Missionary Diary: Aussies in Albania

Expect the unexpected, interruptions and moments of great joy

Joshua Reeve and his wife Ali are missionaries with European Christian Mission (ECM). They began leading short-term trips to Albania in 2008 and settled there in 2018, where they now have four children and help lead a church plant in the capital city of Tirana. Joshua lets us know what daily life is like in Albania for his family, church and community.

Today was the inauguration of our little church plant’s new building. As I welcomed people into the meeting, one by one they each asked me a question that’s so commonplace here that it’s often used as a greeting:

U lodhe?”

“Are you tired?”

Daily life in Albania often seems to involve weariness and struggle. Two weeks ago, I spent three days trying to get our home internet restored to a functional speed. This week our fridge is leaking water all over the kitchen floor. We’re having daily power cuts and surges at the moment, so no doubt next week another appliance will be on the blink.

I seem to spend a lot of time walking the streets of Tirana trying to find spare parts. Often, we feel as though we lurch from crisis to crisis. Of course, everyone else here is living with similar (or, much worse) struggles, which means that plans, meetings and schedules often change at the last minute.

In our first term in Albania, we felt so overwhelmed by our own sense of inefficiency that we coined a family catchphrase to help us take our daily failures in good humour: “The Reeve Family – Making other missionaries look good since 2018!”

Josh and Ali Reeve lead the inaugural service in their new church building in Tirana, Albania

Joshua and Ali Reeve in their new church building in Albania

Life in Albania often doesn’t go to plan. My plan, that is. And yet, even through the moments of chaos God is at work — changing my heart to rely on him more and showing me that even the daily setbacks can be opportunities for making disciples.

Two days ago, I was outside working on the entrance doors to our new church building when an older man approached and asked if we could talk. I groaned inwardly, frustrated by the interruption. For the past month we have been converting a former bar into a church and community centre, but the work hadn’t gone to plan and now the inauguration date was looming, and we were far from ready. I knew that an inevitably long conversation would put me even further behind schedule. But as we talked, God provided an opportunity I never expected.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9

I mentioned that we were planning to start a group for people with intellectual disabilities. The man then opened up and shared that he had an adult son who has severe epilepsy. This then led to an opportunity for me to meet his son and invite him to church. He came on Sunday and enjoyed himself so much that he was the last to leave.

I’m slowly learning that frustrating interruptions to my plans are often the very means God uses to direct and connect me with someone that he wants drawn into the circle of his people. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Josh with their Albanian church planting partner, Andi

Joshua with their Albanian church planting partner, Andi

A few weeks ago, I was on my way to a church event when a policeman held his hand up to stop my car. My heart beat faster. “Aaah, I forgot my passport,” I thought to myself. He can book me for that. These random stops are becoming more common in Tirana. I wondered what else I may have done wrong. I’m sure I wasn’t speeding. Maybe he didn’t like the way I slightly cut the corner.

I wound down the passenger window and prepared for the discussion. To my surprise, instead of leaning through the window to check my documents he opened the door and sat in the passenger seat.

“This is Albania. Expect the unexpected.”

Ku do shkosh? (Where are you going?)” He asked.

It slowly started to sink in that where I was planning to go was rapidly becoming irrelevant.

“To the New Boulevard,” I replied.

He smiled jovially underneath his mask. “Great, you can take me with you.”

We arrived at the New Boulevard. He made no move to exit the vehicle, but instead directed me onwards. As I suspected, I had been chosen as his uber ride home. I was already late for our church gathering. “Never mind,” I thought to myself. “This is Albania. Expect the unexpected.”

We chatted about family and he proudly showed me pictures of his three kids. We talked about the beauty of his hometown, Tropoja [in northern Albania]. I explained that I’m a missionary working with the evangelical church. “Beautiful!” he said. “May you be blessed.”

I dropped him at his home suburb, miles from where I needed to be. I was 40 minutes late for my meeting, but the world carried on and I made a connection with someone who needs Jesus.