Anniversary Celebrations: Clinic and Nursing Home

This year marks ten years for our nursing home and twenty years of care through our clinic and home visits. A great celebration was hosted on Kenedi Hill on Saturday with many people in attendance that played an important role in growing the clinic and retirement home. Director, Marleen Van de Voorde, organized a beautiful day of fellowship, thanksgiving, and celebration. She shared the story of how God took both projects from being dreams to tangible ministries doing important work in Albania.

In her speech, Marleen thanked a handful of people that helped open and contribute to the clinic or nursing home.

Miranda Kalemi has been the administrator of Kenedi Clinic since its beginning in 2002. She coordinates inventory, staffing, and scheduling. She is seated to the right of Marleen amongst the clinic therapists and nurses.

Tonnis and Erna Venhuizen helped Vila Kenedi start ten years ago. They were involved with all aspects of fundraising, planning, and building. For the first eight months after opening, they lived at Vila.

Fred and Wilma Westerink work and live in Albania. They are supporters of Marleen and her work. Fred is the director of Prison Fellowship Albania. Also known as SHBKSH . Wilma also does work with Food Bank.

Groups of youth from Ommen, Netherlands have been coming for many years to do volunteer work with the senior citizens and in the many village church plants. They have put in thousands of hours building and just as many loving the residents of the nursing home.

Rob and Annet Van Eck provided practical help. They could be seen throughout the celebration catching up with old friends and taking pictures of the residents to capture new memories. There were many smiles shared on Saturday.

Another huge thanks was given to Hope For Albania. They have provided material for every project since the beginning of the clinic. They have provided supplies for health care and home care. At Vila Kenedi, they assist with solar panels and the soon-to-be greenhouse. Members are pictured here with Marleen. (From left Leta Cenolli, Pleun Van den Berg, Wim Heiwegen, Marleen Van deer Voorde, Peter Brugman, and Luli Cenolli

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EO Evangelical Broadcast is the primary supporter of building the Vila and maintaining it. Many thanks to them for allowing Vila to provide a home to those who have nowhere else to go. Thank you for your documentary work that has raised awareness of the needs of the elderly across the country.

Marleen gave a heartfelt thanks to every man and woman that is or ever has been staffed at the clinic or retirement home. Many of the people she thanked were in attendance and celebrating alongside her. Everyone gave thanks to the Lord for the plan he organized and the miracles he orchestrated to allow these programs and their associated ministries to be so effective and life-changing over the last twenty years.

Everyone’s favorite part of the morning was the testimonies of the residents. A handful gave toasts, thanking Marleen for her dedication. One woman shared about the life she lived before her heart changed when she met Jesus. Many tears fell as she repeated the words, “I am a new person because of Him. He has changed my life; my heart.”

The very same person that changed this woman’s heart called Marleen to Albania and calls each one of us to take care of the powerless; the sick, the poor, the forgotten. The clinic and the retirement home have both done this for the past twenty years and ten years respectively. Please pray with us that they continue for many years to come. Until there are Jesus returns and heals the sick, makes the poor rich, and calls the forgotten his children forever.

To support either one of these programs

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

Twenty years serving in Albania

In August 1995 Marleen van de Voorde exchanged her Belgium for Albania. Now, twenty years later, she looks back on her time in Albania. She experienced a lot of highs and lows, but her trust in God gave her strength to persevere and continue. This is an interview with an enthusiastic person.

The 55-year-old Marleen sees herself as a passionate person who likes to works towards a goal. “When I was little I wanted to be a nurse, nobody could dissuade me. Similarly later on, when I wanted to go into missions. With that in mind, I chose a wide medical training so that I could use this knowledge later in the mission field. Finally God opened several doors so I could go on mission.”

