Hope Community Church
With this wonderful facility, it did not take long to realize the need to reach beyond the teens at the Center, and out to the surrounding community of Marikaj. Unlike our orphanages, all of which are in Albania's larger cities, the Hope Center is located in a little quaint village between the airport and the capital city of Tirana. The population there has scarcely been exposed to any other religion other than Islam. Using things like the enclosed soccer field, the volleyball court, the gym, and lots of love, we began reaching out in small ways to the community. Our teens attend the public schools in the area, so they had immediate connections with other kids. We started by providing Bible lessons for the community through a Kids Club led by Ledina, Pam, and our staff. A weekly Bible Study was started where the teens could invite their friends from school and the community. A group of elderly men of the village were invited to become a part of a group led by Perparim where little-by-little he would talk about God and the Bible. The teens were excited and involved with all these community projects and it became very apparent that we needed to plant a church.
With the help of all of our wonderful donors, HFTW converted the gym into an auditorium, purchased Bibles, a keyboard, guitar, sound equipment, heaters, chairs, and constructed restrooms adjacent to the building.
Now all we needed was a pastor. Perparim was already doing the shepherding work and is ordained as a minister, but the church needed a speaking pastor. Mike Fiocchi has been in Albania as a missionary for over 20 years and has been heavily involved with the Hope Center by coming and leading bible studies for the teens each week. Our teens and staff attended his church in Tirana for several years. We asked Mike if we changed our services to Saturday morning instead of Sunday morning, could he come and be the pastor? He prayed about it and soon said “yes”. Hope Community Church officially opened on Easter weekend 2018. Now Pastor Mike and wife, Jennifer, their son Steve and daughter Sofia are leading the music each week.
The church averages 65 in attendance each Sunday with about 60 attending Kids Club and 25 in our weekly teen Bible study. We have also held VBS each summer with around 100 kids from the community attending, along with some of the parents. There is a very special outreach to the ladies on various special days led by our staff ladies. We have a huge impact on the public schools in the area as we acknowledge the educators with special events at various times throughout the year. We also have large crowds of kids who attend our exciting youth events. We give God all the glory for 19 people who came to Christ and were baptized in our first year as a church.
Hope Community Church and the Hope Center have been a very fruitful ministry in Albania. Each teen who has been able to come to the Hope Center has received Christ into his or her life. They participate in all of the activities of the church and are mentored spiritually on a daily basis. In everything from housing, feeding, educating and discipling the teens, to community outreach and the planting of a church, we give God the praise and are so blessed to watch the work grow.