More Wheels, More Meals

Last winter, I drove with one of Vila Kenedi’s drivers, Erion Stoceni, during his food delivery route. After an hour of visiting twenty or so homes, Erion shared some thoughts with me about this ministry he was a part of. The first thing he said was he wished the church could do more, especially in the villages surrounding Korce. Today I am writing to tell you that Erion’s dream has been realized. The Meals On Wheels ministry has been expanded to reach four villages in the area: Kamenice, Pojan, Sheqeras, and Bulgarec. I spoke to each of the leaders overseeing this project in their respective villages to get a better idea of how the system works and how many families are being blessed. 

Each leader in the village cooks for the people in their own village and distributes the food two or three times a week. Similar to ‘Meals on Wheels’ in Korce, the elderly individuals chosen are in grueling situations; they are in bad health, live alone, financially struggling, or have no way to take care of themselves or their family. Between the four villages, more than thirty meals are cooked and distributed each week.

Sara Bori from Sheqeras is currently cooking for a woman in her late eighties that is suffering from dementia. She is incapable of cooking for herself and is in desperate need. God has provided the church plant in Sheqeras with everything they need to meet this woman’s needs. Dementia causes confusion and memory loss. Some days she knows who is bringing her food and why? Other days she is completely out of it and needs a gentle reminder. When she is of right mind, she is very grateful to Sara and the Sheqeras team for helping her.

Three churches are in the preparation stages for bringing the ‘Meals on Wheels’ program to their villages; Vlocisht, Plasa, and Kuc. In each active village, we have faith that God will continue to equip us to care for people as their needs arise.

A Much Needed Delivery

On January 27, 2021, after two months on the open sea, a forty-foot shipping container arrived at the Durres port from Detroit, Michigan. Kenedi Foundations receives many containers throughout the year from all over the world, but this one was different. It was filled with medical equipment that is absolutely essential to caring for people during this pandemic. Who do we have to thank for this donation? A new charity called Ignatian Way founded by Armando and Mary Jane Kurili.

Armando was born in Korce in the midst of Communism. He escaped to Greece in his early twenties with the intention of never returning to his hometown or even his country. Mary Jane came to Albania with CRU Missions in 1991. This trip sparked a passion for the Albanian community and started her on a journey that would eventually lead her back to Albania. When she returned to the states Mary Jane met Armando and they were married soon after.

Fast forward ten or so years and God called the Kurilis to minister to the large Albanian community in Detroit. And in 2018, God placed another call in Armando’s heart; it was time for him to return to Albania. Together, with a group of sixteen individuals, the couple traveled to Korce to facilitate VBS and ESL in the small village of Sheqeras. Since that trip, the Kurilis have returned to Albania a handful of times and the most recent was to distribute the contents of the container that they had spent months collecting and organizing.

The container held respirators, bi-paps, nebulizers, walkers, crutches, wheelchairs, clothing, and miscellaneous items useful for ministry. These items were donated or bought with donated money which primarily came from individuals. The entire process required $8,000 and a year of fundraising and planning.

While visiting, the Kurilis met with the directors of the hospitals in Korce and Tirana, respectively. They contributed eleven respirators to Korce and fourteen to Tirane. Armando’s occupation is in the medical field; specifically in respiratory equipment design. He passed his knowledge to the medical team at each hospital and to the staff at Vila Kenedi, the home for the elderly.

 

Construction in Sovjan

Isaiah 58:10 says, “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” At Kenedy, we desire to do just as God commands by caring for people’s physical needs as in addition to their spiritual needs. In tandem with this command, the Father has equipped us with the funds and skills to care for the people of our congregation and beyond. 

One of our church plants(Libonik-Maliq) led by Pastor Plator Collaku has been evangelizing in a small village called Sovjan near them for some time now and planting another church. It came to their attention that a family of seven that attended was living in very poor conditions. The father works hard to provide for his family but it is difficult with only one income. There was no plumbing system whatsoever; the family members were unable to have water for drinking, cooking, or cleaning. 

The exterior and interior walls were in ruins. By the looks of it, the ceiling could collapse at any moment. There was no insulation in the roof and faulty windows resulting in no way to keep the cold in and the warmth in. Altogether the house was cold, dreary, and no place to raise a family. 