Sharing Medical knowledge
“Through Bible smuggling work I got in touch with the Dutch organization ‘Dorcas’. They asked me to join a pilot project to teach village nurses around the East Albanian city Korce. The integration and teaching were going well, but it was difficult for the nurses to transform and put the theory into practice, partly because my vision of district nursing, according to the Albanian authorities, did not fit into their task list. In the end I gave medical lessons through a nursing school to the new generation nurses. I did that until 2000, I was for some months out of the country when the anarchy started in Albania and gangs ruled the country. Finally I developed a home care system in 1997 by myself for the chronically ill and disabled. I trained the staff by myself through the Kenedy Foundation, an Albanian Evangelical aid organization with which I still work.”

Twenty thoughts about Marleen from her immediate colleagues:
always called, helpful, trusting and reliable, easy going, fantastic, doesn’t see borders as obstacles, hard worker, works with whole heart, Jesus follower, can say hard things with a smile, sometimes driven, little fear, loving, irreplaceable, single, strong yet compassionate, has vision without fear, Flemish Albanian, seeks what’s right and yet is merciful and caring.

Almost abandoned
“At the end of the last century, I tried to start a lot of things , but there was little progress and I felt alone. My ideals seemed impossible to reach. I was in a difficult period and I took a six months break. Actually, I wanted to give up, unless I could work with the support of a local church and I could work with Christian nurses. I did not want to compromise and then God provided wonderfully with three nurses! I entered the new millennium with renewed energy, thank God!”

“There were just three nurses falling from the sky”

Many stretch
“The twenty years that I have worked over here has been a big learning time for me with a lot of ‘stretching’. That means that you often need to adjust expectations because things change. I never expected that I would lead an organisation, because I have a hands-on mentality. A good foundation on which you can build is hard to find here. And if there is a base, it is quite crooked. I’ve been here for twenty years, but sometimes I still do not understand things. Sometimes I am a bit naive. As a foreigner, you never know, communication is sometimes hidden behind veiled language. Sometimes it makes the work and living here quite tough.”

“A foundation upon which you can build here in Albania is hard to find”

Faith gives strength
“My faith in God has often given me direction as I stood at crossroads. I have experienced the power of Biblical words and the Lord Jesus is what I live for. On the field, you are dependent on God. I would have died ten times, if God had not protected me. Sometimes it’s just like Peter who stepped out of the boat to walk to Jesus. Then you know that you should look at Him, or you drown. God sees the big picture and there are many miracles that have happened.”

“I would have died ten times, if God had not protected me.”

Fundamental principles
“Although I quickly felt at home in Albania, it was also a great challenge and at the beginning very primitive: twice a day access to running water, lots of power cuts in the winter, … I expected that, after the fall of Communism, the country’s economy would change much faster. Over the years I have noticed that change happens slowly, because problems are fundamental and deep due to history, the economy and the absence of God during communism. Romania, for example, is much more accessible for economic growth.”

One of the positive fruits
“One of my proudest achievements relates to a sixteen-year-old severely disabled girl. I got the (grand) parents, after much insistence to be convinced of her ability, that their child is more than a ‘physical problem’. That girl has now written a poem book. Isn’t it great?!”

Ian Loring, the president of the Kenedi Foundation, gives Marleen a honoration award.
Ian Loring, the president of the Kenedi Foundation, gives Marleen a honoration award.

Building the retirement home
“The year of the construction of the brand new retirement home for me was a nervous period. The collaboration and streamlining between different parties and construction supervision cost me a lot of energy. A few years before, we fantasized about an old people’s home on the hill, but history has changed, and now, with the grace of God there is a finished retirement home built and operated to Western European standards.”

Future Picture
“My future is not clear for me. I have a mother of 83 years, who is home alone, and I want to be around for her when she needs me. God knows me and I try not to worry about this. The retirement home is full and currently I focus on taking care of the residents and the construction of a new wing to the nursing home to double the capacity, because that is desperately needed.”

Marleen’s message to future missionaries and volunteers:
“My biggest mistake was that I wanted to do too much and was not dependent on God who sent me. When you hear the personal stories of many Albanians, your first reaction is to think in terms of solutions. Therefore here are three pieces of advice from my side:: 1) Let yourself be guided by God in all situations; What do you address and what not, 2) Do not listen to others who are telling you what to do and 3) Do not be caught by the ‘urgency’.”

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