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Transforming a Nation (Newsletter 2)

I first visited Albania in the spring of 2017, and immediately the people and hospitality of Albanians captured my heart. Like many Westerners, I knew very little about this resilient country before I arrived. Having withstood violent oppression and foreign rule for much of its history, Albanians have inspired me with their optimism and hope for the future. As the Associate Coordinator for ITEN (International Theological Education Network), I have had the immense privilege of partnering with indigenous leader with the aim of providing desperately need-ed theological education among unreached people groups around the world. When I first met Hervin Fushekati, it was abundantly clear that he shared our passion for training leaders and expanding the renown of Jesus throughout Alba-nia. It is a contagious passion that I have seen in his students at ISTL every time I come to teach. After arriving in the evening after a full day of work, the students at ISTL have always impressed me with their hard work and genuine desire to learn and develop. It is a desire that emerges from their deep questions and unique in-sights gained from lives dedicated to ministering to others. However, what has always touched me most about the stu-dents at ISTL is their profound commitment to the gospel of Je-sus Christ and their unwavering willingness to sacrifice everything in pursuit of his Kingdom. Each time I have had the honor to come and teach a course at ISTL, I have left with more stories from students who have lost family, friends, wealth, and opportunities in their pursuit of Jesus. While the pain of sacrifice remains, they are quick to remind me that what they have gained in following Christ is a treasure of inestimable value. And so it is, that when I stare into the eyes of these eager students at ISTL, I see the future of Alba-nia. I see a future full of leaders who long to serve, rather than to be served. Leaders who recognize that any power they are given is to be used in the service of oth-ers, rather than an opportunity for selfish gain. I see a future full of leaders who are passionate about Jesus and fervently believe in the power of the gospel to not only transform lives, but an en-tire a nation. And I see a future where graduates of ISTL are dis-persed to the farthest corners of Albania, that wherever their feet tread, the ground becomes new territory reclaimed by the rightful King In a country that has known so much oppression, ISTL is raising up a new generation of leaders that are proclaiming freedom to those long imprisoned in dark-ness. They are an inspiration to the global church, and to me per-sonally. In the years since I first began teaching at ISTL it has be-come increasingly clear that by their example, I have been the student, and they have been my teachers. Dr. Stephen L. WoodworthAss. Coordinator of ITEN


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