Plator gathered a group of workers and completely renovated the house. They put strong siding on the outside of the house and painted in a bright, welcoming pink. The walls inside the house were completely redone and made to look like new. The tile was put in the bathroom and a door was placed at the entrance. In addition, plumbing was run through the entire house so the family could drink, eat, and clean themselves safely. New windows were installed in the place of the old ones and insulation filled the gaps in the roof. The family also received gifts and some traditional treats for the New Year season. 

As an organization and as believers of Jesus, we feel very blessed with the ability to care for God’s people in such tangible ways. It is our hope that support continues to allow us this privilege and that change will continue to sweep through this beautiful country one family at a time. Thank you and God bless you all. 

A New Pirate Adventure

Last year, pirates took over the church in Korce for VBS week. This year, our program looked a little different and the pirates traveled beyond the church. Kisha Ungjillore e Korce partnered with the local government and World Vision to host our pirate adventure at the outdoor sports complex in town.

Being outdoors allowed for ample space for the eight stations that we had. The groups of kids rotated between sports, water games, olympics, dancing, awana games, bounce houses, and team challenges. Each day the kids were taught a new Proverb and the station leaders would talk about it during each rotation.

There were seventy-five volunteers and over five hundred children each day from Korce and the surrounding villages. In addition to pirate attire and team headbands, the kids wore face masks. We encouraged social distancing and required fever checks and disinfectant upon entry into the complex.

It was encouraging to us that the government allowed us to teach the Bible to such a big number of kids on government-owned property. It is our hope to do something like this again next year. With more promotion and more volunteers it is our goal to reach 1,000 kids.

Beautiful Feet
Paul writes, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have never heard? And how can they hear without anyone preaching them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”(Romans 10:13-15) This is a story about a group of beautiful feet that brought good news to many people in Korce and the surrounding villages over the past few weeks.    
These feet belong to three Albanian men with a passion and gifting for evangelism. The first of the three is Olsi Mema. He is from a remote village in central Albania but has lived all over but we will get to that in a minute. When he was a young boy a pair of English missionaries came to his village and gave his father a bible. Olsi and his two siblings read this Bible and consequently became believers one after the other; Olsi being the last. A year later, the same missionaries returned and came near Olsi’s house, asking his sister for a glass of water. While the couple sat drinking they asked the three Mema children questions about the Bible. Each was able to answer with ease. This puzzled the missionaries so they asked how the siblings knew the answers. Olsi’s sister ran into the other room and returned with the same Bible that their father had been given the year prior by those very missionaries. Beautiful are the feet. 
When Olsi was a young man he traveled around Europe for work. When he was in England, God called him to return home to evangelize to his people. As Olsi says, “He closed every road for me except for the one home so that I could return to win more souls for him than treasures for myself.” In 2015, he moved to Korce where he met his wife and they worked in the village of Plasa where there is a church plant. Together they moved to Tirana so they could both complete a three-year program at Bible School. At the end of 2019, after graduating, the couple returned to Korce with their infant son, Mikea. As this year began Olsi asked God, “What do you want me to do this year?” God told him it was time to evangelize. 
By mid-March, the country began to shut down because of Covid-19. After some months the government permitted people more freedom as the number of national cases decreased. Olsi saw this as his opportunity to make a move. He and two young men from Plasa gathered some literature and went out into the streets. 
Let us take a moment to meet these two young men from Plasa. The first is Mikel  Kycyku. He accepted Christ as his savior in 2015 while attending church programs in Plasa. In 2018 he began as staff for the church. He completed Bible school in Erseke in the spring of 2020. His responsibilities in the village include meeting with the teens and running the men’s Bible study. 
Stiljan Isa is the other young man. He became a true believer in 2015 at the same time as Keli. He graduated from Bible school in the same class as Keli in the Spring. He has been with the church for many years but came in as staff about a month ago. He has a great desire to plant churches and reach the many villages around Korce and across Albania. 
Olsi, Keli, and Stiljan went to many places in Korce and some surrounding villages that do not have churches and are not familiar with the story of Jesus Christ. These villages are closed off to Christianity because the Muslims would often kick Christians out and attempted to maintain control of the village. 
Given the current situation, many people were trying to process all of the information they were given and they were so afraid. Nothing gives hope during times like these except for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three men shared this hope with anyone that was willing to speak to them. When they saw someone on the street the first thing they did was greet them and introduce themselves. They made it clear that they were followers of Jesus Christ to set them apart from the Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons that also teach in the streets. After the introduction, they asked if people were interested in taking some literature.      
Overall, they received positive reactions and many people took literature. Their willingness opened the door for the Gospel presentation. They would first say, “We were all created by God in his perfect image. We were not created to be sinners yet we sin anyway and fall short of the glory of God. We have a need for someone to save us from our sins so we can be with our perfect creator. Jesus Christ is the son of God. The only man to live a perfect life from beginning to end. He is the only one that can save people from our sins. He left his place in heaven to come to earth as a human. He lived for some time on earth preaching and teaching. He then chose to die on a cross. When he died he took all of the sins of all people on him as payment. After three days he defeated death and rose again. Those who believe in him will also be brought from death in their sin to life in perfection. Believers are forgiven and will live for eternity in a perfect place in the presence of God.” 
A majority of the people that took literature received this message quietly and intently. After the story is told, the three messengers would answer questions that the people had. Finally, they would ask, “What do you want to do? Enter God’s kingdom or remain lost as you are?”    
Some people chose to take the literature while thinking about these questions. Others chose to enter the kingdom of God and continue in their discussion. Many of those that accepted the good news were teen boys. Olsi, Stiljan, and Keli desire to return to these villages and continue to build relationships with these boys and eventually churches.    
There is one village in particular that Stiljan and Keli are looking to plant a church in this year. Please pray for these young men as they use their training and their gifting to create a community of believers in a village that is predominantly Muslim with little to no history of Christianity within its borders. Planting a church is hard work that requires focus and a great deal of time. Pray that God will bless their work and they may see many join the kingdom. If you would like to donate to these young men click here. Thank you and God bless!

