coffee, the hunch back of Notre Damme and messy games…

Not long ago I caught up with a colleague in Albania. Erion heads up the Fusion team in the country and their story is an amazing one! Right now they are at the start of a 6 week marathon of community festivals and young people’s day trips in communities across the south of the country. Thirty five community festivals they will have done by the end of this stretch! But then if you had a team of over a hundred people in their teens and twenties committed to each other and ready to change their world, what wouldn’t you do? The majority of Erion’s team have come to faith at youth day trips , they have found hope and meaning in caring for others and making a difference in their communities, and they want to change their country and the world because they believe that together and with God they can.

And the secret behind all this growth?? Well…coffee, the Hunch Back of Notre Damme and messy games. As Erion explains its all about having a steady flow of outward focused mission and challenges to face together whilst being authentically connected to one another, let me explain.  One of the things I love about the Mediterranean cultures is that there is always time for coffee, good coffee, in nice cafes conveniently located on every street, they know how to do life together, how to be friends enjoying each others company and sharing each other’s worlds. Over the last few years the team has earned the respect and trust of a number of schools in the area. They work with high school students to produce ‘west end’ scale musicals which they perform in packed out city theatres to the applause of local Mayors and national press. They were invited to perform ‘the Hunch Back of Notre Dame’ in the capital city, Tirana last year.  I dread to think the amount of work and coordination it takes to pull off a production of that magnitude! As well as that each month they run youth Day Trips during which young people learn from each other through a peer leadership structure. Through hectic activities, messy games and insane challenges they learn to work together and make value based choices. Bear in mind that there will be more than a hundred young people on a Day Trip! Then the city authorities regularly seek the team out to run community building events and festivals. What Mayors and police have been wanting to achieve for years, it seems this growing team are able to deliver without much effort!

 When I caught up with Erion though, it was clear that all I have just shared with you has become vulnerable. Although communities are being transformed and tomorrows leaders are finding meaning and hope beyond themselves, without the resources to put on a production and travel to perform it, or to put on free community festivals or to take troubled young people on a Day Trip where they can learn that life doesn’t have to be the way it is, without the resources to do these things, they wont happen, the team loses hope and life in schools and communities goes back to the way it always was. This has actually been the reality of this year.

With so much to lose, we brainstormed….much of what is needed cant be found in Albania … someone will sponsor the transport of festival and day trip resources to Albania from the UK… we need to gather the resource here in the UK … if they have the resources, they can continue with the mission. Lets do it! I sent out a prayer request. Within a couple of days some money came in from Fusion in New South Wales, Australia, more came in from our teams in South Africa and Jamaica, the German team had some equipment to spare and sent it across immediately… the UK team went about sourcing equipment, an order was placed and the first batch should have reached Greece by the time you read this… World Vision are excited to sponsor one or two significant assets…. Its not over yet, we’ve only answered a small part of the immediate challenge but it seems that the game is back on!

What I love about this story is that Erion’s team is an inspiration to myself and others in mission right across the world, but to do this next bit of their journey they needed the prayers of many, the sacrificial giving or our teams in South Africa and Jamaica, the hard work of our guys in the UK and the sensitivity of our teams in Australia and Germany to read the moment and give generously. There is more that’s needed, let us know if you want to be part of this incredible story. When we are at our best, this is who we are, I am glad to be a part of this fellowship.

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