Dearest Partners in Prayer,
Glory to God! Please forgive my silence for the past two months as I resettled in my work here in Albania. I returned from America filled with your prayers and spiritual blessings to share with our co-workers in the Lord here. May and June passed so quickly, it felt like I had barely recovered from the time and location change when Fr. Luke Veronis arrived with the Mission Institute, represented by students from Holy Cross and St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Nathan Hoppe returned for a few days as well to set up the camp in Kosovo and arrived with several other guests; Dr. Jeffrey Macdonald and Fr. Paisios also accompanied the group. Guests are always a blessing and we must be prepared in our hearts always to receive “angels unaware,” and certainly this group was filled with expected blessings and holy guests. Fr. Luke invited me to join the group on several occasions and I was really delighted to introduce the Albanian seminary students to this diverse cross section of Americans who were being called to ministry. Several members of the group were seriously contemplating mission service, and spending time with Archbishop Anastasios, and seeing first hand how he organized the Albanian mission was a wonderful opportunity for a realistic look at the missionary spirit in action.
As I spoke with various students and tried to answer questions about Albania, often we realized how much mission ministry in Albania and America had in common. The context in both countries holds both differences and similarities: the fallen condition of man is the same wherever we go, the social pressures of our age–global communication, secularism in all aspects of society–we must all address the same problems everywhere. Certainly the diversity of poverty and affluence, social and political freedoms, education and moral standards create different dimensions to our ministry; however, the proclamation of the good news of God’s love for all people is addressed to the heart of each person, in whatever immediate circumstances they are in when they meet the Lord.
It is, however, culture and language that continue to hold the key to communicating the Gospel. Fr. Luke had, in his time in Albania, acquired the gift of translating the message of God’s love to others, even when his Albanian syntax was not always correct. I was struck again with the fact that it is not only a linguistic skill, it is a gift of the spirit, it is the gift of understanding given at Pentecost that allows the good news to continue to be proclaimed in every tongue to all people.
It was a blessing also to be with Fr. Luke as he renewed his spiritual experience with his former students and co-workers in the Lord. During his 10 years of ministry here in Albania he had sown seeds of love and friendship, and it was a joy to see him greet his spiritual children and be touched and renewed by the fruit of his labor here in Albania. I have been continually aware that any work I do here is done because of the foundation that has been laid in Christ by others before me: the Apostle Paul and the disciples, St. Kosmos Aitolos, His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios, Fr. Martin Ritsi, Fr. Luke and so many others. There are days when I feel so personally small and insignificant in God’s plan, I wonder how I can contribute anything at all to this work and then I remember that we are only meant to do whatever we do with great love, with loyalty to Our Lord and with faith. If we fill our days with the love of God and love of neighbor, then we are working to transform this world into “heaven on earth,” into the “Kingdom of God.”
With agape and dedication to serve our Lord Jesus Christ and my neighbor, I remain your partner in prayer here in Albania,
Pamela Anastasia Barksdale