Food Aid During Corona

A boy stands on the curb outside his house. His small hands clutch a stuffed Peppa Pig. Next to him, stands his father; dark-haired with serious, squinting eyes. The sun is warm, but the wind is cold. The boy’s stomach yells out for food and the father can feel an emptiness in his gut. They stand waiting for the white van that carries what they need most. They wait for the box that will quiet the yelling and fill the void.

As the driver puts the vehicle in park, the father steps off the curb. While the father is taking the box from the driver there is a change in the boy. He does not smile, but his eyes show what his lips do not. The muscles in his face relax as relief washes over him. The box his father just took is not like any other. It holds the food that will make up his next meal and more to follow. Without this box, his stomach would be as empty when he lays down at night as when he rises in the morning. With this box, the grumbling would quiet and the ache would be soothed. This box makes all the difference. This box changes his life.

This is just a single story but there are hundreds of a similar nature. So many people rely on the food packages and other aid items distributed by the Kenedi Foundation. Thankfully, through donations, we have continued to provide food to families in need during this troubling time. There are more people out of work than ever before because of the shutdown of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, clothing stores, etc. As families come forward with needs we are able to provide them with the things they need.

Last week, a dozen church staffers came to the church to assemble food packs. All the food came from a grocery chain called Euromarket. They were willing to do their part in helping the people of Albania by providing all of the food at a discounted price. Each pack contained flour, corn, sugar, salt, coffee, chicken, pasta, sauce, butter, oil, milk, beans, lentils, detergent, fabric softener, and soap. One village was also distributing Bibles.

The first day, one hundred packs were assembled and in the days following, God has provided the funds and supplies to help five hundred families in Korce, Maliq, and Pogradec. Many of these families attend our church on a regular basis or take part in the Bible studies and ministries held by the church every week. 

Some of the people that we assist have been on our Foodbank list for many years now and we continue to help them during this time, but many of them have been added because they are out of work. The entire world is in a state of uncertainty. No one knows when we will even begin to return to a way of life that resembles what we once knew. As long as these conditions continue, our list of needy people will continue to grow. 

We are asking for your help during these times of fear, trouble, and great need. We need your financial support to keep caring for our congregations and our communities. It costs $20 to assemble one food package so by giving today you could change the lives of an entire family.

