in the previous ministry. I now found myself facing unexpected challenges and learning a lot about myself. On top of all this, it was the beginning of 2020 and COVID had just started ruining plans worldwide.

As I was planning to meet with churches and run a mobilisation training, the lockdown and restrictions of COVID really stopped me in my tracks. And only a week after we moved to our new house in Durrës (in northern Albania)! Very soon after that, we were expecting a baby and would be finding our way back to Australia to give birth to our beautiful son, Caleb, who was born in November 2020.

Now we sit at a new crossroads …

We were only just able to return to Albania in May this year. Albania has not had significant restrictions since early 2020, so by May, I had plenty of opportunities to start getting practical in my role. But now we have a baby. I had no idea how much time and attention they require. I mean I was forewarned very well, but having an idea and experiencing it are two very different things!

Now we sit at a new crossroads. Until now we were thinking that when we returned to Australia for home assignment in a year or so, we would be looking at staying and starting roles with OM in Australia. We were considering what it would be like to live as salt and light in our own culture and language. We were thinking about managing work hours and taking care of our son. There are many things we are excited about should we go home for a while.

Yet the prospect of a new role pioneering TeenStreet in Albania, with a commitment of two or three more years here, is equally exciting, as it is something we have both been passionate about for a long time. It comes with its own questions about how we will live. We’d need to move to a bigger place, talk about maybe getting a car. How do we raise support for all these things? What about the next child we want to have? Should we wait or not?

It seems like we have two wonderful options. It’s like our Father in heaven has both hands held out, each holding a gift. He truly does know how to give good gifts!

As we prayed about these options and what to do, it was a struggle to know how to make a decision. Are we deciding to stay instead of going home as we planned? But staying feels more passive because we are already set up here. Last week we talked about Exodus 3, when God called Moses by name and he responded “here I am Lord”. And it became so clear at that moment that, while we could choose either option and still glorify God’s name, to stay and take this new role here in Albania means that we are choosing to say: “Here I am Lord”, use us in this place.

*Surname withheld for security reasons