Albania: God at the garbage dump

Sharr, Albania

Vera Broli lives in a small cement block house near the garbage dump in Sharr. The area is also home to a community of Roma people — an often impoverished ethnic group that lives on the fringes of societies across Europe. The Roma people in Sharr live off the trash and discarded items brought to the dump in their neighborhood.

Broli herself is not well-off, nor is she young, but on Mondays she faithfully walks to the dump to teach the Bible to Roma people. Every other day she walks about three kilometers to the church in which she is a member.

In her daily devotions, she takes notes about the truths she finds in the Bible. Then she reads these notes to the Roma people who gather as part of her Bible study.

"We have the service outside because they don't have houses, they have just these little wood things," Broli said. "They don't even have any stools to sit on; they sit on the ground. They were very hungry for the Word of God. They always are after us to listen more to the Bible, because they can't read, most of them."

Broli prayed that God would bring other people to work alongside her in Sharr. 

"The harvest was big but I didn't have workers," she said.

Meanwhile, more than a year ago, the Kombinat Church of the Nazarene sent its youth to host a Christmas service and present a drama in Sharr to the Roma people. Jeta Mukaj, one of the youth, was disturbed to see the children running barefoot amidst the trash because they didn't have shoes.

"I asked God, 'If you want me to do something for them, just tell me what to do and I'll do it,'" Mukaj said. "I heard in that moment, 'They need love and they need attention; that's all they need.'"

Mukaj knew that Broli was already visiting the community, so she proposed that they go together. It was an answer to Broli's prayers. The two women normally visit the community on Saturdays to work with the children.

Missionary Steve Beiler, who leads the ministry in Albania, was thrilled at the women's initiative.

"It's one of these things that for us is exciting [because] it's not missionary-led or missionaries saying we should do this," Beiler said. "It's people in the local church who are saying, 'They need Jesus as well; can I do something?'"

The first time Mukaj visited, her boyfriend was with her, and they played a game of football (soccer) with the children. One of the little boys began crying when it was over.

"He was saying, 'Don't leave, please don't leave. I don't want to go home because my father screams and hits me,'" Mukaj said. "They have lots of problems. Most of the time they stay on the street asking people to give them money for food; others will beat them, say mean words, and they're used to it."

Broli invited interested people to attend the Kombinat church, but they are afraid that, like in other areas of society, they will not be accepted by the people. The long distance is also problematic, so Broli continues to hold services in Sharr.

The people are learning to trust God to provide for their needs. They often ask God to let them find something in the trash that they can sell to buy food.

One time a woman asked God to help her and later found $80 in the trash. When the children asked God to help their families, one child found $150. 

"Their trust in God started growing," Broli said. "They started to understand this thing is good. Last Easter we had a special service with them. The women did the salvation prayer; 15 people, including men, accepted Christ."
--Church of the Nazarene Eurasia Region

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