To give, go to https://secure-q.net/donations/OACAlbania/677 and select Covid-19 Crisis Fund.

Thank you and God bless

In-Home Nurse Visits

The medical clinic located in the Evangelical Church of Korce was created to provide professional-level care that is otherwise not provided in the Korce area. The nurses treat up to fifty people per day and twenty of those patients are cared for in their homes. This past week, I shadowed one of the nurses, Emel, to see what a day of home care looks like. The following is what I observed.

Our first stop was in a village about 10 minutes outside of Korçë. I stood in the corner watching Emel prepare three bandages of varying sizes with petroleum jelly, Betadine ointment, and white powder. I stood with my camera around my neck watching intently. Emel then asked the patient if he was ready. He slowly and painfully leaned forward in his place on the couch and turned belly down putting his weight on the armrest so his backside was facing the nurse. The patient’s wife pulled his shirt up and his pants down and I buckled down preparing for what was to come. Emel removed the three bandages that were on his bottom to reveal three gaping holes; all of them a few inches apart. As she lifted the bandages, steam arose from the wounds. I could see inside of his body. It was dark and red. After undressing the wound, Emel prepares to redress it. She cleaned each wound and wiped away any blood. Next, she placed a gauze sheet in each hole and taped the bandages over each wound.

The next visit was quick and took half the time as the first visit. The wound was less appalling than the first, but the smell that filled the room when Emel removed the woman’s diaper was hard to stomach.

The third patient was much like the first; suffering from bedsores. As Emel prepared the bandages, the patient’s mother removed her blanket and what lay underneath was the skinniest woman I have ever seen in my life. There was no fat or muscle on her legs only saggy skin. As I scanned from her thighs down to her feet, the skin on her shins became tighter and I could see the shape of her bones. 

Before entering the next house, Emel informed me that the woman had breast cancer and that she has many wounds on her body. When the door to the main room opened I was not met with an unpleasant smell like the other houses but a wave of heat hit me instead. The first wound Emel cared for was one on the bottom of the woman’s foot. It was about five inches long and pale yellow, green, and brown. This patient’s left leg seemed to be disjointed. When she lay flat on her back her left knee was tucked under her right leg and when she rolled over to her left side the leg stayed exactly the same.

About 17 minutes into the visit, while Emel was cleaning two wounds on the woman’s back I became slightly light-headed. Wounds and blood usually don’t have an effect on me but I must admit that the combination of the long term exposure to the wounds and the uncomfortably hot room made the world spin and small black spots cloud the corners of my vision. I excused myself and rushed outside into the cool air. 

Standing in the open-air waiting for Emel to finish, I thought about all I had seen and experienced. The nurses that work at the center, care for wounds like this every single day. They endure the sights and emotions of dealing with bed-ridden patients suffering from worst-case wounds and sicknesses. Jesus had compassion for the sick and so does the church (Matthew 14:14). God has gifted these nurses with the skills necessary to put their compassion to action in this way. God has called them to this mission field. The mission field of bandages, antiseptics, and petroleum jelly. Praise God for their commitment and perseverance. Please help these nurses continue to provide care by donating here.

Meals on Wheels In Korce

The Kenedi Foundation has a ministry that is based out of Vila Kenedi, our nursing home. Monday through Friday a drive takes thirty to forty meals around Korce to individuals and families that are in need of a hot meal due to poor financial, physical, or mental condition. The meals vary depending on what supplies are bought that week but usually consist of meat, fruit, vegetables, and one other item.

On this particularly warm January day, I joined the driver, Erion Stoceni (pictured below with his family) on his route and recorded my observations to give you all a glimpse of what this ministry is like and the effect it has on the community. Due to identity protection concerns, there are no photos of the recipients of the meals.

The total route took a little over an hour and each delivery looked almost the same as the last. We opened the car doors and walked up the stairs to the apartment. Erion S would knock on the front door and walk in without waiting for a response because the recipients were older and slow-moving. One woman was missing a leg and was unable to get to the door at all.

Each visit was brief yet friendly. It was necessary to move quickly to keep the food warm and to get every person their meal during lunchtime. Many of them would offer Erion and I candy or ask us to stay for a coffee in a very Albanian fashion. We would politely decline, reminding them there were also houses to visit.

In addition to delivering food, Erion S asks each person how they are doing and if they are better than yesterday. One man has a problem with his eye and needs an eye drop every day. One of the women we visited needed some bedding put away in a high cabinet. Another needed something taken down from a shelf. Erion helped with all of these things and does small things like these on his visits.

Most of the cases were older people living alone with no family to care for them. The family either lived far away or didn’t care enough to visit or help. The oldest man we visited was ninety-four. He is a veteran so Erion greeted him with a salute. I stayed in the car for one of the visits because the man was very sick and Erion wasn’t sure if he would find him dead or alive.

The final house we visited was the hardest one to bear. The man lived alone in a small, dirty apartment. The windows were ajar and there was a hole in the exterior wall. The stove was burning but it was the same temperature in the house as it was outside. The Foundation brought him a stove a few years ago because he was burning the fire in the middle of the room and ruining his ceiling and walls. Last week a bed was delivered to him but he refuses to use it; he sleeps on a pile of rugs at the front of the room.

The place felt even smaller than it was because it was scattered with piles of garbage and a random collection of trash and things. The little floor that could be seen was dirty and cracked. The only light in the place came from the ajar windows and the dim glow of the fire. The Foundation has done as much as we can to help but he doesn’t always use the materials that we bring him. All we can do is keep helping and praying that he will use them correctly.

I asked Erion if it is hard to do this job every single day. He said, “Yes it is hard to see them alone every day with no one to care for them. It is difficult to see their sickness or injuries. I never know what I am going to find when I enter their house. It does, however, feel better to know that we are helping them by giving them a hot meal and checking on them. There is always more to do because there are so many with needs and so many needs to take care of.”

This is a necessary ministry because it takes care of so many individuals and families. There will always be the poor and the widows and we are called to care for them. (1 Timothy 5:3-16) The need is great and the call to help is great. If you would like to answer the call and help us care for the needy please consider giving. Under Category & Funds select Kenedi Center. Thank you and God bless.

Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year filled with joy, festivities, and holiday traditions. For us, at Kenedi it is a busy time filled with ministry parties, Christmas sermons, community outreach, and a theatrical production. By God’s provision and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our many projects were successful in spreading the Christmas message and the love of Jesus Christ. Below you can read a snippet about each event and enjoy some photos. Merry Christmas.

Church Plants-all of our church plants decorated their churches for Christmas and had a few parties with their ministries. Christmas carols were sung and some put together small nativity dramas. They went around the village and delivered gifts to families.

Children’s Ministry- This year, the children led the program and parents participated. Some read bible verses, some sang Christmas songs, and a group did a dance. There were games and a puppet show to tell the story of Jesus’s birth.

Shqiponja- Our Korçë-based preteen ministry has four zones around the city. For their Christmas program, each zone had a few performances: skits, singing, dances, and pantomimes.

Nje Brez I Ri- The Junior High ministry in Korçë invited the junior high groups from our village church plants and Pogradec for a night full of games, gifts, worship, dramas, and the Christmas story.

Youth Space- The High School group in Korçë invited the other groups from our village church plants and Pogradec for a night like Nje Brez I Ri’s. Some of the groups contributed with skits, music, and games.

Day Center- The day after Christmas, the day center had a Christmas party. The kids invited their parents to celebrate with them and the center staff.

Seniors- The seniors that gather at the Korçë church daily, had a party of their own at the church. Food and wine were served and traditional music was danced to.

Special Education-On Christmas Eve there was a huge party at the group home. Some members of the church joined them for dancing and gifts. The director had the place decorated and made their Christmas special.

Hospital Outreach-For almost twenty years, a group has visited the children’s hospital on Christmas to deliver presents to patients and their parents. This year the children’s ministry leaders and a few of the kids took on that responsibility and had a great time doing it.


Boys and Girls Home- Each house had its own celebrations with gingerbread decorating, presents, and other festivities. The boys home opened in January so this was the boys’ first Christmas in the safe house.

From the Kenedi Foundation Family to all of you, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!! God bless you.nnnnhhnnn

To Durres, With Love

On Tuesday, November 26 just before 4:00 in the morning, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the village of Thumanë near Durrës, Albania. Across the nation, 7,900 buildings were damaged, leaving 40 churches without places to meet; 6,000+ were left homeless and searching for shelter in hotels, tents, and with relatives; 3,000+ were injured; 51 people died making this the deadliest earthquake in 2019. Thankfully, 45 individuals were recovered from the rubble by rescue teams that came from across the world.

     Desiring to pair deeds with our faith, we jumped into action immediately (James 2:14-17). By Wednesday night, a group of Kenedi volunteers arrived in the village of Pezes bringing tents, food, heaters, soap, and hygiene to the people in need. Since that first week, we have sent at least one group per week to the village near Durrës to provide for the many needs of the victims.

Last week, two teams from Korce and another from Pogradec made the two and a half journey out to Thumane to partner with a local church in their aid attempts. The building the church was using was irreparably damaged and marked with a red X. This mark serves to warn anyone who enters that they are in danger. Each team member tensed as we entered into the building we were just told was unsafe.

Once inside, all fears were lost as our task was set before us. The entire first floor was filled with bags of clothing, juice, water, and miscellaneous items sent from all over the world. The team was directed to open each marked bag of clothing and repackage in a box complete with clothing for men, women, and children. After about an hour, there must have been twenty to thirty boxes stacked high by the door. After a quick rest, a honk was heard in the road as a yellow van approached. Almost instinctively everyone picked up a box and took it outside, repeating this action until the van was full.

After the clothing packs were delivered another batch of donations came on a flatbed truck with no sides. The group of workers formed an assembly line to unload all the supplies quickly and safely. The bags of clothes from the truck replaced those that were just given out and cans upon cans of beans, hot dogs, corn, tomatoes, and soups were loaded into the limited space left on the ground floor of the structurally compromised building.

The final job for the day was unloading another van stocked with lunch items. Pasta in tin packages, hard-boiled eggs, bread, sandwiches, fruit, and yogurt. Once again, the team fell into a seamless assembly line that reacted to and anticipated each other’s moves flawlessly. There is something so beautiful about strangers working together harmoniously for the benefit of other strangers, all out of love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

With the harsh, winter weather settling into the country it is our priority to ensure that the families affected have what they need to fight the elements. At this moment, the best course of action is to deliver food, warm clothes, blankets, and tents to the families in need. As Christmas comes and goes, our plan of action will change but our focus will still be providing care for everyone.

We will come alongside the churches in and around Tirana, enabling them to support those in need and display God’s love in a tangible and necessary way. Working hand in hand with these leaders will create a relationship-based ministry. We will provide food and other supplies to the families.

As our volunteers get to know the children and their families, individual needs will be met. These individual needs are often the gaps that are overlooked by the government and other organizations. Instead of delivering twenty pairs of shoes to a group that needs medicine and a tent, we can provide each individual with the exact item they are in need of.

Preparing and delivering food is a complicated process because it has to be prepared and packaged in separate locations before being delivered to the families. Taking this into consideration, we bought a food truck that will enable us to provide fresh, nutritious food efficiently and as needed.

Another stage in our plan is to create a child-friendly space. We were approached by local authorities and the National Christian Alliance to provide psycho-social support for the children that may have experienced trauma during this event. Our desire is to create a place for them to play in organized settings and receive help from the trauma they have experienced. These areas will allow children to return to a sense of normalcy and to healthy routines, what every child needs in the wake of a disaster. (James 1:27)

We have received calls and messages from supporters and friends around the world, asking what we need. Clothing and food have come from many nations and places within Albania. Our plan is transitioning into the second phase which consists of individual care and the food truck. What we need most is your financial support to purchase things like medication, glasses, shoes, and tents. Your donations will also support the upkeep of the food truck. If God is calling you to give please click here. Choose Earthquake Assistance under Category & Funds.

Whether you choose to donate or not, we ask that you please pray for the families of those who lost their lives, the families that are displaced and looking for a place to stay, and for authorities and charities to meet the needs of the people the best we can. Pray that we use this as an opportunity to draw people closer to God. May God be with you.

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